Core: Doctrinal Emphasis
(This is part of YieldToGod’s Core Series, which sets forth the distinctives driving our perspective.)
Christ is Lord.
This was the first and most poignant confession of faith, the earliest credo – “I believe” – for which the followers of Christ died.
This website is a collaborative effort between divergent yet like-minded Christians who likewise affirm that Jesus Christ, as revealed in the Scriptures and testified by the united witness of the early church, is Lord.
Our doctrinal stance and emphasis is broad enough to include Wesleyans, Baptists, Anglicans, Scottish Reformed, and other Christians. Our emphasis on a particular view of sanctification – a transformed heart as a miracle continuously received by ongoing communion with God– is what distinguishes us.
Clicking on the “Read more” arrows will expand the content extensively. The summaries will take the average college reader about 5 minutes to read. Including the drop-down content will take about 25 minutes to read. These positions are the position of Yield To God and each contributor may take a slightly different approach or view in the details of the “doctrinal emphasis” areas.
Scripture is infallible and authoritative. The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed is trustworthy. Our sin and the sins of others enslaves, sickens, condemns, and kills us: Jesus is the only Savior from these. God’s grace is fore-conditional. Salvation is found in union with God, in Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, through faith. Sin is still a serious issue, and Christians are not to live in sin. It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that true victory over sin can be experienced and the fruit of the Spirit can be produced in our lives.
We affirm that the Scriptures were inspired by God and faithfully preserved by Him by the church through the ages, and that the Scripture’s infallible authority is – as God’s word – commensurate with God’s authority over the Christian, which is to say total.
We affirm that the Nicene Creed is a fundamentally trustworthy exposition of the Trinitarian faith He entrusted to His disciples: The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all “consubstantial” with the others, and are working together as one, to reconcile the world to God.
Humans beings find themselves in a world corrupted by our own sin. Our individual choices to defy what is good make us condemned as violators of God’s moral law, and also point to a deep-rooted sin-sick alienation from God (“dead in trespasses and sins” Eph. 2:1). Our alienatation from God and our fear of death drives us to fear and to licentiousness (Heb. 2:15, 1 Cor. 15:32). We can only be forgiven, healed, and given eternal life through God’s undeserved graciousness to us in the person of Jesus Christ.
While Jesus came “to destroy the works of the Devil” (1 John 3:8), it is still true that “the whole world lies under the sway of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). We are often tempted, accused, or subject to hatred by the “rulers,” “authorities,” “powers of this dark world,” and “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12). Our only security from such forces is in fellowship with Jesus (John 10:28-30). While the world’s systems and people alienated from God lie under the sway of evil, matter is not evil, nor are our bodies evil – for Jesus Christ was made man with the same flesh and lived in this world just as we have (Rom. 8:3, Gal. 4:4).
Salvation is primarily relational, through a trusting union with God through Jesus Christ. For those who are trusting in Jesus Christ, God promises salvation in Him. The dying thief (Luke 23:43) shows us that trust alone is enough, but this trust is never alone; it is accompanied by love for God (which is even more important than faith, for faith without love is worthless: 1 Cor 13:2, 13:13), and ultimately cascades into other effects such as the works God leads us to do. However, salvation is not by works of the law, or trying to be good enough to establish ourselves as righteous; rather it is by union with God through faith (Rom 9:30-10:4). In the New Testament era, we understand that this union between God and man is only through Jesus Christ, the GodMan (1 Tim 2:5), since He is truly united with the Father from eternity and “For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit, he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and was made man,” becoming a permanent member of the human race. Jesus Christ is fully huma, and yet in Him dwelt “the fullness of God in bodily form,” so that we are only “complete in Him” (Col. 2:9).
God’s love and grace are “fore-conditional”; given because of His love, not our merit, for we are all unworthy. His love and grace when truly received is always transformative. It is not possible to continue in sin while truly and fully receiving God’s love, for a person will either be severely convicted and pained in their heart at their sin, for “the goodness of God leads to repentance”, or they will turn from God’s love and “reject the grace that could have been theirs.” Christians are called to walk in the Spirit and have the fruit of the Spirit, walking in obedience to God and God’s words in Scripture (summarized by – but not overuled by – the two greatest commands of Loving God and Loving Others). Christians are forbidden from “Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5-19-21). “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor 6.9-11)
DOCTRINAL EMPHASIS AREAS
We affirm that there are Christians who would not agree with some of the following “doctrinal emphasis”, and in many cases we serve with them, fellowship with them, and love them as brothers and sisters in Christ, even though we believe they are in error to not emphasize these things.
The core distinctive of the YTG Alliance is the central importance of choosing to be surrender to the Spirit’s work in our heart. This surrender is ideally to be continual, moment-by-moment, and absolute. The Spirit’s work is to be transforming us “from glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:18), so that we are “filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:19) through abiding union with Christ (John 15:5). Every truly spiritual Christian act is so because it is either a Spirit-enabled help toward this chosen surrender and reception, or an effect flowing from the union with Christ.
-Some teachers emphasize Bible reading, talking to God, and self-discipline to keep God’s commands as the means by which He makes us like Jesus. In our opinion such an emphasis ignores the central importance of surrendering to the Holy Spirit and leads the Christian to ultimately try to sanctify themselves by self-effort. The Pharisees read their Bibles diligently, prayed intensely, and disciplined themselves. Yet they were completely unspiritual and refused to truly receive God.
-Some teachers deny that we can decide to decide to yield (that is, that such a decision or failure to decide is predetermined by God). Other teachers affirm the necessity, but hardly ever speak of it – as though it is not the central aspect of human life that we were created for! Ultimately Heaven and the New Earth are a place of purity and joy because everyone will be perfectly surrendered to God’s presence, and He will be constantly filling us all with the light of His glory and love, and in such communion “the blood of Jesus Christ” not only brings forgiveness, but also “cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). This is the core purpose in God’s creation of humanity.
-God does not promise miracles of wealth or physical healing, but He does promise us spiritual miracles and spiritual healing – such as the fruit of the Spirit – for those who are trusting Him and surrendering completely to His presence.
-Our emphasis on sanctification as a personal work of the presence of the Holy Spirit surrendered to in an intentional moment-by-moment way, is resonant with many aspects of the Wesleyan idea of entire sanctification, and with many aspects of the Higher Life paradigm as advanced by Andrew Murray and others.
Our theology starts as thoroughly Trinitarian, not as a mere list of “attributes.” God is a triune Being dwelling in eternal unity and love. We are made in His image. This has profound implications for our view of God, ourselves, and what a relationship with Him should be like.
-Each Person of the Trinity interpenetrates the other without confusion of their Persons of subsuming the other. Further, the Trinue God is understood within Christian orthodoxy as having God the Father as the eternal source of the other eternal members of the Trinity. This mystery was described by ancient Christians as being comparable to the flame, heat, and light of a fire – each inseparable from the other but distinct, and the heat and light as emanations from the flame itself. In this language, it is not uncommon to see God that Father simply referred to as “God” in Scripture while the other members of the Trinity are distinguished. However, each member of the Trinity is fully united, fully eternal, and fully God.
-As a Being of eternal love, He created humans in His own image; beings capable of relational love and of being united with and filled with God spiritually while maintaining distinct personhood.
-Even in the very act of the redemption of mankind, there was no schism in the Trinity. The Psalm Jesus quoted on the cross affirms that when Jesus called to the Father, “He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor has He hidden His face from Him; but when He cried to Him, He heard” (Psalm 22:24). We reject the modern view that there was a schism in the Trinity in the act of redemption, for “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself” in the very work of the cross (2 Cor. 5:19), and it was “through the eternal Spirit” that Jesus offered Himself as a sacrifice (Heb. 9:14). The Father did not, as some say, to need to turn His back on Jesus because of sin while Jesus was able to absorb our sin – such a doctrine makes Jesus seem less than the Father. God is not squeamish about sin. He is a consuming fire of holiness, able to obliterate it by His very presence.
Scripture reveals that Jesus Christ as the GodMan is a perfect representation of His Father: He is “the brightness of His glory and the exact representation of His being” who is the preeminent revelation of who God is (Heb 1:3); Jesus affirmed He only ever did what He saw the Father doing (John 5:19); Jesus even said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father” (John 14:9).
-Even in the Old Testament, “No one has ever seen God [the Father] – the only-begotten of the Father [Jesus], He has revealed Him,” (John 1:18). We affirm Torrance’s thought-provoking statement, “There is no God behind the back of Jesus Christ,” for Jesus perfectly reveals the fullness of God (Col. 2:9).
-Jesus is fully man. He was not a different kind of human than we are. He was a true descendant of David and of the flesh of Mary. “He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Heb 2:17). In every aspect of humanity that had to be redeemed, He entered: mortal, able to be “tempted in every way, just as we are.”
– In the words of the Nicean-Constantinopolitan Creed, “”[We believe in the] Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-begotten, Begotten of the Father before all ages, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, Begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made: Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and was made man; And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried; And the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; And ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father; And He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, Whose kingdom shall have no end.”
-Even “the New Man” (new anthropon) is not some thing each Christian has, but refers to Jesus Christ, who is the New Adam, and who has created a New Humanity “in which there is no Jew or Greek, male or female, but Christ is all, and in all” (Rom. 6:6, Eph. 2:15, Col. 3:9cf, Eph 4:21cf). By entering into communion with Jesus, we leave the old way of being human behind (a way marked by alienation from God) and enter into a new way of being human n Christ (a way marked by true spiritual union with God by faith, in mutual fidelity, love, and surrender).
-It is the work of the Holy Spirit to communicate to us the treasures hidden in Jesus Christ, and to supernaturally “shine the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” into our hearts (Col. 2:3, 2 Cor. 3:18, 4:6). “This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). Since believers partake of this newness of life, we are part of a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:18*).
Flowing from our Christ-centered approach, we are necessarily focused on the Gospel. We believe that the entirity of the good news the triune God’s love and work in Christ through the Spirit is to be the ultimate basis of our every emotion, thought, and deed.
-We recognize that the message of the victory of the cross takes many forms: many other means of expressing the incredible truth contained within the narrative of the Son of God being made man, living life among us, dying in our place, conquering death for us, and ascending to Heaven as Man where He is the perpetual link between the Triune God and humanity.
-Christ trampled down death by death, come to “destroy the works of the Devil” and crush the serpent’s head, to “set the captives free,” to heal us of our sin-sick perversions; to fulfill the integrity of God’s promises of mercy and justice, to bear our sins, and to make atonement for us with God.
-While many members embrace a view of Penal Substitution (such as that presented by “Way of the Master”), our commitment to the broad meaning of the atonement leads us to reject a view which exclusively fixates upon the wrath of God and/or Jesus as merely the victim of this wrath, rather than as also the Victor over sin and death.
A SPIRIT-UAL EMPHASIS
The manifestation of God as Man (in Jesus Christ), and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, is what makes the Church different from Old Testament saints. This mind-blowing truth is so mystically strange that many Christians don’t talk or think about it – a profound loss to them. Yielding to the Holy Spirit who is in us must be part of the central aspect of our Christian lives. Scripture’s purpose is to propel us toward a living communion with God, not merely to provide information about God. The Bible alone or participating in holy traditions without depending on the Spirit, is merely self-effort.
-The Bible is a priceless treasury of God’s words and His dealing with man. However, the words of the Bible are not inherently spiritual. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for their failure to properly use Scripture: “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life, but these are they which speak of me – and you won’t come to me so that you may have life!” (John 5:39-40). Scripture’s purpose is to point us to a living communion with God, not merely to provide information about God. Jesus prayed to God that He would sanctify believers “by your word – your word is truth,” and the primary message of this word is to come to God and consecrate ourselves to Him in a living union through Jesus Christ; not to study it as information to be learned but not applied, or merely applied in the vanity of own strength (John 13:17, Jas. 1:25).
-This communion with God is by being spiritually receptive to Him. This openness of the soul to God is fundamentally one of “praying without ceasing,” which can take many forms such as being aware of and receptive to the Holy Spirit, contemplation of the beauty of His holy presence, speaking to Him in speech or song, groaning, “waiting on the Lord,” “drinking” from Jesus (John 7:37, John 6:55), “resting” with Him under His yoke (Matt. 11:28-30). letting Him ‘speak’ scripture by bringing it to your memory, and other intentional and Christian spiritual experiences. We are to seek to continuously experience this quiet or expressed communion with the Holy Spirit, even ultimately having our sleeping and dreams penetrated with this awareness of God’s presence and lordship.
THE ESSENTIAL VALUE OF THE CHURCH, PAST AND PRESENT
The writings and practices of the early church are of immense value to escaping what can become our own ‘echo-chamber’ of theology. Reading them can give us a fresh and more apostolic perspective on Scripture. The early Christians preserved the words of Scripture for us, and their consensus of interpretation should be compelling to us.
The present church ministers as the body of Christ to us, and we along with other Christians minister to others as the body of Christ to them. Within the church – founded by Jesus Christ and sealed with the Holy Spirit – we are built collectively into a dwelling place of the Spirit. It is within the church that we are fed, nurtured, and guided by other Holy Spirit-filled Christians and by the rhythms and sacred mysteries ordained by Jesus Christ and passed down to us.
Paul admonished his readers to “imitate me, as I imitate Christ.” We affirm that the teachings of Christians through the ages as they interacted Scripture can provide us with a starting point for understanding Scripture more fully. While the early Christians were not inerrant, their consensus (or lack of consensus) can help protect us from grave error. It was this very consensus – and nothing else – which delivered for Christians a confidence in the books of the Bible.
Men such as Clement (70AD), Polycarp (100AD), Irenaeus (180AD), Athanasius (350AD), John Chrysostom (370AD), Augustine (410AD), Cyril of Alexandria (430AD), Maximus the Confessor (650AD), and John of Damascus (730AD) have been viewed as helpful by Christians of all persuasions. Likewise, consulting early church councils, later Protestant theologians, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox teachers can be helpful in moving us outside of sectarian thinking and challenging us with new perspectives. Whether early or late, they are part of the “great cloud of witnesses” that inspire us to lay aside our weight of sin and fix our eyes on Jesus.
We especially admire the theologians who were martyred for their faith, and for the same reason we reject the admiration of theologians who advocated the killing of fellow Christians over doctrinal differences (a serious problem surrounding figures in the middle ages and the Reformation).
We believe that the experience of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our individual hearts is essential to flourishing Christian life, that the objectivity and solidity of the Holy Scriptures provide us an essential objective standard to guard and instruct us, and that the holy church of Christians through the ages is essential for it provides us with those Scriptures, along with an profoundly useful interpretation of them, examples of holy living, and in being to us and equipping us to be ministers of Christ; “the body of Christ.”
THE GLORY OF GOD AND GLORIFICATION OF THE BELIEVER IN HIM
We desire everything we do to be for the glory of God. More specifically, we desire to do everything in the glory of God, which is only realized by union with Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit, through faith.
-To glorify Himself most fully, God desires to make us “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4); to glorify us with Himself: “the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one” (John 17:22). God does not give us His glory apart from Himself, but He does desire to share Himself with us and so to glorify every believer. Therefore, we emphasize living life with God and believe that living life for God will then necessarily flow from this ttransformative communion with Him.
While some people are not ultimately saved because of their resistance to God’s grace, we reject the idea that Jesus did not provide salvation for everyone.
-The extent of Jesus’ redemption is just as widespread and much deeper than the extent of Adam’s sin; just as widespread, for “through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men” (Romans 5:18); and even deeper, for “by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many” (Romans 5:15).
-Indeed, “Salvation has appeared to all men,” “He is the Savior of the whole world, but especially of those who believe,” “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins – and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world,” Jesus bought “even false teachers who deny Him,” and God says “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked would repent,” (Titus 2:13, 1 Tim 4:10, 1 John 2:2. 2 Peter 2:1, Exe. 18). God’s expresses His unrequited saving love for Israel, “All day long I have stretched out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people” (Romans 10:21). Jesus can call random children to Himself, bless them, and assure them that it is not the Father’s will that any of them should perish (Matthew 18).
THE NEED FOR AND EXTENT OF GOD’S GRACE
We believe that God’s gracious work and presence in our lives is the beginning and continuance of every good work, for Jesus is “the author and finisher of our faith,” (Heb. 11:2), God it is who “works in [energon] you both to will and to do [energeon] His good pleasure,” (Phil. 2:13), that “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” and that this occurs by the mysterious and miraculous working of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 4:6, 3:18), not our own intellectual self-effort. Because of God’s empowering presence, there is never a time when a Christian must give in to temptation, and thus it is theoretically possible for a Christian to live without conscious sin. This is only by surrendering to the Holy Spirit, in His power.
-Jesus rightly said “No man can come to me unless the Father draws Him” (Jn. 6:44) for “we are all like an unclean thing… and our iniquities, like the wind, have carried us away” (Isa. 64:6). We affirm with these scriptures and with the Council of Orange (529ad) that we are unable to even desire to seek God without His gracious preceding influence in our world and in our individual souls.
-Jesus said that “everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me,” (Jn. 6:45), and promised that “when I am lifted up, I will draw all men to myself” (Jn 12:32). Jesus Himself is the Good Shepherd who seeks the lost, not the bad shepherd who drives away and harries sheep for His own advancement (Jer. 23:1). Jesus wept over the unbelief and resistance of people to the work God wished to do for them (Matthew 23:37, Acts 7:51). Jesus was willing and able to heal, yet in His hometown “He was unable to do any miracle there…because of their unbelief” (Mark 6:5, Matthew 13:58). Based on Scripture and the united testimony of the early church, we believe that God’s grace is “a fountain most abundant and free”, open to every person without exception, and sufficient to save everyone, yet people may refuse to come despite God’s enabling invitation to believe.
-For those who believe, God provides such believers with “every good and perfect gift,” (James 1:17), believers are promised that God is “working in you both to will and to do His good pleasure,” (Phil. 2:13), we are promised that “no temptation has overtaken you… but God is faithful, who will provide a way of escape,” (1 Cor. 10:13) and that we are supplied with “all things needed for life and godliness” (2 Pet 1:3). With these promises, we must conclude indeed that “God is faithful,” but the cause of our sin, failure, or unbelief is always due to our lack of belief or submission, and not due to His lack of provision or lack of enabling us to receive it. God, through His work as we choose to receive it, is “the one who makes you to differ,” but we can – like the people of Jesus’ hometown – hinder His work through our self-effort, unbelief, or rebellion.
-By these promises, we see that there is never a time when a Christian must sin. It is therefore theoretically possible for a Christian to live without known, intentional sin. There should be times in our life where may say with Paul, “I am conscious of nothing against myself.” But if we are walking in dependence upon the Spirit, we must also conclude as he does, that “I am not justified by this; but the One judging me is the Lord” (1 Cor. 4:4); we can never properly judge ourselves and in self-deception claim, “I am without sin” (1 John 1:8). Our focus should not be on not sinning, but on surrendering to and delighting in Jesus’ presence, which he said is the “one thing necessary” (Luke 10:42). Indeed, while we are to “mortify” sin, it is “by the Spirit [that] you put to death the deeds of the body,” (Rom. 8:13) not by our own self-effort.
THE NECESSITY AND EFFECT OF ABSOLUTE SURRENDER
If all spiritual blessings are in Christ, and believers are “in Christ”, then why do we not experience them? Often it is because we quench or suppress the working of the Holy Spirit, either by not believing such inner miracles could actually be true, or by feeling ourselves too unworthy to receive them, or by being too afraid to truly open our heart fully to Him, or by hindering Him by our own self-effort. You must give yourself – entirely all of you – to Him, to be searched by Him, assessed by His Spirit, and led into what to do (Psalm 139:23, Jer. 17:9, Phil. 3:15). In this place of surrender, we experience the fruit of the Spirit and temptation loses its appeal.
-We cannot open our heart while we are simultaneously closing it to God because we are afriad of what He may do. Often we are unaware that we have been closing part of our heart to God until we sin, but sin is always a symptom of failing to “walk in the Spirit”, which is a way of expressing the continuous, conscious full surrender to the Spirit. The prayer of surrender may sound like this, “God, I trust you. I don’t know what is wrong with me, but I know I am in sin. Please forgive me. I give myself to you and I open myself to you. Show me what you want me to do or release to you and I will do it, even if it is the thing I am most afraid you will ask me to do – by your grace, if you are with me, I will do even that.”
-For some this fear may be going to Africa or China. For others, it may be the fear of being led to stay home and lead a very ordinary life. For parents, it may be entrusting their child to the care of God. For others, it may be the loss of a job, or to receive a injury that eliminates them from ministry. For many, their spiritual reputation is priceless: this, too, must be surrendered to God. In the moment of anger, it may be our sense of pride or desire for control.
-God may not ask you to do the thing you are most afraid of – or He may. He may not bring upon you the very situation you are afraid of – or He may. But the point is you cannot hold tightly onto parts of your life while at the same time hoping to open your hands to receive the blessing. You must open your heart to Him, fears and sins and all, for Him to search you, direct you, and fill you. We must come with Him under His “yoke… and find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28).
-This surrender is not giving God your problems, worries, or areas you think you need “help” in. Those are just a part of your life; they are yours. God is not your tool to fix what you think is wrong within yourself. Rather, you must give yourself – entirely all of you – to Him, to be searched by Him, assessed by His Spirit, and led into what to do (Psalm 139:23, Jer. 17:9, Phil. 3:15).
-This is sometimes a fearful and tearful thing to do, but we will be helped to remember that God is far more powerful and creative than we can imagine, and He loves us more than we love ourselves. He is closer to us than our own heart, and it is only He who can protect and heal us from the true dangers of life. Knowing the eternal and spiritual stakes, we should fear being out of communion with God more than anything else (Matthew 10:28). In full consecration to God, we can face even death “with the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15), as the martyrs have shown us. For every Christian the way to glory is one of everyday martyrdom with the crucified GodMan – “I die daily,” “crucified with Christ,” “buried with Him,” (1 Cor. 15:31, Gal, 2:20, Rom 6:4, Rom 8:10); and thus experiencing the power of His risen life: “The Spirit of God… will give life,” “in Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life has set you free from the law of sin and death,” “Christ lives in me” (Rom. 8:11, 8:2, Gal. 2:20).
-The path to victory, then, is fundamentally cross-shaped. We have the mindset of Christ if we are not grasping parts of our life as something to be clutched, but to release everything to God’s will (Phil. 2:6, 1 Cor. 2:16). Such a surrender calls for humility and a recognition of our poverty before God. This surrender to God – giving up our independence and everything we love most – feels like dying, and indeed, we are called to be crucified with Christ so that we may be raised into the new kind of glorifying life He offers in Himself. There is no other path to union with the crucified GodMan.
-We say, then, that there is no resurrection power without Gethsemane surrender. Without being “buried with Him”, there is no “raised again into newness of life.”
-Even this surrender is enabled by the gracious work of the Holy Spirit (Heb. 9:14). It is within this “Gethsemane experience” that the Spirit leads us to naturally call upon God intimately as “Abba, Father,” just as Jesus did in the Garden (Mark 14:36, Rom. 8:15, Gal. 4:6), as we surrender our wills to His even while making our “requests known to God.”
-Entering into this surrender to the Spirit can be painful and is often the result of a crisis, but abiding in it is a thing of unspeakable peace and joy! It accepts Christ more fully into our heart by faith, and results in the symptoms of the fruit of the Spirit’s presence. This resurrection life is characterized by the miraculous work of the Spirit in us, most fundamentally manifested in the effortless fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, etc), because God is all these things and He is filling us with His presence. Christians walking in this resurrection life and not quenching the Spirit will find they are spontaneously loving others, filled with joy and peace, desiring to worship and sing to God in their hearts (Eph. 5:19), and to love others and minister to them in their sin-sick need, rather than simply condemn and judge them. In this state, temptation is recognized but is unattractive.
GRACE-ENABLED FREEDOM – NOT DETERMINISM
Surrendering to God is not merely adopting a philosophical view that everything happens because God made it happen. We affirm that people have been given the ability to make genuine choices by God, and that God has not predetermined anyone for evil.
-We reject the sectarian ideas of determinism, whether “hard” or “soft” or “compatibilist” (a view that God has prescripted every desire and impulse of the will so that whether we sin or do good, these exact desires have been determined and/or created in us by God). These wrong ideas necessarily imply that God predetermines everyone to commit every sin and evil they commit, and they could not do or desire to do otherwise. We reject the corollary doctrine that God damns people unconditionally.
-We hold that these views are repugnant to Scripture, the message of the Gospel, and the united testimony of dozens of writers in the early persecuted church, and by later Church councils (see Ezekiel 18, Isaiah 5:4, Jeremiah 18, Matthew 23:37, Acts 7:51, etc, as well as the western Council of Orange in 529ad and the eastern Council of Jerusalem in 1672ad, both declaring such views anathema). Not every act is in accord with God’s will (Matt. 23:37, Isa. 5:4, Hos 8:4, Jer 19:5), even though it is God’s will that people have true freedom to yield to His gracious enabling influence or to reject Him. God in absolute freedom and creative power determined that other created human and spiritual agents should be free to manifest love or non-love for Him; the fundamental purpose of creation is manifesting true love, which necessitates the possibility of true rebellion.
-We furthermore reject the view that God has a “secret will” which renders His revealed will a facade. God’s words are a true reflection of His heart. While God has complex emotions about the choices people make, He does not predetermine them for evil while in a contradictory way commanding and “desiring” for them to do good.
-While we recognize that Christians can and have held to such sectarian views, we believe that these views are based on Westernized individualism, the divorce of the passages from their Jewish roots, faulty exegesis, the historic importation of secular or pagan philosophy, and/or other factors. Embracing a deterministic philosophy can lead a person to be merely resigned to a Plan, rather than willingly surrender to God’s personal presence and even wrestle with Him in the relational dynamic seen in stories like Moses (Ex. 32:14), Saul (1 Sam. 13:13) , Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:1-6), Nineveh (Jonah 3:10), and the Potter metaphor (Jer. 18). Even the name “Israel” means “Wrestles with God,” a title of honor for when Jacob would not let the Angel of the Lord go until He blessed him (Gen. 32:26).
-These rejected views, thus, tend to damage a person’s ability to trust God as truly good, as truly desiring the salvation of all, of truly giving sufficient grace to not sin, and of truly being a relational Being who interacts with us. Indeed, Determinists make up all of the most vocal opponents of the view of sanctification presented here.
SECURITY IN CHRIST
The believer is secure in Christ’s faithfulness. While we can, and should, remain in continual, moment-by-moment fullness of surrender to God and experience His love, joy, and peace, the reality for most of us is that we wander and must return to this place of fresh surrender. Wandering, doubts, and sin do not cause someone to “lose” salvation (even though they certainly do briefly interrupt the intimate experience of fellowship with God).
– The fruit of the Spirit is the symptom of yielding to God presently for His sanctifying presence, not a symptom of salvation. A lack of the fruit of the Spirit indicates the pragmatic need for surrendering afresh to God, not for despair or questioning one’s salvation. Entering the miracle of sanctification is not something we do to earn or secure our salvation, it is the birthright of every child of God.
-While our members hold to the security of believers, we hold different perspectives on whether it is possible to intentionally apostatize, to “shipwreck concerning the faith,” (1 Tim 1:19), “forfeit grace” (Jonah 2:8), or “fall from grace” (Gal. 5:4). Scripture only promises that those who endure to the end shall be saved (Matt. 24:13). There is no such confidence for those who repudiate Christ: “If we disown Him, He also will disown us” (2 Tim 2:12).
-Yet, since “we all stumble in many ways” (Jas. 3:2), we are comforted that “If we are faithless, yet He remains faithful – He cannot deny Himself” (2 Tim 2:13), and rejoice that God is “able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24). We wander from His enabling grace and love to our own peril or chastisement.
IN DIVERSITY, UNITY IN CHRIST
A wide range of Christian views may be presented on this site. The presence of one author’s views does not indicate that every collaborator agrees with the others, yet it does indicate that we are held together in the brotherly love of Jesus and in an affirmation of the above views.
Christ is Lord.