I know that this is the right answer, and I understand that if you read the Word of God He will increase your faith. I believe, though, that there is a very thin line between disobedience and true opression. For months I have been in a very "interesting" place with the Lord. My convictions about the doctrines I embrace have been shaken a couple of times and I am not sure exactly where to stand anymore. On one hand I have (or at least had) this PASSIONATE love for Christ that led me to believe in Him and to trust Him almost blindly. I have experienced such a REAL God that even if He does not make sense, I can still believe.
Through the years this blind faith has been challenged by those that believe in God in a mental way: those that claim they understand the Scriptures and in fear of being caught all the way towards the Pentecostal side of things, they rather believe in God almost from afar. They live lives that make sense to the world because anything "supernatural" could not possibly be. If the Lord chooses to perform a radical miracle, I would dare to say that many of these people would attribute it to an exception that God chose to make and not as a norm based on how GREAT the Lord is.
With this said, I once again ask: "Where do you go to find the faith you have lost?" I stand in such a sad state of mind and state of "spirit". I want to love the Lord with all my heart and all my might! I want to be bold about the faith He has given me; the child-like faith that leads me to obey even the wildest things to tell others about Him! I so desire to go back to my first love, yet I feel as though am trapped in the prison of my own mind, where every pull of the Spirit is second guessed because: "Is this something that matches an incident in Scripture?", "Can God really "speak" to me and tell me to do small things?" "Should I really tell that person that the Lord put in my heart that He loves them?"
How do I know what is right?!?! In my Bible I see a God that is ALIVE and that moves and breathes and has His being through those that believed that He could do just that! In my Bible I see a God that would command to His children the wildest things and when they obeyed they encountered the wildest results! In my Bible I see God despising those that felt understood everything about Him and embracing those that admitted their lack of knowledge!
With this I am not saying that knowledge is not important, for the Lord commands that we would seek wisdom, but our knowledge should lead us to further our RELATIONSHIP with Him. In the Bible there is a verse where Jesus tells the pharisees: "You search the Scriptures looking for wisdom, yet you don't come to me for life". (I know that this is a bad paraphrase of this verse.) I wonder how much of a pharisee I have become in trying to conform to the way others think I should believe? I wonder how far away my fears will take me from God? I wonder, where can I go to regain my faith?
“According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.”
This passage is often used in relation with other passages to support the concept of ‘unconditional election.’ As I understand this concept it means that God determines before a person is born whether or not that person will have eternal life. This is in contrast to the more Armenian view that a person is not pre-elected, but rather has a lifetime to choose to receive eternal life. In both cases eternal life is not earned by the person’s merit. It is earned by Christ our Lord through His life and sufferings.
In reference to the verse above the key as I presume is to understand what is meant by the word “us.” Here are the three ways that I believe that the word “us” can be interpreted. Afterwards will follow a type of exegesis which attempts to determine what is the best interpretation of the word “us” in context with this passage.
“Us,” can be understood as follows, though I do not believe that all of these interpretations are appropriate:
1) Us – Paul and the specific group of believers that he was writing to living at the time that he wrote Ephesians.
2) Us – Believers in general living during any period, though it includes Paul and those whom he was specifically directing this letter to
3) Us - People who have been pre-elected to become believers.
• Us cannot refer to unbelievers since Paul’s greeting directs the letter to the “saints living at Ephesus, and the faithful in Christ Jesus” v. 1
I believe that the first interpretation of the word “us” can be quickly eliminated based on two things. A) The letter is directed to the faithful in Christ Jesus. Though historically Paul was writing to the Ephesians, he addresses himself to all the faithful in Christ Jesus. There is no time limit in his address. All who are the faithful in Christ Jesus would benefit from his message. B) This letter being part of the inspired, canonized Word of God is meant for all Christians across the centuries, as is the rest of the Bible. Hence, the word “us” cannot mean just Paul and the specific people of the church he was writing to.
The last interpretation that “us” refers to only believers who have been pre-elected is the least obvious interpretation. In other words, a general reading of this letter would not immediately cause one to think this. Particularly because of verse 19, in which Paul himself defines who he means by the Word “us.” ---
Ephesians 1:19 “And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,” – KJV
“And [so that you can know and understand] what is the immeasurable and unlimited and surpassing greatness of His power in and for us who believe, as demonstrated in the working of His mighty strength,” – Amplified
“I pray that you will begin to understand the incredible greatness of his power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power” – NLT
“and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength” - NIV
So who are the “us?” Those who believe. If you say that it’s those who have been pre-elected to believe then you are doing an eisegesis. You are imposing on the word a presumptive doctrine rather than letting the natural reading of the word define itself. Why is this so important?
Let’s go back to verses 4-6 and look at it under the understanding that the most natural interpretation is that “us” refers to those who believe. What then are these verses stating?
• That those who believe will be “holy and without blame with him in love.” V.4
o Keep in mind that you have to read the whole verse to get the complete idea. You can’t stop at “God has chosen [those who believe]..before the foundation of the world.” You have to complete the thought. He didn’t choose them for salvation, rather He chose them to be “holy and without blame.” In other words, it doesn’t say that He predestined who will become His children, but rather that He predestined those that become His children to be holy.
• He has predestined those who believe to be adopted as children by Jesus Christ to Himself. V.5
o Believers are adopted, but there is a future celebration of this adoption. As Paul states in Romans 8:23 “and not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” So yes, those who believe are predestined to be adopted. Again the thought has to be completed. You can’t stop at “having predestinated us.” The thought has to be completed. What did He predestine believers to? Adoption. In other words, it doesn’t say that He predestined who will be adopted or who will believe, but rather that those that believe are promised the adoption…those that become believers are predestined to be adopted, whoever they may be. Furthermore, it is in His “good pleasure” that those who believe are adopted as children by Jesus Christ to Himself.
• He has made us who believe accepted, and it brings Him praise and glory. V. 6
Recap: A careful reading of Ephesians shows that the most ‘natural,’ least eisegetical, interpretation of Ephesians, taking entire verses in context reveals that the predestination is not of believers. God doesn’t predestine believers. God predestines believers to…something. God predestines believers to be holy. God predestines believers to be adopted. All who choose Christ of their own volition can be guaranteed that they will be holy and blameless before Him, and adopted because He has predestined all who believe to be so.
My Greek word research, and verse comparison was possible thanks to www.blueletterbible.org
To anyone reading, please be encouraged to use this thread to discuss whatever is on your mind regarding the resurrection of Jesus.
May you be blessed and encouraged this day in Christ Jesus of Nazareth!,
We are losing our religion.
That, with apologies to R.E.M., is the startling conclusion of a new study, the American Religious Identification Survey, conducted by researchers at Trinity College of Hartford, Conn. The poll of over 54,000 American adults found a sharp erosion in the number of people claiming religious affiliation.
A few highlights: The number of people who call themselves Christian is 76 percent, down 10 percentage points since 1990.
Thirty percent of married couples did not have a religious ceremony.
Better than one in four Americans do not expect a religious funeral.
It is important to reiterate that we are talking about overall percentages. In raw numbers, there are actually about 22 million more Christians now than in 1990. Still, the trend is clear, particularly as illustrated in one telling statistic: In 1990, 8.2 percent (about 14 million) of us said ''none'' when asked to specify their religion. Last year, 15 percent (34 million) did.
Some have suggested our loss of faith is due to increased diversity, mobility and immigration. I'm sure there's something to that, but I tend to think the most important cause is simpler: Religion has become an ugly thing.
People of faith usually respond to that ugliness -- by which I mean a seemingly endless cycle of scandal, controversy, hypocrisy, violence and TV preachers saying idiot things -- in one of two ways. Either they defend it (making them part of the problem), or they regard it as a series of isolated, albeit unfortunate, episodes. But irreligious people do neither.
And people of faith should ask themselves: What is the cumulative effect upon outside observers of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker living like lords on the largess of the poor, multiplied by Jimmy Swaggart's pornography addiction, plus Eric Rudolph bombing Olympians and gays in the name of God, plus Muslims hijacking airplanes in the name of God, multiplied by the church that kicked out some members because they voted Democrat, divided by people caterwauling on courthouse steps as a rock bearing the Ten Commandments was removed, multiplied by the square root of Catholic priests preying on little boys while the church looked on and did nothing, multiplied by Muslims rioting over cartoons, plus the ongoing demonization of gay men and lesbians, divided by all those ''traditional values'' coalitions and ''family values'' councils that try to bully public schools into becoming worship houses, with morning prayers and science lessons from the book of Genesis? Then subtract selflessness, service, sacrifice, holiness and hope.
Do the math, and I bet you'll draw the same conclusion the researchers did.
Who can be surprised if the sheer absurdity, fundamentalist cruelty and ungodly hypocrisy that have characterized so much ''religion'' in the last 30 years have driven people away? If all I knew of God was what I had seen in the headlines, I would not be eager to make His acquaintance. I am thankful I know more.
Including that God and religion are not synonymous. God is, for the faithful at least, the sovereign creator of all creation. Religion is what men and women put in place, ostensibly to worship and serve Him. Too often, though, religion worships and serves that which has nothing to do with Him, worships money and serves politics, worships charisma and serves ego, worships intolerance and serves self.
The ARIS survey should serve as a wake-up call to organized religion. It continues in this manner at the risk of irrelevance. I am reminded of a line from the movie Oh, God!, with George Burns as the deity and John Denver as the grocery store manager reluctantly recruited to spread The Word.
''I don't even go to church,'' says the manager.
And God says, ``Neither do I.''