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

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Cognitive Understanding & Experiential Knowing (Head Knowledge vs. Heart Knowledge)

Many years ago in a suburb of Washington, DC, a woman came up to me after my talk. I asked her if she was a Christian.

She replied, “I am a Methodist.”

I said, “You did not answer the question.”

“Aren’t Methodists Christians?”

“You tell me. For words to be synonyms, they have to be interchangeable. For instance, all rocks are stones and all stones are rocks. Now, are all Christians Methodist?”

“No, some are Presbyterian and some are Baptist.”

“Here is a stickier question: Are all Methodists Christian?”

She thought for a moment and then said, “No, I don’t think all Methodists are Christians.”

“Well, then, you did not tell me much. You did not tell me whether you are one of the Methodists who is a Christian or one who is not.”

“Well, what is a Christian?” It turned out that she realized that she was not a Christian and became one.

It is my purpose to give a short definition of a Christian and then how you can tell if you are one.

A Christian believes certain truths about man:
Man is alienated from God by sin.
He cannot save himself from judgment.

A Christian believes a certain minimum of truth about God:
God created everything from nothing.
God is love.
God is just.
God is merciful.
God sent His son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to this earth to be come a man to die for sin, sinners and sins.
Jesus Christ arose from the dead to justify sinful man, that is, to give him a righteousness from God.

A Christian is someone who has responded to God in belief and repentance.
A Christian is someone whose sins have been forgiven.
A Christian has the fruit of the Spirit.
A Christian is someone in whom Jesus Christ dwells.

Assuming that you believe these things but have doubts about your salvation, here are a few passages in the Bible that describe experiential changes that belong only to Christians. If they fit you and you believe the things listed above, then thank God for your salvation. If they do not fit, then you have good reason to doubt your salvation.

1. Love for the Brothers

“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him” (1 John 3:14-15). Loving our brothers is not the means of salvation; it is an evidence to us that we have passed from death to life. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).

2. Love for our Enemies

Loving one another is an evidence to everyone else that we are followers of Jesus. “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” (Matthew 5:44-46).

Loving an enemy is another distinctive of a Christian. Here there are two distinctives of those who have passed from death to life: he loves Christians, and he loves his enemies. Non-Christians do not love Christians and do not love their enemies.

Look back on your life to see when you started to love Christians and your enemies. Shortly before that you passed from death to life.

3. Obedience to God

“We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did” (1 John 2:3-6). Obedience is not the means of knowing Him; it is an evidence that we already know Him. Obedience is how we know for sure that we know Him.

4. Spiritual Understanding

“...but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment: ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:10-16).

Spiritual understanding is given to those who have the Spirit of God. If spiritual truths seem foolishness to you, then you are still a natural man, one without the Spirit.

5. Change in Character

“The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:19-24).

There are two lists in the above paragraph. Which list describes you the best? If the first, then you will not inherit the kingdom. Jesus Christ died and rose in order to save us from the first list and save us into the second list. If you are unsure because you think you are saved but the first list still describes you in part, then confess and forsake these things immediately. Jesus did not save you so that you could sin.

6. Increased Discipline from God.

“In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.’ Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:4-11).

This text says several things: a) I should resist sin to the point of death; b) If I do not resist and do sin, God will discipline me. This discipline will be an encouragement; it will be painful; it will be for my good, my holiness, my righteousness and for my peace; c) discipline from God is proof of my sonship. If I do not get disciplined for sin, it will prove that I am not a son of God.

“For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:13-16).

It is hard to describe because this witness of the Spirit is an interior witness, but very real.

Now—all of the letter of 1 John is on this subject of assurance of salvation. Read and re-read this small book.

In addition to biblical experiences, there are clear statements, promises of God predicated upon man’s response:

“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (John 5: 24).

“And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:11-13).

It is not self-righteous presumption to say that you know that you are saved if you recognize that your salvation is all the work of God. It is presumptive if you think you earned it or deserve it for any reason.

Thank God!

If you have received the Lord Jesus Christ by faith because of the faith created in you by reading this good news, then do several things:

• Thank God and keep on thanking.
• Be baptized in water.
• Obey His commands.
• Read your Bible daily.
• Meet with believers regularly.
• Tell others the Good News as it is in the Bible and how He has changed your life.

Monday, November 12, 2018

The Heart (Bessie Wilson)

This is an article written years ago by my wife Bessie.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (Prov. 4:23)

Whether we know it or not, all of us have had heart trouble. Whatever part of the spiritual anatomy the heart represents, the Scripture is clear that it is the seat of the emotions, one’s very being, from which thoughts, words, and actions proceed. Jesus said, “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man unclean” (Mark 7:20-23).

The prophet Jeremiah gave God’s diagnosis: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? I, the Lord, search the heart and examine the mind” (Jer. 17:9-10a).

Therefore, the heart must be changed. He who did the diagnosis provides the remedy. This is God’s promise in Ezekiel 11:19: “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them. I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees.” This is the Old Testament equivalent of Jesus’ words in John 3 that we need to be born again to enter the kingdom of God.

Jesus Christ is the heart specialist of all time. He told us in Mark 7 what evil can proceed from the heart of man. Humanism says the heart and mind of man can be relied upon from progress, morality and social reform. In reading Jesus’ diagnosis of the heart of man we see all the social problems of our day and the crime resulting from the illness within man.

The gospel of Jesus Christ, His death for our sins and His resurrection for our justification (Rom. 4:25), provides the only remedy for the heart of man. This is the only cure for our heart trouble, a new heart given by a gracious God as we bring that deceitful heart to Him. Then we can sing with Charles Wesley,
Oh, for a heart to praise my God,
A heart from sin set free;
A heart that’s sprinkled with the blood,
So freely shed for me.

A heart resigned, submissive, meek,
My dear Redeemer’s throne;
Where only Christ is heard to speak,
Where Jesus reigns alone.

Friday, November 09, 2018

The Christian Life: Relaxing the Law

Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets. I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 5:17-20 RSV)
Jesus taught that there are three eternal destinies:

1) Least in the kingdom
2) Great in the kingdom
3) Never in the kingdom

In the rest of Matthew 5, Jesus taught how He fulfilled the law. He fulfilled it by going back to the motives of the hearthatred, lust, and love. This has to do with the spirit of the law, not just the letter of the law. The spirit of the law is never less than the letter; it is always more. The Pharisees were living the letter only and would not make it into the kingdom. Others who objected to the letter of the law and relaxed it would be least in the kingdom.

Christians today think that there are only two choices: keeping the letter and relaxing the letter. The United States abounds with legalist doers and teachers. It also abounds with those who react to legalism, i.e. relaxed doers and teachers. The choice between “not in the kingdom” and “least in the kingdom” seems a poor one to me.

Is there a third option? Yes: “whoever keeps them and teaches others to do so.” Here is one of Jesus’ examples: “You have heard that it was said: ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ I, however, say to you that anyone who looks at a woman with an impure intention has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:27-28 RSV). Being great in the kingdom means following seriously, from the heart, the fulfilled law as taught by Jesus in Matthew 5-7 and the rest of the Gospels.

It is very easy to become a “relaxer” of the law. The majority of Christians do it. First we look at the letter of the law, “You shall not commit adultery,” and say, “To observe that would be Old Testament legalism.”

Then we look at the fulfilled law: “Anyone who looks at a woman with an impure intention has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” and say, “That is nice, but it is idealism. If I tried to obey that I would be riddled with guilt constantly.”

By relaxing both the letter of the law and the higher motive, we leave the door wide open for violating the moral law in both thoughts and action. This is why an increasing number of Christians find themselves in serious sexual sin. The person who has been redeemed by the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus should have no difficulty believing His teaching and getting power from Him to obey that teaching.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Perspective for Husbands

This is an excerpt from Perspective magazine.

Dear Friend,

Sixty-five years, forty-five of them as a student of the Bible and thirty-eight years of marriage, have brought a deep, settled conviction. In the economy of God, 100% of the responsibility for sustaining a marriage belongs to the husband. No failure or sin on the part of the wife is his justification to forsake her.

St. Paul is explicit:
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her…that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Eph. 5:25-28)
This instruction admits of no condition whereby a husband may leave his wife. Christ will not forsake His church, no matter how she fails. God, speaking through His prophet Malachi, puts the blame for divorce strictly on the husband:
And this again you do. You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because He no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor at your hand. You ask, “Why does He not?” Because the Lord was witness to the covenant between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Has not the one God made and sustained for us the spirit of life? And what does He desire? Godly offspring. So take heed to yourselves, and let none be faithless to the wife of his youth. “For I hate divorce,” says the Lord the God of Israel, “and covering one’s garment with violence,” says the Lord of hosts. So take heed to yourselves and do not be faithless. (Mal. 2:13-16)
To illustrate His love for His spouse, the people of God, He commanded Hosea to marry a prostitute—and when she left him, to go after her.

A husband cannot force his wife to receive his love, or reciprocate it—not even God can do that. But he must love her, cleave to her! He is bound by covenant!
Therefore a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh. (Gen. 2:24)
(See Matthew 19:5 and Ephesians 5:31.)

Blessings,

Richard C. Halverson

Reprinted with permission from Perspective, a bi-weekly devotional letter published by Concern Ministries, Inc. of McLean, VA.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Are Women Human?

Excerpt from the essay, “The Human-Not-Quite-Human” by Dorothy L. Sayers, pp. 47, Are Women Human? Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1980

Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man—there never has been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronized; who never made arch jokes about them, never treated them either as “The women, God help us!” or “The ladies, God bless them!” who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely unselfconscious. There is no act, no sermon, no parable in the whole Gospel that borrows its pungency from female perversity; nobody could possibly guess from the words and deeds of Jesus that there was anything “funny” about woman’s nature.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

The Word of Authority

To what or whom does the Christian look as his ultimate authority?

First, authority never resides in a “what.” It always resides in someone, not something. The highest law of our land is the Constitution of the United States. We mistakenly speak of it as the final authority, but it is actually only an expression of the authority of the people.

Similarly, God, not the Bible, is the final authority for the Christian. The Bible is the primary expression of that authority, but is not the only expression. “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe” (Heb. 1:1-2). Jesus Christ’s time on earth was the other main expression of God’s authority. However, since Christ is a person, He is more than just an expression—He Himself possesses God’s authority. How do we know this? He made the worlds, and they are sustained by Him alone (John 1:1-5; Col. 1:15-20).

Unlike the Constitution, the Bible does not need amendments. God’s later revelation never contradicts His earlier revelation. God is not imperfect like people, and He does not change like people. Man’s laws can contradict themselves, but God’s revelation does not need correction.

Because God is not static, impersonal, or limited, there is nothing to prevent Him from expressing His authority to us in the future. If He does, we can be confident of several things:

• The new expression would not contradict or change God’s previous expression.
• It would not be pointless or futile.
• It would not need to be corrected later.

Even in recent history, books have surfaced which purport to be an expression from God—the Book of Mormon, for example. However, this book contradicts the Bible and has been changed many times since its first appearance two centuries ago. This contradiction and change demonstrate that the Book of Mormon is not a revelation authorized by God. Other books like God Calling and Angels on Assignment, which supposedly contain revelation from God, are also found to be false by this same test.

Christians believe that the Bible is an inerrant expression of God’s authority. We must never transfer this faith in His revelation to the writings of mere men. God is our final authority. Thus far, He has only chosen to communicate His perfect revelation in two expressions: His Word, the Bible, and His Word, the Son.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Heart ‘e-Value-ations’

This was written by my wife Bessie for The Hammer magazine. I posted it here several years ago, but I am posting it again.
The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.” (Luke 16:14-15)
God knows our hearts! This can be either a comforting or a terrifying thought. Jesus first analyzed the Pharisees’ attitude (“You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men”) before He told them that God knew their hearts. Then He clarified it even more by saying that this attitude before men was a very poor standard because what men put a high value on was detestable in God’s sight.

What is highly valued among men? Perhaps by itemizing some of the things men value we will see that we have, in some cases, allowed the world to press us into its mold. However, we can, by His grace, stop this and instead be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Then we will be able to test and approve what God’s will is (Romans 12:1-2).

Financial success is highly esteemed among men. Is anything wrong with financial success? The Pharisees “loved money,” and Paul pointed out in 1 Timothy 6:10 that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” It is not money but the love of it which is detestable in God’s sight. Where would the work of God in evangelism be but for the faithful giving of God’s people? Some have the gift of managing money for the glory of God. CCM donors have kept this ministry going. It is when money manages men that it is detestable in God’s sight.

Judging by the average TV commercial, we would also have to list sex as highly valued among men. Whether it is a car, gum or clothing that is advertised, more often than not the word “sexy” is used or implied. Call-in shows devote much time to the subject of sex, and the private lives of people are discussed freely.

Men and women now are casual about illicit sex, treating sex as a right rather than a privilege. God has placed boundaries around sex so that we are not hurt by it. In the sanctity of marriage there should be safety.

Hosea 8:7 aptly describes our condition as we face the plague of AIDS. “They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.” Also in Galatians 6:7, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”

Fame is highly valued in society. Fame can be from politics, the arts, or theatrical success. We know how fleeting fame is in politics, for people are lauded one day and condemned the next. Fame in the theater and arts is dependent on the “trend-setters,” no matter how crude and revolting their practices. The many-times-married men and women are applauded as authorities on just about any subject. This is where the rot sets in and the decay pervades society. But remember, it is detestable in God’s sight.

God knows all hearts. “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5).

This led to the flood. What is His evaluation of our world today? Of your heart? Of mine?

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Goodness of God

Today I wish to declare to you the goodness of God.

"Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?" (Romans 2:4).

God is wealthy in kindness, tolerance, and patience. His kindness to you will help you turn to him.

You may be fighting in your heart. You may think your fight is with your spouse or your parents or someone else. Your fight is against God. He is your true friend. He is the one who sent the Lord Jesus to this earth to die for sinners.

Most religions, and most people, think you have to be good to go to Heaven. If that were true, none of us would make it, because no one is good. However, the Bible says in Romans 5:6, "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly" (Romans 5:6).

We have to be ungodly to qualify for Heaven. He died in place of us to make us godly by forgiving our sins.

Please pray to God and ask Him if this is true: “I am ungodly. I qualify for forgiveness and Heaven because Jesus died for me.”

Monday, October 15, 2018

Suggestions for Christian Married Couples

Here are a few suggestions for Christian married couples who have been married at least ten years. These are in order of my thinking of them, not in order of importance. I am not thinking specifically of my own marriage or any one other marriage.

• Any occasion where the wife dresses up is an occasion (e.g. church, going out to dinner). The husband should also dress up for the same occasion. He may not want to; it is out of love and respect to dress accordingly.
• By this time, you both have put on a few pounds around the middle. The husband may accept it as normal in himself, but he does not like it in his wife. Take action on your own pounds right away for your health (both of you) and because you do not want to go to bed with a fat wife or husband.
• Husbands, pick up your socks, skivvies, pajamas, etc. Any dirty clothes—put them when they belong. Hang up what is not dirty.
• Husbands, offer to help with dishes often and really do them some of the time.
• If your wife is not well, learn how to cook basic foods so they are really good, for your sake and hers.
• Hospitality: Commit your office and your home. Give to singles, couples, and families. This will mean work before, during, and afterwards. The event should be given without resentment or regret.
• The Bible: Each one of you should have your own quiet time with the Lord. You should also have time together in the Word and another time with your family.
• Husbands should thank God for the food at every meal. Wives, if you suspect that your husband is not going to thank God for the food:
o Let it go; do not ask him.
o Don’t you do it.
o Don’t ask one of your guests.
• Have an inductive Bible study in your home with not more than three couples.
• If you are having difficulty in your marriage, husbands, get help from a mature Christian man whose marriage is going well. Do not have a Bible study in your home until you are in full fellowship with your wife.
• If you have children who are of school age, have a Bible study in your home for school kids. When your oldest starts junior high, you should start a junior high Bible study.

There will be a lot of people who can help you on all of these suggestions. I am willing to help on all of these. Contact me at (208) 882-4383 or jimwilson27@frontier.com.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Musings on Words

Over the years I have listened to a lot of people. I have heard different dialects of English. I have listened to grammar when it is normal for the person using it. I have also heard poor grammar when the person using it thought that it was good grammar. There are uses that change over the years. A few years ago many, many people began sentences with the conjunction, “but.” Eventually “but” disappeared, and new sentences began with the conjunction, “so.” I would like to say, “So what?” Another word that has crept in is the word “like.” It will appear as many as five times in one sentence.

Luke 6:45 tells us that the mouth overflows with what is good or bad in the heart. My last two years in high school I worked in the Union stock yards in Omaha, Nebraska. The language was foul. Then I enlisted in the Navy. It did not improve. I thought that when I got to the Naval Academy, the language would improve. It did not. Then I hoped the language would be better with commissioned officers. It wasn’t. In my last year in the Navy I was sent for six months temporary duty to the staff of Commander Carrier Division 5 operating in the East China Sea. I was to be the officer in charge of a classified team of twenty communication technicians, one chief petty officer, and one ensign. We were, except when sleeping and eating, locked up in one room together. It was an operation 24-7. I looked up the chief petty officer before we went aboard and said something like this, “Chief, I have been in the Navy nine years and I heard all kinds of four letter word sentences while sailing. We are going to be in one room together for the next six months. I want you to communicate to the sailors that there will be no profanity in that room for the next six months.” There was no foul language.

In counseling people, one of the first questions I ask is, “What is your mouth like?” Since 1956, I have been in Christian bookstores and other kinds of Christian work. I very seldom have heard any dirty words. It would be easy to think it is not there anymore because the words are not used around me.