Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Adorning His Teachings

Ti.2: Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again;
10 Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.

This is not an endorsement of slavery but it is an exhortation to servants and slaves to live Christ before their masters. The testimony of Christ is greater than their personal freedom. But notice that phrase “that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things”. How do you brighten a diamond, or make more red the rubies, or increase the spectacular nature of the stars? How can we adorn the truth of Christ? This can only be done through the mystery of the Spirit and it is none of us. How the Spirit can take our lives and illuminate Christ must always be understood through the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.

We so loosely toss around believing the Bible, but only through obedience can the faith be seen and substantiated. But Paul goes further in this set of verses. We are exhorted to adorn the teachings of Jesus through our lives. Now thing about seeing the Taj Mahal and just how would you enhance its beauty? Look at beauty of the planet Saturn and tell me how you go about adorning that celestial beauty. And that is the colossal task to which the Spirit calls us. We are called to adorn the teachings of Jesus through the inward and outward expressions of our lives. Wow. Talk about climbing Mt. Everest!

But here is where utilitarian Christianity fails miserably. The ministry of the Holy Spirit has for so many evangelicals all but been ignored. Now I do not speak about those who dwell on the Holy Spirit at the expense of dwelling upon the Lord Jesus, nor do I speak of the dog and pony shows that claim to be the gifts of the Spirit. What I am suggesting is that we have woefully underestimated and even have become ambivalent to the ministry and power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. Because the Spirit has been reduced in some evangelical quarters to the spectacular and the sensational, His profound and life changing power has all but been ignored.

And when that happens it triggers something else much more sinister. When the power of the Spirit working within a believer’s heart and life is minimized or ignored it opens the door for self righteousness and the spoken and sometimes unspoken assertion that we have changed and are serving Christ in our own power. And when that becomes the norm then that opens the door to all kinds of craftiness through which people are manipulated by man rather than drawn by the Spirit.

But make no mistake. It is the Spirit of God which empowers us to serve Christ and it is that same Spirit which can take our humble service to Christ and allow it to adorn His truth and magnify His Person. That, my friends, is a spectacular miracle will not raise much money but will redound to the glory of God throughout eternity! Oh halleluiah! Where is boasting when it is the Spirit which both empowers us and lifts up our Master? Even the smallest act of spiritual service must be done in the Spirit and the moment we take a molecule of credit it withers and dies.

What a privilege it is for a redeemed sinner to minister to and serve the Living Christ! This is no small thing. Would you allow Charles Manson to serve you? Of course not, and yet the Holy One allows and even empowers us to serve Him. And this service, completely accomplished within the grace of God, is presented as a living sacrifice and in a miracle and a mystery the Spirit adorns Christ’s eternal truth with our surrendered service. Can there be any greater miracle than that, my friends? Even when we sincerely desire to lift up Jesus, and even when we deny ourselves, and even when we fully commit our labor to Him, it is still the power of the Spirit which is necessary to have our lives glorify Christ and adorn His truth, which by His own words IS Him.

Websters: Adorn - to make (someone or something) more attractive by adding something beautiful.

Do we wish we painful sacrifice to make the teachings of Jesus more attractive to those who only know of Him? Amidst all the redundant ecclesiastical practices and the hollow political wranglings there is a sacred path available to any and all who have redeemed by His blood. How many believers dwell exclusively in the courtyard? How many dare to proceed into the Holy Place? And how many actually humbly and with brokenness seek to walk and live inside the Holy of Holies? You think those are just poetic metaphors and have no place in this post modern world? If you do then you are in the majority because most of the church world would not even understand what I am talking about much less set their hearts and minds to seek such a sacred path.

But walking in His presence and by the power of His Spirit is the life to which we are called. Millions grope in the cloud of ecclesiastical confusion and have pitched their tents in the wilderness of an earthly structure which has long since forgotten the grapes of Eschol and which has no stomach for battling the true giants. So the wilderness must replace the land of Canaan and redundant religious practices must replace the mystery of His face. Regurgitate your statement of faith and you will be recognized as a faithful church member and a “mature” believer. And as the church has constructed such a religious system it has rejected that which is sacred, and hallowed, and priceless!

We barely know, much less obey, and much, much less adorn the teachings of our Master. We are nourished by the pottage of this temporal world and all its cotton candy nothingness. And slowly but surely we have set up our lives on the very eastern banks of the Red Sea. In fact, the younger generations know absolutely nothing of the Jordan River and nothing of that which is called Canaan. In fact the situation is even more detestable than that. The church has not only set up tents on the eastern bank of the Red Sea, but it also has set up tents on the western bank as well. That constitutes a situation with eternal consequences.

But you who name His name must not be bound by the present ecclesiastical crisis. You have ears to hear and you must respond to the calling of the Spirit. Words can never fully explain the exquisite privilege of being called to adorn His teachings. But if you feel a sense of hunger and thirst; and if you feel there is more than just an outward church practice; and if you know you feel a holy discontent with your own situation; then God is more than willing to take your surrender and self denial and adorn the teachings of His Risen Son. A miracle you say? A mystery you suggest? Oh, my dear friends, it goes much deeper and much further than that. It soars above anything we can ask or think, and it is all to His glory and His glory alone!

To believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved is an eternal miracle! To follow Him and obey His teachings is a sacred calling. But to have the Holy Spirit take your life and adorn the teachings of the Redeemer is something that will redound to His glory forever!

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Fool's Errand Continues


The world continues to race with vigor toward an immense and unimaginable justice which will be meted out in front of a Great White Throne. It thinks of nothing but its own desires and interests. And while time is expiring the only hope is Jesus. There is no other way. He alone is the way, the truth, and the life. The prophecies warned us that things would get extremely bad and just get worse and worse. And the world has obliged those prophetic looking glasses by reflecting their truth.

But there is a reality beyond what we can see, and that reality will soon be the only reality. The sin and selfishness and debauchery of this present world will soon be wiped away and the glorious kingdom of Christ will be established for all eternity. And there will be only two places in which all men will spend that eternity. One is called heaven and one is called hell. It does not matter if we like it or even believe it at all. It is coming and every soul will stand before the Great God and have to account for his sins. And the sheep and the goats will be eternally separated on that day.

Can you even fathom the profound seriousness of such an event? Does it seem like so much religious folklore to you? If it does than you are in the mainstream of evangelical thought and practice. You see the American evangelical community has sold their souls for a mess of political and nationalistic pottage, and the prospect of eternity has all but vanished from our hearts and our practices. We now bow before the golden calf of political power and nationalistic fervor. And even our carnal denominations lead the way into the pursuit of temporal change through political persuasion. Here is an example from a man who is the head of the political wing of the Southern Baptist Convention.

This kind of earthly energy works directly against the kingdom of God. Oh it may seem so noble to work to make abortion illegal but in the end it has no place in the teachings of the New Testament. This world is an enemy of Christ and the fallen venue of politics has never been the way of Jesus. Sure it is tempting to wander into the political arena and garner votes in order to clean the outside of the cup. But it is a mirage and a fool’s errand to be sure. Not only does it distract us from our eternal task and calling, but it changes absolutely nothing. It soothes the conscience and makes us feel morally self righteous.

But it is much more serious than that. For every action there is an opposite and equal reaction, and in the case of being political the reaction is devastating. When the church goes chasing the idol of politics it leaves the calling of our Redeemer. You cannot serve two masters and you cannot have the power of the Spirit when you are double minded. Either the gospel is the answer or it is not. And if it is the exclusive answer for people and residually their culture is the gospel of Jesus Christ then it must be our literal obsession. There cannot be any compromise here.

You might think that after decades of political activism with little or no reward to show for it that the church would finally get it. But, sadly, the church still trudges through the muck and mire of politics assuming that the next election will be the moral pot of gold. But as the years progressed it wasn’t just morality that energized the church. Now it is also money, capitalism, taxes, Muslims, and Obamacare. How in God’s dear name have we been swept away by the machinations of fallen man and his temporal carousel and in so doing we have left Christ and His everlasting gospel? Like trading filet mignon for cotton candy, experiencing how cotton candy quickly disappears in your mouth, but continuing to pay for more in hopes the next mouthful will be different.

It would impossible to estimate the impact on the church if we had shunned politics and spent all the time and energy in prayer and spreading the gospel. But we continue to be ignorant of a fact of life. The culture in which you live is like undertow. It slowly but surely pulls you into it unless you actively resist its temptations. And instead of recognizing this culture for what it is the church has embraced many facets of its practices and even its philosophies. We all must work and shop and participate in many aspects of any culture, but when you buy into its source of power, its multi-religious sentiment, its obsession with money, and its fallen sense of morality then you have abdicated your allegiance to the teaching and ways of Jesus.

And the article to which I linked illustrates clearly just how deep the church has delved into this fallen culture and all its systems. And millions upon millions of dollars are spent attempting to wield influence upon this system. And while that is happening the church continues to evolve into a religious reflection of that system and culture. To think you can play in mud and not get dirty is a self serving illusion. But let us be honest. The sense of competition in politics appeals to the flesh as well as now and then a sense of victory.

You see the prayer closet has no sense of earthly competition or victory. The prayer closet is never results oriented. But politics generates much heat and little light. But people feel as if they are being moral, and now economic, champions when within the rough and tumble of politics. But if they are believers they are deceived. But allow me to swing the door wide open here and pull all the clothes off of the emperor.

The reason believers are active within the fallen political system is clear and simple. They love and have an allegiance to a country called America. And the majority of that love and allegiance can be traced simply because they were born on this part of the planet. And just where can we glean that principle from Scripture? We cannot, and in fact everything in the New Testament points us to a celestial country not of this world and yet somehow professing believers feel that God created and blessed America in a very special way. Not only is that demonstrably absurd historically but it is manifestly and almost deliberately being embraced against the clear teaching of Scripture. In effect sentimentality and a sense of community have trumped obedience to the New Testament.

But I cannot see this fool’s errand abating any time soon. However under the radar there are a growing number of believers who have had a spiritual epiphany about the entire mess. Not only have they been discouraged and frustrated by the political system, but the Spirit has opened their eyes to the fallen nature of the system itself. In other words many of us have come to the conviction the God never intended for His people to become involved in these kinds of earthly endeavors.

II Tim.2: Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.
Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.
And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.

God is not impressed with your energy or your organization or even your sincerity. Obedience is better than sacrifice. And you cannot get entangled with the wars, political or otherwise, and still claim to be pursuing a separated and sanctified life, if indeed that is even a goal anymore. And the political harangue concerning the next election has already begun like Christmas lights put out in July. And churches are gearing up for the next battle to the point of prophesying that some candidates are anointed by God to take dominion over this nation like the kings in the Old Testament. The entire spectacle is a three ring circus and has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with Jesus and His kingdom.

We can only pray that the Spirit will illuminate more and more believers to the worthlessness, and even sinfulness, of this fallen system.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Surpassing Glory of Christ


The church and even the secular culture uses words life savior, redemption, Jesus, Christ, Bible, cross, resurrection, heaven, hell, and many other religious terms which when used colloquially are innocuous at best. They are familiar ecclesiastical terms which have been so bandied about that their true spiritual glory and essence are all but gone. We have become numb to the spiritual reality and are content with names and by products. But can we just pause for a moment and allow the Spirit to break open our hearts and minds and once again lead us into the glorious mysteries of the One we call Christ?

Rev.1: 12 And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks;
13 And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.
14 His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;
15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.
16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.
17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:
18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.

Rev.4: And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.
And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.
And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.
And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.
And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.
And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle.
And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.
And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,
10 The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

Rev.19: 11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.
12 His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.
13 And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.
14 And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
15 And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
16 And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, King Of Kings, And Lord Of Lords.

Try and digest all that profound imagery in your head and in your heart. Does that sound like the Jesus being portrayed in today’s evangelical culture? When you embrace the majesty and glory of the True and Faithful Christ you can plainly see just how innocuous the church has made their own caricature of the One called Christ. But leaving that harmful deception, let us remove the shoes from our hearts and let us proceed with great reverence and humility into sacred ground.

God spoke and all creation was. Who among us can actually comprehend such an event? All we can do is by faith accept it. Any attempt to explain it only reveals our finite ineptitude. And within the Creator’s own words He reveals that the Word, known to us as Jesus, created all of it. Again a colossal mystery of epic proportions. And how can we fully understand how Christ created man while fully realizing man’s coming treachery and yet He still makes man is His own image and knows full well the price He will pay to provide a ransom and a redemption for those who love sin and self more than they love Him? This is the mind numbing reality, and yet if we just receive it in the natural it seems like part of Grimm’s fairy tales.

But God, Who is a spirit, wraps Himself in human flesh and comes as a baby born in Bethlehem and born in a stable of all things. This humble and unlikely birthplace does not diminish the glory of the event but in reality only enhances it. That the Creator would come and be born through a human womb in a rather peripheral town and in a place where animals ate and slept represents the pinnacle of humility. God doesn’t come as a human king, but He comes as a baby born to a young peasant woman. The entire narrative is an unspeakable miracle and mystery. But when we understand the motive it becomes all the more glorious. What sacrifice! What humility! What glory!

But as the years passed the gospel narratives and Jesus and His teachings were made to bend to the convenience of the culture until ultimately the mystery and the majesty and the glory have been removed from Christ Himself and He became only a good friend and a sometimes advisor and even an American. Oh but that is nothing but a diabolical lie! He Who was God in the flesh lived and taught as One who had authority, and He had the authority of the Eternal Word covered in human flesh. No one ever spoke as did He, and no one ever lived as did He.
Here was the manifestation of the invisible God living and breathing among us. This was the mystery of all mysteries. Paul says in his first letter to Timothy, “great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” The Incarnation was the greatest mystery which today remains clothed in glory and understood only through redemption. The Holy Spirit who was the seed in Mary’s body is the only one who can illuminate our hearts and minds to even a portion of that glory. God became flesh. Words alone can never encapsulate sop great a mystery.
What a glorious plan. It was so glorious and so eternal that the Jews could not see it. They understood things in the natural and they saw kingdoms of this earth, but they could never see redemption through a human sacrifice on a wicked Roman cross.
But the conundrum becomes the vehicle through which this glory shines. It would have been much easier for the all powerful God to come down and destroy all who opposed Him, and that we could have understood. But when we think about a divine baby born in lowly circumstances we are awestruck with amazement as well as being confounded. Men’s thinking is always confined to the temporal and the carnal while God’s mind surpasses time and space. To see where Bethlehem would lead is far beyond us, especially to see it lead to Golgotha.
But this God-man lived and breathed here on earth and lived a life without sin. Yes, the miracles drew crowds and His words penetrated hearts and minds, but who could have seen what would become the crowned jewel of His eternal glory? Bloody, sweaty, filled with suffering and pain and gore, and openly mocked by men and women of all stripes the cross seemed the most unlikely place for the glory of God. The place reeked of death and violence. And it was unmistakably unjust and showcased the most despicable elements of man’s heart. And given the power of the creator how could this pitiful figure be a god of any kind?
But if that is what you see and understand then you have missed it all! This pitiful figure was not suffering because men had overpowered him and he was at their mercy. No this was the Creator God voluntarily submitting Himself to all the shame and mocking and blood and even death. And it wasn’t for some twisted divine theatrics. This was the heart and the glory of God on display for all eternity. This was why He came; this was Bethlehem; this was Nazareth; this was Capernaum; this was Galilee; this was Bethany; this was Jerusalem; this was the culmination of everything that had been set in motion when God spoke creation into reality.
But when we arrive at Golgotha and look upon this viciously beaten frame we are stripped of all reason and logic. This kind of spectacle was never a part of our visions of the Divine Being. In fact, we always would assume that God would be the one to either put a stop to such violence or meet it out to deserving miscreants. But as we gaze upon this bloody scene we cannot fathom the suggestion that this is God in the flesh and the Christ Himself. Now we are immobilized by bewilderment and perplexity. It just does not make sense. And in that you would be correct.
But now the Spirit enters your heart and mind and presents a revelation which illuminates the impossible and conveys the eternal truth. You look again and suddenly, and without relying on your own wisdom and intellect, you begin to see it, or more appropriately, you begin to see Him.
This is an eternal epiphany which when received transforms the mind and the heart and the soul. You now see God bleeding and dying, and your heart is now transfixed upon a sight which is disgusting and unappealing in the natural. And those around you who still only see a dying man cannot understand why you see something and Someone far greater than what they see. And even more disturbing to your human peers is the fact that you seem to be in love with this bleeding, dying Jew. It will not be long before the strength of their friendships will wither.
Hollywood would have never created such a narrative. To suggest that God in human flesh presents Himself as a bloody sacrifice and suffers and dies for those who are His enemies is absurd to the human understanding. But He bleeds; He suffers; He is bruised and beaten; He sweats drops of blood; He is mocked and ridiculed; and dies slowly and in great distress. God has died. There can be no greater glory than this.
Glory? How can that excruciating death be a reflection of God’s glory? That is the question most will ask. To understand even the smallest part of God’s powerful love one must go to Golgotha. It is there the glory of God will be unmasked for all who will to see it. It is not palatable to the sophisticated mind of modern man. It is not compatible with the religions of the world. It is not logical to the intellect of man. In fact, it is unimaginable to say the least.
But in the end it is the clearest and most open revelation of the glory of God that a human can ever know.
And it was given for that vilest of creatures called man.
Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift.

Is It Law or Is It Life?

To pull the Mosaic Law from the cross and parading it around suggesting everyone should embrace it is like peddling the exact poison that killed us all.

Many centuries ago God gave a law to a man named Moses. We call that the Mosaic law. It served a multiple of purposes but in general there were three main purposes for that law. They were the knowledge of sin, the blood sacrifice for that sin, and the foreshadowing of the final and complete sacrifice for sin through the Lord Jesus. Metaphorically speaking Paul calls the Law a “schoolmaster” which brought us to Christ.

Now the Law was necessary as long as the final and complete sacrifice still had not come. But when Christ died and resurrected from the dead the price for sin had been paid for through His blood and there was no need for any animal sacrifice. And the knowledge of sin became one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit which is far greater and more powerful than the Law. And after Christ came the schoolmaster was no longer needed since it has brought us to the New Covenant found in Christ and in Christ alone.

But, sadly, many people still cling to the Law as if it is still needed today even in the face of ample Scriptural evidence that it has been done away with, and even the mixing of the Mosaic Law with the grace of God is spiritual poison. This misunderstanding about law and grace has led to all kinds of doctrinal mischief as well as an unfortunate energy given to spread Mosaic morality rather than the gospel of grace. And of course many who espouse bringing the Mosaic Law through the gates of the New Covenant suggest that those who do not are condoning sin and in effect creating some kind of anarchy. That is a self serving misnomer.

Nothing could be further from the truth. We have the New Testament Scriptures as well as the indwelling of God’s Spirit. So why would we need a very few truths outlined in the Mosaic Law? The answer is we do not and the entire Mosaic Law has been vanquished in the glorious light of the everlasting gospel and the miraculous inhabitation of God Himself in every born again believer. To the unbeliever sin kills. But to the believer sin requires correction from a loving Heavenly Father. That is made clear in the twelfth chapter of Hebrews. We are no longer under Law and death but we are now under love and life.

Rom.8: For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus was not made a priest under Aaron as is laid out in the Law. In fact, the Spirit calls that law the “carnal commandment”. You see we have a spiritual law written upon our hearts that is greater than that written in stone. And when we wish to be in subjection to the Mosaic Law we diminish the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. It seems like such a simple and obvious truth but in reality the Law has a strong attraction to the flesh. You see, obedience to the statute makes us feel self righteous while obedience to Christ humbles us. The Law kills but the Spirit brings life. We have life in Christ Jesus not because of our obedience but because of faith in Him alone. An earthly son has sonship not because of his obedience to his earthly father but because he was born into that family. His obedience to his father is because of love and respect and not because of any earthly statute.

The difference between the gospel of grace and the demands of the law is a colossal gulf. One can never be achieved while the other can be had simply and only by faith. And within that lies the eternal glory of God Himself! Christ is THE END of the law to all who believe. No one can keep the law, but we can obey our Father in an atmosphere of grace. The law demands perfection. He who breaks the law in one way breaks the entire law in all ways. But grace is founded completely upon the Perfect Son of God.

It is revealing of just how the flesh desires to have some way of measuring his spiritual success. So even though the letter kills, many still want to embrace that same letter. And that compromises the life in the Spirit. Even if you strongly reject the law in salvation, when you embrace it in sanctification you still are doing despite to grace. And the Scriptures paint it even more bleak and dangerous than that.

Gal.3: O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?
This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?

Can there be any clearer teaching? In fact Paul says that those that trust in the law for their sanctification are being deceived by a spirit of witchcraft. Pretty strong words. So what could be the reason that so many desire to have the law be their guide? Why do so many believers contend so strongly that believers are still under the law? Well the answer, of course, is always the religious flesh. And that religious flesh desires to achieve something tangible. The flesh wars against the Spirit. So worship must be orderly and with certain music. Doctrines must be systematic and organized. And there must be complete structure in everything with no room for any diversion from what is already planned.

And when that happens not only is the Spirit pushed away, but eventually you can get a self righteous spirit about your brand. And fortified by the abuses and misuses all around you, you run to the law. But in a larger and more grievous sense incorporating the law into the New Covenant does genuine harm to the ministry of the Spirit and even unintentionally diminishes the utter and complete fullness of Christ’s sacrifice. But it is God’s will to use both the New Testament Scriptures with the guidance of the indwelling Holy Spirit to empower a true believer in the sanctification process. And in the end a true believer’s motivation will be his love for Christ and not an outward obedience to tablets of stone. In fact obedience now goes all the way to the thoughts and intents of the heart and it does not stop at just an outward and visible commission of a sin.

And therein lies another example of the supremacy of the law of the Spirit and the subordinate essence of the Mosaic Law. On the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came to indwell each and every true believer. That in and of itself is a monumental mystery. But He did not come just to provide a mental image of the Law of Moses. No, He came to do many things one of which is the conviction of sin. And when we read Hebrews chapter twelve we see that it is not only sin which should be avoided but weights as well. That means there are things that are not out and out sin that should be avoided by a follower of Jesus and the Holy Spirit guides us into that truth as well. Tablets of stone could never do that.

Oh the surpassing glory of the ministry of the Spirit! Oh the glory of this New Covenant which was ushered in by Christ our Lord and has made a living body of that same Christ and is empowered and illuminated and guided by the precious Holy Spirit!

II Cor.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.
And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward:
Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;
Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.
But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away:
How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious?
For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.

Allow your ears to hear and your hearts to embrace this glorious truth. We ourselves are now the “tablets of stone” read of all men. Our lives are earthen vessels which allow His glory to be seen by this darkened world. Look at verse seven and can you not see the words “which glory was to be done away”? There it is for all to see. There are two glories, one of the Old and one of the New Testament. In fact the glory of the Old Testament would eventually be seen in its death when the New Testament was ushered in. And we now are fleshy tables upon which the Word of God has been written in the sacred place of our hearts.

And that is why we must feed our hearts with God’s Word and through prayerful surrender we not only allow, but we beseech the precious Spirit to engrave that Word into our hearts and infuse its power through our entire being. Think about that glorious process and now tell me about the ordinances of “touch not” and “taste not” which Paul says are to no benefit of the spirit but they appeal to the flesh.

Gal.4: But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?
10 Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.
11 I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.

Look at what the Spirit calls the Mosaic Law. He says they are the “weak and beggarly elements” and they are “bondage”. And Paul asks why would you turn back to the bondage of the wilderness when you have been set free in the glorious liberty purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ. This is not a license to sin…God forbid! This is a new creature created in His likeness and who is in a constant state of renewal and transformation which can only happen through the Spirit and can never be altered by the dictates of the Mosaic Law.

Oh I do not doubt the sincerity of most of the believers who I have met who strongly tout some of the Law of Moses as our template and standard, but our standard and template soars much higher than any tenants of the Mosaic Law. In fact reestablishing some moral parts of the Mosaic is the easy way out. You can feel good because you do not steal or commit adultery or lie. But in reality that is nothing more than a conscience salve which circumvents the Spirit and allows the flesh to embrace a much lesser standard. Our template is Christ Himself and the dictates of the Mosaic Law barely touch the hem of His glorious garment!

Gal.5: Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

I appeal in love to all my brethren. Take some time to fast and pray without your peers reinforcing what just may be significantly unscriptural. Seek the Spirit’s guidance and allow your opinions to be sorely tested. Do not cling to the “license to sin” misnomer. It is absolutely wrong. But there is freedom in Christ which is unspeakable and full of glory. And once you have thrown off the body of death known as the Law of Moses you can immediately see that your life, and your dedication, and your discipleship is far greater than obeying a list. It now is such a great challenge that you can never attain it but you now have found the God given desire to pursue it with all your heart and soul.

It is very difficult to fully explain the workings of the Spirit. I mean how can I walk with consistent conviction about the thoughts and intents of my heart which are far below perfection every single day, and yet I can still experience a joy and a contentment and a divine energy to “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus". The answer is profound and glorious! It is because I now walk in the ministration of the Spirit and not the ministration of condemnation.

Rom.8: There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

Halleluiah! The Law brings condemnation but the Spirit brings the correction of a family member. There is an infinite difference between condemnation and correction. If I steal the neighbor’s bicycle my father makes me return it and corrects me sternly but my neighbor wants me arrested. The difference is I have a blood relationship with my father but my neighbor is to me a stranger. Can you not see this magnificent difference? A lost person steals and he is condemned but a child of God steals and he warrants stern correction from our Father.

And what indeed is the motive for that correction? The writer of Hebrews tells us it is love of God our Father the strongest force in the universe. A slave owner calls his slave in and informs him that he is giving him his freedom. And the master also tells him that he is adopting him and placing his name in the will. The slave is overwhelmed with gratitude. In fact, the slave now has a love for His master that he never had before. So now this slave is free but he instead chooses to serve His master without being just a piece of property. And he doesn’t just serve His master but now he loves him. And his service now is propelled by his love for his master, or now his father, and why would he want to go back to the days when he was just property? He is now a son and every day his heart goes deeper into understanding that and how it has transformed his way of life and thinking process.

And here we are now, the sons of the Living God and brothers with the Risen Christ. These words are not semantics. These are the words of life which reveal an eternal miracle performed by the grace of God and the Spirit of God on our behalf completely on the basis of faith. Do not go rummaging through the past to pull out that which had no life at all. Get hold of the glory of the New Covenant and walk in the power and presence of the Spirit and allow your life to shine with the incandescence of the Lamb of God. The world does not need law. They need life.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Using Good to Promote Evil


Eph.5: 10 Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.
11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

A minister named James Robison has a television show where he interviews guests and sometimes has people like Beth Moore to preach. His guests include Joyce Myers, Creflo Dollar, and T. D. jakes. There have been many others of the Word of Faith variety. So by their appearance he lends his support to their ministries and is quite adept at taking their teachings and smoothing out the rough doctrinal edges. He seeks unity regardless of how diabolical the teachings and lifestyles of these men and women are. He suggests that he used to be harsh and judgmental many years ago until he had an epiphany which changed him and has now allowed him to promote heretics. He also is an avid patriot and shares event stages with men and women, some of the unregenerate, calling America back to God. Yes, sheer nonsense.

But he also has an ingenuous way to raise funds. Yes he offers books and CDs from his guests for a donation, but he takes it a step further. His ministry helps poor Africans. I have no doubt his ministry does provide food and water to many underprivileged Africans and especially children. And yes he shows much footage of that help being offered in spite of Jesus’ own words about not trumpeting your giving of alms and not letting your left hand know what your right hand is doing. That is a teaching which warns about making public your good deeds and especially as it pertains to the poor.

But television time is expensive since it is the conduit to people’s pocketbooks, and an above average American lifestyle also needs monetary fuel. So helping the poor is also helping the preacher and it is quite the effective system. Leave it to the Americans to create an evangelical system which raises money while also presenting itself as philanthropists. It is very creative even though it is remarkably unscriptural. I can live in luxury and still pat myself on the back for being so mindful of the poor. Of course raising money in an air conditioned television studio and taking a short excursion once in a while along with much television equipment is not exactly what Jesus had in mind. And James Robison is hardly the only offender in that kind of system. In the movie "The Godfather" the owner of a casino asks Michael Corleone if he thinks he is skimming off the top. That is exactly what many preachers are doing. In fact if it were not for Africa and Haiti where would many preachers get their Mercedes payment?

But in the case of James Robison his method of ministry goes further than just lining his own pockets which probably also has a touch of nepotism as well. But because he helps the poor and provides pictorial evidence of that help with some very effective and emotional appeals, that also provides a platform for many heretics to come and seem very nice and doctrinally normal. It is quite the spectacle to watch as Joyce Meyers and Gloria Copeland and Creflo Dollar smooth over their prosperity message while on his stage in order to reach his audience and assure them that they are not all about money. And the reverse is true as well. Robison gets to dip into their followers as well. And Robison himself is very adept at looking into the camera and smoothing everything over and suggesting that what these people really mean is something other than we all know is a reality.

So in essence he is using good deeds, which I am sure they do to some extent, to not only support his lifestyle, but also to bring in damnable heresies.

There can be no doubt that God does not approve of such spiritual manipulation and doctrinal skullduggery. And to use poor children as a platform for false teachers and damnable heresies and out in out lies is unconscionable. The Word clearly tells us that after a few admonitions we are to reject heretics. That means we still speak out against their heretical teachings but also have no fellowship with them or even worse present them to the flock as profitable teachers. This kind of Trojan Horse is diabolical and works against the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is little doubt that all of us could and should do more to help the poor, but to use the poor to advance the ministries of heretics is a monstrous sin. Has truth been sacrificed upon the altar of fund raising? In fact, is there such a thing as absolute redemptive truth and if so does it really matter anymore? Has feeding a stomach become much more important than saving a soul?

And therein lies the question which seems to be fading away as quickly as cotton candy in our mouths. I have often spoken out against arrogance and doctrinal hubris. I have heard men whose doctrine seems impeccable but who show little personal humility and little pathos for the plight of lost sinners. In fact by their own admission they only witness because God said to do it. But still the issue of absolute truth, especially as it pertains to Christ and the gospel of redemption, must never fade from being a foundational commitment.

And that is exactly what has happened through men like Robison. His ministry has done good works to the poor, and he has publicly documented them for all to see, and he has raised much money through those videos and his persuasive personality, and then with the platform he has paid for he has invited heretics to come on his show and be on their best doctrinal behavior. And he himself uses his linguistic skills to present them in the best light by putting words in their mouths which do not possibly accurately represent what the teach and live. And in that he is a partaker of their evil deeds.

That, my friends, is another way in which the church continues to walk in apostasy.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Cessationism - The Ultimate Strawman


John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church in California, held a conference a few days ago entitled “Strange Fire”. The theme was basically about the charismatic movement and about the validity of spiritual gifts in the church today. Here is the opening message given by MacArthur.

And as always I am struck by MacArthur’s doctrinal hubris because he castigated the entire movement and then openly suggested that reformed theology is God’s modern revelation of the unbroken stream of truth beginning at Pentecost. He never missed a chance to present reformed theology as the exclusive bastion of truth. In fact, sometimes subtly and sometimes not so subtly MacArthur makes the truth of the Scriptures and the reformed interpretation of those Scriptures as interchangeable.
But what really struck me was that he gave his opinion and read from John Owen and other Puritans, but he did not and could not exegete Scripture to show where the gifts have ceased which would Scripturally suggest that the entire foundation for Pentecostalism is flawed. There is a very real and obvious reason for that. There are no Scriptures that even hint at cessationism.
And yet these are the people who say they reject experience and adhere strictly to the teachings of Scripture even to the point of hubris. But when it suits them they can use their opinions and abuses by others to form their doctrine. They do not need Scripture because they already know what they believe. And as I have said in a former post this conference was professional in every detail complete with air conditioned sessions, accomplished speakers, material tables, motels and restaurant accommodation, and all the “blessings” of a hedonist society. The whole construct is like having a “I love chocolate ice cream” conference and have everyone who loves chocolate ice cream come from all over the world in order to hear how chocolate ice cream is the best and to eat much chocolate ice cream. Everyone goes home to eat more chocolate ice cream and castigate those who have no ice cream. Oh yes, even before they left their homes and headed for the chocolate ice cream conference their refrigerators were already stuffed with chocolate ice cream. Can you not see the irony and vacuous nature of such an event? And yet we are in the midst of a spiritual need much greater than ice cream.
But the people who came already believed what was going to be said and touted. And in spite of the hundreds of thousands of dollars that were spent and the finely crafted atmosphere of the event, in the end it was “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” despite MacArthur’s self serving contention that his camp were warriors in the end times sent and anointed to do warfare with the evil Charismatics.
Yes, there are many false teachers and many damnable heresies in sections of what we call the Charismatic or Pentecostal movement, but the world is in desperate need of something much greater than a doctrinal slugfest fought with self righteousness. The world needs to see and experience Jesus through the thoughts, the words, and the lives of those who know and follow Him. And that, my friends, is a challenge which most of the church has no thirst for. And where are the conferences that are free and call for a serious and sacrificial commitment to day and night praying and a serious return to living what Jesus taught? Making Jesus a champion of reformed or any other theology makes Him your own personal talisman and reduces Him to a doctrinal Savior. And in the end we strip Him of His Redeemer status and we make the gospel our own doctrinal message instead of the everlasting message of hope that it truly is!
But those who are militant about rightly interpreting God’s Word by comparing Scripture with Scripture seem to lose their moorings as it pertains to the gifts of the Spirit. They will quickly condemn anyone who pulls out one unsupported verse and create some doctrine. And yet here is the one, and only one, verse upon which these same people create the doctrine known as cessationalism, which means that the gifts of the Spirit have ceased.
I Cor.13: Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
And this Scripture, which is in the context of the supremacy of love, is what is suggested as foundational concerning the cessation of some of the gifts of the Spirit. So how then can you defend a cessationalist view?
In order for you to be a cessationist you must:

* Take one verse from I Cor.13 and expand it to mean something where there is no other supportive Scriptural hint anywhere else.
* Make unscriptural classes of the gifts ( sign gifts, etc.) because most would agree that helps, governments, teachers, etc. are still in effect today.
* Base your view primarily upon the abuse and misuse of spiritual gifts evident today.
* Believe that God the Spirit wrote how the gifts operated to a very small group and that many New Testament verses are now worthless because the gifts are now obsolete.
* Base most of the argument around the “sign gifts: which are connected to the Pentecostal/Charismatic realm primarily.
* You must deny documented evidence from different parts of the world which point to the miraculous working of the Spirit which seem to be identified as spiritual gifts.
And if you listen to MacArthur and others like him you will hear the points on this list. Are there misuses and abuses and bizarre manifestations which claim to be the gifts of the Spirit prevalent today? Of course, just like there are many bizarre variations and false teachings about the gospel, the Scriptures, and the Person of Christ as well. But the falsehoods do not diminish the authentic. And even though some of the falsehoods are extremely grievous and even blasphemous they still should not be the basis for suggesting that the genuine do not still exist. That contention must be fully supported by Scripture which in the case of spiritual gifts it is not. And in MacArthur’s case he presents a straw man without presenting clear Scriptural truth.
But the cessationist claims are used to form certain doctrinal cliques and they create quite an amen corner. I am no Calvinist. That has always been clear and I have never sought to hide that fact. I take strong difference with MacArthur and others over the five points of Calvinism. But I have been edified by many of MacArthur’s teachings, his Calvinism aside. I can even understand why they embrace their reformed doctrine and the Scriptures they use to support it. I disagree but I understand.
But on this issue I find his Scriptural support to be nonexistent and his Biblical exegesis to be disregarded. And although false teachings must be addressed within the body of Christ, we must not be altogether consumed with them and their teachers. Our calling by our Master is not to go into all the world and confront Charismatics. Our calling is to preach and live the everlasting gospel and the Lord Jesus Christ. That kind of conference I just might attend.

The Other Side


Lk.10: 30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.
33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,
34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.
36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?
37 And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.

This narrative as served for many decades as a wonderful story of love and compassion. But as in many teachings of Jesus they seem to find their way into sermons but when challenging and difficult circumstances present themselves in this culture the church has run to cover under a self righteous moral shelter. And in so doing they act completely against the heart and soul of this profound teaching from the lips of our Lord.

When we make categories for sinners and treat them in the order that we assess the depth of their sin then we have left the love of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. We become like those who crossed over and walked on the other side rather than help the beaten man just because he was not of their lineage and culture. And yet believers by the millions project abject scorn and unkind vitriol toward certain sinners just because they are committing sins that we do not. It is self righteousness at its fallen finest.

But that attitude has nothing to do with Jesus and the kingdom of God. Just where did we turn away from the teachings of Jesus and create a religion which views people from high atop a moral pedestal? And our highest template is breathtaking. Jesus, God Himself existing from eternity past, stepped down from His dwelling place of unimaginable glory and came down to earth. And He did not come just to “rub shoulders” with mankind; He came AS A MAN! And in that face of such wondrous love and sacrifice how dare we snub our noses at gays and liberals and Muslims and any kind of sinner. You see, if Jesus had our attitude He would have never come to save us.

It is our commandment and yes our honor to represent Christ in this world, and going even further into a mystery, He desires to live through us. And how can anyone read the life of Jesus and feel superior and lifted up among those who were once your peers? How can anyone feel moral pride about the grace of God? The purest definition of grace forbids any self righteousness and when we embrace that grace we are set free and empowered to reach and love sinners in a way that is impossible in the natural.

And against the backdrop of the life and teachings of Jesus, and dare I say the Incarnation itself, is a challenge, a commandment, and a Great Commission which by definition includes reaching out, living among, and even breaking bread with lost sinners of every stripe.

I Cor.5: I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:
10 Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.
11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.
12 For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?
13 But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person

This is a clear teaching which has been obliterated by modern moralistic politics in America. The Spirit of God, speaking through the Apostle Paul, tells us that if someone calls themselves a believer and is openly engaging in sinful acts without any remorse or repentance should be disfellowshiped, however He states categorically that we should always attempt to build communal bridges with unsaved sinners for the distinct purpose of sharing and exhibiting Christ.

Can you not see the clear and open distinction? And when we castigate lost sinners we work against the Holy Spirit Who is always drawing those same lost sinners to Jesus. How in the world did we get it so confused and so wrong? I’m glad you asked. We got it wrong and left the Spirit the moment we stepped foot into the world of politics, even if we embraced what is commonly called “conservative”. You see, and here is where you must have ears to hear the Spirit, conservatism is an enemy of the gospel just as liberalism is but just coming from a different earthly vantage point.

The everlasting gospel is a message of the Spirit and is not tethered to either conservative or liberal politics or even morality itself. In fact, the gospel is FOR the immoral of whom we all are. “Without holiness no man shall see God”, the Spirit tells us. Are you holy in even the smallest sense by your own energy and labor? Is it ALL of the Spirit of grace that we have been MADE holy? Then where is room for any moral hubris and where are we pointed to verbal assaults and unredemptive attitudes toward any sinner when we ourselves have been grafted in BY FAITH ALONE AND THAT BY GRACE ALONE??

But when we espouse and takes sides with anyone or system of this present world we in essence cross over on the other side and pass by a lost and needy and beaten up world of sinners. This is not some finer point of doctrine. No, this is the essence of the Great Commission and it places us as servants of Jesus and conduits of the gospel rather than worthless windbags spewing the moral issue du jour. How more plain can the Spirit make it? We are to avoid fellowship with professing believers who are in open sin, and yet with lost sinners who may be committing the same or even more grievous sins we are to eat with them for the purpose of evangelism.

So that distinction begs this question: How do we castigate and condemn lost sinners but still love them and break bread with them? The answer is we cannot. We must choose between the fallen and self righteous systems of this present world or the glorious commission and calling inherent within the teachings and the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. That is some choice! One brings great glory to Jesus through being a humble servant while the other brings earthly glory to politicians and their earthly motives. Humility, my friends, is quite an elusive quality and in fact is rarely sought in these days of competiveness and self affirmation. And if you set your heart to help sinners see and experience Christ through your lips and your lives, and if you walk over to the forbidden side where the lost and beaten exist, you will be judged by much of the evangelical world.

In fact, they just might call you a Samaritan.