Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Going to Church???

CAN YOU WALK WITH GOD
AND NOT "GO TO CHURCH"?
 
The phrase “going to church” is a misnomer and misleading. The word “church” itself has become a colloquialism for all sorts of things which in truth are not the church. In the Old Testament words and phrases like Tabernacle and Sanctuary and tent of meeting were used. They more accurately described what that building was used for. But today we call a building a “church” which not only is inaccurate but has over the years completely changed the meaning of the word church.
In the New Testament the Greek word “ecclesia” is translated “church” and it depicts a gathering, a group, or the called out ones. It has absolutely nothing to do with a building. In fact large buildings came into existence during the time of that carnal and wicked emperor Constantine. He built buildings for Christians as well as other pagan religions and believers adopted his self serving offering. Since then buildings have been built all over the world including large and ornate edifices that are now called a church. And so here we are.
The more correct question would be can a believer not interact and fellowship with other believers and still walk with Christ? To that I would say no. But there are many shut ins who derive their meat from the Scripture and perhaps a few visitors. The visitation from pastors to shut ins has become a lost practice but decades ago it was part of a pastor’s ministry. And if the religious organization (church) is large then good luck with having the pastor visit you for any reason. They have a staff member assigned for those mundane irritants.
But I do believe reading or hearing Biblical messages by a man of God must be a mainstay in a believer’s spiritual life. That can be done through the internet these days. I would strongly advise against Christian television. Most “churches” do not have any corporate prayer of any significance so you are not missing that. But now there are blogs and websites and FaceBook where you can interact and fellowship with other like minded believers. You see, many if not most of the “churches” in your area are man made constructs and follow the spirit of this world. They are patriotic and moralistic and money dependent as well as war supporting institutions which really have very little to do with Christ.
So the ultimate question is would God desire His people to gather in a local institution which is built and operates in the strength of man? Can that possibly be the will of the Spirit just so you can “punch your ticket” and say you “went to church”? I know scores of people who have grown spiritually because they left the institution commonly called church. They no longer sit under utilitarian messages designed to make you successful. They no longer have to endure 4th of July services filled with idolatry. They no longer have to be in the midst of pastor idolization. And many have found it a great blessing to use their money for missions and the ministry to the poor and not have it go to buildings and large staff. They feel like they have been set free.
But there is a responsibility that comes with leaving the institution known as church. You must feed your spirit. You must be in the Word. You must deepen your prayer life. You must fellowship with other believers somehow. And you must not allow your distaste for the system you left to puff you up. You must allow the Spirit to strip you of any pride or self righteousness. And any spiritual progress you make must make you grateful and more humble. And when you interact on the internet you will find those with whom you must break fellowship because some are self righteous and caustic, but the Spirit will also teach you that no one will completely agree with you. And when a believer has a different perspective about something, even something about which you feel strongly, if the brother or sister is humble and seems to love Jesus then you can overlook other things.
You are the church, or at least part of it. In these last days there are many ways to interact with other true yokefellow and to benefit spiritually from other’s gifts. But we must be diligent in our seeking of Christ. I personally have benefitted greatly from internet fellowship with other believers. I have written extensively about the compromises of the local “church” constructs” elsewhere so I will not belabor the point. But what good can it possibly be to sit in a pew and feel nothing but uncomfortable? What good can it be to hear ear tickling messages? When you go Sunday after Sunday only to revisit the same redundant construct you did the Sunday before is that of the Spirit? When no one weeps with repentance and the service is designed to be “uplifting” so people will return…is that of the Spirit?
I suggest all of pray without ceasing and allow the Spirit to use these internet forums to edify, convict, and exhort us as we continue in His Word and watch the power of the Word break us and remake us into His image.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Retouching the Cross

RETOUCHING THE CROSS

Matt.27: 28 And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe.
29 And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!
30 And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.
31 And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him.

Jn.19: Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him.
And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe,
And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands.
Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him.
Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man!

There have been millions of crucifixions, but no one crucifixion has been so detailed as the crucifixion of Jesus the Christ. We have a detailed narrative which begins at His arrest and follows Him all the way until His death on the cross. And in the natural it is a very gruesome scenario. And just in the natural we are aware that He was innocent of any charges to say nothing of the death penalty. But in order to understand and attempt embrace the totality of what we are witnessing through the written word we must be aware that this was God in the flesh. And this God man was completely holy and without sin so it is an understatement to say He deserved no punishment.
Jesus had washed the disciple’s feet a few days ago, and the night before He was arrested He instituted what we now call the Lord’s Supper or communion. That supper would present a redemptive picture for what He would endure and what He would pay for in His own body.
But now He willingly submitted Himself to the hands of wicked men. And these men spared nothing and showed no mercy. They stripped Him of His clothes and wrapped Him in a purple robe in order to mock Him as a king. They made a ring of very sharp thorns and crushed it down upon His head, and they put a reed in His right hand and bowed down and mocked Him. Now in the natural this was humiliation at is zenith, but to understand that Jesus was the Son of God then this humiliation becomes mind boggling. And to further understand that Jesus would soon give His life for the same men who were mocking Him is beyond anything we can understand.
It is difficult to imagine what a human figure would look like after such a beating and such savagery. The Scriptures declare He did not even resemble a human being. But His sufferings were far from just physical. It is my personal belief that the first slap or punch or mocking is where His redemptive sufferings began. In fact, it was when He sweat great drops of blood in the garden which began His redemptive sufferings. And they lasted until the last breath escaped from His lips. And within each slap and punch, or with the thorns or when they plucked out His beard, or when they lashed His back, within all of the abuse our sins were being placed upon Him. He was the sin bearer, the scapegoat, the bronze serpent, and He was the Lamb of God which takes away the sins of the world.
And then after a world of savage torture He was laid down upon two Roman planks. It is fitting and metaphorical that it was carried out by Roman soldiers. This was an earthly kingdom that was consumed with power and violence and money and was pagan at its core. The Roman religion was practical and their gods in their view helped them and their country. Does it not have a modern day ring to it? Yes, you say, but we believe in one God? Do we? Visit a thousand Christian churches across America and you may well hear several hundred different gods being preached even though they all call them Jesus. And all those churches believe their god helps them achieve their own dreams. You see, we live in a modern day Roman Empire.
So they laid Him down and stretched out his arms. And they drove a nail through each hand or wrist. And they placed one foot on top of the other and drove a spike through them both. He was now impaled on a Roman cross just as many thousands of criminals had been before Him. He was now contemptible…a scourge and an object to be mocked. They raised up the cross which bore the Lamb and they placed it in the hole already dug with a thud! There He is. Earth has rejected Him and He is now temporarily separated from heaven as well. He alone must bear the awful pain and punishment for sins He never committed. And for six hours He would hang there. What a scene! What a spectacle! This is human brutality at its finest. And like hangings of old a crowd would gather and watch a human being bear an agony known only to those who experience it and about which none lived to tell. Beside all the wounds and the awful pain of the nails it was almost impossible to breathe. One would have to press hard on the nail which pierced the feet and lift up one’s body weight in order to gasp a short breath. It was an excruciating process.
But the pain of the flesh can never compare with the pain of sin. The crowd saw a Jew but God saw a Lamb. Who among us can know the pain of sin? We all can testify of the results of sin and how we paid on earth somehow because we had sinned, but to experience the pain of eternal divine judgment we cannot tell. But only the Spirit can illuminate a human understanding as to who this Jew was. Before we are born again we see a good teacher and a kind man and a victim of injustice. But when the Spirit of God reveals to your heart who Jesus is, was, and always will be then the eyes of your understanding are opened for the very first time. And please allow me to say from experience you will never, you can never, be the same again. To the world it is foolishness, but to us who are redeemed it is the power of God.
As is our custom we try and make anything uncomfortable smoother and more palatable. When we say Jesus died for our sins we seem to minimize two features of His sacrifice. We seem to gloss over His sufferings, and we seem to gloss over the depth of our sin. The way and extent of His sufferings are past finding out. He suffered eternal punishment for the sins of the world. Oh how that sounds like hyperbole and yet it is true for all eternity. I cannot fully understand how person can suffer for sins at all much less the sins of the entire world. He bore our pain. He bore our curse. He bore our guilt. He bore our blame. He bore our disgrace. He bore our punishment. He bore the eternal sentence about which we so richly deserved. And the word “bore” means a profound and indescribably suffering.
When a redeemed person looks at the cross he or she is filled with awe and wonder and gratefulness and pain and worship and a hundred other emotions and enlightenments. For forty years I have heard about the cross, I have read about the cross, and I have preached about the cross and yet I still am overwhelmed by its beauty and wonder and the redemption I have found in it. The sufferings were far above what is common to man. They can only be truly understood by the One who endured them, but we are graciously called to embrace and seek them in all their glory.
But is so many ways we say the word “sin” with a layer of safety. It is a catch all word, but let us unpack it a little and reveal the vileness of sin and what our Blessed Savior took upon Himself. Sometimes we like to equate sin with lying or stealing or cursing or even some sexual infidelity, and yes all those fall under that heading. But that is not all of what Jesus took upon Himself. Think about infant rape. Think about child murder. Think about beheading. Think about ripping a child from its mother’s womb. Think about purposely infecting a person with a deadly disease. Think about killing one hundred thousand people with one bomb. These and other more heinous sins were all placed upon the Scapegoat.
But please do not minimize your own sins just because you deem the sin of others greater. Your sins and mine are worthy of eternal punishment. The most commendable unregenerate sinner is vile beyond words when revealed in the light of a Holy God’s glory. Can you now just shake your head in awe and wonder when you think that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son”? This event, this cross, is a selfless act of such magnitude that it stands alone not only as the only path to God, but what act of compassion can compare? That which we call the Incarnation represents that God came in the form of a man. That is a divine miracle worthy of our awe and worship.
I have presented all that and I hope you have been edified as I have in writing it. But I want to return to the title of my post. There are many, many, many, and many more preachers and teachers who have retouched the cross to make it more pleasant to the human taste and sensibilities. They wish to remove the blood or at least sanitize it. They will not reveal the gruesomeness of the cross. They much prefer it as jewelry than they do as a bloody vision filled with the smell of pain and sweat and fresh blood mingling with dried blood. That should not be articulated in mixed company. You can speak of success and prosperity and fulfilling your dreams but the cross needs some retouching lest it offends us. Just what kind of manmade religion is that which the church now embraces?
Yes there are heretics which deny that Jesus was wounded for our transgressions, but I speak of the modern church which loves it professional praise and worship times but never hears about the viciousness of the cross. And if they do hear some of it then Easter is the “appropriate” time. That way we can spray fake blood on a man and let it entertain us before we leave church and fill our bellies once more. But a steady diet of the cross? Please, we have bigger fish to fry.
The word “cross” can be used as some redemptive talisman but to describe it with some morbid detail does not minister to the flesh. To the natural man it just relives history instead of looking forward to a prosperous earthly life. And that is why the colors need to be pastels, and the sounds need to be muffled, and the darkness needs to lifted, and the sin needs to be theological, and the entire event needs to be stuffed and placed upon the wall of doctrinal taxidermy. That way we can say we are orthodox without any personal introspection and without entering into the fellowship of His sufferings.
But the very worst and most sacrilegious thing the church can ever do is to soften the preaching of the cross. The word is commonplace but the vision is sacred. It is now served on a platter of humanism and theological hubris but without the spiritual pungency which can pierce the spirit and lead men to repentance and worship. The cross when preached in all its glory can set the captive free and bring the prodigal back home. It is our shelter and our refuge. It is where we see Jesus most clearly. It breaks the prideful heart and mends the broken heart. It is not just the symbol of our faith. It is the very center of our faith for if there was no cross there can never be eternal life.
But let us never avert our eyes form the startling reality of His sufferings and death. The wounds and the thorns and the blood and the death are used of the Spirit to make us whole. But if we retouch that sacred cross in order to pacify and buffer and protect us from the visceral realities of true spirituality then all we have left is human reasoning with Jesus pasted on top. And that, my friends, is spiritual death.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Victory at Golgotha

VICTORY AT GOLGOTHA

Jn.19:16-18 - Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led Him away. And He bearing His cross went forth into a pace called the place of the skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha. Where they crucified Him, and two other with Him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.
I Sam.17:54 - And David took the head of the Philistine, and brought it to Jerusalem.

God. Jehovah. Jesus. All the attributes of God are interconnected and are inseparable and exist as one. But if there is one central revelation of the nature and fullness of Almighty God that more wholly unveils who God is to man it is the cross. If you could take all sixty-six books of the Holy Scriptures and follow each verse and each sentence like a divine path to its source and intended destination they would all gather at the cross. It is this magnificent act of sacrifice, death, and victory that defies human understanding and without the personal apocalypse of the Holy Spirit it is foolishness. Justice and injustice; death and life; angels and demons; beautiful and grotesque; eternally planned but captured in 360 minutes; lamb and lion; goat and ram; common and royal; Roman and Hebrew; and God and man.

And the Savior Himself told us that the Old Testament Scriptures that the Jews studied, recited, and even wore as jewelry spoke of Him. If you took a verse from Chronicles that only listed three men in a genealogy and as such seemed insignificant and unrevealing, and if you distilled it down by the power and guidance of God’s Spirit using the context in history, and the lives of the men listed, and other interconnections of the Spirit you would still find the cross. And with that understanding, the following story of David and Goliath is an historical and Scriptural alabaster box that when broken fills the heart of the spiritually minded believer with another glorious glimpse of the cross.

Even the little four year old vacation Bible school child has heard the story of how David defeated Goliath with just one God empowered stone to the center of Goliath’s forehead. It is a true story of God’s great and miraculous power over evil that can be revealed through any surrendered vessel and with the weapons of God’s own choosing. God sends His prophet Samuel into the house of Jesse and He instructs Samuel to anoint the future king inside this humble house. Now Jesse brought seven of his sons before Samuel being sure that the king would come from one of these. But Samuel did not have the witness of the Spirit about any of those seven and after inquiring about any other sons Jesse sends for his youngest, David. And David comes into the house stinking of sheep and in a blur he feels oils running down his face and hears Samuel talk of the King of Israel. The Word tells us at that very day the Spirit came upon David.

Not too many days later the Philistines were locked in battle against the children of Israel and they sent out a giant named Goliath to challenge anyone from the Israeli camp to fight him and decide the war. All the Jews were afraid and they did not know what to do so they did nothing. As it happened in God’s providence Jesse sent David with some food for his brothers and when he arrived at the camp he heard Goliath defying the army of the children of God. So David, anointed by God’s Spirit, asks, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the Living God?”.

They eventually let David face Goliath and with one providential stone Goliath is hit in the head, falls to the ground, and dies. So David runs to the corpse of Goliath, picks up Goliath's own sword, and severs his head off of his body, and upon seeing this the Philistines fled and the victory was won. Why did David cut off Goliath’s head? Well it represented a visual display of total victory and was proof that the enemy was completely defeated. But now follow as we go further through this historical account that will lead us to, yes, the cross.

Many times after a battle in Old Testament times the victorious army would behead the vanquished army or its ruler using that bloody act to symbolize how great their victory had been. In those days it was also a common practice for armies to display their victory by placing the heads of the slain rulers or military leaders upon stakes so other would be adversaries would take notice and fear. In Judges chapter seven and II Kings chapter ten and elsewhere are examples of the heads of the defeated being used for emblems of victory.

But I draw your attention to I Samuel 17:54 - And David took the head of the Philistine and brought it to Jerusalem; and he put his armor in his tent.
There are at least two things that are peculiar to this verse. Why did David take the head of Goliath to Jerusalem? And also it should be noted that the city of Jerusalem did not as yet exist. It would be founded by David at a later date but it seems that the Holy Spirit was proclaiming it prophetically as "Jerusalem" for a reason. The practice of placing the heads of defeated enemies upon wooden stakes also served to warn travelers of the power that was in the city because many times the heads were staked high outside the city. Of course after many days the weather and the birds would strip the heads of all their flesh and eventually all that was left was a skull attached to the top of a wooden stake.

So when David took the bloody head to the future city of Jerusalem he would have placed it high on a stake to warn others of God’s power and to proclaim this great victory over the Philistines and that this city belonged to the Most High God. Several years later David would take over the city from the Jebusites and name it Jerusalem, the city of peace.

Rom.16:20 - And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet.
Fast forward approximately one thousand years and journey to a place just outside Jerusalem. Look, there is the place of a skull, Golgotha. Close to four thousand years earlier God had prophesied this day by telling Eve that her seed, the Lord Jesus, would bruise the head of the serpent. (Gen.3:15) Oh yes, there was something significant and symbolic about the head of Goliath.

More than any other identification in the New Testament Jesus is referred to as the son of David. In Matt.1:1 it is the first description in the New Testament of the Lord Jesus as “the son of David”. And in the very last chapter of Revelation Jesus refers to Himself as “the offspring of David”. So from the beginning of the New Testament all the way through to the end Jesus is named the son of David. The greatest Patriarch, the greatest king of Israel, the greatest warrior, and the most compassionate and intimate servant of Jehovah was David. And of course he was just a shadow of the coming Son of the Living God. But Jesus, at the place of a skull, annihilated the enemy and won the victory over sin, death, and Satan himself. This was the prophetic fulfillment of the victory David had won over Goliath when he had placed his severed head at Jerusalem as a sign that loudly spoke of a coming victory at Golgotha.

Through all those centuries the skull itself was now gone but because the event was so significant people had referred to this place as the place of a skull. It was at this very place that King Jesus, still wearing human appearance, slew the giant and forever severed his head and held it up openly throughout the world and for all eternity. And just as the skull was placed upon a wooden stake to display the victory, the Lord Jesus, Moses’ serpent, was placed high upon a wooden beam just outside of the city of Jerusalem to warn and woo the whole world to the everlasting victory.

And everyone who looks and believes in true faith that this sacrifice is the complete and only way into the Celestial City of Peace, the heavenly Jerusalem, will be allowed into the Great City and more importantly the very presence of the Risen Christ, the Son of David. And the Scriptures declare that one day the Lord Jesus will actually rule and reign for one thousand years sitting upon the throne of his father, King David.

Remember, this magnificent and everlasting victory was once pictured in the story of a little shepherd boy who defeated the enemy with one stone and the anointing of God. Every Word that God has spoken is intertwined with all His Words and they are sewn together with one scarlet thread that winds around and through the victory that was won at Golgotha, the place of a skull.

Bethlehem, David, the valley of Elah, a stone, victory, a head, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jesus, Nazareth, Passover, Jerusalem, Gethsemane, Ciaphas, Pilate, Herod, thirty-nine stripes, a robe, thorns, mocking, a sentence, a street, a walk, a skull, two thieves, soldiers, Mary, John, nails, a spear,
blood, blood, blood, blood, blood, blood,
blood, blood, blood, blood, blood, blood,
blood, blood, blood, blood, blood,
death
******Victory******

Monday, February 09, 2015

What does it Mean to be a Christian?

 WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A CHRISTIAN?

Lk.14: 12 Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee.
13 But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind:
14 And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.

Lk.14: 25 And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them,
26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.

Lk.14: 33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

The word “Christian” is a moniker given to early believers. It indicated that certain people reminded the lost community that they were followers of Jesus and their behavior reminded lost people of Jesus. Over the many years the word has become a catch all and has lost any real significance. If a person is not a Muslim and is an American he is considered a Christian in many circles. Even the term “born again” has fallen on hard times and is no longer used within the wider evangelical community.
But let us use the word Christian in the accepted and colloquial sense just for a reference point. No one can be considered a Christian without being born again by God’s Spirit. No amount of theology, and no amount of doctrinal degrees, and no amount of original language credentials can make a person a Christian. No amount of catechism, and no amount of Biblical morality, and no amount of denominational acceptance can make a person a Christian. There is nothing a person can do that can transform his soul and make him a Christian. Only God’s grace empowered by God’s Spirit can lead a sinner to Christ and have that sinner truly believe that life changing gospel. There are many millions who actually believe the gospel with their religious and moral minds who have not really been born again. They are as lost as the heroin dealer and the gay atheist.
So when a sinner truly believes in Jesus and his heart and life is changed and the Spirit comes to live inside his being, now what? What should we expect of that sinner now? What changes should we see being made in his heart and life? It is here that even those who preach and believe the born again experience begin to deviate from the Scriptures they claim to embrace as literal and inerrant. It is here where the church has followed earthly mores rather than the New Testament teachings of Jesus. In the basic sense when you are born again you are a new creature in Christ and you know are commanded and certainly you now desire to follow Jesus. I mean that should be elementary however it has become blurred in these last days until almost all that is left is Jesus the Savior and not Jesus the Lord.
“I don’t have abortions and I do not do drugs and I am not homosexual and therefore Jesus is my Lord.” Really? Jesus actually did not deal with any of those sins. Yes, I said sins. But the church has created its own fig leaf aprons consisting of a few moral leaves and now it claims to be following Jesus. And millions upon millions of people who embrace those kinds of moral issues consider themselves Christians because they have believed and they have been baptized and they are church members and they take stands against a very small set of moral sins. But it goes much deeper than that.
I would like to use a certain Alabama judge who happens to be a Baptist as an example of what I am attempting to communicate. The judge’s name is Roy Moore and he is a Vietnam vet as well as a judge. You can read about him HERE.

He is representative of millions of evangelical Americans who have blended earthly allegiances and conservative morals with Christianity. This is no small issue and in reality it cuts to the very core of what it means to be a Christian. So many people believe a Christian is conservative on moral and financial issues, and he holds to the accepted list of orthodox doctrines that have been spoon fed by a man who knows more Bible than do they. And almost without exception they believe that a Christian is a patriot and supports America. That is regularly reinforced from the pulpit as well as testimonies from men and women of the military who also consider themselves as Christian. And in many cases the allegiance to America trumps the allegiance to Jesus as can be witnessed by the “American Sniper” man who could find humor and glee in killing and use all kinds of profanity and yet is considered a Christian based solely upon his patriotism toward America as well as his hatred for Muslims.
But the standard checklist of moral issues never includes war. Most evangelical will say they do not like war but it is sometimes necessary. There are so many things wrong with that statement the foundational error would be no New Testament support as well as the belief system of the early Christians. But let us assume there is a country in which citizenship was only offered to born again believers. Let us assume that all the usual moral issues seemed to be aligned with Scripture. Then those who would take up arms to defend it might be understandable even though still not Scripturally defensible. But that is not the case here.
We live in a fallen world. And the country known as America is part of this fallen world. It is consumed with money and earthly success and makes its rock stars and Hollywood actors and sports heroes millionaires. And it legalizes abortions and marries same sex partners. It has a history of racism and it was birthed by a war over taxes. To suggest that America is a Christian nation or that is was founded as a Christian nation is both absurd and a damnable lie meant to elevate America into a divine favored status. And yet this lie is not only perpetrated among those who call themselves Christians it is celebrated.
And what has happened is that the faith commonly called “Christian” has become part of an earthly culture and has thereby been compromised, diluted, and morphed into a religious phenomenon which bears little resemblance to the words and teachings of Jesus. Does the judge in the article I linked to believe that posting the Ten Commandments on public walls will have some redemptive effect upon this fallen culture? No, he does not. His belief system is a self righteous and moralistic attempt to preserve an idol he calls America and the “good old” days he longs for.
But is that what it means to be a Christian? Think about that for a moment. How self centered and narcissistic is that? Millions of evangelical are not worried about the earthly state nor the spiritual state of billions around the world. How much money goes to the poor? How many prayers are sent for the poor? How many tears are shed form those who are one heartbeat away from a lost eternity? And yet these same “Christians” would energetically go to war in order to protect “their way of life” which means earthly life. How can you not see the utter paradox in such a position as it pertains to following Jesus and forsaking all? There is no common ground here. None.
Patriotism is a form of apostasy plain and simple. It deceives the mind. It divides the heart. It compromises the faith. And in the end it changes everything about what it truly means to be a Christian. And as I said for this article we will understand the label “Christian” as meaning a born again follower of Jesus. It breeds hatred. It breeds self righteousness. It breeds greed. And there is nothing holy or sacred or humble about any of it. It is in its entirety antithetical to all Jesus lived and taught. So the question is how did we get to such a place?
Of course it all began with taxes and the Revolutionary War and an increasing spirit of American exceptionalism. Even President John Adams disavowed the word “Christian” as it pertained to America when Muslim countries were wary of trading with America. But after the Industrial Revolution that Christian narrative became a part of the curriculum taught to children. And became ingrained and unquestioned in the psyche of each successive generation. But as America prospered greatly and the average man began to lust for money and things, and as America became a world military power, the Christ nation narrative did not have to change, but what it meant to be a Christian had to endure a facelift with the culture as the scalpel.
But when the love of money and wielding violence as a determent became an acceptable part of being a Christian because to suggest otherwise would go against the now established culture, something else must take its place in order to maintain a level of boldness which would soothe the conscience. And so a few moral issues and a few doctrinal issues were called front and center. They became the measuring rod of what it meant to be a Christian. Feeding the poor and loving your enemies and being clothed with humility and being content with food and clothing were residual and parts of a heart warming sermon. They were no longer the absolutes of what it meant to follow Jesus.
And in an incredible display of self righteous duplicity preachers would hold up a Bible and declare they believed it was literal and the orthodox crowd would applaud or say “Amen!” or nod in agreement. And yet all the while this same orthodox crowd ignored what Jesus lived and said. Most of us were caught up in that scenario. It was a great time and many of us would come away from some conference walking on air as we headed for the restaurant and with fresh tapes and books in our cars. And being filled with nationalism and moralism and sense of doctrinal pride we lived to face another day ignorant of the Spirit and of the Master we claimed to follow. And when someone mumbled a repeated prayer we could shower him with all kinds of assurance that heaven was now his home even though a few minutes ago he was a stranger.
But back to the question contained in the title of this post. What does it mean to be a Christian? The short answer is a born again follower of Jesus. But to follow Jesus is to know what He taught and then obey it by the power of the Spirit. I suggest you read the words of Jesus for many moths over and over again. I suggest you pray over them. I suggest you beseech the Spirit to open the eyes of your understanding. I have been on a post journey entitled, The teachings of Jesus” and I suggest you read all of them. This is serious business if indeed we wish to follow our Savior in word and deed. And if we truly desire to be a Christian in the truest sense then we must cast off the old wineskins and drink from the new wineskins filled with His Spirit and His words.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Teachings of Jesus - Part XI

THE TEACHINGS OF JESUS - PART XI
 
Jn.9: 39 And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.
40 And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also?
41 Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.

There are many teachings of Jesus about which people refuse to do any personal research to find the essence of their truth. These verses are among them. Ask the average pew dweller to define what Jesus is teaching here and you will hear varying interpretations as well as many who will at least tell the truth and admit they do not know. The sad thing is that most cannot be curious enough to find out, to say nothing of being diligent. And among those who may even be able to exegete these verses how many will observe a self denying obedience to their words?
But if we distill these words and pour them out as one pure revelation we will understand that we are called to a humility which rises way above the earthly definition. Sometimes we get the idea that when an Oscar winner stands and acts humble that is what the Spirit is saying here to us. It is far from that. Man’s humility is mostly pride dressed up as humility.

I Pet.5: Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

The Spirit exhorts us to be clothed with humility. We are not just supposed to show humility but we are to be covered and clothed with humility. As I take in these words I am not sure I have ever been clothed with humility. And when I think of the Scripture which says we should “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” and it goes on to compare it with Christ leaving the glory of heaven and coming down in the likeness of a man, well I am overwhelmed. I am a man with unclean lips who dwells among a people with unclean lips. Oh how we have lost the sense, to say nothing of the desire, for the kind of humility which resembles our Master.
Watch as pompous showmen strut on stage as if they were an actor which in most cases they are. Listen to their words as they lift up man and lower God. Listen as they create in their listeners a longing for prestige and material goods. There is no humility in them at all, and in fact there is no Jesus in them either. The majority of the American church is American but not Christian. In the verses I first shared Jesus addresses those who lift themselves up and claim to be all knowing. People sit on the edge of their seats and clap and nod as if they were listening to a god, and in many cases they are. Watch as they jump to their feet and applaud and scream wildly in approval of that man’s performance. No tears, no repentance, no sacred awe. It is all thespian in nature and void of the Spirit.
These men and women claim they see things in the Spirit that the average person cannot see, Some liars even claim to have been to heaven itself and people by the millions believe them. Jesus says that those who say they see are rejected and those who say they do not are embraced. The teaching is clear. Jesus is using a Hebrewism to teach the humility to the proud. It confronts and dismantles the struts of the modern peacock preachers and gives grace to the humble. But let us not just compare ourselves with these false teachers and self absorbed Americans. That is low hanging fruit.
The humility of which Jesus and the Spirit are speaking is a great challenge to us. When was the last time you were offended? That is a sign. When was the last time you felt smart? Or better than someone? Those are all bad signs. But those are only signs of a surface problem. Remove your shoes and let us tip toe further into the Spirit of truth.

Phil.2: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

Our Savior humbled Himself and became obedient to the cross. Oh my. Oh my. It was be a humility about which we know nothing just to understand that God became a man. That tests the human mind and finds it completely unable to process such abject humility. But to understand that God submitted Himself and became “obedient” to death, even the public and excruciating death of crucifixion is humility in its unimaginable and purest form. We are called to a depth of humility that experiences our own death and replaces it with His life. It is not enough to just imitate Jesus as we believe He is and was. We must die. And often we treat that as some kind of metaphor which just means we should not do or speak what we desire.
That may reveal some of it but that only touches the surface. Unsaved people can watch their tongue and even direct their fallen hearts to have compassion for others. Gandhi was a professed unbeliever and yet he showed uncommon humility on the outside which was indeed much more than most professing believers in Jesus. But our calling, our mandate, it to die to ourselves and to allow the Spirit to resurrect the Lord Jesus within us. Oh does that not sound so metaphysical and out of touch with reality? Well, because the church no longer teaches nor endorses it then it might sound like so much mercurial philosophy. But in the Spirit it is a glorious reality.
I exhort you to read the Book of Martyrs with a prayerful and contrite heart and you will see believers walking to their death clothed in humility and full of Christ. There are many moving and convicting narratives in there. But there is one account of a believer who told his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ that he would glorify His Savior while being burned at the stake. He told them that he would wait until the flames were climbing all around him and then he would raise up his hand with his finger pointing toward heaven. Crowds would gather around these horrific spectacles just as they used to watch hangings. Many of these martyrs sang on their way to the gallows or the stake.
The man was strapped to the stake and the faggots were set on fire all around his feet. People watched and his brethren waited for his hand to rise. But soon the flames became very hot and even covered his face until his brethren despaired because they thought he had died too quickly to lift his hand or even remember his promise. But from within those flames a scorched and blacked hand lifted up and pointed to heaven for two seconds and fell back down in death. It may not have seemed like much to others but to those who knew Jesus it was a miracle to the glory of God. I would have rather seen that blackened hand for two seconds the most of the sermons I have ever heard.
That, my friends, flies in the face of what passes for the faith in these self centered modern times. Oh that the Spirit would lead us all to our own place of death, and after we die men would see a nail scarred hand rise up and live in our place. The greatest enemy we face is when we try and live for Him without dying and allowing Him to live for us. But be aware, my dear brethren, that will take a cross.
***** 

Jn.8: 31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

Every year a fallen nation celebrates what is commonly called “freedom”. That celebration remembers how America was released from British rule through a violent revolution. Many thousands died from wounds or infection from both sides including the Germans. That war was over unfair taxation. That war is now celebrated in America and July 4th is recognized as the day of independence.
But millions upon millions of Americans who also profess Jesus see nothing wrong with embracing Jesus as well as the Revolutionary War. They have been raised from birth to embrace war and that America is not only on the right side of wars, but that God birthed America as His own. And in that convoluted thinking the line between earthly freedom and redemptive freedom become blurred and in many cases they are looked upon as one and the same.
But all that, and I mean all of it, compromises the price that was paid at Calvary and obscures the image of the Redeemer. It is probably impossible to overstate the damage that has been done to the faith because professing believers who happen to live in America have not only fallen in love with this fallen country, but have even woven a divine quality within it which they say began with its creation. This is no small issues and it has severely compromised the faith until the dilution has become grievous and in many cases a mortal wound.
But true freedom, eternal freedom is found only in Jesus. This must be our bedrock confession and the foundation of our faith. To celebrate earthly freedom is to make it a cousin, even a lesser cousin, to the freedom which was purchased at such a high price at Calvary. We are believers and followers of the one true Redeemer who paid the ransom in His own body and who has with an unsearchable loved granted us that ransom through grace and faith alone. Can you not feel the Spirit well up in you as you read these words? Remember, the same Spirit that was present at Calvary lives in you and me. He was there. He heard the groans. He saw the wounds. He saw the lashes. He saw the blood. He heard the last breath. And while human men saw a crucifixion that was common to men, the Spirit knew the price that was being paid. He existed with the Word now made flesh from eternity past. They and the father were part of the mystery of the Godhead. So when we speak of His sufferings the Spirit within us imparts knowledge and emotion and spiritual truth which we could not know in our own strength.
Let us never forget the bondage from which we came. Those of us who were saved as a teenager or an adult can remember vividly just how sin had imprisoned our hearts and minds, and how to this very day it beckons to imprison us once again. But the King had triumphed where we had so emphatically failed. Our father Adam had fallen just like we would have if it were us in that garden. And just so there was no mistake about that all of us born with Adam’s curse enthusiastically built upon his legacy with uncountable deeds of our own. I still feel the shame of it all.
But then He came. Born among animals. Born in our likeness. Fed from a fallen women’s own body and yet without sin. Who can know such a thing, and yet the Spirit enlightens us to that sacred knowledge. And He walks among us for over thirty years, and then in the space of hours he suffers and bleeds with a divine power the blood of animals could never know. God dies in our place. Oh my…what human mind deserves such knowledge? What human soul earns such a ransom? And in one small but genuine act of faith we were set free forever and forever. This is not some religion or spiritual philosophy. This is the everlasting gospel and it has set men free from the Day of Pentecost even unto this very day. Somewhere in the world today souls are being set free.
It may be in a church building. It may be on the street. It may be in a thatched hut. It may be in a hospital. It may be in Canada. It may be in Russia. It may be in Brazil. It may be in Nigeria. It may be a businessman. It may be a young mother. It may be a little child. It may be an old man. It may be someone dying of AIDs. It may be a gay person. It may be an adulterer. But the power of the gospel still lives around the world, and devout sinners like me are hearing the Spirit’s voice and responding. It is the miracle of all miracles. And who the Son sets free is free indeed! Halleluiah!
There should a word that is a greater and more revealing word for freedom. The freedom we have in Christ is unfathomable and without comparison. It is beyond our mental ability to comprehend a freedom from sin and all the fires of hell. That is freedom about which the world knows nothing. Millions of church members travel every Sunday to sit in church pews who know nothing of that freedom. Only God knows who are His but it is obvious that church members are consumed with money and politics and the economy and sports and employment and even the nation in which providence has placed them. But how many walk with the heart filling knowledge of the freedom in Christ we have? Until we get serious about the Word, and until we seek revelation knowledge about our salvation, it will all be so much religion and moral standards.
One day we will receive the fullness of our redemption. And we will understand in the eternal realm what the temporal realm never could. We were ransomed from eternal death and set free. But we weren’t just released from prison and sent to roam without direction. We were set free and we were placed into Christ by the Spirit of God. Rejoice all you who are in Him through no efforts of your own. Rejoice all you who deserved eternal damnation but received eternal life! Rejoice all you who were rescued from the penalty of death you so richly deserved! Rejoice all you prisoners of sin for you have been set free forever! So follow Him and His Word and do not return to bondage. Eat of His goodness and the milk and honey of His Person and beckon others to follow. This is the legacy of the redeemed.

And you are now free…free indeed!
*****
 
Mk.9: 35 And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.
36 And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them,
37 Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.

Matt.20: 25 But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.
26 But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;
27 And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:
28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

This teaching goes deep into the heart of the western culture and mindset. The entire culture is about power. Money and success and knowledge and material wealth and prestige are all interwoven with the hunger and thirst for power. And what is power in this fallen world? It is power over others. That is the essence of what is called power. That is why the cross of Christ is so widely rejected or minimized because it does not align itself with the human definition of power. In fact those that crucified Jesus are the ones who wielded power in the earthly realm. And much of the church subtly and openly aligns itself with the crucifiers rather than the Crucified.
We have to ask ourselves some very serious questions if we are to ever be released from this fallen culture. Please recognize that our upbringing within this culture has shaped, and warped, our mindset. And most of that has impacted how we understand the teachings of Jesus. Unless we understand that we will not and cannot receive and understand the teachings of Jesus as taught by the Spirit. Confronting a problem is first recognizing that problem before it can be overcome. And until the church as a whole or individual believers recognize what has happened to us we will never be able to enter into the glorious truths spoken and lived by Christ.
This culture lusts after power. It demands power. It teaches power. It is built upon power. Political power; financial power; physical power; military power; media power; gender power; conservative power; liberal power; the entire culture seethes with power and the desire for more power. And that spirit has permeated every area of our lives including and perhaps most prominently our hearts and minds. And once that spirit has unpacked and made itself at home within our hearts and minds it is most difficult to evict it. Partly because it is cloaked in religion and reason and common sense, and partly because it hides among many peers and its voice is reinforced by others, and partly because it has sunk its teeth deep within our minds and hearts. And it then subtly affects how we perceive things. And even after we recognize on some level that it lies and must go that is no small task. It is not an overnight challenge.
When you speak of spiritual power you must reject earthly power. The two can never be partners. And the template will always be the cross. The church has used the cross for salvation purposes and then cast it off as a doctrinal relic that his no bearing on our earthly lives. Jesus speaks about taking up our cross. What does that mean? Is the church passionately on a quest to discover what that means? Why not? Living the cross of Jesus is a great and glorious mystery which can only be realized if we hunger and thirst for it. There is power in that death. And that power can only released when we die. But unless we seek more than interesting metaphors we still will be caught in an earthly labyrinth of human power.
Walking in newness of life and walking in the power of His resurrection requires our own death. Again, an interesting and striking metaphor which has absolutely no power until it is implanted in the heart and thereby controls the life. Few implant it, and then it needs water and more water and much water. There is power in relinquishing all earthly power and resting in the power of death…His and yours. But the flesh is very strong and has been made immensely stronger by the nourishment it has received by the culture. It is a miracle of grace that we can even see just how power hungry we really are. And then to see where Jesus desires to take us is another miracle of grace. But when those two perspectives meet it requires much more than just an accurate perception.
When you begin to watch for power struggles and desires in your life you are amazed at just how much you like and reach out for power regardless of how small it is. Power makes us feel strong and significant. Power helps us win arguments. Power makes us right. Power strokes our egos. Power helps us win in comparisons with others. Power gives us some contentment. And sometimes in an ingenuous element of the flesh power allows us to forgive or show mercy as long as we retain that power buffer lest we let others feel superior to us. Oh how the flesh is so diabolical!
But Jesus talks of servanthood and in verse 28 He once again turns to the cross as the standard. Now think about that for just an unguarded moment. Can there be any greater example of servanthood and the rejection of power even when He had all power? The cross undermines every vestige of earthly power and it points us to a power the world knows not. The cross was a once in history event but its power will last forever. And to anyone who truly meditates upon that cross it becomes obvious that earthly power and divine power are unequal enemies. The power that comes from the earth is sensual, carnal, self centered, and evil. But the power which flows from God denies self, is spiritual, is clothed in humility, and embraces the selfless death on the cross as its template and mandate.
So while others must be addressed as “sir”; and while church leaders have “Dr.” in front of their name; and while some set themselves as Biblical scholars; and while many receive the applause of men; the calling of the Spirit will always be to a hill just outside of Jerusalem where death met life and life won through death. And those who walk through that mystery by faith come out of that tomb as servants. And that is the highest calling of all.
*****
 
Matt.15: This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
10 And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand:
11 Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.
12 Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?
13 But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.
14 Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.
15 Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable.
16 And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding?
17 Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?
18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.
19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:
20 These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.

There are many applications here as well as a few different streams of thought. This is another attack on legalism and the outward appearance as opposed to the intents of the heart. It is light years easier to outwardly march to rules and laws than it is to allow the Spirit to create a clean heart within us. Even the unbeliever can obey rules, but only a surrendered believer can have his heart sanctified and pleasing the only One who can see it.
So Jesus is clearly and unequivocally revealing how God sees things as opposed to how man sees them. Man looks upon the outward appearance while God sees the heart. Jesus is dealing with manmade religious traditions so this does not mean that things which go into your eyes and mind cannot be detrimental to your spiritual walk. We know that to be untrue. But to seek and maintain a clean heart is a labor of the Spirit. How many professing believers live every day with a view toward a clean heart? How many even know what that means? How many even care?
In spiritual terms your heart is you. Our lips can be such liars which create protections for some of our inward flaws. “As a man thinketh so is he”. The only way to cultivate a pure heart is through God’s Word and prayer, and I believe that is most powerfully measured in private. It is easier to lie to others and ourselves than it is to lie to God. Man looks upon the outward appearance but God ponders the heart. Sports and Hollywood and politics and even much of the organized church is fueled by the outward appearance and the power of human lips and the power of performance.
But the secret place of the heart is where the Spirit truly works. In the Old Testament God’s presence dwelt in the Holy of Holy upon the Ark of the Covenant between two angels. And only the High Priest was allowed to enter into that place and he only once a year on the Day of Atonement. But after Jesus died and rose again He sent the Spirit Who dwells within the heart of every true believer. And that makes a believer’s heart the Holy of Holies and we have access to that place every single moment of every single day. The blood of Jesus has been applied and the presence of God through the Holy Spirit abides within us. So what we say can only be authenticated by the Spirit for it is God Alone who lives in and tests our hearts.

It is a glorious miracle as well as a great responsibility.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Walls are Down - The Gates are Burned with Fire

THE WALLS ARE DOWN
THE GATES ARE BURNED WITH FIRE

I do not normally link to something like this but I believe it is important to place before our eyes the extent to which the church has fallen. This is a critique of the popular movie “American Sniper” which has been heralded by millions of professing believers. If bad language offends you even in this one instance then do not click on the link. But if you do you will be shocked. And I do not wish just to shock us. That would be useless. I pray it will lead us all to a deeper personal repentance. The days are drawing to a close. 


Neh.1: And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.
And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,

The walls are down. The gates are burned with fire. When the walls are down the enemy comes in from everywhere. And when the gates are burned there are no more gates. When the walls are down no gate is necessary. Sometimes I look around. Most times it just comes to me without me looking for it, but sometimes I look around. And what I see is astounding and makes me shake my head. I cannot believe what has happened.
I have been a believer for forty years and in just four decades it has gotten worse than anyone could even have imagined. What is colloquially called the “church” is a mockery of the Scriptures and the life and teachings of Jesus. There are so many false teachers and false teachings and compromises and passionless practices of the faith that it is beyond belief. Nehemiah recognized the condition of Jerusalem and he heard the commission of God, but the church is fast asleep with the exception of some discernment which usually aims at the most obvious heretics but still is blind to the overall condition of the church which includes all of us.
This should be a sad time for all true believers. The church is in worse condition than we all could have imagined, and that condition is much worse than you may think. The office of elder/pastor is a sham and has become a hideout for greedy and lazy men. Even some good things are brought into focus at the expense of Jesus and the gospel. Some churches boast about their ministry to the family unit and they treat the family like an idol. While it is true that God desires families in line with His Word, it is also true that a strong family means every family member must be a passionate follower of Jesus. All things will work together for good when that is the case.
As can be seen on some television shows you can have a loving and vibrant family and not be a self denying disciple of Jesus. Can you see the subtly here? We are not to follow the family unit, and just having a loving family has never been our goal. In fact Jesus openly claimed that many times when someone repents and seeks to be a passionate follower of Jesus it causes a schism within the family. But again idolatry has taken hold within the church and good things such as the family have become the core of the faith. People now seek a local church they feel will minister to their family and not one that will deeply challenge each individual concerning the quality of their discipleship.
That is just one of the ways in which the church has turned away from Jesus and has turned unto idols. It is a stunning tragedy of epic proportions. The fog of deception now blankets the whole ecclesiastical community in subtle and open ways and even those who can see some of the more gross deceptions and falsehoods walk in deception themselves. The carnal and deceptive climate that permeates the western church cannot be overstated. That is not to say that no churches are doing any of God’s work. No, there are still missionaries being sent all over the world and that is wonderful. But here in America the average church member lives a self centered life which is heavily weighted toward activity, fellowship, and a soothing sense of community and belonging. But the hidden spiritual and devotional life of the average church member is abysmal if not nonexistent.
Now think on this. If your eyes were opened and you could see and every house on your side of the street was engulfed in flames would you not cry out? Would your bloodstream be filled with adrenalin? Would you not forget about embarrassment and run around the neighborhood warning everyone? But if you sat on your front porch where you all the fires, including the one in your own house, could be seen and yet you kept rocking and eating, what would that tell us? It would clearly reveal you were blind to all of it, or perhaps you could see the fire in a few houses but not all. The only other answer would be you had utterly no regard for human life at all.
And so here we are and the fires of hell are consuming the community of faith subtly and openly and yet there are those who say nothing. In fact professing believers are wallowing in the fire ignorant of the burns they are sustaining and ignorant of the life this fire is claiming from them.
And here sit a group of “orthodox” firefighters chatting among each other. They have taken videos of some of the other houses as the fire rages and they comfort each other with the fact that they see those fires and they are against fire. But their house may not be engulfed in flames, but it is on fire nonetheless and yet they do not cry out against the fire in their own house. But, brothers and sisters, the whole neighborhood is on fire. Money and material goods and entertainment and nationalism and war and prayerlessness and many other things have become kindling to this fire. And there should be strong and even panicked prophetic voices crying out to all of us, but where are they? Cry out against Osteen and Warren and Copeland and all the obvious heretics, but the Spirit desires to convict us as well. Our walls are down and our gates have been burned. And that is why some of us have escaped and now are nomads. But many of us cannot go back into a burning building.
Professing believers are consumed with the most despicable forms of entertainment. If the movie houses were showing what they show now fifty years ago no evangelical would step foot in them. And yet today professing believers sit and listen to movies laced with four letter words and sexual scenes and graphic violence and think nothing of it. In fact many like it. Evangelicals by the millions are consumed with money. They think about it, they dream about, they stash it away, they labor hard for it, and compared with the time and effort they expend on their spiritual lives it is easy to see where their hearts are. And professing believers by the millions express their love and allegiance to a fallen nation and will kill and die for it if need be in spite of the teachings of Jesus. The entire “church” entity is a literal cesspool with very few exceptions.

Josh.24: 14 Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord.
15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

Here we stand in the midst of a smoldering pile of religious timber. People continue to stoke the fire and warm their hearts and lives by it. This is not the fire of God. This is the fire of hell and man’s fallen heart. Do not look for a massive repentance that sweeps across the land in thousands of churches. But God still does work within the hearts of individual believers just like he did with Jeremiah. Seek Christ through the Spirit. Reject self righteousness as strongly as you reject the compromised and deceived church. Seek to make Jesus the absolute Lord of your life. Pray over everything and set your ears to hear His voice. Fall in love with Jesus with a broken and contrite heart. Let obedience be a sweet smelling savor to our Lord and make obedience be your contentment. Pray much. Pray more. Allow the Spirit to revolutionize your prayer life. All he needs is your heart and your time. The days are evil. Stay under His shadow. Repent often. Rejoice in His love and forgiveness.

Jer.9: 23 Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches:
24 But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Those That Seem to be Somewhat

THOSE THAT SEEM TO BE SOMEWHAT
 
Gal.2: But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man's person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:

In certain ecclesiastical circles they hold conferences as do most circles, but during the conference they have a handful of men sit on the platform and field prepared questions read by the moderator. Then each man speaks as if he is “ek cathedra” and the audience takes his words, his opinions, as inspired by God. I abhor such a spectacle. It elevates men to the “inspired class” and sets them up on doctrinal pedestals. And many times, if not most, it is a redundant rehashing of the charismatic or word of faith errors. And they even put forward the God accepted style of music as they/God sees it.
I have watched and listened to many such Q & A sessions which are mostly from the orthodox wing and mostly from the reformed wing of the orthodox wing, and I have yet to see anyone openly admit their own struggles and shortcoming. I have yet to hear that they went through dry spells or that they were unsure as to the meaning of a certain passage of Scripture. I have never heard one of them share a personal experience in prayer which melted their hearts and brought them to an unexpected state of brokenness and repentance.
They often speak of repentance in the doctrinal abstract and insist it is part of the gospel, but why do they not share some deep personal repentance of their own even after they were saved or even while they pastored? I have yet to see any tangible emotion probably because they eschew emotion as it pertains to the faith. And as they go doctrinally skeet shooting with such large and easy targets, they do not seem to address the dire need of spiritual awakening among their own select community of faith.
All in all it is presented as the authoritative council who know Greek and Hebrew and who can rightly divide the Word and are sharing the Holy Grail with others. It is doctrinal humanism at its finest, and even if they are accurate in certain areas of doctrine, without personal and collective humility it becomes an award ceremony for the ecclesiastical Bourgeoisie accompanied by the requisite books and Cds and tapes.