Jim Wilson is the retired director of Community Christian Ministries in Moscow, Idaho. He will be posting regularly, so check back in soon!

Monday, July 16, 2018

Dear Friend: Reconciling When They Don't Apologize

Dear D,

Thank you. Yes, reconciliation must be made (Matthew 5:23-24, Matthew 18:15-35, Matthew 6:12-15, Luke 17:3-4, Leviticus 6:1-5, Galatians 6:1).

What is absent from these texts is apology. What is present is forgiveness from the heart, even if there is no repentance or apology (seven times in one day and seventy-seven times). We make restitution if we are guilty. We do not demand restitution or apology if the other person is guilty. In Matthew 18:15, we show him his fault for his good, not for ours: "If your brother sins, go and point out his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won him over." In Galatians 6:1, we show him his fault to restore him: "Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted." I do not show him his fault because he sinned against me. If I did it that way, I would guarantee there would be no reconciliation. I would be accusing him, not forgiving him.

With love and respect,

Jim Wilson

Friday, July 13, 2018

Dear Friend: Dealing with Offenses from Others

I do not remember what I said in the talk, but I will volunteer what I think the Bible teaches.

If person A offends person B, he either does it intentionally or accidentally. If it is intentional, he has sinned against God because he is to love brothers, neighbors, and enemies. He must confess his sin to God and let person B know that he has sinned against God, he has confessed it, and God has forgiven him. If person B takes offense, whether it was intentional or not, he is in sin. If he is a Christian, he is supposed to take this treatment with joy (Luke 6:35, 1 Peter 2:18-21, Matthew 5:11-12).

Even if we apply Matthew 18:15-35, the key verse is 35: "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart."

Giving to the offender alone does not mean giving to him, having taken great offense. He is to go to restore the brother. If you go to him with an accusation, there is no way you will be reconciled. If you take a brother who has taken offense on your behalf, the offender will not receive the correction. If you then take it to the church, and the church does not have forgiveness in its heart, reconciliation will not happen. The awful part of this scenario is the offended person thinks that he has taken biblical action.

Forgiving “seven times” and “seventy times seven” does not even suggest that the offender has confessed or apologized. No, the offended must have forgiveness in his heart whether or not the offender has repented.

There is a situation in Luke 17:3-4 where the offender sins against you seven times in one day, and each time he says he repents, you are to forgive him from the heart. After he punches you in the nose three times and says he repents, you might get suspicious that he is not really repentant, so you think, “Since he is not really repentant, I will not really forgive him.” You may not be the judge of his repentance. When you forgive him from your heart, you do not help him; you only help yourself because if you do not forgive from your heart, you are in big trouble with God.

If person C to takes offense on behalf of his friend B, he himself is in sin, and he is not helping his friend B to be forgiving.

This is short. Here are more truths on the subject:
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. (Col. 3:13)

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Eph. 4:32)

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors... For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matt. 6:12, 14-15)
In Christ,

Jim

Thursday, July 12, 2018

For the Saints in Moscow & Pullman

How many of you think this way, or how many would like to think this way?

“You must aim to be saintly and righteous, filled with faith and love, patient and gentle.” (1 Timothy 6:12)

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity.” (I Timothy 4:12)

“Not that I have obtained all this or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (Philippians 3:12)

“Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4)

“In everything give thanks for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

“Do everything without complaining or arguing.” (Philippians 2:14)

“Love one another deeply.” (1 Peter 1:22)

“But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy in all you do.’” (2 Timothy 3:16)

The Practical Christianity class starts up again tonight at my house, 114 S. Howard St. in Moscow. It will run every Thursday evening at 7:00 until further notice. All are welcome to attend.

The prerequisite: You want to be like Jesus.
The assignment: You believe and obey what you learn.
There will be no commitment to attend. Don't worry if you miss the first session or other sessions.
Subjects: TBD, partly by the attendees. I do not want to go over what you have already heard in previous sessions.

If you want to think like the Scriptures quoted above, come to the class.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1 Peter 1:3)

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Dear Friend: Systematic Theology

Thank you for writing. This answer may take awhile.

Bessie and I have some of the same convictions that you have about contemporary church services. And we have similar personal views on smoking, drinking, and dancing. We could probably sign the longest list of “do nots” of any fundamental church in the country, but we would not. We have managed to be and remain non-legalistic. The statement of Paul in Romans 14:17-18 is where we like to be: "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval."

Reformed theology has two things in common with other evangelical theologies:

1. The gospel, the deity, death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, grace, faith, and repentance.
2. It is a systematic theology (like Arminianism, Wesleyanism, Dispensationalism, Lutheranism, etc.).

We agree on #1 if we are saved people. We disagree on #2 in that the theologies are different from each other.

What is common is that all of these theologies are systematic. This is a way of studying the Bible.

Systematic theology is not just an accumulation of topical Bible studies put together. It is a worldview made up of Scriptures from all over the Bible with every piece fitting together perfectly like a 5,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. As we read through the Bible, none of us can see it fitting together perfectly like we want it to. The Bible is not written that way. But we want it to fit, so we study it systematically. This means that we have to pound a few pieces into place. That seems innocent enough. However, someone else happens to be pounding other pieces in a different way. Our different pictures will not look the same. This is a wrong way of studying the Bible. We are choosing which way we are going to be wrong. We do not find truth this way.

There are five points in Reformed theology that were first put together at the Synod of Dort. They were a reaction to five points of Arminianism.

• Total Depravity: Mankind is so depraved that it is impossible for him to believe or repent until after he is born again.
• Unconditional Election: The saved were elected by God to be saved before the foundation of the world.
• Limited Atonement: Christ only died for the elect. He did not die for the people who are eventually lost. The key word used is “efficacious.” Christ’s death is always effective. If Christ died for the lost and they were still lost, then His death is not efficacious. If He died for every last person and His death is efficacious, then universalism is the result, and everyone would be saved. Since they know that universalism is not true and that Christ’s death is efficacious, then He did not die for the non-elect. This is reasoning; it is not biblical.
• Irresistible Grace: Since you are elect, it is impossible to frustrate the grace of God. This is called sovereign grace.
• Perseverance of the Saints: If you die as an apostate unbeliever, that proves that you were not elect in the first place.

If you would like a book on these five points from the Reformed position, there is one by the authors Thomas and Steele called The Five Points of Calvinism.

Unfortunately most of us have theologies and living is made up of one of two things: a reaction to what we think is not right and conformity to what we think is right. We are cultural Christians more than we are biblical Christians.

In the Lord Jesus Christ,

Jim Wilson

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Raising Our Children: Principles We Followed

Here are a few principles we followed in raising our children.

“You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes” (Deut. 11:18).

We saturated the children with love.

Love and respect. It took us a while to learn this, but this we went overkill with respect and love.

We anticipated problems so we met them before they happened so there was no rebellion. Here are two examples of that.

We lived in Annapolis Maryland from 1958-1968. I cut Doug and Evan’s hair. I cut it right over the top. Then we moved to Ann Arbor. It might as well have been Boulder or Berkeley. Ann Arbor was Hippyville. I asked Bessie what she thought of long hair. She did not like it. Neither did I. I asked her if she thought long hair was a sin. “No!” “Well, since we do not think it is a sin, let’s call the boys I and tell them they can grow their hair.” They had never asked to grow their hair. The other kids in the church grew their hair out of rebellion. Ours grew theirs with permission.

We also let Doug and Evan have the car to drive to the East Coast.

Some years later, I asked our daughter Heather if she knew why she had not rebelled. She said that she knew that the day she stepped out of line, we would leave the ministry. She also told me that she had asked Douglas why he had not rebelled. He replied that it was hard to rebel against someone you agreed with.

Monday, July 09, 2018

Thoughts from My Writing Desk

Books are not meant to be idols or possessions or decorations. They are a means of communicating. A book on a bookshelf is worthless.

Biographies are not meant for entertainment but for edification. As I am reading over the rough draft of Grace Upon Grace, my autobiography, I see some things you ought to know. A large part of it has to do with bookstores. Because of the success of evangelism and edification in the bookstores I have been in, I came to the conclusion that bookstores were the means of evangelism. I sold many people on bookstores. I was wrong. Many of the stores went under financially and from a ministry perspective.

The success of the ministry was because of the person in the store, not the store itself.

In 1953-54, I had a course in command communications at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA. As part of the course, I was required to take a correspondence course in strategy and tactics from the Naval War College in Newport, RI. In this course, I learned of the principles of war. Principles are different than methods. They are abstracts. I began using these principles in evangelism? As a result, I wrote a Christian book called Principles of War. It first came out in chapters in Command magazine.

In the OCF bookstore in Annapolis in the early 60s, we published a newspaper called The Nameless News. I chose to write an editorial on bitterness. I had nothing special in mind. That editorial hit a chord in Annapolis.

In the 25 years following, I did much conference speaking for InterVarsity, OCF, CBMC, and ISI. I often spoke on bitterness, with similar results. In 1990, my oldest son had his secretary transcribe one of the taped talks and give me 100 printed copies. Since then, about 300,000 copies have been printed in magazine form in English and as a bound book done by Canon Press. It is also been translated into 20 foreign languages, with another translation currently in progress (French).

Friday, July 06, 2018

Dear Friend: Unity in the Middle East

There are several reasons that there is unity among the believers in countries like Iraq.

• They all desire to be close to God.
• The believers have not been taught by different schools of thought. They agree with each other.
• The believers are so few they that need the fellowship more.
• Evangelism (the Gospel) is the common goal.
• There is a common unbelief surrounding them.

In any case, it is nice to have the unity. You said, “I want something that makes me more like what God wants me to be,” and, “I have not seen any theology that universally provides this.” You do not have to choose between different existing theologies. Do not bother studying them and comparing them with each other.

• As you read the New Testament, look for and list all of the chapters that teach you how to be like Jesus. Also look for and list all the chapters that teach you, plainly, a distinctive theology. How many are there?
• Read all the texts that teach about examples and imitation.
• Read the Scriptures that teach about the heart and about fruit.
• Read all the Scriptures that teach about knowledge.
• Read the Scriptures that have the verb of being and then the Scriptures that have action verbs.
• Do not explain Scriptures, and do not pay attention to explanations of Scriptures.
• Do not reason from Scripture or deduce.
• You may follow reasoning that is within Scripture.
• Unless there is an answer given in the text, do not ask, “Why?”

I recognize that I have not given you any examples. That is on purpose.

Most of all, read the Scriptures in context and reread them. Read 1 John every day for a week.

Follow the examples of those who look most like Jesus. Is it their distinctive theology that makes them more like Jesus?

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

More Thoughts from an Old Man

In my previous post, I told you what Jesus Christ had done for your salvation and that you have to sin to qualify for salvation. Is there any other response you have to make besides sin? Yes, but first I will tell you what it isn’t.

It is not being good or trying to be good or trying to stop swearing. This is for two reasons: 1) It is futile. 2) “Goodness” is not acceptable to God.

All the other religions in the world say you have to be good. Yes! How successful are they in being good? Not very. It only proves that these are man-made religions.

Here are words that describe man’s response to the sacrifice of Jesus. They are not synonyms, but they all have the same object and the same result. Pay attention:

“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). The subject is “all,” the verb is “received,” the object is “Him,” and the result is “children of God.”

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). The subject is “all you,” the verb is “come,” the object is “me,” and the result is “rest.”

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29). The verb is “learn,” the object is “from me,” and the result is rest for your souls.

“For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30). The subject is “all you,” the verb is “take,” the object is “my yoke,” and the result is a light burden.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). The subject is “whoever”, the verb is “believe,” the object is “Him,” and the result is “eternal life.”

“That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). The subject is “you,” the verb is “confess,” and the object is “Jesus is LORD.”

“For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved” (Romans 10:10). The subject is “you,” the verb is “believe,” the object is “God raised Him from the Dead,” and the result is “saved.”

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). The subject is “everyone who,” the verb is “call,” the object is “the name of the LORD,” and the result is “saved.”

“And, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him” (Hebrews 5:9). The subject is “all who,” the verb is “obey,” the object is “Him,” and the result is “eternal salvation.”

“He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus" (2 Thessalonians 1:8). The subject is “who,” the verb is “do not obey,” the object is “the gospel of our Lord Jesus,” and the result is everlasting destruction.

“In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). The subject is “God,” the verb is “commands to repent,” the object is “all men everywhere.” Repentance is not an option. It is a command to all men everywhere.

God has appointed a day when He will judge the world with justice.

How can the gospel be obeyed? By obeying the command to repent.

“Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:38). The noun is “everyone of you,” the active verb is “repent,” the object of the prepositions “in” and “for” are “the name of Jesus Christ” and “the forgiveness of your sins.” In the second sentence the object is “you,” the verb is “will receive,” the the object is “the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Monday, July 02, 2018

Fresh Thoughts from an "Old Man"

I want to give you perhaps some fresh thoughts about forgiveness of sins and a place among the sanctified and tell you how to acquire both.

The first thing to recognize is this: you have to be bad to make it to heaven, and you have to be bad to be forgiven. How bad? Not very bad (white lies, disobedience to parents) or very bad (murder, adultery, rape, fat lies, stealing, coveting, and atheism). You do not have to do anything to qualify. You have already done the minimum.

How about being good or relatively good? Goodness does not count. People who are good cannot be forgiven. “Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). You have to qualify first. “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

He did not stay dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. (Titus 3:3-8)

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil. (Hebrews 2:14)
To get a fuller picture and to increase your faith, read Romans 1-5, Luke, John, and Acts.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Introspection

Introspection is the act or practice of meditating on your own past actions and emotions. This meditation brings these things to our attention, and we focus on them and evaluate ourselves in the light of our flickering meditative candle. Because many people consider our past (either distant or recent) to be the cause or explanation of our present actions and emotions, introspection is often encouraged. Even where it is not encouraged by others, it is practiced regularly by many Christians.

Introspection is not like walking in the sunlight on a summer day. Instead, it is like going down dungeon steps with a sputtering candle in your hand. The tiny light throws long shadows and dimly shows up skeletons, spider webs, and gross, crawly things. These are the things in our past which have been done to us or which we have done and are ashamed of. They include our imagination.

A person who is addicted to introspection keeps going deeper into this dead dungeon or inspects the same skeletons over and over again. The candle is not a very good light and never provides a solution to his awful, macabre past. The fascination with this subject matter is never a source of joy. It is a cause of depression. It is probably the primary cause of depression in people with melancholic, perfectionist personalities.

The Conviction of the Judge

Introspection says things like “How awful!” “How gross!” “The Lord won’t have me now.” “If I were God, I would not forgive me.” Introspection is a downer, not an upper. It is accusative, not convicting.

In a court of law, there is a difference between the accuser and the convicter. The accuser is the prosecuting attorney, and the convicter is the judge. The prosecuting attorney seeks to prove guilt, and the judge decides if it has been proven. Once the judge makes his decision, the trial is over. However, the prosecutor will continue to say the person is guilty even if the judge says he is not.

In the Bible, Satan is the accuser. The Holy Spirit is the convicter.

The Perfect Light


The alternative to introspection and its negative results is found in 1 John 1:5-10. I will quote verses 5 and 7: “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all…. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”
This light is the source of all light. It is not a candle flickering in the darkness. There are no shadows. James 1:17 says: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

Given that this light is complete, if we walk in it, nothing is hidden. Sin is shown in convicting power as opposed to accusing power. The sin is forgiven immediately, because the blood of Jesus keeps on cleansing. Fellowship is normal, because we are in the light, and we are made clean continually. Obedience is a natural result of the conviction and cleansing.

There is a wonderful example of this kind of conviction-cleansing-fellowship-obedience in Isaiah 6:1-8:
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”
Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
It was not introspection that made Isaiah conscious of his sin; it was being in the presence of God. He was in the light. He could not keep quiet about his sin; he could not hide. As soon as he confessed his sin, he was forgiven. As soon as he was forgiven, he was ready to be obedient.

You may say that you have never been forgiven that fast. Perhaps you’ve felt that way because of the accuser instead of the convicter/cleanser. The accuser does not want anyone to be forgiven.

Walking in the Light

Next time you find yourself tending towards introspection, refuse to do it. Instead, come to the light. How? Pray Psalm 139:23-24: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Look up, not in. You do not have to look for sin. You will find sin much more quickly, starkly, and with a solution attached if you come to God and the completed work of Jesus Christ.