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

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.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Relationships with Parents

Of the many talks I frequently give, the ones which have received the most favorable response and the most fruitful application among young and old alike are “How to Be Free from Bitterness” and “Relationships with Parents.” Right now, I am sitting in a study room at the Illinois Street Residence Hall at the University of Illinois. Last week, at Urbana ’93, I conducted a workshop on relationships with parents. Only about 50 students attended the workshop. The shock, the incredulity, the rebellion, and the impossibility of putting this teaching into effect showed in the tears, the questions, the comments, and the follow-up conversations. That is why I am here writing it down.

I would first like to draw your attention to two passages in the Old Testament. I will comment on them, then make a few suggestions for applying these Scriptures in your life.
You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to thousands who love me and keep my commandments. (Deut. 5:8-10)

Yet you ask, “Why does the son not share the guilt of his father?” Since the son has done what is just and right and has been careful to keep all my decrees, he will surely live. The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him. (Ezek. 18:19-20)
When we read in Deuteronomy 5:10, “punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,” we could conclude that this is not just. However, throughout the entire eighteenth chapter of Ezekiel, we see that children are not held responsible for the sins of their fathers. So what is the second commandment saying? It is saying that sin flows downhill. The sinful influence of our ancestors affects us, overlapping and passing through several generations. This is generational bad news.

However, the sentence does not end with verse 9; it continues with “but showing love to thousands who love me and keep my commandments.” The word “thousands” is really “thousands of generations,” in contrast to three or four generations. How do we know it is “thousands of generations”? First, it is the only way the sentence makes sense, and, second, two chapters later we have an explicit statement to that effect: “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands” (Deut. 7:9). Sin and hatred of God cause the downward movement to three or four generations, and obedience and love of God cause the upward movement to a thousand generations.

I have heard this many times: “I decided I was not going to be the kind of father (or mother) who raised me. I would become a Christian, marry a Christian, and do it right. I became a Christian, married a Christian, and I am doing it wrong, just like my parents. I am in the second bad-news generation; do I have to wait for two more bad generations before it is possible to turn this descent around?”

No, you do not have to wait, but unless you change your relationship with your parents and grandparents you will have to wait two more generations. Becoming a Christian and preaching the gospel to your parents does not change the relationship. Home, with parents, is one of the places where Christians think that they are allowed to lose their temper. That makes the relationship get worse.

About 400 years before Christ, the prophet Malachi gave a negative conditional prophecy. It is found in the last two verses in the Old Testament. “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse” (Mal. 4:5- 6).

The angel Gabriel alludes to this prophecy in Luke 1:17: “And he [John] will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Notice that to stop the curse from happening, hearts must be turned both ways. Although most of my illustrations are speaking to and about children, I am really speaking to parents about their relationship with their own parents. If you are a Christian parent, turn your heart toward your parents, and turn your heart toward your children.

Now look at the second instance where the Ten Commandments speak of generations. “Honor your father and mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you” (Deut. 5:16).

Application is next: love God (Deut. 5:9); obey God (Deut. 5:9); honor your father and mother (Deut 5:16); and turn your hearts to your fathers (Mal. 4:5-6).

Because we have not obeyed the two passages in the Ten Commandments, we may be in the third- and fourth-generation promise, and we will not live long on the earth (cf. Eph. 6:1). The land is in danger of being smitten with a curse. The Malachi text is a call to repentance, a turnaround of the heart.

Here are a few suggestions on how to have a heart repentance that will 1) stop the curse, 2) cause long life, and 3) turn the three or four generations of bad news around to a thousand generations of good news.

First, there are a few things that are very important in this turnaround, though they alone bring no automatic guarantee of halting the curse.

1. Become a Christian. Without a conversion to Christ, it is impossible to love and obey God.
2. Marry a Christian. Without a Christian marriage, you have no assurance that you will have Christian children.
3. Stay married: “To the married I give this command…. A wife must not separate from her husband…and a husband must not divorce his wife” (1 Cor. 7:10-11).

Without these three, you can expect more bad generations. However, with them, the bad generations may still happen. Why? Because your prior generations still affect you and your children. Leaving your father and mother and cleaving to your wife does not mean that you have turned your heart to your father. Until you do, you are asking for another generation of bad news. You cannot expect to be a good husband or a good father if you have not turned your heart to your own father.

In turning your heart to your father, four elements are necessary. Preaching the gospel to him is not one of them; do not do so, for this subverts his authority over you. Instead, you may write a letter him that conveys each of these four elements. I recommend covering one element per paragraph as follows:

1. If you have confessed to God your previous rebellion to your father or mother, also confess it to your earthly father with no excuses or accusations.

2. Tell your father how much you respect him. If you do not respect him, of course you cannot write it without being hypocritical. But you must write it. How?

First confess to God this disrespect for your father. “Why should I? He has not earned it!” The Scripture says, “Honor your father and mother.” It does not say “only if they deserve it.” Your father is to be honored because he is your father. You are commanded to honor him. This is not optional. If you do not honor him, then you have sinned. The same is true with your mother. Sin is forgivable, and repentance is required.

After you have confessed your disrespect or lack of honor for your father, and you are sure you are forgiven, choose to respect him. You may ask, “How? He is not respectable.” Respect has nothing to do with the respectableness of the person to be respected. It has to do with the respecter and the respecter’s close fellowship with and obedience to God.

Now with freedom and sincerity, write to your father how much you respect him in this second paragraph.

3. In the third paragraph, tell him how much you love him. If you do not love him, that has to be corrected first. Your reply may be, “He did not love me, so I do not love him.” It is true that, as a father, he should have loved you so that your response would have been a loving response. But we cannot go back to childhood and start over. Even if we could, that does not guarantee that your father would do it any different the second time. We address the problem from where we are, not from where we should be. You are now an adult, and as a Christian you have unlimited access to love and forgiveness. If you do not have this access, there is a very real possibility that you are not a Christian. As a Christian, you may have to confess this lack of love for your father to God. Is it sin? Yes, it is sin. It is disobedience to the command of God. We have been commanded to love our neighbors, love the brothers, and love our enemies. If you do not think your father fits in one of these categories, then perhaps you should study the unconditional quality of love and the biblical relationship of obedience and love.

After you have confessed and have been forgiven, choose to love your father. This love requires expression, so tell him in this paragraph.

4. The next paragraph is the place to express your gratefulness to him. If you are not grateful, then as with respect and love, it is your problem, not his. The procedure is the same. Confess your unthankfulness to God. When you are forgiven, express your thankfulness to your father.

These four elements are necessary and required. The next two are suggestions for further ways to convey respect.

5. Ask your father to tell you or write you his autobiography, his life history. He might not do it, but he will be glad you want to know about him.
6. Ask him for advice and counsel, in general and on specific matters. This is part of honor.

Write the same kind of letter to your mother, but with one change. The first paragraph should express your love to her, and the second paragraph should communicate your respect for her. Both sexes of the human race need love and respect from both sexes. Of the two, women need love more than they need respect, and men need respect more than they need love. However, each needs both, and they should not have to earn it in order to receive it.

This letter should be followed up with other kind personal letters, hugs, and other physical expressions (e.g. handshakes, if they are warm, firm, and exuberant).

The letter can be followed up with an explanation, as long as the explanation does not include excuses or accusations. Here is a suggestion: “Dad, I know that you love me very much. You have not been the best expresser of your love. So growing up I did not think you loved me. Even now I have had to take it by faith. If you wondered why I was boy crazy from junior high through college, it was because I was looking for male affection. Of course, I did not get it. I was getting taken. Now you are wondering about my letter to you and all of the hugs you are getting from me when I come to visit. Although I now have a husband and children, I still need my father, and you need me. That’s why I am here hugging you. I thought I would prime the pump. I’m giving to receive.” Adjust this example to fit you.

When your parents receive these two letters, several things will probably happen. The letter will be read more than once, it will not be thrown away, and you will receive some sort of favorable response. If you do not receive a response, do not think that you did something wrong. Be patient and keep on giving. Some cultures (e.g. those of Northern Europe) are not expressive with their emotions, except for lost tempers. This kind of expression from you may be embarrassing for your parents. But they still want to receive this expressed love even if they do not know how to return it.

One man in his late fifties wrote this kind of letter to his father. His mother replied. “I have been married to your father for sixty years. When he read your letter, that was the first time in our marriage I saw tears in his eyes.”

In the early 1980s, we held a summer school of practical Christianity at Delta House of the University of Idaho. About 40 students attended. Respect for parents was one of the subjects. The following fall, in a noon Bible class at Washington State University, I was teaching on the same subject again. One of the students spoke up. He gave us a story that went something like this:

“I learned this last summer at the Delta House. When I was sixteen, my father kicked me out of the house, saying that he would never see me again. I left home. I later became a Christian and married a Christian. Now I am a graduate student in economics at WSU. In the meantime, I had not seen my father. My parents were on the brink of divorce, living in separate bedrooms at home (in one of the Great Plains states).

“When I learned this material, I wrote two letters, one to my father and one to my mother. It took me several days to write each one, so they were sent several days apart. For some reason, the letters arrived on the same day, and both my parents were at home. Seeing that the letters were addressed separately, my mother took her letter to her room, and my father took his letter to his room. After reading the letters, they exchanged them and went again to their separate rooms and read. When they came out, my father had tears in his eyes and said, ‘I’m flying out to Pullman to see my son.’ I have seen my father since last summer, and my parents’ marriage has been saved.”

There are two problems, the heart problem and the action problem. The heart problem is first. Your unlove, your disrespect, your ungratefulness have to be taken care of in repentance toward God. To write a letter without being forgiven by God only ensures that your letter will be insincere and hypocritical.

You may have a long wait if you wait for your father to turn to you first. You cannot afford the wait.

After you are clean, write the letters. Then continue letter-writing, telephoning, and visiting, expressing respect, love, and thankfulness.

Doing these things will change you. You will become a better husband, son, and father, or a better wife, daughter, and mother. Your love and obedience will bring love for a thousand generations.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Saturation Love

God gives commands to love. These commands are to be applied to wives, brothers, neighbors, aliens, and enemies. This love is the love that God had for us when Jesus Christ died for us. It is sacrificial; its primary expression is giving. It is designed to be effective. It worked for our salvation.

Love requires an object, and love requires expression. “For God so loved the world that he gave…” (John 3:16). The world was love’s object, and giving was love’s expression. This love was not half-hearted or reluctant or “almost enough.” It was complete and more than adequate for all of the sins and sinners in this world. “But where sin increased, grace increased all the more…” (Romans 5:20).

In obeying God’s commands to love, we are to love as He loved. That is unconditional and without reserve or reluctance. We should have and give more love to the person needing love so that his need for love is satisfied. You may think that that is impossible. This person is so starved for love that loving him is like pouring water down a rat hole. You are convinced that you will run out of love before this love-starved person is satiated. That might be true if you are counting on him returning love to meet your needs. But if you get refilled by the Holy Spirit, you are never going to run out.

Now let’s apply this principle to raising children. There are many different problems in raising children that require understanding and applying biblical principles. Here are a few of these problems:

• Lack of obedience
• Lack of effective discipline for disobedience
• Lack of effective training and teaching
• Sibling rivalry and jealousy
• Attention-getting devices such as whining, crying, and tantrums
• Signs of insecurity such as speaking loudly, warts, overweight, scratching, hitting, biting, picking at the body, and hand mannerisms.

Each of these subjects could fill a book; in fact, books have been written on each of them. You may have read some of them and implemented what you learned, and, with some of you, what you applied did not work. It is easy to draw the conclusion that the book was wrong. The book may have been right, and your application may have been right. What went wrong?

Here is the principle mentioned earlier. I will call it saturation love. Saturation love is different from adequate love, quality time, or quantity time. It includes the last two plus undivided attention.

Saturation means that maximum absorption has been reached. A saturated solution is one where the solvent cannot dissolve anymore solute. For example, if you continue to add and stir sugar into a glass of water, the water will eventually become saturated with sugar, meaning no more sugar will dissolve in it. After the solution reaches the saturation point, any additional sugar will fall to the bottom of the glass—the water cannot dissolve anymore.

It is the same with love. It is possible to saturate someone with love so that any additional love is not received. It is not rejected; it is just not needed.

Over the years, I asked audiences for a show of hands if they thought their parents loved them. Over 95% of the hands would go up. It was never 100%, but it was always a high percentage. Then I asked this question of those who had raised their hands: “Do you think that your parents expressed this love to you adequately?” Only half of the hands stayed up. The third question was, “Of those of you who think your parents expressed their love for you adequately, could you have used an even greater expression of love?” All of the hands remained up.

• No love
• Some love
• Adequate love
• Even more love is wanted.

No one ever thought he received enough love from his parents. Their children will, if asked, say the same thing about them.

What are the consequences of not getting enough love? Disobedience is directly proportional to the shortfall in love. Even if administered correctly, discipline for the disobedience is not effective if the child is not loved enough. He thinks, “The last time I got any attention around here was the last time I got spanked.” Disobedience becomes his means for getting attention. Therefore, your training and teaching is ineffective if you are not giving your child enough love.

The amount of sibling rivalry, competition, selfishness, and jealousy is inversely proportional to the love shown to your children. When all of the kids are saturated with love, there will be little or no rivalry, squabbles, or fights. The more love, the less whining, disobedience, and jealousy, and the less crying and tantrums. Also, the more love, the sooner the child will become a Christian.

“Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?” (Rom. 2:14). God’s means of leading us to repentance was to pour on the kindness and show us tolerance and patience even when we were sinners. How much more should we do this for our children!

What are our problems? We do not want to give hugs and attention to a whiner. We do not want to endorse bad behavior. That is true, but doing this is not endorsing bad behavior. It is curing it. This giving is not giving in to the child’s dictations, but to his real need. His perception is more true than your perception. The “whiner” is asking for attention—loving attention. We will give a small baby attention when it cries. There may be nothing wrong; he is not hungry, wet, dirty, or sick; he just wants some loving. When the child is two or three or nine or ten and asks for attention, we do not want to give it. We do not think the child needs it. Believe me, if he asks for it, he needs it. When he is saturated, he will quit asking. (On the other hand, there are some children who need attention but will not demand it. They need and receive even less than the demander. Because they are not demanding, you may think they are satisfied.)

Our problem is that we run out of “give” before the child runs out of demand. We think he will never quit demanding our attention, so we quit giving it before we should quit. If we kept on giving the attention, we would find our child would get satisfied. The child will get full, and consequently he will be very secure and ask for very little in the years to come. This security is of central importance in your child’s obedience to you.

Many years ago, there was a little boy who had warts on his left hand and arm. I think there were eighteen of them. He had had them for many months.

One day his father asked him, “Johnny would you like me to pray to God to take away your warts?”

Johnny replied, “No, they are my friends; I play with them.”

His father knew that these warts were evidence of the boy’s insecurity and that the insecurity was the result of the father himself not giving his son enough loving attention. The father made a decision and followed through with much loving attention. The warts disappeared in a very short time.

Many years ago, I was close to a young family who had four preschool boys ages one, two, three, and four. One day the parents came to see me about their oldest son. He had two major problems that they did not seem able to correct. 1) He was hitting each of his little brothers all day long. He was corrected on each occurrence, either shouted at, spanked, or both. 2) He had picked the skin off of his face in many places so that he had small red scabs all over his face. He looked like he had the measles.

The spankings did not seem to work. Their question was obvious: “What do we do?”

My answer was as follows: “The next time he hits a little brother, pick him up and hug him.”

The mother answered, “I don’t want to reinforce that kind of conduct.”

“Don’t worry. He already has gotten the message that it is wrong. Not only should you hug him the next time he hits his brother, I want you to hug him all day long. He hasn’t gotten enough love since the second son was born, and now there are number three and number four. The only time he gets attention is when he is bad. So he hits little brothers in order to get attention. He picks his face because he is insecure. I guarantee that if you pour loving attention on him with overkill, his face will clear up, and he will quit hitting his little brothers within two weeks.”

She said, “I don’t think I can do that.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t even like him anymore.”

The parents confessed their sin and put this into effect. The predicted results came true.

Another time, a father with a very active 12-year-old son came to me for help. The son had had extensive discipline for misbehaving on small things and did not seem to have learned from the discipline. He also had a difficult time getting along with his peers. The parents were giving him a fair amount of love, attention, and time, but he still would not receive correction or be repentant when spanked repeatedly.

I told the father that he could not pour on too much love. In desperation to see improvement, the father poured on the physical affection and reduced the constant verbal correction of minor things. The father then took the boy to a men’s retreat where he held the son in his arms for the two-hour van ride there and back, plus holding the son during the speaking sessions. Upon their return home, the mother immediately recognized a change in the boy’s attitude and his willingness to receive correction without pouting, as well as his desire to get along better with other children.

In years of asking questions and listening to answers, there is one answer that stands out. “I never heard my father admit that he was wrong about anything. In the meantime, Mom knew he was wrong; we kids knew he was wrong; God knew he was wrong, and he himself knew it, but he would not admit it.” This may be true of some of you fathers whose children are grown and gone. You may be reading this and realize that you did not practice saturation love when they were growing up. In the meantime, they have had all kinds of problems. Others of you have children who are teenagers, not away from home, but not little “lovable” kids.

What can you do about it now? First confess to God all of your wrong actions such as over-discipline, put-downs, ridicule, ignoring, yelling, anger, favoritism, lack of expressed love, etc. After this, you can write to each of your children expressing to them what you have confessed to God. Tell them you have confessed your actions and attitudes to God. You can also admit specific things that you remember. Ask the children to bring to your attention things that they are still hurting about, just as you may still be hurting about how your father treated you. When they tell you, do not be defensive; just be sorry with a godly sorrow. “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death” (2 Cor. 7:10). Then express love to them in many ways. If your children are still with you, do the same, except it should be in person in addition to the letter. The letter is important because 1) you can get it all said without interruptions, 2) the letter will get read many times, and 3) the letter will be kept.

Remember, both sexes of children need much love from both sexes of parents. If you are divorced, saturation love is more difficult, but still necessary. If you are competing for the love and loyalty of your children by putting down your former spouse or by buying your children’s love, it is counterproductive. Not only is it less than saturation love, it is not love at all.

One of the best ways to express love to your children is by not fighting with your spouse. Fights between the parents is a major cause of insecurity in children. If you do disagree, the children should never hear it. If you already have a history of fighting or disagreeing with your spouse in front of the children, confess your history to God, then to your spouse and your children, and then forsake the fighting.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Dear Friend: Choosing the Right Theology

You had many good thoughts in your letter. There are several reasons that there is unity in 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 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 of the chapters that teach you, plainly, a distinctive theology. How many are there?

Read all the texts that teach about examples and imitation.
Read all the Scriptures that teach about the heart and fruit.
Read all the Scriptures that teach about knowledge.
Read the Scriptures that have the “be” verb and then the Scriptures that have the “do” 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 for the “why” 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, June 19, 2018

Dear Friend: Dealing with Other People's Sin

Dear T,

It has been several weeks since you have been by, so it is time for another letter to you. It will be mostly Scripture with how you have applied the Scriptures in your life.

In Greek, there are three words for love:

Agape – sacrificial love for the good of others
Phileo – friendship love
Eros – sexual love

When we are saved, we are given the fruit of the Spirit, which is agape (see Gal. 5:22 and 1 Cor. 13:4-7).

Love is patient – Are you patient?
Love is kind – Are you kind?
Love does not envy or boast – Are you envious?
Love is not proud – Are you proud?
Love is not rude – Are you rude?
Love does not insist on its own way – Do you?
Love is not irritated – Do you get irritated?
Love is not resentful – Do you get resentful?

Whom are we to love?

Our neighbor (Matt. 22:39).
Other Christians (John 13:34-35).
Our enemies (Luke 6:27-36).

We are to love these people with this kind of love.

“For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible” (Eph. 5:8-13).

We are not allowed to expose sin by speaking of the sin. It is exposed by the light of our character.

“Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding” (2 Cor. 10:12).

Do you compare yourself with others?

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:3-11).

Have the same mind in humility as Jesus.
Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. (Matt. 7:1)

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. (Luke 6:45)

And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.” (Rev. 12:10)

And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer. (John 16:8-10)
The devil accuses, and the Holy Spirit convicts. If you are accusing anyone of any sin (whether the accusation is true or false), you are speaking for the devil.

You have accused many other people of many things. When you do that, you are speaking for the devil, not for Jesus. Of course, you think that what you say is true. It probably isn’t true, but even if it were, you may not say it.
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Eph. 4:31-32)

But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. (Col. 3:8)

Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices. (Col. 3:8)
You must put these away.

You know that taking offense is sin. You do not seem to know that giving offense is the greater sin.
Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. (1 Cor. 10:32-11:1)

And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. (1 Cor. 8:11-12)

If my conscience is clean that does not make me innocent. (1 Cor. 4:4)
Our conscience is not absolute on right and wrong.

In my short acquaintance with you, it seems that what you think, you also say – and you think that what you are saying is right. The content of what you say is normally not biblical. Even it were, the manner in which you say it is not loving or kind.

You may think you cannot change because you were born this way, but that is not true because you were born again and received a new nature. “Old things have passed away, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).

If you are born again and do not change, it is because you will not, not because you cannot. If you will not, it is because you are deliberately disobeying and sinning. If you really cannot change, you have not been born again. Jesus does a better job of saving than what you evidence in your life. I do not know which it is, but I am ready to help you in a positive way.

You say that you love people and are not angry. If that were true, the people would recognize that they are loved.

With love and respect,

Jim Wilson

Monday, June 18, 2018

Dear Friend: Being a Woman of the Word

Dear M,

Thank you for your answer. At least some of the questions made you realize that you are not perfect. You probably knew that before the questions. Your first statement was, “I am obviously not perfect, but no one is.” The problem with the statement was not that it wasn’t true, but your saying “no one is.” By saying that, you were justifying yourself for not being perfect. You were saying that not being perfect was acceptable and normal. It may be the average, but it is not normal, and should not be accepted.

In Philippians 3:12, Paul said, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of me.” Paul was headed toward perfection. The Holy Spirit brings our attention to our imperfections so that we will confess them and be forgiven for them.

Here is a prayer by Zachariah about the Lord Jesus, six months before Jesus was born: “He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David...to rescue us from our enemies, and to enable us to serve Him without fear in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days” (Luke 1:69, 74-75). Jesus enables us to serve Him in holiness and righteousness.

Both holiness and righteousness are absolutely pure, but they are not synonyms. Righteousness comes from God.
For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith.” (Rom. 1:17)

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile. (Rom. 3:21-22)

Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. (Rom. 10:3)
We receive this righteousness when we receive Christ. At that time, we are perfect. All of our sins are gone.

“The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Rom. 5:20-6:2). We died to sin.

“So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God” (Rom. 7:4). We died to the law.

“Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules” (Col. 2:20). We died to the basic principles of this world.

“Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds” (Col. 3:9). We have taken off our old self with its practices.

All of these are past-tense events.

At that time, we received the fruit of the Spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5:22-24).

Righteousness comes from God when we were dead in transgressions: “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (Eph. 2:4-5). Righteousness is a bath we receive that makes us clean.

Holiness is different. It starts from the purity of righteousness. “And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Rom 6:18-19). “You have been made slaves of righteousness” (past tense), and that leads to holiness. Righteousness leads to holiness. Righteousness is the base line, the platform from which you go on to holiness. Righteousness is being made clean. Holiness is not getting dirty.
Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (2 Cor. 2:1)

But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Pet. 1:15-16)

Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matt. 5:48)
These commands would not be there if God did not make them possible to be obeyed.

Become a woman of the Word, not a woman of the evangelical culture. Much of the evangelical culture just does what the world does, only 10 years later.

You may not consider yourself a leader. You may be a follower. That is alright. Follow some one who wants to be like Jesus.

You have probably figured out that you are very pretty and have a pleasant, outgoing personality. These two things attract boys. It is nice to get attention. The danger is that these things attract all kinds of men, most of whom are not interested in your welfare. They are men, and you are ice cream. Pretty girls have a hard time being godly because they are tempting and are tempted. Do not dress to be temptation and do not use your personality to flirt – you will be playing with fire.

When you get married, you will want to marry a godly man. Use the next few years seeking to be godly. You may think, “If I do that, it will take all the fun out of life.” It is not the same pleasure like fun is, but it is not filled with unhappiness.

I think one of my questions was: “Do you want to be godly?” I will ask it again just to keep it in front of you.

Your new found friend,

Jim Wilson

Friday, June 15, 2018

Dear Friend: Reconciling with Those Who Have Sinned Against You

Dear D,

Yes, reconciliation must be made.
Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. (Matt. 5:23-24)

If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. (Matt. 18:15)

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. 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. 6:12-15)

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. (Gal. 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. In Galatians 6:1, we show him his fault to restore him. 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

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Dear Friend: Dealing with Offenses from Others

Dear P,

Here is what the Bible teaches on the subject. If person A offends person B, he either does it intentionally or accidentally. If the offense is intentional, he has sinned against God, because he is to love brothers, neighbors, and enemies. He must confess that 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 what person A did to offend him was intentional or not, person B is in sin. If he is a Christian, he is supposed to take this kind of treatment with joy.
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. (Luke 6:35)

Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. (1 Pet. 2:18-21)

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt. 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 does not mean giving to him having taken great offense. You are to go to restore the brother. If you go to him with an accusation, there is no way you will be reconciled. If you then 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.

“Seven times” and “seventy times” 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 are not allowed to be the judge of his repentance. When you forgive him from your heart, you do not help him; you help yourself, because if you do not forgive from your heart, you are in big trouble with God.

If person C 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 a short answer. Colossians 3:13, Ephesians 4:32, and Matthew 6:12, 14-15 are more truths to consider on the subject. "Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you" (Col. 3:13).
In Christ,

Jim

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Dear Friend: Having Trouble Forgiving

Thank you for the time we have had together. I am going to run two things by you again.

1) Before it is possible to forgive from your heart (Matthew 18:35), you must yourself be forgiven for the sin of not forgiving. Your wife’s sin of disrespect is so big in your eyes that it dwarfs your own sin of not loving and not forgiving. Not forgiving is sin. It must be confessed from the heart as sin against God and confessed to God. If you say you forgive without first being forgiven for your own unforgiveness, it will be words only and not true forgiveness. That is like telling the truth after twenty years of lying without having confessed those twenty years of lying. It does not work.

2) I backed off from using the word pride before because it seemed to stall our conversation. However, there is evidence that confirms to me that pride is a major problem in your life.

Pride and humility are opposites. Pride and humiliation are not opposites. Humiliation confirms the pride. You think that to humble yourself before God will mean also humbling yourself before your wife and your daughter. To you, humbling yourself before them would be humiliating. You think that would increase their disrespect for you, and you can't handle that.

In fact, it would increase their respect for you. The more a man demands respect, the less he gets it. It is not possible to humiliate a humble person. That only happens to people of pride. Your own father said this. “There are two types of men in this world, humble men and those who are about to be humiliated.” Those who are humble and those on their way to being humiliated.

The books are right in that men need respect like women need love. That is part of creation. However, there is a solution that does not depend on other people respecting us. It is humbling ourselves.

The way down is up.

Here is the biblical truth:
How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, "I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High." But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit. (Isa. 14:12-15)

Son of man, say to the ruler of Tyre, "This is what the Sovereign LORD says: 'In the pride of your heart you say, "I am a god; I sit on the throne of a god in the heart of the seas." But you are a man and not a god, though you think you are as wise as a god.'” (Ezek. 28:2)

Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings. (Ezek. 28:17)
These two kings of Babylon and Tyre each sought to be God. They were brought low by God. Truly, the way down is up.
I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. (Luke 18:14)

He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. (1 Tim. 3:6)
The way up is down.

The extreme example of humility is Jesus.
If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:1-11)

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. (Luke 14:11)
Truly, the way up is down.

We either follow the devil or we follow Jesus.

You have not sought to be God. However, in whatever you have done, you have sought to be the best in order to be respected. In the world system, that works. Consequently, you have been respected and have become the center of your own universe. It hasn’t worked with your family. It doesn't work with God. His system is different. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you 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” (Matt. 11:28-29). Jesus is gentle and humble. Do you want to be like Jesus?

Humility is arrived at by humbling ourselves. It is not a natural state. If someone else humbles us, it is humiliating. You have not been willing to humble yourself before God because it will mean humbling yourself before people whom you think are wrong. You would rather be “right” than humble. You do not want to be like Jesus. He was highly exalted because He humbled himself. Satan exalts himself and was cast down.

This refusing to humble yourself keeps you unforgiven and without the fruit of the Spirit.

With love and respect,

Jim

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Dear Friend: Systematic Theology

We have similar personal views. I could probably sign the longest list of “do nots” of any fundamental church in the country, but I would not. I have managed to be and remain non-legalistic. The statement of Paul in Romans 14:17-18 is where I 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."

Your theology. Besides its distinctives, it has two things in common with other evangelical theologies: 1) the gospel, the deity, death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, and grace, faith, and repentance; 2) it is a systematic theology along with Reformed, Arminian, Wesleyan, Dispensational, Lutheran, 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 these theologies are systematic. They are a way of studying the Bible.

The question is not, “Which theology is right?” No systematic theology is just an accumulation of topical Bible studies put together. It is a worldview made up of Scripture from all over the Bible that has 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 in to make them work. That seems innocent enough--however, someone else happens to be pounding other pieces in in a different way. Our different pictures will not end up looking the same. This is a wrong way of studying the Bible. We just get to choose which way we are going to be wrong. We do not find truth that way.

Unfortunately most of us have theologies. Our day-to-day living is made up of one of two things: 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.

Monday, June 11, 2018

How does a Woman Become Secure?

Woman was made by God to be loved, protected, provided for, and made secure. However, there are reasons a woman may not feel loved, protected, or secure. Security is often a combination of objective truth and subjective feeling. What I mean by that is that some women have lost their parents, their husbands, their children, their food, and their clothing. Objectively they have a reason to be insecure, but subjectively they might not feel insecure. At the same time, it is possible to feel insecure and imagine what is objectively necessary to fill this need.

Here is an example: Suppose a woman feels insecure. The feeling is so strong that she is convinced that it is also objective truth. A woman’s great need is to fill up that emptiness. She thinks that a man will fill it. That is partly true. However, the need is so great that the man she gets cannot fill it. He cannot because he is also empty and is looking for a woman to fill his emptiness. Two empty, insecure people marry each other to get their own needs met. It does not work.

Now the woman is even more insecure. She thinks that if she has a baby that will meet her need. Again, that is partly true. Women were made to have babies. However, babies are needy, demanding creatures. The insecure woman now has greater demands on her than she is able to cope with, especially if there are multiple children.

Now she is insecure and frazzled. She thinks she needs a nicer home with nicer furniture. That takes a lot of money. She has to work as well as her husband.

Now she is tired, insecure, and frazzled. She turns to clothes, music, parties, and maybe a different man. Her husband is not romantic. He copped out early in the marriage because his needs were not being met.

This is a description of many women I am acquainted with. Some of them have been married more than once, plus other men. Some of them are into possessions. They are finding out, rather late, that a man, children, house, possessions, and parties do not fill up their emptiness and give them the security they are looking for.

This need has to be met, but the selfishness that insists on it being met ensures that it will not be met even if she gets the man, the children, the house, and possessions. The selfishness has to go first. It has become a tight little fist in her soul. That selfish, tight fist wizens and destroys the person with it.

Before God, the selfishness has to be repented of, that is, confessed, forsaken, and renounced. Then she will have a wonderful joy, peace, and freedom which God will give to her. This will make her very secure in Christ.

As far as security in this world, the provision comes from a closeness to her father, mother, brothers, sisters, and extended family. Next, it comes from her brothers and sisters in Christ who are loving and giving. It comes from her being loving and giving to all kinds of people, even if they do not return the love. It could come from her husband, but not from a future husband. I say this because she should not get married in order to get secure. She should be secure before she gets married. Then she will not be disillusioned and hurt in her marriage.

How does a woman become secure?

She must confess her attitude, not just her action. She must decide, with the grace of God, to love her father, mother, brothers, and sisters. Her love towards any of them cannot be conditional. She should not say, “I will love him if…” No “ifs.” This love includes kind speech, hugs, giving, and helping actions. She should extend this love to more and more people. “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Cor. 5:14-15).

A woman’s long-term objective should be to be holy, loving, kind, joyful, etc. She should also want to have a loving family and loving children and grandchildren. She should want to have a “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Lord.”

This solution assumes that the woman is already a Christian, that is she has by faith received Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as Lord and Savior. She has passed from death to life. That is the beginning of security for everyone, men and women.

Friday, June 08, 2018

Dear Friend: Praying for Healing & Salvation

Dear T,

I have not forgotten you. I prayed for your healing, and I prayed for your salvation.

I was reading Psalm 103 this morning.
Praise the LORD, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
(Psalm 103:2-5)
T, all of the religions of the world have two basic things in common.

1. They tell their adherents that they have to be good (or what they think is good).
2. They teach their adherents a group of distinctives that they have to do. For example, Hindus take a dip in the Ganges River, Muslims make a pilgrimage to Mecca and fast during Ramadan, Roman Catholics go to Mass, and you know the distinctives of the LDS church.

The adherents of all these religions know they cannot be good even though they try. Many of them give up trying. All of them practice the distinctives. The distinctives are easy to do. They can be faithful in their religion without being good.

The Bible, however, does not require goodness in order to go to Heaven, and it certainly has no distinctives that help us to be saved. In fact, the opposite of goodness is a prerequisite for salvation:
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:6-8)
You have to be a sinner in order to be forgiven. Heaven is made up of forgiven sinners, not people who did not need to be forgiven.
What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit the poison of vipers is on their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know. There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Rom. 3:9-18)
This is a description of the human race. The solution is given in Romans 3:21-26: “But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” Notice it is a righteousness from God, not a righteousness to God.
For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith.” (Rom. 1:17)

What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the "stumbling stone.” (Rom. 9:30-32)

Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. (Rom. 10:1-4)
All the religions of the world seek to establish their own righteousness by their definition of goodness and their distinctives. They are not biblical; they are man-made. They do not work.

T, I think you want to be forgiven, and you may want to be healed. I cannot do either of these, but I can point the way.

You have seen both kinds of “born-again” Christians: those who are hypocrites and those who are real. Do not be so foolish as to reject the real because of the hypocrites. That is like rejecting U.S. currency because you got paid with a counterfeit $10 bill.

You may not see me again on earth. We both have deadly diseases. I would like to see you in Heaven.

With love and respect,

Jim Wilson

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Dear Friend: Only Bad People Can Go to Heaven

Dear J,

You have been on my mind off and on for the last several years. My grandson told me that you had asked him why he never rebelled. I have been asked before why my four children had not rebelled when they were all very strong-willed kids. I wasn’t sure, so I checked with them. I cannot remember Gordon’s response, but Heather’s was that she knew that whenever one of us stepped out of line, I would leave the ministry that same day. She did not want that to happen. Evan’s response was that they knew that real Christianity was in their home, not in the church. Doug’s response was that he could not rebel against someone he agreed with.

I bring this up because I suspect you know that I spend most of my time with hurting Christians, the second most with hypocrites (people who are pretending to be Christians but are not), and the third with unbelievers of all kinds: meth, marijuana, alcohol, and sexually immoral people. Last summer and fall I had four different alcoholics living with me as well as a marijuana addict. The reason for this is that I know that God is real and His solution works.

Christ died for the ungodly: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6).

Christ died for sinners: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

In other words, a person has to be bad in order to go to Heaven. Christ did not die for good people. He died to forgive people. A person has to qualify first. He/she must be bad.

In the 70 years I have bean a Christian I have seen people saved hundreds of times. The most remarkable was eight years years ago. He was 32 years old and had never read a book in his life. He has now read the whole Bible. He lived for money, sex, revenge, bitterness, hatred, and profanity. All of those things have disappeared. He now loves everyone this side of the horizon. I had to tell him he had been saved. He now reaches out to many homeless, drunks, and ex-cons. His fiancée does the same with women.

I would be glad to send you some things that helped me and some I have written. I would like to hear from you. Feel free to unload on me. I think you know I loved you. I still do. You can reach me at jimwilson27@frontier.com.

With love and respect,

Jim Wilson

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Dear Friend: Deciding Whom to Marry

Your daughter feels called to missions. Show her the Great Commission in Matthew, Acts, Luke, and I Timothy 2. All nations include the U.S. (and the U.S. Navy). However, her call may be very clearly to an aboriginal people or to Saudi Arabia. If so, she should tell this naval officer to give her another call when he has a call to Saudi Arabia.

Bessie had many reasons for telling me “No” in the spring of 1951. Some of them were: she was 31, I was 23, she had been a Christian 16 years, I had been a Christian only 3 years, she was a Canadian, I was an American, she was a career missionary in Japan to women, and I was a career naval officer. In July 195 she said, “Yes.” We were married in Yokahama in April 1952. She was a very gifted naval officer’s wife.

Four years later, God was clearly leading me out of the Navy to be the Officers' Christian Union Academy staff member ministering to all of the service academies. Bessie was not willing that I get out of the Navy. She thought I was wrong. She said, “I prayed all night to be willing to be a naval officer’s wife, and I am going to be a naval officer's wife.” I hated to override her vote, but it was the right thing. She was very effective in ministry, being a wife, and raising kids.

I remember asking a young woman who was engaged to a Naval Academy midshipman, “Are you willing to be a naval officer’s wife?” She replied, “I am willing to be Joe’s wife. He happens to be a naval officer.”

Unless your daughter is called to be celibate, then it is only a question of who she marries and when. When that happens, her primary calling is to be a godly wife and mother to wherever God leads the family.

In the Lord Jesus Christ,

Jim Wilson

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Dear Friend: A Man Who Doesn't Love His Wife

Dear M,

First, the husband. What kind of ministry is he in: evangelism, discipleship, or on a church staff? Are his children grown? Are they walking in the light? Is his wife in ministry? Are his family rejoicing in the LORD? Is his ministry how he makes his living? I am assuming that his ministry is not effective.

A woman needs four basic things: 1) much love, 2) much security, 3) much protection, and 4) much provision. When a woman is unlovely, that is when she needs love the most. Christ loved the church to make it lovely to present it to Himself. The husband is to love his wife to make her lovely. If he only loves her because she is lovely, he has it backwards.

Has he been expressive in love to his children?

If he thinks he cannot love her, and if that is true, then he is not a Christian and never has been. The other alternative is that he is a Christian and chooses not to love her. In the first case, he is not saved and therefore cannot love her. In the second case, he is saved and will not. These two options should be brought to his attention.

You know he is not qualified to be in the ministry as long as he is not loving his wife. You should suggest to him that he is not even saved. That will shake him up. Tell him that you are open to believing that he is saved, but you will have to see evidence of that in his life first. You will need to see it with no hypocrisy, covering up, passing the buck, or lying on his part.

Do not apologize if he takes offense at this. Giving offense might be sin, but taking offense is always sin.

You can do this kindly. He might not receive it kindly. If he does not receive it, that tells you that you are on target.

In the Lord Jesus Christ,

Jim Wilson

Monday, June 04, 2018

Dear Friend: Catholic, Protestant, Christian

Dear K,

Thank you for the help you gave me.

Although your mother was Catholic and your father a Jain, you intimated that you had grown up neither. You may not be interested, or you may be interested but are concerned about what your parents think.

The attached explanation was written with you in mind, but I realize that content applies to everyone. Along with this letter, I recommend that you read How to Read the New Testament in 67 Days, the story of how I became a Christian when I was 20, Olinda Britton’s testimony. (This is her story written about six months before she died. She was born, lived, and died a Catholic.)

This may be hard to believe, but most religious Protestants and devout Roman Catholics do not have the characteristics that the Bible describes of people who have been saved from their sins and are going to Heaven.

The three things I recommended are full of quotations from the New Testament. As you read the New Testament, you will realize that the quotations are not out of context but represent what the rest of the chapter says. In any case, I recommend that you read it all. It may be very different from what you think. Whether or not you take any of these suggestions, I would be pleased to follow your career.

What I believe does not make anything true. If something is true, it is absolutely true independent of anyone's belief. There are a million beliefs in this world. Each believer holds that it is true because they believe it is true. They certainly are not all true. They might all be false. I cannot study all of them. What is the solution?

All non-Christian religions and most "Christian" religions are complicated and demanding. There is one, not a religion, that is simple and free, and you can know now. There are people, Catholic and Protestant, who have come across this simplicity and have had their life changed in an instant. My life was changed on October 18, 1947. Most Catholics and some Protestants have not come into this simplicity. They are still following the rules and consequently are missing the life. People who follow rules do not know that they have made it to Heaven until they die. That is too late to find out. Besides being simple, this life is also free and is experienced now.

Your friend and patient,

Jim Wilson

P.S. I would encourage you again to read the New Testament. If you read four chapters a day, you will finish it in about two months (four chapters would take around 15-20 minutes). You could also join this summer Bible reading challenge.

Friday, June 01, 2018

Olinda Britton's Testimony

This is the testimony of a friend who was born into a Roman Catholic home. She lived and died a Catholic. At the request of Barbara Friedman, she wrote her testimony down to be shared with others.

I have always loved Jesus, always. I have always prayed. But it wasn't until I was in my 40s that I realized just how shallow my relationship with the Trinity was at that point in my life. I had started my road toward Jesus in a Bible study with Bessie Wilson about 30 years ago. I began to realize that I needed to have an intimate relationship with God, one that made Him the center of my life and one that required me to put my faith totally in my Creator. I was to follow Him wherever He led and to accept the challenges along the way with joy amidst pain or sorrow.

About 30 years ago, my Mom came on a visit from the D.C. area. My life was a mess: my daughter in a relationship that was worrying me, my husband ill and needing care-giving, and my prayer life filled with fretting and anxiousness and so nervous that I was heading for a breakdown. On the same day my Mom was leaving for her home, there was a Catholic evangelist coming to Boise, and my Mom made me promise to go and listen to his healing biblical words. Well, being sort of leery of a CATHOLIC evangelist, I didn't want to go. I had not made a reservation, and I was sure there would be no room for me. I was wrong. They had had a cancellation at 6:00 the morning of the departure. I reluctantly got on the bus, pouting and not getting involved with the singing and fun games people play when traveling together.

We arrive on the Boise campus, enter the auditorium, and I separate myself from my group and get as far as possible from them. I am sitting in a sea of Hispanics with some other Caucasian individuals, and I feel well hidden and certainly not a part of this farce called evangelization. As I sit there, I see a man running out to the stage. It was the preacher himself. He calls for everyone to stop talking and listen. He said, “To that ITALIAN woman in the audience, I have a message for you.” He said that 2 or 3 times, and I was puzzled, as I was an Italian woman in the crowd. But why Italian, as the seats were loaded with Hispanic women? But finally I listened, and he said, “To that Italian woman in the audience, you don't need your husband, your daughter, or your son, all you need is Jesus, and you will find Him in this Book.” He continued to wave it in the air telling me to read it. At that very moment, the hot stone that had taken up residence in my heart for years and years dropped away, and my tears came as a flood. I cried and cried and felt years of burdens drop away and a peace without understanding take over my heart and spirit. The Spirit was saying hello to me. He was comforting me and inviting me to join Him and the Son and the Father for the rest of my life. I knew that the Spirit of God had opened the eyes of my spirit to see God as openly as only He could show me. I was to learn that only if the Father touched me would I be able to see the Triune God and God the Son for the Savior that He is. I felt humbled that God was there by my side; I felt unworthy of His mercy and grace. I cried for all the times I tried on my own strength to carry impossibly hard crosses, for the times I never prayed for guidance. The tears, along with reminding me of what I had missed, also started to bring me that peace that the world could not give me. This began my journey with Jesus, my brother, my Savior, my Lord.

I came home. The peace has continued from that time. No matter what crosses in my path, the Spirit is there with strength that is not from me but exactly where Paul says it comes from. It comes from grace through my faith, not anything that I DO. I plan to remain in the arms of God until I meet Him after my death on earth.

My first encounter with as truly new challenge for me was in 1982. My husband suffered a heart attack and was taken to Deaconess Hospital, where open heart surgery was performed, and in about 10 hours it failed. Having failed means the new bypasses had plugged up and that another more massive heart attack occurred. My husband's heart was functioning at 27%, and instead of coming home healthy he was coming home an invalid with 2 ½ months to live, unable to do much for himself. I spent my time praying for Leslie, and he and I spent time building his body back up. With the Lord's mercy and goodness, the 2 ½ months stretched out to 14 years. My husband needed care for 14 of those years, but he was able to enjoy life with hunting, fishing, and visiting with friends. When he died, all I could do while grieving his loss was to give glory to God for the gift of 14 years of good life. This journey only served to show me that God the Spirit was always in my heart keeping me filled with His peace and strength. His wisdom was paramount in keeping me in the right direction. I kept my eyes on giving Him the glory, for I knew that I was doing His will.

In August 1995, I was diagnosed with possible cancer of the lungs. Sacred Heart ran tests and denied that it was cancer but rather a re-occurrence of an immune system disorder that I had been diagnosed with 41 years prior which had gone into remission in 1965. So for 4 ½ years I was on a dangerous Prednisone regimen that somehow allowed whatever was wrong with my lungs to progress slowly. In 1999, the Spokane doctor decided to go into the lung and take out a slice. This caused panic in my daughter and sister, who made an immediate appointment with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Once there, I was diagnosed with non-hodgkins Lymphoma of the lung only, stage 4, large cell T. I was a healthy 65-year-old, so Mayo mixed a special chemo cocktail for me called CHOP 6. Because I was in good health, I was not watched carefully enough and ended up with side effects that will plague me the rest of my life.

During this time, my prayers were daily and more. Whenever a treatment was given, I spent 11 days unable to pray anything, except for the words, “Help me Jesus.” To this day I simply cannot put myself in the quiet stance before the Lord and rest in His arms while my mind formed words of praise and love for Him. I fear that the chemicals of chemo that do affect the mind have stolen my closeness to Him that sustains me. I yearn for that relationship and spend time trying to reprise it never to lose it again. During the battle, I felt that Jesus the Healer was beside me. I still do, but the fervor and excited delight is no longer what it was. Although these emotions are tempered, I still feel so close to God in all His persons that I can truly say He has never left me and continues to support me in pain, in times of frustration, in times of walking through the desert alone.

Eleven years ago, I faced the trial of cancer with the Creator of the Universe beside me and even through a pulmonary/cardiac arrest, He was there. He will forever be in my heart and spirit.

Please close your eyes and envision the times you have been hit with a cross to bear and your heart is in turmoil – no place to turn, just emptiness. Turn to the biblical Jesus in the gospel of John. Find out who He is and invite Him into your life, all of it, the good and the bad. You will never regret it. He is not a magician. But He is God, and He promises us He will never leave us or forsake us. Pray and pray for the comfort of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, and always, always ask for His wisdom. Thank God the Father for the gifts of consolation and peace of heart. Never forget that the longing feeling of emptiness in your heart can only be filled by Jesus, our Savior and Brother.

Olinda S. Britton
4/28/2011