Worried About The Gospel Project?

Well, The gospel Project is getting geared up for distribution and Lifeway has held their unveiling and now all that remains is the response from all the orders that are sure to come pouring in for this Reformed Perspective on the gospel. Oh yes, I forgot, it is not reformed although it was written and advised by serious, blood bought leading proponents of calvinism in the SBC today. But, have no worry, this project is going to be great for everyone, young and old alike and for Baptists of all stripes.

One of the advisors is none other than David Platt, lead pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Al. I was following some twitter references tonight and I came across one that went something like this: “David Platt says, Accepting Jesus into your heart is not dangerous; it’s damning.” I went to his personal website to learn that he has a book coming out that will clear up all the misconceptions and false teaching the church has done with respect to “personal evangelism” that has been falsely bringing people down the isles of churches and into the baptistery but not to Christ. Looks like the title of that book is going to be “Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart”. I sure am comfortable knowing he is going to help clear up misconceptions for Southern Baptists on what is and what is not THE GOSPEL in The Gospel Project.

I went to a clip of Platt speaking at the Verge Conference 2012 and listened to the following clip of him speaking on this subject of “asking Jesus into your heart.” Here is a transcript of the clip I listened to:

Platt speaking: “And I’m convinced many people in our churches are simply missing the life of Christ. and a lot of it has to do with what we’ve sold them as the gospel, i.e. ‘pray this prayer’, ‘accept Jesus into your heart’,’invite Christ into your life’. Should it not concern us that there is no such supertitious prayer in the New Testament? Should it not concern us that the Bible never uses the phrase ‘accept Jesus into your heart’ or ‘invite Christ into your life’?

It is not the gospel preached. It’s modern evangelism built on sinking sand and it runs the risk of disillusioning millions of souls. It’s a very dangerous thing to lead people to think they are a Christian when they have not biblically responded to the gospel. If we are not careful we will take the life blood out of the gospel and put kool-aid in its place so that it will taste better to the crowds. It is not just dangerous; it is damning.

And then when we think about making disciples, it is all about getting people to go out and get people to pray the prayer or spread that… no lets give them a full picture of the gospel; lets show them a full picture of the greatness of God. Yes He is a Father who loves us; He is a loving Father who will save us but He is also a wrathful judge who may damn us.”

OK. I am glad to know that somebody has finally arrived here to help us get it right. It is certainly interesting that some things not being in the Bible verbatim is ok and then other things not. I have heard more times than I care to count that the Trinity is not mentioned in the Bible but it is certainly a biblical concept and therefore doctrinally sound. Romans 10:9-13 certainly speaks to this issue as I see it. Here Paul writes, “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” I will admit this passage does not say to “invite Jesus into your heart” but I am not sure that giving that kind of invitation is not an acceptable application of the instruction Paul is giving.

Personally, I am careful to explain that we are all sinners and we are all in need of a Savior and that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins; He died in our place; He paid a debt He did not owe for a debt we could not pay. He was taken down off the cross and placed in a borrowed tomb and three days later He rose from the dead; He walked out of that tomb triumphant over the grave, victorious over the tomb; free for all to see a Glorious Savior, Risen and alive! He is alive forever more and because He lives, I can live for Him today and with Him forever. Jesus willingly went to the cross… and you and I have to do the same thing.

I do not simply get up and ask people to invite Jesus into their hearts and come down and take me by the hand and join the church. So, Dr. Platt is oversimplifying what I believe is more commonly seen today as a practice that ought to be abandoned and that is giving altar calls or invitational evangelism and this is his way of pointing out its weaknesses.

Well, Dr. Platt your case has been made and I for one will continue to invite people to Christ because I believe that is indeed the heart of the gospel. I believe God in His sovereignty has chosen to make us all sovereign in our choice to choose Him and in His sovereignty He has chosen the consequences of our choices and is just to carry out those choices. So, I believe it is imperative that people hear the truth of God’s provisions for sin that was settled at Calvary and made available to those who believe and through faith in God being everything He says He is and that He will do everything He says He will do, one can through the convicting work of the Holy Spirit in ones heart, ask God for forgiveness and to save him and the Bible promises that individual that God will hear his prayer, forgive his sin and make him or her a part of His forever family! That individual will become an heir of God and a joint-heir with Jesus and it does not get any better than that!

You may hear the clip of PLatt’s message BY CLICKING HERE.

There may be better clips somewhere, this is the one I happened to come across.

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About sbcissues

Interested in bringing the issues facing The Southern Baptist Convention to light.
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22 Responses to Worried About The Gospel Project?

  1. John says:

    You may believe God in His sovereignty has chosen to make us all sovereign in our choice to choose Him and in His sovereignty He has chosen the consequences of our choices and is just to carry out those choices but that will not make you right ! He is God, we are not, He didn’t need us, we need Him. It’s all for Him, you need to understand this.

  2. sbcissue says:

    John,

    Thanks for your comment. I echo your comment, “that will not make you right.”

    It is funny how we “need to understand this” actually works!

    Stop in any time!

    ><>”

  3. Nathan says:

    There are three things that I would like to address about your article. First, in defense of the Gospel Project (and consequently, David Platt), I would say that we, as a denomination, are in desparate need of Christ-centered teaching. I have served as a youth minister, education minister, and pastor in this denomination for the past 10 years, and LifeWay has more times than not been a hinderence, not a help, in my ministries. This is because their literature focuses far too much on life application and therapeutic studies. Rather than pointing people to Christ and knowing him, they have taught how to live your best life now. One distinct example was an Easter Sunday School lesson out of the “Exploring the Bible” curriculum that communicated that the suffering of Christ on the cross was an example of how we can face suffering. The comparison was made between our struggles in marriage and finances and his struggling on the cross. I am sorry, but this cheapens the sacrifice of our savior and overshadows (in fact, perverts) the Gospel message. At the time, we had a young lady in our class who was a Mormon, and for the year that she had been coming, I could not remember one lesson that clearly and concisely taught the Gospel.

    So, you can imagine my surprise and delight to find out that LifeWay is coming out with a Christ-Centered, Theology-focused curriculum. Based on the initial information, I took this to my small country church and we voted to move our curriculum to this in the fall because I know in our case, my congregation needs to see Christ manifested in all of Scripture. But, now that you have confirmed that this curriculum was written by men who hold to Reformation theology, I am absolutely ecstatic! Given the fact that the Baptist denomination, and specifically the Southern Baptist Convention, are all grandchildren of the Reformation and the wonderful Solas that they proclaimed, I don’t really see where this would be a problem for anyone who calls themselves Southern Baptist, unless they wish to go back to Rome, save for infant baptistm.

    Secondly, on the point that Platt made, there is a real issue there that he is trying to address. I am so glad that you so clearly state what you mean about “receiving Jesus into your heart”, and what you communicated is a beautiful synopsis of the Gospel, but here’s the problem with this terminology: making a statement like “invite Jesus into your heart” or “accept the gift” or “pray the prayer to receive Jesus” communicates a work of salvation that is not there in Scripture, whether we have already clearly defined that or not. You quote Romans 10:9-10, and what a joy it is to know that simple faith in the Lordship and resurrection of Christ is enough to save, but that’s just it: Paul is communicating that simple FAITH (trusting and resting in the provision of God in Christ) is enough to save, not our act of receiving it. That is why he says in verse 17, “faith comes from hearing the words of Christ”. There is a necessity that men preach the Gospel, because in the preached message, a supernatural act occurs in which God regenerates and grants faith, and that is how people are saved. We are not saved by receiving, accepting, or praying. We are saved by trusting and believing. And, that trusting and believing (faith) is given to us by God (John 6:37, 44; Eph. 2:8-9; Acts 11:18; Phil. 1:29; 2 Pet. 1:3-4). This is why it is grace. What God requires, he also grants/gifts. He requires perfect obedience, and he sends His Son to fulfill that and imputes to us his righteousness. He requires faith in His Son, and he grants it to the sinner.

    Finally, and frankly, the statement “God in His sovereignty has chosen to make us all sovereign in our choice” is just wrong on so many levels. Scripture clearly teaches that God is sovereign, even over the choices of men (Prov. 16:1, 9; 19:21; Proverbs 20:24; Psalm 37:23; Jeremiah 10:23; Rom. 9:19-23; Dan. 4:34-35). No logical/philisophical arguments on non-determinisim or determinism need to be made. God is who he reveals himself to be, and he reveals himself to be the ruler over all things, even the ways of men and angels. I’m sure one would respond, “That just means we are robots.” But that isn’t what Scripture reveals either. Scripture maintains both the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man. God is sovereign over the plans, thoughts, actions, and words of men, but man is somehow acting of his own will. It is a mystery that we must affirm and teach, even though they don’t seem to meet. As Charles Spurgeon said, the doctrines of God’s Sovereignty and Human Responsibility are like two lines that, from our perspective, seem to be parallel to each other, but somewhere in the mind of God, far off in eternity, they meet. Perhaps God will grant us both the ability to comprehend them when we get there.

    If we never meet here, I’ll see you there, brother. Thanks for being patient with my long response.

    • sbcissue says:

      Nathan,

      Thanks for your reply and lengthy is not a problem. I am glad that you are ecstatic with the Gospel Project. One of the reasons that I have maintained that Lifeway ought to label it as a Reformed Project is so that guys like you might know exactly what it is and guys like me might as well. I appreciate and applaud your statement, “But, now that you have confirmed that this curriculum was written by men who hold to Reformation theology, I am absolutely ecstatic!” I am not but I am glad that this material is there for you and the church you serve. Seems to me Christ centered and gospel oriented is taking on new meaning and if I am to understand positions similar to the one you present here, and you are not alone I have heard it time and time again, it is a good thing that there is a revival of those who hold the Reformation Theology because the SBC is so pitifully shallow because we are not reformed. I suggest it is not reformation that we need rather transformation that we need and the reformation you applaud is not going to bring the transformation we need.

      Now as to your comments regarding terminology used in leading someone to Christ, lets be honest about that as well, shall we. Since you Reformed folk believe that regeneration must precede repentance and saving faith, there is no need to lead someone to ask Jesus into their heart or to exercise faith because God is the Only One who can do that and when He decides to give someone faith, they WILL repent and that is the only way it will happen.

      My question is what is the big deal with you guys? If God is the One who does it then the means does not matter and if He does not do it then again the means does not matter. This whole argument makes no sense as I see it. I hear objections like “these folks have false hope” and they are “false converts” but my question is, what difference does it make? If they are unregenerate then it is not a harm to them and if God regenerates them it cannot get in His way there either… so get over it!

      The point that I make is faith is an expression of our belief that is active and requires a response and leading someone to the cross and the resurrection and a response to believe and faith Christ is valid as I see it; Jesus said. “come follow Me.” I suppose instead of asking someone to invite Jesus into their heart, we could say… “come follow Jesus”; to me when properly presented, both are virtually the same invitation to the lost person to “faith Christ.” As you guys so aptly state, it is not the language but the dependence on God to do what He says He will do. That is where I will continue to stand and if the Holy Spirit leads me to ask someone to invite Jesus into their heart believe you me I will do so and leave the results up to God!

      Your mystery theory is necessary to keep from accusing God of sin. Look at your own assertion, “God is sovereign over the plans, thoughts, actions, and words of men, but man is somehow acting of his own will.” In this contradictory statement, it MUST be a mystery because that is the only way you can say God is sovereign over all things, even the thoughts of men but not be responsible for sin.

      I will stick with my statement that God in His sovereignty has chosen to make man sovereign over his own choices. Here is a mystery… if God is sovereign then I believe that means He can do what He wants to do any way He wants to do it, right? God did give Adam supremacy over things on this earth…. and maybe that is a better word to use here… God is sovereign and man is supreme over his choices and man’s supremacy determines his eternal destiny as well as the quality of his life, today.

      In this manner, God is in no way responsible for the decisions that man makes but He is completely responsible for the consequences of man’s choices.

      Thanks again for your response. Maybe you have helped me better word my position. I will give this new twist some more thought!

      God does indeed work in mysterious ways!!!!

      ><>”

      • Nathan says:

        Brother, to the point you made in the vein of “Why does it matter?” I would respond by saying, it matters because it is God’s Word, and he says it matters. You present a form of the classic argument I used to give when I was not Calvinist: Why evangelize? This assumes that God does everything like he did in Creation, he speaks/wills it, and there it is. But, then we have this wonderful suspension of that very idea in the creation of man. God stoops down in the dirt, forms Adam out of the clay, and does mouth to mouth on him. Could he have spoken man into existence as he did the Sun and moon and all else? Sure! But, God ordains the means as well as the ends. If I might critique your position (and hopefully avoid stereotyping), this is the problem with the non-Reformed hermaneutic. There is a confusion between the phenomenons that Scripture records and the declaritives that scriture records. So, you read a statement like Joshua 24:15 or Matt. 23:37 and you say, “Aha, this is evidence that God is abdocating his sovereignty to man in giving him a choice.” But, these Scriptures communicate a call from man’s perspective. God, on the other hand, makes declarations about the condition of man. Some of them I have already mentioned, but he also says that man is dead in sin (Eph. 2:1-3), desiring the will of Satan (John 8:44), unable and unwilling to obey God (Rom. 8:7-8), and darkened to the things of God (1 Cor. 1:27). That is what God says about the condition of man. So, even though Joshua calls on the people of Israel to make a choice for God, unless God acts to call out Israelites to have faith and trust, it won’t happen. That’s exactly what Paul says in Romans 9: not all of Israel is Israel. There is a remnant, and that remnant is called by God, born “not of the will of man, nor of the will of the flesh, but of God” (John 1:13).

        So, here’s the reason that it matters: because God says it matters. Because God has ordained the means and the ends. Because God has said, “If you confess me before men, I will confess you before the father.” Because God has said, “Repent and be baptized for the remission of sin.” Because God has said, “How will they hear unless there is a preacher?” Therefore, I preach, so that men might hear, and in hearing they are given faith (Rom. 10:17) and they respond. I call men and women, boys and girls to trust Christ, and I can know that God will do the work to call out his elect.

        False converts matter because we accept them into membership and give them full rights to teach, serve, and lead, and don’t even have saving faith. They teach our children, our children grow up into heresy/error, and, even though God still sovereignly works to save his people, they go through years of defragging trying to get back to the true Gospel. Again, ends and means.

        On the issue of “the mystery”, it is not a contradiction at all, no more than 1 + 1 + 1 = 1 (the trinity) is a contradiction. It is a MYSTERY. We are not given full revelation (or maybe even, on my part, mental capacity) to understand it. It is very similar, if not the same, to the mystery of the Inspiration of Scripture. I assume, since you are good Southern Baptist, that you believe in the complete inerrancy and infallibility of scripture. So, we (you and I) that the words of the Bible are the Words of God, there because he willed them to be. But, we also recognize that men wrote the Bible. Men who have different literary styles and concerns that show up clearly in their writings. How is that possible if God’s sovereignty is not active, even in man’s supremecy? Would we not both say that, firstly, this is a great mystery, and secondly, this is somehow God working out his ends through certain means; namely, the personalities, desires, influences of his Apostles?

        Sure, God is sovereign, and that absolutely means that he can do what he wants to do. What I’m saying is that you’re formula for how that meshes with man’s freedom or responsibility doesn’t mesh with God’s own revelation of His Sovereignty. And this comes to my ongoing issue with the non-Reformed side. Please make your arguments from Scripture. In my struggles as a pure-blooded modern Arminian Baptist who constantly wrestled with Calvinism and reformation theology until I finally came to believe it, it was never helpful to see the Calvinist make all his arguments from Scripture, and then see the Arminian respond (or me respond) with philosophy and reason. When I was in this struggle, I bought a B&H book called “Four Views on Predestination”. It was the most unhelpful book ever written on the subject because the Arminian, right out of the gate, said, “There is scripture that supports both sides, therefore, let’s not argue from scripture. Let’s talk about the merits of nondeterminism and determinism.” (Paraphrased) Where does that get us? Are we Aristotilian or Platonian, or are we Christians? God gets to say who he is, and I have to repent of my self-minded beliefs and constantly be transformed (to use your word, and His) into the image of His Son. So, I have laid out several arguments thus far, and I have tried to lace them all with Scripture. I would love to see the scriptures that support your arguments, and I say that with all sincerity. I certainly don’t want to stand before God with any spot on the garment he gave me.

        Thanks for being the iron that sharpens mine.

  4. sbcissue says:

    Let’s shorten this up a little… first of all your statement, “it matters because God says it matters” is a little presumptuous and even a little condescending in that one interpretation is what matters so let’s keep things on an even keel here; for the record I agree, it DOES matter. This is why I maintain we both may be wrong in our theological positions but one thing is crystal clear, we cannot both be right. One other point of clarity; I am NEITHER calvinist nor arminian. I realize that many like to lump people in one camp or the other but it’s a no go there for me.

    Now, explain to me WHY the popular reformed position is to NOT extend an altar call at the end of a service? If my characterization was inaccurate, explain the calvinist position and objection if you will. And for the record, I did not speak at all to the calvinist’s evangelistic zeal or lack thereof; that was not at all the direction I was going and I am confident you understand the difference.

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    • Nathan says:

      I apologize for my long-winded nature. I am a preacher after all. I’m sure you can relate. I suppose it would seem condescending and presumptuous to make a claim to the correct interpretation, but that is what a truth claim is, and as you intimate, both of us cannot be right. God means what he says, not what we want him to mean. Therefore, there is a correct interpretation to all Scripture, and that’s what God meant for us to understand from it, not what we want it to say.

      I never said you were an Arminian. I said that at one time I was. I have been referring to your camp (which is the Hobbsian modern Southern Baptist position, as far as I can tell) as non-Calvinist or non-Reformed. But, I would point out that it really is just Arminianism, like it or not. You would say (if you follow in the vein of Herschel Hobbs and Adrian Rogers) that man is fallen, but not completely without ability to choose God. When God calls the man, the Spirit awakens him and draws him and man at that point is back in the Garden, standing before the tree. That’s Arminianism. You would say that God elects His church based on his foreseeing saving faith in believers. That’s Arminianism too. You would say that the atonement is unlimited, meaning Christ only made the way, and our cooperation with Christ (by receiving/choosing) is what makes the atonement apply to us. Again, Arminianism. You would say that the call of God is strong, but resistable. Arminianism. Now, here is where most baptist seem to differ, and this is probably why you are saying that you’re not an Arminian: you would say that once you have made that choice, you are now in a covenant with God, and God won’t back away, therefore, once saved, always saved. And, because you hold to that, it must mean that you differ from Arminians. Actually, James Arminius was not sure on this issue. The Remonstrance (his disciples) was, but he still held to perserverence. I’m sorry if I have stereotyped you or pigeon-holed you without knowing your individual beliefs, but you would surprise me (pleasantly) if you didn’t fit this.

      On the issue of camps, I’m not ashamed to be called a Calvinist, even though I severely and passionately disagree with Calvin on some things. I don’t object because people know exactly what I mean when I say that I’m a Calvinist. Now, certainly, I’m not as “Calvinistic” as John Calvin, or Andrew Fuller, William Carry, Charles Spurgeon, J.P. Boyce, W. A. Criswell, or John Piper. We all come at this thing from a little different bent, and we may say things differently or hold to things less surely than others, but this is a marker that designates a system of theology with which I and the afore mentioned agree. You may not agree with the way Arminianism is communicated and you may not get along with the specific proponents of the movement, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t swimming in their stream.

      Now to the issue of the “alter call”. For one, Reformation Christians tend to shun them because they are a recent invention which came out of the Second Great Awaking and Charles Finney. Charles Finney didn’t believe in Imputed Righteousness, Justification by Faith alone, and many other Protestant Doctrines. He was a die-hard Pelagian. His practices (the anxious bench, precursor to the alter call) were meant to incite certain feelings and emotions in the participant so that it might invoke a change. He was concerned with moral transformation, not the saving of men’s souls. A decade after his revivals, the district of NY where he ministered was known as the “Burn Out District”. Where does the excitement stop? What new excitement must we do to “win” folk. Brother, this is why youth are leaving our churches in droves for Eastern Orthodoxy and RC, because they see nothing but “cokes and jokes” and new excitements. That’s the first issue. There is no practice for an “alter call” communicated in Scripture. Sure, you might say Acts 2 is one, and I’m fine with that, but as far as this being an element of regular worship, I don’t see it.

      Second, the term “alter call” is just wrong. There is no alter in a church. The alter is in heaven. We are not bringing a sacrifice to the front of the church for the minister to then burn to satisfy the wrath of God. This was done on the cross, and God offered his own sacrifice.

      Third, it leads to a sloppy form of church membership. I still give an “Invitation” in my church, but I’m about to stop. Here’s why: Everyone who has ever come down the isle at my church had previously come to me in private to tell me they wanted to make a profession of faith. So, my conclusion is that people are just not spontanious anymore. That’s probably a good thing because my church’s role is full of “Christians” who came down the isle at some point and never came back. I’ve never met most of them. In this we do sloppy work because we put the emphasis on the “decision” and not on the discipleship. We don’t work with the person to teach them “all things whatsoever I’ve commanded you.” If they come down the isle and they can say the ABCs back to the preacher, boom, wham, their a Christian and we vote right then to accept them into membership. Really? Is this the way it should work? The 2nd century church made it’s new believers go through a year of teaching (catechesis) before they could be baptized. They called it “exorcism”, because they were bringing them out of their pagan/satanic practices and beliefs.

      Finally, I know you don’t believe this, but are you implying that the only time for hearers to respond to the Gospel is during the alter call? Could they not respond by talking to me after church? Could they not respond by calling me or emailing me during the week? Must it be on the spir of the moment, “I have decided”, emotional movement? Surely not.

      I don’t see a problem with having a Time of Response at the end of the sermon, especially if it is a particularly evangelistic sermon and especially if there are visitors. But, I also don’t see the necessity of it, and I would rather the focus of the sermon and the focus of the time of Worship be on what God has done for you than what you must do for God. I don’t know if other Calvinists are reading this, but they may want to clarify or give their own reasons. I can speak for everyone on this, just me.

      As a point of clarity, I was not saying that you were condemning us of lack of zeal. I was making a connection between your argument, means and ends, and the typical argument about evangelism. If it was a straw man, I apologize.

      • Nathan says:

        Correction to next to last paragraph: “I can’t speak for everyone on this, just me.”

      • sbcissue says:

        I am headed to church so I will respond to your arminian label. I am not in the arminian camp as I do not believe in total depravity. Nowhere in the Scriptures and especially in the OT can I find even a hint of TD and in researching Jewish theologians, I find no hint of TD in ANY of the writings that I could find. I believe in Total Separation where God put man out of the garden and away from His perpetual presence and every man, woman boy and girl has been born outside the garden and God’s presence and until the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our hearts, we are separated from Him still and as such, no decision or choice that we make beings Him glory and falling short of the glory of God is defined as sin.

        So, with that being said I do not believe in prevenient grace, of which ironically I maintain irresistible grace is actually a form of prevenient grace, in the sense it is required prior to one being able to turn to God. I believe the Bible is clear that it is His revelation of Himself to the world and in addition to His revelation of Himself He is reconciling the world unto Himself. It is the Word that tells us who God is and what it is that He has promised to do with us and for us and the Holy Spirit then seeks to draw us unto Christ by faith and through repentance to cry out to God for forgiveness and He is faithful and just to hear our prayer and forgive our sin and make us part of His forever family.

        So, before the Pelagian charge can be thrown out there, understand it is impossible for anyone to come into God’s presence without Him first having come into ours, which is the purpose of the incarnate Christ and the physical resurrection of Jesus. It is also the purpose of prayer, me coming into the manifold presence of God through Christ by the Holy Spirit. When I got saved the Holy Spirit through the teaching and proclamation of the Word of God convicted me of my sin and I cried out to God literally… several nights as a 10 year old little boy who was really an “angel” because my dad saw to it… but I knew I was lost and needed Christ and what He did for me on the cross and on a Thursday night God reached down and picked me out of my bed and pulled me to His bosom and I went to sleep in His arms and have never gone to sleep since wondering whose I am.

        So does God make the decision about who is and is not saved? I wholeheartedly declare NO. Is it HIs will that every one be saved? Will I believe 2 Peter answers that question. Did Jesus die for the whole world? I believe John 3 answers that question. is everybody saved… I believe the newspaper and the “hellevision” answer that question. So… who is responsible for that one who dies in this life without Christ?

        I believe to live this life without Christ is hard; to die without Christ is hell. God so loved the world that He gave His Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.” God does not make that choice for ANYONE. We make the choice like Pilate did… what am I going to do with this One who is called the Christ… we have to do the same thing Jesus did… we have to willingly go to the cross… it is our choice; the consequences of our choice is God’s.

        One more comment… God making me responsible for my choices does not rob Him of His sovereignty… here is the logic behind that statement… it does not matter what I believe about Jesus being Lord… He is Lord no matter what i think.

        God is sovereign and in His sovereignty He has given me the responsibility to choose Him or choose anything else. I am grateful that we have both chosen Him!

        ><>”

      • Nathan says:

        Interesting! So you are saying that you reject the idea that man is dead in his sin? And somehow, that is not taught in scripture? Ooh, I am not sure how to approach that. First of all, I would say that is one of the clearest teachings of Scripture, and I would love to see how you would address them. Such scriptures as Gen. 8:21 (“youth” meaning “early childhood”, not the modern use of 13-18), Jer. 17:9; Psalm 51:5; Ezekiel 36:26). Secondly, I don’t understand why you would reject a Christian doctrine based on Jewish Theologians, particularly the Talmud, since they were the predecessors of the Pharisees. Much of what Jesus rejected and taught against was the Jewish commentary on the law. The Problem is not just that we are separated, but we are corrupt and defiled images of God. This is exactly what Rom. 5:12ff says. All have sinned in Adam because Adam was the image-bearer of God. Jesus can stand in Adam’s place because he perfectly bore the image of God (Col. 1:15). Furthermore, we are dead in our sins (Eph. 2:1-3). We cannot and don’t want to do God’s will (Rom. 8:7-8). We do not understand the things of God (1 Cor. 2:12). We are in a real pickle, because we are totally not what God created us to be and we cannot make things right, not just because we are far from him, but because we don’t want to.

        But God (Eph. 2:4) acts to save us, not just through the hearing of the Gospel, but through an internal work in our hearts that changes our nature and brings us to faith. It is something that is given to us, from above. The term “born again” in John 3 is “born again from above”, literally. That is why Jesus says in 3:8, “flesh is born of the flesh and Spirit is born of the Spirit”.

        Depravity is all over the place. I don’t know how you get past it.

        I have not said that God makes a choice for anyone. He changes their nature (Ezekiel 36:26) and in changing their nature they desire the things of God and choose God. If God did not act, no one would be saved because no one wants to be saved, according to the afore mentioned passages.

        I would agree that Man is responsible for his choices. Trouble is, he can’t choose God (see above and John 8:44). It is not a problem of will, it is a problem of the heart. The reason you rested in the arms of the Savior at 10 (beautiful story, by the way, and praise God for it) is because the Gospel effectually worked in your heart.

        This statement: “we have to do the same thing Christ did” troubles me. What do you mean by this? Christ did something for us that we could not do. And God grants to us something we do not, by our nature, have: FAITH.

        I’m sorry, but I don’t see your logic on the sovereignty theory. I’ve heard it before from Hobbs and company, and I just don’t see it in Scripture. I think it is an effort to synthesize and to explain a mystery. Saying that God is sovereign means that he has control over all things, even men, and Scripture does clearly teach that (see earlier posts). Scripture also clearly teaches that man is responsible (although incapable) for obeying God. I affirm both, and I believe that I am saved because God chose me, redeemed me through the Cross, and drew me and regenerated me by His Spirit. It is by his work, not my choice/decision, that I am saved. The faith that I have, which saves me (Rom. 5:1), was given to me. I didn’t have it by my own work, study, or willfulness.

      • sbcissue says:

        Nathan,

        This is indeed a very good discussion and one I am confident we have both had more than once. I can assure you that is the case on my part but I have put myself out there for scrutiny and I have most certainly received plenty. Dead in our sin… of course I believe we are dead in our sin. Here is the problem. I do not believe we are dead as calvinists contend; I find it difficult to see dead as being incapable of responding to God when the common argument there is if man is dead and cannot respond to God, he cannot sin either. I really do not see how that objection can simply be passed over as it is. Now to the more cultured concept; man is a slave to his own sinful nature and is only capable of making decisions in line with his nature.

        Ironically, my position will correspond with that position; as long as I am separated from God’s perpetual presence I cannot not sin because sin is anything that falls short of the glory of God and His glory is only found in our position being in Him. Now to the total depravity issue. I do not believe Adam’s sin was imputed to mankind. His sin and rebellion no doubt affected man but I do not believe we are condemned in Adam’s sin. I believe that is an exaggerated position to justify total depravity. I do not believe man’s nature is incapable of responding to God’s revelatory and reconciliatory work. I do not believe that God effectually changes anyone’s nature allowing them to choose Him or respond to His work. To acquiesce to this position is to accept the fact that God is then responsible for those whose natures are not changed and therefore solely responsible for every person who goes to hell. There is no way to avoid reprobation.

        Let’s look at the passages of Scripture you reference. Surely you do not expect me to take Genesis 8:21 and fall into line on total depravity? That is a stretch for anyone. Cannot go there. Man is a sinner; this passage does not say he is totally depraved and unable to respond to God. Jeremiah 17:9 is interesting as well. The heart is deceptively wicked… that is certainly true BUT is it incapable of choosing the things of God? “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, And whose hope is the Lord.” (Jer 17:7)
        Does he trust because God makes that choice or does he trust because He believes God’s promises and desires God’s provisions? I believe the latter is the lesson from the text. Verse 10 is interesting… speaking of this deceptively wicked heart, listen to God’s statement: ” I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.” This is interesting to me; God gives to every man “according to his ways” not HIS ways. Seems to me the context is clear; man is not only responsible for his choices he is capable of trusting God’s Word and His promises and God responds to man accordingly. No depravity or regeneration in this passage that I can see. In response to our faulty nature, Jeremiah says not only does God give him according to his ways, He gives him according to “his doings” not his nature! Once again, no total depravity here.

        Psalm 51 acknowledges our sin but no total depravity. Ezekiel 36 does not speak of regeneration as the calvinist portrays with respect to changing the nature of the unregenerate. IN this passage Israel has sinned and defamed the name and reputation of God before the world. God is saying that He is going to bring Israel back into a relationship with Himself. They do not deserve this in any form of fashion. Is God effectually acting in the hearts and lives of His people, I might accept the argument that He is! Notice why He says He is doing this: verse 38, that the world might know that I am the Lord.

        Your reference to Romans 5 is also an interesting one as well. If you contend that these verses 12-19 refer to the imputation of Adam’s sin and consequent condemnation because of HIS sin, then by the same analogy Christ’s righteousness is imputed to all men and we have a doctrinal basis for universalism. So it is obvious that this is not the case, certainly for the imputation of His righteousness to everyone. I do not believe this is at all what Paul is speaking about. Sin is a reality because Adam FIRST sinned and salvation is now available because of the second Adam. Notice Paul says “death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Man is responsible for his own sin. Adam is responsible for the first sin but we are subsequently responsible for our own sin. “But the free gift is not like the offense… the free gift (which is salvation) came from many offenses resulted in justification.” Death reigns because of sin, rebellion against God. Life comes in spite of the rebellion because of what Jesus has done for sinful men who believe in Him!

        Ephesians 4 is dealing with the gospel being given to the gentiles, to the Ephesians.. to whom He is speaking. This text can be calvinistic but does not necessarily demand a calvinistic interpretation. Romans 8… verse 5 is interesting… “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.” Paul does not say their minds are set on the things of the flesh… but rather they set them on the things of the flesh… but the real key is the presence of the Holy Spirit in the heart of men.

        Things are not as clearly laid out as neatly as everyone would like for it to be. To me, reprobation is great equalizer in this whole argument. It is a problem for the calvinist. The whosoevers in the Scripture are problematic for the calvinist. Election has its critics; is it corporate or individualist or both? It is almost always plural. Predestination carries much the same argument. I believe the end is predestined but the means is revelation and reconciliation.

        Oh well… just my perspective.

        ><>”

      • Nathan says:

        First, you mischaracterize total depravity. Man is dead in the sense that he is incapable of pleasing God. Part of that problem is that he does not want to. Part of the problem is that he is spiritually dead, I.e. corrupt. If you build a straw man and say that TD means absolutely no good can come from man, then sure, none of the scriptures I’ve quoted support that. But, they do support the fact that the problem is the heart. If the heart is intent on evil, deceitful, stone, how can man please God? Here in lies the problem. You believe that in man rest just a little glimmer of hope, and all that has to happen is that he has to be told he’s really sick and there is a medicine for that. I am saying, he must be revived spiritually, made alive, born again for him to even see the kingdom of God. You see a command in scripture, like Jeremiah 17:7, and you say that man must be capable of doing or he would not command it (and how are you not pelagian?). In this case, wouldn’t the law be the gospel. Instead of the law serving as a tutor to drive us to Christ, out of recognition of our inability and undoneness, would it not simple serve as the path to righteousness? Is it therefore wrong for you to preach that all have sinned and fallen short? There is no reason for them to fall short, since they are capable. Is it not man’s nature to suppress the truth (rom 1:18ff) rather than recognize it?

        I think Romans 8 speaks pretty clearly to depravity. The context is the juxtaposition between life in the spirit and life in the flesh. Paul’s point is that the carnal mind is incapable of pleasing God, but the life that is filled with the spirit is, and this happens because there is no longer condemnation for the one who is in Christ. The problem is with our minds and our hearts. Our minds are darkened and our hearts are numb. Sure, we can do some good, just like a broken mirror reflects some image, but we cannot reflect the image of God as we should. Even our righteousness is as filthy rags.

        Romans 5 – sure it supports TD. Adam is the federal head, his sin brought death and sin, just as Christ’s death brings grace and life. Paul is speaking of types. Adam, the image bearer distorted the image in his sin. All men born after are born broken. Jesus, as image bearer, perfectly bears the image of the father. All who trust in him stand under his reflection. No need for universalism, no more than unlimited atonement demands it.

        I don’t really see where reprobation is an equalizer. Are you saying that the calvinist position is the stronger position until you throw that in? So if God is sovereign over all things except for man’s choice, that means he is sovereign over where and when you are born, right (acts 17:26)? So, the Islamist in Saudi Arabia who never hears the Gospel is placed there by God. Is this not de facto reprobation? I’m sure one might argue that he is judged on what he knows, but that doesn’t match with anything you or I have said. Same question to the point about whosoever. In any configuration of the sovereignty of God, does he not in some way exercise authority over human choice? The whosoevers are no problem for Calvinism, because the call is open to whosoever will, but not all will because they can’t hear the call. Only those who have ears to hear (which Christ rejoices over the stuffiness of the ears of the Jews, Matt 13) will respond. The problem with your position is the fact that God’s actions don’t match with his words. He wants whosoever, but he doesn’t sovereignty act so that whosoever might hear.

  5. sbcissue says:

    Nathan,

    Let’s look at the next interesting comment you make: “If I might critique your position (and hopefully avoid stereotyping), this is the problem with the non-Reformed hermaneutic. There is a confusion between the phenomenons that Scripture records and the declaritives that scriture records. So, you read a statement like Joshua 24:15 or Matt. 23:37 and you say, “Aha, this is evidence that God is abdocating his sovereignty to man in giving him a choice.” But, these Scriptures communicate a call from man’s perspective.” Says who? Where is that stated in this text?

    Here is the problem with your insistence that we use Scripture instead of using as you so note, “philosophy and reason.” There is this tendency to see ones own position as being Scripturally sound and any other position as being not so Scripturally grounded. It does not matter if you quote Scripture if you do so to support your particular position. The use of Joshua 24 is a perfect example, as far as I am concerned. And for the record, i am sure going to be interested in seeing the passage that says Joshua 24;15 communicates a call from “man’s perspective.”

    When I read Joshua 24 here is what I see taking place. Joshua is first of all about to die so it is to be sure what he is saying is what he considers to be the most important thing in his mind at that moment. In verse 2, Joshua tells the people, “This is what the Lord is saying to you… ” and then he proceeds to remind them of the things that God had done for them over the last 40 years of their wandering in the wilderness and then their miraculous moving into the Promised Land. Why do you suppose Joshua is doing this? Simple. He is reminding the people that God has done everything He said He would do and He will continue to do so.

    So, Joshua tells the children of Israel, 14 “Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! 15 And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Josh 24:14-15)

    Now, as I read this Joshua gives individuals a choice because their choice determines God’s action. That is what both the text and context indicate. Notice the people’s response: “16 So the people answered and said: “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; 17 for the Lord our God is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, who did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way that we went and among all the people through whom we passed. 18 And the Lord drove out from before us all the people, including the Amorites who dwelt in the land. We also will serve the Lord, for He is our God.” (Josh 24:16-18)

    OK… let’s assume your position is correct that this is nothing more than these folk answering as God was sovereignly leading them to do; that is was not their choice at all. Joshua’s word of warning that follows would make no sense! He chides them and tells them they cannot serve God and keep doing what they had been doing, in serving every other god along with the God who brought them out of Egypt. Notice WHAT Joshua says, (keep in mind we are reading Scripture here… not reading into it what we want it to say) “He (being God) will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. 20 If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you, after He has done you good.” (Josh 24:19-20) So when I say that God’s actions are based on man’s decisions, I am on more solid ground than you are when you simply seek to dismiss this as “being from man’s perspective.” These are as you reminded me, God’s Words!

    Now, the story is not finished. It continues: ” 21 And the people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the Lord!” 22 So Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord for yourselves, to serve Him.” And they said, “We are witnesses!”
    23 “Now therefore,” he said, “put away the foreign gods which are among you, and incline your heart to the Lord God of Israel.” 24 And the people said to Joshua, “The Lord our God we will serve, and His voice we will obey!” (Josh 24:21-24)

    The people heard the promises of blessings and the warning of judgment in the same message. Why? Because they were responsible for what God did; not God. To finish this off,
    nd he took a large stone, and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the Lord. 27 And Joshua said to all the people, “Behold, this stone shall be a witness to us, for it has heard all the words of the Lord which He spoke to us. It shall therefore be a witness to you, lest you deny your God.” (Josh 24:26-28) The people would not need a witness if they were obedient because they would experience God’s presence and His provisions and everything would be great. The witness was a reminder if they disobeyed as to their promise in light of God’s promise to them. Note, finally, these were the “Words of the Lord.” There is a reason the Word is so important; it demands our response and our response it what gives that Word its direction.

    ><>”

    • Nathan says:

      Thank you for pointing out a poor use of words on my part, but I poorly communicated and you, therefore, didn’t get the point of what I was trying to say. My point is that Josh. 24 is narrative in Genre. It is the revelation of how God intersected with man in time. And, my point in using that passage is to illustrate that we could read just this passage and conclude that God is therefore a “hands-off”, “I don’t care” kind of God. Or, we could also say that God reacts to the actions of men, as you have said. But, we know from other passages of Scripture that are not Narrative, but rather declarative, that God is not reactionary. God works all things according to his own will (Eph. 1:11). He does whatever it pleases him to do (Isaiah 46:8-10; Rom. 11:33-37). The same could be said of Exodus 32 and the sin of the people while Moses is on the mountain receiving the law. Many have used that to say that God changed his mind. He reacted. But passages like Numbers 23:19 and James 1:17 explicitly say that God doesn’t change his mind. The promises that God makes to the sinner are contingent on his immutability and sovereignty.

      I think it is very important for any conversation, especially theological ones, be rooted in God’s Word. I wouldn’t list the reference if I didn’t think it was important for you to check me on my interpretation, and certainly my interpretation is not infallible. It is only true and trustworthy if it clearly reads that way and fits with the context and overall message of Scripture. I think you offer an excellent exegesis of Josh 24, but I think your conclusions, as far as how it fits theologically are wrong.

  6. sbcissue says:

    As for Matthew 23, did you read that chapter? Here is one of the most stinging condemning statements that our Lord gives of the “religious right” who are so quick to tell everyone to “do as we say not as we do.” Woe after woe after woe to these religious leaders “For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.” (Matt 23:13-14) Sure does not seem like Jesus is saying it is God who is responsible for this but maybe I am not reading enough in to this statement. huh?

    Pay particular attention to the closing verses of chapter 23… 31 “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. 33 Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? 34 Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, 35 that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.” (Matt 23:31-36)

    As Jesus is leveling this condemnation, who is it against, God and His sovereign choices or men and their choices? And not just any ordinary men, but the religious leaders who knew the Law but did not know the Lawgiver! Who was responsible for what was about to take place, God or them?

    Now to verse 37 and 38… 37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 38 See! Your house is left to you desolate; 39 for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!'”

    In reading the verses that preceded these, it is no wonder Jesus wept over Jerusalem! If Jesus was saying as you suggest, that He would have taken them under His wing but <they were not willing then the only other conclusion would be that He was the One not willing and that would seem to me to remove any significant meaning to the passage at all. Jesus’ condemnation was that those who KNEW the Law SHOULD have recognized the Lawgiver and they would have led the people to KNOW Him as well. Instead they would incite the people to crucify Him.

    Truth is the Word of God is to introduce us to The Living Word that became flesh and dwelt among us so that through His death and Resurrection find life both today and forever. I challenge you once again to point out in this text your conclusion that Matthew 23 is a text that
    “communicate a call from man’s perspective.” Do not believe you will accomplish that feat, not from Matthew 23.

    ><>”

    • Nathan says:

      I would be glad to point out how this narrative communicates an intersection between God and man. You are absolutely correct, this is a condemnation of the religious leaders who were blinded by their own self-righteousness. But, your caricature of the Calvinist position is not helpful. I have never said (in fact, if you go back to my first post, I argue against this), that God forces anyone or overrides the will of anyone. Rather, God changes the heart (Ezekial 36:26, John 1:13) and the will follows. He changes our desires from desiring Satan (John 8:44) to desiring God (Eph. 2:8-9; John 15:16-17; Phil. 1:29, 2:12-13). So, yes, Jesus pronounces judgment on the nation of Israel because of its spiritual blindness, and in so doing he shows himself to be just and he shows that their focus is on the wrong thing. God does not force them to be judged, but he judges them because they are corrupt, broken images. They don’t give God the glory he deserves and instead of worshiping the Son of God they crucified him.

      There is a perfect example of this very thing in Acts 4:27-29, and I’d love to know how you would reconcile this passage. The leaders of the church prayed and recognized that Pilate and the religious leaders were responsible for their actions in crucifying Jesus (see Peter’s earlier sermon), but that all of it happened according to the plan that God “predestined”. In fact, they say that Pilate and the religious leaders did whatever God’s hand had predestined them to do. This is what Spurgeon means by the two parallel lines, and this is what I meant by the mystery theory. The Bible confirms that man is responsible for his choices, and passages like Josh. 24 and Matt. 23 communicate that very thing. But, the Bible also communicates that God is sovereign, even over those choices. According to the statement in Acts, God didn’t abdocate his role as sovereign to the supremecy of Pilate. In fact, Jesus tells Pilate that he can’t do anything that hasn’t been granted from above. The Bible also tells us that we are responsible, but we are unable to do anything about our condition. We are dead, broken, corrupt, preverted, evil sinners. We are not that way because we’ve done a few things wrong in our lives but because our very nature (the image of God) is corrupt. If we are in that condition, which the Bible says we are, then God must act. The Bible tells us he did act (Eph. 1:3-13) by choosing us, redeeming us, and sealing us. Therefore, there will be no boasting in heaven (Eph. 2:9). There won’t be anyone up there who will say, “Lord, I am here because, unlike those Pharisees that you blessed out in Matt. 23, I got it and I made the right choice.” No, we will praise God because not only did he send His Son, but He sent His Spirit, who draws us, regenerates us, gives us a new heart, opens our eyes, illumines our minds, and sets us free. I imagine we will sing with Charles Wesley:

      “Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
      Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
      Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
      I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
      My chains fell off, my heart was free,
      I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
      My chains fell off, my heart was free,
      I rose, went forth, and followed Thee”

      • sbcissue says:

        Nathan,

        It is indeed interesting to read arguments made against what we actually say. You wrote, “But, your caricature of the Calvinist position is not helpful. I have never said (in fact, if you go back to my first post, I argue against this), that God forces anyone or overrides the will of anyone.” Neither did I make that assumption on your part for i know better. I understand the calvinist argument that God does not force or over-ride anyone’s will; so one of two things is true. Either a) you misapplied WHAT I said or b) you assumed that was what I was insinuating. IN either case you are mistaken.

        I would say that your objection is in my argument that God does not effectually change the nature of the unregnerate and therefore according to the calvinist position, that person cannot repent because he does not have the innate ability to do so. This I maintain makes God singularly and solely responsible for every person who goes to hell. It is not that God forces His will on anyone; it is that He does not grant the opportunity of forgiveness to the non-elect. That is my problem with calvinism.

        I appreciate your position and respect your right to read the Scriptures as you believe they ought to be read. I respectfully disagree with your assertions and conclusions as to the nature and character of Gog as posited by the doctrines of grace and calvinism.

        May God continue to bless you as you seek to serve Him and surrender to the leadership of the Holy Spirit in your heart and in your life. May God continue to be glorified in our service to Him and to one another.

        ><>”

      • Nathan says:

        I suppose any system in which God is almighty makes him responsible for man’s destiny. I mean, after all, God could pardon all sin, regardless of our decision or faith. He could choose to just let it go. He could destroy everyone. But in any case, he is responsible. He puts us in our families, gives us the mental capacity, the personal influences and so on. You get the point. You can say that God is responsible for passing by some, but even from a basic standpoint of his sovereignty over creation, he passes by some in creating them in times and places where they never hear the Gospel. They are still judged because they exchange the truth for a lie.

        I can sense you are done with this line of argument, and I am pretty well done as well. So God bless you in your ministry. May his Spirit change you from one degree of glory to another, into the image of His son. As a Haitian pastor told me once, “brother, if we never meet again on earth, I know that we will eat and sing together again in glory, at the wedding supper of the lamb.” I look forward to that day when there are no more Calvinists or Arminians or conversionists, only Christians.

  7. John says:

    Thank God I am able to read this today, what a blessing !!!!!!
    Two gentleman passionate about God’s word, even if one is an Armenian. Lol

    • Nathan says:

      Watch the name calling! Just kidding. SBCIssues seems to be a cool cat. Wish we lived closer together. As George Whitfield Said of John Wesley when asked if he thought he would see JW in heaven, “No, he will be too close to Jesus.” I suppose I may have the same problem with so many of my Arminian/Non-Calvinist Brothers.

  8. sbcissue says:

    Gentlemen,

    I can assure you seeing me in heaven will put you on the outskirts!!! I long ago replaced Paul as the “chief of sinners” but praise God I am His, now and forever!

    ><>”

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