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I Cor.6: 19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.
All of us who have been born again and have the Spirit illuminate us can look back to a former, hollow and self serving and in many cases a destructive life. When we were in charge of our lives we made a real mess even if we succeeded as the world defines success. But when Christ came into our lives we could clearly see just how worthless our former lives were when this world was all we had.
So much of the church has emphasized Jesus as a ticket to heaven. The refuse to press the issues of cross bearing and self denial and walking in the Spirit and the cost of true discipleship. And so you have millions upon millions of church members whose lives tell an unsettling tale. Can anyone who is a genuine student of the life and teachings of Jesus seriously suggest the institutional church is filled with disciples? The word “disciple” itself has fallen out of favor in the modern church. People are much more likely to use the words evangelical or Christian or even conservative.
But we have been bought with a price unless you are illegitimate. Not only are we not in charge of our own lives, but they are literally not our lives at all anymore. Why is that not taught over and over again? Could it be because most of the pulpits are filled by men who believe they not only own their own lives but that they own their church as well? We have lost what it means to be a disciple. The way Jesus spoke about being a disciple is an extremely difficult path bordering on impossible. In fact Jesus sometimes presented such a graphic depiction of what it means to be His disciple that many left the pews and never returned.
But there is a incredible and supernatural paradox in all of this. The disciple’s path is very challenging and requires complete surrender, but that same path brings a freedom in the Spirit that cannot be experienced in any other way. The bondslave is more free than any man. The servant is served. The last is first. The least is the greatest. The humble is exalted. It is a miracle within the Spirit that the earthly mores are rendered useless. All the cultural rules are broken. All human logic is foolishness. What a glorious life to which we have been called.
What can pressure do when your life is His? How should we worry when He owns us? How can we be offended when we have no reputation but His? What place does ego have when all is His? If we truly desire to hear the Spirit’s guidance we will understand the glory of His life lived through us. Be committed. Be surrendered. Be faithful. But most of all be dead.
Men and women who are running for political office will present their church affiliation as proof they are Christians. And yet they will spew incredible disparages about their opponents while inflating both their records and the promises they are able to make and keep. And some even desire to send more young men and women overseas to defend the indefensible. And yet they claim to be…well…a Christian. How can these things be?
Sometimes a person can be a Christian and yet not be a disciple. He can be a member of a religion but not a member of Christ’s body. We live in very dark days indeed.
It is when I see myself as the most worthless and undeserving sinner is when the Spirit leads me closer to Him. When I am impressed by myself in any way the gates of heaven turn to stone.
Ex.12: 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord.
13 And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you…
This event was the first Passover and was it not aptly named? The death angle only respected the blood. You could adorn the doorposts with gold and silver and your Jewish pedigree but that would not suffice. You could have written all your good works and how you helped the poor and nailed it to the doorposts but the death angel would have visited your house. The blood of the lamb would be the protection against the wrath of God.
This was a symbol, a type, and a foreshadowing of what would later be the final Passover. This time the Lamb would be God’s only begotten Son. And it would be His shed blood in which all sinners must find redemption or suffer the eternal consequences. All your good works multiplied by millions could not forgive one seemingly insignificant sin. But one drop of Christ’s blood applied to a lost heart can transform a sinner into a saint. Who was once an enemy of God can be not only a friend of God’s, but His child. This what Passover taught us.
The blood is rarely preached in these man centered days. But without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Does that seem archaic and brutal? So you have given yourself the authority to decide truth? God must discuss with you His gospel and find out what you think? No, God alone has already set in motion His eternal plan for mankind. Could He have done more than suffer and die for us?
As the Lamb of God was bleeding upon that cross the evil one remembers back to Egypt. Now he knows his doom is sealed. Even the angels looked upon the scene in wonder and horror. Jesus said He could have called thousands of angels to rescue Him and they stood ready at His command. But no, He thought of us and not Himself. If you corral your mind and make it sit down and meditate deeply for more than a passing moment you will have to admit that the entire spectacle at Golgotha is supernatural in every way. God is a man? God suffers? God bleeds? God dies? Who can really know such a thing? The words flow oh so freely from our lips and yet there is truth at Calvary which is unfathomable and bottomless.
And when a sinner embraces Christ as Savior and Lord that sinner is not just forgiven. He is transformed. He is forgiven forever and transformed forever. He has become a true child of God not just through human reproduction that reflects divine creation. That is fleshly. But that sinner has become a child of God through the power of the Spirit and because of the blood of the Lamb. There is no other way. None.
Calvary is the one and only portal to life eternal. But the church preaches and lives and loves this life and rarely draws men into the eternal realm. Somehow and someway God required blood to forgive sins. And only God could provide that blood. And He did.
So when we take the Lord’s Supper we are remembering His sacrifice. And remember the only reason the death angel, the second death angel, will not visit your soul is because God said “When I see the blood I will pass over you”. But allow me to more accurately depict what has happened in this New Covenant. In the Old Covenant God called believers His “people”. And He would pass over them when He saw the blood upon the door posts. But here in the New and Better Covenant God does not just pass over us without condemning us. And we are not just His people. We are His children and part of His very family. And God does not have to pass over our house anymore. Why? Because if we are true disciples God Himself lives inside our house. Go ahead and allow that to marinate in your minds and hearts. What a God we serve!
Matt.24: 13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
Ominous words from our Lord’s lips. Could there be any part of the world which has not heard the gospel witness? I do not know. But the thirteenth verse is also an ominous warning. While preachers by the tens of thousands lavish their listeners with all kinds of assurance concerning their salvation Jesus warns us to endure. I realize verses like this confront many church doctrines and men must explain them away. But I will admit these kinds of warnings must be taken very seriously regardless of how it might mess up our pretty doctrines.
What are you saying, Rick? I am not presenting any theology here except that Jesus’ words are deeply unsettling and should be presented to church members without human varnish. Do we have the right to make the words of Jesus fit into our theologies or should we make His words our very theology? In times past I have given people assurances about which I could not know. And in so doing we make room for spiritual laziness and even sometimes give assurance to lost church people.
You see, the most disturbing words Jesus spoke in these two verses are “…and then shall the end come”.
Matt.9: 20 And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment:
21 For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole.
22 But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour.
If can even reach a point where you are broken and desperate you can find the path which leads to Jesus. This woman suffered for twelve years and being embarrassed was no longer relevant. She was broken. She was desperate. But many times good circumstances keep us from being broken and desperate. When things seem to be good who needs to be broken? Who needs to be desperate? We will “seek” Jesus Sunday mornings for a few minutes of indeed that can honestly be called seeking.
But what if you circumstances do not lend themselves to being desperate? What if you have not suffered for twelve years? Well that is how most people see being desperate. But are we desperate to know Him and the fellowship of His sufferings and the power of His resurrection even if our earthly situations are acceptable? Does our heart pant after Christ like a deer pants after water? Is it possible to have all your earthly needs met and a loving family surrounding you and yet deep inside you are still desperate to know Him deeper and with much more intimacy? That should be every disciple’s desire.
You see when people are desperate they lose all inhibitions. They will pay any price. They will act with abandoned relentlessness. They feel as though they have nothing to lose and everything to gain. And many times they find strength they never thought they had. It does not matter if she bumps people lining the street gawking at Jesus. It did not matter if people pointed a mocked. She desired more than just a glimpse. She pressed through and touched the hem of His garment. In retrospect that was some touch. She touched Him and He then touched her.
People want heaven and they will use Jesus to get it. But do they want to touch Him? Will they push through the church crowd in order to touch Him? Will they sacrifice time and energy in order to touch Him? Will they suffer rolled eyes by others in order to touch Him? Will they allow their hearts to become desperate and broken enough to pursue Him in ways generally unknown to this modern day church?
But the absolutely amazing truth is that we no longer have to touch the hem of His garment. We can, by the power of His Spirit and through the depth of His written revelation touch Him. And that is an ongoing life changing event.
II Cor.9: 15 Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.
I Pet.1: 8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:
The word unspeakable indicates an inability for human words to completely define and communicate something. In this case it speaks of our salvation in Jesus Christ which is unspeakable indeed. There are three New Testament Scriptures that use that word. Here is the third:
II Cor.12: 3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)
4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
The Apostle Paul was brought into heaven and returned to earth. While he was “caught up” he heard things that were unspeakable. Can you imagine such a thing? They were even unlawful to be uttered by a man. They were so sacred, so holy, and so unlike anything heard upon this earth that they either should not or could not or both be repeated. This is truly holy ground upon which we walk.
And even though they could not be uttered the Spirit graciously chose to make us aware they exist and just how supernatural and separate they are from all who know this side of heaven. It should bring chills to our spirits when we even entertain the thought of heaven and all the sights and sounds. Paul heard things about which he had no words and was not allowed to even try. But place that against the backdrop of what we do know by the Spirit.
Rev.4: 5 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.
6 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.
7 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.
8 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.
This is a revelation from the Spirit of God. Look at the sights and sounds that surround His throne. Listen to the angelic beings as they say over and over again “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.” Now stop and think for a moment. Paul is actually hearing angelic voices saying that phrase while they hover around God’s throne. What? I mean what do their voices sound like and do their lips move and how loud is it?
As powerful and awesome was Paul’s heavenly visitation, John’s was even greater. And John shared a vision which eclipses the vision of angels and gates of pearl and streets of gold and all the surroundings. John shared an incredible vision of the Risen Christ with the only words he knew.
Rev.1: 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.
Do you really think human words can be arranged to fully capture His glory? Even the word “glory” is intended for human understanding but cannot fully enter into the full weight of His eternal majesty. Oh how could such a Perfect Being every love such imperfect being such as we? We will have an eternity to love Him for it. John sees His vision and falls down at His feet as though dead. This disciple who often laid his head upon the chest of Jesus now is rendered broken before Him. What a Savior! What a King! What a Lord! To think He desired me and you to be with Him for all eternity. Who among us can really understand that kind of love?
This is our Risen Lord. He is our eternal reward. There is no other. Please, Holy Spirit, keep our hearts and minds stayed upon Him. Thanks be to the Unspeakable Savior for His unspeakable gift!
Let us say you were introduced to someone as a candidate for you to date. But you looked her up on the internet and your uncle was in law enforcement and looked her up as well. You found out she was a liar, a thief, a child molester, a drug dealer, a prostitute, a murderer, and has been massively unfaithful in every single relationship she has had. Could you really love someone like that if you knew those things to be true? Would you try and woo her to be your wife?
Read Jn.3:16 again. God knew all those thing about the human race and yet He loved us and sought us to be His bride. Go ahead and try and explain that. It will take you literally a life time, and the moment you lay your new eyes upon the Risen Redeemer you realize your words were almost an affront to Who He is and what He has done. God so loved the world…simply amazing.
Pet.2: 18 For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.
19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.
20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.
These are ominous words indeed. They do not refer to disciples who stumble and are imperfect. We all are that. This refers to false teachers who have twisted God’s Word in order to accommodate a lifestyle that is displeasing to God and at odds with the life and teachings of Jesus. The phrase “live in error” is very descriptive.
There is freedom in walking in the truth which is THE Truth. When Jesus walks with and in and through us there is nothing that can compare. And that brings up the other side of the discernment coin. I have hear men who accurately discern error in Joel Osteen and Rick Warren and Rob Bell and all the usual suspects. Their presentation is well researched and documented. And many who have come out from some of those can say a loud amen. And others who have recognized their error can also say amen.
But we must never rest in our discernment laurels. It is not enough to identify error. We must be humble conduits of the truth. I do not refer to doctrinal truth. The homeless guy and the prostitute and the drug addict do not know any doctrine nor is that what they need. They need Jesus. They need someone to be and share Jesus to them. Sharing Jesus without being Jesus is a technique and not a disciple’s path. The gospel has hands and legs as well as mouths. And contrary to these pompous false teachers humility, extreme and excruciating, is foundational.
And if that is foundational, then how many are really on the path of discipleship? Let us continue to seek a humility which denies ourselves every single day. To be sure that is no easy task. Yes, it takes a cross.
Lk.16: 11 If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?
12 And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own?
13 No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
To me, this is a foundational admonition for all who wish to be His disciples, especially in a money obsessed culture. I would suggest this: I we were taken to a deserted island with just a Bible and left there for three entire years do you think our view of discipleship and money would change? In other words do you think the culture has in some way has found its way into our thought processes? Of course it has.
But where do we begin to unravel the layers of mammon attachment and begin to allow the Spirit to reform our thinking and our hearts? Let us back track even further. Where can we find the passion and profound desire to have the Spirit do that at all? Anyone can be open to a few painless alterations, but who lies down upon the threshingfloor and says, “Do what pleases you, Lord.”? Who opens their hearts completely and invites the Spirit to do extensive surgery with no compartments withheld?
Is it not way past time they we as the church realize just how much we have been affected and infected by the mammon of this world? Until we truly realize the serious compromises that have emanated from this fallen culture we will not be able to proceed any further in Christ. And just what is holding you back from a thorough assessment fueled by a spirit of repentance? Is it your affection for a certain pastor? Is it a saved family member who you love and respect? Is it a fear of fanaticism? Is just plain old laziness? Or is it a subtle fear of what the Spirit may show you and then you will be faced with a difficult decision?
The love of money runs wide and deep within the church. So often we think the love of money is defined by Donald Trump or Bill Gates or other profoundly rich men and women. But that is not the case. A poor person can be imprisoned by the love of money. I remember sitting in on a committee meeting which was to decide then pastor’s salary next year. The pastor told the committee what he could make in the secular world and that they should adjust his salary to reflect that. That man had the love of money.
What concerns us? Lost souls or rising gas prices? Lost wages or the wages of sin? A broken air conditioner or a broken prayer life? I rising interest rate or a rising exhibition of sin? A compromised credit score or a compromised church? If we examine what concerns us generally will we find much of it, if not most of it, is connected to money? This is what separates the believers from the disciples. Anyone can say they believe, but to be a disciple takes observable features. Perhaps the most glaring feature would be carrying a cross and denying one’s self.
There are a multitude of believers who do not even know what that means much less living it. And that is an unsettling prospect as it pertains to the separating of the sheep and the goats. If, in the end, God requires more than just become a church member to reveal saving faith how many who see themselves as sheep will be shocked?
Sinners are looking for someone who truly loves with no agenda. They can sense when you are doing your duty or when you are representing a certain local church or when you are using techniques. But when you are willing to share Jesus with humility and compassion, and when you truly love sinners then the Spirit can use you. The world needs to see a love which can never be found in this world. That is only God’s love. Everything else has man’s agenda attached to it.
So I am standing in line waiting at the auto tag and tax building to open and the woman behind me is smoking a cigarette and wearing a winter coat – in Florida. So I strike up a conversation with her. It seems she has just moved to Florida and needs an auto tag. She has recently gotten out of jail (drugs) and she works at a strip club now in Tampa and is a prostitute as well. So for the next twenty minutes I got to share Jesus with her. Her cigarette smoke did not bother me in the least. I never asked for her name so just pray for her God knows who she is. She told me some “church ladies” come by every month and bring them nail polish and snacks (bless them). The sad thing is that because of crack cocaine her eyes looked hollow and unresponsive, but the Spirit can break through that.
Lk.12: 22 And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on.
23 The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.
24 Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?
25 And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit?
26 If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest?
“What to eat…what to wear”. Our culture is dedicated to these things. A restaurant on every corner and clothing stores galore including online. And people’s minds are drawn to both. If you have the resources you can dine and pay a couple of hundred dollars for a dinner for two. And you can purchase some shoes for one thousand dollars. How much time do we spend picking out a wedding dress and lining up the caterer? If we seek to be spiritually honest, and if we are willing to step off the treadmill temporarily, we can see with the Spirit’s help how Jesus’ words are so applicable.
The overarching theme to these verses pertains to our obsession with the things of this world. In verse 34 Jesus says that where our treasure is that is where our heart is too. That is some principle and yet so called ministers by the tens of thousands teach people how to get “what they want”. Denying self has been replaced by Your Best Life Now. And it can all be traced back to not knowing Jesus at all.
That statement is not doctrinal hyperbole. It is a shocking and tragic fact. Think about the ingenious nature of such a strong deception. Here you have people who say they believe the Bible. Sometimes that nebulous generalization does nothing but soothe people’s conscience. But can you believe the Bible and not believe and follow the true Jesus? That, my friends, is an impossibility. You can be religious, and you can be moral, and you can be active at church, and you can even read that which is colloquially called “the Bible” and still not know or follow Jesus. Can there be any more powerful deception than that?
And within that deception are many deceptive tributaries. That which Jesus warned against has become that which people seek in a capitalist culture. Again, is that not an amazing feat of spiritual skullduggery? Jesus warns us about “giving thought” to food and clothing and yet the church teaches that God desires to shower you with all kinds of material gifts which are the very things Jesus warned us about. And earthly and carnal preachers tell willing ears “You can have all sorts of these things as long as they don’t have you”. And anyone who has lived knows that again is a misnomer. Whatever we acquire in some ways enters our hearts and has a voice within us.
It would have been one thing for Jesus to say “Do not think about gold and silver and precious jewels” and He did in other places of Scripture. But here He refers to food and clothing. Even those things which we need must be guarded so that they do not consume our thoughts. And when we worry or fret we reveal a lack of trust for God. And when we allow our thoughts to go to these things it reveals self centeredness. As we watch the decadence of this culture we tend to think more highly of ourselves than we ought. But when Jesus speaks of clothing and food then we have no place to hide. We have been found out by the Spirit.
So continue to present yourself to the Refiner’s fire and with food and clothing be content…in Him.
Once your eyes are opened and you gaze into eternity then nothing on this earth makes any real sense. You can enjoy some things, but this fallen world becomes both your enemy and your mission.
Hector of Troy:
“All my life I've lived by a code and the code is simple: honor the gods, love your woman and defend your country. Troy is mother to us all. Fight for her!”
Doesn’t that sound very familiar?
Lk.14: 12 Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee.
13 But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind:
14 And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.
Many times we have been guilty of lavishing church picnics and suppers and banquets upon ourselves while a multitude of “others” live all around us. We have been processed to look out for number one and to make humanitarian outreach a separate ministry within the church and not the Siamese twin whose heart beats simultaneously with the gospel. If we spent as much money and effort and planning ministering to the down and out as we do to the membership we might reach many more lost hearts. How have we made the church resemble and Eli Whitney invention and not a cauldron on intense ministry which stretches forth to the helpless with His arms covered in flesh.
Do we really understand just how far the so called church has strayed? Can we even imagine the impact money and capitalism has had on the institutional church? Look at what Jesus said. He called us to go out of our way to minister to the needs of the poor who can never repay us. And we are willing to pay handsome sums to youth ministers because we expect them to help grow our children. Yes, we expect a recompense. So what can we define as a sacrifice? If we supply things to the needy who have no substance with which to repay would that be considered a sacrifice? And just where is that in the church? Oh yes, it must be an organized ministry headed up by someone which opens it humanitarian doors at special times.
But if the pulpits exhort people that ministering to the poor is not relegated to someone just so we can avoid the inconvenience of finding them and supplying them would we feel so wonderful about dropping off some unneeded clothing or food stuffs? You see, I hope, what I am driving at here. Read the Book of Acts and the life and teachings of Jesus and you will find humanitarian compassion interwoven in all of it. Salvation is by grace alone but the earthly acts which draw attention to the gospel of grace as well as reveal a cornerstone of the disciple’s path have everything to do with the poor and rejected and even sinners repulsed by the ecclesiastical Bourgeoisie.
God does not measure a disciple by his church membership or the cut of his doctrinal jib or even how many tracks he passes out. Over and over again the Scriptures make clear just how God sees the unfortunate and the sick and the poor and the very sinful. And one way we pick up our cross is to minister to others who hate us or who are in desperate situation or who are hated by others. Can you not see His cross doing just that? The church was never meant to be introverted and organized to pile up spiritual knowledge within itself. If you believe you have gone deeper in the knowledge of Jesus and yet your heart has not been enlarged to the down and out class then you have only gone deeper in yourself.
But when you deny yourself and fully surrender to Him you find the unction of the Spirit calling you to go outside the camp bearing His reproach and laying down your life for others. You see this Christian thing has nothing to do with being a 501(c)(3). The church is not a building nor a collection of earthly memberships. The church is His mouth and His eyes and His hands and His feet and all of it given life with the blood of His heart.
I love Christian quotes from men and women of God which provide insight, conviction, and a revelation of Jesus Christ. My dear brother/pastor Chuck posts one every day and I like 99.9 % of them. Most of you can guess which ones I am not so effervescent about! But we must never see spiritual things through the eyes of another. Allow wonderful quotes to become your own through the power of the Spirit.
Lk.12: 4 And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.
5 But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.
Chilling words. Even when they are spoken behind a pulpit they are usually couched in terms so that ever baptized church member believes he is safe. We will have to wait and see on that one. These words seem out of character for the caricature of Jesus we have created. This business about eternal life or eternal death is no game. It is way beyond serious. There are several general reasons why few take them seriously including the church.
All of them can be traced to unbelief. Yes the cares of this world choke out the Word but that leads to unbelief. In other words people don’t really believe in heaven or hell. They believe in a human imagery of heaven but not in the true heaven. They believe in a manmade picture of hell where serial killers go but not most people especially when you have church membership credentials. It is all so self serving and manipulated by the evil one.
This was a very disturbing warning from the lips of our Lord. When will take His words as truth and pray and act accordingly? In forty years of being a believer there were times I walked in the flesh and was not concerned with such things. We must repent of such a mindset which honors the world with its presence but dishonors God through an empty prayer closet. If we believed what Jesus said with all our beings would it not change our behavior? Would it change our prayer lives? Would we fast for some lost loved one or lost people who are being ministered by missionaries?
The church has lost all semblance of the fear of God. In fact most preachers whittle its potency down by insisting it means a holy reverence and not a fear as we define the word. The Scriptures beg to differ. Along with a holy reverence is a holy fear. If a sinner dies without Christ he will be cast into the eternal lake of fire. When was the last time you heard that sentence from a pulpit, and if you do hear it it was probably once a year…perhaps. This is mind blowing. One day it will be revealed we were playing some glorified Dungeons and Dragons game which can be picked up from time to time.
The pulpits are cold. The pews are cold. The church is cold. But the fires of this world are raging and how many believers are warming their hearts and lives around that fire? Most will never have ears to hear until it is too late. Watch and pray and fear.
Matt.18: 3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
So where did this so called “warrior spirit” come from?
Oh Lord let my heart be a sanctuary where You are not just welcomed, but You are pursued and hungered after. Let my heart be a place that is always Yours. A place where You are exalted and worshiped and adored. Let my heart break open so that I can be drained out and You can fill it completely.
Matt:25 - 34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
How very interesting. Hidden within the original Greek must be “Because you voted conservatively and because you were pro-life and because you attended a local church and because you stood up for America”. That seems to have been lost in the translation. Oh how the modern church has refused to walk in His steps and instead beat a path filled with man’s steps.
I have heard many a preacher place these verses within his own context in an effort to avoid a works centered salvation. But in so doing the reduce and redefine what it means to be a disciple. There is only one work that is exclusive in its redemptive power and that was finished at Calvary. But after one has been born again the path leads to ministry to other human beings and especially the poor the hated the sick the disenfranchised the weak the different and many times the rejected of this world.
And if that is the core element of being a disciple why is it not the core element of the church? You see we are His hands which reach out with earthly ministry so that the Spirit can lead them to the Reason we do such things. But much of the church is in deep debt and surrounded by material things which require much time and money just to keep them in good working order. And the organization called the church also is heavily weighted by debt or upkeep and maintenance or salaries.
Have I ever mentioned how strongly the culture has imprisoned the institutional church? I believe I have mentioned it. We do not need some serious renovation in order to return to Christ. We need a revolution. The entire ecclesiastical culture must be dismantled and destroyed and His Spirit allowed in to replace it. However even in that scenario given the depth of the spiritual departure it would take years for the Spirit to bring the church back to Christ in belief and practice.
But each individual believer cannot abrogate his spiritual calling just because the church is a wild ass kicking and sniffing at the earthly air and jumping the fence to graze in greener pastures rather than the table of the Lord. But we owe a debt we could never repay to our Risen Lamb. But could we not read and heed His words as a testimony and a tribute to His glorious gospel? We could not labor to attain salvation, but now we are His laborers in the whited fields. Let us gird up our loins and be about our Father’s business and our Savior’s commission.
Eph.3: 17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;
19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
There are two things which really reach out and grab me about this portion of Scripture. One is the phrase “that you might be filled with all the fullness of God”. That in and of itself is something so dramatic and so massive that it really cannot be encompassed by one thought or even one mind. The other is that thought about the fullness of God is in the context of God’s love.
If we take John 3:16 as a foundation for God’s love we must return yet again to the cross. It was there where God opened up His eternal heart and displayed a love so breathtaking and shocking that it takes a lifetime of meditation and prayer and visitation to glean from that act this thing we so glibly call “love”. No doctrinal voyeurism will suffice. No jewelry or steeple ornament nor fish bumper sticker adds anything to this glorious sacrifice and probably in most cases it diminishes the cross in people’s minds.
You see we have so symbolized the cross that when it is mentioned people think of a symbol rather than His followers. Do you understand the tragic implications of what I just said? The faith called “Christianity” was supposed to be all about Jesus and His earthen vessel disciples showcasing Him and His gospel. But instead we have buildings and preachers and holidays and moral causes and slick phrases and symbols galore. That was never meant to be. We were supposed to be His building. We were supposed to be His servants. We were supposed to be His cause. We were supposed to be His symbol, or better yet His life.
It was never supposed to be like this. We should have been continually challenged to be filled with all the fullness of God. Instead we were exhorted to be good patriots and conservative Republicans and prolifers and faithful givers to the local church. The entire “concept” of the Christian faith was seriously altered until it could not be recognized through a New Testament lens. But who really was using the unvarnished truth of the New Testament as the brick and mortar with which to build up the body of Christ?
But as I read the above verses I saw more clearly that it all was tied into God’s love. Not a syrupy and saccharine kind of Teddy bear love. No, this love is tangible, visceral, and completely out of the context of human experience. Even the Scriptures uses a mother’s love as a metaphor but that is for our learning. The greatest love any mother has ever had pales in comparison to God’s eternal love. All the fullness of God is contained in that love.
It is easy to look at the heavens on a clear, dark night and as you wonder at creation you can sometimes get the wrong impression that God is a cosmic scientist who is aloof and august and without feeling. But God’s love which is His essence cannot be measured or even understood through comparison. Yes we can see Jesus heal people and forgive the adulterous woman and feed people and we hear His words exhorting us to lend ourselves to our fellow human beings. That gives us a glimpse into God’s love. And that glimpse is wonderful and exhorting.
But it isn’t until you reach the cross that the entire length and breadth of God’s Love is taken out from behind the veil and revealed in all its fullness.
It is at Golgotha that God’s love was fully made a spectacle. A glorious spectacle. A majestic spectacle. An excruciating spectacle. A bloody, bloody spectacle. Covered in wounds and thorns and spit and nails and blood, that was God saying, no screaming, I love you! This cross was all the fullness of God on a riveting and repulsive and yet alluring display. The moment you can shake your head and admit to yourself you have only scratched the surface is the moment you can proceed further into the wonder of His cross. We so minimize the incarnation. We so minimize man’s depravity. And with those two dilutions we so minimize the cross.
God suffered and died for you. Behold, all the fullness of God. Be ye filled with it.
I have visited men in prison and shared the gospel. I have heard testimonies of salvation behind prison walls. But the two most moving testimonies to me have been Karla Faye Tucker and David Berkowitz. With those two people you can sense the Spirit in their demeanor and their voices and humility.
Jn.10: 9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
“Your Best Life Now”, a book and philosophy of Joel Osteen and people like him, is humanism and vanity at its zenith. The culture has redefined happiness and contentment and the church has dined sumptuously at that table. Who considers communion with Jesus the abundant life anymore? We measure the quality of life with material things, earthly success, and with a comparison with others. It all comes down to the definition of the word “life”. If we understand it within the context of the temporal that it is a free-for-all. Anyone’s definition is valid. But if we define it within the confines of New Testament Scripture then we are confined to certain borders of spiritual truth.
People are searching and some are not. Some are embracing what hirelings are telling them while others wander about unfulfilled still seeking contentment. They believe the abundant life can be found in the right set of earthly circumstances. They have absolutely no clue at to what the word “life” represents in the realm of the Spirit. You see there is a place, a life, within Jesus the Lord God which will bring contentment and fulfillment in immeasurable abundance.
But please understand the distinct and profound difference between this temporal life and the life in the Spirit. The temporal life demands ease and comfort and prosperity, but the life in the Spirit can find ease and comfort and prosperity while being chained to a prison wall. Can you understand such a truth? And if you understand my words can you actually embrace that truth? And if you embrace that truth are you willing to forsake all to find it?
Actually the life in the Spirit cannot be defined and comprehended through human words. It is not of this world at all. In fact it goes against everything, and I mean everything, that the world defines as life.
But for all who have never entered into that life how can we explain it? We cannot. All we can do is create a thirst in others and allow the Spirit to take our limited words and reach hearts. We are not trying to elevate some personal experience. We are trying to share a life by comparing our experience with Scripture. Only the Holy Spirit can reach a human heart with the reality of such a life.
But this is the earthly reality which men like Osteen live in and preach. Heaven isn’t even mentioned to say nothing of Jesus and the cross. And church members by the millions embrace and even love their earthly lives. They have no concept of the things of the Spirit. And preachers feed their carnal nature. I fear for their eternal destiny. Not because they embrace that fallen existence but because many have embraced a false Christ.ollowers of Jesus must never see people as liberal or conservative, or black or white, or prochoice or prolife, or American or Russian. We must see people as saved, lost, or unsure which. But God just sees people as saved or lost because He knows with a certainty. The Lord knows those that are His.
The church expends much money and energy of marriages. There are seminars and workbooks and retreats and guest speakers aimed at strengthening marriages. That can be a form of self serving narcissism. I have a great way to strengthen marriages.
Have both partners begin to passionately pursue Christ individually and together. I also can suggest a woprkbook for that.
The Book of Revelation is a prophetic narrative of end times history. It contains shocking imagery and violence and judgment. The messages to the churches are observably different than the messages spoken by pulpiteers today. The stark descriptions of Satan are unnerving, or at least they should be.
But the book is called The Revelation of Jesus Christ. How can we change people’s minds about the caricatures about Christ they cling to? Sadly the visible church is promoting a golden calf and calling it Jesus.
Lk.19: 10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.
It seems like almost every person and every church has some kind of agenda. Well Jesus summed up His agenda in this one sentence. So if we are to seek and follow and be like Jesus then we will be conduits for reaching the lost. It is a miracle of deception that so much of the church has redefined the mission of Jesus. Instead of laboring in prayer and the Word in order to be transformed and thereby reach others with the gospel most of the sermons are about elevating our earthly lives as if they were to go on forever.
Could there by anything more worthless and more hollow and more warping to the mind than the hot air lying done at political debates? Yes there is one thing that rivals that nonsense.
Ps.142: 4 I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.
This verse could be speaking rhetorically through a lost person. I have watched Christian television for forty years and I have never seen a preacher weep uncontrollably over the plight of the lost. Even the ones which shamelessly show starving African children lived in large and expensive homes. When was the last time you sat in a pew and the Spirit of God descended upon the congregation and en masse you were broken over lost souls and everyone was crying. If indeed such a visitation occurred I suggest people would not be sharing about wonderful the worship service was and how the presence of God gave them goose bumps.
Let us all come clean before God. None of us do all we could or should in reaching lost souls. We have wasted money over worthless things. We have neglected the prayer closet. We have walking years with no tears for the lost people we rub shoulders with every day. We have spent countless hours being interested in politics and yet have we shown the same concern for the gospel cause? Where did the church lose its heart for lost souls? When it became obsessed with itself and this earthly life evangelism became a side issue.
We say, we proclaim, and even write it in our statements of faith that we believe every single person who dies without being born again spends eternity separated from God in a place of much torture. And then most of us say we believe Jesus died for every soul and offers eternal life for every single sinner. That is what we say we believe, but I have often felt we are the greatest hypocrites of all. Have we allowed the Spirit to change our hearts? Do we seek to feel the heartbeat of God as it pertains to souls? Can we even suggest that our lives and even our hearts line up with our so called theology?
And have we become so calloused that we cannot, or will not, see the shameful discrepancy? The cross of course is a complete and utter denial of self. But it is also the very heart of God as it pertains to the plight of deserving hell bound sinners. It is grace painted in blood. It is love expressed by thorns. It is mercy shown by gaping wounds. The person in Psalms can say “No man cares for my soul” and be somewhat accurate but he cannot say no God cares for my soul. Calvary is the eternal proof that God cares and cares with His own life.
It is not enough to believe in the cross. We must seek to die upon it ourselves and invite the heart of God to be our heart. That, my friends, is a monumental challenge but that is true Christianity.
Rev.1: 7 Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.
In reality this world is just marking time until the Creator returns. So many seem to be concerned with signs but not concerned about Him. But on that day Jesus comes back it will not be as men envisioned it. It will be spectacular in its violence. It will be shocking in its vengeance. It will make every movie script seem timid. This entrance will not come via Bethlehem. This is when as the lightening can be seen from the east to the west so will His terrible return come.
Do I sound like an alarmist? I am just repeating what the Scriptures teach and we must sound the alarm near and far. Behold He is coming and who will stand before His holy power? There is only one safe place and that is within the redemption He Himself purchased. All others will face immeasurable judgment far worse than anything ever seen upon this earth. His judgment will sound eternal thunder and His eyes will be a penetrating fire. Adam was sentenced to death for one seemingly minor infraction so what will happen to those whose resume of transgressions is almost endless?
The battle between sin and divine holiness has been raging since Adam fell. Without holiness no man will see Christ and since we have no holiness of our own we must repent and run into the sacred holiness that is found in Jesus. There is no other shelter from what is coming. The church desires to hear good things and it recoils at such truth. Religious man will defend at all costs his own sphere of life against almost all inconvenience to say nothing of hardship. And he will conform his theology to accommodate his desires. That is exactly what the church has done.
Imagine a speeding train is heading for a cliff and the engineer says he is aware of it. But on his train people are laughing and drinking and being entertained and enjoying sleep. No one goes back and tells them to buckled their seat belts and prepare for what is coming. But as the train barrels toward catastrophe the engineer walks back to the passenger cars and tells people uplifting stories and informs them that there is nothing at all about which to worry. What kind of an engineer would that be? He would be a blind and ignorant engineer. And that is exactly what we have leading the churches today.
And this gives us a greater revelation to just how unbiblical the Jesus is which is sung to and preached on Sunday mornings. People worry about gas prices and the economy and ISIS and illegal immigration and all kinds of things. But who is worried over lost and dying souls? And who worries about the unsaved souls which are alive when He comes in great power? Who really even stops to think about things like that in this self centered religious system where God is treated like a servant who helps us get what we want? Time is now a great enemy and yet where are the watchmen?
The engineer is not asleep at the switch. He is throwing a party and he presents God as the party host. He is coming with clouds. Soon…
Think about a place where colors can be heard. Where sounds can be seen. Where hands can smell. Where spoken words are light. I am just attempting to wrest your minds from the prison of this temporal existence. The place commonly called “heaven” is unlike anything we can ever imagine. It is not a much better earth. It is not better than anything. It is august and unique and filled with God’s glory. Who can know it? But that is our destination because Jesus desires our presence. Let that truth marinate in your soul.
But the “place” where God dwells is not a place like we understand a place here. It has no boundaries and no floor etc.. I truly believe the place is God. Think about that. I cannot explain it and I do not argue about it. But what if heaven really was a place within God Himself? What if the Risen Christ was that place and the theological term “in Christ” was now a shocking and glorious reality? I really do not know how to understand it and perhaps I am wrong, but one thing I do know for a certainty.
Our awe for our Redeemer will exclipse any awe we have about that place.
Providence: God conceived as the power sustaining and guiding human destiny.
In this generation of human labor and human achievement the providence of God has all but vanished in the church and in the minds of professing believers. We can no longer accept disease or hardship or ridicule or any financial setback as coming from the hand of God’s providence. We want answers. We need answers. We demand answers. You see we have been taught a false god for so many years that we refuse to see with the eyes of faith anything that is unpleasant or even inconvenient. And yet believers all over the world endure great hardships and yet trust God and His loving providence.
After the Industrial Revolution this capitalistic and competitive culture presented all kinds of opportunities and people began to set their hearts upon such opportunities. And that atmosphere has dome great harm to the faith of Jesus. If we sing “We are warriors!” we can praise God. But which worship leader sings a song which says “It was good that I was afflicted!” and then all praise Him? Paul sought the Lord to remove his thorn in the flesh but God said “No.”. Paul was being taught that His strength is made perfect in Paul’s weakness. And Paul gloried in his affliction.
Do we receive personal affronts with grace? Do we receive financial setbacks with grace? Do we embrace our physical afflictions with grace? Do we understand everything through the prism of our Loving Father’s providence? We must cleanse our hearts and minds from a “I can do it” spirit and recline under the shadow of His mighty wings. Providence is a theological term but it just means that God is always in charge. It does not mean God is directly causing everything, but it does mean that God is weaving every thread of your life into a quilt which honors Him. And that is what we must infuse our unruly minds with every day.
Mk.5: And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes.
2 And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit,
3 Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains:
4 Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him.
5 And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones.
6 But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him,
7 And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not.
8 For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit.
9 And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many.
10 And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country.
11 Now there was there nigh unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding.
12 And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them.
13 And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea.
14 And they that fed the swine fled, and told it in the city, and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that was done.
15 And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid.
16 And they that saw it told them how it befell to him that was possessed with the devil, and also concerning the swine.
17 And they began to pray him to depart out of their coasts.
Here we have an incredible narrative. Jesus has cast out devils before and after this event. The possessed man was delivered from a legion of demons. And Jesus sends the demons into the pigs and they commit suicide. But I want to draw your attention to an astounding element of this story.
In verse 6 we see the demon possessed man ran and worshipped Jesus. But in verse 17 we see the pig farmers wanted Jesus to leave. Think about that paradox.
You see demons know who Jesus is more than some church members. And what was the reason these men asked Jesus to get away from them? It was money. They could care less about the demon possessed man now being in his right mind. There swine were gone and they blamed Jesus. This is a great lesson for all of us. What is money compared to the presence of Jesus? And in a clever and nefarious way the modern church now teaches Jesus wants you to have a large herd of swine and that His presence almost guarantees it.
But I will ask you this: Do you think the man who was delivered from demons cared about the swine? Do you think he followed Jesus or set about to get more swine? Think about it.
Seven Steps to a Successful Life
1. Jesus is Lord
2. Jesus is Lord
3. Jesus is Lord
4. Jesus is Lord
5. Jesus is Lord
6. Jesus is Lord
7. Jesus is Lord
This study comes with a 66 section guide.
I Cor.1: 18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
Notice the words “but unto us which are saved”. This is spoken to the church. So often in these days men and women believe that the cross is not relevant to a saved disciple. They think after you get saved you can leave the cross and move on to deeper and more relevant issues. The cross is merely a symbol for jewelry and church steeples. But notice also the words “it is the power of God”.
This is a great mystery. People can understand the blood sacrifice but how many understand the spiritual power inherent within the cross? How many realize that the same divine power which saved your soul emanates from that cross in order to transform your life? This cross of Calvary where God suffered and died was not here today and gone tomorrow. It was eternal from before time unto all eternity. This was the portal through which God rolled up His sleeve and revealed His strength through the most unlikely of demonstrations. And the awesome and unequalled power in that cross still roams the world and in the lives of His true disciples. The power of life birthed through death.
So when the church goes a-whoring after other earthly issues that divine power is gone. We then need lights, camera, action as a substitute for God’s power. You see the cross really has no place in a fallen culture which deals in self esteem, human intellect, and success through human labor. Who needs the cross within that kind of atmosphere except as a talisman? Who can afford to waste time meditating on the cross? I mean we have heard that story many times. It is time to move on and address the needs of man. That is what wets the carnal appetite.
But even though the power of the cross is without measure it will not force itself upon anyone. It stands before you if you have eyes to see and ears to hear. By the Spirit it calls softly but distinctly. But when it is rejected and marginalized that calling becomes very faint and almost imperceptible.
Here is a man who takes the stage and flexes and poses to show off his physique. The crowd applauds loudly and they are impressed. But a man walk into the room wearing glasses and as he looks upon the stage he sees a malnourished and emaciated man flexing. He asks the person next to him why the crowd is applauding. The person says because of his great muscles and build. The man shares his glasses with that person and he then sees things as they. The flexing man is but skin and bones.
So it is with this crossless church. Through carnal eyes people see great and swelling messages that excite and fill the room with enthusiasm. But through the eyes of the Spirit we see an emaciated gathering which parades itself with all kinds of human machinations and appears vibrant and alive and yet it is a show of death. And parched corpses applaud marionettes adorned with grave clothes.
Without the preaching of the cross there can be no life and there can be no church. Without the preaching of the cross there can be no disciples and there can be no Spirit. Without the preaching of the cross all you have is blah-blah-blah and yada-yada-yada and the enticing words of men’s wisdom. You may draw large crowds but the Spirit will not be there. And if the Spirit’s ministry is not present then we labor in vain. Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow, or today, we die.
There is only one walk of death about which God approves. It is the walk of the cross.
Jer.33: 2 Thus saith the Lord the maker thereof, the Lord that formed it, to establish it; the Lord is his name;
3 Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.
Jeremiah was attacked by his own brothers and beaten and placed in stocks and in prison. He is known as the weeping prophet. But in the midst of all this God’s message was “They surely will attack you but they surely cannot overcome you”. Here he was still confined to the courts of the guards and betrayed on all sides.
But he receives a Word from God. God does not show him how to escape, nor does He promise to get Jeremiah out of his persecution. But the Lord exhorts Jeremiah to prayer and promises He will show Him things which Jeremiah still does not know. Well, what are these things and how can they help Jeremiah’s situation? I mean the Lord does not say “Call unto me and I will open the prison doors and break your chains”. So what lesson can be gleaned from this?
Jeremiah is recognized as a prophet who seemed to emphasize a personal relationship with God. And this is an Old Testament revelation which will find its greater fulfillment under the New Covenant. You see the Spirit shows spiritual truth and revelations of Jesus to those who hunger and thirst for them and are willing to labor in prayer. Which is the greater blessing, to be set free from prison without any deeper revelation from God or to remain in an earthly prison and be saturated with untold revelations of the Holy One?
You see in today’s mindset we demand a pleasant place. We need a place of flowers and not thorns. We want uplifting experiences not life challenges. And so often we do not see unpleasant situations as spiritual cauldrons which God desires to use to make us seek Him not just because we want a way out but because we need more of Him. Can we recline and rest in a very difficult situation and allow the Spirit to illuminate us with more of Christ Jesus? Have we ever considered that in times of trouble we may be able to understand the cross just a little bit better that we can in times of plenty?
Spiritual truth is not just knowledge if it is received as a revelation through the Spirit. It is a life force which can fill a being with divine life even in the most trying of circumstances. It is not a “rah-rah” type of you can do it. It is not even an earthly encouragement. It is a spiritual enlightenment which spreads throughout our lives and not only provides nourishment for our souls but lifts us into the realm of the eternal. So throughout the centuries disciples have been cast into prisons and tortured and chained to walls and as the guards peer into that prison to make sure their prisoner is still there they see a human figure but many of them are not really there. They have been transported into the eternal realm and the chains meant to bind them have become wings which caused them to soar high above their dire circumstances.
Let us all learn from them.
Hab.1: The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see.
2 O Lord, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save!
3 Why dost thou shew me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance? for spoiling and violence are before me: and there are that raise up strife and contention.
4 Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth: for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth.
5 Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvelously: for I will work a work in your days which ye will not believe, though it be told you.
6 For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land, to possess the dwellingplaces that are not their's.
The prophet Habakkuk sees the Chaldeans descending upon Israel and wreaking havoc. He does not understand why the Lord is not protecting them against this heathen onslaught. The Lord tells him that if and when He tells Habakkuk he will not even believe it. So with Habakkuk’s attention the Lord reveals that it is He that is raising up the Chaldeans to chasten His own people.
Can you imagine such a thing? Do we not understand that God will chasten His own people? Look at what has happened to the visible church. The heathen have taken over and hiding behind church membership and great music and ordination papers and even the word “evangelical” they have swooped down and ravaged the entire ecclesiastical community and structure. The discipleship bar has not been lowered…it has been removed altogether. In fact the word disciple is rarely used at all.
Not one of us can stand publicly and exhort everyone to follow us because our discipleship is impeccable. No, God forbid. But when we remove the ancient landmarks and just feel our way along the inevitable happens. The spiritual essence of the church dwindles away until most of the church is little more than a mirror of the heathen with a veneer of Scripture and a Jesus who bows to the culture and is our cheerleader but not our Lord. And people by the millions can sit and listen to the most egregious error and nonsense and yet nod and clap and shout even as the Chaldeans are ravaging their souls.
Habakkuk realized the heathen were committing violence in their midst but today’s church not only is ignorant of such violence but it embraces the ways of the heathen. I just wonder how long God’s patience will hold out before Jesus returns and reveals a wrath about which we are ignorant in this cotton candy community of faith. The Chaldeans are now the singers and the elders and the preachers. They have not taken over through physical force. No, by smooth sounding words and well dressed orators and moving music they have subtly elevated themselves and now they are in complete control.
This is a day of great spiritual peril. This is a day where each individual believer must seek Christ and His Word with passion. This is a day where we must be fervently testing the spirits. Perhaps it would have been much easier in the 1700s attending a small local church without the onslaught of secular media, but we do not live back then. The challenge is great, but so is our Lord. Deepen the stakes and lengthen the cords of your spiritual tent. Behold He is coming and no man can withstand His power. No man…
I am an outspoken advocate for showing Christ’s love to everyone. I do not join moral crusades about anything. I take no political stands. But within the church, the body of Christ, we need to understand some things about which we will not fly a public flag. Gay marriage is one of these things.
You cannot endorse gay marriage as being Biblical unless you feel the Scriptures are malleable and ever changing. That does not mean we tip our hand to the curious and the fallen public at large. Ministers give way too many interviews and as this article shows the public is interested in controversy not Christ. Preachers have now become famous and just like the world give interviews.
And when you have a large and growing church the tendency will always be to accommodate sin in a lot of areas. When tens of thousands of people attend your weekly services what accountability is there? And in an effort to open your already bulging doors you begin to soften you stand, not just your tone, on any number of issues. The pastor of Hillsong Church is a prosperity preacher who peddles in falsehoods. Now he is sliding on the issue of gay marriage. It will not be long before gay marriages are being performed regularly in evangelical churches across America.
Do we just sit and watch God’s wrath approaching and say nothing? Do we not want to be seen as negative and even fanatical? Should we close our mouths and just watch it like we are watching some sporting event? And if we remain silent will we give an account to Almighty God some day? Are we afraid of our own family’s scorn? Are we afraid of being seen as some religious monster? Do we shy away from being labeled as unbalanced? Do we bow to doubt or do we speak those things the Spirit has shown us? What do we do?
I must speak that which I believe is truth. The Lord is coming and he will bring judgment. How can I sit life a fool and say nothing? I realize most will not believe my words. But I know I will answer to Him one day. Behold He comes! Repent and believe the gospel. The time grows ever shorter.
II Chron.36: 15 And the Lord God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place:
16 But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, till there was no remedy.
I do not believe there is a remedy for the visible church. It has gone way too far. What pathway leads out of such deep apostasy and back to Christ? Perhaps there is a path of repentance however I personally doubt it. Sorry. The visible church is a spiritual whore. There is no remedy.
Matt.26: 6 Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper,
7 There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat.
8 But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste?
9 For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.
10 When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me.
11 For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.
12 For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial.
13 Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.
There is much debate about who Simon the Leper was. I find it quite curious that he was known as a leper and yet here was Jesus eating inside his home. It surely reflects the love and nature of our Lord. But in the midst a woman appears carrying a box of expensive ointment. Now women are not allowed to make such a bold move in the presence of men. But boldly she comes without shame.
She pours the expensive ointment upon the head of Jesus. At this time no one really knew who Jesus was and what His mission from heaven was all about. But this woman sensed something special. And empowered by that sense she anointed the head of Jesus with very precious ointment. Had she been saving this ointment for something else or some future occasion? No one knows, but we do know whatever she was saving it for was not as important as lavishing it upon Jesus.
And those who claimed to be His disciples called this act of love a “waste”. Obviously they had a more limited knowledge of who Jesus was than did this woman. What a scene. But I was intrigued by the words of Jesus when He said, “She hath wrought a good work upon me”. Think about that statement. This was a selfless act which did not feed the poor. It healed no one. It did not bless enemies. But Jesus said her act would be preached all over the world. Why? I believe this reveals something very special about true worship.
Worship, true worship, is a special “work” in God’s eyes, especially that which costs something. How easy is it to raise your hands and sing loudly on Sunday morning? But if you have given a sacrificial gift to foreign missions about which no one knows does that make raising your hands any different? I do not mean something you did or money you gave expecting a return to your own bank account. I mean something you gave which was a financial sacrifice and you do not expect anything this side of heaven.
You see, this woman did not expect anything in return and neither should you. Extravagant worship is all to His glory and is never a waste. It is an offering of love which needs no return at all.
Worship is not music. It is not a great and energetic crowd. It is not a conference. It does not take place in a building. It is not dependent on overhead projectors. It does not need a human leader.
True worship takes place in the heart of a broken believer who is seeking God from an altar of sacrificial humility.
There is a vast difference between the presence of God and the music fueled energy of the congregation.
In response to the wanton corruption in American politics former President Jimmy Carter said:
“It violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president.”
His first sentence is wrong but his second sentence is right on. An oligarchy is a government which is controlled by a small group of people. You see the country known as America has never been nor will it ever be great in God’s eyes. In fact God could care less about America. America is in the same boat as all other nations. They are just a collection of people who happen to live in the same geographical area and call themselves by that country’s name. The real problem is that the western church itself has become an oligarchy when it should have always been a Monarchy.
I Sam.16: 6 And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the Lord's anointed is before him.
7 But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.
Jesse had proudly presented all of his sons before Samuel…all of them except one who was the runt of the litter and still outside attending to sheep. Jesse’s sons were impressive but God spoke to Samuel about the danger of relying upon the outward appearance. Samuel asks Jesse if these are all is sons and Jesse told him of his youngest. So David was brought before Samuel and in a moment the little shepherd boy, stinking of sheep, feels oil running down his head and he hears men speaking of a king.
Oh how holy and righteous are the ways of God! God will not use a self righteous man. Neither will He bow before the schemes and religious machinations of the church. God is not only not impressed by our outward appearance or our oratorical prowess, He rejects it all. He who exalts himself will be abased and he who humbles himself will be used of God. David, flawed without question, was a man after God’s own heart. Would to God that would be said about us.
The name of David is the one most frequently used in the New Testament when referring to Jesus. Look at his beginning. Guarding and feeding the sheep this little boy was chosen by the Most High God to be a king over His people. God gets glory from humility and brokenness and repentance and by someone who actively and sincerely shies away from any personal praise. God uses earthen vessels who adamantly point to Christ and away from themselves. The true man of God knows the anointing of God and knows just how quickly it can leave. He treats God’s blessing upon him as a sacred and undeserved gift of grace.
The true many or woman of God sees themselves as a conduit through which Jesus can live and share His gospel. Men are just spiritual instruments who have no incandescence of their own. All the light belongs to God and if we extinguish our own earthly wicks He will light within us His own wick that burns with the light of Christ! And what, pray tell, can be more glorious than that? Never hold any man’s person in admiration and think he is something when he is nothing. He who loves the praise of men is a strutting peacock having the plumage of fallen humanity. But he who refuses applause and who never seeks human adulation can indeed be used of God.
Keep ministering to God’s sheep and seeking the souls of goats, and if God chooses to lift you up to greater responsibility be careful and quick to humble yourself and remember the oil is His, the Word is His, the anointing is His, and the Savior is Him alone.
When you realize that the foolish virgins missed the banquet of the Bridegroom not because they weren't virgins, but because they were foolish, that's when your Christianity wakes up. And when you give more than a mental consent to the truth that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom is when you begin to truly prosper spiritually.And when you give more than a mental consent to the truth that the #Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
That's when you beginning to truly prosper. when your christianity #WAKES UP.
That's when you beginning to truly prosper. when your christianity #WAKES UP.
****And when you give more than a mental consent to the truth that the #Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
That's when you beginning to truly prosper.
That's when you beginning to truly prosper.
Jam.3: 15 This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.
The mindset of most of the evangelical community is earthly, sensual, and devilish. This verse is in the context of strife and bitterness but the concept of being earthly, sensual, and devilish can apply to almost all situations and even as a pervasive mindset and atmosphere. That mindset is not devil worship as we normally would associate with the term. It is not a scene taken from the Exorcist movie.
No, it indicates a mindset where we see and understand everything through earthly prisms. It is a fallen view of things of this world. All of us can be susceptible to it from time to time. But much of the church has adopted that mindset as their ears and eyes and in so doing they are deaf to God’s Word and the voice of the Spirit. They live fully within the temporal and sacrifice the eternal on the altar of the here and now. This is no minor point of doctrine. This kind of mindset undermines the essence of the faith and remolds the teachings of Jesus and presents them in nice packages with temporal ribbons and bows.
When we see things with earthly eyes and minds we soothe and harden our consciences. We cannot feel any real pathos for lost souls. We cannot embrace the cross other than in sentimentality and doctrine. We cannot see the hand and purposes of God. We belong to a community of faith which has all but lost the eyes and ears of the Spirit and is contented to be so.
Be aware, though, it is extremely difficult to walk in an eternal perspective. Everything and everyone all around us is pulling our minds away from the spiritual and into the earthly. It does not mean that everything that pulls at us is sin in and of itself. But even good things can become sin if they become stumbling blocks which keep us from Him and the mind of Christ. I realize this makes no sense to most of the church membership. Almost twenty five years ago it would have meant nothing to me as well. But by God’s grace I have had my eyes and ears opened to things about which I was ignorant. Yes, I do not always walk in an eternal perspective however I k=now know what an eternal perspective is and I now can repent and run back to the Shelter.
But the problem with earthly religion is that it is never stagnant. It has an earthly life which seeps into everything upon this earth. It demands the minds and hearts of people, and with the help of earthly preachers it reinforces the ground it has already taken. It refuses to give an inch and it always desires more and more. Like junk food it gets people addicted and welcomes them back for more. Eventually you are left with a powerless and hollow religion which hangs its hat on certain morals and earthly allegiances and even fallen legislative processes.
The mind is an unruly power. It is influenced by many things among them other people, family members, preachers, books, news programs, radio programs, and all kinds of moral philosophies. The mind must be forced, yes I said forced, to submit fully to God’s Word and the guidance of the Spirit. This is only done through a passionate and consistent hunger for God’s Word, intermittent fasting, and a surrendered desire to be corrected by the Spirit. We must be open and ready for repentance. Not a legalistic prison but a life giving repentance which forgives our sin and leads us into greener pastures.
Repentance should be the joy of a disciple. But until we repent of an earthly mindset we will never understand that we need repentance or what we should be repenting of. The days are well spent and the time grows ever shorter. If ever we are going to pursue Him with all of our hearts it must be soon…or today.
The church tosses around the word “holy” as if we know all about it. We use it in our doctrines and theologies. We even have some pitiful definitions. But until we see the Holy Lamb of God we are doctrinal blind men playing pin the tail on the theological donkey. We really have no clue and the sooner we confess that the closer we can draw near to Him who alone is holy.
I am convinced that when we sense the unusual presence of God either in private or corporate worship it does not mean God's presence is any more real. It means we are more humble, broken, and repentant. You see the cleansing of the receptacles is what is always needed.
Jam.2: 26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
The significance of this statement should not be minimized. And if it is important than what are the “works” the Spirit identifies here? Just what are works that substantiate our profession of faith. Does that not seem to be of great importance? Forget about your baptism or church membership or your senseless seed faith gifts. These works are those which reflect the life and ministry of Jesus.
And is the church consumed with ever learning about the life and ministry of Jesus? Why not? If His works must be our works you might think preachers would harp on them continually. But so much of the church has created their own earthly theology and in so doing they have left Jesus altogether. You can be very wealthy and not be doing His works. You can be very successful and not be doing His works. You can be on television preaching and not be doing His works. You can be very conservative and not be doing His works. You can be pro-life and not be doing His works. You can voice solid support for Israel and not be doing His works. You can be against gay marriage and not be doing His works.
Let us be honest and open here. Jesus never mentioned supporting Israel. He never mentioned the gay community. He never mentioned politics. He never mentioned allegiance to any country. He never mentioned abortion. That does not mean that we should not have any stance on some of these issues. But what it clearly reveals is a divine set of priorities. Are not the teachings of Jesus are template? Are they not our statement of faith? Are they not our doctrine?
So what did Jesus speak about? He spoke about helping the poor and loving sinners and showing mercy and being humble and denying yourself and rejecting hypocrisy and unconditional forgiveness and a pure heart and being salt and light and blessing your enemies and hundreds of other avenues of divine characteristics. Where are those not family values? Why are they not considered morality? Why are they not viewed as conservative? Those are the works to which we have been called and taught by our Wonderful Master.
They are a steep ladder to climb and we are completely dependent upon the Spirit to give us wisdom and strength. But when you tear things about which Jesus never taught as the core of our faith you have changed the nature of the faith. Think about the tragic implications of that.
After many months debris from a plane which disappeared washed up onshore. One day all your sins, some of which you may have forgotten, will be brought up before you. Your only hope will be in your sins are buried forever in the wounds of the Sin Bearer.
There is no greater act of selflessness than the cross. It cannot be compared with anything in human or angelic history. It stands alone and radiates the glory of God. Just the incarnation was selflessness in its purest form. But the cross goes beyond even the angelic mind to comprehend the profound implications of such an act. He, Jesus, He, God, He, the Spotless Lamb willingly went to suffer and die. Do we still tremble sometimes as we understand a little more of that glory?
Well keep trembling because we have been called to live and die upon that cross. Tremble indeed…
Bruce Jenner won a gold medal in perhaps the most challenging event called the decathlon. I watched him do it on television. But inside he lived with a great battle. Eventually he changed his name and now lives as a woman. He was awarded by ESPN for his courage.
I do not make light of anyone’s struggles due to the ravages of sin. That may be courage to the world and I guess it did take some worldly courage to expect ridicule and rejection. But that is not my definition of true courage. There are three people with whom I associate spiritual courage and whose life and testimony has challenged me for forty years.
Joni Erickson Tada became a paraplegic due to a diving accident. But she allowed God to transform her life and became a shining light for Jesus Christ. She has spoken all over the world and shared the gospel of Jesus Christ. That is true courage.
Jim Elliot heard the Spirit’s call to reach the unreached tribe in the middle of Ecuadorian jungles. He was murdered by the people he was trying to reach. But his legacy lives on and many have responded to the gospel because of his legacy. That is true courage.
Corrie Ten Boom endured unbelievable hatred and torture from with a Nazi concentration camp. She saw part of her family die because of that hatred. But when she was freed she became an incandescent witness for Jesus Christ around the world. And she openly forgave her captors. That is true courage.
These are three who I look to as examples of surrendered and humble courage. They received no earthly awards. But they will be given an eternal gaze upon the Risen Lamb. There is no reward greater than that.
Tests the spirits.
Most error being taught is man centered. It revolves around man, It gives promises to man. The hearer holds a man in admiration and therefore will believe whatever he tells them. And they hold themselves in high esteem. That is a deadly combination which continues to lead many to shipwreck.
So many today have taken the word “anointed” and used it to elevate themselves. If a preacher can convince his listeners he is anointed by God they will believe God is speaking through him. The Word of God is no longer relevant. And someone can pull out a verse and concoct some message filled with greed and success and all kinds of spiritual error and the pew dweller who has come to hear from God embraces what he hears.
How many true believers actually know how to study and rightly divide the Word of God? I do not suggest we walk around with a spirit of cynicism. But we must not eat from every table without discernment. We live in a day of great apostasy and even the most orthodox among us can be compromised by religious spirits and the mores of the culture. We must do more than just know about the Word. We must know the Word on paper, in Spirit, and the Word Himself.
Emotions can be used for all kinds of deception. There is nothing wrong than having emotions which spring from truth and the love of our Savior. But we can never be guided by emotions. It is literally astounding what passes today for Bible preaching. Men and women can share philosophy and self help and self esteem and promises of money and people will flock to hear them. Just the fact that large convention centers will be filled with paying customers just to hear some famous preacher is a sign of the times.
When was the last time you heard a preacher strongly tell you that you must die? That message is still in Scripture but it has fallen completely out of vogue in this man centered religious business.
Jam.1: 26 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.
There are two levels of spirituality as it pertains to the tongue. The lower level is to bridle that tongue so that no unwholesome words come forth from it. In other words do not say what you are thinking.
The second level is to bridle your mind and bring every thought into the captivity of Christ. This is the deeper level since your tongue will speak words of the Spirit that proceed from your mind. If your mind is unruly and not filled with God’s Word eventually your tongue will speak things which it ought not.
We have grown up in an era of decadence. Webster defines decadence as “having low morals and a great love of pleasure, money, fame, etc.”. And the culture in which we live is rife with all those trademarks. In fact many of those sins have found their way into what we would call the normal life of American citizens. They have crept in unawares and camouflaged by the extreme versions but they are still part and parcel of the culture on all levels.
And in an astounding revelation many of those attributes are embraced by the average citizen although he would not label them as such.
Everything is relative. Everything can be compared with a worldwide vision. And ultimately everything will be compared with the Word of God. So what seems to be measured and normal can indeed be seen as extravagant and excessive if God’s Word is the standard. When those who are barbaric and wild are the measuring stick than indeed we can hide and redefine what we do. Normal, as it is within a fallen culture, is completely at odds with God’s Word.
And what would be seen as decadent according to God’s Word is now seen as God’s blessing. I want to go further into territory which may seem shocking and offensive to most professing believers. You can turn on the television and watch male preachers dressed in expensive suits and women who look like whores and yet there they are speaking the name of Jesus. They have succumbed to the ways of the world and fashioned themselves likewise and feel absolutely no conviction. In fact many of them suggest and teach others that this is God’s will.
I Pet.1: 13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
14 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance:
15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;
This concept is not a practical suggestion. This comes from the lips of the Spirit and we are bound to strive to obey it. And it is a spiritual principle that should never be diluted by any culture. If we take God’s Word and understand it as holy and absolute apart from any cultural understanding then how would we embrace and practice it? If someone surrendered to God’s Word completely and with any shred of compromise at all or any vestige of cultural influence would he blend in with today’s local church? Perhaps he would be considered unbalanced and a nut.
The mere fact that we can blend in with so many is not just a clue to our compromise. It is an open indictment. I will get into specifics later but for now let us receive the enlightenment and correction of the Spirit. We have come a long way but in the wrong direction.
Lk.23: 27 And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him.
These people were weeping because of sentimentality. They did not know who Jesus was nor could they know why He was headed for Golgotha. But among those who do know now, and who should have an understanding, where are the tears? I do not mean tears of sentimentality. I mean do we ever come before Him in prayer or hear a song or hymn of the cross, and do our hearts break because we do know why He came to Golgotha? Is it ever so personal that we weep because we know just how unworthy we were are are? Do we ever allow the Spirit to reveal a little bit more of His sufferings and do we see our sins within those wounds, those gasps, that blood filled sweat?
I do not claim to be the perfect example by any stretch but I can still weep before Him because I do know who He was and what He did and who I am without Him. The entire specter of that spiritual knowledge breaks me and allows me to worship Him with the same tears as did that sinful woman. Because I too know how much I have been forgiven. It is almost endless and there is nothing in any of it which would engender such love. God did not see some good in me and decided to grasp hold of that and suffer for that little glimpse of goodness. There was no good thing found in me and knowing that Jesus still went willingly to the slaughter for such an one as me.
You see, if that does not make you weep sometimes you have a deeply flawed view of the cross. But, you say, I am not like that. Go to Golgotha armed with the knowledge of your sinful depravity and behold the man. And if you allow the Spirit to illuminate God’s bloody sacrifice to you will become something you are not like in the natural. Any believer who cannot ever weep needs to be broken by the Spirit of God.
In 2014 Japan experienced an earthquake of 9 on the Richter scale. What made that earthquake even more horrific is that it lasted for a full six minutes. It ruined the nuclear power plant at Fukushima and the cleanup will take fifty years. In fact the technology for the cleanup is not known yet. The event came very close to making Tokyo uninhabitable. But the reason for such a breakdown was due to careless safety regulations and in general human hubris. This will not be the last of such events.
Jn.19: 5 - Behold the man.
When you live and breathe within a fast paced and all consuming culture there is little time to “behold” anything really. The word implies more than just a casual glance or eve a good look. I would suggest that to really behold Jesus takes time. It takes a relentless spirit and a true spirit of worship. You cannot behold Jesus only through a twenty minute music session on Sunday mornings. To behold is to invite His Person and His presence into your very being. That even by definition is a sacred and monumental experience which requires a level of surrender, brokenness, and commitment rarely seen in this jingle-jangle western church.
Behold the man. Behold the God. Behold the Redeemer. Behold His cross. The narrative we call the Passion Week cannot be completely captured by the human mind. Who among us know all the mysteries of the incarnation? Gethsemane? Gogotha? The empty tomb? Who is so filled with self righteousness that he could suggest his theology and doctrine explains it all and uncovers all the mysteries? Only a fool would say such a thing. To see with the eyes of faith the whips and the thorns and the punches and the robe and the plucking and the lashes and the mocking and the nails and all the rest is life changing if we really see it and absorb its boundless truth. But when and if we, surrounded by all those things, bow and behold the man at the very center of it all then we must be undone and made whole simultaneously. Again a great mystery.
But when you behold Jesus clothed in humility and with a Spirit given knowledge of who is was and is something happens to you. Yes, it is a deep and profound experience however most earthly experiences soon fade into a memory file. But this experience sears itself, sears Himself, into your innermost being. It is difficult to explain with temporal words what happens when you truly behold Him in faith and love and complete surrendered awe. He is glorious beyond words. And when we think that what we know of His glory transfixes our hearts and yet we touch just the hem of His garment?
Today we see with the eyes of faith. Tomorrow we see Him face to face and we behold Him as He is. So many make much of heaven and to be sure it is a place of great glory. But to be in His very presence and behold His glory and be allowed the unspeakable privilege to worship His holinesss is beyond our weak minds to fully comprehend. Perhaps that why there was silence for about a half an hour in heaven. Perhaps we will be so overtaken and immobilized by His glory we will not be able to speak at all and then we will raise our spiritual voices in a worship which may not need any music nor overheads.
This will not be beholding Jesus as a shepherd as some have painted Him. This will be the God of all eternity unveiled without any obstruction. And we will be there…
Jn.19: 2 And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe,
3 And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands.
How many today sing “Hail Jesus!” and yet smite Him with their hearts and lives?
Humans are the only species that purposely terminates a pregnancy. It reveals the level of depravity that courses through our veins. And if that is not shocking enough, mothers will actually pay someone to invade their body and violently bring the unborn baby death by human hands. And let me reject any logic or sense of morality on my part concerning being pro-life. The only reason I am pro-life is because the Spirit of Life dwells within me and has taught me the will of God. Without Christ I would be staunchly pro-choice so all the glory is His.
Jn.1: 10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
The world was made by Him. So many professing believers forgot the totality of the Person called Jesus. He has all power and to those who believe on Him He saves them to the uttermost.
Before we can even begin to understand the nature and scope of redemption we must first understand we are in cieshow to articulate it or even how to make sense of it in your own mind but the drawing is unmistakable, relentless, and irresistible if you have ears to hear.
The sad irony is that His “own” still do not know Him. I had a dream last night where one of the television preachers was holding a rally and doing flips on a trampoline to the4 sheer delight of the crowd. They are being thoroughly entertained. I did not need an interpretation…I knew what is represented.
But for those whose hearts have been transformed by the power of Christ let us carry the Ark with sacred care. The Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament was a gilded box. The Ark of the Covenant in the New Testament is Christ Himself. And we carry that Ark in earthen vessels so that the glory is all His forever.
There are only two overarching divine covenants which apply to all men. One was limited and temporal while the other is unlimited and eternal. One was cut with the blood of animals while the other was cut with the blood of God’s Dear Son. One forgave sins for one year at a time while the other offers sin forgiven forever. One was a foreshadowing of another while the other was a fulfillment of the other. One has passed away fulfilling its purpose while the other will remain forever.
Matt.7: 12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.
In one sentence Jesus sums up the entire Old Testament as it pertains to the path of a follower of His. This is an amazing statement from the lips of our Lord. You who desire the law read these words carefully. Nowhere in the Old Covenant do these words or even this sentiment appear and yet Jesus says all the law and the prophets are contained in that one sentence. It quite the revelation and 2without the guidance and illumination of the Spirit you would surely miss the profound implications of this verse. That is why most professing believers do miss it completely.
Let us be honest here. This sentence, this revelation, this exhortation is literally an impossible task as is so much of our Master’s teachings. The church has either ignored or declawed His teachings so that every pew dweller who is not doing heroin or actively committing adultery believes he or she is obeying Jesus generally. Nothing could be further from the truth. Just this one sentence destroys the comfortable doctrinal oasis we have created for ourselves. Come on, we are supposed to do to others what we desire done to us? Who are we kidding?
So why do we not hear humble yet powerful pulpit voices presenting this truth before us on a consistent basis?
Jesus walked this earth for over 33 years and you know there were people committing adultery all over the place and gay behavior and many others sins which He had to know were going on. And yet the only time He was forced to confront some woman caught in the very act of adultery He forgave her. You know this Jesus, His life and teachings, has been repackaged by the church and His teachings have been retooled so as to make them much, much easier to read. In fact most of the church does not even attempt to reach the diluted version much less the pure revelations.
We have heard this teaching before presented like “Do unto others as you…blah, blah, blah.” We receive it generally as a good thought. But when has the church embraced it the colossal command it really is? If indeed church members suddenly were awakened by the Spirit to the purity and meaning and implications of just this one verse would not the altar be filled with weeping and repentance this coming Sunday morning? Perhaps even before the so called service even began? As it is in reality what happened last Sunday morning will be the template for what will happen this Sunday morning and the following Sunday and on and on it goes.
It is one thing though to try and do good unto others in the same way you desire to have good done unto you, but it is on a higher level to have your heart changed so that the golden rule is a driving force in your life. That is a supreme challenge and in reality John the Baptist summed it up perfectly when he said “he must increase and I must decrease”. To be Jesus in this world is monumental. But so often the church has drawn up its own spiritual guidelines instead of His. And even church membership subtly and not so subtly anoints people as saved and disciples in good standing.
The entire ecclesiastical structure and practice resembles man and not Christ.
Matt.13: 22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.
Rom.12: 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
I Cor.3: 18 Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.
19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.
Jam.1: 27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
Please understand that the word “world” can be interchanged with the word “culture”. In another words all human cultures, regardless of how interesting and quaint are enemies of the Spirit. They are all at odds with the kingdom of God. It is not wrong to observe some things or even travel to other countries and observe the different traditions of each culture. But the believer must never submit or love any culture. If any man love the culture the love of the Father is not in him.
You see the world and all that is in the world is not innocuous nor benign. Even the good lends itself to humanism and self righteousness. The church has lost the understand of just deep and profound and diabolical evil really is. Evil is everywhere and has tainted everything. There is nothing that has not been infected by evil. For example feeding the poor is a good thing in this world. But feeding the poor in your own name or in the name of some organization or nation is evil since it does not lead to Christ. Can you have ears to hear such a thing? Does that not make sense to you? If so then you have been affected by the spirit of this world and you fail to realize the preeminence and soaring majesty of the Lord Jesus. I understand that in this compromised church atmosphere words like that seem harsh and fanatical. But the nature of evil which lives and moves and has its being within this world is unfathomable.
The church has embraced the wisdom of this world and in so doing its members have become foolish. The pulpits deal in worldly issues and ignore the cross. Preachers pay homage to America and resist the denial of self. Retributive violence against enemies is approved of and championed by most evangelical churches. Politics is not just a distraction but has become a driving force. All of these things are part of a fallen culture and yet the church frolics passionately within the culture. That is loving the world if the phrase means anything at all. It is extremely difficult to remain apart from the world while being in it, but it is impossible if we do not see things as they are in the Spirit.
But the evangelical assembly line is still in full force. It is an easy line which produces church members by the hoards but few disciples. In order for the church as an institution to become what God has always desired the situation, as it stands, demands a complete dismantling of everything empowered by a full throated repentance. Do you see that anytime soon? As is human nature the things of this world work in orchestration to avoid at all costs any genuine introspection so as to cement the current beliefs and practices. Family members, likeable pastors, past financial investments, close friends, your children’s fondness and stability, and the pieces of God’s truth taught from the pulpit all conspire against even the slightest comparison with God’s Word to say nothing of a passionate pursuit of ecclesiastical truth.
So after many decades and centuries the surrounding culture sits in church pews and claps and smiles and gives but also brings in its own poisoned fruit. And eventually, shocking and almost unbelievable in its depth and scope, the church teaches and practices things openly at odds with New Testament truth and the narrative of Jesus’ life. And yet all seems right and our doctrinal statements are finely polished and grammatically correct. And so there is no need for inspection especially for the very foundations of it all. Let the ornery and the negative and the self righteous speak things like this but please turn down volume on the alarm clock. It bothers us and rocks our contented worlds.
Loving the world is actually the spirit of antichrist. Try that one at the next business meeting. But can we face spiritual reality regardless of where it might lead and what verbiage it may engender? We are scared of Iran but show no fear whatsoever of Almighty God. We fight against the gay agenda while we embrace a worldly agenda of our own. We are playing tidily-winks while the evil one plays with a vast arsenal designed to damn souls. And we who claim to know Him embrace a culture which is designed in every way against Christ and His kingdom. How can these things be? Am I a misguided voice who is wrapped up in some kind of Dungeons and Dragons fantasy? Until we see the earthly culture as an enemy, and until we see the culture as part of a fallen world, we will still enjoy our local clubs which do not impose on our cultural lives at all. In fact they promote it. You see instead of prayer and fasting and repentance we can have our overheads and our staff and our church gymnasiums and our statements of faith.
And really, isn’t that all we want anyway? After all I am a voting member.
Gal.6: 14 But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
Once again Paul speaks to believers in Galatia and presents the cross of Jesus Christ as the source for all glory. This is not an evangelistic statement. This brings forth the true disciple’s heart. This brings forth the true church’s heart. Here is a great sports enthusiast. He has a favorite team for which he constantly roots. He wears the team’s shirt. He has their bumper sticker. He wears their logo on his hat. He reads about them almost every day. He speaks about them with others. He watches them on television.
Now I ask you, does that man ever grow tired of learning about his team? Does he grow weary of the year after year redundant cheerleading? Does he eventually believe his support is for new supporters but more mature supporters move on? I mean how much can he hear about this same old team? It must get old after a while, right? Wrong! The overwhelming majority of sports enthusiasts who have a favorite team stick with that team for life and never grow tired of watching them and discussing them. Some have even made that team an obsession.
So let us understand the place that the cross of Christ has in the life of the church and of each individual believer. First of all there would be no church and no believers were it not for the cross. Not one sin could ever be forgiven without the cross. Without the cross there would be only powerless and humanistic religions. The cross is the centerpiece and the foundation for everything that calls itself “Christian”. Everything else is a fraud. The cross is not a beginner’s guide to the faith. It is the beginning and the end and everywhere in between.
Most believers assume that learning about the cross is just reexamining the same facts over and over again. They grow tired of hearing the same old things. Outside of church I have rarely heard a believer speak of the cross with passion and intimacy. Even within church walls I have rarely heard that kind of discussion. In fact, buckle your seat belts, I have heard church members speak about the local sports team many, many times and I have rarely heard them speak about the cross. That, my friends, is a shocking tragedy.
The cross of Jesus Christ gave to us eternal life. But it continues to give life to those who meditate upon it and take it up and follow Jesus. It should be the cornerstone of our lives. We should speak of it often. We should speak of it to God daily. We should remember it at the Lord’s Supper. We should remember it when we look upon the lost for whom we sprung. We should remember it when we think about heaven. We should think about it when we pray. Jesus Christ is our life, and that life was purchased on that cross…forever.
And in that alone we glory.
Heb.4: 12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Notice the word “sharper”. In these days of arrogance and self awareness men have made the Word of God a blunt instrument. What they preach under the guise of Holy Scripture is not quick nor powerful and certainly not sharp. The thoughts and intents of the heart? Who are we kidding? They are sweet sounding self help messages which activate the fleshly senses and are counter productive to any authentic spiritual growth. And in a stunning display of humanism many exhort their listeners to repent of having a spirit of poverty. I am not sure I have ever met anyone with that spirit in America. The rich want to be richer and the poor just want to be rich.
Jesus said, My words are spirit and they are life”. You see God’s Word is not just ink on a paper which are good or even insightful thoughts. They hole a spiritual power that no other words can hold. They have the power to save. They can enter a human being and illuminate his mind and change his heart. It is a great mystery. The power of God’s Sword transcends different languages. A person can read a sentence and by the Spirit’s enlightenment his whole life can be changed forever. People have picked up a Gideon Bible in a motel and flipped around and read something and in that room they were saved.
Some believers make a huge deal over which translation to use and there are a few that have problems. But the Spirit is not bound by translations. And it is the height of self righteousness to proudly proclaim how orthodox you are and how you believe every word is inerrant and all the rest. God is not interested in what you believe about the Bible. He is interested in how much you believe and how much of it you obey. And when your souls has been saved through the believing in the Truth, who is Jesus and who is the Word of God, then God’s Word becomes your way of life.
This isn’t a case where you can receive eternal life and then live according to your own word. No, you are now bought with a price and you are not your own. And now God’s Word is a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path. He who does not love God’s Word cannot love Jesus either. The two are one in the same. Another glorious mystery. Most professing believers do not read God’s Word at all. Most who do still only understand and receive it in a surface way. But blessed is the believer who seeks God’s Word as if they are the words of life and embrace their wounds as love from God as He seeks to conform us to the image of His Dear Son.
The way of the cross is not as esoteric nor ethereal as some might suggest. It demands arms and legs as well as mouths.
It is on days like today in which I see my own shortcomings so clearly and I am ashamed at my own ignorance and rejection of His teachings. I stand before Him without excuse. But it is on days like today when I submerge myself in His grace and against all evidence I am strengthened. How can I think such a Savior? How can I express my love for One so gracious? And with what words can I convey my heart without receiving any credit for a semblance of humility? It is on days like today when I relive my conversion over and over and over again. And I fall in love with Jesus over and over and over again.
So many evangelicals allow fundamentalists of all stripes dictate what they "must" believe. And that creates a very grave situation. I used to be a fundamentalist and I was very proud of it. Just attend one of their conventions and you will be bathed in an atmosphere of self righteousness. And they shield their self righteousness under a cover of doctrinal self depravity. Just because you say you believe in salvation through faith alone does not mean you are free from self righteousness. In fact many times that doctrinal profession seems to be used as the basis for self righteousness. Self righteousness is a very slippery fellow. It can hide behind truth. It often hides behind moral or doctrinal truth.
Humility has been so redefined and diluted and marginalized that we no longer even know what it looks like anymore. But how can we even suggest we are followers of Jesus without humility? He who left the glories of heaven and wore the robes of humanity carved out our path and yet have we followed in His steps? Does the western church even know His steps anymore? We have embraced human doctrine over divine truth. But the tide is turning for some. For some the times they are a changin’. We can no longer embrace what we have been force fed. We must embrace what He said.
For almost twenty years I have tried to convey the truth of God even in the face of evangelical tradition. The Spirit has been able to reach open hearts and but some hearts have hardened and labeled me. I gladly wear His reproach. They have called me a liberal or a compromiser or a gay lover or many other things. But I am what God calls me. I am a servant of the most high. I am a member of a peculiar people and a holy nation and a chosen generation. I am still strongly resisting the temptation to defend my reputation especially when the castigations against me are inaccurate and spurious and lies. I have had a struggle laying them down at the feet of Him who ignored His own immaculate reputation and submitted Himself to that cross.
You want fundamentalism? Well then you must embrace then cross as did He. And that, my friends, will take a lifetime.
Matt.5: 43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
This portion of Scripture is taken from the most famous sermon spoken by our Lord. It is commonly called the Sermon on the Mount. It is this message which should form the basis for the faith we call by His name. How many preachers have held high the Bible and declared proudly they believe it to be God’s inerrant Word? And yet when faced with words like this directly from our Lords lips they run to shelters of common sense, reason, and patriotic necessities. But has never been able to change these inerrant words they profess to believe. If we allow any earthly reason to make exceptions to God’s Word than we allow almost anything. Once the dike is breached error can come in like a flood. The same people who make exceptions for these verses recoil when gay people make exceptions for other verses. You see, you cannot embrace your own exceptions and castigate exceptions by others.
Once you embrace “what ifs” and “How abouts” and the long list of “Buts” you now are creating man’s word and not God’s. If God’s Word is not unreasonable and extremely difficult and supremely inconvenient then it is not His Word. If it does not go against the culture in ALL aspects than it is a culturally homogenized version that blends nicely with earthly thoughts. And you are left with a doctrine which says one thing and does another. Why call Me Lord and do not do the things that I say?
Do you think it was easy to come to the place where you take these kinds of teachings as absolute? When you have had men and women of God who have taught you otherwise is it easy to pursue a different path? But let it be known that once the Spirit opens your heart and fill it with light you had not seen it does not matter if Spurgeon himself taught something. You must either repent and seek or reject and stay put. As I have said many times before it is easy to be against abortion. But let us see you love your enemies. That, my friends, divides the followers from the professors.
None of us can claim to follow Jesus and all He taught with perfection. None of us. But if we move the goal posts a little closer we can never please God. To remove the purity of God’s Word and interject the poison of man’s reason makes the Word of God “of none effect”. I have not loved my enemies like Jesus taught, but I refuse to make an excuse by suggesting certain situations are immune to His teachings. And allow me to interject something very important here. This teaching in Matter five is part of the foundation for the entire faith. Did you understand what I just said? To deny this teaching or to marginalize it with earthly situations that seem unreasonable is to change the faith itself.
Jesus said there are two commandments upon which everything rests. Love the Lord with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. Well Jesus included your enemies as your neighbors. There is nowhere to hide. There are no arguments that can alter His words. We must either believe and obey them or change them which is unbelief. Those are the only two choices. You must choose one. Be advised though bombing your enemies cannot be seen as loving them.
You can find all sorts of people who have been born again and changed. Child molesters. Racists. Murderers. Hedonists. I have known racists who hated black people but now love them. I have known violent people who are now peacemakers. I have known people whose life was money but now live without greed. Jesus does things in people’s hearts that no amount of psychology could ever do.
Col.3: 3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.
When we bury someone people often say the laid him to rest. When we reckon ourselves dead to this world and alive only to Christ we can find untold rest. While the world frets over everything the believer whose mind is stayed upon Christ can walk in an inward rest unknown to this world. Notice Paul says Christ does not just give us life but He IS our life. What a glorious and transcendent truth!
Without Christ we have nothing and we are nothing. This is not some transcendental mind trick. No, this is a soaring and eternal truth which was purchased for us at Golgotha’s bloody sacrifice. Is it not an affront to your intellect to wonder at such an eternal gift and yet to understand it happened through something so grotesque and offensive and barbaric? We desire some lofty principle which requires our genius to figure out so we can claim some of the glory.
But the glory of the cross is shared with no man…ever. It stands alone as a testimony to the Lamb of God, and within those wounds are revealed the love and mercy and grace and power of Almighty God. It should make us tremble. And when a poor sinner looks upon that cross with the opened eyes of faith, that sinner dies. And a new life is born which is hid and secured and protected within that same Lamb forever.
But think on this: The majesty is His. The labor is His. The light is His. The redemption is His. And the glory is all His. But Paul says we shall appear with Him in glory. We shall be with Him in His glory. It is difficult to fully imagine because we have so distilled the concept of heaven. We speak glibly of pearly gates and streets of gold and chit chatting with loved ones. Oh my dear friends have we no shame? Do we even know Him at all? We treat heaven like some kind of glorified pot luck dinner and in so doing we turn our backs on who will be the very center and heartbeat of that dwelling place we call heaven.
There we will be basking in His glory. Paul speaks of the glory that shall be revealed in us. And just what glory will that be? It will be Christ Himself who now lives within us. Like the Moon which only reflects the Sun’s light we have no glory of ourselves. The only glory associated with us is His reflected glory. On that day all remembrance of our sins, which were many indeed, will be gone. They aren’t just erased from our memories. No, they are gone from the history books forever. It is part of the miracle of grace. Our Wonderful Redeemer spared no expense and lavished His love upon us in so many ways.
Why should I desire to hold onto this corrupted life when a life incorruptible is reserved for me with Him. Oh Lord let me die that I may live forever. The temporal, earthly life is but a march toward death, but the life which bears His name is eternal in the heavens and saturated with His glory. And this God who made this universe so complex and so vast that the most brilliant among us are but babblers before His creation, this God about whom the word intellect has no meaning, this God is all knowledge. And this God, high and august and separate from sinners, this Holy God purchased redemption through His sufferings and His death. No man can boast of anything.
It is Him…and Him alone…forever. Selah.
Heb.11: 26 Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.
Sadly, today American believers want the reward now and they react viscerally if criticized and they have made Egypt their friend.
Heb.11: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
The phrase “hoped for” is a little misleading in the English. It would be better translated “waited for”. I am both heartbroken and angry over what the church has done to faith. Men and women now teach fait as a force which can be wielded to get earthly things from God. No longer is a patient trust in Christ our Redeemer. It is now another human tool.
But life in the Spirit is one which looks at the unseen and embraces that kingdom and its King. The things of this world may be utilitarian and some of them necessary, but if you lay open our hearts they are not there. Today men decree and pronounce and prophecy and no longer to professing believers say, “Be it unto me according to Thy Word O Lord.” Today substance means things that can be touched. But the true substance cannot be touched by hands but by hearts.
Have we not lived long enough and made enough mistakes and sought earthly rewards sometimes that we now understand the fleeting satisfaction this world has to offer? Just by experience we should be at a place of true surrender. Christ, who is our life, says Paul. Yes and amen. We have no other God before us. This world is forever attempting to tear us away from our Blessed Savior. But in the end to whom shall e go, Lord, for Thou hast the Words of eternal life.
Most people think of life as a heart beating and lungs breathing. But true life is a soul that knows the Giver of all life…Jesus. I have done a lot of things in my earthly life. But I never knew life before Christ and now I have been given eternal life. Tell me, what is better than that? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Rev.3: 22 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
Oh how the church loves to speak. It loves to preach and prophecy and teach and sing. But do we have ears to hear the Spirit and what He is saying? Do we even close our mouths and minds long enough to hear His voice? What would happen if people filed in on Sunday morning awaiting the latest version of what we call a “service” and the pastor stepped behind the pulpit and said God wanted us to spend the next hour or so praying and listening to the voice of the Spirit? Could we even abide such a thing in this fast paced, filled with noise culture?
All night prayer vigils? Museum artifacts. Solemn assemblies? What? Fastings often? Let us not lie. We have our heads filled with Biblical and religious knowledge. Our auditoriums are bursting with people and excitement. We love our churches. We love our preachers. We can hear the preacher and the talk show host and the conservative politician and the celebrities and the President and we embrace the voice of our own minds. But is the voice of God’s Spirit familiar to us through hours of listening? We are quite adept and polished talkers but are we skilled listeners?
The Spirit of God is still speaking to God’s church but who is listening? Listening to the voice of the Spirit requires a knowledge of God’s Word, and time of separation from the cares of this world, and a season of being silent before Him as you bring your mind into His captivity.
One of the most disgusting things I have witnesses in my lifetime occurred in 2003. While thousands of graves were still warm with American lives, and while one hundred thousand graces were still warm with civilian Iraqi lives, and while thousands of men and women lay in great distress in hospitals, President Bush walked the deck of the Abraham Lincoln under a banner which proclaimed “Mission Accomplished”. This man who avoided active service himself was dressed in fighter pilot garb and gave a self righteous speech which reveled in war. Like a scene from Gladiator this spectacle made my soul sick.
But what was just as sickening was the victorious spirit promoted in church gatherings. I was about five years from leaving patriotism and politics and war and I saw with greater clarity just how deep idolatry had entrenched itself within the hearts and lives of church members. Do not think I am singling President Bush out because every president in my lifetime was a hawk on some level including President Obama. But we have not learned that from Jesus. In fact we have learned the exact opposite.
I Pet.2: 9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;
10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God:
God’s chosen people under the Old Covenant were the Jews. That does not mean every Jew was a part of it. There were many infidels among Israel (God’s people). But God’s chosen people today are those who have believed on His only begotten Son. We are called His church but just as in the Old Covenant not all who call themselves the church are God’s people. We are now His nation. Jew or Gentile, male or female, free or under an earthly regime, if you are in Christ you are part of God’s chosen people. And we are called to show for His praises to every creature.
In the Old Covenant God called His people out of the physical country called Egypt. Today God calls His people out of spiritual Egypt which is the darkness of this world. In the Old Covenant God led His people into a physical land which flowed with milk and honey. Today God leads His people into His marvelous light which is found in Jesus Christ our Lord. In the Old Covenant God met His people’s needs in a physical wilderness. Today God meets His people’s need in a spiritual wilderness called the world. In the Old Covenant God’s people found a home in a physical place called Canaan. Today we have no enduring city here on this earth. We look for a city whose builder and maker is God. Today God’s people will only find a home one day when we reach His dwelling place called heaven.
But no Jew nor Gentile, no black nor white, no male nor female, no one will see that Celestial City who never believed on the Lord Jesus Christ and was born again.
We think of immorality as confined to sexual sins. But greed is also immoral. We live in an age where sin is accepted. I am a proponent of forgiveness and grace to the extreme, however we must be vigilant about condoning sin of any kind. Picture the evangelical church 50 years from now. And the practice of becoming pregnant has not only become widespread but it accepted and applauded within the church. No one even sees anything wrong with it. I am not speaking about tacitly being against it but accepting its reality like the church does with divorce and remarriage. I mean supposed the church defended unmarried sex and pregnancy?
Preposterous, you say? Well if I had told the evangelical church 100 years ago that the day would come when the church would not only accept greed and avarice as part of a Christian lifestyle, but that the church would consider almost any raise, any new car, any new house, any new clothes, any unexpected money, and approved loan, anything having to do with some monetary gain as a direct blessing from God they would have been as shocked as you are when I suggest the church would embrace premarital relations.
There is a saying which goes “Time heals all wounds”. Allow me to tweak that and say, “Time makes sin less sinful and eventually not sin at all”.
And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.
What a vessel of the Lord. I am sure she did not realize the eternal implications of the angel’s message, but she still submitted herself to God’s will. I mean just the sheer shock of such a message should have given some real concern and even pause, but not Mary. She had kept herself pure and yet here was something that would change her life forever. Did she know many would not believe her story? And what about Joseph? I cannot begin to imagine how she could digest such a thing and offer an immediate reply of submission to God’s Word.
Mary is one of my Biblical heroes. She gets dragged out once a year during a man made feel good carnival but she deserves much better. What a woman of strong faith and perhaps strong physically as well. She seemed to fare well travelling all over the Middle East while she was pregnant as well as caring for a toddler. And of course she was there at the cross.
Mary stood and watched Jesus on the cross. Think upon that for a moment. Think about that all you mothers. I believe she knew by then generally who He was and what was happening, but not in all it fullness. And Jesus, while dying for the sins of the world, tells John to look out for mother. It gives me chills. Mary helped prepare the body for burial and anoint it with spices. Mary was there as they told the disciples that He had risen. And Mary was in the upper room when the Holy Spirit was given and the church was birthed in earnest.
Oh what faithfulness. Mary gave her entire earthly existence to Jesus. When they came to her at a marriage feast because they had run out of wine she told them “Do whatever He says”. Oh my…oh my. In these days of political correctness and the blurring of genders Mary has always been to me a shining light of humble obedience. She was a servant of the Most High God. She was a handmaiden of the Lord. She was His mother. She was His disciple. I truly love her and I am challenged by her walk of faith.
I am often offended these days when I see how the church and the world uses a caricature during a false holiday and reduces her to sentimentality and even some sects worship her. But if we were to be transported into heaven and we could scan the blood washed throng we would see Mary. She now is a worshiper. She has taken her place within the redeemed and wears a robe of white and bow before her Lord. The former narrative has been washed away. But I choose to think of when Christ gives out rewards. And Mary’s name is called. I can hardly write. And as she is given untold rewards she bends over and places them at the feet of, not her son, but her Risen Lord. And I hear her words once again, “Be it unto me according to your Word.” Selah…selah.
II Pet.3: 18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
This is one of the most succinct and profound statements of true discipleship. There is no deeper life than that which seeks to know Jesus more and more and more. He that has that continuing thirst pleases God and is an example to the church. There is so much in Jesus which awaits our genuine pursuit. Just Bethlehem presents countless vaults of precious jewels of truth. A baby. Born of a peasant. Born to a virgin. Born amidst cattle breath. Laid in a feeding trough for animals. This was God. This was the Creator. Have you fully exhausted those truths? Have you wrapped your mind, and your heart, around those sacred revelations? Until you reach the point where you understand you have only scratched the surface you will remain outside the gate which guards the entrance to His truth. If you can be satisfied with doctrinal crumbs you will be.
The knowledge of Jesus far exceeds mind knowledge. Anyone who can read can recite His biography taken from the gospel narratives. But revelation comes only through the Spirit. And when it does you immediately realize how little you really knew and understood. The light has been turned on and you see things that were hidden before. And at the center of these revelations is Jesus the Christ. All the promises and all the truths are found in Him.
The more you learn of Jesus the more you learn of grace. I submit to you that until we see the Risen Lamb adorned in all His glory will can never know fully the grace of God. If it were not for our new, spiritual bodies we would perish as we gazed upon the Creator Lamb. By the way preachers preach you would think they have exhausted describing Jesus and His redemptive work. It seems like gospel revelations are mere child’s play and the appetite in the pew desires topics of interest which lend themselves to our own well being and earthly success. So learning of Jesus is rendered to the elementary department. Adults have move on to more relevant subjects.
How sad. How carnal. How utterly shocking to think that He who paid everything for us is not the center of our church gatherings. Even the worship music is about being an overcomer and having power over demons. But even the ones that mention Jesus seem to elicit excitement rather than sacred brokenness and humble worship. And in that atmosphere the concept of divine grace gets lost. Paul says that to grow in grace we must learn of Jesus. And learning of Jesus grows us in His grace. And I can testify that when the Spirit brings grace to you in a wider and deeper and more Jesus centered way you are moved emotionally and spiritually. It affects and infects you entire being.
Grace is not an excuse to sin. It is the power to resist. And within that grace there is a revelation of Jesus Himself. There is no greater experience than seeing more of Jesus. It is life changing. It builds upon the first time you believed. It cannot be communicated by human words. If you have never been ushered into a clearer and fuller revelation of the Redeemer than you might think my words are mysticism. They are not. This thing we call revelation is a gift of the Spirit. It takes the invisible and shows it to the human heart. Most times it does not appear as that which human eyes could see. Most times it impresses visions and truths upon hearts which have no human eyes but which see things in the Spirit.
Oh dear brother or sister if you cannot understand then I implore you to pray and fast and pray some more and fast some more and like Jacob tell the Lord you will not let Him go until He reveals His immeasurable presence to your being. Once you have had such an experience you can be blessed by other things but you will always hunger for more revelation. Men like me may exhort you but you must seek Him yourself. Jesus is no respecter of persons. He will reveal Himself to every seeking heart. And in these days of self elevation the Spirit seeks those who truly seek Christ. He awaits your knock. He will answer.
I Pet.1: 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,
5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:
7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
We live in perilous times. It is going to get worse…much worse. Everything is rapidly coming together in these last days. Violence is rampant; perversion is widespread; infidelity is commonplace; hatred is increasing; rumors of wars abound; and the faith that follows Jesus Christ has been highjacked so that now it follows man.
But in the midst of great and growing darkness the light of His gospel can shine more brilliantly through His disciples. We have an opportunity to be luminescent conduits who walk after the Spirit and not the flesh. This world is not our home. It never has been. We should pray, yea beg, God to separate us more and more beginning with our hearts. We live in a fallen world of death. All around us is death even sometimes dressed up as life.
There is no more room for ambivalence. No more space for a benign faith whose most prominent feature is a round trip on Sunday mornings. All that is worthless and eternally dangerous. All true believers will soon see His face. These are the days many of us have learned about. The Scriptures are clear and sometimes very specific. It will get worse but the beginning is over. We are squarely in the midst of a coming apocalypse. That does not mean we should store up dry foods or dig bomb shelters in our back yards. It does mean we must live with a vivid expectation of His coming and a vivid spiritual life which seeks Him with passion.
Everything is vanity. But our faith is more precious than gold, and our inheritance, purchased by His sufferings, are safe and reserved for us in heaven. Do we believe that? Then why do we chase green paper or cars or houses or things that glitter here on earth? Take hold of your heart and point it toward heaven. In these final days the Spirit desires to pry us more and more away from this present world. Jesus is all we have. That reality must be seared into our beings every single day. All of our hope must be in Him. Do not despair our King is coming. All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and eyes and the pride of life, has never been of Him. The spirits of antichrist roam with seeming impunity.
Oh but the glory which shall be revealed in us will eclipse by far anything evil on this earth. We have this treasure in earthen vessels and the glory has always been His and not ours. But here we stand. Redeemed by His blood by faith alone. In the midst of great darkness we are recipients of God’s eternal grace. We still do not deserve it but we embrace it nonetheless. Throw out a gospel net as the world consumes itself and perhaps some will be saved. But keep looking up because our redemption is nearer than when we first believed! Halleluiah!
The deepest sadness ever known met the deepest glory ever known at a place called Golgotha. And in the midst of the deepest emotions ever known as well as the deepest sufferings ever known life was given at a place called Golgotha. The deepest expression of hate met the deepest expression of love at a place called Golgotha. The deepest revelation of man met the deepest revelation of God at a place called Golgotha. The deepest reality of sin met the deepest reality of holiness at a place called Golgotha. In six temporal hours eternity was loosed at a place called Golgotha.
And for over two thousand years one sinner at a time has found redemption, cleansing, and eternal life at this place called Golgotha. It was just another hill. Just another place. It was even outside the walls of Jerusalem. Insignificant. Common. And completely nondescript. But it was there where the Lamb of God which takes away the sins of the world accomplished what He alone could. And because of Christ and His shed blood that place called Golgotha was sanctified forever.
There have been millions of tourists who have come to this place called Golgotha. But if you desire forgiveness and the gift of eternal life you cannot find it as a tourist. You must come as a broken and needy and repentant pilgrim. And you can never be a tourist again.
Matt.16: 15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
Peter confesses with his mouth that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of the Living God. But then Peter rebukes Jesus for suggesting He must go to the cross. Do you see how easy it is for our mouths to say something and then our flesh takes that same mouth and openly denies what we said we believed. Our faith must never rely on how we feel or how we think or even what we think we know. It must stand upon God’s Word even when nothing makes any human sense at all. That is the supreme fire which will test our faith and if we remain weak in our own understanding and strong in His Word then our faith will come forth as gold.
But Jesus also made this observation about some:
Matt.15: 8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
Lips often walk a sooth path but hearts are called to the threshingfloor. Lips tell but lives show. Doctrinal tests pale in comparison to life tests. If professions were actions the entire world would be evangelized. The easiest phrase to say is “Jesus is Lord”. The more difficult and observable phrase is “Jesus is my Lord”. Both phrases can be said by anyone with a mouth. But the latter phrase must be proven and tested daily.
Have you ever been dressed up and had to open the car hood and check your oil or something and you do your level best not to get any dirt on your clothes or hands and yet you cannot help it? Somehow and someway dirt found you.
That is how I feel about self righteousness. If we are taking a stand for righteousness or for salvation by grace through faith or for God’s Word or for the gospel and Jesus Himself if we are not careful self righteousness seems to creep in uninvited. You think you are free from pride and yet there it is. You feel good about yourself which is the definition of self righteousness. There is only one way to came against self righteousness. Know it is always lurking and finds its way through many portals.
Then visit the cross. I mean really visit the cross and gaze at Him. Watch Him writhe in pain. Watch His breathing becoming labored. Look at the wounds and all that blood. Look at it fully and see the spotless Lamb suffer greatly. And then know you did that to Him. I am sure self righteousness cannot stand being in a heart that embraces that.
No one can recapture time. No one can live yesterday again. Time slows for no man. It is the unstoppable force. It never speeds up and it never slows down. As each piece of sand hits the bottom of the hourglass it will never again be seen at the top. It is impossible for us to define time. We just know what it is. It is the past, the present and the future all in one moment…of…time. The Spirit exhorts us to redeem the time which is another way of saying make good use of our time.
Meditate upon Him. Tell people about Him. Pray to Him. Help others tell people about Him. Yes have fun, and yes be entertained, and yes embrace your family, and yes enjoy some down time. But remember time is God’s gift. All of us have wasted God’s time. Shame on us. Let us endeavor to do better for Him. The time is His; the life is His; and eternity is His. There will come a day when time as we know it will cease. No one can witness to anyone anymore. No missionaries can be sent. No more praying. No more giving. In that day there will be no more darkness because He will be heaven’s brilliant light.
And all who walked in darkness will be banished…forever. Does it seem like we are overly concerned? The church is playing the harlot and is concerned with numbers and budgets and activities and good music and political issues and many other things. But time still passes away with predicable regularity. And with each piece of sand that falls souls fall with it. Does it seem like we are overly concerned? But, you say, I don’t want to get obsessed and become some kind of fanatic.
Don’t worry…you won’t.
It is easy to be pro-life. It is easy to be pro-traditional marriage. It is easy to be a Bible believer. It is easy to believe in the virgin birth. It is easy to believe in salvation by grace through faith. It is easy to believe in non-violence. It is easy to be non-political.
It is very difficult to be like Jesus.
Is.6: In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.
2 Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.
3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.
4 And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.
5 Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.
This is worship. This was a true encounter with the Living God. No music, no lights, no worship leader, only God’s powerful presence. It is astounding just how creative the fallen flesh is as it creates elaborate carnivals and calls it "worship" as if worship is an entity all to itself. "What a worship service we had this morning!" can be heard at many restaurants at about 1:00 o'clock Sunday mornings. I submit to you that more often than not if we actually found ourselves in God's literal presence, like Isaiah, we might not be so quick to go to a restaurant. In fact many times we would not be hungry for anything but Him.
But here we have a revelation from the Spirit and not some slick advertisement about some worship service. And there is something very striking about Isaiah’s worship. When the presence of God surrounded him Isaiah was broken over his own sin and the sinful culture in which he lived. He had been given a vision of Almighty God. But do not treat Isaiah’s experience as special and relegate it as just an historical event. We who live in the New Covenant and who are indwelt by the Spirit of God and who have the written revelation of Jesus Christ have been given a more complete vision of the Christ God than Isaiah ever dreamed of. What? Isaiah did not have the complete revelation that we have in our Lord Jesus Christ and by the power of God’s Spirit. But even with an incomplete revelation Isaiah was undone. He melted under the weight of God’s majesty and glory. Do you believe Isaiah went out to eat right after this vision? Do you believe Isaiah felt wonderful about himself and thought that the God he saw was his servant? Did Isaiah hurry to plant a gold seed faith gift so he could get a new set of clothes?
We need to go deeper…much deeper if we desire to truly worship the glorified and risen Christ. If at some point you are not broken before Him then He is not there. And what was the Lord’s request of Isaiah or anyone else?
Is.6: 8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.
You see, true worship will always lead to true service. Worship, true spiritual worship, creates legs. And those legs will take us to where we can serve the One who we worship. They are His legs and by His power we are called and strengthened to serve our Wonderful Master. Service is not worship, but worship demands service. Oh please jesus reveal things to us that we know not so we may see You more clearly and serve You more faithfully.
II Sam.23: 15 And David longed, and said, Oh that one would give me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate!
16 And the three mighty men brake through the host of the Philistines, and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem, that was by the gate, and took it, and brought it to David: nevertheless he would not drink thereof, but poured it out unto the Lord.
17 And he said, Be it far from me, O Lord, that I should do this: is not this the blood of the men that went in jeopardy of their lives? therefore he would not drink it. These things did these three mighty men.
What a man of honor! Today lying men and women live off the offerings of older and poor people because they have promised them heretical lies. But David would not even drink the water that his men had so sacrificed to bring to him. Again I ask all of us, what do we sacrifice in our lives? Can we point to something that from time to time we resist even though we could enjoy it or we could spend that money on ourselves?
There are men and women who labor in whited fields all over the world. They have given up the comforts we take for granted so they might be used to bring living water to parched and dying souls. They receive no applause and no accolades nor do they desire them. Do we pray earnestly for such as these? Do we faithfully send them support in Jesus’ name? Or do we enjoy all the accoutrements of western life with very little thought of our fellow servants in Christ?
This is the same David who refused a free offering from someone but insisted on buying it because he said he would not offer unto God that which cost him nothing. Think about the many millions of people who occupy a pew on Sunday and sing and raise their hands and are offering unto Christ that which cost them nothing. But God has not only called us to sacrifice, He has called us to be a living sacrifice. And that means everything. Perhaps if God had just said “Poof!” and forgave our sins He would have no place to exhort us to sacrifice. But when we realize the eternal sacrifice of the cross and just what Jesus sacrificed for us collectively and personally, well, God has every right to call us to sacrifice as well.
So much of the western church loves to identify enemies. They point to liberals and to Muslims and to Russia and to China and to gays and to atheists and to socialists and to Mexicans and to many others. But I am convinced beyond any doubt my greatest enemy is none those at all. It is me. And that enemy I call “me” is relentless and seemingly tireless and clever and cunning and loves it when I point to the devil or anything or anyone else and create some false excuse. Me will gladly agree and soothe my conscience and tell me how good I am and that my motives are sincere and all sorts of self flattery. I used to fall for it way more often than I do now.
I know me’s voice because it sounds so much like mine. And when I hear it I shut it out because me never, and I mean NEVER, seeks my spiritual welfare. He seeks to make to make me feel superior or intellectual or anything which makes room for self righteousness. Me is a deadly poison. Yes there are enemies of the gospel and there are demonic forces, but the most powerful enemy I have ever encountered is “me”. I hate him.
Matt.19: 30 But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.
Whenever I need to be appreciated and recognized and stroked and respected and praised and honored and elevated in the eyes of man, and I have, I know that is me and never Him. I must repent and until I do the Spirit is far from me.
II Cor.5: 21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
It is very difficult to put this in a spiritual context since it rises above the mundane doctrinal recitations. Many define it with utilitarian words, clean and neat. Jesus died for our sins and we are now made righteous before Him. That is truth indeed, but this verse as well as the entire chapter digs much deeper and reveals a spiritual truth which should render us as broken vessels beseeching Him to fill us with His Spirit so we may understand such a soaring revelation. We can hardly understand divine righteousness, and we have sterilized the concept of sin so how can we understand the eternal transfer accomplished upon that Roman cross?
There is a vast difference between a mental ascent which understands doctrinal logic and having your inner man soaked with a truth until your mind admits its spiritual poverty so the mind of the Spirit can infuse your being with…Him. And in Him is where the entire library of truth resides. To know Him and to learn of Him and to seek Him and to lay prostrate before Him are the vehicles by which God’s Spirit infuses His life into us. And therein is truth, THE Truth, made alive within us. Head knowledge is self righteousness on some level. But to be enlightened in a way which astounds your sensibilities and literally changes you reveals head knowledge as a place for spiritual curiosity rather than a sacred threshingfloor. If you can still cling to the chaff then you have checked out that truth only to return it later. But if it seared into your being you cannot escape it. So here we have the Spirit telling us that Jesus became sin. Such a simple statement and yet it boggles the mind. How can a man become sin? How can a sinless Lamb become sin? I mean we are body, soul, and spirit so can any of us become wholly sin? It seems illogical and impossible.
But this man was God in the flesh. Paul says “He who knew no sin…”. Jesus never sinned. I think most of us can understand that. But when the Spirit speaks of Jesus becoming sin, well now we are standing like beggars at a door that shuts us out unless the Spirit opens it unto us. It is impossible to fully comprehend the holiness of God. Jesus the Christ was completely holy. I do not pretend to know just how the incarnation worked. Was His humanity meshed with His divinity? I doubt it. But I have often in forty years been confounded when I try and even define holiness much less understand its depth as it pertains to Christ Jesus.
I have tried to come up with one of my illustrations that reveals what happened and to no avail. I thought about a white dress being splattered with feces or a sterile operating room being invaded by cock roaches but they did not come close to the sinless Son of God becoming sin. These kinds of truth must be taught by the Spirit because we have no object lessons that can help. They might only detract.
But the other side of the coin is that fallen criminals like us are made righteous through His sacrifice. Another great mystery of grace. The word righteous does not just mean forgiven of our sins. It isn’t that we stand before God as a blank slate and therefore are benignly guiltless. No, we have been made the righteousness of Christ. How can we even begin to fully grasp that? The filthy become not just the clean but the sterile? The criminal becomes the honorable? The thief becomes the philanthropist? The liar becomes the truth teller? This goes way beyond theology. This is deep within the sacred heart of God. This is untold, eternal treasure. This…this is love fully revealed and fully proven and fully sealed forever.
II Tim.4: 7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
What does it mean to keep the faith? I would suggest that first you must have the true faith before you can keep it. And then we must keep it and not be moved. That is not easy. It will require a fight. It will require going through discouragement. It will require going through trials. It will require battling depression. In the temporal realm there will be ups and downs, sickness and health, abundance and lack. And in the spiritual realm there are demonic forces that are smarter and more clever than you ever hope to be. But we must keep the faith.
We might waver. We might lose strength. We might feel alone. We might have doubts. We might even despair. But we must keep the faith. I have found an important principle in my forty years of knowing Jesus. Regardless of how low I get and how defeated I feel and how dire the circumstances seem…tomorrow is a brand new day. His mercies are new every morning. I have gone to sleep at night feeling a deep despair and feeling none of the Spirit and when I awoke the next morning I was able to get up and seek the Lord once again and sometimes by the evening I am filled with faith and joy. That, my friends, is the power of our faithful Lord!
This morning something came to me. In America we see church services on television and almost without exception there is applause and even shouting in each one. I mean watch T. D. Jakes or Rod Parsley and they strut their one man thespian shows and people will clap and hoot and holler and if they say something that did not get the response they desired they will either widen their eyes and look out at the congregation or they might say, “You didn’t hear what I said” which is designed to get more clapping etc..
But if you really think about it that atmosphere is all American. It mirrors a sports event or an Amway convention or a music concert. You will never see people weeping over their sin nor will you see people being deeply moved by Christ’s cross because His cross is never part of the message. The entire spectacle is choreographed in order to create great excitement and that excitement is many times how they feel about themselves. Can you even imagine such a thing? Did Paul preach so as to make people feel good about themselves?
What we are witnessing in America is not the faith which believes in or follows Jesus. We are seeing an American flavored gathering that just happens to take place on Sunday but which props up and presents another Jesus and another gospel. And tens of millions of people embrace it. What does that say about their eternity. Only God knows that but it should make us tremble.
Matt.16: 15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
It continues to be a phenomenon within evangelical Christianity which blurs the gospel and rejects the power of the Spirit and embraces the power of argument, reason, and political power. It is so ingrained that most professing believers will not even entertain the suggestion that it is wrong. And this phenomenon imprisons the church and resists the Spirit of God. It has shredded the gospel of Jesus and has deeply misrepresented the teachings of Jesus. I cannot over emphasize what I have just said.
This phenomenon is generally called nationalism. It suggests that God allows and even support allegiances to earthly nation as a subset to showing allegiance to Christ. And the allegiance to America is the most grievous example of this since most American believers consider America to be a divine creation of God. This is no small issue. In fact this an issue which deceives more believers than Rob Bell or even Joel Osteen. In fact Rob Ball and Joel Osteen and Rick Warren and Kenneth Copeland all agree that America is a divine creation of God. That should be revealing in and of itself.
It is quite astounding that men can turn the Lordship of Jesus into an earthly amalgam. What then is exclusive? If acknowledging Jesus as Lord is not paramount and exclusive then what is? And I truly believe the entire American construct which purports to be His bride grieves the heart of God and is a fraud. I do not claim perfection or anything close to it. But what I am suggesting is the mark to which we should be pressing has been changed and dilute and leads to something far from Christ and His kingdom.
But it is very difficult to communicate that position to most people much less to see them investigate it with passion and a Scriptural adherence. So many read our stance as prideful or hateful or just trying to be different. But that is very far from the truth. Nationalism has killed the church in many, many ways. And this come from one who was inside that very poison. You cannot understand the spiritual revelation and freedom which comes from walking away and being completely released. It is almost like being born again again. Why? Because nationalism and patriotism is a massive idol which is against everything Jesus lived and taught. It is earthly, fleshly, carnal, and it invades every area of a believer’s mind, heart, and life.
Nationalism stifles spiritual air. It breeds self righteousness. It lends itself to hatred. There is nothing redeeming about it. But it is a pervasive hindrance throughout the American evangelical church. To be sure it is not the only problem but it is unquestionably a major problem. You cannot have a passion for Christ and His cross and embrace something so earthly and lend your heart to it. But this deception is very clever. While it encourages an earthly allegiance to a fallen nation it makes room for a perfunctory allegiance to Christ. This is not some hobby horse. This is a sincere plea to all who are still imprisoned by these spirits. And this comes from one who has been on both sides of those prison bars and I must testify that freedom is eternally better.
Pray, and pray, and consume Gods Word and listen for His voice.
II Cor.3: 18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
II Cor.3: 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (NIV)
Here once again we have the fine china of spiritual truth. But like so many other spiritual truths ones like this go largely unnoticed and surely unpracticed. Most evangelicals are not eager to hear “don’t do this” or “do this”. And they consider this kind of truth rather esoteric and intangible. How does beholding Christ’s glory help me at work or in my bank account? How can that make me happy? Most will never understand because most will never seek much less with passion.
What usually passes for discipleship is when the church purchases some manual like “40 Days of Purpose” or something similar and many of the people do the homework and at the end feel a sense of accomplishment. But that is not discipleship. That is just following a man’s book and placing more money in his pockets. But if we truly desire to follow Jesus we must yearn to know more and more of Him. Notice I did not say about Him. I said we must know more of Him. And we must seek Him with a relentless spirit which says with Jacob “I will not let You go until You reveal more of yourself to me”.
It is only through this sacred spiritual process that we can be changed by the Spirit. Two hours in broken prayer is worth more than reading any one Christian book. In fact one small glimpse of His infinite glory will not only change you but it will create a hunger for more. Most of us can remember when we were saved and we desired to love and serve Jesus and to an extent we did. But we also can remember when a veil was lifted and we suddenly realized there was more…much more. And as that veil was lifted we began to see a light we had not seen before. It came from Christ and its glory was unmistakable. It thrilled us and led us into repentance and contrition.
And the NIV uses the word “contemplate” or meditate. How many professing believers meditate upon Jesus throughout the day or ever? But oh what a glorious privilege to cast our hearts upon Him and allow the Spirit to paint a spiritual picture and impress it upon our hearts. That is truly life itself.
I Jn.3: Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God:
Can we even embrace the fullness of such a truth? The holy and majestic Creator now calls us sons. It does not seem possible. But what is impossible in the natural became a reality through the unsearchable sufferings upon Golgotha’s place of eternal glory. It was there where the temporal met the soaring glory of the eternal. It was there human works were no longer required of those who could never provide them. It was there were sin’s awful price was paid in full and awaited an eight year old little girl’s faith to transform her soul into a child of the Living God. It was there simplicity became the only pathway to eternity. It was there where extreme violence was meted out upon the Sinless Lamb and through that horrific scene peace was made with a holy and righteous God.
What manner of love is this? All the complex and fancy theologies merely touch the edges of such an unfathomable love. The word love itself is a poor descriptor which could never provide a revelation into the deep and profound motive exposed through Calvary’s bloody sacrifice. The lamb who writhes upon those Roman planks does not just project an incomprehensible love, but He is love. But rest assured only God’s Spirit can reveal that to a human spirit. Without the illumination of the Spirit we are left with an injustice or a martyr or an example but without the essence of what actually took place just outside Jerusalem’s walls. How can someone “pay” for even one sin? Tell me what good deed or what sacrifice could eradicate one sin from our resume? How many good deeds exonerate us from one small sin?
But in the unseen world of the Spirit in which the Holy God reigns only the cross can remove the awful stain and present us as righteous before Him. It is a miracle of grace which is another word bandied about like some topic for a thesaurus. You want grace? You desire God’s grace? You cannot have it without it being covered in suffering and blood. A bloodless faith is humanism indeed.
Call it archaic. Call it barbaric. Call it nonintellectual. Call it Neanderthal. Call it a religion that has not kept up with the times. But I call it the Truth of God forever.
The only time Jesus showed anger was when He scourged the temple because men were making money inside the house of God. I wonder how Jesus feels about what goes on in today’s visible church. Take it a step further. The temple of God in the New Covenant is found within the heart of every true believer. So what does Jesus think about it when we are given to money? When our hearts are driven to make money and store it up and our thoughts are how to make more and more. I have heard television heretics tell people that God will give them divine ideas for great businesses and the Spirit will show them how to gain great wealth.
Can you imagine the power of a deception which purports to speak for Jesus and then literally tells people things that are diametrically opposed to all He taught? And people, with Bibles upon their laps, nod and smile and clap and even stand to their feet in exuberance even though what is being said are diabolical lies. Never discount the power and creativity of deception. And deception is many faceted and behaves like a multi-level marketing scheme. It employs many people to spread its product, and like an Amway meeting it gets people excited to go out and bring others into the fold.
Excitement has replaced the Spirit and has become the ecclesiastical opiate among the pew dwellers. Promises of success and power over demons and wealth are part of the pulpit narcotic and it mesmerizes the hearers. You see they hear what man is telling them and not God’s Word by the power of the Spirit. It is designed to be upbeat and positive and to elicit appreciative applause but it is void of the engrafted Word. What a spectacle of death even amidst much fanfare and revelry!
But again I must insist you look at what has been done to the preaching of the cross. It is nonexistent in most churches and certainly it is a stranger to “Christian” television. And when the cross is minimized, to say nothing of completely ignored, then all is vanity and vexation of spirit. Let us not be timid about the nature of such crossless gatherings. They are demonic exhibitions of the flesh. There is no other way to describe the frivolity which calls itself “church” but shies away from Golgotha as if that were a symbol of defeat. Yes, it is horrific, sacrilege and indeed demonic.
I Cor.2: And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.
2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
This was no open air meeting that was evangelistic in nature. Paul was ministering to the saints. And yet Paul says the cross of Jesus Christ was his message to them. Do you understand what that means juxtaposed upon the modern relevant pulpit oratory? Where is the weakness? Where is the fear? Where is the trembling? Finney used to wonder how a preacher could speak about the fear of God and judgment and then glad hand everyone at the door as they left as it he had just finished a performance. Without the preaching of the cross all you have is a Dr. Phil talk show with some religious icing.
Do not our hearts grieve within us when we hear how the cross is treated as some bygone relic which has lost its relevancy? To think how He suffered for us and all He asked us was to believe and then to spread the gospel, and yet we could not abide even that? Shame on all who preach another gospel which hides the cross. Away with those who strut and speak self help messages which cannot save the lost nor edify the saved. Be gone all you false conduits who excite men’s flesh and do despite unto the Spirit of God.
But let us cling to that old rugged cross as if it were our lives…because…it is and always will be.
You have a daughter. She gets pregnant and she and her husband are very excited as are you. The birth goes smooth and a healthy baby comes into your life. But something tragic happens. When the child is less than one year old he is kidnapped by Muslims. Everyone searches for clues but to no avail. You are devastated. One year goes by and then two and three. Two decades go by and there is still a whole in your heart.
Then one day you turn on the television and you see several Muslims shouting words of hatred. But one face stands out among the rest. You squint your eyes and you believe that is the boy that was kidnapped twenty years ago. His features are unmistakable. You call your daughter and she agrees through tears. That young man is her son. He has been raised by Muslims and brainwashed. You feel absolutely no feeling of hate or disgust. You only feel love for this young man who is spewing hatred.
You begin to pray fervently and you do everything you can to reach out to him. Even when your efforts see many dead ends, and even though you are many times rebuffed, you are not deterred. Why? Because he is yours and you love him and it wasn’t his fault he was brainwashed. Well all Muslims were babies and grew up being brainwashed so why do we not see them with the same love through which we would see our own child? Oh my dear friends we have a long way to go, haven’t we?
I Jn.: 3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.
4 Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.
By His power we have overcome the spirits of antichrist. Oh my…
I Jn.2: 6 He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.
I Pet.2: 21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:
I Jn.4: 17 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. Tinge
Please read those four verses again. I was led to them by the similarity of their messages. And after reading them several times I was overwhelmed at their message. The phrases “even as He walked” and “that ye should follow His steps” and “as He is so are we in this world” are not just lofty goals but they are seemingly impossible and way out of our reach. And when I pause to soak in the essence of their teaching I am convicted greatly. In fact the Spirit revealed to me just how many times I have set good and wholesome goals which are above the average evangelical goals and yet I have not placed these before me.
And armed with diminished goals I can skip the light fandango and feel like I am being a good disciple. Do you understand what has happened when I have done that? I am comparing myself with other and not with Him. I will openly and humbly and even sheepishly admit it is a daunting task to juxtapose His life against ours. Oh we can nod in agreement and then shake our heads in some false humility and admit how far short we fall. But there is a prerequisite which must be pursued or any desire we have is futile. In order to walk in His steps we must seek to uncover and understand and learn of His steps.
But please allow me to draw your attention to something important and indispensible if we desire to seek Him in that way. I have in forty years studied the Scriptures especially the New Testament even with a semi-working knowledge of the original language. I have outlined entire books and memorized chunks of books. And that is a good thing. But if we are to embrace the verses I have shared we must read the gospels and the epistles and be cognizant that we are searching for truth and searching for revelations of Jesus with a surrendered heart which is ready to crucify the flesh and obey what we read and what the Spirit teaches us. Otherwise we are reading a history book with an interest which quickly fades as we go about our earthly lives.
Every single day all of us are faced with opportunities to be Jesus and walk in His steps in many different circumstances. And there again we must walk in the Spirit and be ready to bring all disobedience, even thoughts, to the cross immediately.
II Cor.10: 5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
And therein lies the distinct and disarming difference between Biblical knowledge and being a true disciple. Believe me I have been both at times. But I have seen something new and fresh which has caused me pain as well as rejoicing. I welcome the Spirit’s correction because I know God does it in love and because I desperately need it. I must unfurl my sails much higher and catch the wind if the Spirit and not just my good intentions which are mixed with self serving comparisons. Have I ever felt a tinge of satisfaction or pride as I spoke truth about Joel Osteen’s heresies? Or Christian television? Or the western church in general? And have I walked in the plush carpet of discernment and avoided the threshingfloor of God’s Spirit? Oh my dear friend yes I have far too many times regardless of how I try to present my good motivations and the words of truth the Spirit gave me as mitigating factors?
This morning I am inside that threshingfloor without Osteen and Warren and Copeland to point to. All I can see is Him and me and sometimes it is not a pretty picture. I am not trying to enjoy a bit of self flagellation which sometimes is couched in a false humility which can feel very good. No, I am speaking from my heart and with all the transparency and humility that the Spirit’s grace can give to me. To be Jesus in this world. Not just to spread His Word or embrace His name but to be Him. What a great mystery the Spirit lays out before us. I may revisit this again and soon, but until then I have seen His steps with blurred vision. I have walked along the path which is more narrow than what is preached but not as narrow as He walked. I have been a good me in this world and not Him.
May the Spirit illuminate my heart and empower my life and lead me to a fruitful repentance.
When you juxtapose reality with our western lifestyles we live in a fantasy. And yet Jesus spoke often and passionately about the poor. Just what are we doing? Just who are we? Just who is He? Just who is our neighbor? Don’t worry we will travel in our air conditioned cars and sit and be entertained and return to a life which for the most part ignores the words of Jesus. But we have an orthodox statement of faith. Let’s hope its fire proof.
If we just pause and examine the sufferings of Jesus in the natural considering He was an innocent man we should tremble. But when we consider who He was and what He suffered it should…well…it should reduce us to an undeserving pile of humanity which seeks to worship His majesty. And if that be so then we are positioned for His use and glory.
There is a genie called sin. He calls and reasons from with his bottle and all of us have thought that if we let him out for a spin we could control him and he would go quietly back into his bottle when we wanted him to. But when that genie emerges from his bottle he comes with much more than he had said. And he is a demanding genie. And when you realize you made a mistake he will not return to his bottle quickly or quietly. He is not only out and wishes to stay out, but he goes and lets his friends out of their bottle as well.
Now you have quite a mess. In fact you have invited a hit squad who seek your life.
If Jesus is not everything then He is nothing. Although all of us are still imperfect disciples that does not mean we can make Jesus a spiritual smorgasbord where we can take what we like and leave the rest. That is why we all need a fellowship where the calling of God is on a pastor or preacher and the Spirit strongly challenges us to a greater level of pursuit.
To lower the bar and hop over it only impresses you.
II Tim.3: 12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
13 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.
14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;
I sincerely believe times will become worse than we could ever imagine. I do not pretend to know the dates or the specifics, however the clouds of evil cover the earth. Even those things which seem to be good are vacuous distractions used of the evil one. And when the gatherings we call church become havens for greed and avarice and compromise and pleasure and the enticing word’s of men’s wisdom then you can rest assure sin will abound.
Evil men and seducers are legion all around the world. It isn’t just confined to America and the west. You can find mega centers of heresy in South Korea and the Philippines and Australia and their impact covers the globe. But make no mistake America is fertile ground for all sorts of heresies and money centered churches.
We must deepen the stakes of our spiritual tents. These are not only the times which try men’s souls, but they are the times which will damn men’s souls. You make think that men like me are redundant in our rebuke of what is being presented as spiritual truth but perhaps we are too reticent to speak louder and with more of an emotion of crisis. This is no game. This is not about oil prices and stock markets and real estate. They will go up and down as fallen men watch and hope in them. This about the wrapping up of the gospel age. And when that happens there remains no hope at all.
What does a man think and feel when he suddenly realizes the kingdoms of this world have never offered the slightest sliver of hope and all hope must be found in Christ and His gospel…and then he realizes it is over? The gospel is not offered anymore to anyone. That man realizes there is no hope at all. There was hope but he ignored it and now he has no hope. He is not in hell yet but there is nothing at all that can prevent his journey from ending up there. Usually when a person arrives at a place with no hope they may take their own lives or even kill others. Think about the violent chaos which will cover the earth when hope is gone and billions have awakened to that awful truth.
Keep your life well inside Christ. Be not troubled when you see these things come to pass. What does it take nowadays to shock us? Nine church people are butchered in Sunday School and in a day or two we move on. We don’t understand that event and others as part of a coming holocaust. Perhaps men will be shocked when that kind of wanton violence comes to the street in which they live. Until then men will rest with their locks and their guns and their savings accounts and their Social Security and they will comb their hair, go to church, and be told sweet sounding and even interesting stories.
Sleep on church. But let it be known the alarm has been sounding for many, many years. But if the Spirit has awakened your heart you are called to two main things. Pursue Christ with all your heart with prayer and fasting and devouring His Word, and witness Christ and support foreign mission. In reality the end is not coming…it is here.
We live in a culture which exhibits and encourages pride in many, many ways. This culture holds award ceremonies in order to award themselves. Politicians sing their own praises. Resumes are created to elevate some person. Even titles are given which wreak of pride.
Sadly the church has followed suit. Who could have ever predicted the church would hold award ceremonies just like the world and in direct violation of God’s Word? Who would have thought that pastors and preachers would embrace worldly titles like “Dr.” before their names when Paul called himself the least of all saints? Preachers are introduced as “anointed” or “gifted” or “powerful” and yet our calling is we must decrease and He must increase? The entire spectacle flies in the face of all Jesus taught.
Humility is an elusive trait. And to be clothed in humility is an incredible challenge. It is impossible in the flesh and when the ecclesiastical construct mirrors the world then it is altogether impossible. When the church walks in and perpetuates its own reputation then we are walking in ourselves and not in Christ. We are nothing and He is everything. Keep seeking to die tom yourself and rejoice when you are slighted and maligned and ignored and not given the credit for something you might deserve.
There is coming a true award ceremony which measures justly. But even though our names may be called when the award is given the name upon it will say “Jesus”. Halleluiah!
One important principle which is foundational to rightly dividing the Word is that we must make the New Testament the cornerstone of our faith. Yes the Old Testament is part of God’s Word but when men inaccurately make a doctrinal garment by sewing the New with the Old you can come up with many errors. Even Jesus said “You have heard but I say” which reveals the level; of importance. The Old Testament must be supportive and not competitive, but the New Covenant is where we live. There are many things in the Old Testament which are mysteries and which do not seem congruent with the teachings of Jesus. But we must leave them with God. So many of the false teachers take come story from the Old Testament and make up force feed it upon people usually to elicit some money. But we have not learned that from Jesus. Start with Jesus and end with Jesus in your book of truth. That IS truth.
Lk.4: 16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.
17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,
18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
Every church should be built upon, and preach, and live the gospel. Anything else is humanism.
Until you are born again and until the Holy Spirit enters your being you can only believe what you have been told.
So a man leads another man who happens to be blind and stands him before a wall. He asks the blind man to tell him what color is the wall. The blind man does not know. The man grows impatient with the blind man and raises his voice. Still the blind man does not know about the wall color. The man gathers a crowd of sighted people and they all shout at the blind man to identify the color. He cannot, so the crowd looks at each other and labels the man a liberal.
That is an illustration of the church demanding dead people see morality as do we.