Ask The Chaplain

Ask The Chaplain

Saturday, November 17, 2007

What is "Demon Possession?"

Demon Possession

Serious flaw in the phrase 'demon possession'
I think we need to drop the term "demon possessed", because there is no such thing! NOT even in the life of a NON-BELIEVER! You might be asking, "Here's somebody who's sold on the deliverance ministry and he's telling us that there's no such thing as somebody being demon possessed?" Let me explain...
The NT Greek: If you look up the term 'possessed' in the NT Greek Lexicon, it does NOT refer to ownership, it rather means to be under the power (influence) of a demon. There's a BIG difference! The Bible, as far as I know, provides absolutely NO backing to the idea that a person can be possessed (according to modern English) by a demon!
Can a person be influenced or under the power (influence) of a demon? Absolutely! This is what we address in the ministry of deliverance!
Greek scholars will tell you that this was an error (or at least a misleading impression) in the modern translations of the Bible, including the KJV. It gives the wrong impression simply because today's meaning to the word possessed is much different then it was back then.
If you look up the word possessed when used in conjunction with the word demon or devil in the NT Greek, you'll find that it means to be under the power (influence) of a demon, not to be owned by a demon. There is a BIG difference! Roughly half of the healings I found Jesus perform in Matthew were actually deliverances. So if half the sickness and diseases in the world today were demonically rooted, then a lot of people (including Christians) are without a doubt influenced by demons. Does that mean that the person is owned by the demon? No way! Did the demon(s) own the man who Jesus cast the deaf and dumb spirit out of? Of course not!!
It's also interesting that the Spanish Bible does not use a term that refers to ownership, like our English Bibles do. Our English Bibles have been flawed because the meaning of the word possessed has changed, but our Bibles have not been updated to reflect this change.
The keyword is 'influenced', not 'possessed': Another interesting point is that if a demon truly owned a person, then you wouldn't be able to cast a demon out of him or her, because the person would belong to that demon. The reason you can cast demons out of people, is because demons are intruders in their lives. People can be under the power (influence) of demons, just as they can be under the power or influence of alcohol. The more a person drinks, the more it influences them. The deeper a person gets into demonic bondage, the more it influences them. Those who have gotten in touch with the occult and Satanism demons usually have significant signs of demonic bondages. The deeper a person gets into demonic bondage, the stronger of an influence the demons will have over them.
The Bible refers to several cases of people who had demons, and uses the word possessed, but it does not say that the person was under total control of the demon. Actually, some passages are obvious that the person was NOT under complete control of the demon. Like the times when deaf and dumb spirits were cast out of the man. All they did was cause the person to be blind or not be able to speak... scripture does not say that they did anything else to the man. This alone proves that the word possessed in the NT does NOT refer to ownership!
Almost every time the NT has used the term possessed in conjunction with demons or devils, the phrase used was "possessed with." If you replace the word 'possessed' with 'owned' (as it could have been written if it truly meant ownership), it doesn't sound right at all: 'The man was owned with a demon.' Makes a lot of sense, doesn't it?
The bottom line? To be possessed with a demon means to be under the power (which means influence) of a demon, but it does NOT mean that the demons owns the person. Like being under the influence of alcohol, the more you drink (or get yourself into bondage), the more you come under it's influence.
If you are 'possessed' by a spirit of fear, it means you are under the power of a spirit of fear, which means you will be influenced by the spirit of fear, and therefore you will be fearful. Same is true with spirits of deafness, if you are under their power, you won't be able to hear. To be possessed really means to be under the power of that particular demon.
What does it mean to be under the power of a demon?
It means to have a demon, or to be under the power or influence of a demon. It may not be even in the soul realm at all, it could be a spirit of infirmity affecting your body in one way or another.
What basically happens is that either you or your ancestors have given a certain amount of control of yourself or your body over a demon. Some people may be lightly affected by the demonic, while others may be more heavily affected. It all depends on what strength of demons are involved, what doors have been opened, and how many demons are involved, along with other factors that will determine the amount of power or control the demons have in a person.
A good way to illustrate this is by comparing demonic bondages to drinking; the stronger the drink, and the more of it you have, the more it will influence your behavior. If you drink too much of a strong drink, it can become quite noticeable. If you take a sip of wine, you may not even notice the effect.
Demons can affect the physical body, as well as the mind of a person. Common ways that they affect a physical body is through sickness and disease, such as cancer or arthritis. Common ways they affect a person mentally is by fear, depression or even mental illness. Demons can also hinder a person's spiritual growth.
Some common things that usually indicate demonic bondage
Compulsive cutting or self harm: Mark 5:5, "And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones."
Physical infirmities sickness or diseases: Matthew 9:32-33, "As they went out, behold, they brought to him a dumb man possessed with a devil. And when the devil was cast out, the dumb spake..."
Matthew 9:25, "When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him."
Luke 13:11, "And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself."
Uncontrollable anger: Matthew 8:28, "And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way."
Super-human strength: Matthew 5:2-4, "And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him."
Mental health problems: Matthew 5:2-5, "And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones." Does that sound like somebody who's in their right mind to you? What would somebody in their right mind be doing roaming the tombs? This tells me that there was a spirit of death involved, which gave him exceeding interest in the dead. Who in their right mind would be roaming the tombs day and night crying and cutting themselves with stones? When Jesus cast those demons out, the man was said to have been "in his right mind" once again (verse 15).
Luke 8:27, "And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs." What kind of a person in their right mind would go running around in the tombs naked?
Matthew 17:15, 18, "Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water... And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour."
Matthew 9:17-18, "And one of the multitude answered and said, Master, I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit; And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not."
Mental torment (fear, depression, etc.): 1 Samuel 16:14, "But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him." I like how the New Living Translation says it, "Now the Spirit of the LORD had left Saul, and the LORD sent a tormenting spirit that filled him with depression and fear."

Should I Marry a Non-Christian?

Should a Christian date or marry an unbeliever?

No, a Christian should not date or marry an unbeliever:
"Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?" (2 Cor. 6:14-15).
Unfortunately, some Christians hope that they can convert the person he/she is dating or marrying. They often think that their spirituality is strong enough and that they can witness to, or motivate the other person to convert through their patience and love. Why do they think this? Three reasons: They love the person and are emotionally blinded, they are naive, and they do not know God's word. This may sound harsh, but something as serious as marrying an unbeliever needs to be dealt with properly and to-the-point. We are not to compromise the will of God and endanger our spiritual well being. All we need to do is look in the Old Testament to see why God says not to marry unbelievers. This is what God said to the Israelites.
“When the Lord your God shall bring you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and shall clear away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you, 2 and when the Lord your God shall deliver them before you, and you shall defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them. 3 “Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons. 4 “For they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods," (Children
If you marry an unbeliever and have children, how will it effect their spirituality to have the parents divided over spiritual things? Is it a help or a hindrance to their spiritual health? Obviously, it is a hindrance. Unfortunately, too many people do not take into account the extremely serious situation of children and their eternal destiny. Yet, because of "love" and because they listen to the hearts over the word of God, many people marry unbelievers anyway...and often suffer dire consequences.
What if you are already married to an unbeliever?
If you are already married to an unbeliever then you need to love him/her as best you can, set a good example of being a Christian as you can, and pray for your spouse's salvation. You cannot leave your spouse (unless there is physical abuse, adultery, or if you are abandoned). You need to stick it out. Seek the Lord.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Do You Need Healing?

"Sickness both physical and mental is a reality and a result of the fallen state of mankind, any and everyone can get sick. The other reality is that God can heal! This handbook was created to give you the sick person hope! Don’t beat yourself up and look for reasons WHY? Jesus disciples made the mistake of thinking a man was born blind because of his or his parents sin…Jesus told them they were wrong! It was not because of sin…but it was an opportunity for Jesus to show compassion and His healing power. When we encounter a sick person remember two things; 1. It could have easily been YOU! 2. It is an opportunity to show compassion and love! Jesus still heals and He still loves us…believe that!"

Chaplain Mark H. Stevens, M.Min

1. Become convinced in your heart, knowing clearly from the Scriptures that healing is a purchased possession for you. 1 Corinthians 2:12, Romans 4:20-22
2. Receive your healing by faith in prayer before the Lord. Settle it before the Lord and write down the date. This is very important. You need to know for certain when you received your healing. By doing so, it will aid in abolishing doubt and unbelief. If the devil tells you that you are not going to get healed, just tell him he is too late, you've already received it by faith and then quote the date to him and then command him to leave! I suggest taking communion when you get ready to receive your healing, as the juice and the bread are symbolic elements of the covenant, His body broken and bruised for our healing and the blood shed for the forgiveness of our sin. You will note in 1 Corinthians 10:16 Paul refers to communion as the cup of blessing! If you do a word search on the word "blessing" you will find that it means, empowered to succeed!
3. Read through all of the Healing Scriptures that you feel the Holy Spirit has specifically pointed out for you to stand on and claim as your inheritance - commit some to memory as they are your ammunition scriptures. Hebrews 4:12, Ephesians 6:17, Hebrews 11:1
4. Review and claim your Scriptures every time doubt comes to your mind and speak out faith declarations of what the Word says about you and your healing! Steal the devils word immediately and replace it with the Word of God - the precious promises. 2 Peter 1:1-4 Remember the devil is after your faith - he wants you to believe in his ability to defeat the Word in your life.
5. Speak blessings over your body, and speak in line with the Word of God regarding your situation - don't focus on the problem - focus on the answer. Your words are powerful - see Mark 11:23-24. We do not deny that sickness or disease is present, however we deny it the right to stay!
6. Make praise and worship an everyday part of your life - rejoicing at the promises and for your life in Christ. He truly deserves our adoration, for He is our everything, and He has given us the victory! 1 Corinthians 15:57, 1 John 5:4. Praise and worship will help you to be victory minded. "The Lord is enthroned amongst the praises of His people" - Psalm 22:3
7. Learn to use the authority, that has been given to you by the Lord, to run off any doubt and oppression that may be harassing you. Lay your hands on yourself and command the sickness to leave, command your body to line up with the Word of God. Luke 10:19, Isaiah 54:17, Mark 11:23
8. This is very important!!! Take time each day to get quiet and listen to the Lord - let Him minister to you and encourage you - He is the Comforter! We need to learn to recognize His voice. He will also illuminate the Scriptures to you and get you back on track if you need it. You need to develop your relationship with Him in this vital way. John 16:13, Matthew 4:4
9. Check yourself out before the Lord for any unforgiveness or any "open doors" you may have to the enemy - repent and make changes as quickly as possible. Don't forget about your provision in 1 John 1:9. Remember sin will block the blessings of God.
10. Continue in your normal daily devotions and Bible reading, learning, growing and maturing irrespective of your situation. Proverbs 4:20-22, Joshua 1:8. They will serve as an anchor to your soul as you refer back to them when the going gets tough.
11. Stand, and keep on standing! Ephesians 6:10-18. Know the difference between a miracle and a healing. Miracles are instant, and healings are progressive. Important - read Mark 4:26-29, this describes the law of progression that is the norm for the Kingdom of God.

Be careful not to put your healing in first place, we do not want it to become an idol. Keep the Lord and your relationship with Him in first place.
"And let us not grow weary while doing well (doing the Word), for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart."Galatians 6:9

Christian Meditation

How does Christian meditation compare with other forms of meditation? Inasmuch as there are various forms of meditation in today's world, it is important to determine how Christian meditation compares with other forms of meditation. Christian meditation is similar to other forms of meditation in that it involves a deliberate action on the part of the individual, in time that he or she has set aside purposefully to ponder or think. Sometimes, for the Christian, meditation may arise naturally as an adjunct to prayer time. It may be dictated by the circumstances of his life at a particularly trying time. This is true of the traditional meditator who often seeks to meditate as a way to free himself from stress and turmoil. There are two major differences, however, between traditional forms of meditation and Christian meditation.
In traditional forms of meditation, the individual seeks to empty one's self; in Christian meditation the believer seeks, rather, to be filled.
In traditional meditation, the object is self, albeit the higher self, whereas in Christian meditation the object is God, who is high above all.
During the practice of meditation, the non-christian strives to clear his or her consciousness of all thoughts, concentrating intensely until in a prescribed period of time a bare minimum of thoughts has been allowed or entertained in the consciousness. Often, a tool called a mantra is used which may be a word or a series of sounds that a person repeats continually until they are completely empty. This is supposed to achieve the ultimate relaxation and cessation of stress. When the meditator wants to obtain peace in the midst of a tumultuous situation he or she can just call to mind or repeat the mantra and the desired result is obtained. In Christian meditation, the believer seeks to fill his or her thoughts with truths about God. Christians can achieve this by focusing on the Word of God, as the psalmist said: "But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night" (Psalms 1:2). Rather than emptying himself, the Christian fills his mind with hope and encouragement from the promises that God has given in His Word or on good things that God has done for him. Or he may simply just think on the wonder and awe of God. In so doing, the believer is assured of peace. "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things (Philippians 4:8). In seeking to reach one's higher self, the traditional meditator may achieve his goal, but has really achieved a state which has no real value. At the pinnacle of his self every individual is but base and low, since all are sinners. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Therefore there is no perfection to be obtained from within. Paul rightly said in his epistle to the Romans, "I know that nothing good lives in me…" (Romans 7:18). Jesus Christ alone is our source of righteousness and, therefore, peace. Seeking to reach one's higher self is to reach for nothing; it may achieve a state of thoughtlessness and cessation from stress, but the individual will still remain empty and unfulfilled. The only path to peace and fulfillment is through God. If an individual, with purpose and intent, will meditate on God, he will achieve the highest of heights, including joy and peace. "You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you" (Isaiah 26:3).

Biblical Examples of Depression

King David — “I am troubled, I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long. …I groan because of the turmoil of my heart” (Psalm 38:6,8 - NKJV).
Read David's prayer
Depression due to guilt
CAIN, son of Adam (having disobeyed God)“Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.’” -Genesis 4:6-7 (NIV)
DAVID, King of Israel (having committed adultery was depressed until he confessed his sin)"When I kept silent, my bones grew old Through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah.-Psalm 32:3-4
Release from depression caused by guilt came from confession and seeking God's forgiveness…
"For I said in my haste, 'I am cut off from before Your eyes'; Nevertheless You heard the voice of my supplications When I cried out to You. Oh, love the LORD, all you His saints! For the LORD preserves the faithful, And fully repays the proud person. Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the LORD. Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit. …I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD," And You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah. -Psalm 31:22 - 32:2, 32:5 (NKJV)
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 - NKJV).
David's humble prayer for forgiveness (an example for us all)
“Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight; That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.
Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear joy and gladness, That the bones You have broken may rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins, And blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners shall be converted to You. …For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart; These, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:1-13, 16-17 - NKJV
When you're depressed, place your hope in God.
“Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him For the help of His countenance. …For You are the God of my strength…” (Psalm 42:5, 43:2 - NKJV).
"Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths." -Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV)
"Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Romans 15:13 - NKJV)
“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy; meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:4-8 - NKJV).
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7).
Although things may be difficult, Christians can avoid deep depression.
"We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed… Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:8-9, 16-18 - NIV).
Remember what Jesus Christ went through for us. Remember what the apostle Paul experienced, yet remained focused on the eternal rather than the temporary. When we maintain faith and keep our focus on God's love and the hope He has given us for eternity, Christians can weather the storms of life. It can be done.
Paul — "…I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches."—2 Corinthians 11:23b-28 (NIV)
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”—Galatians 2:20 (NKJV)
When the Israelites were depressed, God called them to put their faith into action.
“But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).
Answers to related questions
What should a Christian do if overwhelmed with depression? Go
How can I be and feel forgiven? Go
If God forgives me everytime I ask, why do I still feel so guilty? Go
I think I was sexually abused, but I'm not sure. What Is sexual abuse, and what can I do to stop the trauma I am facing now? Go
I'm ugly. Why was God so unfair to me this way? Go
If God knows I am hurting, why doesn't He help me? Go
Are you thankful to God? - GO
What does the Bible say about suicide? Go

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Coping With Depression

Depression has been called the "common cold" of mental disorders, and one source estimates that it disrupts the lives of 30 to 40 million Americans. [4]
Depression is too complicated to solve with a single pat answer. Gary Collins, in Christian Counseling: A Comprehensive Guide (Dallas: Word, 1988), lists seven major categories of causes for depression,[1] and six major approaches to treating it. Each one has multiple options within each category. In addition, people use the word "depression" to cover everything from disappointment over losing a baseball game to the terrifying gloom that drives people to suicide.
The Bible does not use the word "depression," although it describes people whom we might call depressed. It certainly doesn't mention antidepressant drugs. However, there are a few general principles I would recommend when trying to deal with depression:
Aim to work on the causes of your depression, not just the symptoms.
Scripture points to many issues of sin or conflict that can affect your emotions; most counselors would agree that depression can result from other underlying issues. Don't just worry about the depression itself; check to see what other problems need attention.
Realize that you can't base life on your emotions
Christians base life on truth, not feelings. Philippians 4:1 commands us to rejoice (whether we feel like it or not!). And James 1:2 asks us to "Consider it all joy when we fall into various trials." Notice that James doesn't tell us to feel joyful; he tells us to reckon, to choose to think about your situation as a spot where you can have joy.
Choosing to trust truth rather than your feelings may require a lot of faith. And if that is what we mean by asking if faith can solve depression, then faith may be enough in some cases. Trusting what God says rather than your feelings is certainly a more realistic approach to life!
Heed God's Advice
However, many people talk about "faith" and only mean a vague hope that God will somehow pull them through. That's too nebulous a concept to be reliable. Many of the same people who claim to have faith keep plunging through life ignoring God's principles for healthy living. If we spurn the good advice that the Bible contains, we won't escape the consequences - even if we have faith.
Is it right to use antidepressant drugs? Or is faith enough to solve the problem?
Chemical Imbalances
Some cases of depression may be caused by chemical imbalances. If that is the cause, then antidepressant drugs may be the answer. God has allowed mankind to learn about many medical tools, and He sometimes uses medicine to heal. There may also be some cases of depression so severe that medications are necessary to bring the sufferer to the place where they can tackle some of the other issues; such cases might require medication, at least temporarily. I know of no Scripture that forbids such use. [1]
Unresolved Issues, Root Causes
However, any medications should be used with caution. Virtually any medicine has some side effects. Drugs can mask the symptoms, allowing you to ignore root causes. Some people may use antidepressants to avoid approaches that require you to deal with other unresolved issues. It seems easier to pop a pill. A general rule of thumb is to try other strategies first, unless the depression is so severe that the person endangers themselves or finds themselves unable to participate in other therapies.
Depression is a complex area, and severe problems of depression deserve the attention of a pastor or other counselor.
Author: Dr. John Bechtle
Helpful tips for depression

§ Avoid being alone. Force yourself to be with people.
§ Seek help from others. (ChristianAnswers.Net can put you in contact with a Christian by e-mail. Free, private assistance is available - Go...)
§ Sing. Music can uplift your spirit as it did for King Saul (1 Samuel 16:14-23).
§ Praise and give thanks. "In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
§ Lean heavily on the power of God's Word.
§ Rest confidently in the presence of God's Spirit. "Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him For the help of His countenance" (Psalm 42:5).
See the good book Healing for Damaged Emotions for more details) [3]
Supplied by David Seamands.
Are there biblical examples of depression and how to deal with it? Answer
How can I be and feel forgiven? Answer
If God forgives me everytime I ask, why do I still feel so guilty? Answer
I think I was sexually abused, but I'm not sure. What Is sexual abuse, and what can I do to stop the trauma I am facing now? Answer
I'm ugly. Why was God so unfair to me this way? Answer
If God knows I am hurting, why doesn't He help me? Answer
Are you thankful to God? - GO
What does the Bible say about suicide? Answer
References and Endnotes
Eight major causes of depression. (1) Biological factors, (2) Learned helplessness (sense of being trapped and unable to remedy an intolerable situation), (3) Parental rejection, (4) Abuse, (5) Negative thinking, (6) Life stress, (7) Anger, (8) Guilt. [Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler, Josh McDowell's Handbook on Counseling Youth (Dallas, Texas: Word Publishing, 1996), chapter 5; Gary R. Collins, Christian Counseling: A Comprehensive Guide, revised edition (Dallas, Texas: Word Publishing, 1988).] [UP]
Biological factors—
Depression often has a physical basis. At the simplest level, we know that lack of sleep, insufficient excercise, the side effects of drugs, physical illnesses, or improper diet can all creation depression. Thousands of women experience depression as part of a monthly premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and some are victimized by postpartum depression following childbirth. Other physical influences, like neurochemical malfunctioning, brain tumors, or glandular disorders, are more complicated creators of depression. There is evidence that depression runs in families and may have a genetic basis. -Gary R. Collins, Christian Counseling: A Comprehensive Guide, revised edition (Dallas, Texas: Word, 1988), p. 107. [UP]
David A. Seamands, Healing for Damaged Emotions (Colorado Springs, Colorado: Chariot Victor Books, 1991) (ISBN: 0896939383).
Newsweek, May 4, 1987, pp. 48-57.
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Christian 12 Step Program

The Christian’s 12-Steps….A Journey of Peace

In John 14:27, Jesus says: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
When you think about it, peace is the most sought after thing in the world. Peace of mind. Everyday people work and struggle to find it, never knowing that the key is letting go and letting God have control of their lives. Even as Christians, we sometimes flounder and flutter about trying to “achieve” peace….forgetting that its the gift Jesus left us with. As we work through the Christian’s 12-steps we learn to let the peace of Christ take over our lives.
In the Christian’s 12-step program, we identify our "higher power" as Jesus Christ. In order to truly be freed from our destructive behavior patterns, we must know Christ as our Savior and Lord, trusting completely in Him and allowing Him to direct our path (Proverbs 3:5-6). You don't have to be a Christian to attend our program, but it is difficult (if not impossible) to trust someone (Jesus Christ) with whom you do not have a personal relationship.
The biggest misconception about the Christian’s 12-step program is that it is designed especially for people who are alcoholics or drug addicts. While drug addicts and alcoholics benefit tremendously from the program, it is NOT only or specifically for them. The program is designed for ANYONE who is seeking the peace of Christ.
Our program addresses any/all excessive, addictive, compulsive, behavior patterns. These are bad habits that are out of control causing inappropriate behavior. These habits may involve alcohol, drugs, gambling, lying, sexual misconduct or other behaviors that make our lives less than what God would have them be (John 10:10b).

In Steps 1, 2, & 3, we make peace with God
We come to terms with our powerlessness, resolve the fact that only God can do what we can’t do for ourselves, and resolve to let Him do it.
STEP 1 - I admit that I have no power to control my addictive or compulsive behavior, nor that of others... that my life has become unmanageable, destructive to myself and others, and hindering God's will for my life.

Hitting Bottom forces us to admit our powerlessness over our addictive behavior. The three major “bottoms” we hit are: Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual
Marital Problems
Physical health
Financial crisis
Mental Breakdown
Loss of Career
Death of a loved one

The addiction cycle cannot be broken unless an individual yield his will to the will of God. Jesus said “The Spirit is indeed willing, BUT THE FLESH IS WEAK” All humans have flesh and we all have areas of weakness. Don’t feel like you are in this alone.

STEP 2 - I came to believe that the Lord Jesus Christ, in His boundless grace and love for me, wants to restore me to sanity...and with His infinite power is able to do so.

We come to realize that in our state of utter helplessness THERE IS someone greater than I that can help me deal with my addiction.
In admitting my weakness I am actually growing strong, not in myself but in the Lord. Paul states that “His strength is MADE PERFECT in my weakness” This means Christ becomes strong in us.
We renounce the tendency to “play God” and try and fix things, if we could fix it, it would be fixed!
We must renounce placing humans in the place of God. For example if your spouse left you because of your addiction, it isn’t the end of the world. You must seek God, only God can help you. In doing this you will ultimately help your estranged family.

STEP 3 - I make the decision to turn my will and my life over to God's care through Jesus Christ, who died for allow the Lord Jesus to live through me.
· Christ stands at the door of our hearts and knocks, but we must make up our minds to open the door.
· We must seek the Word to help renew our minds (Romans 12:1,2)
· Prayer help break our stubborn wills. As we consistently depend on Him on a daily basis, we grow in trust of Him and His guidance. (Proverb 3:5,6)

In Steps 4, 5, 6, &7 we make peace with ourselves
In taking an inventory, we look at ourselves, who we are, what we are, how we are. It is uncomfortable but in the end we are freed of the guilt and shame and assured of who we are in Christ.
STEP 4 - Knowing my infinite worth in Christ, I now make a list without fear of condemnation, of all areas of my life which are displeasing to God, as well as my God given strengths and abilities which I have not yet fully used, as revealed to me by the Holy Spirit.
· Ask God to search your heart and not only ask for forgiveness for the things you have done, but also forgive others that may have hurt you.
· Some addictive behavior is caused by bitterness against someone that may have hurt you as a child. (Abuse, Molestation, or maybe you were the child of an alcoholic or drug abuser)
· Passive Abuse also can damage a child; maybe the parents worked a lot and never spent time with you. Workaholic parents often breed emotionally damaged children that are prime candidates for substance or sexual dysfunction.

STEP 5 - Admitted to God, myself, and another human being the exact nature of my sin and shortcomings...thus acknowledging my personal accountability.
· The Bible tell us to “Confess our faults one to another” in acknowledging our addictions we become our brothers keeper and accountability is established. (James 5:16)
· We need to be specific when we confess so the stronghold can be broken. (Psalms 32, 38, and 51)
· Sharing breaks down the isolation caused by addictions.

STEP 6 -I ask the Holy Spirit to break down any resistance to His work in me, and to make me entirely willing for Him to remove my character defects.
· The Fruit of the Spirit helps shape our character, this fruit is manifested as we interact with others, share with others, and yes even have conflict with others.
· The Holy Spirit helps us live the Christian life, we all need the power of God to not only stay sober, but be effective witnesses for Christ. (Acts 1:8, John 14:26, and John 15:26)

STEP 7 – I humbly ask the Lord Jesus to remove my shortcomings and defects of character, submitting to His will.
· We need to be honest and recognize the shortcoming and ask God to remove them. (Read Psalm 51 and meditate on it)
· Allow the Holy Spirit to purge you and shape you.
· Know your weaknesses and never forget even though you are Born-Again, your flesh is WEAK. The only way to victory is through surrendering to Jesus.
· Romans 12:1,2 is a perfect formula for the benefits of surrender.

In Steps 8 &9 we make peace with others
We list those with whom we have to make amends and start on the path of healing relationships.
STEP 8 - I ask the Holy Spirit to bring to my mind all those people whom I have harmed. I write a list of them and pray for the willingness to make amends to them all.
· Make a sincere effort to right your wrongs, you may not have the means but make the effort. God will help you, you are NOT in this alone. (Psalm 23)
· Seek reconciliation with spouses, children, and parents. Even if they choose not to forgive you, YOU make the effort and walk in forgiveness yourself.
· Even in returning to a local church there may be those that you have to seek a reconnect with. Often addicts abuse the charity of the church and others. Sometime a public apology clears the air and give you a clean slate with others.

STEP 9 - I pray for the Lord to provide the opportunities to make direct amends to all those people I have harmed, and I act on those opportunities...except when to do so would injure them or others... as He guides and strengthens me.
· If reconnecting causes hostility in the other person, take your time but make sincere efforts in trying to regain their trust and making restitution when you are able.
· Sometime you may not be able to make full financial or material restitution but you can regain trust by being consistent and free from bondage.
· Some people you should avoid because of your weakness, if you were a gambler, going to Atlantic City might not be a good idea.

In Steps 10& 11 we maintain the peace
We learn how and then continue to maintain a relationship with Jesus through prayer, meditation and daily reading of God’s Word.
STEP 10 - I continue daily to take personal inventory, giving the Lord Jesus the praise for any growth in me, and promptly admit any failures, confess all sins, and make amends for any wrongdoing to others.
· Be honest with yourself and stay sensitive to the God in you, He will convict you when you are wrong, don’t fight conviction, praise God for it. When you are wrong repent quickly and move on.
· Keep a spiritual inventory of your life, your victories AND your failures.
· Don’t be discouraged when you feel. Remember it is not YOUR strength it is God’s that keeps you (Jude 24)

STEP 11 - seek through prayer and meditation on God's Word to improve my conscious contact with God through Jesus Christ, praying for His will for me and for the power of the Holy Spirit to allow Christ to work in and through my His glory.
Establish a regular time of study and meditation, be consistent!
The more you feed your spirit-man the stronger you become.
Attend group studies as well as your personal studies, we learn from one another as well as on our own.
And in Step 12 we give that peace away……..
STEP 12 - Having been spiritually renewed in Christ and having applied HIS twelve steps in my own life, I carry this message to others in need of it and continue striving to practice these Biblical truths in all my affairs.
· Witness to others! Share your testimony! Be a Blessing! (Acts 1:8)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Is Baptism Necessary for Salvation?

Is Baptism Necessary for Salvation?

One of the most nagging questions in Christianity is whether or not baptism is necessary for salvation. The answer is a simple, "No." But you might ask, "If the answer is no, then why are there verses that say things like ‘. . .baptism that now saves you . . . ‘ (1 Pet. 3:21, NIV) and ‘ . . . Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins . . ." (Acts 2:38, NIV)? This is an honest question and it needs a competent answer. But, before I tackle this I need to lay a foundation of proper theology, then I'll address some of those verses that are commonly used to support the idea that baptism is necessary for salvation.

God Works Covenantally

First, you need to understand that God works covenantally. A covenant is a pact or agreement between two or more parties. The New Testament and Old Testaments are New and Old Covenants. The word "testament" comes from the Latin testamentum which means covenant. So, the Bible is a covenant document. If you don't understand covenant you cannot understand, in totality, the issue of baptism because baptism is a covenant sign.
If you don't think that God works covenantally then look at Heb 13:20 which says, "May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep" (NIV). The Eternal Covenant is the covenant between the Father and the Son before the creation of the world, whereby the Father would give to the Son those whom the Father had chosen. That is why Jesus says things like, "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away" (John 6:37, NIV). And, "And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day" (John 6:39, NIV). And, "I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours" (John 17:9, NIV).
If you fail to understand that God works covenantally and that He uses signs as manifestations of his covenants (rainbow, circumcision, communion, etc.) then you will not be able to understand where baptism fits in God's covenant system.
Second, you need to know what baptism is. It is an outward representation of an inward reality. For example, it represents the reality of the inward washing of Christ's blood upon the soul. That is why it is used in different ways. It is said to represent the death of the person (Rom. 6:3-5), the union of that person with Christ (Gal. 3:27), the cleansing of that person's sins (Acts 22:16), the identification with the one "baptized into" as when the Israelites were baptized into Moses (1 Cor. 10:2), and being united in one church (1 Cor. 12:13). Also, baptism is one of the signs and seals of the Covenant of Grace that was instituted by Jesus. It is in this sense a sacrament. A sacrament is a visible manifestation of something spoken. It is also said to be a visible sign of an inward grace. For example, the communion elements of bread and wine are called the sacrament of communion. When we take communion we are partaking of the sacrament.
The Covenant of Grace is the covenant between God and Man where God promises to Man eternal life. It is based upon the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and the condition is faith in Jesus Christ. As the Communion Supper replaced Passover, baptism, in like manner, replaces circumcision. "They represent the same spiritual blessings that were symbolized by circumcision and Passover in the old dispensation" (Berkhoff, Lewis, Systematic Theology, 1988, p. 620.).
Circumcision was the initiatory rite into the Abrahamic covenant; it did not save. A covenant is a pact or agreement between two or more parties and that is exactly what the Abrahamic covenant was. God said to Abraham, "I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you" (Genesis 17:7, NIV). God later instructed Abraham to circumcise not only every adult male, but also 8 day old male infants as a sign of the covenant (Gen. 17:9-13). If the children were not circumcised, they were not considered to be under the promissory Abrahamic covenant. This is why Moses' wife circumcised her son and threw the foreskin at Moses' feet. (Ex. 4:24-25). She knew the importance of the covenant between God and her children. But at the same time we must understand that circumcision did not guarantee salvation to all who received it. It was a rite meant only for the people of God, who were born into the family of God (who were then the Jews).
An important question here is how is it possible for an infant to be entered into a covenant with God. There could be a lot of answers given but the point remains: it was done; infants were entered into a covenant relationship with God -- through their parents.
In the New Testament, circumcision is mentioned many times. But with respect to this topic it is specifically mentioned in Col. 2:11-12: "In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead" (NIV). In these verses, baptism and circumcision are related. Baptism replaces the Old Testament circumcision because 1) there was a New Covenant in the communion supper (Luke 22:20), and 2) in circumcision there was the shedding of blood but in baptism no blood is shed. This is because the blood of Christ has been shed.
If you understand that baptism is a covenant sign, then you can see that it is a representation of the reality of Christ circumcising our hearts (Rom. 2:29; Col. 2:11-12). It is our outward proclamation of the inward spiritual blessing of regeneration. It comes after faith which is a gift of God (Rom. 12:3) and the work of God (John 6:28).
Third, the Bible says that it is the gospel that saves. "By this gospel you are saved..." (1 Cor. 15:2). Also, Rom. 1:16 says, "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile."

What is the Gospel?

It is clearly the gospel that saves us. But what exactly is the gospel? That too is revealed to us in the Bible. It is found in 1 Cor. 15:1-4: "Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures." The gospel is defined as the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus for our sins. Baptism is not mentioned here.
Paul said that he came to preach the gospel, not to baptize: "I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized into my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don't remember if I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel..." (1 Cor. 1:14-17). If baptism is necessary for salvation then why did Paul downplay it and even exclude it from the description of what is required for salvation? It is because baptism isn't necessary for salvation.
Additionally, in Acts, Peter was preaching the gospel, people got saved, and then they were baptized. Acts 10:44-46 says, "While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, ‘Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.' So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days" (NIV). These people were saved. The gift of the Holy Spirit was on the Gentiles and they were speaking in tongues. This is significant because tongues is a gift given to believers, see 1 Cor. 14:1-5. Also, unbelievers don't praise God. They can't because praise to the true God is a deep spiritual matter that is foreign to the unsaved (1 Cor. 2:14). Therefore, the ones in Acts 10 who are speaking in tongues and praising God are definitely saved and they are saved before they are baptized. This simply isn't an exception. It is a reality.

Let's Suppose...

Another way of making this clear is to use an illustration. Let's suppose that a person, under the conviction of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8), believed in Jesus as his savior (Rom. 10:9-10; Titus 2:13), and has received Christ (John 1:12) as Savior. Is that person saved? Of course he is. Let's further suppose that this person confesses his sinfulness, cries out in repentance to the Lord, and receives Jesus as Savior and then walks across the street to get baptized at a local church. In the middle of the road he gets hit by a car and is killed. Does he go to heaven or hell? If he goes to heaven then baptism isn't necessary for salvation. If He goes to hell, then trusting in Jesus, by faith, isn't enough for salvation. Doesn't that go against the Scriptures that say that salvation is a free gift (Rom. 6:23) received by faith (Eph. 2:8-9)?
Saying that baptism is necessary for salvation is dangerous because it is saying that there is something we must do to complete salvation. That is wrong! See Gal. 2:21; 5:4.
All right, so this sounds reasonable. But still, what about those verses that seem to say that baptism is part of salvation? I'll address those now. But, because this subject can become quite lengthy, in fact, sufficient for a book in itself, I'll only address a few verses and then only briefly.

Baptism Verses

John 3:5, "Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.'"
Some say that water here means baptism. But that is unlikely since Christian baptism hadn't yet been instituted. If this verse did mean baptism, then the only kind that it could have been at that point was the baptism of repentance administered by John the Baptist (Mark 1:4). If that is so, then baptism isn't necessary for salvation because the baptism of repentance is no longer practiced.
It is my opinion that the water spoken of here means the water of the womb referring to the natural birth process. Jesus said in verse three that Nicodemus needed to be born "again." This meant that he had been born once--through his mother. Nicodemus responds with a statement about how he can't enter again into his mother's womb to be born. Then Jesus says that he must be born of water and the Spirit. Then in verse 6 He says that "flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.." The context seems to be discussing the contrast between the natural and the spiritual birth. Water, therefore, could easily be interpreted there to mean the natural birth process.
I would like to add that there are scholars who agree with the position and some who do not. Some believe that the water refers to the Word of God, the Bible, and others claim it means the Holy Spirit. You decide for yourself.

Acts 2:38, "Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.‘"
This verse is a tough one. It seems to say that baptism is part of salvation. But we know, from other scriptures that it isn't, lest there be a contradiction. What is going on here is simply that repentance and forgiveness of sins are connected. In the Greek, "repent" is in the plural and so is "your" of "your sins." They are meant to be understood as being related to each other. It is like saying, "All of you repent, each of you get baptized, and all of you will receive forgiveness." Repentance is a mark of salvation because it is granted by God (2 Tim. 2:25) and is given to believers only. In this context, only the regenerated, repentant person is to be baptized. Baptism is the manifestation of the repentance, that gift from God, that is the sign of the circumcised heart. That is why it says, repent and get baptized.

1 Pet. 3:21, "and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also -- not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ."
This is the only verse that says that baptism saves. But, the NIV translation of the verse is unfortunate. A better translation is found in the NASB which says, "and corresponding to that, baptism now saves you." The key word in this section is the Greek antitupon. It means "copy," "type," corresponding to," "a thing resembling another," "its counterpart," etc. Baptism is a representation, a copy, a type of something else. The question is "Of what is it a type?", or "Baptism corresponds to what?". The answer is found in the previous verse, verse 20: "who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. 21And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you" (NASB).
What does baptism correspond to? Is it the flood? Or, is it the ark? What was it that saved Noah and his family? Was it the water or the ark? Obviously, it was the Ark. Noah built and entered the ark by faith and was saved (Heb. 11:7). The flood waters destroyed the ungodly. Peter, when referring to the flood waters, refers to them as the means of destruction of the ungodly (2 Pet. 2:5; 3:6). It was the Ark that saved. Noah entered the ark by faith. Baptism here, in my opinion, refers to the Ark, not the waters. That is why the rest of the verse says, "not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God" which is consistent with what Paul said in Col. 2:11-12 where He equates baptism with being circumcised of heart.

Acts 22:16, "And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name."
Is the washing away of sins done by baptism, the representation of the circumcised heart (Col. 2:11-12) which means you are already saved, or is it by the blood of Christ (Heb. 9:14; Rom. 5:9; Eph. 1:7)? Obviously it is the blood of Jesus and the washing here refers to the calling on Jesus' name.

Rom. 6:4, "We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life."
Because the believer is so closely united to Christ it is said that the symbol of baptism is our death, burial, and resurrection. Obviously we did not die--unless, of course, it is a figurative usage.

Titus 3:5, "he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit."
The washing of rebirth can only be that washing of the blood of Christ that cleanses us. It is not the symbol that saves, but the reality. The reality is the blood of Christ.

Gal. 3:27, "for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ."
This is speaking of the believer's union with Christ. It is an identification with, a joining to, a proclamation of loyalty to, etc. In 1 Cor. 10:2 the Israelites were baptized into Moses. That means they were closely identified with him and his purpose. The same thing is meant here.

Baptism is not necessary for salvation. It is the initiatory sign and seal into the covenant of grace. As circumcision referred to the cutting away of sin and to a change of heart (Deut. 10:16; 30:6; Jer. 4:4; 9:25,26; Ez. 44:7,9) baptism refers to the washing away of sin (Acts 2:38; 1 Pet. 3:21; Tit. 3:5) and to spiritual renewal (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:11-12). The circumcision of the heart is signified by the circumcision of the flesh, that is, baptism (Col. 2:11-12).
One last thought: If someone maintains that baptism is necessary for salvation, is he adding a work, his own, to the finished work of Christ? If the answer is yes, then that person would be in terrible risk of not being saved. If the answer is no, then why is baptism maintained as being necessary the same way as the Jews maintained that works were necessary?

Can Atheist Be Ethical?

Can Atheists be ethical?

The answer to this question is a definite, "Yes." Atheists are people who, whether they like it or not, have the law of God written on their hearts (Rom. 2:15). They are subject to the same laws of our country (and other countries) and they have a sense of right and wrong. They often work with people who are religious and have ethical standards as well as non-believers who are don't. So they are exposed to all sorts of moral behavior. In addition, they often form their own moral standards based on what suits them. Besides, robbery, lying, stealing, etc., can get you imprisoned, so it is practical and logical for an atheist to be ethical and work within the norms of social behavior. How ever you want to look at it, atheists, generally, are honest, hardworking people.

Nevertheless, some Christians raise the question, "What is to prevent an atheist from murdering and stealing? After all, they have no fear of God and no absolute moral code." The answer is simple: Atheists are capable of governing their own moral behavior and getting along in society the same as anyone else.

At the risk of labeling the atheist as self-centered, it does not serve the best interests of an atheist to murder and steal since it would not take long before he was imprisoned and/or killed for his actions. Basically, society will only put up with so much if it is to function smoothly. So, if an atheist wants to get along and have a nice life, murdering and stealing won't accomplish it. It makes sense for him to be honest, work hard, pay his bills, and get along with others. Basically, he has to adopt a set of ethics common to society in order to do that. Belief in God is not a requirement for ethical behavior or an enjoyable life.

On the other hand

Atheists' morals are not absolute. They do not have a set of moral laws from an absolute God by which right and wrong are judged. But, they do live in societies that have legal systems with a codified set of laws. This would be the closest thing to moral absolutes for atheists. However, since the legal system changes the morals in a society can still change and their morals along with it. At best, these codified morals are "temporary absolutes." In one century abortion is wrong. In another, it is right. So, if we ask if it is or isn't it right, the atheist can only tell us his opinion.

If there is a God, killing the unborn is wrong. If there is no God, then who cares? If it serves the best interest of society and the individual, then kill. This can be likened to something I call, "experimental ethics." In other words, whatever works best is right. Society experiments with ethical behavior to determine which set of rules works best for it. Hopefully, these experiments lead to better and better moral behavior. But, as we see by looking into society, this isn't the case: crime is on the rise.

There are potential dangers in this kind of self-established/experimental ethical system. If a totalitarian political system is instituted and a mandate is issued to kill all dissenters, or Christians, or mentally ill, what is to prevent the atheist from joining forces with the majority system and support the killings? It serves his self-interests, so why not? Morality becomes a standard of convenience, not absolutes.

But, to be fair, just because someone has an absolute ethical system based on the Bible, there is no guarantee that he will not also join forces in doing what is wrong. People are often very inconsistent. But the issue here is the basis of moral beliefs and how they affect behavior. That is why belief systems are so important and absolutes are so necessary. If morals are relative, then behavior will be too. That can be dangerous if everyone starts doing right in his own eyes. A boat adrift without an anchor will eventual crash into the rocks.

The Bible teaches love, patience, and seeking the welfare of others even when it might harm the Christian. In contrast, the atheists' presuppositions must be constantly changing, and subjective and does not demand love, patience, and the welfare of others. Instead, since the great majority of atheists are evolutionists, their morality, like evolution is the product of purely natural and random processes that become self serving.

Basically, the atheist cannot claim any moral absolutes at all. To an atheist, ethics must be variable and evolving. This could be good or bad. But, given human nature being what it is, I'll opt for the moral absolutes -- based on God's word -- and not on the subjective and changing morals that atheism offers.

What are the 5-fold Ministry Gifts?

The Five-fold Ministry Gifts

Apostles are leaders and visionaries... they bring direction to the church. They have the courage and ability to keep the Church moving forward, growing, building in new directions. Apostles are also fathers, able to nurture and disciple the other ministry giftings. They have maturity and experience beyond their fellows and can give guidance as well as leadership. They wear the Helmet of Salvation, which means they walk "within" salvation. They know the mysteries of Christ's salvation. Such knowledge is only acquired through time and experience, trials and testing. An apostle is proven by his example of holiness and demeanor in Christ Jesus. The Helmet of Salvation is not a royal crown: it is the hat of a warrior general who is accustomed to putting his life on the line, for the sake of the Kingdom of God. Many who are in this office will never be recognized as APOSTLES! The reason is this, when a man is truly led by God to establish a work of any kind, it may bristle against the establishment.

The Apostle Paul is a good example of a man on a “Mission from God”, I laugh as I write this because I am reminded of the movie The Blues Brothers, They were the oddest of odd, yet they went through every obstacle because they believed they had a mandate from God. Listening to God is not easy, it can cause you to be treated like an outsider and at times even a rebel! I believe men that are in the office of Apostle are always MISUNDERSTOOD and treated like oddballs. Based upon scriptural precedence apostles are usually the recipients of dreams and visions, Apostles receive an abundance of Revelation from God, Why? They establish ministries and churches. It is quite possible to be an Apostle and NEVER pastor a church.
Contrary to popular belief Paul WAS NEVER A PASTOR! Paul was a TEACHER/APOSTLE. Now another shocker is that PETER was not a PASTOR either, the PASTOR of the church in Jerusalem was JAMES (The Lord’s Brother); Peter was an EVANGELIST/APOSTLE. Apostles usually carry dual roles! Here is another curve for you Barnabas was an Apostle too, but he was a DEACON/APOSTLE his ministry was one of service and support yet he was counted as an APOSTLE! I do believe that there are Apostles today, Men that are SENT to establish works according to God’s divine mandate. Now too many guys are starting storefront churches and calling themselves “Apostle”. Real Apostles don’t run around calling themselves APOSTLE! They know it, and they walk in it!

Prophets/Prophetess has a strong sense of right and wrong, but even more than that: they have a strong sense of the Spirit’s leading. Their spiritual antennae start quivering when things are going off balance or in wrong directions. Their voice is important for keeping the Church on track in what the Lord wants to do. Prophets also understand justice and are defenders of what is fair and right. Prophets carry the Breastplate of Righteousness, which illustrates the passion and conviction that burns deep within their heart and soul and spirit. "Righteousness" is actually an ethereal word, a supernatural word. True righteousness flows only from the throne of God. Therefore, the insight of the prophet is a very mysterious, deep conviction that is not easily described even by those who walk in this gifting. The purpose is for guidance and revelation, so that the church can learn what it means to be the Holy People of God.
The Prophet/Prophetess must maintain a level of personal holiness that is exemplary. The primary purpose of the prophet is to warn the church of apostasy and help saints press into the holiness and purpose of God. (Elijah and Ezekiel) Unlike the Office of Apostle which is male ordered, Women can function in this office as well as men. (Deborah, Huldah, and Phillip’s Daughters)

The Prophet must have an extraordinary prayer life, If you study the life the Biblical prophet they were often solitary people. (Elijah and Jeremiah) They didn’t have a lot of friends, this is on purpose! God needs those in the prophetic office to be focused on HIM! The Prophet and the Teacher are similar in this regard, Prophets focus on the inspired word (Rhema) and the Teacher more on the written (Logos). But if you look at Acts 17:11 the Bereans understood the importance of both, but they confirmed the Rhema by studying the Logos! Usually God places Prophets and Teachers as friends and companions for this reason.
Teachers build the foundations of the church. They minister in the Word of God and remind us of the priorities and foundations that will keep us stable in our lives. They teach the church how to be wise in the ways of God. Both teachers and prophets have a special gift for worship because the prophet can worship in "spirit" and the teacher can worship in "truth" and those two characteristics are necessary for true worship. Teachers carry the Belt of Truth, which means they have intimate knowledge of Him who is Truth.
Teachers are guardians of Biblical Doctrine (Logos), the Bereans (Acts 17:11) Exemplify the character of a Teacher. Teacher search the scriptures. I am a teacher and I study the Word more than the average person, there are times when I have stayed up all night reading entire books of the Bible because I had to determine if something I heard preached in church was accurate. In many cases Teachers are somewhat cold, in that they care more for truth than unity or peoples feelings. If you remember Paul in Galatians, He read Peter and the Hebrew saints the riot act for the way they allowed the Judaizers to distort the Gospel of Grace. When I hear a sermon that is “off” scripturally it drives me crazy. I believe Teachers are like the Scribes of the Old Testament in that they were determined that every jot and tittle would be correct. Pricilla and Aquilla were teachers and they caught Apollos preaching doctrine that wasn’t correct, they pulled him aside and corrected him in love. If a church doesn’t have the office of a teacher within it’s ranks it is in danger of falling into error. (I Tim. 4:1-4)

Without a proper foundation, buildings don't stand, civilizations don't last, and Christians don't witness well. The foundation I am talking about is the foundation of basic Christian doctrine. Do you know what the Trinity is? How many natures does Jesus have, one or two? Are we saved by grace through faith or by grace and works? For what purpose did Jesus die? Did He rise from the dead? And If so, why? Perhaps you do not believe that knowing doctrine is important. Maybe you think that we should just tell people about Jesus and let them choose to accept Him or not. Unfortunately, witnessing isn't always that simple. Knowing what and why you believe is essential. For example, if someone says he wants to receive Jesus as Savior but doesn't believe that He is God in flesh, is that important? If someone says that the Trinity is not biblical, what would you say? Is the Holy Spirit a force or God? Doctrine is important because it defines who you put your trust in. It is not simply that you have faith, it's who you put your faith in.
Evangelists are the warriors, the foot soldiers who take the gospel to the remote areas of the world. They advance the gospel and in so doing they battle directly with the hindrances of the gospel as well. There are many more warriors in an army than there are generals and so there must be many, many evangelists in the church. Evangelists wear the Shoes of Peace because they bring news of Peace to a world that suffers in strife and turmoil. Every one of the other 5-Fold Ministers MUST do the WORK of the Evangelist, because soul-winning is EVERY minister’s duty!
Too many of our churches have lost sight of the office of Evangelist and have distorted their purpose by calling “Revivalist” Evangelist, there is difference by a mile. An Evangelist is a SOULWINNER first and formost, they go into the streets, prisons, hospitals, and mission fields. Many of the people we call “evangelist” are preaching to people already saved. A revivalist preaches to people already saved to inspire and fire them up, this really more of the ministry of the Prophet, an Evangelist bottom line is REACHING THE LOST and preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The motto of an Evangelist could be a quote from Paul, “Woe unto me if I preach not the Gospel!”
Pastors nurture the flock and comfort them. They build up the sheep in the most holy faith. They tend to the wounded and the sick and have skills for healing. The pastor leads the healthy sheep into good pastures so they will eat well and be strong. And, the pastor looks for the sheep who have wandered away so that none will be lost. Pastors carry the Shield of Faith. Often a warrior was protected by an armorbearer who held his shield for him. In the same way, pastors will shield those who need it until they are strong again. They hover over their flock to build them and strengthen them in the faith. The pastor is not distant from the sheep. The pastor is next to them and among them, holding the Shield in order to deflect the flaming arrows, the weapons, the wild beasts that would destroy. The pastor works one on one so that his sheep will prosper. A flock that prospers is a direct credit to the shepherd who oversees them. A Pastor has to love the sheep, too often people choose Pastors because they can preach well, but eloquence is not the earmark of a great Pastor, it is LOVE. Pastors have to care for those that are hurting and broken, and at the same time be open to have the other 4 ministry offices SHARE in the ministry, I think too often it has been supposed that the office of Pastor is the most important office, but they all are equally important. A Pastor needs an Evangelist to bring souls into a place where they can be nurtured and fed the sincere milk of the Word of God.

What is the Biblical Role of a Deacon?

Let me give you some examples of what I am talking about. After Pentecost the Apostles chose men they called “Deacons” which is translated “Servant-Ministers”, these men where responsible for the physical aspects of the ministry while the Apostles devoted themselves to prayer and preaching the Word of God. Two of the Deacons were responsible for an explosion of spiritual growth for the Early Church. Philip was a Deacon, but he also was anointed to be an Evangelist. Today we would consider Deacon and Evangelist two separate offices or ministries, but the Word makes no such distinction. There are many people in the Body of Christ anointed to function in one of the five-fold ministries and they may NEVER be ordained or recognized by man (The Local Church). I find that too many of our churches are filled with people that are NOT allowed to function in their office because of control freaks in the pulpits called PASTORS!
Phillip was led by the Holy Ghost to minister to the Ethiopian Eunuch, which led to the Gospel being spread in Africa. Philip led by the Spirit went to Samaria and preached JESUS. Devils were cast out and people healed by a DEACON! Imagine in some of our churches today if a Deacon decided to go off and minister without first checking with his pastor? Even if he did check in with the pastor, many of our pastor would tell the Deacon, wait until he got a ministers license or ordination papers, or they would accuse the Deacon of being overzealous or out of line for trying to be a minister. Well I have news for you Pastors…Deacons ARE ministers! When I was a Deacon I was only 22 years old, I was also called to be an Evangelist. I went out on the streets on Song Tan City, South Korea and witnessed and preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I had brothers try and tell me I should get the Pastors OK before I did this, well what they didn’t know was I DID! He didn’t think it was safe! SAFE?!?! Since when is ministry, true ministry ever SAFE! I went out by myself initially, until the Lord saved my roommate and we both would go out and win souls. I was a Deacon and my roommate was a new convert. Many souls came to the Lord because we were obedient to the Lord.
Now I am NOT advocating rebellion, but as Peter said in Acts, “I must obey God NOT man!” Too many of our Pastors refuse to see the need for outreach and evangelism in the church, they think if they “have church”, folks will come. Jesus said GO in the hedges and highways and COMPELL men to come to HIM! You can’t compel ANYONE from a pulpit or a pew!
Phillip only called for assistance when he realized the new converts needed a pastor, Pastors and Evangelist have to work hand in hand, and they need each other like a center needs a good point guard. Remember Magic Johnson? Someone asked him why was he was as successful as a player, he said I utilized my Big Man and I got the whole team involved! Magic and Kareem were like a well oiled machine, Magic never thought about himself first but the team first, that means self sacrifice and sharing the glory. Too often immature and insecure pastors don’t want to do either! Pastors are like point guards in that they have to see the big picture and include EVERYBODY in order to secure VICTORY!

Lets’ Examine the lineup God ordained for the Church! Most teaching on the Ministry Gifts Exclude the Deacons and I believe that is to the detriment of the church that is why I opened discussing Deacons. These are the duties of a Deacon:
1. To care for the Widows and the Fatherless. The benevolence ministry in the local church SHOULD be managed by the DEACON…not the PASTOR!
2. Deacons should be the leaders of church outreach (See Phillip)
3. Deacons should be your leaders in Church Education. (See Stephen)
4. Deacons should be the overseers of church finances and resources (Not the Pastor) this goes against the mindset of most Churches! Especially in Pentecostal and Holiness churches. Many Baptist churches EMPOWER the Deacons and those churches that have Godly Deacons FLOURISH! Why because that is the way God established it! This is why it is important to have men FULL of the Holy Ghost, FULL of wisdom, and FULL of the Word holding the OFFICE of Deacon. Unfortunately we have made the office of Deacon a “flunky” position with NO AUTHORITY!

5. Deacons should be father figures for the fatherless boys in the congregation. When I accepted Christ at the age of 14 in Richmond, Virginia, the church I attended had a strong Deacon board that played basketball with the teen boys, taught a youth Bible Study, Ran the Boys Scout program, and created a Junior Deacon Board. All of these things helped me make a decision for Christ because there were strong men showing me the way!
6. Deacons should take Communion to the hospitals and Nursing Homes.
7. Deacons should be at the forefront of outreach in the community. (Remember Phillip and Stephen)
8. A Deacon should be an example of male spirituality and strength in the church and the community. I remember all of the Deacons in my church were known throughout the community. Even unsaved people knew the Deacons because of the works they did.
Finally I believe unless we re-establish the importance of this God ordained office in the church, our churches will continue to be devoid of men. The office of Deacon is integral in the upbringing of boys and helping them grow into manhood.

Don't Drink The Kool Aid

I was stationed at Dover AFB in November 1978 when the dead bodies came to be placed in the largest mortuary on the East Coast. There were so many bodies the First Sergeants had to wake many of us up at 3 AM to help unload bodies off of the C-5/A aircrafts and move furniture to make room for the bodies. I will never forget the stench of death at Dover that week. I received a Commendation medal for helping move bodies and equipment. That was something I pray to God I never have to experience again. The real tragedy is that it COULD have been prevented if only somebody read their Bible. Before Jim Jones took those people to Guyana, it is recorded that he preached a sermon in Indiana where he uttered these chilling words, “You don’t need to read the Bible anymore, just listen to me”. I don’t know how many left the church after he said that but the church SHOULD have emptied out. How did over 900 people choose to drink cyanide laced Flavor-Aid (It really wasn’t Kool Aid) because their Pastor told them to? Jim Jones was able to take hundreds of lives in Guyana because someone refused to listen to their gut (spirit). I firmly believe in supporting the local church and helping pastors, I want to make that clear. However there is a real epidemic of spiritually stupid "saints" that don't study their Bibles and try every spirit by the Spirit. We were given the ability to discern so we WON'T end up giving our money to crooks and drinking poison Kool-Aid! Many of today's most prominent preachers would be labeled heretics hundreds of years ago because MOST clergymen were devout Theologians and serious students of scripture. Today ordination papers and licenses are given to anyone that say's they are called to preach. I agree that being Spirit-filled and called is the first priority of being a preacher, but ALSO there has to be training…SERIOUS TRAINING! A lack of understanding of just the basic Bible doctrines of the faith can lead to the types of abuses I am talking about. Martin Luther was able to stand up to the lies of Rome because he was filled with the knowledge of the truth. I am a Pentecostal preacher, I believe in the Charismatic Gifts of the Spirit, but that doesn't negate the fact that we must have a scholarly approach to the scriptures and its teachings.

In the summer of 1977, Jones and most of the 1000 members of the Peoples Temple moved to Guyana from San Francisco after an investigation into the church for tax evasion had begun. Jones named the closed settlement Jonestown after himself. His intention was to create an agricultural utopia in the jungle, free from racism and based on socialist principles.

People who had left the organization prior to its move to Guyana told the authorities of brutal beatings, murders and of a mass suicide plan, but were not believed. In spite of the tax evasion allegations, Jones was still widely respected for setting up a racially mixed church which helped the disadvantaged. Around 70% of the inhabitants of Jonestown were black and impoverished.

© Copyright 2006 Mark H. Stevens. All rights reserved. You can not reproduce, copy, or redistribute without the express written consent of the author.