Holding to Truth is moving!

Holding to Truth in Love is Moving!

I’m happy to announce that the Holding to Truth Blog will be moving to a new site with self hosting. This new site will enable us to better serve you. I’m especially pleased to say that it won’t have the annoying WordPress ads that some of you have commented on.

It will have a totally new look. So I hope you’ll like it.

Only one thing–you’ll probably have to re-subscribe to get the emails. The switch should take place this Friday or Saturday. So I hope you stick with us. Sorry for the inconvenience. But I anticipate that it will be worth it.

Keep holding to truth,

Tom Smith

 

Advertisements

The Power that Enables Us to Choose the Will of God

What is the power that enables us as Christians to make the best choice—to choose the perfect will of God? In my previous post, I spoke of “making the best choice.” But as I considered, I realized that I had never mentioned the power for such choosing. That is, even if we know God’s will, we may lack the power to choose it.

The Pattern of the Lord’s Choosing

The man Jesus, as our pattern, continually made the best choice. He always chose the Father’s will, spoke the Father’s word, and sought the Father’s glory.

As a twelve year old boy in Jerusalem, He chose to be in the things of His Father. Yet, He also chose to return to Nazareth and to be subject to Joseph and Mary (Luke 2:41-51). What was the power for such choosing?

Before beginning His ministry, He also humbled Himself to be baptized by John the Baptist (Matt. 3:13-17). What was the power that enabled Him to humble Himself?

To prepare for His death, the Lord Jesus chose to go up to Jerusalem, to not exult in the glory of those who said “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” What enabled Him to refuse the glory of men and choose to be “a grain of wheat falling into the ground to die” (John 12:12-28)?

In the garden of Gethsemane the Lord made the ultimate choice. He chose the Father’s will, the cross of Calvary, in order that He might die for us (Matt. 26:36-46). What was it that empowered Him as a man to give up His soul unto death for us?

How could the Lord Jesus make such selfless choices? If we are to follow His pattern, we must also learn His secret, His power of choosing.

The Power of the Lord’s Choosing

In Volume 17 of his Collected WorksWatchman Nee unveiled this secret, this power of choosing by referring to Isaiah 7:14-15. Most people know verse 14 which says,

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold the virgin will conceive and will bear a son, and she will call his name Immanuel.”

Most of us would recognize that this verse refers to the birth of Jesus Christ, the son born to the virgin. But few of us have appreciated that verse 15 speaks of the Lord’s obedient human living by saying,

“He will eat curds [or butter] and honey until he knows how to refuse evil and choose good.”

Butter is the richest part of the milk and signifies God’s rich grace. Honey is the sweetest thing and refers to God’s sweet love. By continually contacting God to enjoy His rich grace and His sweet love, the Lord Jesus chose “the good”—the will of His Father.

Eating Heavenly Butter and Honey to Make the Best Choice Continue reading

What buying new shoes can teach you about following Christ

A young man recently asked me about my experiences in the human life…or the absence of them. He asked if I’d ever done this or that. He wanted to convince me that somehow I was missing out on life due to my absence of experience of certain earthly pleasures.

While considering how to respond to his inquiries, I just happened to reflect on my recent experience of buying new shoes. My answer came in the form of this story.

Making the Best Choice

Just weeks before our talk, I went to my favorite shoe store to find a replacement pair for some worn out shoes. Wanting to be efficient with my time, I decided to quickly scan the aisles to see what kind of selection was available. Having spotted a few potential replacements I went straight to my first pick—a reasonably priced, yet dignified looking, pair of black oxfords. When I tried them on, they fit perfectly. My intuition told me these were the right shoes. I could look no farther, simply take them to the register and complete my purchase.

But could it be that simple? There were so many other options. I convinced myself that I should try the other possibilities. After trying on a half a dozen other pairs, I determined that my first choice had been the best. Within the hour I was completing the purchase that I had felt the best about from the beginning.

I had only spent the better part of an hour “exploring”—a harmless waste of my time. At least I was convinced that my original choice was the best.

A Wise Choice Saves Time

How do I apply such an experience to the young man’s inquiry? I believe the journey of many a young Christian may resemble my shoe shopping trip—however with a much more costly expense of their most precious asset—time…their best time, their youth.

Yes, it is possible to explore the world, try all its fare and come to the eventual conclusion that a life given wholly to Christ is the best choice. But as a young believer, why not make the best choice from the beginning? If you’ve enjoyed the reality of Christ even once, you can be assured that a life given wholly to enjoying and following Him is the best value.

If your first intuition is to choose to follow the Lord, why take the suggestion that you need to spend years of your life looking for something else, trying many things. Making Christ your first choice, can save needless years.

In fact, in God’s eyes such an offering of our youthful years to Him is extremely precious. The psalmist said,

“Your people will offer themselves willingly/ In the day of Your warfare, / In the splendor of their consecration. / Your young men will be to You / Like the dew from the womb of the dawn” (Psalms 110:3).

To consecrate our life wholly to Christ, to willingly offer ourselves to Him is to take the way full of splendor. It is satisfying both to Him and to us. I don’t regret a day of choosing Christ, enjoying Christ and living wholly to Him. I can only regret the days of living for something else.

“Lord Jesus, You are the best. I’m attracted by You. I make You my first and best choice. I willingly consecrate my life with all my heart, time and energy to You. Just keep me loving and enjoying You every day. Thank you that I can peacefully turn my back on all the world’s pleasures knowing that everything I need is in You. Praise You Lord!”

Is there a difference between the spirit and the soul?

First, it is vitally important to realize that in the Bible, there is a definite difference between the human spirit and soul. Second, it is equally important to realize that our experience of this distinction very much affects our progress in the Christian life.

So in this post we’ll consider the difference between the spirit and the soul—not mainly from the side of Bible teaching, but from the aspect of life experience. But, before we can come to our experience we must first have a base in God’s word.

In the Bible man is made with three parts—spirit, soul, and body.

First Thessalonians 5:23 says, “And the God of peace Himself sanctify you wholly, and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete…”

No one would say that our body and soul are the same, but some people may consider our soul and spirit to be practically the same. However, 1 Thessalonians 5:23 tells us clearly that our spirit and soul are two distinct parts.

Another verse that emphasizes this distinction is Hebrews 4:12:

“For the word of God is living and operative and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit and of joints and marrow…”

Here there are the “joints and marrow” which refer to the body plus the “soul and spirit,” revealing again that we have these three parts.

It’s also important to see that our soul and spirit can be “divided.” Hence, they’re different. They can be compared to “the joints and marrow.” As marrow is hidden inside the joints, so our spirit is concealed in our soul.

Just like we have to cut through the joints to get to the marrow, we have to cut through the soul to get to the spirit. This is why it’s often difficult initially to discern our spirit from our soul. I know this was my experience.

To illustrate this distinction, we may use the illustration of three concentric circles:

The outer circle refers to our body. Our body is our outer part containing our five senses with which we contact all the things of the physical, material realm.

The middle circle refers to our soul. Our soul is our inner part containing our mind, emotion and will with which we contact all the things of the psychological realm.

The inner circle refers to our spirit. Our spirit is our innermost part with which we contact God and substantiate all the things of the spiritual realm.

How can we practically divide our spirit from our soul?

So let’s consider how we can apply the dividing of soul and spirit in our daily Christian life.

Often our soul is plagued with anxious thoughts, troublesome feelings, and impure intentions. It’s a “mine field” that keeps us from enjoying Christ.

Second Timothy 4:22 says, “The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.”

The Lord is now with our spirit and with Him is grace—God as our enjoyment. But how do we get there? How do get through this deadly “mine field” of our soul?

We already mentioned that Hebrews 4:12 speaks of the “dividing of soul and spirit.” But the application of this dividing is by God’s living and operative word. It is God’s word, as this sharp sword, that is able to pierce our soul in order to break it away from our spirit.

In my last post, “How Bible Reading Can Change Your Life,” I referred to the awesome power of the Scriptures.  My friend’s heart was touched by God’s word to such an extent, that she could no longer remain an atheist, but chose to become a Christian.

These same Scriptures are so powerful that they can also cut through our thick soul, dividing our soul from our spirit.  God’s word can stop our anxious thoughts, calm our troubled emotions, and subdue our stubborn will. This has been my experience.

As we open the Bible, we just need to open to the Lord, and incline our heart to Him. Then read a few Bible verses and turn them into short, spontaneous prayers to Lord—thanking Him, praising or petitioning as we feel led. In this way we can enter into fellowship with Him in our spirit.

“Lord Jesus, thank you for showing us the difference between our soul and our spirit. Thank you also for giving us Your living and operative word as such a practical way to divide our soul and spirit. Lord, remind us to apply Your word by prayer, thanksgiving and praise so we may enjoy You in our spirit every day.”

I hope that this practical consideration of the difference between soul and spirit proves as beneficial to you as it has to me. Also, If you’ve received help concerning the dividing of soul and spirit, I’d like to hear from you.

For further development of what I covered in this post, you might want to read Chapter Three of The Economy of God by Witness Lee, especially the section on “Dividing the Soul from the Human Spirit.” It’s available online at ministrybooks.org.


How Bible Reading Can Change Your Life

Last year, my wife and I were hosting a dinner gathering in our home and one of our dinner guests was a young woman from China. She was attending a university in the US and was visiting with us while attending a Christian conference. During our dinner together, we asked her to share her testimony of how she became a Christian. Her story confirmed to me the awesome power of the Scriptures and how simply reading the Bible can change a person’s life.

Reading the BibleThe Best Diversion

She began by telling us her story about growing up in China where she and her family were all atheists. She knew nothing of God or His word. However, while attending a university in China she had the most amazing experience.

She would often go to the library each day to seek some diversion from her studies. Though she was a student of math and science, she felt she would like to read something different—possibly something on philosophy. But when she searched the shelves of the library she could find nothing suitable to read.

Turning across the aisle she noticed the religion section. At the bottom of one of the shelves she found a large, white-covered book, with the title “Holy Bible” on it. Having never read a Bible before, she began from the first page in Genesis. She repeated this practice for a number of days and then stopped.  However, after a couple of weeks of not reading the Bible, she felt something was missing. She had this strong desire to continue her Bible reading.

The Awesome Power of the Scriptures

While she was reading she came to the Bible verse that says, “And the dove came to him toward evening time, and there in her beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the waters had abated from the earth (Gen. 8:11).

When she came to this verse she was so deeply touched that she said, “I want to become a Christian.” No one told her that she needed to become a Christian, and the subject of this verse wasn’t even about becoming a Christian. Instead, the power of the Scriptures touched her related to the need of becoming a Christian, and this simple experience began her quest to find out how she in fact could become a Christian.

Although time does not permit me to tell the rest of her story, I cannot help but marvel at how a born atheist, without ever hearing the preaching of the gospel, could want to become a Christian just by reading the first eight chapters of the book of Genesis (which, by the way, does not even mention Christ’s name). All I can say is that the Spirit of God is ready to meet people on any page of the Bible.

How many lives could be changed if more people would pick up the simple practice of my Bible-reading friend. Many more of us could share how reading God’s word changed our lives.

I know my own experience confirms this. Though born in a Christian family, I can still testify that it was my own personal reading of the Scriptures that sent me on a quest to enter into the reality of what I read in God’s word.

A Simple Daily Practice of Reading God’s Word

I believe you’ll be amazed at what ten minutes of daily Bible reading can do. This simple daily practice of reading God’s word with prayer will change your life. For more details on this you may want to read my post entitled, “Practical Points on Bible Reading…

Since one of the main reasons people give for not reading the Bible is that they don’t understand it, I’ll also recommend my favorite study  Bible—the Recovery Version. It’s a Bible you can really understand. For more than two decades, my personal reading habit has been strengthened by all the helpful features of the Recovery Version. You can read the Recovery Version Bible online, and you can order a free copy of the New Testament Recovery Version Bible from Bibles for America.

Thank you for reading this post, and I hope that all of us can pick up this habit of daily reading the Bible to experience the power of God’s word.

How to believe “into” Jesus Christ

For many, believing “into Christ” might sound strange to the ear. You might be saying to yourself, don’t you mean “believe Christ’s words” or maybe “believe in Christ?” Or, you may be considering, is there really any difference between believing Him and believing into Him?”

It may sound strange, especially if you’re accustomed to reading from one of the more popular English Bible versions. Most of the familiar versions I’ve checked say either “believe in” or “believe on” Him. However,  believe “into” is actually according to the literal Greek word (eis).

Believing Christ is to acknowledge that He is true and real.

Believing Christ is to believe that He is true and real. In John 6:30, the religionists of His day said to Jesus, “What sign will You do that we may see and believe You? What work will You do?”

They were challenging Jesus to do some miracle—like sending bread down from heaven—in order to prove to them that He was God’s sent one. With them it was a matter of whether or not they would believe that something was true or genuine. It was simply a matter of whether they would acknowledge a fact.

This is similar to Albert Einstein’s biographical statement that he believed in an historical Jesus. Einstein could not deny the vibrant account of Jesus in the gospels, that confirmed to him that Jesus was a real human being. But this did not mean that Einstein ever believed “into” Christ.

Believing into Christ is to receive Him and be united with Him as one.

However, when Jesus spoke the famous words of John 3:16 to Nicodemus, telling him how to be born again, He did not tell him to “believe Him.”  Rather He said,

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that everyone who believes into Him would not perish, but would have eternal life.”

This is what God is calling all men to do today. He does not merely want us to believe that Jesus is a real historical figure, even one that did miraculous works of power. Rather God invites us to believe into His Son, Jesus Christ, so that we may enter into a spiritual union with Him by faith.

How can we “believe into” Jesus Christ?

We can only “believe into” Jesus Christ because God has made Him “enterable.” For Christ to be enterable for our union with Him, He first had to become a man among men. John 1:14 says, “The Word [Jesus Christ] became flesh and tabernacled among us…” Then 1 Corinthians 15:45 points out that after passing through His crucifixion and entering into resurrection, Christ “became a life-giving Spirit.” By these two “becomings,” Christ has become enterable. He is now as available to us as the air that we breathe. We can easily enter into Him by believing into His name.

First Corinthians 12:3b says, “No one can say, Jesus is Lord! except in the Holy Spirit.

By simply declaring with your mouth from deep within, “Jesus is Lord! Lord Jesus, I believe into You!”—you enter into Him and receive Him into you as the life-giving Spirit. You’re in His Spirit, and He is in your spirit. You are joined to Him in an eternal union of life in which you’re born of God to become a child of God.

“Lord Jesus, thank you for willingly becoming a lowly man to die on the cross for my sins. Praise you, that after three days You rose victoriously from the grave and became the available life-giving Spirit. Praise you, that now as the Spirit, You’re like the air—both enterable and receivable.  Lord Jesus, I believe into You and I receive You as my Savior and life. Thank you that now I’m in You and You’re in me. I’m born of God to be a child of God.”

This post was inspired by John 3:16, footnote 2 in the Holy Bible, Recovery Version.

4 Reasons Why We Can’t Lose Our Salvation

After believing in Christ, the first frustration to our Christian life is to doubt that we’re really saved. I addressed this in a previous post entitled, “How Can I be Sure I’m Saved?

A second frustration to our Christian life is the plaguing doubt that we might lose our salvation. So in this post we’ll consider four reasons why we can boldly say that we can’t lose our salvation.

Related to this, there are two key verses, John 10:28-29, that would be good to remember. Here the Lord Jesus said of His sheep,

“And I give to them eternal life, and they shall by no means perish forever, and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one can snatch them out of My Father’s hand.”

Now that we’ve read these verses, let’s continue with four reasons why we can boldly say that we can’t lose our salvation.

First, the eternal life the Lord gives us will never run out.

The Lord has given us “eternal life.” Eternal life is not a boarding pass that can be lost or stolen. It is God’s divine life that is eternally ours based on our divine birth. Christians talk about being “born again,” but, according to the Bible, what does that really mean?

John 1:12-13 say, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the authority to become children of God, to those who believe into His name, who were begotten [or born]…of God.”

So those who receive Christ by believing into His name are born of God with the life of God to become children of God. Since, as believers in Christ,  we’re born of God, we can’t be “un-born.” To illustrate, no matter how much a child offends their parents, the parents still can’t take back the life they’ve imparted into that child. It’s the same with God.

Second, the hands of the Father and the Son will never fail.

The second point in John 10:28-29 is the keeping hands of God the Son and God the Father. God’s hands will never fail so our salvation is eternally secure and we can never lose it. We have such a Shepherd and such a Father to keep us and protect us. Their hands are stronger than anything—stronger than Satan and surely stronger than we are.

Third, God’s eternal will that initiated our salvation will never change.

According to His will, God initiated our salvation in eternity past. Ephesians 1:4-5 tells us that before we were born or had a chance to do anything good or bad, God already chose us and predestinated us,

“Even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and without blemish before Him in love, predestinating us unto sonship through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.

God chose us in eternity past and our believing in Christ was based on His irrevocable calling. God has called us that we might be saved and He will not take His calling back. Romans 11:29 says, “For the gracious gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”

At times, we may backslde in unfaithfulness, offend God by our sins, and temporarily lose our fellowship of Him. However, God’s plan for us will never change. Since it was His eternal will to choose us, predestinate us and call us, our salvation is secured.

Fourth, Christ’s promise to never cast us out and to keep us can not be broken.

This is what John 6:37and 39 have to say about our eternal salvation, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and him who comes to Me I shall by no means cast out…And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all which He has given Me I should lose nothing but should raise it up in the last day.”

Praise the Lord, God’s word will never fail! Christ promised not to cast us out and to keep us.  We should simply believe God’s word, rest on Christ’s promise, and praise God that our salvation is eternally secure.

“Lord, we praise You for giving us Your eternal life. Thank you, that as those who have been born of You, we can never be un-born. We are God’s children forever. Praise you, that Your strong hands are firmly holding us. Thank you that Your promise to keep us and not cast us out assures us that our salvation is secure. Praise You, dear Lord!”

If you’d like more help concerning these points, I recommend reading The Assurance, Security and Joy of Salvation by Witness Lee. You can read it online at www.ministrybooks.org under “Additional Titles by Witness Lee” or you can receive a free copy from Bibles for America at their website www.bfa.org under the “Free Literature” tab. It’s the second chapter in Basic Elements of the Christian Life, Volume One.