"Can I lose my salvation?" and other questions Christians might ask, part 2
What about near-death experiences? Some of them dont agree with the theology you say is real. And what about spiritual experiences in the Occult or New Age?
I have a friend who had a near-death experience in the hospital. She floated above her body and felt at peace and now has little fear of death. She even thinks shes going to Heaven because shes a good person. The truth is, if she never admits shes a sinner and accepts Jesus Christ her spirit will eventually float down--to Hell. Many of these so-called near-death experiences bear remarkable similarity to hers, and frequently break down into two different forms: In one, people float out of their bodies, feeling at peace, enter the light and know they can either stay or go on. They may feel a marvelous, unconditional love. They might be told its not their time to die yet, and so they return. Nothing is really said about the need for repentance from sin or the need of Jesus Christ to enter into the presence of God.
The other sort of NDE is much closer to what the Bible teaches, although you don't see these experiences given the press that more "positive" experiences do. There are those whove come close to death that would speak of going down into a pit, hearing the agonizing cries of lost souls, feeling the flames of Hell, crying out to Jesus and then being pulled away from where they were going, etc. I cant speak to the legitimacy of either experience. What I can speak to is the deception that I personally experienced in my Occult years. Myself and others participated in astral projection, during which the spirit is released from the body. Unlike a near-death experience, this is a controlled event (albeit the assistance of demonic entities is ultimately involved). Those of us who were involved in such stupid things met spirit beings who masqueraded as friendly spirit guides. A few who eventually got out of the practices can also tell you how these friendly spirit guides suddenly turned very unfriendly as the person began responding to the truth about repentance from such activities and the need to accept Jesus Christ. I wont go into a lot of detail about the conflicts that some people Im aware of experienced in getting delivered from the spirits they thought were there to help them. My purpose in bringing the subject up is to illustrate how the Devil and his minions deceive people by masquerading as angels of light. Based on the experiences we had, we would have spread the gospel of attaining higher consciousness and personal revelation through the aid of spirit guides, automatic handwriting, ouija boards, psychometry, past-life regression, horoscopes, etc. But the truth was, this was all deception--but not a deception based on solely on false religious or philosophical beliefs, but a deception based on real, but false experiences! The fact that someone has a NDE and returns to their body to spread the tale that we all go into the light regardless of our religious beliefs is meaningless even if a resulting change of heart causes them to spend the rest of their lives trying to better humanity. That idea is laughably close to what we believed in spiritualism! The difference was that we didnt have an isolated 5-minute outside-the-body experience to base our beliefs on--we did this on a regular basis and would have offered the same message. But as a few people turned away from these experiences and practices to the Bible and Christ, real warfare began and the truth behind these experiences was revealed.
The point is, it took repentance from these practices based on acceptance of what the Bible said about them in order to see the real truth. We had to stop doing them first and accept what the Bible said about them before we could fully understand how dangerous they were. There was no reason otherwise, while still involved in them, to direct any criticism toward what we were doing or what we believed. In fact we would have pointed to the reality of the experiences and powers we were involved with to prove it was of God and that it offered a superior path to reaching Him over the dead churches that abounded which preached against what we were doing.
This deception still exists on the part of many Channelers, Mediums and Psychics. Even the greatest psychic this century, Edgar Cayce, when he first started having his weird revelations, went to his Baptist pastor to ask whether they could be of God, or not. The pastor warned him they werent, but Cayce eventually chose to give into them and his name became legend in the world of the Occult. Cayce was a fine man who helped many people with his visions and psychic healings, but he was a victim of spiritual deception. He would never have willingly lent himself as a tool of evil spirits, but he wound up as such because he chose to follow the truth of a deceptive experience over what the Bible clearly said.
Psychic Sylvia Browne, labors under the same deception. On a recent TV show she expressed the same flawed universalist salvation doctrine by basically saying: Do the best you can in this life, close your eyes and go home. Now shes a nice, caring lady who uses her gift to help people. The problem is, if she never rejects this gift and its accompanying philosophies in preference to embracing what the Bible says, she will never experience the truth of salvation and will continue to help lead others astray.
Another example is James Van Praagh, author of a current best-seller. Initially a skeptic, Van Praagh was told by a British medium that he too would be used by the spirits to speak to the living. He began studying the subject and gradually found his powers developing to the point he has become one of, if not the most gifted mediums around. (This is one means by which the deception starts--opening up oneself to the influences of evil spirits by delving into the Occult through mere curiosity.) Today Van Praagh regularly communes with spirits he would say are the Dear Departed. The truth is, he has been tricked by entities masquerading as the dead just as I once was. Van Praagh is a nice guy, not some dark-countenanced Satanist. Id probably enjoy meeting and shooting the bull with him, and there is no question to me that Van Praagh sincerely wants to help people overcome grief or deal with the shadows of the past by offering supposed communion with the dead in an attempt to provide comfort to the living. What Van Praagh will never understand unless he accepts what the Bible says about what he is doing is that these are lying demonic spirits--spirits that were around during the lives of these dead people, who knew what went on in their lives. Thus they impart snippets of information that Van Praagh himself would never know on his own. It makes what he says seem real, positive and helpful. But the end result of what hes doing is to draw people away from seeking Christ for salvation to instead seek solace from demons.
Van Praagh himself admits that he is only able to channel a few levels of the spirit realm, and in that he is entirely correct. What he doesnt realize that the entities from the Astral realm hes dealing with are the Principalities and powers of the air--i.e. Satan and his minions. Van Praagh cannot reach the higher levels of reality where dwells the Spirit of Truth apart from Jesus Christ, whom he does not recognize as savior.
I once thought the Spiritualism craze had reached its zenith in the 60s, but as I see Mr. Van Praagh given a forum in todays media, where those across the globe can hear his message simultaneously over cable or satellite, I fear that a resurgence of Spiritualism may be ahead, perhaps single-handedly brought about by a charming man like Mr. Van Praagh. I dont know if hell ever come to this site--I hope he does and that the Spirit of God imparts revelation to him about the lie he is trapped in. But if he or anyone else who legitimately channels spirits through ouija boards or direct channeling ever visits here, I challenge you to tell the spirits you deal with to praise the body, blood and name of Jesus Christ. They will not and cannot because they are universally of Satan!
The bottom line is, near-death experiences, experiences with the supernatural and the Occult, and New Age philosophies are all a part of the same old garbage that has existed from the days of the Old Testament. Theyre real, yes, but theyre lies. To the people involved in them, there is no reason to do other than accept them at face value. That's why it's so hard for those caught up in the web of the supernatural to ever get free--the only way to know that they're involved in a lie is for them to place more faith in the Bible than what they are experiencing.
So how do you know a true experience from a false one? It's quite simple--a real supernatural experience from God will always point you toward Biblical truth and Jesus Christ. It will never contradict the Word as written in scripture. Thus, you will never receive a message from God through the vehicle of a horoscope, seance, ouija board, Channeling, etc., nor will any word from God contradict the Bible.
My church teaches that so-called spiritual gifts were just for the time of the Apostles, so modern-day manifestations of these are likewise of the Devil, right?
First, I would say your church is wrong. I wouldnt say that solely because I have a differing theological viewpoint, although fine arguments can be made against that position based entirely on scripture. I say that instead as someone who has experienced both sides of the supernatural--Satan and God. Ive mentioned that the false experiences of psychics and Channelers have in common a universalist salvation theology--we all go into the light....Gods love and acceptance of all is unconditional...Christian, Jew or Moslem is all the same in Gods eyes, etc. The need for repentance from sin and salvation through faith in Christ alone is never mentioned ever! Contrast this with the modern Charismatic church in which supernatural spiritual gifts are manifest. Despite whatever problems may be present with it, the Christian Charismatic movement affirms salvation through faith in Christ alone in direct contradiction to the message offered in the Occult and New Age. This says it all.
That said, the Charismatic movement has the same problems in it that the non-Charismatic church has. Some so-called prophets are outright frauds, some are self-appointed, and some are true servants of God. As the Bible says, we can know them by their fruits. The Devil is alive and well in many Christian churches, both Charismatic and non-Charismatic. There are churches, for instance, that are so heavily deceived by legalism that some in the movement are actually utilizing so-called Gifts of the Spirit that have demons as their source! (I speak about this on page 4A.) Any teaching you sit under is the spirit that you open yourself up to--whether it is the spirit of God or a spirit of the Devil. Churches and denominations which teach that righteousness equates to how much sin you abstain from are deceived by legalism and substitute a theology of salvation by faith alone for a salvation based on obedience to the Commandments, or faith plus obedience to the Commandments as say the Mormons! A good way to note such false churches is if they consciously teach that youll go to Hell if: Women wear pants; if you dance; if you smoke; if you wear makeup, and so on. Im not saying that someone who believes these things is automatically unsaved--Im saying that churches which teach this sort of doctrine are only one step away from a heretical salvation theology, and if the point comes where the members consciously think they are righteous because they dont wear pants, because they dont dance, because they dont wear makeup or smoke, then they have crossed the line to abandon the idea of salvation through faith in Christ and thereby open themselves up to the influence of demons. In such cases its possible for false spiritual Gifts to be manifested, and this is the source of a lot of false prophecy in the church--sincere people who have made the mistake of thinking it is possible to become righteous in Gods eyes either through obedience or abstaining from sin. They have failed to understand 1st Corinthians 1:30 which clearly says that Jesus Christ has been made our righteousness! (But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption.) The only righteousness we are capable of displaying through living a godly life is a righteousness of character, not a righteousness sufficient to grant or maintain salvation! The point where dancing sends you to Hell is the point where salvation through Christ has been denied in exchange for salvation through works.
So how can one know if a denomination, movement or church is displaying true gifts from God? Here are the steps:
1. Identify the salvation theology. Is salvation gained and kept solely through faith in Christ alone? If so, this is the most important criterion.
2. Look at the character of the group or person. Is there evidence of maturity in Christ and the fruits of the Spirit (listed in Galatians 5:22) in the persons life? Or are they rigid, spiteful, stern, filled with anger or hatred of sinners or those not in their group?
3. Does the gift displayed somehow point to Christ or glorify God? If not, it is suspect.
4. Does the gift or prophecy contradict scripture? A prophecy or word from God that the pastor is going to divorce his wife and marry you isnt of the Lord! Likewise any so-called manifestation of the Spirit that contradicts the Bible is to be rejected. Note this doesnt mean that something must be normative in scripture in order to be of God. It means that it must not contradict the spirit of what the scripture teaches.
Well, can a Christian have a demon? Can a Christian be demon possessed?
Theres a lot of debate over this issue. The Bible itself does not specifically say whether a Christian can or cannot be plagued by demons. Looking at it from a strictly scriptural point of view, the strongest argument is that a Christian cannot have a demon in the sense of being possessed or controlled against their will. However, the Bible seems to take for granted that in the time of Christ it was possible for Jews, at any rate, to have demons which needed to be cast out of them. Most of the time these unfortunates were overt sinners of one sort or another, and presumably these demons gained entrance into the people through their willfully engaging in sin. In other cases, however, the Gospels record that some people who needed deliverance from demons apparently were innocent of any particular sin. The 13th chapter of Luke records an incident where Jesus, in the synagogue, cast a demon out of an old woman which had caused her to walk in a bent position for 18 years. Nowhere in Lukes account of the event does Jesus tell her to go and sin no more nor does he even mention sin. In fact he calls her a Daughter of Abraham, and apparently this woman had done nothing to warrant a demons entering into her life, yet it was present. Elsewhere in the Gospels, Jesus cast a demon out of a child, whom we can presume probably wasnt too bad of a sinner.
The first incident leads me to conclude that if a righteous Jew could somehow be physically affected by a demon then a Christian isnt necessarily guaranteed immunity. Certainly the Bible says enough that we can be assured that a true Christian cannot be demon possessed--that is, under the physical control of a demon spirit. Short of that it is probably true that Christians can be pestered and influenced by demons messing with their thought lives and perhaps affecting them physically as happened to the woman in the synagogue. Jesus also called Peter Satan, for instance, when he spoke against His going to the cross. Nothing suggests that Peter was literally demon possessed, but the inference can be made that Peter was expressing a thought that originated not from his own independent thinking, but from Satan--i.e. a demon influencing his thoughts. The only way the demon could motivate Peter to express its own views was through Peters yielding himself to sin--in this case rebellion against the Lord. (If you read and understand the text as written in the Greek, Peter doesnt just express a contrary opinion, but actually rebukes Jesus for His statement.) If Peter would have been offended and rejected Jesus rebuke against what he said, and hardened his position, he would have yielded even further to the influence of this demon, perhaps eventually reaching the point where he would actually turn against Christ and thereby allow the demon to actually enter into him--as happened to Judas during the Last Supper.
For what anecdotal evidence is worth, I once spoke to a Christian minister from India (certainly the most demonized country on earth). This particular minister was no raving Pentecostal--in fact he was closer to a Baptist than a Charismatic. When I asked him about this question, his instant response was that it was wonderful theology to hold that Christians cant have demons, but he found himself regularly encountering people with demons whom he was aware of had accepted Jesus Christ as savior. So far as he was concerned, Christians absolutely can have demons which might need to be cast out--if you define cast out as the formal severance through prayer and/or exorcism of some past sin or action which allowed the demon to gain some influence over the persons life or body.
Beyond that, some groups think you can find demons under every rock. Everything from Lust demons, to Cigarette demons, to Arriving-late-to-church demons. We shouldnt give demons more credit than they deserve. The bottom line is that they were defeated at the cross, and at this point they can do little more than offer us temptation in hope that by yielding to it we will allow them to influence our lives. We are not to be afraid of them, and if we submit ourselves to God they will actually run from us.
What is the Trinity? Must I believe it to be saved?
I hate dealing with this subject because Im not hung up on it as some theologians are. But the concept is key to understanding the nature and substance of God. First, the word Trinity isnt in the Bible. Its a word that was given to an idea present in the Bible that reveals God exists as a three-part entity, each able to manifest collective and independent thought simultaneously. The three persons of the Trinity are: God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit. Now you have to understand that any honest Trinitarian will admit that we, as humans, cannot explain or even understand the concept of the Trinity in its fullness. So any attempt at explaining it ultimately breaks down simply because we cannot articulate the reality of an infinite God through finite terms. But Ill do the best I can.
Now belief in the Trinity is not belief in three gods, although you might almost think that. Instead, it asserts that our one God is made up of one essence with three independent personalities...almost like Siamese triplets. In some ways you could view the triplets as three separate persons, yet they share the same body and organs at the same time, so theyre also one person at the same time they are three. Thats as close as I can come to explaining the triune God in human terms.
Part of whats involved in accepting the idea of the Trinity is that each of the persons inside the Trinity are equally Divine, and equally God. This has been the cause of stumbling to many people and groups, such as our old friends, the Mormons and Jehovahs Witnesses. They dont like to believe that Jesus is Divine in the same way as God the Father. The Jehovahs Witnesses believe that Jesus was a created being (in effect a super angel), and the Mormons believe He is the spirit brother of the Devil, who was created by God's siring a semi-Divine/semi-human son.
Others who balk at accepting the idea of Gods being a triune being teach a doctrine called Modelism. The most vocal proponent of Modelism is a man who comes on late at night on your TV named Pastor Arnold Murray. Modelism holds that there is only one God, who holds different offices, or modes of function. Modelists would say that in the times before the Christian era He existed solely as Yahweh or Jehovah--i.e. God the Father. He later left Heaven and came to earth as Jesus Christ. He then returned to Heaven and now functions in the mode of the Holy Spirit--i.e. the active force of God upon the earth today.
It isnt too hard to bust the Modelist doctrine. It falls apart easily when one considers two incidents in the Gospels--the baptism of Jesus and the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. When Jesus is baptized, Gods voice from Heaven says This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. At the same time the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus in the form of a dove. Later, in Gethsemane, Jesus cries out to the Father to Let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not my will but thy will be done. In the first case, Jesus, if Modelism is correct, must be the greatest ventriloquism of all time. In the second, He must be schizophrenic since Hes praying to Himself!
So now we move to the Divinity of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Is the Holy Spirit God? Absolutely! Hebrews 3:7-11 Quotes The Holy Spirit as warning the church not to harden its heart and offend Him as the rebellious Jews did in the time of Moses. The Holy Spirit in this passage is claiming to be the same personage who dealt with the Jews during the Exodus. Since we know that God or Jehovah was the being who led the children of Israel out of Egypt, then obviously the Holy Spirit claims equality and identification with God. This is apart from hosts of other scriptures in the Old Testament that identify God and the Spirit of God as the same being. So, unquestionably, the Holy Spirit is no less God than the Father is.
What about Jesus Christ then? Is He God, or is He only semi-God? Well, in Revelation 1:17-18 Jesus says: ...Fear not; I am the first and the last. I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forevermore, amen; and have the keys of Hell and Death. And in Isaiah 48:12 God says: Hearken unto Me, O Jacob and Israel, my called; I am he; I am the first; I am also the last. Here you have both the Father and Jesus saying they are the First and Last. Again, as did the Holy Spirit, Jesus claims equality and identification with God. Its by verses like these, which leave one with no good conclusion other than that speaker is claiming identification with God that the doctrine of God's existimg as a triune being developed.
There are a host of other scriptural proofs that the doctrine of the Trinity is valid, including a passage in the writings of Paul where he calls Jesus "Our god and savior". Ive only given a handful of examples to address it in a basic way. If you do a web search for Doctrine of the Trinity youll find sites that go into it in much more detail than I if you need additional proof of its validity.
Must you believe in the Trinity to be saved? A lot of people say yes, basing that on the idea that you must have a clear idea of who and what Jesus Christ is in order to fully embrace Him as savior. They might well be right, but I cant honestly say I hold that position. I think you should believe in the Trinity, but Im not convinced that a Modelist is denied salvation so long as he accepts Christs atonement by faith and trusts in Him as his Savior. I would just encourage you, if you still have problems accepting the doctrine, to do further research on the subject.
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