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First, the term Christian must be defined. A “Christian” is not a person who has said a prayer or walked down an aisle or been raised in a Christian family. While each of these things can be a part of the Christian experience, they are not what makes a Christian. A Christian is a person who has fully trusted in Jesus Christ as the only Savior and therefore possesses the Holy Spirit (John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8–9).

So, with this definition in mind, can a Christian lose salvation? It’s a crucially important question. Perhaps the best way to answer it is to examine what the Bible says occurs at salvation and to study what losing salvation would entail:

A Christian is a new creation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). A Christian is not simply an “improved” version of a person; a Christian is an entirely new creature. He is “in Christ.” For a Christian to lose salvation, the new creation would have to be destroyed.

A Christian is redeemed. “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:18–19). The word redeemed refers to a purchase being made, a price being paid. We were purchased at the cost of Christ’s death. For a Christian to lose salvation, God Himself would have to revoke His purchase of the individual for whom He paid with the precious blood of Christ.

A Christian is justified. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). To justify is to declare righteous. All those who receive Jesus as Savior are “declared righteous” by God. For a Christian to lose salvation, God would have to go back on His Word and “un-declare” what He had previously declared. Those absolved of guilt would have to be tried again and found guilty. God would have to reverse the sentence handed down from the divine bench.

A Christian is promised eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Eternal life is the promise of spending forever in heaven with God. God promises, “Believe and you will have eternal life.” For a Christian to lose salvation, eternal life would have to be redefined. The Christian is promised to live forever. Does eternal not mean “eternal”?

A Christian is marked by God and sealed by the Spirit. “You also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13–14). At the moment of faith, the new Christian is marked and sealed with the Spirit, who was promised to act as a deposit to guarantee the heavenly inheritance. The end result is that God’s glory is praised. For a Christian to lose salvation, God would have to erase the mark, withdraw the Spirit, cancel the deposit, break His promise, revoke the guarantee, keep the inheritance, forego the praise, and lessen His glory.

A Christian is guaranteed glorification. “Those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified” (Romans 8:30). According to Romans 5:1, justification is ours at the moment of faith. According to Romans 8:30, glorification comes with justification. All those whom God justifies are promised to be glorified. This promise will be fulfilled when Christians receive their perfect resurrection bodies in heaven. If a Christian can lose salvation, then Romans 8:30 is in error, because God could not guarantee glorification for all those whom He predestines, calls, and justifies.

A Christian cannot lose salvation. Most, if not all, of what the Bible says happens to us when we receive Christ would be invalidated if salvation could be lost. Salvation is the gift of God, and God’s gifts are “irrevocable” (Romans 11:29). A Christian cannot be un-newly created. The redeemed cannot be unpurchased. Eternal life cannot be temporary. God cannot renege on His Word. Scripture says that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2).

Two common objections to the belief that a Christian cannot lose salvation concern these experiential issues: 1) What about Christians who live in a sinful, unrepentant lifestyle? 2) What about Christians who reject the faith and deny Christ? The problem with these objections is the assumption that everyone who calls himself a “Christian” has actually been born again. The Bible declares that a true Christian will not live a state of continual, unrepentant sin (1 John 3:6). The Bible also says that anyone who departs the faith is demonstrating that he was never truly a Christian (1 John 2:19). He may have been religious, he may have put on a good show, but he was never born again by the power of God. “By their fruit you will recognize them” (Matthew 7:16). The redeemed of God belong “to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God” (Romans 7:4).

Nothing can separate a child of God from the Father’s love (Romans 8:38–39). Nothing can remove a Christian from God’s hand (John 10:28–29). God guarantees eternal life and maintains the salvation He has given us. The Good Shepherd searches for the lost sheep, and, “when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home” (Luke 15:5–6). The lamb is found, and the Shepherd gladly bears the burden; our Lord takes full responsibility for bringing the lost one safely home.

Jude 24–25 further emphasizes the goodness and faithfulness of our Savior: “To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.”

Compare this post with “If our salvation is eternally secure, why does the Bible warn so strongly against apostasy?”

The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the action by which God takes up permanent residence in the body of a believer in Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament, the Spirit would come and go from the saints, empowering them for service but not necessarily remaining with them (see Judges 15:14; 1 Chronicles 12:18; Psalm 51:11; Ezekiel 11:5). Jesus revealed to His disciples the new role the Spirit of Truth would play in their lives: “He lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:17). The apostle Paul wrote, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20).

These verses are telling us that the believer in Jesus Christ has the third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, living in him. When an individual accepts Christ as personal Savior, the Holy Spirit gives the believer the life of God, eternal life, which is really His very nature (Titus 3:5; 2 Peter 1:4), and then the Holy Spirit comes to live within him spiritually. The fact that the believer’s body is likened to a temple where the Holy Spirit lives helps us understand what the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is all about. The word temple is used to describe the Holy of Holies, the inner sanctum in the Old Testament tabernacle structure. There, God’s presence would appear in a cloud and meet the high priest, who came once a year into the Holy of Holies. On the Day of Atonement, the high priest brought the blood of a slain animal and sprinkled it on the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant. On this special day, God granted forgiveness to the priest and His people.

Today, there is no Jewish temple in Jerusalem, and the animal sacrifices have ceased. The believer in Christ has become the inner sanctum of God the Holy Spirit, having been sanctified and forgiven by the blood of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:7). The believer in Christ becomes the habitation of the Holy Spirit of God. In fact, Scripture also says that the believer is indwelt spiritually by Christ (Colossians 1:27) and by God the Father (1 John 4:15)—the Trinity is involved.

As the Holy Spirit lives in the believer, He brings about some life-changing results:

1) The indwelling Spirit comes to a soul dead in sin and creates new life (Titus 3:5). This is the new birth Jesus spoke of in John 3:1–8.

2) The indwelling Spirit confirms to the believer that he belongs to the Lord and is an heir of God and fellow-heir with Christ (Romans 8:15–17).

3) The indwelling Spirit installs the new believer as a member of Christ’s universal church. This is the baptism of the Spirit, according to 1 Corinthians 12:13.

4) The indwelling Spirit gives spiritual gifts (God-given abilities for service) to the believer to edify the church and serve the Lord effectively for His glory (1 Corinthians 12:11).

5) The indwelling Spirit helps the believer understand and apply the Scripture to his daily life (1 Corinthians 2:12).

6) The indwelling Spirit enriches the believer’s prayer life and intercedes for him in prayer (Romans 8:26–27).

7) The indwelling Holy Spirit empowers the yielded believer to live for Christ to do His will (Galatians 5:16). The Spirit leads the believer in paths of righteousness (Romans 8:14).

8) The indwelling Spirit gives evidence of new life by producing the fruit of the Spirit in the believer’s life (Galatians 5:22–23).

9) The indwelling Spirit is grieved when the believer sins (Ephesians 4:30), and He convicts the believer to confess his sin to the Lord so that fellowship is restored (1 John 1:9).

10) The indwelling Spirit seals the believer unto the day of redemption so that the believer’s arrival in the Lord’s presence is guaranteed after this life (Ephesians 1:13–14).

When you accept Christ as your Savior (Romans 10:9–13), the Holy Spirit takes up residence in your heart, bringing with Him an entirely new life of love, relationship, and service to the Lord.

Simply put, no, the Holy Spirit will never leave a true believer. This is revealed in many different passages in the New Testament. For example, Romans 8:9 tells us, “…if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” This verse very clearly states that if someone does not have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, then that person is not saved. Therefore, if the Holy Spirit were to leave a believer, that person would have lost the saving relationship with Christ. Yet this is contrary to what the Bible teaches about the eternal security of Christians. Another verse that speaks to the permanence of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence in the life of believers is John 14:16. Here Jesus states that the Father will give another Helper “to be with you forever.”

The fact that the Holy Spirit will never leave a believer is also seen in Ephesians 1:13-14 where believers are said to be “sealed” with the Holy Spirit, “who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” The picture of being sealed with the Spirit is one of ownership and possession. God has promised eternal life to all who believe in Christ, and as a guarantee that He will keep His promise, He has sent the Holy Spirit to indwell the believer until the day of redemption. Similar to making a down payment on a car or a house, God has provided all believers with a down payment on their future relationship with Him by sending the Holy Spirit to indwell them. The fact that all believers are sealed with the Spirit is also seen in 2 Corinthians 1:22 and Ephesians 4:30.

Prior to Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, the Holy Spirit had a “come and go” relationship with people. The Holy Spirit indwelt King Saul, but then departed from him (1 Samuel 16:14). Instead, the Spirit came upon David (1 Samuel 16:13). After his adultery with Bathsheba, David feared that the Holy Spirit would be taken from him (Psalm 51:11). The Holy Spirit filled Bezalel to enable him to produce the items needed for the tabernacle (Exodus 31:2-5), but this is not described as a permanent relationship. All of this changed after Jesus’ ascension into heaven. Beginning on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit began permanently indwelling believers (Acts 2). The permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the fulfillment of God’s promise to always be with us and never forsake us.

While the Holy Spirit will never leave a believer, it is possible for our sin to “quench the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19) or “grieve the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 4:30). Sin always has consequences in our relationship with God. While our relationship with God is secure in Christ, unconfessed sin in our lives can hinder our fellowship with God and effectively quench the Holy Spirit’s working in our lives. That is why it is so important to confess our sins because God is “faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). So, while the Holy Spirit will never leave us, the benefits and joy of His presence can in fact depart from us.

A common mistake made with regard to the Holy Spirit is referring to the Spirit as “it,” something most translations of the Bible are careful to avoid. The Holy Spirit is a person. He has the attributes of personhood, performs the actions of persons, and has personal relationships. He has insight (1 Corinthians 2:10-11). He knows things, which requires an intellect (Romans 8:27). He has a will (1 Corinthians 12:11). He convicts of sin (John 16:8). He performs miracles (Acts 8:39). He guides (John 16:13). He intercedes between persons (Romans 8:26). He is to be obeyed (Acts 10:19-20). He can be lied to (Acts 5:3), resisted (Acts 7:51), grieved (Ephesians 4:30), blasphemed (Matthew 12:31), even insulted (Hebrews 10:29). He relates to the apostles (Acts 15:28) and to each member of the Trinity (John 16:14; Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14). The personhood of the Holy Spirit is presented without question in the Bible, but what about gender?

Linguistically, it is clear that masculine theistic terminology dominates the Scriptures. Throughout both testaments, references to God use masculine pronouns. Specific names for God (e.g., Yahweh, Elohim, Adonai, Kurios, Theos, etc.) are all in the masculine gender. God is never given a feminine name, or referred to using feminine pronouns. The Holy Spirit is referred to in the masculine throughout the New Testament, although the word for “spirit” by itself (pneuma) is actually gender-neutral. The Hebrew word for “spirit” (ruach) is feminine in Genesis 1:2. But the gender of a word in Greek or Hebrew has nothing to do with gender identity.

Theologically speaking, since the Holy Spirit is God, we can make some statements about Him from general statements about God. God is spirit as opposed to physical or material. God is invisible and spirit (i.e., non-body) – (John 4:24; Luke 24:39; Romans 1:20; Colossians 1:15; 1 Timothy 1:17). This is why no material thing was ever to be used to represent God (Exodus 20:4). If gender is an attribute of the body, then a spirit does not have gender. God, in His essence, has no gender.

Gender identifications of God in the Bible are not unanimous. Many people think that the Bible presents God in exclusively male terms, but this is not the case. God is said to give birth in the book of Job and portrays Himself as a mother in Isaiah. Jesus described the Father as being like a woman in search of a lost coin in Luke 15 (and Himself as a “mother hen” in Matthew 23:37). In Genesis 1:26-27 God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness,” and then “God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them.” Thus, the image of God was male and female – not simply one or the other. This is further confirmed in Genesis 5:2, which can be literally translated as “He created them male and female; when they were created, he blessed them and named them Adam.” The Hebrew term “adam” means “man” – the context showing whether it means “man” (as opposed to woman) or “mankind” (in the collective sense). Therefore, to whatever degree humanity is made in the image of God, gender is not an issue.

Masculine imagery in revelation is not without significance, however. A second time that God was specifically said to be revealed via a physical image was when Jesus was asked to show the Father to the disciples in John chapter 14. He responds in verse 8 by saying, “The person who has seen me has seen the Father!” Paul makes it clear that Jesus was the exact image of God in Colossians 1:15 calling Jesus “the image of the invisible God.” This verse is couched in a section that demonstrates Christ’s superiority over all creation. Most ancient religions believed in a pantheon – both gods and goddesses – that were worthy of worship. But one of Judeo-Christianity’s distinctives is its belief in a supreme Creator. Masculine language better relates this relationship of creator to creation. As a man comes into a woman from without to make her pregnant, so God creates the universe from without rather than birthing it from within . . . As a woman cannot impregnate herself, so the universe cannot create itself. Paul echoes this idea in 1 Timothy 2:12-14 when he refers to the creation order as a template for church order.

In the end, whatever our theological explanation, the fact is that God used exclusively masculine terms to refer to Himself and almost exclusively masculine terminology even in metaphor. Through the Bible He taught us how to speak of Him, and it was in masculine relational terms. So, while the Holy Spirit is neither male nor female in His essence, He is properly referred to in the masculine by virtue of His relation to creation and biblical revelation. There is absolutely no biblical basis for viewing the Holy Spirit as the “female” member of the Trinity.

The Holy Spirit is known by many names and titles, most of which denote some function or aspect of His ministry. Below are some of the names and descriptions the Bible uses for the Holy Spirit:

Author of Scripture: (2 Peter 1:21; 2 Timothy 3:16) The Bible is inspired, literally “God-breathed,” by the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity. The Spirit moved the authors of all 66 books to record exactly what He breathed into their hearts and minds. As a ship is moved through the water by wind in its sails, so the biblical writers were borne along by the Spirit’s impulse.

Comforter / Counselor / Advocate: (Isaiah 11:2; John 14:16; 15:26; 16:7) All three words are translations of the Greek parakletos, from which we get “Paraclete,” another name for the Spirit. When Jesus went away, His disciples were greatly distressed because they had lost His comforting presence. But He promised to send the Spirit to comfort, console, and guide those who belong to Christ. The Spirit also “bears witness” with our spirits that we belong to Him and thereby assures us of salvation.

Convicter of Sin: (John 16:7-11) The Spirit applies the truths of God to men’s own minds in order to convince them by fair and sufficient arguments that they are sinners. He does this through the conviction in our hearts that we are not worthy to stand before a holy God, that we need His righteousness, and that judgment is certain and will come to all men one day. Those who deny these truths rebel against the conviction of the Spirit.

Deposit / Seal / Earnest: (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:13-14) The Holy Spirit is God’s seal on His people, His claim on us as His very own. The gift of the Spirit to believers is a down payment on our heavenly inheritance, which Christ has promised us and secured for us at the cross. It is because the Spirit has sealed us that we are assured of our salvation. No one can break the seal of God.

Guide: (John 16:13) Just as the Spirit guided the writers of Scripture to record truth, so does He promise to guide believers to know and understand that truth. God’s truth is “foolishness” to the world, because it is “spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Those who belong to Christ have the indwelling Spirit who guides us into all we need to know in regard to spiritual matters. Those who do not belong to Christ have no “interpreter” to guide them to know and understand God’s Word.

Indweller of Believers: (Romans 8:9-11; Ephesians 2:21-22; 1 Corinthians 6:19) The Holy Spirit resides in the hearts of God’s people, and that indwelling is the distinguishing characteristic of the regenerated person. From within believers, He directs, guides, comforts, and influences us, as well as producing in us the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). He provides the intimate connection between God and His children. All true believers in Christ have the Spirit residing in their hearts.

Intercessor: (Romans 8:26) One of the most encouraging and comforting aspects of the Holy Spirit is His ministry of intercession on behalf of those He inhabits. Because we often don’t know what or how to pray when we approach God, the Spirit intercedes and prays for us. He interprets our “groanings,” so that when we are oppressed and overwhelmed by trials and the cares of life, He comes alongside to lend assistance as He sustains us before the throne of grace.

Revealer / Spirit of Truth: (John 14:17; 16:13; 1 Corinthians 2:12-16) Jesus promised that, after the resurrection, the Holy Spirit would come to “guide you into all truth.” Because of the Spirit in our hearts, we are able to understand truth, especially in spiritual matters, in a way that non-Christians cannot. In fact, the truth the Spirit reveals to us is “foolishness” to them, and they cannot understand it. But we have the mind of Christ in the Person of His Spirit within us.

Spirit of God / the Lord / Christ: (Matthew 3:16; 2 Corinthians 3:17; 1 Peter 1:11) These names remind us that the Spirit of God is indeed part of the triune godhead and that He is just as much God as the Father and the Son. He is first revealed to us at the creation, when He was “hovering over the waters,” denoting His part in creation, along with that of Jesus who “made all things” (John 1:1-3). We see this same Trinity of God again at Jesus’ baptism, when the Spirit descends on Jesus and the voice of the Father is heard.

Spirit of Life: (Romans 8:2) The phrase “Spirit of life” means the Holy Spirit is the one who produces or gives life, not that He initiates salvation, but rather that He imparts newness of life. When we receive eternal life through Christ, the Spirit provides the spiritual food that is the sustenance of the spiritual life. Here again, we see the triune God at work. We are saved by the Father through the work of the Son, and that salvation is sustained by the Holy Spirit.

Teacher: (John 14:26; 1 Corinthians 2:13) Jesus promised that the Spirit would teach His disciples “all things” and bring to their remembrance the things He said while He was with them. The writers of the New Testament were moved by the Spirit to remember and understand the instructions Jesus gave for the building and organizing of the Church, the doctrines regarding Himself, the directives for holy living, and the revelation of things to come.

Witness: (Romans 8:16; Hebrews 2:4; 10:15) The Spirit is called “witness” because He verifies and testifies to the fact that we are children of God, that Jesus and the disciples who performed miracles were sent by God, and that the books of the Bible are divinely inspired. Further, by giving the gifts of the Spirit to believers, He witnesses to us and the world that we belong to God.

altruistico:

This Memorial Day let us lift up those who have selflessly given so that we might have…. Freedom, Liberty and Dignity. Let every nation on earth humble itself before us – as WE humble ourselves before God….. who has given US the greatest Nation of All……..

Originally posted on Citizen Tom:

soldierIn A Memorial Day Devotion for Christians, Rob Barkman provides a Christian perspective where one has too often been lacking in recent years.

Memorial Day is a day that is set aside to remember, and honor, our brave soldiers who have given their lives to protect our land and keep us free.  It began as a day to honor our Civil War dead, but after World War I, it was expanded to include our war dead from all the wars in which America was involved.  Go to http://www.usmemorialday.org/ for more information.

According to http://www.historycentral.com/wars.html , our country has fought in 12 wars (not counting the Afghanistan War which brings the updated total to 13.)  In every one of these cases, we have asked the young people of our nation to be willing to give their lives in the name of freedom (for us and others in foreign lands.)    The sacrifices these young men…

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Many people find the Holy Spirit confusing. Is the Holy Spirit a force, a person, or something else? What does the Bible teach?

The Bible provides many ways to help us understand that the Holy Spirit is truly a person. First, every pronoun used in reference to the Spirit is “he” not “it.” The original Greek language of the New Testament is explicit in confirming the person of the Holy Spirit. The word for “Spirit” (pneuma) is neuter and would naturally take neuter pronouns to have grammatical agreement. Yet, in many cases, masculine pronouns are found (e.g., John 15:26; 16:13-14). Grammatically, there is no other way to understand the pronouns of the New Testament related to the Holy Spirit—He is referred to as a “He,” as a person.

Matthew 28:19 teaches us to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is a collective reference to one Triune God. Also, we are not to grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30). The Spirit can be sinned against (Isaiah 63:10) and lied to (Acts 5:3). We are to obey Him (Acts 10:19–21) and honor Him (Psalm 51:11).

The personhood of the Holy Spirit is also affirmed by His many works. He was personally involved in creation (Genesis 1:2), empowers God’s people (Zechariah 4:6), guides (Romans 8:14), comforts (John 14:26), convicts (John 16:8), teaches (John 16:13), restrains sin (Isaiah 59:19), and gives commands (Acts 8:29). Each of these works requires the involvement of a person rather than a mere force, thing, or idea.

The Holy Spirit’s attributes also point to His personality. The Holy Spirit has life (Romans 8:2), has a will (1 Corinthians 12:11), is omniscient (1 Corinthians 2:10–11), is eternal (Hebrews 9:14), and is omnipresent (Psalm 139:7). A mere force could not possess all of these attributes, but the Holy Spirit does.

And the personhood of the Holy Spirit is affirmed by His role as the third Person of the Godhead. Only a being who is equal to God (Matthew 28:19) and possesses the attributes of omniscience, omnipresence, and eternality could be defined as God.

In Acts 5:3–4, Peter referred to the Holy Spirit as God, stating, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.” Paul likewise referred to the Holy Spirit as God in 2 Corinthians 3:17–18, stating, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

The Holy Spirit is a person, as Scripture makes clear. As such, He is to be revered as God and serves in perfect unity with Father and Son to lead us in our spiritual lives.

The phrase “pride of life” is found only once in the Bible, in 1 John 2:16, but the concept of the pride of life, especially as it is linked with the “lust of the eyes” and the “lust of the flesh,” appears in two more significant passages of Scripture—the temptation of Eve in the Garden and the temptation of Christ in the wilderness (Matthew 4:8-10). The pride of life can be defined as anything that is “of the world,” meaning anything that leads to arrogance, ostentation, pride in self, presumption, and boasting. John makes it clear that anything that produces the pride of life comes from a love of the world and “if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).

The first example of the temptation of the pride of life occurs in the Garden of Eden, where Eve was tempted by the serpent to disobey God and eat the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Eve perceived that the fruit was “good for food,” “pleasing to the eye,” and “desirable for gaining wisdom” (Genesis 3:6). She coveted the fruit in three ways. First, it was appealing to her appetite. This John refers to as the “lust of the flesh,” the desire for that which satisfies any of the physical needs. The fruit was also pleasing or delightful to the eye, that which we see and desire to own or possess. Here is the “lust of the eyes” John refers to. Finally, Eve somehow perceived that the fruit would make her wise, giving her a wisdom beyond her own. Part of Satan’s lie was that eating the fruit would make her “like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5).

Here is the essence of the pride of life—anything that exalts us above our station and offers the illusion of God-like qualities, wherein we boast in arrogance and worldly wisdom. Eve wanted to be like God in her knowledge, not content to live in a perfect world under His perfect grace and care for her. Satan tried these same three temptations on Christ during His 40 days in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). He tempted Jesus with the lust of the flesh, bread for His hunger (vv. 2-3), the lust of the eyes, “all the kingdoms of the world with their splendor” (vv. 8-9), and the pride of life, daring Him to cast Himself from the roof of the Temple in order to prove that He was the Messiah by an ostentatious display of power that was not in the will of God or His plan for the redemption of mankind (vv. 5-6). But Jesus, though He was “tempted in every way, just as we are” (Hebrews 4:15), resisted the devil and used the Word of God to ensure victory over him.

Christians have always been, and will always be, lured by the same three temptations Eve and Jesus experienced. Satan doesn’t change his methods; he doesn’t have to because they continue to be successful. He tempts us with the lust of the flesh—sexual gratification, gluttony, excessive alcohol consumption, and drugs, both legal and illegal, as well as the “deeds of the flesh” about which Paul warned the Galatians, “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (Galatians 5:19-21). He tempts us with the lust of the eyes—the endless accumulation of “stuff” with which we fill our homes and garages and the insatiable desire for more, better, and newer possessions, which ensnares us and hardens our hearts to the things of God.

But perhaps his most evil temptation is the pride of life, the very sin that resulted in Satan’s expulsion from heaven. He desired to be God, not to be a servant of God (Isaiah 14:12-15). The arrogant boasting which constitutes the pride of life motivates the other two lusts as it seeks to elevate itself above all others and fulfill all personal desires. It is the root cause of strife in families, churches, and nations. It exalts the self in direct contradiction to Jesus’ statement that those who would follow Him must take up their cross (an instrument of death) and deny themselves. The pride of life stands in our way if we truly seek to be servants of God. It is the arrogance that separates us from others and limits our effectiveness in the kingdom. The pride of life “comes not from the Father, but from the world.” And, as such, it is passing away with the world, but those who resist and overcome the temptation of the pride of life do the will of God, and “the man who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17).

How many Christians have prayed for someone, only to see their prayers go unanswered? How many have prayed and perhaps have “given up” because either they have become discouraged through a weakness of faith or have come to the conclusion that whatever they have been praying for isn’t God’s will? Nevertheless, how we deal with unanswered prayer is not just for our own benefit but for the benefit of others as well. When we pray, we are engaging in the most precious and God-given act of communication with the One to whom we are accountable in all our affairs. We have been truly bought at a steep price—the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ—and therefore we belong to God.

Our privilege of prayer is from God, and it is as much ours now as when it was given to Israel (Deuteronomy 4:7). Yet, when we pray or speak to the One in Heaven, there are times when He seems not to answer. There can be many reasons for this, and the Scriptures suggest why and how our prayers are being dealt with by the One who is so tender and loving, who Himself loves our communing with God the Father, for He, Himself, is our representative (Hebrews 4:15).

A primary reason why prayer is unanswered is sin. God cannot be mocked or deceived, and He who sits enthroned above knows us intimately, down to our every thought (Psalm 139:1-4). If we are not walking in the Way or we harbor enmity in our hearts toward our brother or we ask for things with the wrong motives (such as from selfish desires), then we can expect God not to answer our prayer because He does not hear (2 Chronicles 7:14; Deuteronomy 28:23; Psalm 66:18; James 4:3). Sin is the “stopper” to all the potential blessings that we would receive from the infinite “bottle” of God’s mercy! Indeed, there are times when our prayers are heinous in the Lord’s sight, most notably when we clearly do not belong to the Lord either because of unbelief (Proverbs 15:8) or because we are practicing hypocrisy (Mark 12:40).

Another reason why prayer seems to go unanswered is that the Lord is drawing out of our faith a deeper reliance and trust in Him, which should bring out of us a deeper sense of gratitude, love and humility. In turn, this causes us to benefit spiritually, for He gives grace to the humble (James 4:6; Proverbs 3:34). Oh, how one feels for that poor Canaanite woman, who cried out incessantly to our Lord for mercy when He was visiting the region of Tyre and Sidon (Matthew 15:21-28)! She was hardly the person a Jewish rabbi would pay attention to. She was not a Jew and she was a woman, two reasons that Jews ignored her. The Lord doesn’t seem to answer her petitions, but He knew all about her situation. He may not have answered her stated needs immediately, but still He heard and granted her request.

God may often seem silent to us, but He never sends us away empty-handed. Even if prayer has not been answered, we must rely upon God to do so in His own time. Even the exercise of prayer is a blessing to us; it is because of our faith that we are stirred to persist in prayer. It is faith that pleases God (Hebrews 11:6), and if our prayer life is wanting, does that not reflect our spiritual standing also? God hears our impoverished cries for mercy, and His silence inflames us with a sense of persistence in prayer. He loves us to reason with Him. Let us hunger for the things that are after God’s heart and let us walk in His ways and not our own. If we are faithful to pray without ceasing, then we are living in the will of God, and that can never be wrong (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18).

Countless stories could be cited of diseases cured, exams passed, repentance and forgiveness granted, relationships restored, hungry children fed, bills paid and lives and souls saved through the efficacy of prayer. So, yes, there is plenty of evidence that God answers prayer. Most of the evidence is anecdotal and personal, however, and that bothers many who think of “evidence” only as that which is observable, measureable, and reproducible.

Scripture clearly teaches that prayers are answered. James 5:16 states that “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” Jesus taught His disciples that “if you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). First John 3:22 echoes this truth, saying that we “receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him.”

Scripture, moreover, is replete with stories of answered prayer. Elijah’s prayer for fire from heaven (2 Kings 1:12), Hezekiah’s prayer for deliverance (2 Kings 19:19), and the apostles’ prayer for boldness (Acts 4:29) are just three examples. Since these accounts were written by eyewitnesses to the events, they constitute clear evidence of answered prayer. One might, of course, counter that Scripture does not present observable evidence in the “scientific” sense. However, no statement of Scripture has ever been conclusively disproved, so there is no reason to doubt its testimony. In fact, labeling some kinds of evidence as “scientific” and other kinds as “non-scientific” is a fuzzy and artificial distinction at best. Such a distinction can only be made a priori, i.e., prior to the evaluation of the data. In other words, the choice to evaluate the efficacy of prayer only in light of observable evidence is not a choice motivated by the data but by prior philosophical commitments. When this arbitrary restriction is relaxed, the biblical data speaks clearly for itself.

Occasionally, a group of researchers will conduct a scientific study on the efficacy of prayer. Their findings are usually that prayer has no effect (or possibly even a negative effect) on, for instance, the average recovery time of people in medical care. How are we to understand the results of studies such as these? Are there any biblical reasons for unanswered prayer?

Psalm 66:18 says, “If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear” (NASB). Likewise, 1 John 5:15 qualifies our receiving “anything we ask” with our obedience to God’s commands. James notes that “when you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives” (4:3). So, a couple reasons for unanswered prayer are unconfessed sin and wrong motivations.

Another reason for unanswered prayer is lack of faith: “When you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord” (James 1:6-7). Hebrews 11:6 also identifies faith as a necessary condition for a relationship with God, something always mediated by prayer in the name of Christ: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Faith, then, is necessary for answered prayer.

Finally, some critics of Christianity make the case that, since Jesus instructs His disciples to “ask whatever you wish,” all prayers should be answered. However, such criticisms completely ignore the conditions to the promise in the first part of the verse: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you.” This is clearly a prescription for praying within the will of God; in other words, genuine prayer which God always answers is, in fact, that sort which requests, explicitly or implicitly, that God’s will be accomplished. The will of the petitioner is secondary. Jesus Himself prayed this way in Gethsemane (Luke 22:42). The humble prayer of faith allows that the prayer may be answered with a “no”; anyone not offering such a prayer—anyone who demands to be answered—has no right to expect an answer.

Another reason why so many studies report the inefficacy of prayer is that it is impossible to eliminate the variables associated with the spiritual condition of those praying (is the petitioner even a believer?), the motivation for which they offer the prayer (is it to provide evidence or because the Holy Spirit has moved them to pray?), the way in which they offer their prayer (are they praying a formulaic expression or intentionally bringing requests to God?), and so on.

Even if all such lurking variables could be eliminated, one overarching problem would remain: if prayer could be tested empirically and forced to yield conclusive results, it would obviate the need for faith. We cannot “discover” God through empirical observations; we come to Him by faith. God is not so clumsy that He should reveal Himself in ways He did not intend. “He who comes to God must believe that He is” (that is, that He exists). Faith is the prerequisite and the priority.

Does God answer prayer? Ask any believer, and you will know the answer. Every changed life of every believer is proof positive that God answers prayer.