Monday, October 20, 2014

The Greatest Deception

THE GREATEST DECEPTION

Most religious people have an understanding that if your good outweighs your bad then you will wind up in that catch all term “heaven”. If that turns out to be true then the Bible was the most deceptive and worthless book ever written, and Jesus was a ego-maniac who invented the Messiah complex. But people refuse to investigate the New Testament for themselves and see just what Jesus said and what He taught and who He claimed to be. You see, as it pertains to heaven and eternal life Jesus was the most intolerant man who ever walked the earth.

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but by Me.”

Here is a monumental statement. Do you see what is missing? There is no mention of good works at all. And in that statement there is an incredibly narrow path to the Father God. Jesus says that all, not some and not most, but all who desire to go to heaven with the Father can only go through faith in Him. In Jn.3:16 we hear “so loved the world” but we seem to downplay the “whosever believeth in me”. And this is where is gets extremely dicey.

We have established that Jesus claimed to be the exclusive path to eternal life. And we also understand that He taught that only by faith in Him, and trusting in what he did and not what you have done, can a sinner be born again and see the kingdom of God. But what does it mean to believe in Jesus? An accomplished tight wire performer attached a wire across deep ravine. He the walked across the chasm and walked back again. The crowd applauded. He then walked across and back pushing a wheelbarrow. The crowd held their breath but he made it back safely. He then placed two hundred pounds of rocks in the wheelbarrow and the crowd gasped. Slowly the man pushed that heavy wheelbarrow across the ravine on that thin wire and back again. The crowd applauded loudly as the finally exhaled.

The man stood before the crowd and asked them if they thought that he could place any one of them in the wheel barrow and push it across and back with them in the wheelbarrow. Everyone nodded and whispered, “Yes, of course”. Then the man asked for a volunteer to climb into the wheelbarrow. No one moved. You see it is one thing to say you believe, it is another to exhibit behavior that authenticates that belief. The Scriptures tell us that demons believe and tremble, but they are not redeemed. It also says that faith without works is dead. And that is an incredible phrase which sheds some light on what is called “saving faith”.

Again, please understand the progression and the redemptive process here. Before good works count for anything you first must be born again through faith alone. The cross paid for all our sins and no amount of good works can forgive one little sin to say nothing of redeeming an entire filthy sinner. So how do we understand faith which results in a life changing experience called salvation? I have known many good people who are a little religious and some who go to church and even some who are more kind and generous than some true believers I know.

But that is a great deception. Again many use works as a path to salvation and that is gross error with eternal complications. And on the other side of the same coin some believe you can mumble a prayer and be saved without a corresponding commitment. That is also a gross error. Saving faith is when you recognize something is going on in your heart. You are sensing an emptiness even though your life seems good. Perhaps you are searching for answers about eternity. Perhaps you are sorely vexed over you sin. There have been people converted as they set out to disprove the claims of Jesus and found them to be true. The Holy Spirit roams this world and knocks of the heart’s door of sinners, and when a sinner acknowledges that beckoning it may come in many forms.

In the natural no one can understand and believe that God was born of a virgin and came as a man. It is foolishness to believe that anyone can be granted eternal life because they believe in a dead Jew on a Roman cross. The human mind automatically rejects such mythology because it can do no other. No one can understand who Jesus was and what He did without the illumination of the Spirit. And when people lightly genuflect to the notion of Jesus it is because they desire heaven but are unwilling to relinquish ownership of their earthly lives. But all that means is that they still do not understand who Jesus really was outside of a lightly salted religious notion. You cannot change in order to believe in Jesus, and you cannot truly believe in Jesus without changing. It seems like an enigma, however once you are born again you begin to understand what you previously could never understand.

So those who do good works in order to receive eternal life are doomed, and those who say they believe but do not follow are likewise in great peril. No amount of manipulation or coercion can push a sinner into Christ. It is exclusively the work of the Spirit. We can be used of the Spirit to speak gospel words that the Spirit can use, but we must be very careful about leading people with the strength of our personality or oratorical prowess. I fear I have done that more than once and I have repented.

If Jesus is the only way to receive eternal life, and if that way is only through faith, then what could be a great deception that alters the faith and leads men astray? As I said it is a two sided coin but both are cousins of deception. One states that good works are necessary to gain an entrance into heaven while the other states that you can believe and go about your business as usual. The Roman Catholic Church teaches a salvation of good works, and much of the evangelical church teaches a shallow self serving believism. They both are wrong. But it is impossible for a lost good person to understand that he is walking in unbelief because many go to church and have a sentimental and religious concept of Jesus.

And here is a deception which strongly reinforces the notions that lost people have about Christianity and Jesus. When those who claim to know Jesus are just as capitalistic as are they, and when they are just as political as are they, and when they are just as economically angry as are they, and when they support war just as they do, and when the mock people as do they, and when they complain as do they, and when they seem very self righteous, then those that are lost feel as though they too are just as good as their evangelical neighbors and they have just as good of a chance to make heaven.

Yes, perhaps there is no greater stumbling block and no greater deception in this world that the church and professing believers. Gandhi once said that he would have become a Christian and not a Hindu if it were not for Christians. Sad…
 
"You must be born again." - Jesus around A.D. 29

The Glory of Being Mocked

THE GLORY OF BEING MOCKED

There is a glory to being mocked and ridiculed and receiving it without rancor or even inwardly recoiling because we feel strongly of the injustice. I have never been spit upon. I have never been whipped unmercilessly with nuggets of iron. I have never been blindfolded and punched in the face. I have never had my beard plucked out. I have never had nails driven through my hands and feet. I have never had a spear thrust into my side. I have never been put to death because I was innocent.

And yet must I refuse to bear the whips and scorns and injustices of this present world? If I reject the fellowship of His sufferings then how can I truly know Him? If I live with the same scales as the unbeliever then where is the difference? If I am offended when lies are spoken about me isn’t my pride exposed? We who profess Christ and yet live in a fallen and self consumed culture have too often allowed our lives mirror that which is not of Christ but is of the system of this world. Perhaps this is why the world cannot see Christ because they can only see who we project and cannot know the doctrines we so often rest upon.

But to in some small way experience a suffering which is unjust and unfair is an opportunity to more clearly reveal who He is through a selfless exhibition which outwardly is unexplainable and perhaps raises questions in the minds of those who know not Christ. We live in a fallen land where opportunities to shine His grace are plentiful. In an eternal perspective these sufferings are actually gifts which contain rewards all their own. We may not be awarded the same opportunities as did John Huss or Jim Elliot or many other martyrs, but all of us have been faced with glorious opportunities to suffer for His sake.

This issue is the very heart of Christlikeness. Most of the visible church in America knows nothing of Jesus and His ways. They complain about all sorts of things and they castigate those who they feel strip them of the rights they have in an earthly democracy. And in so doing they completely leave the majesty which speaks of Christ and they embrace a fallen and self serving culture which demands what seems to be rightfully theirs. But we have not so learned through Christ. In fact that is thoroughly at odds with the Christ we profess.

You see professing Christ goes much deeper than written doctrines and systematic theologies. The faith that truly professes Christ demands a level of self denial which offends the flesh and relinquishes the things and rights of this world. But, sadly, the church in America has long since moved away from such weakness and has raised the banner of earthly warriors when all the time victory can only be achieved through a denial of self and a loving and compassionate response to personal injury.

To see mocking and injustices as being toward Him and not ourselves brings us back to the cross. Can you not understand just how diametrically opposed to this world are the ways of Christ? Following Jesus does not require a better and more moral version of an earthly life. God forbid! The life which truly follows and exhibits Christ is a costly life. It will cost you your earthly opinions. It will cost you your earthly rights. It will cost you your personal defenses. It will cost you any retaliations. It will cost you earthly crusades. It will cost you your entire earthly life because it belongs to Him.

To be entangled with this world mocks Christ, but to endure personal mocking with grace lifts Him up. The Scriptures declare that if any man suffer as a Christian and receive it with forgiveness and grace he reveals the Lord Jesus. But it does not say if you suffer because of morality or capitalism or in defense of a national kingdom of this world. What a great tragedy it is to see that the much of the visible church lives in the reality which the kingdom of darkness has offered. Professing believers engage in moral crusades and political tit for tats and all kinds of confrontations with dead men. And the redemptive essence of the everlasting gospel is thoroughly diluted and compromised. And now, instead of the glory of Jesus Christ shining through selfless lanterns of His grace the church rejoices in the pottage of earthly elections. And if by chance some liberal or gay people or Muslims speak words of mocking and ridicule, well then, they might expect a retaliation which renders evil for evil.

Indeed, this can never be the faith which follows Jesus unless the New Testament is a complete fraud. And the question remains. How can someone who denies himself and who has died to himself be offended and retaliate when he is being attacked or ridiculed or mocked? Does that not reveal that he has not denied himself and that he still lives for himself and not for Christ? And in light of the New Testament teachings on willingly and gladly enduring such things, when we are offended does that also not reveal that we are disobeying the Word we say we believe?

We live in a culture which promotes individualism and personal achievement, and we are taught from birth to stand up for ourselves and don’t let anyone push you around. But those things are counter to a Christian walk. We must take inventory of all we hold dear in the church because much of it is unbiblical and unchristian. The One we claim to follow described Himself as “meek, and lowly in heart” but we have repacked Him and made Him a political activist and a harsh moralist and a strong capitalist. This, sadly, is another Jesus and not the Jesus of the gospels and surely not the Jesus of the cross. God help us to drain ourselves of ourselves so that He alone lives in and through us. And if along the way we mocked then let us receive it gladly as an offering of praise before our Master.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Eternal Word

THE ETERNAL WORD

Without God there is no Word, and without the Word there is no church. I fear that many millions who adorn evangelical pews stand in great jeopardy concerning their eternal souls while they listen to soothsayers who make a great living tickling their ears. If God’s Holy Word does not come forth from the pulpit then you are left with a religious thespian standing on a stage and reciting the soliloquies of men.

The world lives in darkness, but when the church becomes dark what hope do they have? When the salt has lost its flavor and the light is under a bushel and the heart is hardened then those in darkness wait in vain for a gospel witness. Look around and see how so much of the church not only walks in darkness but embraces it.

Heb.4: 12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

If the sword does not cut then it is the butter knife of men and not the Sword of the Spirit. There is a double-edged crisis within the western church. We need a return to the Word of God without cultural dilutions, and we need a return to the life which imitates Jesus who is the Word. If you have ever listened to the likes of Al Sharpton, or Joel Osteen, or Rick Warren, you should now be aware that men can use parts of the Scriptures and make it sing most any song they wish. And cults like the Jehovah’s Witness and the Mormons do the very same thing. So we must be very careful because there are slick and reasonable theologies out there which are camouflaged falsehoods.

Men like Joel Osteen begin every sermon with a joke, and then a meaningless mantra that makes everyone feel good about themselves. Seducers throughout the land manipulate people and convince them of their goodness and worth and potential. And the Word of God is destroyed in the midst of the people and the congregation loves to have it so. You can mark this down. In this day and age if you have a large church you are almost assuredly a false teacher. We are living in a time of great apostasy when men and women are making merchandise of the people and truth lies slain in the streets.

In reality God was never obligated to communicate with mankind after the fall. We had betrayed Him and became our own god, and after we had been given paradise God could have just washed His hands of us and destroyed mankind. But not only did God communicate with us, but He gave us His eternal Word. It was in this Word we found who God is and whom we are and where we could find redemption. It is called the gospel and the Redeemer’s name is Jesus. All this was in this precious Word. This was more than information. It was inspiration as well.

But this Word is more than just a communication of knowledge even though that is of great value indeed. Jesus said His words are spirit. And in these spirit words there is power. In a wonderful mystery these words contain a power which can infect and affect a human heart, mind, and life. They can and do completely change a sinner, redeem his soul, and begin a process of transformation which is observable to others and which is glorious to us who have been changed and are continuing to change. We did not change by pulling up our own bootstraps even though we sometimes entertain that falsehood.

When a believer is changed it is always by the power of God’s eternal Word. Our part is to surrender to that power by a steadfastness and diligence to that Word. Oh it may seem to us that through our own efforts we have turned over new leaves and molded our own lives, but that is not the case at all. All the glory goes to Christ and His Word which in another mystery are one. When we say such things we are dancing on sacred pinheads that deal with the most delicate of mysteries. The things of the Spirit can never be understood by human eyes and human minds. That kind of communication can only be transmitted through the Spirit and carried invisibly upon the wings of God’s Holy Word. It is then and only then can we understand genuine truth to which the mind attaches human words, but the Spirit disseminates it with a knowledge and an enlightenment which transcends words. No unbeliever can understand such foolishness, but to each of us who have experienced the grandeur and life altering power of that process it will always be glorious indeed.

Following Jesus can never be done without a love and obedience and hunger for His infallible Word. Every true disciple can only gain strength through the life giving manna of that Word. Like plugging in an electric car, when a believer sets his being to read and eat of God’s Word not only does he gain strength, but he partakes of life itself.

Like someone looking for Cairo while reading a map of China, so is the poor sinner who looks for meaning and redemption without reading the path illuminated in God’s Word. Of course that Word has been dissected and made into neat theologies and argued over and translated and retranslated and paraphrased and abused and compromised and a legion of other assaults upon its integrity, power, and truth. But none of them individually or as a company of attackers can create one single breach which can reduce its power and majesty and eternal glory. Even the earthenware teachings which instruct us in morality and everyday behavior soar with eternal glory.

But how many professing believer stop at the earthenware and leave the unfathomable majesties contained in that Word undiscovered? You see all the treasures are within that Word if we are so hungry that we are relentless and will not be denied. To dig for that kind of treasure is a labor of love indeed. And in another wonderful mystery the more treasure you find the more you want…the more you need. And can I lead you into a sacred place where most never enter nor even know exists?

This spiritual treasure, immeasurable in its worth, not only fills us with wonder and amazement and thrills the soul beyond words, but each nugget of this treasure undoes us. Yes, it is true. But who among enjoys surgery? I have had several surgeries upon my body and I would have avoided them if I could have. But when the Spirit cuts us it is painful and yet wonderful all within those same cuts. These spiritual treasures come with their own scalpels. While we are exhilarated by their incandescence we are being circumcised once again, and with each cut we are being set free and the burdens we have embraced are now lifted by the power and grace of His matchless Word. Oh the glory of it all! Call us madmen and we will agree. Call us unbalanced and we will pray for more. Call us fools and we will gladly own it as a moniker for Him.

But suppose a man is looking for buried treasure. He has dug many holes and has found some but he knows there is much more to be found. In fact someone has told him there are many different caverns beneath the ground, but there is one colossal cavern in which all the treasures he is searching for exist. So he digs and digs and digs until finally he sees a hole which seems to lead to an enormous opening. He sends down a mirror into that opening and he cannot believe his eyes. He has found that colossal cavern and as he turns and twists the mirror he begins to shake. The treasures he is seeing are beyond his wildest dreams, and as he attempts to see just how large this cavern is he realizes that the treasure goes on with no end and there is no horizon in sight.

But oh my dear friends, that is but a story. But in reality that cavern of profound and endless treasure can be found in Jesus. If you would take every true Bible ever written and ever printed and placed them in a magnificent compacter which was as large as the ocean, and if you squeezed and squeezed and squeezed until finally you could squeeze no more. And if you opened that vessel and looked down you would see a Person had been formed. His name is Jesus. And in that Person were all the Scriptures and all the truths and all the promises and all eternity itself. Everything of eternal value can be found in Jesus. And if you took the entire Bible and all the translations and all the commentaries and all the systematic theologies and all the organized doctrines and imputed them all into a divine computer and pressed the print button, out would come the word Jesus.

Col.2: In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Do you see? The Spirit said ALL. This is a great and deep mystery into which the Spirit has granted us access. Please read that sentence again. This is a great and deep mystery into which the Spirit has granted us access. Perhaps, after salvation, there is no more revelation of grace than that. Not only has Jesus redeemed our souls, but He allows us, yea beckons us, to come and dine with Him and be nourished by the fruits which fall from His lips. Oh my, what kind of love is this? We were all Charles Manson’s of sorts, and yet the Holy Lamb invites us to His table?

But, you say, I cannot find that table. How can I get there? Where is the path? Well, the path is clearly marked by Holy Writ and Sacred Revelation. The Scriptures not only point to Christ, but inside them is the power to uncover more and more of His eternal majesty. This is much more than holding up a Bible and shouting “I believe this book!” and waving it in the face of some unbelieving sinner or moral miscreants. This is a path that with every step unveils more and more of the Risen Christ and reveals more and more of our desperate need for Him even after we were redeemed. If this path does not consistently humble you and strip you of your disgusting pride then you are on the wrong path.

The Word is not a self righteous tool wielded in order to prove our orthodoxy and to morally bruise the lost. No, never. This is an instrument of the Spirit which must be used to build up our inner man while crucifying that which rears its ugly head against the things of Christ. The Word is the transfusion given to us in order to kill the flesh and nourish the spirit. But those who read it cannot gloss over it in order to find that which seems to always comfort and reassure you. Those things indeed will come, but if that Scriptural mirror does not often disturb your spiritual sensibilities then I suggest the steam of your own desires and pride have clouded the clarity of your reflection.

We must never use the Word for our own purposes, but we must seek to let the Word use us for the purposes of God. And within the spiritual pages of that Word we will not find things that serve us. But will find things that serve Him, and the more we see of Him the less we see of Him. We must decrease and He must increase. Amen.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Western Church no Longer Follows Jesus

THE WESTERN CHURCH NO LONGER FOLLOWS JESUS

I have addressed a few areas which point to the apostasy of the western church.

EMBRACING FALSE TEACHERS

Do not be deceived. We are living in a time of great deception which has nothing to do with Israel or America or Muslims. The evil one has come by night and sown tares among us and these tares speak lies with a seared conscience and the people love to have it so. Yes, there have been earthquakes and heat waves and violence and wars and rumors of wars and pestilence and famine and other things. These could be signs of the end, however only God knows. We should be prepared regardless of any signs. But there is one sign about which we can be sure.

Matt.24: 11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.

II Pet.2: But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.
And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.
And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.

II Tim.4: For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

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.

These can be verified. There is a great and horrific spectacle today. There are heretics and false prophets who are warning people about certain signs and therefore making themselves to be angels of light. How dare men use God’s Word and His warnings to fill their barns and line their pockets. One thing is for sure. God will one day bring swift destruction upon these filthy dreamers who have made merchandise of many gullible people and have twisted God’s Word and made it their own evil golden goose. God honors His Word above His name, and one day His wrath will be unleashed upon men and women who have corrupted His holy Word and worship their bellies as their god.

But you, my brethren, stand fast in His Holy Word and His holy presence. Close your hearts and ears to falsehoods, and maintain a broken and contrite spirit. The deception will only get worse. Keep looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith. The landscape is filled with heretics and false teachers, but we must watch and pray. I must warn others, but I will not get consumed with false teachers. I strive to be consumed with the Daystar as He rises with healing in His wings. Creation is groaning in anticipation of His coming, but we who are bondslaves to the Master mare loving His appearing. Come, Lord Jesus, your bride awaits you drenched in your blood and clothed in the garments of your spotless grace. Halleluiah! Behold! The Bridegroom cometh!!! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!!!!!!!!!!!

SELF SACRIFICE

Rom.12: I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Men will sacrifice sleep and entertainment and social interaction in order to gain apromotion at work and a financial raise. They will willingly sacrifice time and energy and even their health to achieve superiority in athletics. They will spend many hours attempting to get in shape and make them feel better about themselves. Some will sacrifice greatly in order to get a degree which may help them in a career. But how many professing believers sacrifice for Christ to say nothing of our entire beings being a living sacrifice?

And yet a professing believer in the pursuit of success and prosperity can sacrifice time away from his family, and literally drive himself to the brink of exhaustion seeking earthly benefits and all the while he might be considered a faithful and devout believer because he is a member in good standing at his local assembly. And in the light of Scripture just how is this possible?

Let us be painfully honest before the God of His Word. We have left the nourishing pastures of His eternal Word and we have been feeding sumptuously upon the fallen pastures of this present world. And the culture in which we live has slowly but surely become ours and has even made its way into the assembly of believers we call the church. And so now we compare ourselves with ourselves instead of the mirror of God’s Word.

But I ask you once again. What do we really sacrifice for Jesus Christ. How many stay up late to pray and worship or meditate upon His Word? How many will rise early and head for the secret place of the Most High? How many will go without food in order to suppress the flesh and enhance the Spirit? How many will give to gospel causes to the point of having to stretch pennies in their own lives? How many will suffer injustices to them personally by word or deed and refuse to even share it with another human being, but instead they offer up forgiveness as a sacrifice of praise?

The faith has rejected sacrifice and now is a faith which heralds self aggrandizement. The spectacle which calls itself Christian television cannot be more horrific and against everything Jesus lived and taught. It is a hideous and loathsome display of human idolatry and abject heresy. And perhaps millions will give money to these liars not because they desire to reach souls, but because they desire personal prosperity. You see the culture has taught the church that God wants us to be rich and that poverty is a curse regardless of the circumstances. And so sacrifice belongs to the weak and unproductive, but riches belong to those who believe it. So not only do western believers not desire nor practice personal sacrifice, we are complete strangers to even the concept of being living sacrifices.

HUMAN CELEBRITY

Gal. As for those who were held in high esteem—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism—they added nothing to my message. (NIV)

Years ago when some Hollywood star or some popular singer claimed to be a Christian they were invited to speak at churches all across the country regardless of how deep or how new was their confession of faith. Celebrity was the rage and professing believers flocked to hear whatever they had to say based almost completely upon their status as a celebrity. But it wasn’t long before that celebrity spirit began to be passed onto the preachers. Soon people would flock to hear a certain preacher and in some cases pay money to do so.

Some preachers had their own study Bible, a bevy of books, a catalogue of sermon CD’s, and even some memorabilia. The atmosphere was like a rock concert and the man or woman was treated like a god. This phenomenon has had many repercussions. Many celebrity preachers have followers who have come so far in their idolatry that they will believe almost anything their particular preacher says or teaches. It is truly an unholy spirit which makes the Word of God subservient to the words of man even though these preachers suggest they get their truth from the Scriptures.

Whenever we elevate any man or woman regardless of their charismatic personality or communicated prowess we enter into humanism at its very worst. And the direct result is the de-elevation of the Word of God and the deepest compromise of the ministry of the Spirit. This is running absolutely rampant in the western evangelical church. Yes it is mostly happening with false teachers, but there is also a celebrity spirit among the orthodox crowd as well. Even if a preacher is a faithful steward of God’s Word he must never be an idol or seen as an official “Oracle” of God. This is so damaging to the body of Christ, and if practiced over a number of years it begins to tear away at the fabric of personal growth in the Spirit. Consider the implications of this: There is a substantive difference between believing what preacher says and believing what the Word of God says even if they are identical.

It is one thing to recognize and benefit from Spurgeon’s gift of preaching, but it is another to see him as having a direct line to God that is not available to you and me. But it is so easy to become entrapped by the spirit of celebrity for several reasons. There is a competitive spirit that goes along with it. There is also a spirit of belonging to a clique, as well as some self righteousness and a subtle perception that when we champion certain well known preachers we are on their perceived spiritual level. The entire phenomenon is extremely subtle and in these days not so subtle.

If only we would fully embrace the truth that we are earthen vessels recreated by regeneration and now these earthen vessels should be lanterns for Christ and His glory, and we should constantly seek to remove ourselves from any limelight. That is a much greater task than we can imagine. Every fiber of our flesh desires importance and recognition and praise. Even when we are being used of the Spirit our flesh still demands through subtle means to be seen as wonderful and even the active agent in our service. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Everything we are, and everything we will one day become, and every act we do which reflects Jesus, all of it is of Him and none of us. Dare we take credit for things He has done through us by His grace? God forbid! Imagine the priests carrying the ark and people see all the gold and magnificence and even some of the illuminated glory and the priests begin to point at themselves. We could never imagine such a scenario and yet preachers and singers and politicians, all who claim to know Jesus, are consistently pointing to themselves. It is a disgrace and an utter falsehood. In the end, when the kingdom of God comes to earth and King Jesus sits on His throne, it will be clear to all of us that He alone always deserved all the glory, honor, and praise. And purely by grace we were privileged to be His servants both now and forever. Praise His matchless name!

MAKING FORGIVENESS MUNDANE

Col.1: 14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:

The words roll from our lips like saying “I want fries with that”. This issue of forgiveness is so often treated as kindergarten theology and bumper a sticker phrase. Oh but my dear friends, divine forgiveness is not just some magnanimous wave of the magic wand. Forgiveness from a Holy God carries with it a monumental price without which no sinner can enter the Gates of Splendor.

Inherent within this act of forgiveness is a transaction and redemption purchased by a unsearchable act of selfless suffering, pain, and death. This has never been doctrinal child’s play. This enters a realm where angels dare not enter and in truth might never understand. The blood that was shed was the blood of God, and the motivation for such a sacrifice was the heart of Almighty God. Who really can know it? Who among dare suggest we have it figured out and can smugly stand and elaborate the finest detail?

If Christ had died for just one vile sinner like myself it still would be a colossal wonder and the mystery of all mysteries. But to know by Scripture that the Lamb of God died for all of us should make our hearts tremble and strip of us of a single molecule of pride as well as allowing us to surrender as eternal servants of the Glorious Savior. Let us never allow forgiveness become a mundane issue from which we who are now so mature we have moved on from that word and from that reality. That a vicious and wanton sinner should stand forgiven in the presence of infinite holiness cannot be completely fathomed by any so called theologian.

One infraction by Adam thrust the entire human race into spiritual death. It was so easy and required just one bite of the forbidden fruit. There was nothing sinister with that fruit, but there was the betrayal of the ages in Adam’s act. And in order for any man to have the Father’s forgiveness it would be a divine path that led the Suffering Servant through untold horrors and rejection. And from Emanuel’s veins we worthless rebels would find the only forgiveness that could ever be found. And that blood, that precious and holy blood, was tapped by punches and thorns and whips and nails and swords. And a human frame, beaten without mercy and covered in His own blood, slumps in death upon two Roman planks.

You want forgiveness? Then you must not turn away from this gruesome spectacle. In fact you must gaze upon it with true faith even though it may be through eyes filled with tears. No amount of remorse will do. No penance will bring you one step closer. No resolutions to do better can forgive even one sin. No, this sacrifice by God’s Holy Lamb is the only gate through which forgiveness is even possible. And once by faith we step into a land we never deserved and could never earn, let us never speak glibly about the glorious and gracious essence of our forgiveness. Again this is not some theology 101. This is the pinnacle of God’s revelation and the zenith of all the acts of the Creator God.

This is God, dressed in human flesh, and unveiling Himself and His love in a way which is foreign to human minds but which can free the imprisoned soul and place in his heart and upon his lips the word…forgiven. Selah.

EMBRACING UNHOLY BORDERS

Heb.11: 15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.
16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

The visible church in the west has ceased looking for a heavenly country and has embraced a fallen country because it provides them with prosperity. There can be no debate about this fact. It is evident in our buildings, our church structure, our debt, our self indulgences, our willingness for war, and our indifference to the sufferings of people all over the world. Because the church considers itself American it willingly lives with nationalistic blinders which keeps it blind to the Spirit’s ministry and places borders on the gospel mission.

This deception is so strong that most Americans, believers and unbelievers, live with an unspoken and even a spoken assessment that American lives are worth more than any other lives in earth. This is a spirit of antichrist. It is this kind of earthly affection which ignores the plight of millions while feasting upon the fruit of our own hands as if God Himself was an American. Giving to the poor used to be a hallmark of the faith as lived, but now personal prosperity has muscled most of that out. God even commanded the Jews to not harvest the corners of their crop fields so that strangers who were hungry could be fed.

But now the church is concerned with stopping illegals because they might negatively affect the economy. This is the state of the faith once delivered to the saints. No longer concerned, much less consumed, with the plight of others we are willing to go to war to protect our own fields while billions starve. And we insist by the strength of our doctrines that we are following Jesus. We are not.

When did the Bride of Christ attach her heart to earthly, manmade borders and refuse to lift up her eyes and see the borderless fields? When we embrace such borders we become its slave and we are loyal defenders of a fallen kingdom. This is no small thing. In fact this is a monstrous sin which is not practiced in secret, but is lauded in public and encouraged in pulpits. And while committing spiritual adultery the church brings its whore to church with no shame at all. And the western church insists that it can dine with Christ and Jezebel together, and that Jezebel is actually a part of Christ. How can we understand such apostasy?

Just a simple understanding of Jn.3:16 reveals that God’s heart is not divided into countries. But man has created nationalistic divides and prideful camps, and the church has followed suit. It is so antichrist and it renders the church as a reflection of its earthly culture rather than that of Christ. Even in the Middle East where Palestinians suffer greatly the western church turns a deaf and uncaring ear because they stand for Israel unconditionally. And what is the motive for this? Do not be deceived, it all goes back to money. Western evangelicals believe God will bless them and their country if the support Israel in anything and everything.

But the core of the western evangelical church can be summed up in one word. Self.

JESUS

Perhaps all the above can be summed up as a complete retreat, and even a denial, of Jesus. It is a clandestine denial which is camouflaged by theologies and doctrines and morality and many other diversions. The overarching question is this: Can we actually believe in Jesus and deny His teachings and not strive to follow in His footsteps? That is serious business. The western church has been assimilated by the culture and in so doing has left Jesus and His teachings. And therefore can any church which embraces the morality and politics and economics of the fallen culture around it be considered truly Christian? Or is that kind of religion a blurred facsimile of Christianity which when examined under the microscope of the four gospels would be found as a contradiction of all Jesus lived and taught?

Yes, that is a very serious question with eternal ramifications. Are we too entrenched or too afraid to examine our faith in that kind of blinding light? Can we continue to march to the redundant beat of the cultural drums and the spoon fed pabulum emanating from western pulpits which soothe the conscience and obscure the truth of Jesus and ultimately appeal to our own desires and dreams? Read the Sermon on the Mount through three times and see if what Jesus taught mirrors what the western church teaches and believes and practices. What you read may in fact have eternal implications.

We as orthodox evangelicals castigate the cults for changing the essence of the God/man called Jesus, but have we not done despite to that same Person? Is it enough to proclaim that Jesus was God in the flesh and the second Person of the Trinity, or must there be a parallel embracing of what He taught and lived that authenticates our doctrinal declarations? Will it be doctrinal orthodoxy standing alone that opens the doors to heaven, or must there be a life which seeks to follow the Christ of our doctrines as well?

And herein lies the eternal question. Who is Jesus, and what did He live and teach? That question goes way beyond a perfunctory doctrinal dissertation complete with all the doctrinal phylacteries and original language translations. Gather a host of Koine Greek experts and have them systematically translate the original texts with accuracy and integrity. Does that make them believing followers of Jesus? God forbid! There are those who tacitly embrace doctrinal orthodoxy, and then there are those who are militant students of doctrinal orthodoxy. But that does not make any of them disciples of the Jesus who they can accurately reveal with exegetical expertise.

You see, with the advent of the Industrial revolution, and with the rise of literacy among the common man, the church has become a bastion of doctrinal information and the orthodox banner called the statement of faith. However when it comes to receiving the teachings of Jesus as literal the church has overwhelming chosen to genuflect to the understanding of those teachings through the prism of western culture.

All of the above in this post clearly points to a horrific and astounding fact.
The western church no longer believes in nor follows Jesus.

Forgiveness

FORGIVENESS
 
Col.1: 14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:

The words roll from our lips like saying “I want fries with that”. This issue of forgiveness is so often treated as kindergarten theology and a bumper sticker phrase. Oh but my dear friends, divine forgiveness is not just some magnanimous wave of the magic wand. Forgiveness from a Holy God carries with it a monumental price without which no sinner can enter the Gates of Splendor.

Inherent within this act of forgiveness is a transaction and redemption purchased by an unsearchable act of selfless suffering, pain, and death. This has never been doctrinal child’s play. This enters a realm where angels dare not enter and in truth might never understand. The blood that was shed was the blood of God, and the motivation for such a sacrifice was the heart of Almighty God. Who really can know it? Who among us dare suggest we have it figured out and can smugly stand and elaborate the finest detail?

If Christ had died for just one vile sinner like myself it still would be a colossal wonder and the mystery of all mysteries. But to know by Scripture that the Lamb of God died for all of us should make our hearts tremble and strip of us of a single molecule of pride as well as allowing us to surrender as eternal servants of the Glorious Savior. Let us never allow forgiveness to become a mundane issue from which we who are now so mature we have moved on from that word and from that reality. That a vicious and wanton sinner should stand forgiven in the presence of infinite holiness cannot be completely fathomed by any so called theologian.

One seemingly minor infraction by Adam thrust the entire human race into spiritual death. It was so easy and required just one bite of the forbidden fruit. There was nothing sinister with that fruit, but there was the betrayal of the ages in Adam’s act. And in order for any man to have the Father’s forgiveness it would be a divine path that led the Suffering Servant through untold horrors and rejection. And from Emanuel’s veins we worthless rebels would find the only forgiveness that could ever be found. And that blood, that precious and holy blood, was tapped by punches and thorns and whips and nails and swords. And a human frame, beaten without mercy and covered in His own blood, slumps in death upon two Roman planks.

You want forgiveness? Then you must not turn away from this gruesome spectacle. In fact you must gaze upon it with true faith even though it may be through eyes filled with tears. No amount of remorse will do. No penance will bring you one step closer. No resolutions to do better can forgive even one sin. No, this sacrifice by God’s Holy Lamb is the only gate through which forgiveness is even possible. And once by faith we step into a land we never deserved and could never earn, let us never speak glibly about the glorious and gracious essence of our forgiveness. Again this is not some theology 101. This is the pinnacle of God’s revelation and the zenith of all the acts of the Creator God.

This is God, dressed in human flesh, and unveiling Himself and His love in a way which is foreign to human minds but which can free the imprisoned soul and place in his heart and upon his lips the word…forgiven. Selah.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

God Our Savior

God Our Savior

Heb.11-6 - God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
2Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
3Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high:
4Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
5For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?
6And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.
T
here is no God but Jesus. I realize God has revealed Himself in three Persons, but Jesus is the cornerstone and the prism through which any accurate revelation of God can and must be seen. Many religions use the generic term for “god”, but without Jesus they are all false caricatures of the Creator. I personally feel that the oneness of the Trinity is much more one than we can even imagine. The perception that many of us have about three gods moving and acting and even being completely separate I fear is finite and significantly erroneous, but it is to be expected since the finite is limited in its understanding of the scope of the divine.

We are limited, but blessed, with the Scriptural revelation of God, and Jesus is at the very center of all of those revelations. Even the Old Testament speaks of Jesus according to Christ Himself. The question that must be at the center of all theology must be, “Who is Jesus?” And in the world of the cults, the Person of Christ is usually the favorite target of falsehoods. And while wholly anchored in the scriptural revelation of the Lord Jesus, there is also a realm where he that believes is called to manifest such faith and love in ways that go beyond his doctrinal creeds. There is a subtle but significant difference between loyalty to a dogma and loyalty to Christ Himself.

The entire company of Old Testament priests and prophets were mouthpieces that on many levels gave insight and witness to God, His will, and His coming Incarnation. But when the Son came forth from a virgin, the revelation of God, His will, and His very Person was completely revealed in that same Person. God now speaks through His Son, and all Scriptures, regardless of the topic, must be eternally tethered to God the Son named Jesus. The Person of Jesus goes beyond just a mere prism through which God speaks and reveals Himself; the Person of Jesus is God and is the Word and is the only and complete revelation of the being known as God.

So who is God? Jesus. Of this there can be no compromise or negotiation. Absolute truth cannot be negotiated or cushioned, and the fact that Jesus is God is the zenith of all absolute truths. It cannot coexist with anything that claims otherwise. Other religions, however sincere or beneficial to the earthly man, must not only bow to the Lord Jesus, they must be obliterated. The mystery of God is revealed in Jesus without any damage to that mystery. And any religion that claims that Jesus has another name is revealed as a lie.

And so our spiritual allegiance is called upon to be placed entirely upon the Lord Jesus, for if we parse out our allegiance to anything or anyone other than Jesus, we have denied Him. To deny Jesus is spiritual and eternal death, regardless of how we dress up our denial. Jesus is the Monarch of all Monarchs and the Master of all Masters and He holds a place high above any and all earthly pretenders. The day will come, and is rapidly approaching, when Jesus will return to be revealed to all living creatures as the Risen and Glorified Christ. And of His kingdom there will be no end.

Like a time funnel, all things are pointing toward the revelation of Jesus the Christ, and the entire universe, past, present and future will bow to Him, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. There is no other way; there is no other life; there is no other truth; there is no other God our Savior.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Give me...

**********
Give me an unkempt man on a street corner preaching "You must be born again" than 100 well coiffed men preaching a well crafted message in air conditioned auditoriums who make a great living doing so.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

A Self Righteous Gospel

A SELF RIGHTEOUS GOSPEL
 
This post is not about the LGBT community or how they view themselves. Although I do believe some people are born with aberrant mental perspectives about themselves and same sex attractions because of the continuing consequences of the fall, this is not about that entirely. The main thrust of this post is about the blatant, aggressive, and colossal self righteousness which continues to permeate the moralistic, patriotic American evangelical community. It is a disgusting display of moral and spiritual hubris which compromises the gospel and presents believers as bastions of morality at the expense of redemption.

It is so very easy to say you believe in the fall of man through a doctrinal perspective. That is so safe and avoids any dangerous gospel outreach to certain classes of sinners. But if you truly wish to follow Jesus outside the safety of the doctrinal camp and touch lepers, then you must take your doctrine of original sin and death and juxtapose it upon the doctrine of redemption by grace through faith. How did the church ever get to the point of attacking certain lost sinners because they sin and demanding they change before they are redeemed? The gospel has always been a lifeline to sinners worldwide regardless of what sin they commit or what sinful agenda they are promoting. If we cannot over look those things then we must also reject the cross.

Unless you are willing to risk your moral reputation you will never touch all the citizens of the lost kingdom. If they criticized Jesus for loving sinners with a portfolio of open debauchery and sexual sinfulness must we avoid being judged unfairly because we also love the same community of sinners? And the most despicable part of any unjust condemnation is that most times it comes from the self righteous evangelical community that has been captured by the political spirit that chooses sides Jesus never chose. Until God takes me home I will not remain silent in the face of a safe gospel which is comfortable from behind pulpits but recoils at the thought of being living and loving gospel witnesses deep inside a western leper colony.

Once you have been redeemed through the gospel of grace through Jesus Christ our Lord you should be filled with unspeakable gratefulness as well as unspeakable humility. So how did the evangelical community ever come to join hands with the hubris of politics and moral crusades? How did we ever come to the place where we were rescued and yet turned around to condemn those from whom we just came and who stand in desperate need of a rescue themselves? It is mindboggling if you see it for what it is. It goes against the mission of our Savior and it is diametrically opposed to the life of Jesus and His gospel.

Peruse the internet and read the posts on conservative blogs and news feeds which purport to be Christian. Most of them champion a patriotic spirit as well as a moral crusade and a mission to save this fallen culture. And yet millions of professing believers consume their message and allow it to affect and infect their minds and hearts. And in so doing they move further and further away from Christ and His gospel of redemptive love. To receive the gospel of grace for your own soul and then present it on a plate of moral condemnation to those still lost is self righteousness and hubris on a breathtaking scale. But, sadly, it is the prevailing spirit in the western evangelical community.

But that spirit can be openly identified as self righteousness. It sits back and categorizes each leper according to their sin. Evangelical, heterosexual adultery and divorce and remarriage is forgivable and demands no crusade, but same sex attractions by lost sinners must be aggressively confronted, not with the gospel of redemption, but with condemnatory rhetoric. And this confrontation is so important to defending a lost and hedonistic culture that joining hands with cult members and conservative unbelievers is now acceptable. That is open rebellion to God’s Word and presents an affection for a nation and a culture which is above any affection for God’s Word regardless of all the inerrancy rhetoric.

Jesus had every opportunity to present His views on same sex practice, and yet He used the judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah to judge the heart of Pharisees and moralists. It surely was not that the Savior approved of or condoned sin, but as was His common motive He often revealed a self righteous heart as the worst sin of all. That was a common thread throughout His life and teachings. And yet we seem to overlook the core of His teachings so that we can construct a man made gospel which condemns lost sinners rather than loves them a la the cross of Christ. And after decades of embracing such a false ecclesiastical construct the church has become entrenched and imprisoned by a deception which blinds the heart with moral and national blindfolds.

Because I believe in ministering to the LGBT community with the gospel and not presenting myself as an adversary, many professing believers want to know if I would marry a gay couple. You see, instead of judging their own heart they judge mine. Of course I would never marry a gay couple. But I would attempt to surrender to the guidance of the Spirit and love and minister to them. It seems there is nothing more disconcerting to the evangelical community than loving LGBT people without providing a doctrinal portfolio complete with the rhetoric of condemnation.

For the record, I have long since cleansed my portfolio from such unchristian rhetoric.

But just who are redemption ready sinners? Are they the ones who have reformed themselves by the strength of their fallen flesh and then deserve a gospel presentation as if it was icing on the cake? Are those who press forward an agenda that promotes acceptance of their sin, are they unworthy of divine love and the gospel? Must we condemn them so no one can accuse us of being soft on sin? But let us examine the record. There was man who dedicated his life to searching for followers of Jesus and killing them, albeit not by beheading but by stoning. I guess we might consider that more antiseptic and humane?

That man’s name was Saul of Tarsus. In today’s toxic spiritual environment we would pray that troops would bomb him with accuracy and kill him. Most churches would rejoice over such a scenario. But Jesus came to Saul and saved his soul. I submit there is a great divide between the ministry of Jesus and the ministry of a culture bound, nationalistic church. Actually, in earthly terms, Paul was murderer and deserved death himself, and yet Jesus saved him and anointed him to be the prophet of the gospel. Can you imagine such a thing today? Believers by the millions literally hate Muslims and gays and many others kinds of sinners. The majority of professing believers in America approve of drone strikes in order to preserve our fallen way of life.

The overarching point of my post is that the western church has left the gospel of grace and now practices a gospel of moral law. And we have culled out a few choice sins and made them our whipping boys. You can take a glass of pure milk and add a few drops of arsenic and the entire glass in undrinkable. It has become poison even though it is 99% pure milk. And when you add anything to the gospel you compromise the entire thing and make it carnal poison.

And just what is our definition of grace? Does it contain small amounts of law? That is a contaminated gospel which straddles the fence between law and grace. Let us cease from our attempts to reform lost sinners and our self righteous moral phylacteries and let us live and preach the gospel of redemption by grace through faith in Christ Jesus our Lord. It takes a deep faith in Jesus in order to overlook the sins and see the souls.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Jesus is Life

JESUS IS LIFE

Happiness on this earth is hollow, temporary, and in many ways as fleeting as a mouth full of cotton candy. It can sometimes treat the senses and the emotions to a short lived banquet, but in the end all of us are called to a trail of tears. But in Christ there is more than earthly happiness. There is joy unspeakable and full of glory. It is the kind of emotional reality that draws its strength from faith and the immutability of the Triune God. It is a river which runs deeper than this world can ever know. It is a life which breathes in another world and whose heart beats with the invisible blood of His Spirit.

The life which believes in and seeks to follow Jesus is a miracle of grace about which words truly fail. It is filled with joy and hope and grace and a partial grasp of eternity which carries with it a guarantee of a future fullness realized. Struggles and tribulations will surely come, but in Christ we can drink from an unquenchable well of living water that sustains the soul, refreshes the heart, and provides life in a world of death.

This is Jesus, my friends. Unleashed from some doctrinal prison and allowed to be the tangible Lord of All, He alone has within His loins that which even the fallen heart secretly seeks albeit in a multitude of dried up pools and scorched landscapes. You see, Jesus IS life. He not gives life to all who believe, but Jesus IS life. When you find Christ you have found life. There is no other fountain other than Christ. And once you have found Jesus you know for a surety that you never knew true life before.

Yes, we must forever proclaim Him as Lord and Savior and the Giver of Eternal Life. To those outside it seems like foolishness and religious superstition and fanaticism. But to the most despicable sinner who has experienced the cleansing power of His gracious blood it is the eternal nourishment which gives and sustains his very life. All searches cease when you find Jesus…all searches but one. When you have been made whole and stand forgiven by His grace the search begins to know more and more of the One who opened your coffin and breathed the breath of eternal life into your soul.

Halleluiah! What a Savior!!!!!