“Come out, in Jesus’ Name!”

In my Christian life over the past 49 years, at least three times I’ve watched a wave of “deliverance ministry” sweep through a segment of the church. The first time was when I was just a relatively new Christian, in the late 1970s. A man named Don Basham, who was part of a group of five popular teachers based in Ft. Lauderdale who jointly published a magazine called “New Wine,” wrote a book titled Deliver Us from Evil. It became quite popular within the growing “Charismatic Renewal” that was sweeping through the denominational world.

"Come Out in Jesus' Name!" by David Servant

I read that book and learned that I could actually cast demons out of myself. As an adolescent male, I also realized from reading that book that I had a demon of lust. So, I followed its instructions for self-deliverance.

The book explained that, as any demons came out of me, I might choke, gag or even vomit. Sure enough, when I commanded the demon of lust to come out of me, I gagged. Wow! I felt it! It was the real thing! I was delivered from the demon of lust!

But there was just one small problem. It wasn’t very long before I realized the demon wasn’t gone. I found myself still struggling with immodest women. Had the demon returned? How did it gain entrance back into me so quickly? Should I do another self-deliverance?

How Gracious is Our Lord?

When you think about it, the phrase “gracious Lord” seems oxymoronic. A lord, by dictionary definition is: “Someone who has power, authority, or influence; a master or ruler, as in, lord of the sealords of the jungle, or our lord the king.” Masters and rulers exercise authority over their citizens or subjects. They expect and enforce compliance. They generally are not associated with grace. Rather, just the opposite.

How gracious is our Lord?

Yet at least 30 times in the New Testament epistles the words “grace” and “Lord” are found in the same verse. In 13 of those verses, the grace spoken of is directly attributed to either “the Lord Jesus,” “the Lord Jesus Christ,” “our Lord,” or “our Lord Jesus Christ.”

So, it is certainly safe to say that Jesus is a gracious Lord. Praise God for that. Let’s start by considering Christ’s lordship, and then we’ll consider His grace. We’re interested, not in a lopsided understanding, but a balanced one.

Grace Alone and Faith Alone: What is Wrong with the First Two Solas?

by David Servant

Perhaps you’ve heard a pastor or preacher say, “We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, as revealed by Scripture alone, to the glory of God alone.” Those are known as the “five solas” (or “solae”) because in Latin they are: Sola gratia, sola fida, solus Christus, sola scriptura, and soli Deo gloria. Although all five were not articulated together until the 20th century, the first two, grace alone and faith alone, were mentioned by some of the 16th-century Protestant Reformers to summarize what they felt was most wrong with Roman Catholicism. It isn’t easy, however, to summarize all that God has revealed about salvation in Scripture with four Latin words. In fact, it is impossible. That is one reason why God gave us an entire Bible, and not just four words.

"What's Wrong with the First Two Solas?" by David Servant

Anyone who reads the Bible and filters everything he reads through the first two solas is going to be scratching his head. That is always the problem with theological mantras. They are limited by their brevity, and if they’re unduly elevated, they can end up supplanting Scripture. If you find yourself often saying to yourself as you read the Bible, “That can’t mean what it says, because it doesn’t agree with one of the solas,” then you’ve got a problem. You are filtering the Bible through your theology rather than what you should be doing, and that is filtering your theology through the Bible.

But it can get even worse. Not only is Scripture often twisted to fit into theological mantras, but the mantras themselves are often twisted to mean what they did not originally mean. That has certainly happened regarding the first two solas. In the end, both Scripture and mantras are misused. Allow me to explain.

The Twisting and Truth About Jesus’ Olivet Discourse Parables

by David Servant

Jesus’ Olivet Discourse—so named because He delivered it on the Mt. of Olives while overlooking Jerusalem and the temple—included three parables that are often misinterpreted. They are the Parables of the Unfaithful Servant, Ten Virgins, and Talents. They are followed by Jesus’ foretelling of the judgment of the sheep and the goats which, although not a parable, is often misinterpreted just like the three parables that precede it.

Let’s start by taking a look at the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matt. 25:1-13).

The big question facing everyone who reads it is the identity of the five foolish virgins. In the end, they are denied entrance to the wedding feast, and the Lord tells them, “Truly I say to you, I do not know you” (Matt. 25:12).

So, do they represent people who were never saved, or do they represent those who were once saved, but who forfeited their salvation? That is a hotly-debated question in Christian circles. Let’s consider the evidence.

Surprising Biblical Truths About Grace and Works

by David Servant

Perhaps you’ve heard the story of the British woman whose neighbor commented on her garden, “My, what a lovely flower garden God has given you!” She replied, “I don’t mean to sound boastful, but you should have seen this flower garden when God had it all by Himself!”

Surprising Biblical Truths About Grace and Works

That funny little story is actually an illustration of a big theological issue that challenges us all. We all know that God is working to accomplish His will, but we also know that human beings have a part to play in many outcomes both temporal and eternal. In the case of the British gardener, she knew that only God can turn a seed into a beautiful flowering plant. That being said, she also realized that, unless she strategically planted flower seeds, kept them watered, and periodically pulled weeds, the outcome would be an ugly mess. She knew what God was responsible for and what she was responsible for. In the end, both could rightfully take some credit for the outcome—although God’s contribution was certainly much more impressive than hers!

Christians often struggle trying to find the dividing line between divine and human responsibility. What is our job and what is God’s job? None of us wants to make a wrong assumption, but still, opinions vary. Although we are all reading from the same Bible, many theological debates revolve around this issue, and two words often surface within those debates. They are grace and works—two words that stand in contrast.

How do they differ?

The Hyper-Grace Twisting of Paul’s Teaching About Salvation

by David Servant

Is there any more beautiful word in the English language than “grace”? If there is, I don’t know it. How lovely it is to think about being undeservedly blessed.

The hyper-grace twisting of Paul's teaching about salvation

I love gracious people. They won’t let me get away with murder, but they do extend kindness when I sometimes don’t deserve it. They often overlook what fault-finders feast on. They look for the good in me and motivate me by encouragement.

The biblical word (Greek: charis), found more than 100 times in the New Testament, is usually defined as “unmerited favor.” Grace certainly stands in contrast with merit, which is why Paul could write, “But if it [salvation] is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace” (Rom. 11:6).

No one who reads the New Testament can miss the fact that salvation is due to God’s grace. We are saved “by grace…through faith…not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). Is it any wonder that Paul referred to his message as “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24) and “the word of His grace” (Acts 20:32)?

The Radical Redefinition of Repentance

by David Servant

After His resurrection, Jesus told His apostles that “repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47, emphasis added). Clearly, according to Jesus, forgiveness of sin from God is predicated upon repentance. That does make sense, as it would seem odd to think of God forgiving people who have no intention of turning from the behavior of which He is forgiving them. It would also seem odd for anyone to expect forgiveness from God—or from anyone for that matter—if they intended to continue the behavior for which they are asking forgiveness. If they did, they really wouldn’t be asking for forgiveness, but rather for a license to continue their offensive behavior.

The Radical Redefinition of Repentance by David Servant

Jesus’ post-resurrection words to the apostles about God’s forgiveness being predicated on human repentance were no surprise to them, because at least some of them had heard John the Baptist preach, as Scripture declares, “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark  1:4; Luke 3:3, emphasis added). Specifically, John preached, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:2).

Beyond that, all of the apostles heard Jesus proclaim the identical message, that is, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17). In order to be ready for the coming kingdom—over which a King would obviously reign—people who were not currently submitted to that king needed to change what they were doing and submit to that king.

“You Have Heard…But I Say”—Jesus’ Six Counterpoints: Moral Upgrade or Moral Reclamation?

by David Servant

No doubt you’ve heard of Mennonites. Perhaps also of the Amish. Maybe even the Brethren and Hutterites. All fall under the heading of “Anabaptists,” who trace their roots to 16th century Germany and Switzerland. Their predecessors were part of what is known as the Radical Reformation, a response to perceived corruption in both Roman Catholicism and the expanding Magisterial (state-wedded) Protestant movement led by Martin Luther, John Calvin, and others.

E-Teaching Graphic

The early Anabaptists, like the early Christians, were pejoratively named by their persecutors, but in their case because of their distinct doctrine of re-baptizing adults who had already been baptized as babies. The word anabaptist means “one who baptizes again.” Anabaptists noticed that infant baptism, practiced by both Roman Catholics and the Protestants of their day, wasn’t found in the New Testament, and that the apostles seemed to baptize only those who were old enough to understand the gospel, repent of their sins and follow Christ.

The Wolves Among Us

by David Servant

As far as we know, Jesus only once used the expression, “wolves in sheep’s clothing”—near the close of His Sermon on the Mount. To best understand what He meant by that expression, it would seem wise to consider it within its context.

"The Wolves Among Us" e-teaching by David Servant

In the same sentence (Matt. 7:15), Jesus revealed that wolves in sheep’s clothing are “false prophets.” Fundamentally, false prophets are those who claim to be speaking on behalf of God, but who actually are not. That being so, the primary way to determine if someone is a false prophet is to listen to what he says and ask the simple question, “Does what he says agree with what I’m certain God has already said?” And since we are certain the Sermon on the Mount was spoken by God in the flesh, we would be wise to ask of any teaching that we hear, “Does it agree with what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount?”

Senior Sex

Sex is for Christians! Biblical Insights for a Lifetime of Purity and Pleasure - Chapter 14

PLEASE NOTE: This e-teaching is not appropriate for children, preadolescents, and many adolescents.

Picture of older couple in bed - Chapter 14, "Senior Sex"

Now there came to Him some of the Sadducees (who say that there is no resurrection), and they questioned Him, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife, and he is childless, his brother should marry the wife and raise up children to his brother. Now there were seven brothers; and the first took a wife and died childless; and the second and the third married her; and in the same way all seven died, leaving no children. Finally the woman died also. In the resurrection therefore, which one’s wife will she be? For all seven had married her.”

Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; for they cannot even die anymore, because they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection” (Luke 20:27-36).

Strangely, although the Jewish sect of the Sadducees in Jesus’ day did respect the Law of Moses, they didn’t believe there was an afterlife or that anyone would be resurrected. In their thinking, death was the absolute end (which is why some say they were “sad you see”).

One of their proof texts was the Mosaic Law’s regulation concerning levirate marriage, something we’ve considered in an earlier chapter. How could there be an afterlife if one woman had been repeatedly married, widowed, and remarried? In heaven, she would be married to multiple living men! Since polyandry was unthinkable, in their minds that ruled out any possibility of an afterlife. (They would, no doubt, have been OK with Solomon having 700 wives and 300 concubines forever.)

The Sadducees, however, were clinging to a few flawed assumptions. They reasoned that if there was an afterlife, those who were married prior to their deaths would still be married. Surely, they assumed, no married woman would be another man’s wife in the afterlife. Jesus revealed, however, that there will be no marriage at all in the next life. Death ends the marriage covenant, which is why Christian marriage vows generally include the words, “till death do us part.”

For those of us who are happily married, being unmarried in heaven is a sad thought. For that reason, my wife and I have already agreed to be best friends forever. Still, we wonder how heaven could be heavenly without our marriage. We can only assume that heaven holds something even better, although unimaginable. Might perfect love make possible perfect relationships with all the saints, so that we will all, in a sense, be “married”?