A Voice in the
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Re: Bring your Finger Here

Then [Jesus] said to Thomas, Bring your finger here and see My hands,
and bring your hand and thrust into My side, and be not unbelieving,
but believing.  And Thomas answered and said to Him, My Lord and my
God! (Jn20:27-28)

Not long ago as I was proofreading the Gospel of John in the LITV, this
little choice of words caught my attention, "bring your finger here."
None of the other translations says it -quite- like this. Thomas had
expressed words to the effect, Unless I see Him, see the nail holes,
and put my hand where the spear went it, I won't believe.  The next
week Jesus appears, and first thing says to Thomas, Thomas, come here,
see, feel. Don't be a doubter, but believe into Me. We often 'condemn'
Thomas for his lack of faith. But we should understand that he was a
serious thinker. He tended to look at the -reality- of situations. When
everybody else was wowed by Jesus' miracles, when Jesus said it was
time to go wake Lazarus up; in context, going back to where the Jews
wanted to kill Jesus; Thomas faces 'reality' and says, "Let us go,
even we, that we may die with Him." (Jn11:16)

So Jesus gets his attention, and Thomas declares, "My Lord and my God."
A transformation occured at that very instant. When Jesus invites,
Thomas claims Jesus as his Lord. His Master. Thomas' faith was a
-directed- faith. It was not some nebulous, generic faith in
who-knows-what. Jesus came and laid claim to Thomas, and Thomas clung
back. As Paul says, "if I also may lay hold, inasmuch as I also was
laid hold of by Christ Jesus." (Phil3:12) As John proclaims, "We love
Him because He first loved us." (1Jn4:19) Salvation happens when we
respond to God's call.  We'll come back to Thomas' "finger" in a little
bit.

On October 31 a historic event is scheduled to happen in Augsburg, 
Germany. October 31, in addition to being the pagan holiday "halloween" 
it is also Reformation Sunday, when Martin Luther rebelled against the 
Catholic church in 1517.  This coming Sunday representatives from the
Catholic and Lutheran churches are meeting to sign a "Joint 
Declaration" which is intended to end the centuries-long rift. This 
declaration will put an end to centuries of "condemnations" of one 
against the other. As the e-mail that was forwarded several times by 
the time I received it said, "The Reformation is Over - it's official!" 
Now, while some other Protestants are signing an edict of protest 
against it, isn't it actually quite fitting? As we have been saying 
recently, Catholicism and Protestantism are actually two sides of the 
same coin. They are not two religions.  They are merely two factions of 
the same religion.

What was the point of separation? Among other things, the definition of
"Justification". Luther saw Scripture saying "Justification by faith
(alone)" (Rom5:1) What Luther rebelled against was the Catholic
Indulgences. "Works." Where Scripture says we are "justified by faith"
and "not by the works of law" (Gal2:16)

The joint statement proclaims that Justification is "the forgiveness of
sins, the liberation from the dominating power of sin and death...  It
is acceptance into communion with God".  That "Justification refers to
the change in a person's spiritual nature from sin to grace, inspired 
by an act of God." While I might use different words, and a lexicon 
might expand a bit, that's pretty close to right on.  Where we were
sinners, by an act of God He -declares- us righteous. It is God's
"bookkeeping" which does not "impute" sin to our account. (Rom4) And in
the process, we experience the "new birth". (Jn3:3)

But then notice what they do with this...

"Stated in simple terms, the doctrine of justification refers to the
faith that we are accepted by God as persons, not because we are good,
but because God is good. This is an essential part of the Christian
faith.  And when we know that in Christ we are unconditionally accepted
by God at the outset, we are set free to love one another
unconditionally. The doctrine of justification recognizes that we have
received all that we are as human persons from the hands of God. If we
claim to be self-made, we deceive ourselves and will easily lack the
love and generosity to others which are characteristics of the
Christian life.  But if we believe that at every moment of life we
receive our strength, hope and forgiveness of sins by the grace of God,
we can live reconciled with God and others, practicing in our daily
life the mutual respect and support which we are all in need of."

While we see elements of truth splattered about in the above paragraph, 
here we see the same error that evangelical/fundamentalists are 
proclaiming these days.  "God accepts you JUST AS YOU ARE" ...  
"unconditionally".  You are -already- accepted by God. However, God's
word says that "at the outset" (as they claim) we are in sin. God
looked down from heaven to see if there was anything good to humanity,
and He determined that "they have all turned aside; together they have
become filthy; there is none doing good; not even one!" (Ps14:3)  But
this is their twist to Doctrine to contrive their "unity in diversity".

Now... they seem to contradict themselves. In their application of this
doctrine of Justification, they claim as though Justification already
applies to us. It's as though, all we need to do is realize it, and
love and accept one another. God's unconditional "universal grace". On
the other hand, in an official sense where they define the term
correctly; how do we achieve a state of being justified? Of being
worthy to be in God's presence?

This is where the "diversity" part comes in. The "unity" is that we
agree, after 30 years of 'dialogue', to define the term the same. The
"diversity" is in how we get there. "Via the holy sacraments."

Catholics dab water on their babies, and repeat the Mass time after
time; re-crucifying Jesus every time they 'celebrate'; and go tell
their sins to the priest who is called "father" being under the "holy
father" in Rome.

Lutherans dab water on their babies, catechize their youth, and the 
pastor "absolves" the sins of the congregation based on his status as 
"Reverend". Both groups rely heavily on "good works" to merit 
salvation. See what I mean? They're two sides of the same coin.

Now... with all these documents and declarations proliferating in 
recent years, there's this -other- entity we addressed not long ago.  
Their document is "The Gospel of Jesus Christ: an evangelical 
Celebration". They believe in the doctrine of Justification by Faith, 
too. And how do they achieve the receiving of it? "As our sins were 
reckoned to Christ, so Christ's righteousness is reckoned to us. This 
is justification by the imputation of Christ's righteousness." This is 
what the Catholics and Lutherans are saying. And thus far, good.  And
then... "All we bring to the transaction is our need of it." There you
go, "universal grace" again.

For all three, essentially, when you filter out all the wordy gobble
dee gook, what you end up with is God's universal grace -already- 
saving everybody. All we have to do is -realize- it's there, or
-realize- our need. And sh'zamm, we have it. Well, actually, we already
have it, we just need to realize that we have it; and mutually love,
respect and accept one another (in diversity) accordingly.

So, while the Catholics and Lutherans are dabbing water and making the 
sign of the cross, what are evangelicals doing to 'ritualize' their 
participation? They "dedicate" their babies, "go forward", get baptized 
and join the church.  (Since Baptists make up the greatest percentage 
of evangelicals, and I used to be one, I'm going to 'pick' on them 
again.) Somebody might "pray the sinner's prayer" during a private 
meeting.  But then, the pastor will tell the person to "come forward" 
at the next "altar call".  Somebody in counseling makes some sort of 
"commitment" and the pastor tells them to "come forward". Somebody 
wants to become "members" of the church, the pastor tells them to "come 
forward".  ...I suppose, to make it "official"?  For all the time I 
spent around them all those years, I could never understand it. (I 
might have been working -in- the Baptist churches, but I was never 
really -one- in my heart.)

While the Catholics celebrate mass, and Lutherans are absolved by the
Reverend; Baptists are telling people to "invite Jesus into your
heart". Will somebody please tell me -where- you find such a thing in 
Scripture? You won't! Yes, the Christian is one who has "Christ in you" 
(Col1:27), being indwelt by the Holy Spirit. (Rom8:9) But when the 
jailer came trembling to Paul and Silas, they did not tell him to 
"invite Jesus into his heart". Nor did Peter at Pentecost, nor did 
Philip to the Ethiopian. And yet, this is the primary 'doctrine of 
salvation' as proclaimed by evangelicals. Unfortunately, I admit with 
much chagrin, I used to proclaim it, too!  And the nice swoony campfire 
song intones it, "Into my heart, into my heart, come into my heart Lord 
Jesus..." (Usually sung by people who claim, already, to -be- 
Christians; and thus, Jesus is -already- supposed to be -in- their 
hearts.) Because, you see, we -already- supposedly possess this
"Justification", we are already wonderful. And so now, all we need is
for Jesus to "come along-side" us, and "go WITH US"... wherever it is
that we are going.

I've seen a lot of Baptist "Statements of Faith". They prominently
proclaim, "This is what we believe: God sent His Son to die for us; He
saved us; He redeemed us; He justifies us, etc." All these things the
"great men of God" of the Reformation proclaimed; which everybody reads
and adheres to. And so far so good.

OK...but... HOW do we get through the 'DOOR' to attain that status?  
Invariably I notice the typical Baptist statements of faith neglect to 
indicate "how" a person reaches those states of being justified, of 
being saved, of having sins forgiven. They say "God chose, He sent His 
Son, He justifies." But do not officially proclaim 'how' one attains 
it. All these wonderful things are "sitting there", accurately 
portrayed... but How do I receive possession of them?  Catholics try by 
repeating the mass continually.  Baptists invite Jesus into the heart,
singing, "there is power in the blood." Charismatics try to 'harness'
God's -power- by "pleading the blood".

But none of them are saved. None of them have pleaded for God's mercy 
in repentance, and believed -into- Jesus (Jn12:11), claiming Him as "my 
Lord" (Jn20:28).  "To whom shall we go? You have the words of 
everlasting life." (Jn6:68) Grafted into the vine, Jesus Christ. (Jn15) 
They are busy being grafted into -a- church of other people, at -an-
altar, becoming church 'members'. Inviting Jesus to "come in" and "join
them" in "their" life, to "come along beside me"... instead of "what do
You desire me to do?" (Acts9:6) In other words, where do You want me to
go?  Remember me when You come into Your kingdom...you shall be with
Me.  (Lk23:42-43) I will receive you to Myself.(Jn14:3) This is why
there is such a proliferation of kingdom restoration beliefs. People do
not want to go to be where Jesus is. They do not want to do what God
wants them to do. They want Jesus to come along-side and bless their
agenda. They want to "prepare a place" for Jesus to come to, rather
than waiting for the "place" Jesus said He is preparing. (Jn14:2)  No
wonder many of them teach that there is no Rapture!

They have many correct doctrines, but are missing the "Door" by which
to enter to partake of the benefits.  Jesus said, "I am the door. If 
anyone enters through Me, he will be saved." (Jn10:9)  When people met 
Jesus, their reaction was often like Peter's, "depart from me, for I am 
a sinful man" (Lk5:8) Isaiah wailed, "Woe is me!" (Is6:5)  They refuse
Repentance.  They all believe that, because Justification is provided
by God, through Jesus death, that all we have to do is "accept" it;
recognize that it's there... not heeding Christ's command to "repent".
They want to walk-on-in proudly, not willing to humble themselves, and
be lifted up -by- God.  (Jas4:10) Jesus said, "..whoever will exalt
himself shall be humbled, and whoever will humble himself shall be
exalted." (Mt23:12)  "[Drawing] near with confidence (boldness) to the
throne of grace" does not happen until we have "entered into His rest".
(Heb4:16,11)

When it boils right down to the nitty gritty, they do not "receive"
Jesus Christ. (Jn1:12) Jesus invites, "come to Me..." (Mt11:28) But
they are telling Jesus, "No, You come here." They don't want to give up
what they think they possess. They don't truly want to be like Christ.

But notice Jesus' invitation again, "Come to me, all those laboring and
being burdened, and I will give you rest." You see, one of the
characteristics of Eternal Life is to "rest from their labors".
(Rev14:13) One of the curses of sin was "By the sweat of your face you
shall eat bread until your return to the ground." (Gen3:19) People want
Jesus to come and join them in the 'muck' they are mucking around in;
not realizing that He is intimately aquainted with their need, even
down to the minutest details.

Thus, He invites, Bring your finger. You come. Bring your finger [of 
your concerns] with you. Bring it to Me. Come out of the muck.  "All
that the Father gives to Me shall come to Me, and the one coming to Me
I will in no way cast out." (Jn6:37)

When we come to Jesus at His invitation, along with Thomas we can
exclaim, "My Lord and My God!" (vs28) When we are thus submitted to
Him, following Him, having humbled ourselves in repentance, not running
our own lives, we can claim, "The Lord is -my- Shepherd" (Ps23:1) 
And then, truly, Christ will "come into the heart" as He promised, "for 
He [Holy Spirit] abides with you and shall be in you...And We will come 
to him and will make a dwelling place with him." (Jn14:17,23)

That is true Salvation. That is true Justification.

Amen!