Written By Micah Schuler
Salvation, what is it? What does it mean? Why is it important? Where does it come from? How should we respond to it & how does it affect our lives? These are the things that we here in Virginia learned, along with questions about salvation, the nature of man, and what we have read thus far in the Bible. Ready? Here we go!!!
Monday – The day started with a morning devotional, courtesy of Jordan Standridge. Honing in on 1 Peter chapter 1, Jordan gave us three miracles that the Bible causes in our lives and hearts. (1) By reading the Bible, God causes salvation to occur in His children. (2) The Bible helps initiate and continue the process of sanctification in the life of the Believer. (3) The Bible causes the Believer to have a supernatural type of love for others around them. After our devotional time, the entire group spent some time praying for the country of Turkey. An area of Europe where most Christians face severe persecution by Muslims and other false religions, even though there, technically, is religious freedom. After our time in prayer we spent the next two hours reading through, and finishing, the book of Joshua. (Yay!!! We finished the Pentateuch!) After lunch, Ryan Francis taught us about Biblical worldview and anthropology. The view and study of the sinfulness of man and how God set a plan in motion so that we would, one day, be reunited with Him. From there we all went to George Mason University to spend some time doing evangelism and hanging with the local FCA group there.
Tuesday – Starting with Psalm 1, thanks to Ryan Francis, the tone was set for the day. After praying for the mostly Catholic Philippines, we all eventually finished the books of Judges, Ruth, and started the book of 1 Samuel. From 1 – 3pm, Ryan walked us through the idea of original sin. The short version of this concept is that after Adam and Eve sinned (Genesis 3), all the rest of mankind is now born with a sinful nature. (Romans 5:12 – 21) Because we have all inherited a sin nature, we have no hope of being reconciled to God, on our own. Thankfully, God already planned a way for us to have a renewed fellowship with Him: that Way’s name, is Yeshua Ben Elohim: Jesus, Son of God. When we start to wrap our minds around the concept of original sin, we start to have a better picture of how grotesque and evil we are, and how Holy and Loving God is. Finally, after a few hours of downtime, Sarah and Heather went to an annual banquet for the nearby Crisis Pregnancy Center, with their host family; while Abby, Melinda, Eli and I headed over to Jordan and Jenny’s house to watch their kids. Daniel and Esther Berea’s kids joined our crew, and the couples got in a double date before the Berea’s move to Hawaii.
Wednesday – Beginning with an intro to the Doctrines of Grace, Dan Crabtree, and later Ryan Francis, talked about the doctrine of Total Depravity. The concept is that, because mankind is so evil, no person could be born without sin or does anything to atone for sin. Without Christ, we are spiritually dead, and if something is dead, “it ain’t gonna be doing anything active soon.” After reading through to the end of 1 Samuel, we had a quick lunch and were back in the classroom with Ryan. At the beginning of our time, Ryan talked about the study of salvation, or Soteriology, if you want to use big words. He boiled it down to this: the reason for evil in the world is so that God and the need for Him are proven to be real. Without evil, there would be no need for God or salvation. When we understand the true extent of our depravity and need for salvation, then we are able to talk about the doctrines of Predestination & Election. The doctrines that teach, that God has chosen people to be His elect throughout time, before time; and that some people are chosen for God, and others are not. Now, why would a Good & Loving God choose some, but not choose others??? He does this because He is God, and He can. Let me say that again… God chooses some but not others, because He is God, and He can. Pretty simple huh? So, God does what He wants, because He is God. (Write that down!) Is my head the only one spinning right now??? After some down time, we all went to the Scott family’s house for dinner and hang-out time.
What day is next? I can’t keep them straight… Oh yeah!!! It’s Thursday! In the morning, once again, we started with our devotional, but this time Steven Porcopio was our leader. On Thursdays we are going through the Gospel of John. After finishing the first 18 verses of chapter 1, we read & discussed the rest of chapters 1 & 2. In summary, the priests and Levites, the guys who you didn’t mess with, came and asked John the Baptist who he was. John cuts to the chase and tells them that he isn’t Messiah or Elijah or The Prophet, but one who will herald to all, that Messiah is coming. After leaving, the Pharisees basically condone John’s teaching as good and are ok with people following him. But as soon as Jesus comes on the scene, John tells all his followers, including Peter and Andrew, to follow, listen to, & obey Jesus from now on. Jesus then establishes Himself to His family as God’s Son at the wedding at Cana. Upon finishing our devotional, we all read through the whole book of 2 Samuel with the main point of the book being: God uses sinful and wicked people to accomplish His plan and will. When we finished lunch, Ryan Francis taught again on the Doctrine of Election. A topic that I cannot learn about without thinking about Jarred McDonald… you Arizona people know what I mean! 😉 Ryan moved on to Regeneration which basically says that everyone was dead. Dead you, dead me, dead everyone!! Like it says in Ephesians 2:1–10, (paraphrase): We all were dead with no hope as children of God’s Wrath. But God (thank God for the “buts” in the Bible) rich in mercy, saved us and made us alive through His grace & love of Christ. So that we couldn’t brag, only Christ accomplished our salvation. So, because none of our works could buy our salvation, there is no possible way that we could boast about our salvation. Instead, Christ bought our salvation so that God could get every drop of glory. Without God and His perfect plan, we would still be the Spiritual Walking Dead. After finishing with Ryan, we all went to NOVA, the community college, to do evangelism for a few hours. Then we headed back to Immanuel for the college group Bible study.
Friday – In the morning, Dan Crabtree taught our devotional. As he is going through the Doctrines of Grace, he talked about Unconditional Election. That principle states that God chooses people for righteousness, with no strings attached. In other words, our works have nothing to do with who God elects for salvation. He also went over Limited Atonement, the principle that states: Because God has chosen some; there are some who have not been chosen. Now, some may think that God is cruel & unjust by doing this, but we need to remember the truths stated in Romans 9:6–26, which in summary says: God chooses people before they are even born, to be either vessels of His Wrath or vessels of His Righteousness and Forgiveness. He does this so that He can get every single shred of Glory from the life of each person showered in His grace. After seeing the life of Solomon, his son Rehoboam, Jeroboam, and the division of Israel in 1 Kings 1-12, Ryan Francis then finished the topic of Salvation with two things: Sanctification & Identity. With sanctification being both a one-time accomplishment of Christ (Hebrews 10:10) and a daily progression of becoming more like Christ (Ephesians 5:1&2), Jesus still gives us the ability to control how we actively pursue becoming more and more like Him, but ultimately, He decides when & how much we grow into His Image. This leads us to the subject of Identity, a topic that is crucial in the life of a Disciple; when we accept and submit to Christ as Savior & Lord, we receive a new identity. Our old I.D. was one with sin as the center of our entire being and we followed and cherished it whole-heartedly. But God, when we submit, takes our old sinful nature and throws it away, giving us a new nature that progressively grows to be more and more like that of Christ. With this new nature and identity come all the benefits of becoming a Child of the King, such as: an infinitely rich spiritual inheritance, a Helper & Guide in the Holy Spirit, and a guaranteed home in Heaven with the fullness of the Trinity when we die. Suffice it to say, without a new identity in Christ, becoming a Follower would be pointless and we all have believed in vain.
Saturday – Our first time, as a whole group, in Downtown D.C.!!!! We all met at the church building to carpool downtown, with a guy named Curtis Holman as our unofficial chauffer and tour guide. Once we parked, we made our way to the Holocaust Museum, a solemn reminder of our world’s past. As soon as you enter, you receive an I.D. card of a victim of the Holocaust. On the I.D. it provides the name, date of birth, place of birth, picture, and fate of the person. Starting at the top level, you walk through the birth and rise of Nazi Germany and the beginning oppression of Jews through boycotts, propaganda, and violent actions by the German people; level three shows the processes of concentration camps and the barbaric atrocities committed within. You see pictures & exhibits, watch videos and hear the recordings of the acts committed. You learn about the places of housing, death, and stories of those who survived. Floor two contains the like, but of liberation and justice for captives and Nazi workers. One thing that I was reminded of throughout the entire museum was that, the evil of man is proof that God exists. Because there is evil, there must be an opposing force of good. If there is good, there must be a law/moral code that defines the two. If there is a law/code, there is an Author of it. If there is an Author, that Being must have been around before time’s beginning to create it. That Author is Yahweh – Elohim. I also was reminded that God gets more Glory from a world with evil people and deeds, with Jesus dying on the cross, than a perfect utopia without Christ dying on a cross. The other place we visited in D.C. was the Museum of Natural History, or as one of the guys here said, “Oh, you went to see the evolution museum!” In which were displays that included a geology and mineral section, world culture, animal bones and statuettes, bug terrariums, etc… but the common theme in each section was that evolution is real and active. Yet another reminder of what man is capable of coming up with when left to his own devices and thinking.
Sunday – Based out of 1 Corinthians 2, Pastor Jesse taught on the doctrine of Illumination. This doctrine explains that only by God can the Truth of His Word become revealed to both the Believer and the unbeliever. Without His intentional revealing, people can only read the text and pull out part of the meaning, but will eventually count it as foolishness. But the Believer who studies it and searches to grow in a relationship with the Lord, will come away, often times, renewed and looking for ways to apply what he has read. Then at the 11 o’clock service in the Foundry Ministry, Dan Crabtree taught on prayer, and how without it, we would be like soldiers with no ammunition – nearly defenseless. We often forget the power of prayer and the affect it has on our lives and the lives of those around us. We had lunch with the Assistant Head of Immanuel Christian School and his family, and then landed at the Hairgrove’s house for a few hours until the night service. At the service, Pastor Jesse went through the 5th chapter of 2 Samuel, the passage that records David’s final anointing and ascension to the throne of Israel. In this section we are reminded of how God keeps His promises, despite the opposition to those promises or how long it takes to see them fulfilled.
This week has a few major reminders: 1) salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. 2) God chooses His elect because He is God, and He created and owns everything. 3) God always keeps His promises and provides for His Chosen People. With all these things in mind, we need to respond with an attitude of worship and an increasing love for Christ. We need to realize that without Christ, we have nothing. Without evil and the Cross, God wouldn’t get all the glory He deserves for His defeat of both. Without God’s Infinite love and grace, there would be no redemption for sins. Write that down…