Who Is Really Saved? (Re-Visited)

Thanks for all of the comments/emails/thoughts on the July 14th post Who Is Really Saved?

As a follow-up/further conversation piece, I thought I would also post an email exchange I had with a new friend in response to that blog. Hopefully this will be able to continually spur others on/continue the great dialogue out there/encourage some of you to read the original and share these truths with others!

From: Xxxxx Xxxxxxxx
Sent: Monday, July 18, 2011 4:47 PM
To: pastoraloffice
Subject: Who is really saved

Pastor Wagner,

I’ve become aware of your ministry through my employer, a member of your congregation who has been awesome in working to shepherd me through a difficult time for my faith. He recommended a recent post of yours “Who Is Really Saved” from your blog. Off that, I watched the related sermon, a few past sermons and read most of the last years worth of your blog posts. Over the weekend I came to really appreciate your bold presentation of God’s word, I also came to appreciate that you’ve selected your views carefully and after study and consideration.

Before I get to my question, a little about me. I was raised LDS and remain nominally active, primarily because I appreciate the positive influence the LDS church is in my wife and children’s lives. I enjoy a casual interest in LDS and more general Christian history and tradition. Unfortunately I’ve almost entirely lost my faith in God, at least in part due to my inability to reconcile faith and reason, but there are a number of other issues that plague the growth of my mustard seed.

My question for you primarily centers on your “Who is Really Saved” post. I noticed that while you reserve judgement on the Christianity of many nominally christian churches, you didn’t extend that to Mormonism. While I definitely appreciate the deep theological divisions Mormonism has with some of the more mainstream Christian sects, the religion still revolves around the belief the Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior and only through faith in him can a person be saved, which would seem to be the keystone of any definition of “Christianity”. Where yourself and a Mormon may disagree about the appropriate weight that emphasis on works role in identifying true faith receives, you’ll find no disagreement with them that faith in Jesus is the only way to salvation. That would seem to set it apart from religions like Islam and Judaism, which are explicitly non-christian.

I’m asking solely for my own edification. I’m not as interested in a detail of where you disagree with Mormonism, I’m more interested in where the line is drawn for you on what qualifies as a Christian.

Thanks for your ministry, I’ll continue to enjoy your perspective both in written and spoken form!

– Xxxxx Xxxxxxxx

From: pastoraloffice
Sent: Wednesday, August 03, 2011 2:31 PM
To: Xxxxx Xxxxxxxx
Cc: Employer
Subject: RE: Who is really saved

Xxxxx…please forgive my delay in response. I have been out a bit speaking/tending to other commitments and sorry to just getting back to you. Really glad you sent this email and are asking questions….that is how we all learn!

I would love to answer your specific question here, with a hope that we get a chance to visit about your broader faith struggles at a later time. I have copied the co-worker you mentioned here so he can step in and continue to dialogue with you…but for starters on salvation, there are a few past messages that have been done at Watermark that I think answer your question and were included in the blog…but if you want to re-listen, I’ve included the links here:

http://www.watermarkradio.com/index.php?id=153&channel=237&series=162&message=6

http://www.watermarkradio.com/index.php?id=153&channel=237&series=210&message=9

The reason I separated Mormons with other non-Christian beliefs is because although Mormons speak of Jesus, they do not speak of, believe in or follow the biblical Jesus. So while LDS speaks of Jesus….they redefine him, or to say another way, marginalize him in the same way Judaism and Islam speak well of Jesus but reject His claim to deity and His claim that He alone is the means through which fallen humanity can be reconciled to His holiness by grace through faith in His full and complete work on the cross.

A good message for you to watch and talk with your employer about is “Jesus on Jesus”, which you can find here.

Really glad the blog and some of what has been shared at Watermark has encouraged you and I would welcome the chance to say hello in person should you ever get the chance to visit with us at Watermark…if you join us on a Sunday that I am teaching, please stop by the front so that I can shake your hand and greet you.

Love the questions you are asking…stay at it!

Todd Wagner | pastoraloffice@watermark.org
www.twitter.com/wordsfromwags
www.watermark.org
214.239.8809

Who Is Really Saved?

As promised, today I am making public another email exchange that I expect will challenge, instruct, and encourage all. This week, in response to a message I had given at Watermark on July 10th, I received an email from someone who had been in attendance and very kindly asked me to clarify some comments that were made in regards to different Christian denominations. Below you can see the emails. Read, be reminded of truth (or informed of it for the first time), and share it with others who may need to know where our hope comes from!

From: Xxxxx Xxxxxxx
Sent: Monday, July 11, 2011 9:41 AM
To: pastoraloffice
Subject: Sunday’s Service

Dear Pastor Wagner:

Yesterday’s service struck a chord that I can’t seem to shake and I wanted to reach out to you for clarification. Did I understand you correctly when you said Methodists, Baptists, Episcopalians and Catholics aren’t Christians? Is that how you feel? I found it highly offensive that you would say Baptists and Methodists aren’t Christians. I’ve been going to some other denominational churches in town and they are definitely Christians that believe Jesus died to save our sins. This isn’t the first service that you have put down other religions such as Muslims and Jews and I want you to know that I find it a real turn-off when you start bashing other religions. What is the point?? I really felt like Watermark might be different from other churches I’ve attended over the years. I discovered WM through your Divorce Care Ministry. As mentioned, I had been going to another church, but was so impressed by the way DC touched and changed my life in such a short time that I felt like I needed to give WM a real shot and have been attending Sunday service for the last two months. Honestly, I feel like I owe WM my life with the transformation DC did for me. And I really want to find the right church to call home. But I’d really like to know how you feel and if I heard you correctly yesterday.

I appreciate your sincere response.

Thanks,

Xxxxx

From: pastoraloffice
Sent: Wednesday, July 13, 2011 4:44 PM
To: Xxxxx Xxxxxxx
Cc: Jessica Gober
Subject: RE: Sunday’s Service

Xxxxx…thanks for reaching out and asking. I appreciate you giving me the benefit of the doubt and taking the time to make sure you heard me correctly before you left discouraged or represented to others your understanding (Proverb 18:13). May that humility and wisdom continually mark both of our lives.

Now to your questions. I think you must be referring to my comments about the fact that we have had a long list of presidents (and other governmental leaders) who were “members” of Churches but who have not consistently represented a Christian worldview, and I was making the case that this was because of lack of discipleship, accountability, and leadership both within and from the church. In other words, our problems nationally, governmentally, locally, in our families, and in our individual lives are not that we are or are not Methodists, Baptists, Episcopalians, etc., but rather that too many are professed “Christians” by either affiliation or aspiration but not in practice. You would not hear me say that Methodists/Baptists/Episcopals/Presbyterians/Catholics are/are not Christian any more than you would hear me say that because someone goes to Watermark they are/are not a Christian. Note: I am not diving into or addressing the much more complex issues of denominational dogma and shifting positions because not everyone who attends any given church subscribes to, or even is aware of, official church positions, some of which are thoroughly unbiblical and thus call into question the entire foundation of the denomination…but that is not your question.

To your question about who is and who is not a believer…that is not my position to decide but the Lord’s, so I only want to direct you to Scripture. If you look at Romans 10:9-10 and John 5:24 you will see what it is that defines salvation. There is obviously nothing mentioned in these verses about a denomination or association with anything other than a personal trust and confidence in Jesus. One thing that cannot be missed in Scripture is that belief is never mere intellectual assent or profession. It is about responding in faith, trusting in His provision for your sin and recognizing and following Him as Lord. We don’t “accept” Jesus, we don’t profess Jesus, but we follow Jesus. This is always what belief means in Scripture when related to salvation. There is an eternal difference (and to my point on Sunday, there is tremendous present day consequence) between a said faith and a saving faith. Biblically speaking, heart change always results in life transformation and increasing conformity to Christ. Any exceptions to this, if they even exist, are tragic and filled with both eternal and present life consequence.

To this point, what I wanted to communicate Sunday was that the leaders of many churches have failed to shepherd the flock of God among them and help them understand what true faith, humility, and obedience look like. The result of a compromised pastorate and weakened church has been devastating to us individually and nationally. My job (as both a pastor and follower of Christ) is not to “see through people” (to see who is or who isn’t saved) but rather to “see them through” to greater obedience, joy and faithfulness in their relationship to Christ. If you were in the 11:00 service on Sunday, you may have missed this quote by A.W. Tozer that I shared in the other services. It speaks to the same point:

“Our most pressing obligation today is to do all in our power to obtain a revival that will result in a reformed, revitalized, purified church. It is of far greater importance that we have better Christians than that we have more of them. Each generation of Christians is the seed of the next, and degenerate seed is sure to produce a degenerate harvest not a little better than but a little worse than the seed from which it sprang. Thus the direction will be down until vigorous, effective means are taken to improve the seed….

To carry on these activities [evangelism, missions] scripturally the church should be walking in fullness of power, separated, purified and ready at any moment to give up everything, even life itself, for the greater glory of Christ. For a worldly, weak, decadent church to make converts is but to bring forth after her own kind and extend her weakness and decadence a bit further out….

So vitally important is spiritual quality that it is hardly too much to suggest that attempts to grow larger might well be suspended until we have become better.”

The Set of the Sail by A. W. Tozer, p. 154-156.

Below are some messages I have done in the past on the topic of salvation in general that I think will help further communicate my heart…hope you get the chance to listen and are encouraged:

http://www.watermarkradio.com/index.php?id=153&channel=237&series=162&me
ssage=6

http://www.watermarkradio.com/index.php?id=153&channel=9&series=210&message=9

Finally, you also asked about my thoughts on belief systems that are fundamentally non-Christian. Though I hope that I have never been perceived as “bashing” others who don’t believe the same things as I do, I do not mind being understood as representing what Scripture represents, specifically that there are not multiple paths which lead to the same “mountain top”. There is absolute truth and anything which contradicts this truth is by definition false or untrue. Scripture is clear that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life and that no one comes to the Father except through faith in Him (John 14:6, Acts 4:12). Sadly, this means that those who follow the tenets and beliefs represented in Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Mormonism, Judaism, etc. are separated from God and in need of transformation by grace through faith. This does not mean they are our enemies humanly speaking, but it does mean they are enemies of the gospel whom we should pray for, love, speak truth to, share the hope of Christ with, remind, reprove, and exhort with great patience, kindness and humility. I have many personal friends of all these faiths who are kind, loving, sincere, and moral whom I love deeply and discuss differences freely with gentleness and respect. Sincerity (mine or theirs) never defines reality/truth. Truth defines truth and because I am their friend I pray for them and labor with them that they might come to know the truth that Scripture says will set them free.

What it all boils down to is that, no matter what religious affiliation one may have, if we truly place our trust in and follow Christ, believing He is the only way to have a relationship with God, then we are reconciled to him (Romans 5:1) and it is our role in His Kingdom to lovingly share the hope of the gospel with others in word and deed (1 John 3:16; 2 Corinthians 5:20-21).

Very grateful for the work that He has done in your life through Divorce Care, and I pray that He would increasingly transform you into His likeness. Please let me know if we can be of further service to or if there is anything Watermark’s staff can do to get you further connected here. We would count it no greater joy! I’ve CC’d Jessica Gober here, who I am confident you may know through Divorce Care, so that she can help serve you in any way as well.

Thanks again Xxxxx…hope that is helpful and grateful for the chance to clarify. I look forward to hearing your reply.

Todd Wagner | pastoraloffice@watermark.org
www.twitter.com/wordsfromwags
www.watermark.org
214.239.8809

Best short article I have read in years

Bolded Red is me…GREAT stuff. Best article I have read in years. Read it-learn it-recite its truth to others.  Concise, compelling and TRUE.
Let’s get busy teaching the Word and why it matters to our friends.

Does the Bible Matter In the 21st Century?

By Vishal Mangalwadi

Published April 13, 2011

FoxNews.com AP

In his quest to change oppressive regimes in Afghanistan, President George W. Bush “Everyone desires freedom.” True. Everyone also desires a happy marriage can everyone therefore have one?

Afghanistan, Iraq, Ivory Coast ought to teach secular ideologues that freedom does not flow from the barrel of a gun. Nor does it flourish in every culture.

Why do most American presidents place a hand on the Bible to take the oath of office? Secular education has made that a meaningless tradition, but the tradition exists because the Bible is the secret of America’s freedom. Forget the Bible and America will go the way of the first Protestant nation – Nazi Germany.

Plato saw Greek democracy first hand and condemned it as the worst of all political systems. That’s why the spread of the Greek culture, called “Hellenization,” did not stir a struggle for democracy. In AD 798, the English scholar Alcuin summed up the then European wisdom to Emperor Charlemagne: “And those people should not be listened to who keep saying the voice of the people is the voice of God, since the riotousness of the crowd is always very close to madness.” Indeed, the voice of a corrupt people is often the devil’s voice.

The cancer at the heart of America’s political economy is cultural. This great nation was built by an ethic – a spirituality that taught citizens to work, earn, save, invest, and use their wealth to serve their neighbors. This biblical ethic has been replaced by secularism’s entitlement culture that teaches people that they have a right to this, that and the other without corresponding obligations to work, save, and serve. This new culture forces the state to take from productive citizens or borrow from other nations and spend it on man-made rights. This corruption of character is destroying the world’s greatest economy, but can democracy allow leaders to go against the voters’ voice?

The people’s voice began to be honored as God’s voice only because the sixteenth century biblical Reformation began saturating the hearts and minds of the people with the Word of God. Those who prayed, “Your kingdom come, your will be done in Scotland (or England, or Holland)” found the grace to free themselves from the tyranny of men. Not just Islamic, but every culture that rejects the kingdom of God condemns itself to be ruled exclusively by sinful men.

Almost everyone desires a happy marriage, but without the Bible, America cannot even define, let alone sustain marriage as one man–one woman, exclusive, and life-long relationship. The West became great because biblical monogamy harnessed sexual energy to build strong families, women, children, and men. 

Human history knows no force other than the Bible that has the capacity to dam sexual energy to build powerful families and nations. Indeed, no non-biblical culture has ever been able to require husbands to “love your wives” and give them the spiritual resources to do so.

Vishal Mangalwadi is the author of “The Book That Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization.” (Thomas Nelson)