One way we can consider a doctrine is by comparing it with other doctrines that answer similar questions. In the above picture, I have drawn a pendulum with five views of salvation. In the middle is a view, which in the 80s-90s, was called, “Free Grace.” This is the view that I adhere to and it teaches that salvation is through faith alone in Christ alone. The further the pendulum swings to the left, the more the doctrines teach that faith is insufficient, that is, the more works are required on our part. The further the pendulum swings to the right, the more the doctrines teach that faith is unnecessary, that is, the more we are saved apart from faith in Christ.
When I was a kid, my father took me to see a Mark Twain impersonator. He recited various excerpts from Mark Twain’s writings and it was a real good time. I still remember it to this day. There was one particular story he told from A Tramp Abroad that has stuck with me as the way he delivered it was just perfect. Anyhoo, I am reproducing it here, mainly for your entertainment, but also because I’m trying to test a new feature on the site.
I wonder just how shocked folks were when Peter and John taught in the temple. They were arrested for teaching “in Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (Acts 4:2). We know that “the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thess 4:16), so it sounds to me like they were teaching the rapture, not the Great White Throne.
But, they also may have mispronounced the word, “hear,” so let’s talk about that instead.
When I was in the Army, I thought it would be cool to get a tattoo that said, “I run with scissors!” with a skull and cross-scissors above it. I was telling my brilliant idea to my father, who told me, “Son, most people I know who are my age and have tattoos are folks that got the tattoos when they were your age and now they regret it.”
Have you ever seen a conversation like this take place between two believers?
Believer 1: How is life going, Believer 2?
Believer 2: Oh, life is terrible! My dog left me and I stepped on a LEGO. Things will never get better. Blah blah blah.
Believer 1: Oh no. Be encouraged! The Bible says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Believer 2: Oh, wow! You’re right! Everything is just swell. I think I’ll ride off into the sunset now.
Believer 1 has just quoted Jer 29:11. If we look at the context of this passage, I think we’ll find that he has actually misused this particular verse (though, I’m sure his intentions were good).
Now, Jer 29:11 is a source of encouragement for many believers and I don’t want to rob anyone of encouragement. So, I have compiled a list of three reasons why we should rejoice that this passage is not about us. If Jer 29:11 was indeed about us, then:
Our story begins on the 1921 British Mount Everest Reconnaissance Expedition. The British Empire was at its territorial peak and a team of explorers were commissioned to snoop around the mountains of Tibet to find a route to access Mt. Everest. Political and personal differences were causing schisms among the group and a younger explorer with no former experience in the Himalayas had fallen ill. As you can imagine, tensions were pretty high on this death-defying journey. Fortunately, the team was able to find Lhagba La (meaning, “Windy Gap”), which gave future expeditions access to Mt. Everest. The mission was a success and the team returned home safely.