Sunday, October 28, 2007

Who is a False Teacher?

There is much talk today of false teachers and false prophets, and well there should be. The Scriptures warn us of these people especially in the last days. But when is a person’s teaching become so offensive and unscriptural that he must be labeled a false teacher? For example, Rick Warren believes the correct gospel but has formulated its presentation in such a pragmatic fashion that many people believe he has taken the “meat” and effectiveness from the message. Additionally he joins hands with unsaved people including gays and mormons in humanitarian efforts. He could be called shallow, or a compromiser, or even a liberal, but should he be called a false teacher?

And then there are conservative men who teach salvation through baptism and other forms of ceremonial sacramentalism, are they who we mean by false teachers? Some teach that man has no free will while others teach the opposite, are either of these people false teachers? See, the waters get very murky and it is easy to just throw an indiscriminate blanket over groups of people without a careful and Biblical comparison. If we are not careful we make those words just colloquial invectives and remove the seriousness that should accompany their use.

And that is my question, what standard is Biblical in calling a person a false teacher? There are those who call almost everyone a false teacher who don’t agree with them, but they are not serious contributors to this kind of discussion. And of course there are many who would never label anyone as a false teacher and they as well would not be productive in this discussion since they also are one sided. I grapple with this myself, not wanting to be hysterical and yet realizing there are false teachers today. It is an important issue because the sheep are being herded every which way in today’s doctrinal pastures and they must be warned and protected. Let us examine the major references to false teachers and prophets in the New Testament, there are others but these are the most descriptive and direct.

Mk.13:22 - For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect.

Our Lord reveals that sometimes false teachers are able to do signs and wonders either real or false, and Jesus indicates that by these miracles these false prophets will seduce and draw people away from following Christ. There are a group of preachers today who specialize in signs and wonders or what they have constructed to appear as such. And people flock to see these performances which usually have token and shallow gospel presentations designed to make newsletters and mailing addresses in America. These people can easily be called false teachers and false prophets.

They also “prophesy” be speaking out in the first person as if God was speaking through them as a sign to the people. Can you imagine such things and yet people listen and believe almost anything they say, after all, it was God speaking. “Words of knowledge” also are spoken and they call out health conditions as if God was revealing this to them and it is meant to be a sign. In a crowd of thousands it is safe bet that someone will have a back problem or sore neck or diabetes, but thy never can give a name without an earpiece. And it seems strange that God never reveals adultery or some other sin because that would severely constrict the attendance for the next night. These men and women are false prophets and they have deceived many. But by the miracle of God’s grace I do not discount the fact that some can get saved at these meetings or even that some of these false teachers are saved themselves.

Acts 13:6 - And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus:

This man who was also called Elymas was interfering with Paul’s witnessing especially to the sheriff and Paul called upon God to make him blind which He did. Now this false prophet was involved in witchcraft and his main purpose was to turn people from the faith. In verse 10 Paul says he tries to “pervert the right ways of the Lord”. So the main substance of this false prophet’s intentions was to pervert the teachings of the Lord. Under this category we can see many today who are doing just that. Despite all the obvious teachings in the New Testament to the contrary, these false prophets teach that being right with God will bring monetary benefits. Giving will bring getting and in fact, God desires everyone to be wealthy.

It is of no little coincidence that this teaching did not arise out of a poor country but out of a hedonistic and capitalistic society. These people have perverted the ways of he Lord and they teach a false gospel of materialism and barely even believe much less mention the atonement. The false teachers benefit by having made merchandise of the people and many live in opulence while the followers remain deceived by their words and by their own greed. And the deception is so strong that even when some are exposed as deceivers by the world their “ministries” remain intact.

Another kind of false teacher that would apply here are those who teach that God’s grace frees us to live in any fashion that we so choose. With these men there are no Biblical parameters of separation from questionable and sinful activities because they have covered everything with a cheap grace. Now of course there are legalists who have a set of rules, but for this study I am dealing with those who pervert God’s ways and turn His grace into uncleanness and a lifestyle that brings bondage not freedom. They also are false teachers who have perverted the Scriptures.

II Cor. 11:13 - For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.

Now as a context Paul warns in II Cor.11:4 of men who will come preaching another Jesus and another gospel other than the one that Jesus gave to Paul directly. These people are very dangerous and the most potent aspect of their deception is that they profess to be preaching the same gospel as Paul and the same Jesus as revealed in Scripture but they are not. This can range from the delusional Mormon teaching about who Jesus is all the way to the most subtle nuance that actually changes the perception about who Jesus really is. Sometimes the same words can be used in such a way as to alter the definition of the Savior’s person and mission and therefore it becomes toxic just by a slight departure from sound Biblical teaching. There are many of these false teachers alive and well today who have not found the Jesus of Wesley and Spurgeon and Whitefield fulfilling and relevant to this generation and have massaged His image into one that appeals to us in this post modern world.

Now many today are quietly and with deft dismantling the atoning aspect of Jesus’ work and transferring it into one that seeks to affect a kingdom change on this earth by use of acts of kindness and a general unity among all the different religions and peoples. They teach that Jesus’ work and desire today is not focused as much on the historical understanding about saving souls, but it is now a sociological metamorphosis that makes this world a better place in which to live and sees people treating each other better. The teeth of redemption has been removed and in fact some teach that redemption can be found in places other than Jesus. These are false teachers who Paul says are transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.

II Pet.2:1 - 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 Peter gives another description of these false teachers that even deny Jesus. This denial comes in open and clandestine forms, one completely denying Jesus altogether while others claim to embrace Him but deny Him by their teachings. Teaching about God’s Son is serious business that requires the most careful and sacred motivation that seeks to reveal Him as He is, not packaging Him as a nice fit in this western culture. Jesus did not come to make this world better and as a matter of fact He predicted this world will continue to get worse and worse.

I personally believe these “damnable heresies” that Peter mentions are those that alter either who Jesus was or what He accomplished or both. And this is very fragile and can even be twisted by a different focus rather than an open departure. When we focus on the humanitarian works of Christ we run the risk of diminishing, though not denying, His redemptive work which was the primary reason for His incarnation. It doesn’t take long when our focus is diverted before we have constructed some kingdom spreading doctrine that envisions a better planet rather than a gospel spreading commission that seeks and saves that which was lost. And that is a damnable heresy that seems so heart felt and compassionate but in reality is a lie from the core of hell itself.

I Jn.4:1 - Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

John points us to those who would deny or question or even alter the incarnation. These false teachers are in concert with the spirits of anti-christ who seek to deceive people about Jesus in many different ways. And today the church has been tarnished by all these many different views of who Jesus is and what He desires, and like going through a doctrinal house of distorted mirrors there are hundreds of caricatures of the Risen Christ that resemble the lusts of men and not the revelation of the Spirit. When Jesus asked, “Who do men say that I am?” he was exposing their confusion, but when the Spirit reveals Who He is we will proclaim “You are the Christ, Son of the Living God!”.

This issue of false teachers has always been important in maintaining some semblance of truth in the church but it has never been more important than it is today. And be wise about the pervasiveness of the evil one’s deception and manipulation because in the midst of sincere confrontation concerning error he will simultaneously attempt to have us devour one another. Have you ever seen hungry lions devouring a kill? Sometimes the frenzy gets so intense that they attack each other and so it so often is with Christians. It is a catch-22 about which we must be vigilant so that our stand for God’s Word never disintegrates into a scortched earth advance that has discernment about error but little discernment concerning true brothers and sisters in Christ. It is a challenge that requires spiritual maturity and measured rebuke and includes a very careful use of spiritual invectives such as false teachers and false prophets and the like.

It is so easy to be ambivalent about the growing apostasy and just as easy to create a verbal swath of destruction that refuses to prayerfully distinguish between all the many different levels of seriousness but treats any issue the same and in so doing we lose credibility and any unity that may have been preserved. And our discernment will necessitate a delicate sensitivity that rejects unfounded and easy broad strokes of a self righteous verbal brush. There will be many times we are uneasy or unsure about certain men and their teachings, but we cannot give in to lazy research or the magnetism of their gentle personality. But in the end there is no easy answer and while we should pursue unity it cannot be at any cost, division is inevitable.

There are false teachers and false prophets roaming the evangelical landscape today and they must be identified with boldness and humility, rebuke and love, truth and grace, and let us pray that the Spirit will use the danger of these times to drive the church collectively and individually back to God’s Word to drink its milk and eat its meat. We have grown complacent in our journey to seek His face and hide His Word in our hearts, come, let us return like a deer to the brook and drink fully and often to the only spring that can provide life to our bones.

II Tim.3:5 - Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Reflecting God's Sovereignty

God is sovereign. No words can fully encompass that infinite truth. The finite can never capture the infinite and the servant can never define His sovereign. Upon creation God did not set things in motion outside His jurisdiction and relegate Himself to a hapless bystander, no never, woven into every atom of creation is His divine sovereignty which is sometimes hidden and other times revealed but at all times active and intertwined in a unified reign that glorifies Him and His eternal sovereignty. This attribute of Almighty God is one upon which we must dwell and meditate because we are so prone to imagine ourselves as in control and are generating history by the power of our own wills, but that it a mirage of our own imagination.

We who hold to the gift of God’s free will must especially put ourselves in remembrance of this vital truth for it has an impact on how we act and especially the depth of our faith. We sometimes say we believe that the free will of man was given by God completely under the auspices of His sovereign will and then we go to incredible extremes as if our creativeness in methodology can tip the balance and change the will of the Father, but in spiritual reality we cannot. All of us use methodology, whether it be by object lesson or music or drama or books or pictures or testimonies, we all can and should use some methodology that can bridge the understanding and upon which the Spirit can communicate His own truth and not just our interpretation of that same truth.

But our methodology must never shroud the truth and overwhelm it with entertainment, culture, or just an enjoyment of theatrical creativity while the truth is either diluted or wholly obscured by the methodological power of the presentation. That kind of communication reveals how we can sometimes assume that the power lies with us and not in the ministry of God’s Spirit operating completely under the sovereignty of Almighty God. We ourselves should be moving and praying with the fullest of understanding that God is not waiting to see what happens, He is being glorified in everything as it unfolds regardless of the actions of man, including you and me. How glorious is that knowledge!

Now as we contemplate that knowledge and as we cultivate that awareness it should have a direct impact upon the depth of our faith in our Lord. Knowing that we have a free will, and that we can and are used as conduits, and that we can and do sometimes disobey God, and that God desires to reach the world with the gospel through us, and realizing that we fall short in that assignment, but in all of it still knowing and resting in the permeating solace that no matter how it appears to our eyes or our understanding God is still in utter and complete control of every single detail. Should that not enhance our rest in Him? Should that not place our faith in a deeper place even while we labor for His kingdom? And should that not reveal an incredibly more expansive view of the Mighty God we serve and worship? There remains therefore a rest for God’s people and it is found in Him.

With this glorious truth as our foundation, there sometimes comes a tension especially as it pertains to events that happen within the church. How do we address those that teach error and the general doctrinal free for all in the evangelical world today? Here again God’s sovereignty must not only come into play, it must be the platform of our faith. As we Scripturally confront error and false teaching we must season our speech with a tangible revelation that God is in control. It amazes me that among those who claim they espouse a stronger understanding of God’s sovereignty in the affairs of men, they can be so vitriolic in their correction as if God’s will was somehow being abrogated and it was up to them to save the doctrinal day. Our reformed brothers must again receive a revelation of the sovereignty of God and with that they can be released from the frustration that so often packages their correction. And when they enter into the rest that comes with not only believing in God’s sovereign control but also in abiding in that same knowledge, they can be released from the prison of obsession they so often exhibit about others. To be obsessed about individuals and their teachings draws the life out of the devotion we should have to our wonderful Savior, and in the end it renders any theology as wanting.

Speak out for sure, but always in our speech is not only a love for people whether lost or saved, but a humble grace that shines forth a confidence that God is in control and He never needs our chronic emotional vitriol that seems to suggest we have no real rest in the Sovereign Himself.
There is a subtle self aggrandizement that can easily ride with doctrinal correction. It not only lends itself to a feeling of pride about our own doctrinal standing, it secretly inflates our view about the necessity and significance of our calling. If God is in control, then our voice must reflect that in love and faith when speaking correction and even rebuke to a brother or sister. Only God is worthy, not us even when standing for the truth, only God, only God. And if we live and move and have our being under the canopy of His sovereignty, we are free to love and extend grace even while strongly correcting and confronting the ills that may infect the church.

If the goodness of God leads us to repentance, how is it we feel that caustic hyperbole and satirical mocking will lead anyone to see their error and repent? Do we think we are higher than God and His ways? The honest truth is that name calling and pontificating is no more honoring to God than the object of that self righteous methodology, and in fact it becomes an addiction. Searching for error can and has become an addictive narcotic in many corners of the church world. I feel so badly for those who have a genuine heart for God’s Word and a thirst for His truth but have become entangled with a distorted view of how God anoints people to call the wayward sheep back to the safety of the flock. I know personally how easy it is to get caught up in a cloud of our own flesh while still legitimately standing for God’s Word. It is a deeper level of subtlety that requires the devil to join with our flesh and deceive us into thinking we are speaking directly for God just because we are speaking truth. In Acts 16 we see a women who was possessed with a demon and went behind Paul and the other apostles and proclaimed, “These men are the servants of the Most High God,”. You see, she spoke the truth but she was not speaking for God.

And with that example we must continually, I said continually, examine our hearts and our words and our motives before God especially when we are speaking with any authority and correction. Without humility correction is just the voice of the flesh and without love it is worse yet - nothing. Who God loves He corrects, so let that be our example. And before we go riding into the battle with guns blazing and bullets flying, let us first climb down from our great steed of correction, fall on our knees in honor of God’s grace and sovereignty, and beg our voice and heart be His. And as you get up to again mount your steed, you might just hear God instruct you to mount the steed of His choosing not yours. What steed could that be, you think? Well, it just might be the same steed that Jesus mounted as He entered Jerusalem the week before His death. Oh my, with that the wind has been taken from our own sails and we now must depend fully on the wind of the sovereign Spirit which sends us where He desires.

Brothers and sisters, let us all again enter into that glorious and freeing revelation that God is in complete control, and even though God may use us nothing depends upon us. But how then does our obedience matter in God’s panoramic and redemptive plan, and if we must go and tell the world how then can everything depend upon God? You, my friend, have asked a question that will always remain behind a dark glass, only giving some gracious glimpses while still remaining a glorious and majestic mystery. We do know this, when the last breath has been taken, when the last word has been spoken, when the last message has been preached, and when the last prayer has been prayed, God will be revealed exalted and His sovereign power will redound to His own glory, and we will be allowed to understand that from the beginning to the end all things have been accomplished by the power of His will and the glory of His Person.

And upon that truth take your rest, my brethren,

it is already finished in His eyes.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Handling the Oracles of God

Rom.3:1-2 - What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.

Paul has just taken the end of chapter 2 to explain the spiritual nature of salvation, specifically solidifying that true salvation is not found in being an ethnic Jew, and that the claim of being a “child of Abraham” holds no favor in the redemptive sight of the Father God. As a matter of fact Paul dismantles the pride that sometimes accompanied (and still does) the adherence to the law, and throughout Paul's writings and ministry in general he will be anointed by God's Spirit to break the yoke of the law of Moses from the hearts of the Jews and Gentiles in order for them to be married to Christ.

In Romans 7 Paul uses the metaphor of marriage to teach us how we are to be dead to the Old Testament law so we can be, by faith, married to Christ. Paul restates the law in saying that a woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives and if she marries another while her husband is still alive she shall be called an adulteress. So he says the law must be dead to us in order for us to be wed to Christ. What a glorious picture of the sinner abandoning his worthless attempt at gaining his own salvation through the filthy rags of his own works and by faith he throws himself upon the finished work of the spotless Lamb of God, Jesus the Christ.

But as Paul begins chapter 3 he rhetorically asks the question that if all these things be true for salvation then of what benefit is it to be a Jew? The next verse is tucked away in the obscurity of this Pauline book that contains many verses we all know and remember, but this one gets overlooked. And yet this is an incredibly important verse that carries with it panoramic implications for today's evangelical crisis. Paul says that aside from any personal salvidic benefits of being a Jew there is a premier, a chief accolade that has been conferred upon the Jewish people by God Himself. Think about this, the Scriptures tell us that the Jews were God's chosen people and with that came many blessings that were given to them. But Paul says one blessing, one divine responsibility, stands above all the rest in their legacy. They were given the infinite responsibility of receiving, protecting, and proclaiming the "oracles of God", which means God's Word on earth.

Stop and digest that for a moment because as the Spirit reminded me of this verse and its implications I was brought to an altar of meditation and reassessing of what that meant for today. God could have said that the primary responsibility that God bestowed upon the Jews was the lineage of the Messiah, but He didn't. God could have said that the primary responsibility that God bestowed upon the Jews was the blood sacrifice system, but He didn't. God could have used many responsibilities upon which He entrusted the Jews, but among all of them He said the crown jewel was that they were entrusted with His Holy Word. God considers His Word of such sacred importance that He places His committing His Word to the Jewish people as the single most important event in all of Jewish history, and perhaps all history until Bethlehem. And Paul reminds the Jews of this heritage and with it the implications it has for us today.

Rom.2:29 - But he is a Jew which is one inwardly...

Notice the ramifications of what Paul taught concerning being one of God's people. He says you must be a child of God from the inside, not the outside, and in many places we are the New Testament Jews in a manner of speaking, although God seems to have an end times plan for Israel. So if we are the "Israel of God", or the grafted in Jews, what legacy and divine inheritance must be ours in connection to the Jewish people? It leaped out to me by God's Spirit and began to fill in all gaps. Unto us as well has been committed the oracles of God, and the same divine esteem that God gave to that commission in the Old Testament He gives to us in the New Testament. We have no choice, we must receive, protect, and proclaim God's eternal Word. This is not an option, this is the most solemn command of all.

I Pet.1:24-25 - For all flesh is as grass and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withers and the flower falls away, But the Word of the Lord endures forever.

Everything is changing. We are seeing dramatic changes in every area of our lives, how we live, how we think, how we do everything continues to change according to the dictates of this present world. And the church world has not escaped, no, we also have knowingly and unknowingly conformed our worship and even the way we think about our Lord distilled through the prism of this present world, as did almost every other generation. So what seems to be different about our generation? Two things.

One is that we now embrace ecclesiastical change without much if any discernment or resistance, and there is very little challenge to its edifying power when held to the standard of God’s Word or the fruit it produces. The only standard today seems to be does it work, and by that we mean does it gather people and keep them coming, and can it build buildings. Do people enjoy it enough to come and keep coming, and will they give money to keep it going, that is what passes as the approval of God on a western Christian ministry. And as grievous as that is, it isn’t the deepest departure from the plan of God that is taking place today in the church.

The most serious abrogation that continues to gain unbridled momentum today is directly connected to that little verse in Romans chapter 2. The Oracles of God have been committed to us and we are not treating them with carefulness and honor, instead we have imprisoned them to cultural interpretations and are in the process of not only changing their meanings, but changing their very nature. Even referring to them as the “Oracles of God” would seem strange and antiquated to many today who desire the Scriptures to be more of a modern “how to” manual than the very redemptive truths of Almighty God. Salvation is treated as either an equal step in a spiritual journey or a process of higher spiritual education. God has spoken and He has used man to write what He has said, and with that being the essential element of Scriptures we must be careful about how God’s Word is handled and taught. Very careful.

So reading this verse that illuminates God’s view of how He desires His Word to be handled has painted the picture even more clearly concerning the mess that the church has made of God’s Word. These writings that we call the Bible are not just a collection of moral sayings that are addressed generally to anyone who chooses to listen, no, these are God’s Words sent from heaven and miraculously contained in human writings and also miraculously translated into different languages which are again miraculously taken by God’s Spirit and fed into the human spirit as revelation. It is an enormous miracle from beginning to end. But without that as an agreed upon backdrop they become points of interest for semi-inquiring minds and moral guidance for an overall society that believes in god. And the quest for political morality has added to the confusion over God's Word since the issue must always be Jesus the Christ and not morality. And the books of men have not only taken the place of Scripture, they have questioned their meaning by the clandestine use of thought provoking philosophy disguised as religious discourse. And we are no longer in the beginning stages, a new and eager generation is now at the helm with a recognizable energy that feeds the post modern appetite for “new”. These men are brilliant and equipped with original language credentials and with literary and oratorical gifts with which to disseminate these new teachings.

It is a heart grieving experience to stop and see the streams of Christian thought and practice today, and there seems to be no real lines anymore of concrete orthodox teaching. And if you think you will find some unified solace in the discernment ministries do not get your hopes up for there is as much entrenched mess there as anywhere else. The abundance of new ox carts, designed by the proletariat to meet the itching ears of the bourgeoisie, continue to deliver the Word with palatable ineffectiveness and wrapped in very little power. An entire generation of professing believers will never have seen tears of repentance coming from their preacher, much less the pew dwellers. The entire world is heading for a Christless eternity and the congregation sheds no tears and we feel no convicting power of the Spirit. We have made the Word understandable, colorful, enjoyable, and communicated in even the basest of language and yet where is the sacrifice that shines from its disciples? And the born again experience, where a sinner is dramatically changed during one anointed church service is becoming more rare every day.

And we who see a departure are having church as usual, no solemn assemblies called for fasting and prayer, and within our acoustically friendly walls is felt the carnal assurance that we have identified the leaders of this departure and we are satisfied with shouting at its darkness. The mocking, the names, the smirks, the satire, the jokes, the disdain, and all the many invectives produce no more spiritual power than a Sunday morning special sung by Barney Fife. We who see it will give the greater account, and especially when God has gifted us with a spiritual vision that comes only from His grace, the Sovereign will require more than frustrated words. After all He has given to us can we not return to Him the multiplied talents He has entrusted to or care? His Word, people, His Word. As the Patriarch David remarked, “Is there not a cause?”

Arguing will just keep us immobilized, and even discourse must be with wisdom. Dialogue seems to be one of the ways in which error gains credibility, and we will be, we should be, called closed minded at times because there will be many times where God will direct us to close our minds to be "simple concerning evil and wise concerning good". Frustration must never pass for boldness and grace must be the seasoning that authenticates our boldness. We must endure criticism, endeavoring not to respond in like kind, and if faithful, God will bring us to a place where will can humbly rejoice when men say things about us. This battle is not ours, we have been called to it, it was waging long before Adam inhaled God's own breath. It is a privilege to be used of God but it is all for His glory and none of ours - spiritual words but contained in them is a continual sifting, repenting, forgiving, meekness, and a constant awareness of His presence and guidance. Ask God to loose you from the competitive spirit in our discourse so that His truth may shine free from the dross of our own flesh. Contending for God's truth is many times easier than contending for our own personal conforming to the Savior.

I am a certified nobody, but I have given an honest ear to some of the more controversial movements in the church today and I have found little or no surety upon which to place my Scriptural foot, in fact I have become grieved over what I see, read, and hear. And even when there is some teaching of benefit it becomes as I have said before, like finding a nickel in a spittoon. It is bad enough to see that most Christians enjoy the most sensual and carnal of entertainment venues without a shred of conviction, but the deepest wound is to watch as followers of Christ who know a measure of God’s Word give an ear to the most blasphemous teachings as if that man had something to say. And it is a bona fide deception, not from God’s hand as some self righteous would-be theologians would have you believe, but it is the spirit of the evil One blinding the eyes of the church as well as the world.

You as a New Testament believer will be held accountable by God as to what you did with His very Oracles, and make no mistake that day looms large on the horizon. And the greatest challenge will be to discern the Spirit’s command through Jude to “keep yourselves in the love of God” and the Apostle Peter’s admonition to be “clothed with humility”. We have no God given right to change God’s Word concerning ourselves when confronting others who are changing that same Word, no, we must "strive lawfully". You and I must pray until our hearts become an alabaster box, broken and poured out in obedience before Him. If we have no tears we have no anointing. If we have no compassion we will not have God’s blessing. If we spend more time enjoying this world than we do in the prayer closet we are only living for ourselves. If we love our doctrines more than we love Jesus and His people we are pretending. If we have no humility we are just noise. And if we have no love we are nothing.

But if we refuse to take an uncomfortable stand for God’s Word; if we allow shallowness to dull its sharpness; if we entertain false teaching about His Oracles; if we remain silent about the move away from uncompromising redemptive truth as revealed eternally through the glory of God’s immutable Word; then at the very least we have dishonored our Heavenly Father and worse yet we stand as candidates for deception itself. In these days we will even have to separate from some things that seem authentic but still do not ring completely true in our spirits because they are tethered to other teachings that we know are false. And finally brothers and sisters, flee from those who say that these are not perilous times and that the church is not falling away but is opening new doors of understanding concerning these Oracles of which I refer. Pray for them but humbly flee, they themselves are part of the perilous times.

We are living in days of great opportunities for deception as well as reward, let us continually ask the Father to direct our paths to His glory for as His child that is our very life.

Ps.119:89 - For ever, O Lord, thy Word is settled in heaven.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Only a Glimpse

Eph.3:17-19 - That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith that you being rooted and grounded in love may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and to know the love of God which passes knowledge…

I saw a sight that I had a hard time believing. It was a room filled with everything good that had ever been made, and then there were things that no one had ever seen or known. A baby’s first breath was there as well as that baby’s very first steps. The first time that baby hugged his mommy and told his daddy that he loved him was in that room. The emotions of that mommy were there and the pride of a father was there as well. The satisfaction of hunger, the sight of our eyes, the air that we breathe, the water we drink, and the love of a family to each other was in that room.

The laughter and the tears of joy and the comfort in sorrow were there, as well as the strength to labor and receive the rewards of that labor were evident, and the watch care of the parents was in that room. The awe of the heavens and the appreciation of the gift of earth to man was there and the love of birds and dogs and all the animals that came from the creative hand of God. The joy of life and relationships was in that room that was opened unto me.

As I looked across the room I saw a manger placed providentially in the countryside of Judea and with it a star. And in that manger I saw a light growing so much brighter than it had on the other things, much brighter. And coming out from that manger was a figure, a humble and unremarkable figure, but clothed in such brightness that it both blinded and attracted my eyes all at once. As that figure of a man moved it chased the darkness and seemed to leave a path of brightness in his wake. Again I looked and saw a cross, made of wood, and it seemed to be waiting for this figure of sorrows and He approached it with a different kind of joy not known outside that room.

I saw this figure upon this cross, still brilliant and bright, but with a crimson hue shining out from this dying figure. And as this figure bowed His head one last time the light grew even brighter although He did not move. I heard cries at this cross and yet rejoicing in another part of this room. And then I saw the light disappear and go behind a large stone. It became dark for a season and that figure, bruised and beaten, was seen no more. As I kept watching I saw something I shall never forget, I saw that stone completely engulfed in heaven’s light, and it moved away from its resting place and revealed the mouth of a cave.

Out from this cave came that same figure surrounded with the most exquisite and powerful light of glory that I could never have imagined ever existed. He moved out from that cave and spoke to some people and went up out of sight. As the light dissipated I began to see first hundreds, then thousands, then hundreds of thousands, and then I saw multitudes of people bowing down in darkness before the empty cross and tomb, and as they rose the darkness left and they were dressed in robes of the purest light. No longer in darkness and chains, they were now free and living before the throne of God. I moved closer to the door of the room and I asked of the angel,

“What is all this in this room?”

The angel replied, “This is the room of the infinite love of God”.

I could not believe the length and depth and height and breadth of all I had seen from the doorway of the magnificent room containing all the expressions of God's love. I looked at the angel and said with awe,

“I believe today I have seen all of God’s immeasurable love”.

The angel smiled at me and said gently,

“Sir, the door to this room of God’s love has only been slightly cracked open. You have only seen a glimpse".

And as I looked at the door there was written on the front a saying:

I am the door...Jesus.
God is love.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Truth War Casualties

Resue the perishing, care for the dying...

There are many teenagers who now go through a variety of emotional and sexual manifestations that are not only not mainstream, some are obviously bizarre and self destructive on many levels. One of the most intriguing and bewildering exhibitions of emotional instability is the phenomenon known as “cutting”. This is where a teen, usually a girl, will derive some emotional relaxation by cutting her own flesh. They will take a razor or knife or some other sharp object and cut the flesh on their arms or some other place on their body. Usually these cuts do not require medical attention so the secrecy of their actions remains intact, but why would someone cut themselves and what benefit emotionally is derived from cutting?

We may never figure out the reasons with any amount of accuracy, but we can know with complete assurance they are in desperate need of help. They, like the goth, gay, and other communities of the lost world, do not need mocking and ridicule, they need Christ to meet them at the very intersect of their crisis. How dare the body of Christ, saved only by God’s grace, ever mock or berate them or use them in any self serving posters like visual stepping stones to a further self righteous elevation. The Lord reveals that “such were some of you” and indeed we were, but through God’s grace we have been changed. But these “cutters” are so representative of the lost world, desperately seeking any way to relieve the pain and unhappiness that has burrowed itself deep within their hearts.

Have we learned nothing from the way we railed at homosexuals in the past and thereby misrepresented the gospel of Jesus Christ, and by that misrepresentation the devil blinded them to the only hope they had? Will we continue in like manner to hammer home the sin and the sinner along with it, or will we sacrifice our precious reputations and eat with sinners and publicans and gays in order to shine a redeeming light where darkness now prevails? And do we now buy into the false teaching that God hates the sinner as well as the sin and in so doing soothe our carnal conscience? And if God hates these sinners then so should we, but don’t worry, they hate themselves anyway.

And while the workers spend an abundance of time in the theological threshing floor rehashing the doctrinal points concerning people like these cutters, the real life children of Adam continue to cut themselves inside and out only to be mocked by posters and pictures and because they do not know the Ten Commandments. Are we willing to be cut in their place? He was. They have a hope which was given for their sins, but that hope loses something when it comes mixed with pride and condescending humor or scorn about them and their bondage. We are so ambivalent about the unimaginably deep pain that some experience from a horror that describes their childhood. We are indignant about some petty mercantile mistreatment and yet some of these kids walk daily with suicide as a companion searching for any hope, and if they don’t find it death will find them.

I have grown so weary of the meaningless banter and smug effervescence about the sins of others when the church as a whole lies exposed as having a heartless and restricted view of the suffering and spiritual condition of the entire world. Tonight there will be young girls who so hate themselves and their predicament that they will secretly wound themselves and somehow appease the inward battle momentarily. Who will reach out in love to them? Who will mend and not mock? Who will see their blood and remember His for them? Who will leave the doctrinal debate long enough to feel compassion about their souls? Whose eyes will be so like Jesus’ eyes that they will look past their rebellion, their makeup, their dress, and their language and see their souls?

There is much talk of truth wars these days, but is that truth restricted and confined to pen and paper, or is the truth alive and waiting to be carried by the recipients of grace to sinners who need it? Put yourself in her place, she is 14 years old and she comes from a broken family. Her biological father left when she was 8 years old and since then she has never felt the same. Her mother married the first man that she dated after the divorce and he began to molest this young girl three years ago. He drinks and has a violent temper, and he has threatened to kill her if she ever tells anyone. At 14 she has no idea what to do being both frightened and lonely.

Two years ago she began to secretly cut herself on her upper arms and it seemed to relieve some of the pain. So she crawls into a closet in her room and methodically wounds herself with a razor blade, leaving marks and bleeding cuts. She feels that it is the only thing that keeps her from taking her own life, she is all alone. Her pain is unbearable and some of the kids at school mock her because she dresses in black and keeps to herself with only a couple like minded girls as friends. She tries to avoid coming home as much as possible, so she endures the looks and disdain from people in the mall where she hangs out. She has no future and has almost given up. One day after her step dad had left visiting her again, she crawls into her closet with her best friend, the razor.

This time she can no longer bear it and with a final determination she deeply cuts her wrists and lays sobbing and dies. She will no longer be fodder for a discourse on methodology. She can no longer pose for a satirical poster. No one will have to roll their eyes in scorn when they see her. If anyone had shed any tears for her they may stop now. And yes, she went to hell so she can be placed into evidence on the orthodox side. And the tens of thousands of sisters who continue to walk the same excruciating path that she has now left will follow her one way or the other, it’s just a matter of time.

But there is One who allowed Himself to be cut for her and those like her. His cuts were not to relieve His pain and His sins, they were for her sins and the pain they brought. He desires someone to care enough to bring that news to her. Someone who is willing to disengage from the ministry of exposing sins long enough to take up the ministry of covering sins. Someone who would leave the well lit and self absorbed room of doctrinal badminton and enter the dark and dangerous room of sharing hope with the hopeless. Someone who is so enveloped with compassion that they could overlook her sins to get to her soul. Someone who would take a break from the truth war long enough to get that truth to her.

And so the truth war was won after many, many literary battles, but, in the midst of victory, many sinners were lost.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Majesty of Salvation

The salvation that only comes through Jesus Christ is an event and experience and transformation that has no competitors, it stands alone in substance and majesty. Salvation takes a person who is dead in sins, separated from His very own Creator, and not only illuminates him as to his sin but simultaneously illuminates his heart to his Creator who awaits as his Redeemer. Now remember this revelation is taking place without the sinner changing at all, he is still a sinner. What? Am I saying the drunk doesn’t have to stop being a drunk before God will save him?

Yes! That is exactly what salvation is. A man feels a distinct pain in his abdomen, so his wife drives him to the hospital and as they walk through the emergency room doors does the nurse say, ”No, we cannot take you until you are healed!”? Of course not, it is a hospital for sick people. And the Lord Jesus said that the righteous don’t need a Savior, it’s the unrighteous, praise His name! The vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives! Can you fathom the brilliant glory that comes with that moment of spiritual illumination and faith? I can remember as I applied to Bible school that I did not believe I would be accepted because of my past, I had no idea that sinners of all depths could be called of God because I still had not grasped the expansiveness of God’s grace, I still fall short in that.

The atmosphere that surrounds a sinner as he begins to perceive the truth of the gospel must be electric in the spirit world. Imagine, a hell-bound sinner, lost in the darkness of his sin, and the Holy Spirit has entered his understanding. As he meditates upon the revelation he has begun to receive he comes to a majestic point of order in his own heart, and with heaven listening and the Spirit empowering, that one sinner believes on the Lord Jesus Christ in complete accordance with the foreknowledge of Almighty God. And in an instant, he is saved for all eternity. Oh my, how can mere words describe such a scene, and even though on the outside there may be no demonstration that would actually mirror the situation, all of heaven is rejoicing.

Please do not ascribe even a tiny bit of a mundane nature to this, or even equate it to a coronation of a king, both scenarios are pitiful as competitors. The translation of a sinner from darkness to light, lost to found, and death to life is the single most important event that happens today upon the planet earth. We have a tendency to get so cavalier and complacent about salvation that it must grieve the very heart of God. You watch a sermon on abortion and the crowd goes wild. Watch a preacher talk of the evils of the compromising church and the torches start burning. Arminianism verses Calvinism, pre-tribulation verses post-tribulation, or so many other subjects that bring forth excitement and interest and book sales way out distance the mundane atmosphere of the salvation of a soul.

We have lost sight of the Saving Christ. Sure He is the Coming Christ, and He is the Reigning Christ, and He is the Healing Christ, and He is the Great Shepherd Christ, but first He was the Saving Christ. He came to seek and save that which was lost, that is the entire purpose of His entrance through the virgin body of a daughter of David providentially sidetracked into a stable in Bethlehem. The writer of Hebrews says it is “so great salvation” and David begs God to return the joy of God’s salvation to his heart. And we who are the redeemed have treated our salvation as if it is one of the childish things Paul admonished believers to move away from, hardly, it is our headquarters from where we must dwell in His presence. True discipleship is growing deeper into this very salvation that has changed us forever. Salvation is Jesus, and it begins with a transaction of faith and continues with a journey of faith as we learn more of our wonderful Lord and Master and Savior.

Do not ever lose the “Christmas morning” feeling of awe about your salvation. Do not let the discourse concerning the finer points of doctrine and eschatological views damper the tangible joy you have for just being a child of the Most High in all His Glory and Majesty. If you have gotten over your salvation you must go back because you have gotten over Jesus Himself. The battle that raged on Calvary’s cross is beyond our comprehension, and the price that was paid is expressed in words that could be used in purchasing a gallon of milk, but it is so much more, so much more and above all that we could ask or think, and we must continually bow down and drink from the freshness of the brook that continues to course our very body and cleanses us from all sin in His sight. Our salvation confounds Michael the Archangel.

Now upon the moment an individual sinner believes on Jesus and is born again, his eternal place before God in heaven is sealed. The sufferings of Jesus have become effective in his life and soul, but like the ten lepers how many times do people walk away healed of sin and yet never returning continually to thank our Savior? Have we become too sophisticated to fall before Jesus again and again to thank Him for his unspeakable salvation? We should have spent eternity separated from God in torment and yet we will now be invited like Mephibosheth to the everlasting table of our King!. There are no words, but there must always be our hearts in concert with an attempt at words that glorify and worship the Captain of our Salvation.

The offer of salvation is infinitely exquisite in its breadth and depth, and the condescending love that is inherent in such an offer cannot be plumbed by the self circular thinking of man. This is no self help program or something that gets you through this life, no, this is God sharing Himself and His eternal dwelling place with sinners who do not even deserve even His thought. Why oh why would God desire to reclaim such a race as ours? And how does holiness reach out to depravity? And with God being august and pristine in glory and absolutely in need of nothing, what motivation is this we see in God the Son going and God the Father sending and God the Holy Spirit drawing? Salvation, the offer of the ages, timeless and complete.

And yet there is earthly benefits of being a child of God. Not benefits as the world defines them, our benefits are spiritual and any and all material benefits are always tethered to God’s spiritual blessings that are without measure. The hope of heaven, the promise of eternal life, the peace of God, the grace of God, the knowledge of the holy, the cleansing of our sins, and many, many more are ours in this great salvation. But you can gather all the benefits both earthly and heavenly, and you may hold them up for all mankind to admire, but they will turn pale in the shadow of THE benefit of salvation that encompasses all the rest.

With the so great salvation comes the relationship and presence of the One Who purchased this majestic salvation. His name is YHWH, Yeshua, Joshua, or Jesus and His attributes are His wonderful name. I cannot fully put into words what He means to me, and the day I met Him is the greatest and most glorious day of my life. If I never received any earthly blessing from my salvation, if I only received His presence and the Lordship of a friend I would consider myself more blessed than I could ever describe much less deserve. To have been given the gift of life, and with that having been given the gift of faith, the honor and privilege of believing on the Lord Jesus is the invisible act of worship that reflects the cross and substantiates the resurrection and glorifies the Savior among the angels as all heaven rejoices.

Let us never relegate our salvation to the last row in our spiritual journey, oh no, let’s embrace it daily as the precious treasure of grace that it is and always will be. My friends, there is a day coming which will outshine every day that has ever been. On that day, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords will be worshiped in the midst of all creation, and His glory shall not be contained. And there in the midst of glory that cannot be known, there will be us. Redeemed, washed, robed, changed, and forever saved and eternally safe in the majesty of His salvation…all for us and His glory…forever.


Monday, October 08, 2007

The Heart of Devotion
Ps.119:2 - Blessed are they that keep his tesimonies and that seek him with the whole heart.

I consider myself a devotionally minded fundamentalist. Don’t you just love the labels, especially the ones we give ourselves? What I mean is I hold to all the cardinal doctrines of the faith which in my humble opinion are these:

* That God exists in three persons or personal manifestations but specifically that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all divine and together are the same God.
* The Scriptures are God’s written revelation to mankind and are inspired and inerrant in the original language. The 66 books of the Bible are the only source of divine truth and all other truth will support the Scriptures.
* Jesus was God incarnate in the flesh. He lived a sinless life and completed His primary mission when He died on a cross as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. Redemption is only through His shed blood and He offers this salvation to everyone who believes.
* Jesus died and was buried and rose again on the third day substantiating who He was and what He did. Sin and death are now defeated in Him forever.
* There is no salvation outside Jesus Christ, and a sinner must believe on Jesus with some elementary knowledge of the gospel to be saved. No one who hasn’t heard the gospel can be saved, hence the importance of world wide missions.
* Every person who dies goes forever into either heaven or hell. Although it is impossible to fully capture the ecstasy of heaven and the torment of hell, those descriptions will be even more tangibly accurate in eternity.

So there you have it, like the three bears some will consider it too much, some will say it is not enough, but I say it is just right. But I could recite those points like the pledge of allegiance every day and they would still be just cold, hard revelations of truth, systematic truth that is organized in a way to define the distinctives of what I believe and who I am. And then there are the lengthy and verbose writings that attempt disect the chronology of the Spirit’s ministry in salvation. Oh it is not enough to say it is all of God’s Spirit, we must be absolutely solid in our complete knowledge in ever detail, nothing of “I don’t know” mystery that might lend itself to allow people to suspect our knowledge is limited. And the labels, yes the labels, that seek to lend some additional evidence that we know and have done such extensive research that we have entitled it to capture the degree of our surety.

But is that what God is looking for, cause if it is, He‘s got it? Is that all there is in this life we know as Christian, and does the embracement of a few doctrinal statements represent the satisfying essence of what it means to follow Jesus? We tell the lost world, and rightfully so, that it is not enough to know “about” Jesus, you must know Him to be saved. But how often then do we retreat to the safety of a doctrinal exposition about Jesus, albeit true and Biblically sound, but not really exhibiting what it means to be recognized as having “been with Jesus”?

I know, a little “mystical” right? Well it may be time for all of us doctrinally elite to get a dose of what it means to seek the face of Christ in a personal experience of edification and mystery. A computer can spit out copies of a doctrinal statement, but a computer cannot come before God with a broken and contrite heart and actually commune with the Risen Christ and with that be changed from glory to glory. Remember this, it is impossible to come and dine with Christ and come away self righteous and unchanged. I have many, many times come into prayer with the Lord and as I was going through a perfunctory prayer for a certain person or persons I am confronted with the road block of God’s Spirit. And while stopped in my tracks God’s Spirit desires to know why I do not really love those who I am pretending to pray for and why I think I am better than they and why I can pray for them with a dry eye when I believe they are in a desperate situation. And before I can come up with some religious excuse masquerading as a reason I am undone about my own heart and the dearth of real compassion I have at that moment.

You see, humility frames truth while pride covers it. So to the degree we lose the awe of who we really were and what the grace of God alone has done for us we lose the reflection of Christ in whatever we do no matter how noble and right. And our expression of this devotion must go much deeper than just an acknowledgment of a precious doctrine regardless of it’s eternal virtue, it must all begin and end with Jesus Himself. There must come a time in a disciple’s journey when he comes into such relationship with Jesus, fostered by the truth of God’s Word, illuminated by God’s Spirit, and still all by God’s grace, that he continues to feast on those things but His devotion has now been transformed into a personal mystery that affords him a incredible relationship of glory.

Oh how I fear while many are content with almost nothing of the Scriptures, still others have made them as a book of sayings and teachings that remain aloof from the nail pierced side of the Lord who is their very revelation. Jesus is the Word but He is more than a doctrinal test of ink and paper, He is truth but He stands far above our orthodoxy, Jesus desires and receives devotion from all of us. And His heart rather inclines to the sincere simplicity of a ten year old Nigerian little girl who tells Jesus her absolute love for Him than a room full of dry theologians. One man uses his doctrines to spiritually equip him to gain a greater access into the throne room of His Lord and Master, while the other rather admires his systematic rolodex of organized truths and considers them his arrows for others.

So do you have a heart of devotion for Christ? Not just a mind that is so tightly tethered to written truth that it keeps you from a passionate and invisible intimacy that reveals an inward devotion to Him launched by that written truth which now is alive in your very heart and now that embracement of truth is transforming your inner man into a personal Mt. Moriah upon which you bow and offer yourself again and again for Christ’s sake? A computer can be imputed with doctrinal truth, God is looking for worshipers who because of that truth that has been revealed to them have been loosed from formalism and religion that is as dry as last year’s bird’s nest, no, this heart of devotion can be seen weeping during a song or even while driving. This heart is tender over its own shortcomings and sin, and this heart loves Jesus, the Person and Savior, more than the set of truths about Him which have illuminated Him to us. And this heart of devotion to the Lord of Glory and Mercy that it will sometimes be silent when spat upon and mocked. This heart knows Jesus, who is truth, and it rides with a coming destiny, and in the midst of speaking, loving, defending, and proclaiming truth, the Incarnate Truth is never tarnished or weakened and so our devotion to Him renders the victory settled, the battle remains His alone. In that we can and should humbly show compassion and love to our enemies, for in any devotion to our own emotion and verbal strength we show Him weak and us strong. And that is grievous error in and of itself.

But never forget, dear friend, without the Scriptures we surely would have made a golden calf of our own self serving imaginations, but our challenge is to allow the Spirit to teach us without worshiping the teachings and not the great Teacher. Let us never lose the deep fires of devotion that must kept burning in our hearts for Jesus, but allow the Spirit to blow on those embers and stoke the light of worship again that affects our bodies and not the reverse. There is only one true God and we by His own grace have not only been allowed to know Him, we have been brought into His family forever. That thought should elicit the finest and deepest devotion in and of itself. Like Miphibosheth we have been summoned not just to eat scraps at the back door of the palace, we have been given a seat at the King’s table and asked to dine from the sumptuousness of His divine feast. And gathered around the Mater’s table we will not speak of cold, hard doctrine will we? Will we banter concerning the hollow things of our own making? Will it matter how long the Lord took in creating it all?

I believe we will consumed with a love and devotion for Him who will now appear before us. Those future emotions only inhabit a new physiological home, one made like His. Devotion will be full and unquestioned. And why? Because the Scriptures say we will “see Him as He is”. So dust off your backpack and get to your feet once more, we’re off to see the King! Our devotions beckons us to His side once more and our love humbles us in His presence. With all our learning, with all our debates, with all our perspectives, with all our doctrines, with all our “ologies”, let us never, never, lose our heart of utter devotion for the One Who is all in all and the eternal Lord of our very lives indeed.

Hopefully devoted to Him.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Reckless Worship

Reckless worship. When a sinner realizes, even in an understandable morsel, who he was and who he is now in Christ, what hindrances could there be to his open worship to the Redeemer? Just a shallow understanding of God’s grace and love toward us should bring forth unbridled expressions of worship that completely overwhelm any feelings of discomfort in a public forum. Why should we care if those who know not our Savior think us peculiar and overly demonstrative in our worship? And why do we hold back our worship during the day while we give the honor to the things of this world? What an honor to be allowed to praise Jesus, our Master.

There should be times where His presence so overwhelms us that we just bow in holy silence without sometimes even meditating on anything specific, His presence is enough. There are times when we cannot control our emotions and we must weep openly because of our gratefulness to the Savior for our own redeemed condition purchased upon His own sacrifice. There are times when we should dance, so taken by joy that we cannot remain still. A dance that doesn’t resemble the version the world uses like mating calls, but a sanctified whirling and jumping that demonstratively reveals what we are experiencing inside our hearts at that moment. There should even be times when we are brought to our knees, even in the midst of a gathering in which no one else feels led to manifest the same position. In those times our hearts are broken before God and with Holiness being revealed to us, like Isaiah, we are undone with our own uncleanness and simply in a sacred awe before the Risen Christ.

Pride and self consciousness must have no part in such a reckless worship, neither others or worries or anything of this present world. In our present form these times of extraordinary pre-heaven experiences should be precious to us, and we should handle them as a present day alabaster box that has given us the unimaginable privilege of breaking and pouring its worshipful fragrance before the only One Who will ever be worthy of its virtue. To be invited to worship the One who openly gave Himself for you, in that light what could you ever hold back? Do you worship Him alone, moving past any fleshly self consciousness, and verbally worshiping Him “face to face” as it were. I recall Charles Finney remarked when he fled to the forest to seek God on the night of his extraordinary conversion, he would begin to pray and stand quickly to his feet as he heard some rustling of the leaves because he thought someone might be coming and see him on his knees praying. Upon realizing no one was there, he was overwhelmed with shame because he would be self conscious about praying before God.

And so should it be with us. Why would we look around to see others when we have come to worship Him and He has come to receive it? The bulletin, a kid running, a woman’s dress, or anything else should not attract our attention and surely not our hearts, His presence is our life and our complete focus. Forget about your problems and cares and cast them joyfully upon His eternal shoulders for in that you will find His yoke easy and light and the rest that only He can give will enter your heart by His gracious Spirit. With our busy and Martha-like lifestyles we at these times that are set apart and sanctified for worship should be altogether different. It is so sad that the waiting upon the Lord that is sometimes necessary to come into His presence is seldom exercised because we are on some sort of time restriction, but when the football game goes into overtime we feel it is a blessing.

Let us return to reckless worship of the Lion of Judah, sacrificing schedules and worries and thoughts of temporal issues, the King has beckoned us to come into His glory. We have lost the knowledge of being lost in God’s presence and in so doing losing ourselves. How often have we exclaimed, “Oh my, look at the time” when we have lost track of time in work or play, but when have we lost track of time in God’s wonderful presence? There is such a thing as a Word based experience, but so many are afraid of showing emotion due to the fear of excess, which is exactly the accusation Christ’s own disciples leveled at the woman who anointed the Lord with the spikenard ointment, it was an excess.

Excess? On Jesus? Away with such a carnal and selfish thought, He is beyond any excess. If all the mountains were gathered, and all the seas, and all the planets, and all the stars, if the entire universe was gathered together, burned into one exquisite and priceless ointment of unspeakable value and poured out before the throne of the Lamb of God it would fall infinitely short of ever being considered an “excess”, He alone is excess. And our worship should be reckless and without parameters poured out before the One who is excess and has by His grace shared with us an excess that may always be beyond us. Life everlasting with the Lord of Glory - excess unimaginable!

Should that knowledge elicit a timid and self conscious worship, one that fits neatly into a western cultures and is ever so inconspicuous? Should worship always be a dry-eyed experience in God’s presence while we cry at high school graduations? Should we be worried about messing our hair or makeup but willing to get messy to change the oil in our cars? And without purposely planning to be demonstrative if we go into a season of worship, corporate or private, and open our hearts with repentance, cleansing, and seeking His face, we will quickly find that we no longer care about anything. In those times God’s Spirit has suspended this reality and we are carried into the mystery of His very presence. Some claim His presence is in the elements of communion. Other’s claim His presence can be in the waters of baptism. Still others claim His presence is in one of the Spirit’s gifts.

Oh no, the presence of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords can never be reduced to ceremony or embolism. His real and actual presence remains a mystery, offered in part and yet the whole, experienced and yet only by faith, tangible and yet ethereal, building up and tearing down, a glimpse and yet panoramic, a taste and yet overflowing, the presence of the Great God and our Savior Jesus Christ is the one and only heart’s desire of everyone who has tasted of His redemptive presence. And standing before Him in robes of white, dipped in blood, we should be stripped of ourselves, loosed from the grave clothes of dry, emotionless, and ritualistic worship, and as a redeemed marionette completely at the control of the Spirit’s strings, we should recklessly worship Him Who was so reckless for us.

In worship the term “Reasonable service” would be an insult.
Reckless fits much better.

Friday, October 05, 2007

The Just Shall Live by Faith

Habakkuk was a prophet anointed of YHWY Himself and God used him as a watchman in the Southern Kingdom sometimes called Judah (Hab.2:1). Now these watchmen were prophets anointed to speak to God’s people in warning about their sin and spiritual lethargy. In the first chapter Habakkuk speaking of internal conditions in Judah points to a time after the reign of King Josiah and probably during the reign of King Jehoiakim and especially during the early years of his reign, the conditions seem to fit. He was a godless king who led the nation (church) down the path to destruction --- II Kings 23:34 - 24:5; Jeremiah 22:18.

Now as anointed as Habakkuk was, he could not figure out why God wouldn’t intervene in what was happening. And just what was happening? The Chaldeans, the Babylonians, in a period of approximately 20 years were sweeping over Judah in successive waves of violence and ultimately destroyed the country and took its inhabitants away into captivity in 586 BC. And in the midst of these violent waves of destruction Habakkuk cries out to God and asks Him why He is not doing anything to intervene and protect the Southern Kingdom and God replies that even if He were to inform Habakkuk about what He is doing Habakkuk probably wouldn’t believe Him anyway. But the Lord tells Habakkuk that it is God Himself who is raising up the Chaldeans to come and attack Judah and eventually they will be carried away into Babylon.

What? Two things strike me about this narrative. The first is obvious, God is sovereign and will never be bound by our limited views of any of His attributes or methods. But the second is more subtle. Here is Habakkuk, a true prophet and even a watchman for Judah, and he was clueless to God’s own working in the situation. Can you imagine that, the prophet of God was in the dark, he thought he knew what should be happening but he didn’t even recognize the plowing of God’s hand in the fallow ground of the rebellious people of Judah. Keep this in mind because it will be central to the character of God, God’s using of Babylon was a redemptive act for Judah even in great punishment. And as only a sovereign God can do, he later punishes the Chaldeans for their savagery toward God’s backslidden people while restoring Judah. God has made a blood covenant with His people, and like the blood of Christ sealed to our hearts by His Spirit, He will never forsake us and even in chastening the Father reaches out in love. Amazing.

So now what is Habakkuk to do, he cannot understand all the ramifications and inter-workings of what the Lord has just told him? Soon Judah will be carried away and yet God’s flow of redemption will continue unabated even through the captivity itself, working mightily through the fires of brutal enslavement. Oh my, this isn’t how it supposed to go, what is God doing, this can’t be right! So Habakkuk again seeks God to let Him speak for Himself and not let his own well meaning but flawed interpretation defile God’s message. God tells Habakkuk to write it down, that Judah is proud and careless in his life toward Me, and then God says that the “just shall live by faith”. Stop right there and gather all your so called works of righteousness and those things about which you are most proud, gather them brethren and place them on your personal fire of repentance, and smell the disgusting fragrance they bring within the smoke that you thought was pleasing to God.

Pleasing?? Without faith it is impossible to please God. All my writings, all my sermons, all my prayers, all my witnessing, all MY anythings are but dung, my faith in Christ is ALL I have and ALL you have as well. I can smell my pride as it burns before me, embarrassing that I would ever think such a thing about so worthless a being as myself. I am convinced that what God shares with Habakkuk is a glory glimpse into the majestic mystery that will be known as the good news. God will not share His glory with anyone, and Habakkuk must speak to Judah, even in their correction, turn to the Lord in faith, He will heal and He will save. Faith, the royal gift from God, will be that which alone reflects the Person of Christ, God’s Son. Our lives will manifest some of that faith, but even through the translation of faith into action it will come forth diluted.

That one moment of mustard seed faith, given by God and returned to Him alone, is the greatest act of worship that has ever occurred in the universe itself. People genuflect before earthly kings, they gasp at great and towering edifices, they are awestruck by the expanse of the galaxies, but one little 12 year old Pakistani boy who at his father’s chair believes on Christ contains more glory than all of creation combined. That was where Judah had gone wrong, they had trusted their religion and their temple and all their observances but they had turned from their faith. There is no power in buildings and chapels, and there is certainly no power in days and observances, there is no power in men no matter how pious, the only power we are afforded is the power that comes from faith in our Christ. And do not let the word “power” fool you, sometimes God’s power manifested through a conduit of faith appears like weakness and surely not earthly power.

God’ treasure abides in earthen vessels so the excellency may be of Him and not of us. How often have we stepped forward to assert God’s power and in the very act of attempting to show God’s power we have hidden it? I stand guilty many times. So that is what Habakkuk decides to do, believe and trust God which is what a prophet should do anyway. In the last three verses Habakkuk proclaims that it no longer matters if he cannot understand what God is doing, if the economy fails, no meat and no olives, no more sheep and no cattle, it still doesn’t matter. What? Why does it now not matter when just a couple of chapters ago he was crying out to God telling Him He wasn’t doing anything, and now Habakkuk says whatever happens he is at peace with it?

It is because he says, “Yet will I rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, he will make my feet like hinds’ feet and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.”

Oh believer in Christ have no fear in the middle of confusion, God is at work and although He may use you He doesn’t need you and the completion of all things is in His hand even now. We serve a Father who loves us more than we can ever believe or understand, and He never slumbers or sleeps but is ever vigilant for our safety. He does not turn from the straying sheep, He chases them as if they were the only ones in His flock. The days are evil but our God is Good and Great and redemption is His mission. Stay humble before our Lord and believe in Him not your own understandings. Do not let the confusion rule your mind, keep your thought on Him and He will give you peace. You do not know everything God is doing so it will exalt Him to confess that to Him and yourself daily.

Habakkuk prays "O Lord I have heard thy speech and was afraid: O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, wrath remember mercy." We do well to pray for a revival from the merciful hand of our Father, not to ease things, but to lift high the Lord Jesus to be glorified in all the nations!.

He has given us everything, He is well capable of preserving that which He has purchased. Jesus is a mighty God but the glory of His might is found many times in weakness and sometimes death and even the death of the cross. It is unfathomable to imagine God dying, much less dying on a vicious and bloody cross, and desperately unthinkable that that sacrifice was for us. Oh where is the mental capacity to imagine such a thing and deeper still where are words that can give sufficient honor to the sacred profoundness of such a deed? They are not on this side, my brothers and sisters, but be patient and yet believe. God will finish His work with no worry and no deviations taking Him off stride, the end is near, but the victory has been won and shared with us by faith.

Only believe…only believe.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Spurgeon Some Don't Want
You to Hear!

Snippets of Spurgeon’s sermons have been used lately to promote that fact that he was stern with deceivers and had no patience with false teachers. Surely there were times that he was so, but which false teachers did he deal with? Was it just the compromisers that some mold into their convenient packages, or were there others to which Spurgeon took out his verbal whip? So with that in mind, let us read some more of Spurgeon, some parts that some people do not want you to read. This is what Spurgeon had to say about men who teach that baptism saves, and notice how he connects those who teach infant baptism with holding hands with the Roman Catholic Church. You want Spurgeon, you got him!

"We will confront this doctrine with the assertion, that BAPTISM WITHOUT FAITH SAVES NO ONE."

"But," then I hear many good people assert, that "there are many good ministers in the Church of England who do not believe in baptismal regeneration." To this my answer is prompt. Why then do they belong to a Church which clearly teaches that doctrine? If baptism does, in fact, regenerate and save people, then let the fact be preached with a loud voice, and let no man be ashamed of his belief in it. If this is really their belief, then by all means let them have full liberty in its propagation. My brethren, those are honest ministers, who in this matter, uphold the doctrines of the Church, believing in baptismal regeneration, and plainly preach it."

Here Spurgeon tells those who teach such doctrine not to be so silent about it. Why did Slice of Laodicea hardly ever mention the fact that Ingrid herself believes in baptismal regeneration? Spurgeon implies compromise.

Spurgeon continues:

“We ourselves are not unsure on this point, we declare that persons are not saved by being baptized. In such an audience as this, I am almost ashamed to go into the matter, because you surely know better than to be misled. Nevertheless, for the good of others we will discuss it. We firmly believe that persons are not saved by baptism, for we understand, first of all, that it appears completely out of character with the spiritual religion, which Christ came to teach, that he should make salvation depend upon mere ceremony.”

Spurgeon claims he is absolutely sure about this false doctrine.

Spurgeon continues:

“The false religions of the heathen might teach salvation by a physical process, but Jesus Christ claims for his faith that it is purely spiritual, and how could he connect regeneration with a particular application of water to the body? If this is your teaching, that regeneration is a result of baptism, I say it looks like the teaching of a false Church, which has cleverly invented a mechanical salvation to deceive ignorant, and carnal minds, rather than the teaching of the most profoundly spiritual of all teachers, who rebuked Scribes and Pharisees for regarding outward rites as more important than inward grace."

See what Spurgeon calls a church that teaches this baptismal regeneration? He calls it a false church. And yet these false churches quote Spurgeon as if he is their mouthpiece!

Spurgeon continues outlining a general format for the ceremony:

“The minister is suppose to tell these people, "You have heard that our Lord Jesus Christ has promised in his gospel to grant all these things that you have prayed for: which he promised, and will most surely keep and perform. Wherefore, after this promise made by Christ, this infant must also faithfully, on his part, promise, by you, his representatives (until he comes of age to take it upon himself) that he will renounce the devil and all his works, and constantly believe God's holy Word, and obediently keep his commandments."

"This small child is to promise to do this, or more truly others are to take upon themselves to promise, and even vow that he will do so. But we must not break the quotation, and therefore let us return to the Church’s Prayer Book, it continues, "I demand therefore, that you, in the name of this child, renounce the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the world, with all covetous desires of the same, and the carnal desires of the flesh, so that you will not follow, nor be led by them?" The godparents answer "I renounce them all." That is to say, on the name and behalf of this tender infant about to be baptized, these godly people, these enlightened Christian people, these who know better, who are not fools, who know all the while that they are promising impossibilities—renouncing on behalf of this child what they find very difficult to renounce in themselves—"all covetous desires of the world and the carnal desires of the flesh, so that they will not follow nor be led by them."

Listen now what the “Prince of Preachers” says.

"How can they harden their faces to utter such a false promise, such a mockery before the presence of the Almighty Father? Most likely angels weep as they hear the awful promise uttered! I can understand a simple, ignorant farmer, who has never learned to read, doing all of this at the command of a priest. I can even understand persons doing this when the Reformation was in its beginning, and men had barely crept out of the darkness of Roman Catholicism; but I cannot understand gracious, godly people, standing at the baptismal font, insulting the all-gracious Father with vows and promises based on fiction and lies. How can intelligent believers in Christ, dare to utter words, which they know in their conscience to be wicked and opposed to truth? I have a confirmed belief that the God of truth never did and never will confirm a spiritual blessing of the highest order in connection with the utterance of such false promises and untruthful vows. My brethren, does it not strike you that declarations so fictitious are not likely to be connected with a new birth brought about by the Spirit of truth?"

Spurgeon says he can understand Luther and others still having Roman Catholic grave clothes, but how can they adhere to heresy now?

Spurgeon continues:

"My brethren, do not think I that I am speaking too harshly. I really think there is something here to cause devils to mock Christianity. Let every honest man grieve, that God's Church should tolerate such a thing as this, and that there should be found gracious people who will feel grieved because I, in all kindness of heart, rebuke the atrocity. Unregenerate sinners promising for a poor baby that he will keep all of God's holy commandments, which they themselves flagrantly break every day! How can anything but the patience of God endure this? What! Do you expect me not to speak against it? The very stones in the street would cry out against the disgrace of wicked men and women, promising that another should renounce the devil and all his works, while they themselves serve the devil and do his works with greediness! As a climax to all of this, I am asked to believe that God accepts that wicked promise, and as the result of it, regenerates that child. You cannot believe in regeneration by this procedure, regardless of whether saints or sinners are the performers. If they are godly, then they are wrong for doing what their conscience must condemn. If they are ungodly, then they are wrong for promising what they know they cannot perform; and in either case, God cannot accept such worship, much less provide spiritual regeneration through such a baptism as this."

How is it that some blogs will use Spurgeon as their ally against those they wish to castigate, but they refuse to print these words of stinging rebuke and clear heresy?

Spurgeon continues:

"But you will say "Why do you preach out against it?" I preach out against it because I believe that baptism does not save the soul, and that the preaching of such a doctrine has a wrong and evil influence upon men and women. Now, let me bring in another point. It is a most fearful fact, that in no age since the Reformation has the Roman Catholic Church made such fearful strides in England as during the last few years. I say, with every ground of probability, that it is no marvel that Roman Catholicism should increase when you have two things to make it grow: first of all, the lie of those who profess a faith which they do not believe, which is quite contrary to the honesty of the Roman Catholic, who does, no matter what, hold to his faith; and then you have, secondly, this form of error known as baptismal regeneration. You have this baptismal regeneration preparing stepping-stones to make it easy for men and women to step into Roman Catholicism."

Spurgeon ends his message by openly decreeing that people who teach this doctrine are helping the Roman Catholic Church to increase within God’s true church and the community at large. The thousands of sermons that Spurgeon preached on mercy and love, the cross and the resurrection, but many will not post those but take from his treasure those harsh rebukes that fit their agenda.

Well what will you do with these words? Why have you not posted these words from the mouth of Spurgeon to prove he rides with you? And those of you who do not believe in baptismal regeneration but cooperate with those who do, Spurgeon says, “When worldly men hear ministers denouncing the very things which their own Church doctrine teaches, then they assume that words have no meaning among ministers, and that vital differences in religion are merely a matter of tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum.” Let me connect the dots for us, the same things that some accuse the emergent church of are the same deaf ear they themselves turn to vital differences about redemption. If you believe baptism saves and cooperate with those who deny that, you are a compromiser. And if you do not believe in baptismal regeneration and you cooperate with those who do, you are a compromiser. I am just quoting Spurgeon, like you do.