Friday, September 30, 2011

Whose the Heretic Now?

Heresy comes from the Greek word “αίρεση” which means to choose. I am not sure how this word has come to mean what it does, but it is understood by all of us as false teachings.

Heresy is usually defined as a departure from orthodox church doctrine. But in fact it should be expanded to mean anything that goes against the teaching of Scripture. Now the church has relegated heresy to theology, either written or taught. That means that if a preacher teaches something unbiblical, either through his mouth or through his pen, then that is heresy and he is labeled as an heretic. And that view is certainly Biblical and valid.

But Paul seems to expand that view by implying that we ourselves are a kind of epistle, a teaching in a living human expression, and that others are able to read that teachings by watching our lives.

II Cor.3:2-3 - Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men:
3 Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.

Now that brings me to my point. When something written does not line up Biblically we call it heresy. But what about things in our lives that do not line up with Christ? If we are epistles, then we are heretics when our lives are out of line Biblically. Do you see the connection? Of course we are hypocrites as well, but we can accurately be called heretics when our living epistles manifest things that are not according to the Word, both the written and the Incarnate Word, and then we are teaching heresy by our actions.

I am not attempting to create semantics, here. I believe we have concentrated on doctrinal heresy, as well we should, but we have ignored lifestyle heresy. But when our lives are walking with actions that are against the clear teaching of Scripture, then we are teaching that to others. That is heretical. When we are self righteous we are saying without words that Jesus desires this. That is heresy. For too long many of us have hidden behind the heresy of others while we have exhibited lifestyle and behavioral heresy.

So when we go to our prayer closet and the Spirit desires to address things in our lives that displease Him, can we distract Him by saying, “But Lord, Rob Bell is a heretic!” The Rob Bell’s of this world may very well be doctrinal heretics, but how many orthodox believers are heretics in practice? I have often felt my observations about theological heretics were somewhat impotent, regardless of the accuracy of my views, because there are many areas of my own life that I know do not reflect the Lord Jesus.

Aggresively and relentlessly researching and exposing the heresies of others while being blind and ambivalent about our own "shortcomings", otherwise known as "sins" in the orthodox world, is indeed an exhibition of self righteousness. There can be no balanced approach to addressing our own lives as it pertains to being a follower of the Lord Jesus. We must be vigilent and resolute as we allow the Spirit to sift and purify our lives. Anything that does not reflect the Lord Jesus and His Word is heresy. And by our lives we become false teachers.

We are outraged by the rank heresy of the emergent church, but we are only slightly unsettled about our own sin. We rail against the compromises of Rick Warren, but we use I Jn.1:9 as a painless cure for our own compromises. We are disturbed by the emotional excesses of the charismatic services, but we remain very comfortable with our unexplainable lack of emotion. We confront the prosperity teachings, but we still worry about making and saving more money ourselves.

The only way to confront heresy is to identify it and Biblically address it. The only way to confront our own heretical actions is to allow the Spirit to conduct a full inventory, identify each part of our lives that are heretical, and address them all. I am not sure, but I would guess that if we do that with a venerable surrender and with the same vigilance we show toward looking for heresy in others, we just may find enough personal heresy to keep us consistently running to the prayer closet with repentance.

We should passionately desire to be more like Jesus.
The Trinity

Jn.16:6-9 - Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
7 If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.
8 Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.
9 Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?

And Jesus reveals to us a profound mystery and one in which we can only have a very limited amount of understanding, This does deal with the nature of God, but even further it deals with the very essence of God. The nature of God is love and holiness and wisdom and an infinite number of attributes, but the essence of God, the substance of God, is supernatural and metaphysical. I mean God is a spirit, but who among us can even define a spirit? We can grasp God in a human form because we can see Him, and so the invisible God still is usually captured by our imagination in human form. And God reveals Himself through much human imagery for our benefit.

But God is omnipresent which means He exists and lives everywhere. Even the word “lives” is somewhat misleading since it implies the possibility of death and/or a beginning. God does not think, since that suggests a process or a computation. God knows, and even deeper, God is knowledge. I know, we are soaring in divine air in which our pitiful little minds begin to be starved for oxygen.

But let us also look at the glimpse that Jesus gives us into the doctrine we know as the Trinity. The New Testament gives us glimpses and pieces from which we have constructed this doctrine, and it seems correct. This doctrine teaches that God has always existed in three distinct but intertwined Persons - whatever the definition of a “person” is. I guess you could say entities, or self contained existences. But do you see how difficult it is to even come up with adequate definitions without diluting, compromising, constricting, or even totally misrepresenting God’s supernatural existence? Just to place Him in human words immediately diminishes His colossal - uh - um - Being.

So now that we have established our inability to understand, much less describe, God in all His glorious being, we now attempt to define the Trinity. Preachers use some object lesson like the egg and suggest that the white, the yoke, and the shell are three parts of the same egg. And if that illustration of the Trinity wasn't so tragic it would be humorous. One thing we can glean from these verses and many, many others is that Jesus was Emmanuel, God with us. About this there can be no negotiation or com-promise. Jesus was God in the flesh and any suggestion otherwise is heresy of the highest order and in fact is “another Jesus” That is the foundation, the chief Cornerstone, upon which the Christian faith rises or falls.

But the Trinity is more ethereal than the divinity of Christ. I mean when Jesus says that seeing Him is seeing the Father, well that in and of itself is beyond us. I know, we can and do attempt to attach some human understanding about it and to deconstruct the vast and unsearchable mystery so we can neatly place it upon a flannel board, but in reality we can understand what He is saying but we cannot grasp the enormity or the spiritual essence of that teaching. So we are left to define it as another proof of Christ’s divinity, and although that is true and good, if we are honest our interpretation of those verses is painfully wanting.

Even Luther, although still espousing the Trinity, admitted that it was a doctrine based upon some incomplete Biblical evidence. But it still appears to be true even though no one can even define it. But remember, at the core is the divinity of Jesus Christ. And true to form, when man makes a doctrine he is obligated to not only defend it since he strongly suggests he received it through the Holy Spirit’s leading, but he requires it of others. And here is where we fall into trouble.

There are believers who suggest that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh and that salvation comes exclusively through Him and Him alone. They believe the Bible to be the exclusive Word of God, and they believe in being born again. But they do not espouse the doctrine of the Trinity. Some even tip toe right up to the doctrinal edge of the Trinity and suggest that God is one and reveals Himself in “three distinct manifestations”. Now that definition seems innocuous, but that is not the doctrine of the Trinity which requires the words “three distinct persons”. Many will pounce upon that as heresy, but to the irritation of some in the orthodox camp I have no real problem with any of that.

I mean, come on. To believe that Jesus is the eternal God, and to believe that God is one but reveals Himself in three ways, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, is not enough? And we who cannot wrap our minds, much less our words, around the Trinity require others to present it in the identical way in which men decided long ago? The deity of Christ is the bastion in which we dwell, but the Trinity seems to be a rudimentary way to grasp God in the mind. But we will one day realize that even that falls embarrassingly short of the reality.

The New Testament often interchanges the names of God. Sometimes in says “Christ in us” and sometimes it teaches that we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Sometimes the Holy Spirit is referred to as the “Spirit of Christ”. And Jesus says that seeing Him is seeing the Father. Oh yea, so simple to explain. But even though the Scriptures give some pieces of convincing evidence to the Trinity, and even though I tend to agree with it, I still will not burn others at the doctrinal stake if they see it somewhat differently.

But a word of warning. Many, if not most, times those who do not hold to the Trinity also have some real and genuine heresies. Some preach a gospel of works, some teach salvation must have other tongues, some teach baptism in Jesus name is the only way to salvation, and others teach other dire forms of error. A man like T. D. Jakes is a “Oneness” preacher believing that Jesus is God and He manifests Himself in three different ways. And although I cannot get all irritated about that, he teaches a Jesus who is a Santa Claus that desires to make everyone (especially him) rich. The prosperity, health and wealth Jesus, is another Jesus. If you come to Jesus because you are poor and believe He will make you rich, you are still lost in your sins.

But there you have it. We serve a God whose very being is eternal in the heavens and whose essence cannot be fully known. But do not fret. The morsels that God has revealed to us provide enough food with which to chew on forever. Before we get bothered about that which we cannot know, let us digest and live that which we already know.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Dark Ages

The term references a period of time roughly in the 10th and 11th century. It was a time of decline in all aspects of human life, and it would be appropriate to say that darkness pushed out the light. It marked the period when Rome fell and it lasted almost until the time called the Renaissance. As a general definition it was a time where the human race placed its intellect upon the shelf and almost every aspect of civilization seemed to deteriorate. Of course the later years of enlightenment came with their own liabilities and spiritual corruption.

But today we live in what could easily be called the Spiritual Dark Ages. It is a time of great spiritual upheaval and the deconstruction of Biblical truth disguised as enlightenment. I realize that believing the New Testament Scriptures is considered non-intellectual and even archaic, and any who would believe such things are deemed to be caught in a historical paradigm of ages far past. But we should expect such from darkened minds and hearts.

But as the Industrial revolution began to unfold, and as high learning became available to a broader swath of the population, there arose a tension between education and science, and the truth as revealed in the Scriptures. Some retreated into viewing the Scriptures as a sort of comfort food meant to help us emotionally. Many use the scriptures as a collection of hallmark cards that can elevate the spirit and as an aid to living with a positive attitude.

Others have abandoned the Scriptures completely as a passing phenomenon that are nothing more than man made superstition. They may even retain some kind of belief in a god, but they reject the veracity of the New Testament as it pertains to absolute truth and the exclusivity of Christ. They live their lives based upon some innate sense of morality and earthly purpose.

But one of the most insidious ways in which the Scriptures are handled is by those who attempt to marry human reason with a diluted view of the teachings of Scripture. This reinterprets Scripture so as to remove the affront to the earthly intellect, and they attempt to make it palatable to the educated. In effect, they rewrite the New Testament in such a way as to compromise the Person of Christ and to treat salvation with such a malleable interpretation that almost all religions have redemptive validity. But it appears very creative, very attractive, very compassionate, and very enlightened in its unfolding of Scripture.

But what appears as Biblical light is in effect spiritual darkness. The light of God’s truth, when refracted through the prism of man’s intellect and any predetermined theology, ceases to be God’s truth. As the old preacher once observed, “If it’s new it isn’t true”. I believe Solomon originally made that same observation. Just because it may be new and exciting, innovative and creative, intellectual and nuanced, and incredibly enlightened, it is not necessarily true. But I would like to make this observation lest we rest on our doctrinal laurels.

In order for one to be saved and have an intimate and personal relationship with Jesus Christ you must have a Biblical view of truth. But one can have a Biblical view of truth and be saved but not have an intimate and personal relationship with Jesus Christ. So just because we can identify the Biblical darkness that continues to descend upon the visible church of Christ, that must not lead us into an air of superiority that results in a complacency about the vibrancy and depth of our own spiritual walk with the Risen Christ.

Let us take those thoughts a step further. If we indeed are living in the midst of a progressive spiritual darkness, and if the church by and large is quickly departing from the Crucified and Risen Christ and His eternal Word, then what should the expression of the true and living church be? Is it enough just to batten down the doctrinal hatches? Are we to guard the fort and receive daily updates about each new encroachments gained by the darkness and be content by shaking our theological heads in disgust? Can the exposing of error be considered our spiritual food? And if the darkness has become lightless and pitch-black, then shouldn’t the true body of Christ shine forth with an unmistakable and remarkable bioluminescence that shines brighter and brighter as the darkness descends?

It is time for the “orthodox” wing of evangelicalism to take a good, long look into the mirror of the Spirit. So often watchman are reduced to watching instead of completely surrendering to a living expression of Jesus Christ and not just a positive confession of doctrines and creeds, regardless of how Biblical they may be. The depth of our own Christ expressions are not based upon our ability to recognize and confront false teachers and their teachings. Warning the sheep about wolves is necessary, but sheep will starve if that becomes their exclusive focus.

Thank God we can see the darkness. That means that the Spirit has granted us the grace to see and avoid that which is not truth and undermines the eternal Word of God! But we do not mold ourselves against the darkness. No, we must be molded into the image of the Christ. Our eyes must be fixated upon the Risen Christ and with surrendered hearts we must allow the Spirit to cut away our flesh and replace it with the Spirit. Let others be obsessed with all the cast of false teachers, but let us continue a journey that includes our own cross, our own crucifixion, our own denial of self, and our own sacrificial lifestyle.

It is infinitely easier to see and confront doctrinal error than it is to exhibit a living revelation of our own doctrine in our own lives. Speaking and writing doctrine is not living it. In fact, it is more desirable to be 85% doctrinally accurate and live 95% of it than it is to be 100% doctrinally accurate and only live 50% of that. Regardless of how we refute it by spoken and written word, the darkness will continue to descend. But our calling is to be the light of the world, not just the darkness police.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What Would Jesus Say?

Suppose Jesus came back to this world before he made His glorious Second Coming. And suppose He desired to address the true church. What if he said this:

“ I never intended you to borrow any money either personally or as a church.”

“Why do you study My Word without the same study of your obedience?”

“My throne room receives very little of your prayers.”

“Why do you care about politics when souls are headed for hell?”

“It seems to me that television is your god.”

“Do you think I don’t see your secret sins?”

“I have much more power to give you if you’ll make room for it.”

“Do you really love sinners when you criticize them?”

“Do really believe you worship Me for one pitiful hour on Sundays?”

“If you believe I am coming why do you save up money on earth?”

“Why have you abandoned preaching My cross?”

“Why is your heart so full of this world?”

“Do you care about the lost and poor around the world?”

“Don’t you believe I died for Muslims?”

“How can you share the allegiance that belongs to me with something secular?”

“I hold no favor toward America or any other nation.”

“Let Me take care of Israel, you just preach My gospel.”

“Why has My communion become such a perfunctory observance?”

“I am calling many of you as full time missionaries but who is listening?”

“If you will seek My face with your whole heart I will send you the revival you so desperately need.”

“I love you with all my heart, can you love Me as well?”
An Oligarchy

The United States is no longer a democracy or even a republic. It has morphed into an oligarchy. In fact, so is the visible church.
Are We Over It? Are We Over Him?

As you read the narrative in the Book of Acts you notice something quite arresting. These disciples never got over it. Got over what? They never got over their salvation and serving their Redeemer. Why didn’t they settle down and become satisfied with existing within the walls of an ecclesiastical society that is consumed with serving itself? Why did their fire continue to burn? Why did their passion lead them to give their own lives for a cause that had begun decades ago?

It begs this question: Have we gotten over it? And have we replaced a dangerous and self sacrificing discipleship with a mundane and terrestrial exhibition that goes through the predictable motions with powerless smiles and commonplace chit-chat? We know doctrinally that we have eternal life, but as you watch the pew lemmings arrive and depart with less emotion than two old men sharing war stories, then we again must question the depth and reality of our beliefs. What in God’s dear Name is wrong with us?

Have we gotten over it? Is the thrill already gone? It seems as if eternal life is an ethereal concept that dwells in the doctrinal abstract and usually ventures no further than a light church house reference. Are you kidding me?! We have been granted eternal life and we are going to live forever? And armed with that truth this is the extent to which it moves us and changes our entire lives? We give up smoking and cursing and with that the world is supposed to take notice of our remarkable transformation? Lost people give up those things as well.

Have we gotten over it? The drone of everyday life trudges on and on, only interrupted by a bit of uplifting on Sunday mornings affected mostly by fellowship and some well crafted music. Were those early disciples some kind of extremists? Why was their experience so much more dynamic than ours that it left a residual that lasted until they breathed their first breath of celestial air? They asked God to forgive those who stoned them. They sang praises within the dark walls of a Philipian prison. They praised God for being counted worthy of a severe beating. They took the ministry of the Word with uncommon seriousness. They prayed as if God would actually answer them.

Have we gotten over it? Have we forgotten how we were first illuminated? Has the contrast between the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light become so unremarkable that we only measure it by some moral stands? Do we look at the sky to assess today’s weather but never to look for His coming? Are we so filled with gratefulness that alongside our praise we are consumed with telling others? Or have we settled nicely within a hedonist culture with the two hour Sunday morning trek being the most formidable indication that perhaps we might be different? What kind of faith have we constructed? Earthly.

Have we gotten over Him? Rarely if ever do we speak of Jesus in other than the third person and within an abstract reference. Three prominent preachers flew to see Corrie Ten Boom as she recovered in the hospital. If I mentioned their names some of you would recognize them. She appeared as some old wash woman. But as they stood around her bed and spoke to her, they became aware of something. As she conversed with them, she would, without fanfare, interrupt her conversation with them and speak directly to Jesus. It happened repeatedly, and as one preacher admitted that as they left that room they repented for not knowing Jesus as deeply as this old woman knew Him.

Have we gotten over Him? Does your soul not thirst for a greater revelation and relationship with Him, or has your conscience been seared by a convenient comparison with others and what has come to be accepted as the norm? When have you thought of Him in a non church setting in such a way that it brought tears to your eyes? Have you ever had to pull your car over and worship Him? He has eternally redeemed our souls and destined them for his very throne room - forever!

Have we gotten over Him? In so many circles Jesus is paraded around as an impersonal doctrine and the Biblical truth about Him is used to confront the tidal wave of falsehoods and apostasy. But where is the brokenness that speaks His name with such sacred gratefulness and love that our voice cracks in awe? The Lord Jesus has become a moral cop, a servant for us, a doctrinal talisman, and a ecclesiastical moniker. But we have lost the astonishment and wonder that always accompanies a true vision of the Risen Christ. The predictable, habitual, and unremarkable gatherings that claim to meet and worship the Lamb of God are in and of themselves a challenge to the veracity of that stated purpose.

Have we gotten over Him? We have compartmentalized Christ and placed Him in an ecclesiastical trophy case to be admired in church settings but rarely to be taken down and held up among unbelievers in settings not designed for such displays. The salvation experience of the average “sinner’s prayer” conversions are so unremarkable and so dispassionate that the words “born again” are an affront to the authenticity of that experience. And to disciple a new convert is more about convincing him that he is saved than it is about guiding and molding his spiritual exuberance or instructing his obvious hunger for God‘s Word.

Have we gotten over Him? The apostle “who Jesus loved“, the Apostle John, had laid his head upon the bosom of the Incarnate Christ many, many times. John loved Jesus and walked with Him for three years. He knew Him as intimately as any human. But when John came in contact with the glory of the Risen Christ he “fell at His feet as though dead”. And yet we can claim to enter into that same presence without batting an eyelash or having our being moved? Several years ago I sat behind a nice couple in church. We would shake hands during the greeting time and we got to know them as pew neighbors. The wife would worship during the service, but the husband never exhibited anything but standing when everyone else did. But on the 4th of July service he would weep when they honored America. That, my friends, is sacrilege and an affront to the Risen Christ.

Have we gotten over Him? Have we forgotten the cross? The whips and lashes? The punches to His face? Have we forgotten that they pulled out His beard? Have we forgotten the crown of thorns pressed down upon His brow? Have we forgotten how He suffered and bled and died? How can we claim to embrace the cross and His eternal sacrifice, but still live with a dispassionate and detached reality that gives more attention to the latest economic news than the continuing vision of the Crucified Lamb of God?

And so I ask us all: Is what we are exhibiting and practicing a true revelation of Christ and His church? If so, don’t change a thing. But I contend we have slowly but surely gotten over our redemption and our Redeemer. And now our offspring are being born into a religious construct that is a deeply inaccurate revelation of Christ and His church. Somehow we must resign our positions in Babylon, cut away the western grave clothes, and set a course back to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls and the gates, reopen the temple in our hearts, and seek a revival that will once again usher in His glorious presence among us.

Restore unto me the joy of my salvation...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Glory of His Rest

Is.40:28-31 - Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.
29 He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.
30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:
31 But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

There is a place of rest for the believer. I must confess, I have been in and out of it in the 36 years I have known Christ, and being in the place of rest is infinitely better. But just how can we enter that place of divine rest and recline under the shadow of His wings?

Heb.4:9-10 - There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.
10 For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.

When was the last time you experienced a rest, a peace, that surpassed all earthly imposters and in fact surpassed all earthly knowledge? Of course that rest is found in Jesus, but it goes beyond just the simple act of saving faith. This rest begins with salvation, but it intensifies as we learn of Him and surrender to Him as well. But so often we are prisoners of the now, and of the temporal, and of the earthly, and as the verse indicates we are focused upon our own works instead of Him and His finished labor.

No one can add or detract from Christ and His redemptive work. We as sinners must either believe on Him fully, or reject Him fully. The middle ground is rejection as well. But why do we fret when we have been born again and been made partakers of the heavenly calling? We who have been granted eternal life and whose life is safe with God in Christ, why would we worry or get caught up with the fallen things of this world?

The answer is simple. We have taken our eyes and hearts off of the Lord Jesus and have allowed them to wander about and do some fallen window shopping. We live in a somewhat controlled anarchy that makes room for all sorts of sin and creates religions and religious institutions that in effect replace the Risen Christ and offer redemption through human intellect, human works, and spiritual superstition. But there is a rest for those Jesus-pilgrims who still fly with the wings of eagles in a glorious sky invisible to the fallen eye.

Had Christ not drawn me to Himself I am sure I would have been either dead or in prison. As it is I abide in the majesty of His love, and I am imprisoned by His matchless grace! To know Him, oh just to know Him is beyond words. But this spiritual experience of our spiritual reality does not come without seeking. The presence of Christ, although doctrinally everywhere, is not fully realized by the individual believer without sacrifice. So while we walk under the weight of this world and offer little quality time with our Savior we can be assured we are missing an abundance of unspeakable joy and peace.

When was the last time you spent one entire hour just dwelling in His presence, praying, abiding in His Word, and meditating upon His glory? And yet we spend many hours doing things that profit little in the natural, to say nothing of the Spirit. Do we desire rest for our souls? We will find it in Him and Him alone. This is not positive thinking. This is not eastern mysticism. This is not mind control. This is the Sabbath rest now found eternally in a Person.

And as we live in the midst of darkened chaos our souls search for rest. But the church has lost the practice of finding rest in Jesus Christ other than a promised ticket to heaven. But still the Spirit beckons us with words that cannot be uttered. But our ears are inclined to the sirens of this world, and so many times those who profess Christ end up upon the rocks. Shipwrecked, alone, devastated, and with a lost sense of the Spirit. They have become weary in well doing and have surrendered to their own flesh.

But oh the glory they have missed! We have become so bound to this earth, and so enthralled with the “how to” lifestyle, and so enamored with earthly prosperity and success, that we have left Mary’s place of worship found at His feet and have found contentment in Martha’s kitchen. Look at the clean dishes; look at the washed pots; look at the polished sink; and watch as we sweep the floor. Are you impressed?

Oh but look at His face; listen to His words; experience the wonder of His presence; and dwell in the grace of His eternal redemption. How can that be compared with human works and activity? Have we traded our birthright for some pragmatic pottage? Do the pressing needs of the temporal crowd out the Spirit’s call to “come and dine”? If so, where did the ax head fall and how can we recover what we have lost?

Seek Him with your whole heart.


1 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
2 When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.
3 Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.
4 One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple.
5 For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.
6 And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the LORD.
7 Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me.
8 When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek.
9 Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.
10 When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up.
11 Teach me thy way, O LORD, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies.
12 Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty.
13 I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.
14 Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.
I Pledge Allegiance to North Korea

What was Hitler’s deceptive allurement? What was Stalin’s deceptive allurement? What was Mao’s deceptive allurement? What was the deceptive allurement for all the empires of past history?

It was nationalism. It is still alive and well today including millions of recruits from within God’s kingdom. It begins with an inaccurate and inflated narrative of the country in which you live, and it is accompanied by many patriotic enhancements including songs, speeches, pledges, parades, colors, and a general appeal to the emotions.

And when successful, it creates an amalgam of people that are as eclectic as one can imagine. From atheists to Muslims, from rich to poor, from Jew to Gentile, from uneducated to PHDs, from felon to policeman, and from Christ hater to Christ follower. All these different genres of humanity are brought together, not just in a loosely fitted group, but as people who will give their very lives for this human collection who happen to exist on a piece of the earth whose geography is in the same vicinity and who have lent their allegiance to the same governmental structure.

Then you give it a name, a bird, a seal, a flag, and voilà, you have created an earthly kingdom born out of violence and with violence real and threatened as a means to protect and defend such a kingdom. And in many cases the people deem their kingdom as superior and preferable to all the rest, and some even suggest a divine favor rests upon their earthly kingdom. It is more than a compromise, it is a blatant abrogation of the very first commandment.

Imagine a person is born in Anytown, USA. He grows up as a patriotic child with his parents and relatives all dedicated Americans. They salute the flag, they line the streets to support the 4th of July parade, some have proudly served in the military, some of them have given their lives in defense of America, their schools are patriotic and that principle is drummed into them since birth. The child grows up and serves for 3 years in the military and then comes home to begin a new life.

Now when the young man arrives at home he begins to see things differently. Yes, he still loves America and he is still dedicated to defend her, but he is now beginning to see something else. He has begun to see North Korea in a different light, and eventually he seeks dual citizenship. He desires to be a citizen of America and North Korea and he believes his allegiance should go to both. But his parents loudly object and question both his sanity and his love for America. They strongly suggest that the two countries are actually enemies and have nothing in common.

Well their son does not see it that way. In fact, he has studied North Korean history and he knows that Korea was not always communist. And their son desires for North Korea to return to the ways of the “founding fathers” and he is committed to that end. He loves America, but he also loves North Korea. He salutes their flag, he pledges allegiance to that nation, he sings their anthem, and he is ready to die to defend North Korea. Besides irritating his entire family and ostracizing all of his friends, he is openly called a traitor.

Wow, you say. Who would do such a thing? Who could pledge allegiance to two nations that are so different and have such diametrically opposed values and purposes? What kind of deception could make a man behave in such a confused and compromised way?

We are called to give unequivocal and unquestioned allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ and His kingdom. All earthly kingdoms are frauds, however well intentioned in the natural, and will one day fall under the weight of the coming kingdom of Christ. We should not hate people or their temporary kingdoms, but we should not be swept away with their temporal allurements either. We have only one kingdom and one King.

All the nations and their chest beating boasts have never been a part of the kingdom of God. God is no respecter of persons, and He did not create one nation of ease and prosperity for one small group and create other nations of burden and oppression for other people. The earthly constructs of nations and their governments have men and women as their creators, not God. You as a believer may choose to lend your allegiance to a nation, and that does not mean you are not a Christian.

But it does mean you are deceived in that area, and that particular deception seeps into many other areas. Perhaps you could begin again, shed your preconceive notions, and take a fresh look at New Testament Christianity and how it pertains to nationalism. We who have come out of that deception do not cliam spiritual superiority, however we do feel an urgency to share our experience with our precious brothers and sisters.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Religion Without the Spirit

Sleep on, church, the Son of Man comes in clouds of glory at a time in which you least expect it.

Over the centuries the church of Jesus Christ in all its forms has morphed into an institution with thousands of little outposts that exhibit very little power and concentrate upon structure, doctrine, and fellowship. While those things may not be wrong per se, they become major stumbling blocks when they replace the Spirit. And when I say the Spirit, I do not mean some of the fleshly contrivances by some of the more charismatic gatherings. And I do not mean a music fueled worship service that gives rise to the emotions which just as quickly disappear as soon as the music and the service ends. And in full disclosure, I am very demonstrative in my worship, both private and corporate so I am not against demonstrative worship.

But something very disturbing has happened in western Christianity. Our gatherings are powerless religious theatre, organized and completely preplanned, and they usually are twin brothers to the last and next Sunday gatherings. When was the last time the Spirit actually took control of a gathering of believers and significantly and unexpectedly elongated that service in order to perform an observable work in the hearts of those present? Perhaps you believe that the Spirit does not desire to do that anymore? Perhaps you believe that a perfunctory, one hour religious observance is an accurate manifestation of what it means to enter into God’s life changing presence?

But we have become accustomed to our religious customs, and we have constructed our gatherings to show deference to the fast paced culture entrenched in the hearts of so many believers. The service itself is predictable and is designed to accommodate visitors since they represent a potential giving member. But where is the Spirit? Look at the condition of the church and can you honestly say she is in good spiritual condition? Even the slogans adopted by many churches are designed to be upbeat and make people feel good.

But among all the activity, there is a spiritual dearth that cannot be ignored by those with ears to hear and eyes to see. We are on a religious treadmill that goes nowhere, but meets our need to satisfy our religious obligation. There is more, much more, than what the western church both exhibits and expects. And living within the culture of extreme hedonism and moral darkness, we are only persecuted for our stand on abortion or homosexuality. Our light is so dim it blends in with the spiritual darkness, and in fact, our colossal misrepresentation of what it means to follow Jesus is so bland and so tepid and so unremarkable, that we are embraced by the unregenerate and welcomed to the table called pluralism. And we still feel as though we are following in His steps?

They crucified the holiest man who ever lived and yet they embrace us as American brothers? They called Him Beelzebub and they called Paul that “pestilent fellow” and yet we attach “Dr.” to our name. They spit on His face but we are offended when spoken against and we return evil for evil. He surrendered His rights while we demand ours. He shed His life’s blood for our sins but we run to spread gossip about the latest moral failure.

Redemption has become an impotent word whose power usually does not venture any further than the sinner’s prayer. But where are the millions of professing believers whose lives are so filled with the fragrance of Christ and so different than those around them that people must take notice that they “have been with Jesus”? Jesus is no longer the focal point of the church. He no longer is preached and obeyed as Lord of All. Who in the west dies for Christ, and more noticeably who lives for Christ?

The unbeliever walks to his driveway on Sunday morning and notices several cars missing from his neighbors’ driveways. But he knows that at approximately 1:00 PM they will all return and all things will remain the same since the father’s slept. And this is the manifestation coming from people who claim the Creator of the Universe actually lives inside their mortal beings? We who say we believe the Bible, what have we done? We all have been born into this ecclesiastical structure, and we have known many wonderful and even spiritual believers, but we have allowed that to lull us to sleep and accept this caricature as a revelation of the watching and waiting Bride of Jesus Christ.

But step back for a moment and read the New Testament once again and your eyes may be opened to the truth. We were never meant to have our faith be a part of a well rounded western lifestyle. An authentic expression of following Christ must always be a significant inconvenience in the midst of a humanistic culture. There should be many things in this culture in which we cannot participate or find any spiritual nutrition, and not just things that are obvious sin. The true expression of Christ in a fallen culture is a paradox. It draws sinners while simultaneously repels others. But our motive must always be to draw them.

But this mundane and inconspicuous Christian lifestyle lives at peace with God’s enemies, and regards salt as extremism and light as offensive. But if we are to be at war it is not with the carnal weapons of fallen man, but with the fruits of the Spirit and the unmistakable marks of a humble and surrendered servant of Christ. But in large part the church has abandoned the prayer closet and the elongated watches in prayer. In fact, over the years we have revealed that we no longer actually believe in the power of prayer.

The Holy Spirit came at Pentecost
He came in mighty fullness then
His witness thru believers won the lost
And multitudes were born again
The early Christians scattered o'er the world
They preached the gospel fearlessly
Tho' some were martyred and to lions hurled
They marched along in victory

Come Holy Spirit dark is the hour
We need Your filling
Your love and Your mighty power
Move now among us stir us we pray
Come Holy Spirit revive the church today

Then in an age when darkness gripped the earth
The just shall live by faith was learned
The Holy Spirit gave the church new birth
As reformation fires burned
In later years the great revivals came
When saints would seek the Lord and pray
O once again we need that holy flame
To meet the challenge of today

Come Holy Spirit dark is the hour
We need Your filling
Your love and Your mighty power
Move now among us stir us we pray
Come Holy Spirit revive the church today

Can we even long for the unmistakable mighty wind of the Spirit that descends upon a thirsty people who call, yea beg, for God to once again reveal Himself dramatically through His very own people? As we gaze back and meditate upon the cross and the depth of that loving sacrifice, are we content with the sacrifice we now live? Can we say that the church walks in resurrection power today? Without the fullness of the Spirit there is nothing but religious human works that are only lifeless replicas that manifest a pitiful impersonation of the Risen Christ. What shame! What a sham! We have attempted to live without the Spirit while attempting to claim we live for Jesus. There can be no greater lie.

Brothers and sisters, the western church is in ruins. Despite all the activities, ecclesiastical organization, and human exertion they are not the personification of the Great Redeemer regardless of how many people it attracts or how it meets our earthly desires. The first step to revival is recognizing the need for one. But the second step must be desperation. Until the church becomes desperate for Christ, desperate for the power and presence of the Spirit, we will remain entrenched in a redundant religious construct that continues to crowd out the Spirit and imprison those who claim to be free. I do not claim to have arrived, but I have touched the hem of His garment and I have become acutely aware of how much more there is to the life of a committed disciple.

The life of a follower of Jesus is doctrine; but it is much more than doctrine. It is fellowship; but it is much more than fellowship. It is witnessing; but it is much more than witnessing. It is gathering; but it is much more than gathering. Now the Scriptures exhort us to study the Word and fellowship together and witness to the lost and gather on Sunday to worship. But the Scriptures never told us to do those thing all the time. But there is one thing we are exhorted to do always.

Lk.18:1 - And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint

Lk.21:36 - Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.

Eph.6:18 - Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;

Rom.12:12 - Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;

Phil.4:6 - Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

I Thess.3:10 - Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?

I Thess.5:17 - Pray without ceasing.

I Tim.2:1 - I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;

I Tim.5:5 - Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day.

II Tim.1:3 - I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day;

Jam.5:17-18 - Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.

I believe with my whole heart the church has lost her way when she lost the passion for prayer. And until, by God’s grace, we once again commit ourselves to unusual and laborious times of prayer and intercession, we will remain as we are. But you and I cannot just wait for the church at large to catch that vision. We must commit to seeking the face of Christ in prayer and beseeching Him to do a fresh work in us, regardless if we are the only ones. He is worthy of our lives.

And this kind of repentance is very difficult since prayer itself does not sing a moving song or preach a powerful sermon or write a public blog. Prayer does not clamour for our attention, and there are a hundered other things we could be doing. Prayer demands patience, much patience, and we are not a patient people. We must see results quickly or we move on to other things. This prayer cannot be something we give a try; this must become the centerpiece of a believer's life. Jesus said His house was one of prayer, but we have made it a center for religious activity and everything but prayer.

And any church which is led by the Spirit to elevate prayer to a higher priority than everything else will lose members. Today's sheep are not interested in prayer. They are interested in finding the best pasture with the most exhileration and the friendliest sheep.

Matt.26:40-41 - And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?
41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Sleep on, church, the Son of Man comes in clouds of glory at a time in which you least expect it.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Nature of Deception

Heb.2:1-3 - Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.
2 For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward;
3 How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;

Deception is multifaceted, and its strategy usually involves a malleable evolutionary process that can change tactics without changing the desired purpose. The writer of Hebrews defines it as slipping rather than falling which indicates a step by step process. Now those who are prime targets for deception are also identified in that same verse. They are those who do not give “the more earnest heed” to the Word of God.

There are two major areas that fit this description. There are those who never show an appetite for God’s Word and remain immature believers, not just because they may be doctrinally illiterate, but because their inward man is being systematically starved while their carnal nature thrives. Our churches are literally full of such professing believers. This is partly due to their own spiritual lethargy and partly due to shepherds who tell stories, jokes, and present a constant stream of “how to” messages.

The other group that lend themselves to deception are those who spend an inordinate amount of time outlining the deception, and in so doing they themselves slip into deception. Many times this kind of deception is not what usually is defined as deception, but it is a deception nonetheless.

Gal.6:3-4 - For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. 4 But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.

Before we continue concerning the nature of deception, I want to take a moment to address something relevant to the issue. There are many deceivers in the church today, many. And their numbers are growing exponentially and with great power and persuasiveness. Some should be recognized as blatant and some are more insidious and clandestine. Many use some evangelical language, but are sprinkled with the language of the new age, or ultra pragmatism, or eastern mysticism, or other ethereal verbiage that is very nebulous and esoteric. The spiritual battle for the souls of men and the true and living gospel rages with intensity.

Although we are called to stand against such heresies, we must never consider that our spiritual food. A person can be well versed in the cults and well versed in the Biblical departures of the day and yet not reflect Christ in his personal life. We can slip into a deception that makes us think more highly of ourselves than we ought, and in so doing we stray from the steps of Jesus. It is a delicate balance and that kind of balance is rarely addressed. We assume that if you are against the teachings of Rob Bell or Rick Warren or Joel Osteen or all the many Biblical compromises that somehow that in and of itself legitimizes you as a broken vessel of Jesus Christ.

But can you see the deception here? The ground upon which all followers of Christ must walk is level. No one should be considered as a higher form of Christian based upon what he knows.

Gal.2:6 - But from those who were of high reputation (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—well, those who were of reputation contributed nothing to me.

And in addition, I am not convinced that identifying the error in others is actually spiritual food, on the contrary, I have found it to be an opportunity for self righteousness. We must be very careful that when we deal with others we are just as quick to deal with ourselves. Pride is an extremely strong deception and it can and does make progress little by little and many times without notice. And eventually you find yourself saying things that are vicious, calling people names, mocking those with whom you disagree, and castigating lost sinners. And to soothe your conscience you drape what is obviously carnal words and attitudes with categories.

Standing for truth
Biblical orthodoxy
Coming against sin
Culture war
And many others

But in reality all of God’s Word is truth. So being “clothed in humility” is as true as the virgin birth. But the virgin birth is considered a tenant of orthodoxy while being clothed in humility is a non-essential elective. Again, deception. And by the way, I wonder if it would be considered a discernment ministry is a person researched all the ways the blog nation was unloving, prideful, ungracious, self righteous, and gossip spreading and dedicated an entire blog to it and called it a ministry? After all, truth is truth and compromising one truth is the same as compromising another. Just a thought.

Having said all that, let me move on. Sometimes people cannot understand the seriousness of what many would consider minor Biblical errors. By that I mean seemingly minor Biblical infractions while he still teaches the “cardinal doctrines” of the faith. In the “now” the dangers may not pose a doctrinal death sentence, but as Hebrews indicates, they may represent the beginning of a spiritual slide that empties into the next generation of preachers that happily build upon those errors. And in a very short time the seeds of those “minor” Biblical errors have given birth to major errors and even abominable heresies. From that perspective, perhaps the false teachers should have been confronted at doctrinal Czechoslovakia before they made their way to doctrinal Paris.

There is a difference between nit picking and addressing very legitimate issues concerning what is true. And I would contend that the two major doctrinal infractions are usually the person of Christ and the nature of salvation. These two issues, as well as some others, are the ancient landmarks that cannot, and must not, be tampered with. It is these two issues that form the foundation of the Christian faith, and if they are compromised, then we have a wholesale apostasy in progress. And although this represents a departure from sound doctrine and orthodox Christianity, it is more notably a departure from Jesus Christ Himself.

One subtle but identifiable element of the deceptive process are associations. Because of the technology in which we live, preachers can and do openly support each other’s ministries as well as fellowship together. Yes, this is guilt by association. It reveals the lack of commitment a man has to his own theology and the lack of discernment he has about others. Preacher Smith is unquestionably orthodox while Preacher Brown openly teaches falsehood. Preacher Smith should not support or fellowship with Preacher Brown. But today you have all sorts of fellowship mixtures that lend credibility to false teachers because orthodox men endorse their ministries. A case in point:

In my previous post The Shocking and Heartbreaking Reality I pointed out to you a pastor named Perry Noble. I only touched upon the carnal and unbiblical nature of his ways and teachings. But let us connect the dots.

John Piper is considered impeccably orthodox. John Piper endorses Rick Warren who has become a pervasive compromiser. Rick Warren endorses Perry Noble. So when Piper leads his people to endorse Rick Warren, many of them may endorse Perry Noble since they now trust Rick Warren. You can see the association fueled deception. And I am not saying a man cannot have lunch with someone, but these men openly endorse one another. So what seems to be a small compromise on Piper’s part has much broader implications.

Things like this are not done in a corner or with such care that they remain hidden. These things are done openly and without apology. And it isn’t just on a national level. Every believer comes into contact with teachings that seem very spiritual and alluring in the natural. And if the teacher has a warm and interesting personality then the allurement can even be stronger. And some believers strike up a friendship with someone in the church who is dabbling with false teachings. And when they give them a hearing because of their friendship they themselves are sometimes deceived. We live in “perilous times”.

So my exhortation to us all is this: Remain stedfast and vigilant concerning truth. But never let truth become dry and academic and without the Spirit of the Person of Jesus Christ. Our theology describes what we believe, our life should describe Who we believe. Do not allow doctrinal deception to slip into your life. But equally as important, do not be deceived into thinking that your rejection of error is unassailable evidence that your walk and living manifestation of Christ is pleasing to God. And it would do us all well to remember that our warfare is not with flesh and blood.

Fallen Democracy

Let’s see, the Republican debate crowd cheered because Texas has executed so many, they hollered “yes” when asked if we should let uninsured people die rather than treat them, and they booed a gay military man who was serving his country.

And the Democrats are much more tolerant except to the 30 million unborn children.

If you can find Jesus in any of that then you must be reading a different Bible than I. This year of all years should make it very difficult to vote with a believer’s conscience. Of course you could just join many thousands of us who will refrain from participating in a fallen exercise of man and instead pray for the church.

Friday, September 23, 2011

It Must Take the Angels' Breath Away

Rev.20:15 - And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

Westerners desire positive messages. In fact, many churches advertise that their minister preaches a “positive” message and that of course is meant to draw people to that church. The old “hell, fire, and brimstone” preacher has become a target of ridicule in this sophisticated evangelical climate. Rob Bell did a video that mocked what he referred to as “Bullhorn Guy” because he was ineloquently warning people on the street through a bullhorn. Of course Pastor Bell believes no one has anything to fear and that all will be saved so that message is irrelevant to him.

But even believers who supposedly include hell in their theology would rather not hear about it. And not to worry, in the average evangelical church hell is rarely referenced and when it is mentioned it is usually just that, a mention. There are many references to hell and eternal punishment through direct teachings and some parables. But the concept is distasteful to the educated western mind, even though we keep a doctrinal replica safely tucked away in our statement of faith (maybe).

But if we believe the Scriptures, we must admit that they do teach about two eternities; one bad and one good. But so often our behavior and lifestyle belies our profession of faith concerning these two realities. The way we are interested in this world, or the way we seem to love things, or even the way we get entangled with the temporal conflicts of power indicate a very shallow belief in the place called “heaven”. Let me illustrate.

A certain man has won 1 billion dollars in the Florida lottery. He and his entire family are beside themselves with joy, and they load up the car and head for Tallahassee to collect their new found fortune. As they reach Gainesville they stop for gas and a cold drink. The man reaches in his pocket and pulls out 11 dollars. But the man knew he had put 12 dollars in his pocket, but now there is only 11. He begins to scour the car floor looking for that other dollar, and he insists the kids remove the back seat so he can look for it.

He begins to sweat and use bad language because he cannot find that dollar. He accuses someone of stealing it and berates everyone. Now his oldest daughter stands aloof and watches the unseemly spectacle. A woman comes out of the store and stands next to the man’s daughter, and upon hearing the loud commotion she leans over to the man’s daughter and asks, “What’s going on?” The daughter explains that this is her father and he has lost 1 dollar. “The funny things is”, the daughter explains, “ that we are on our way to pick up 1 billion dollars in Tallahassee”. The woman looks at the girl with a wry smile and says, “Yea, sure you are”, and walks to her own car.

That is how it must appear to the world when we contend that we are headed for eternal life, but we strive to be rich, get all entangled with the affairs of this world, and are sometimes worrisome, irritated, and generally without the peace and contentment that would substantiate such a claim. Every person on the planet would give everything they have if they knew for certain they could have eternal life with God, but we say we have it through Christ but our lives remain an unremarkable cog in the western cultural wheel. With such a mind boggling claim, should not our lives stand out with incandescent brilliance in the midst of this deep darkness?

But I would like to turn our attention to the issue of hell. Regardless of the many different terms found in Scripture, I am speaking of an eternal place where sinners without divine redemption go and endure eternal justice while being separated from God forever. Now many churches, even some of the more seeker sensitive and purpose driven models, have hell mentioned in their statements of faith. And almost all orthodox churches include a doctrinal "yes" to hell. But most churches avoid mentioning it, not to mention teaching it, because we desire to be a positive people!

Now if it true that every sinner who dies in his sins spends eternity separated from God in a very, very bad place, and if it is true that redemption is offered to all sinners through Christ so that when they die they will spend eternity with Jesus in a very, very good place, then what else really matters? And yet the church spends this 80 year field trip as if this is all there is while almost ignoring the doctrinal elephant in the room. If you are a Calvinist then you have carved out a niche that allows your conscience to be free from any authentic passion for souls since you believe God has only redeemed a very tiny section of humanity.

But if you believe the Scriptures and the Great Commission, and if you believe that is not just some perfunctory exercise that God uses to make Himself look consistent in a game of divine solitaire,, then we are faced with a startling mandate that the western church has traded for a mess of earthly pottage. If we really believed in hell, who would build million dollar athletic facilities for our youth? If we really believed in hell, who would spend thousands on a “Christian” cruise? If we really believed in hell, who would go days and weeks without intercessory prayer? If we really believed in hell, who could go tearless night after night when our loved ones remain lost? If we really believed in hell, who could teach a series on how to increase your financial portfolio? If we really believed in hell, could a pastor redundantly present sermon after sermon complete with jokes, funny stories, and outlines of alliteration, but void of any tears? What does all that say about our so called profession of belief concerning the two eternal destinies?

And when Rob Bell and others present books and messages that openly suggest that everyone will be eternally safe in God’s love, we all race to condemn it and pat ourselves on our doctrinal backs. But our sin stares us menacingly in the face, and our inconsistency pulls the rug out from under our doctrinal hubris. The concept of hell is extremely difficult to actually believe because a passionate belief will always cause a sacrificial lifestyle that is filled with inconvenience, moderation, prayer, and a deep commitment to see sinners saved. And when we see the long, sad line of lost sinners headed for a lost eternity, it would result in a gut wrenching emotional experience that only added to our passion to stand in the gap for souls.

But here we remain, walking in the powerless redundancy of western hedonism but comforted by a religious structure that passes out a gospel kit complete with a profession, a baptism, a church membership, and a continuing Sunday morning get together that changes nothing and is primarily designed to pay the utilities, the salaries, and of course the mortgage. And the billions that have not been reached with the gospel all around the world? Are there no missionaries? Is there no Christian television? Are there no Bible translators? (Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?)

Yes, we surely have taken what was entrusted to us and remolded it into a religious sentiment that fits nicely within a well rounded cultural experience. Nothing fancy, nothing out of the ordinary, and surely nothing inconvenient or substantially sacrificial. Get up on Sunday morning, eat some breakfast, wash and clothe the outward man, drive to church, sit in the service, shake hands and smile before and after, go home and remove your Sunday clothes, eat again, settle in for some football, and voilà, you are a card carrying member of the western expression of a Christ follower. Something is terribly wrong.

But while Rome burns, let us give our attention to the presidential race since that is from whence comes our help. Keep hope alive Darfur; keep hope alive China; keep hope alive South Africa; keep hope alive Iran; keep hope alive Mexico; all of you, keep hope alive because we are praying and hoping that the American economy will turn around. That seems to be our hope these days.

Rev.20:15 - And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Shocking and Heartbreaking Reality

I saw this video at Christian Research Net which is administrated by my friend Ken Silva, with whom I often agree and disagree as well. But his blog can be beneficial, especially when it involves error and spiritual departures like the one about which I will deal. May I also say that in spite of my sometimes speaking correction to Ken, he has always treated me with respect and civility. I cannot say the same for some more emergent/liberal blogs when I dare speak a word about Rob Bell’s teachings.

Watch This Video.

Oh the sorrow; oh the heartbreak; oh the treachery. The pulpit once was a place where a sanctified man of God came fresh from his prayer closet, and after having been with the King of Kings, he doesn’t deliver some sermon, but he delivers his burning soul. But as you watched this pitiful video, can you not feel the grieving of the Spirit? Where is the Lord God of Elijah?

What in God’s dear Name has happened to the gospel, and where are the surrendered and broken messengers who are willing both to sacrifice the world and to suffer persecution in order to magnify the Lord Jesus? What kind of open carnality is this that supposes itself a spokesman for Christ? There are no perfect messengers to be sure, but when you hear things like this, you realize the walls are broken down and the gates are burned with fire! And in the background you can hear the deceived congregants offering their approval as the man on stage both mocks the worship of others and devises plans to irritate other believers by using the message of fallen men. He must value the debauchery of the lost more than he values the fellowship of other believers, even though they may not see things as does he.

This pastor is not alone. He is representative of thousands of so called pastors who are not feeding or protecting the sheep, but are in fact leading them into a spiritual ditch. Using unwholesome words, and making light of music meant to glorify the resurrection, he by his words and his example tickles the ears of his listeners and encourages a self righteous spirit. It is almost unbelievable, but this kind of worldly marionette exhibition is now rampant in the world of evangelicalism.

What if you had been praying for years for a lost aunt, and you brought her to the church on the corner, all the while praying for her soul, and you and she heard that? Instead of a prayed up and anointed man of God, you witnessed a George Carlin-esque type of performance. Oh yes, the Word of the Lord is very rare today. These young Rehoboams and Jeroboams have no respect for the former things used of God, but just like the two “Boam” boys they mixed the holy with the profane.

Now I ask you. If Jesus tarries, what will the next generation of professing believers look and act like as they are “shepherded” by men who need shepherding themselves? Can you even imagine a pastor conspiring to “p***” people off on Easter Sunday morning and then have the audacity to call himself a shepherd? I have been saved for 36 years and I have never heard such carnal blasphemy. It is time we speak what the Spirit is saying. These churches are no longer Christian at least in practice. Even a Muslim cleric would not dishonor his meetings with such careless and common rhetoric. They have more respect for Allah than some professing believers have for the Lord Jesus Christ!

But do not be troubled. These things must come to pass, and everything will most likely get worse. But the silver lining in this cloud of apostasy is that it summons our hearts to look upward for surely the coming of the Lord draws nigh! Do not be discouraged, but hold fast to Christ and to Christ alone. Away with all the carnivals, and theme parks, and houses of entertainments, and sex therapy gatherings, and money launderings, and stand up comics, all of which masquerade as gatherings meant to worship the Most High God and His Christ.

I do not suggest I have any knowledge of who is redeemed and who is not. But I do fear that many sinners are responding to a false message that cannot save and a false caricature of the Risen Christ that cannot redeem. Let us watch and pray that we ourselves resist the temptation to stray from the majestic simplicity that is only in the Lord Jesus. Amen.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

One Less Gay to Hate

Many, many times I have exhorted the followers of the Lord Jesus to consider how they treat lost sinners. And many, many times I have expressed repulsion as to the vicious verbiage sometimes leveled at a particular genre of sinners which are colloquially referred to as “gays”. The range of hatred runs from Fred Phelps all the way down to the pew dweller who carelessly snickers with his friends when someone effeminate walks in front of them in the mall. The entire display is unchristian, unloving, and unredemptive. It reveals that our mantra of “hate the sin but love the sinner” is 50% inaccurate.

I read a story of a 14 year old boy from Buffalo, New York who was gay. He was mercilessly bullied, shamed, and mocked by some of his classmates as well as on the social mediums on the internet. He struggled mightily to find some type of self worth and to escape the ever constricting emotional stress. Last Monday he ended his struggle by taking his own life.

But I guess he wasn’t of the elect and God hated him. (Calvin) I guess he got what he deserved because he would not repent. I guess he’s one less member of the militant gay agenda. I guess he chose to be gay and he should have so easily began to be heterosexual. I guess he falls into the category of lost perverts. I guess Jesus did not love him or die for him. (Calvin again) I guess my sin was not nearly as bad as his.

If the above is what describes true Christianity than I am not one of them.

Read the story here.
Self Righteousness

A Sin Against Grace,
And the Spirit of Lucifer
I Cor.15:10 - But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

Years ago someone once said that God grace is like a turtle on a fencepost. She observed, have grown up on a farm, that once in a while she would come upon a turtle who was on top of a fence post still alive. And when she saw this turtle she knew one thing: The turtle did not climb up the post, he was placed there. And so it is with us. We did not climb up to redemption, and we are not maintaining our redemption by our own works. We were placed in God’s family by God’s grace.

Let me begin by disrobing the emperor. Self Righteousness lurks in all of us. No one can claim that he never exhibit’s a self righteous attitude either openly or through his own inward thoughts. It is a universal sin and it is abhorrent in the eyes of a Holy God.

Self righteousness comes in many different forms and camouflages itself in many different ways. All of us are familiar with the obvious and distasteful exhibitions of self righteousness which tout their own horn and claim some superior status above others. Sometimes it’s comical as in the case of Muhammad Ali, and sometimes it’s disgusting as in the case of Fred Phelps. Sometimes it appears as compassionate, sometimes it seems loving, and sometimes self righteousness wears the garb of humility. But all self righteousness is a grievous sin. I would like to explore three major elements of self righteousness.

Firstly, self righteousness comes from humanism. In essence it is a boast of the human species, and in particular, the human that is speaking. It contends that the acts of a man should be exalted and praised because he has accomplished things out of his own intellect and strength. And many times this kind of self righteousness draws other men to idolize another human being.

Sometimes people who would never speak up for themselves gravitate to those who blow their own horn, and these people receive some kind of vicarious satisfaction through someone who is boldly self righteous. Probably the most popular world wide athlete of the 20th century was Muhammad Ali whose famous statement was “I am the greatest of all time!” And he was adored by millions of Africans who only owned the very clothes on their back, but were exhilarated through his boasting and bravado. This phenomenon is duplicated in the music world, the Hollywood world, the political world, and even the church world. Again, it is pure humanism.

Secondly, self righteousness is a direct assault on the grace of God. Since a lost person cannot know the grace of God, we now are dealing primarily with professing believers. All born again believers were saved completely by God’s grace, and stand by that same grace. Not one shred of human works was in the salvation experience; it was all by the grace of God. And yet how many believers perch themselves upon some moral high ground and castigate others, including spiritually dead sinners, for violating moral directives outlined in Scripture?

But in reality, everyone violates the letter of the law every day, including all believers. But the self righteous believer contends that he did not want to sin, and that he is quick to repent. Can you see the self righteousness? That kind of believer even uses the grace of God and the forgiveness found in Christ as a platform to downplay his own sin compared to others and laud the speed to which he asks for forgiveness. It is an unseemly exhibition of spiritual self righteousness that compromises the very grace of God upon which we all stand.

Can you imagine such a thing? Two sinners exceed the speed limit. But one sinner claims that the other sinner does it on purpose and that although he did it as well, he feels bad about it. And in that construct one sinner claims the moral high ground based upon his own version of his heart’s intention. The entire spectacle is a sin against God’s grace and in reality reveals that the self righteous sinner hasn’t really addressed the nature of his own sin, but cloaks his own sin by implying he is not like the other sinner who is exceeding the speed limit. Wow! The twisted and creative fallen nature surely can come up with all sorts of human logic to justify itself! But again, it minimizes the grace of God and elevates the works of man.

Thirdly, self righteousness is the sin of Lucifer. Yes, it is demonic at its core. It was Lucifer that reckoned himself as God’s equal and refused to acknowledge God as God. And self righteousness mirrors that sin as well. When we exhibit self righteousness, whether by comparison to others or just unvarnished pride in our own “accomplishments”, we are walking in the steps of the evil one.

Now we might not be able to connect those dots as we are doing it, but if we step back and examine the situation we will find that perhaps unwittingly we are exhibiting demonic traits. The demonic does not always come as a head revolving possession. In fact, more often it comes as an angel of light which portrays itself as a friend of God and acts like God’s moral policeman when in reality it is fueled by the spirit of evil. It is a toxic mixture of humanism, a sin against grace, and a demonic sin attributed to Lucifer.

Humility is the exact opposite of the spirit of Lucifer. The devil desires for us to lift up ourselves and so doing we openly deny the Christ Who is our life. All sin is at some level a denial of the Lordship of Christ, but the sin of self righteousness is especially heinous since that sin also calls into question the power, redemption, grace, and authority of Almighty God Himself. And he who is granted forgiveness of a great and unplayable debt, must be willing to do likewise.

Matt.18:23-35 - Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.
24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.
26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.
28 But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.
29 And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.
31 So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. 32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:
33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?
34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. 35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.

Oh yes, the Lord takes this business of self righteousness very, very seriously. What was the sin of this servant to whom the king forgave much? It was the sin of self righteousness, and instead of receiving the mantle of forgiveness toward others, this servant took upon him the mantle of the Accuser. But how often have all of us heard that parable, and yet how has the church in general made it a story with some tepid application that does not actually inconvenience anyone’s flesh, and ignored the absolute implications of such a truth?

The church accuses a wide variety of what it considers unsavory characters. Rosie O’Donnell, President Obama, George Bush, many rock musicians, many actors, many politicians, all gays, all liberals, all conservatives, and on and on reads the cast of suspects. And all of it is nothing but pure self righteousness, even if what we say may or may not be true! And let a professing believer come out and admit to same sex attractions and succomb to them, and instead of prayer meetings and restoring one in the spirit of meekness, their struggle is used as a platform to assure everyone that not only are we not gay, but we believe it is a sin! And believers pat themselves on their backs for having such a pristine theology. I actually believe that had the woman caught in adultery been brought before some believers they would have had her stoned and proudly posted about it on their blogs! Jesus did not condemn her but told her not to sin again. But having know myself and many others, I suggest she might have sinned again in many other areas, even if she hopefully forsook adultery.

We are not called to be spokesmen for judgment, but we are called as ambassadors of redemption. There will come a time for judgment to be sure, and sometimes we must warn others of the impending horror. But we must never come across as condemning sinners because of their sin. In fact, their sin makes them prime candidates for redemption, as prime a candidate as we once were!

Self righteousness is a spiritual cancer that infects others and grows disproportionately while it mutates to appear as a mouthpiece for God. Go ahead, peruse the blog nation and you will find all kinds of self righteousness parading as “watchman” and “discerners”. I am not speaking of confronting error and false teachings, but many blogs castigate lost sinners, spread gossip about some moral failures of preachers, whine about liberal politicians, and in general fire incendiary verbiage directed at all kinds of people, and these attacks emanate from high atop “I don’t do that” mountain.

May I remind all of us that if indeed we “don’t do that” it isn’t because of us, but because of God’s grace and power. And additionally there are many sins which we do commit on a daily basis. And if you deny that, then your self righteousness is the most repugnant of all, because you do not need God or His grace. You, my deceived friend, have arrived. Hold the fort until we all get there. We can only hope you indeed will be there.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Consider Him

Heb.3:1-6 - Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;
2 Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house.
3 For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house.
4 For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God.
5 And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after;
6 But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.

What a glorious privilege to be called “holy brethren” and “partakers of the heavenly calling”. Oh my. What on earth can attract our interest when we have a calling from the very throne room of the Risen Christ?? And our Savior was, is, and always will be holy, but in an incredible act of loving grace we have been made holy. Oh my. When it comes to seeing and being in the presence of Him from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away our imaginations are a drop of water compared to the ocean of that reality.

And we are the sons of God by faith in His finished work and the power of His resurrection. One day this world, this universe will fade into nothingness while a new heaven and a new earth will be spoken into eternal existence. To the lost it seems like so much fairy tale, but to us who have experienced His glorious power that saved and changed us, it is the unalterable future reserved for those who have found eternal shelter in Him alone. He reigns at this very moment, and many people I have known are beholding His shining face this very moment. Oh my.

I grow more weary of this present world every day. I desire to surrender every single cell in my body to Him, and yet my flesh still creates pockets of self that seek to dilute my testimony and cast a shadow over His presence within me. But the Lamb of God is worthy to be praised at all times. The angels are praising Him now, and some are saying, “Holy, holy, holy, LORD God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come“. And our inheritance is not of this world. Like the Levites, our inheritance is Him! Is that not enough for us? Must we have more of this temporal dung hill? Or are our hearts fixed upon His face while we look for that day when faith will become sight?

Why would we preach Moses and his law when Christ is the end of the law to every one that believes? When Christ is exalted all creation fades, and the things of this earth grow strangely dim. Oh the honor to bow before His august glory and with trembling lips worship the Risen Lion of the Tribe of Judah! Oh my. Let the world argue and harangue over money and taxes and political power; we are partakers of a heavenly calling coming from the King who wields all power! And all this through His shed blood. Oh my.

His shed blood. How can it be? How can God bleed, and even more wondrous how can God bleed for me? To say I did not deserve His redemption is literally to somewhat soil the truth. There is no word, no metaphor, or no example that can ever approach how wretched we were. And the Holy One, untouched by sin, came down in my likeness so one day I could appear in His likeness. Oh my. The promises of God are “yea and amen” in Christ. It is more likely that the Sun will burn out tomorrow than even one jot or title of God’s Word will not come to fruition!

When you take a week’s vacation, somewhere around the fourth day you begin to feel the end closing in. You may begin to think of things you must do as soon as the week is over. By the seventh day, you feel the apprehension of returning to work as your vacation ends. Oh, but when we are in bodies like His there will be no end. It is most difficult to understand all the glorious ramifications of our eternal lives. Every moment will be filled with a glory unknown to us this side of heaven.

We would have been eternally grateful if Jesus had redeemed us and prepared a place for us to spend eternity in glory and bliss, but He Himself would not be there. That still would have been infinitely more than we ever deserved. But Jesus, the Eternal Son of the Living God, has called us to spend eternity with Him! Oh my. And He has promised to remake us in His image. Only the Holy Spirit of God can make any of this real to us. It beyond us to comprehend in the natural.

We talk too much about this world. We worry too much about this world. We lust too much of this world. I exhort us all, cast the eyes of your heart upon the Lamb of God. Dwell on Him. Worship Him. Seek His face. Let His presence permeate every aspect of our lives. Let Him be high and lifted up, and let Him have all the preeminence.

Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;

Jesus was, is, and always will be Lord of All. Amen and amen.