Spiritual Warfare Prep

Spiritual Warfare Prep
We Are In The Lord's Army

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sinners, So Much Like Me

I have been listening to an audio by David Wilkerson called, 'The Cross and the Switchblade' and am tempted to cry when I see how God was merciful to the gangsters in New York City. As I recollect the many stories in the book, I am affected by how God moved on a man's heart to reach wayward young men and women with the Gospel message. The story of how Nicky Cruz came to know the Lord is amazing. Here is a man who was so hardened to the Gospel. Listen to his videos on Youtube. He believed that David Wilkerson came to New York City to break up the groups. As David introduced himself to Nicky, Nicky responded by telling him that he would kill David. Nicky had to attend the meetings David Wilkerson was preaching at simply because he was the second in rank in his gang, and he was required to follow the president of the group, in this case, was a young man named Israel. Israel was hungry for knowing God and ordered his gang to be at the meetings. Nicky would sneer as David was preaching. He would give cues to the others while the meeting was going on. Then in unison they would react. But one night David was desperate. He was tired of the clamor of the attendants. So, he bowed his head and prayed. Silence came from the audience and they listened. It was at one of those meetings that Nicky actually heard what David was preaching. He was immediately convicted of sin. At the end of the meeting, he told God that he was the worst sinner in all of New York, but if God wanted him, He could have him. Nicky's life was never the same. Not only that, God delivered him, over time, from the addiction of drugs. He was set free by the power of the Holy Spirit. He has been on fire ever since that time in the early 1960s. There were other gangsters who were saved. There were warlocks who came to Christ. Gang leaders were on their knees repenting before God. These were young men as well as women, who led lives of continual crime. Many were criminals simply because of their addiction to heroin, and they had to kill and steal to feed their addiction, daily. Many were in prison. Some were drug pushers. Whatever they did, it seemed like they were callous to reality. God went after these gangsters, not to threaten them with judgment, but to offer them the hope of eternal life and deliverance from their sins, which were many, and very deep. But we really are not much different than gangsters. We aren't holding people up to get money out of them so we can have the next fix, or killing people for sport. But our sins are grievous as well. I think of just my own household. Sometimes, people in my household don't get along. Sometimes, someone gets angry. We have pouted and have had bad attitudes. We have such a pull for being selfish. We forget about God. I know how easy it is to get involved in some family matter or job that needs tending to, only to be distracted and forget about God. How easy it is for me to get up in the mornings and plan out my day in my mind, and not include God in the things I do. It's easy for me to get on the computer and interact with people, then half the day is gone and I haven't even gotten to praying. I am not a legalist. I don't believe that if we forget to pray that God will punish us. But I believe God wants to interact with us, just like He did with the gangsters in New York City in the early 60s. He wants to have a relationship with us. And I spend so much time trying to get things done instead of spending time with God. Why am I so selfish? Or am I just realizing how selfish I had always been? How can I be happy in God? One of the things I have been praying for lately is for the 'joy of the Lord'. The joy of the Lord is our strength. Instead of meditating on the things that annoy me, I need to meditate upon the greatness and majesty of the Lord. The same God who pursued the gangsters in New York City, still pursues us. We are sinful just like they are, yet God is merciful to both of us. I think about how God was merciful to the gangsters. And I think about how God has been merciful to me. Only a person who has not sinned does not need God. And no such person exists for the Bible is clear that 'all have sinned' and we all fall short of God's glory. So, we can ask God to help us look at our hearts. He can show us our sins and shortcomings. The more we see our sin, the more God's mercy will be to us. This is something to think about.

Two Kinds of Sinners

Basically, there are two kinds of sinners; those who hold onto their sin, and those who repent of their sin. After reading comments on a Facebook post and listening to responses of people who are resistant to the Gospel, I realize that there are some misunderstandings of Christianity of those who are resistant. Perhaps if they truly understood the nature of the Gospel, they wouldn't be as resistant. I have to admit first that there are many professing Christians that don't understand the Gospel, and may be the very reason why Gospel opponents don't understand the Gospel. One of the biggest objections to the Gospel is that 'Christians are hypocrites'. This accusation might be partly true, for there are those professing Christians who hold onto their sins while proclaiming that God is 'all-loving' and 'all-forgiving'. The problem is that God really is all-loving and all-forgiving, but only to those who genuinely repent of their sins and turn to Christ. Jesus didn't die for our sins, so that we could continue in them (see Romans 6). But I do hear some professing Christians proclaim this kind of message. It is confusing to the unchurched though, and we need to stick with what the Scriptures say, not what we want them to say. The other group says that a person has to repent of their sins and turn to Christ (which, up to this point is correct), but they continue by saying that a person has to keep God's commandments or else he won't be saved anymore. The first group of professing Christians are basically Universalists, believing that any kind of acknowledgement of Jesus dying to pay for our sins will get us into heaven, while the other group has gone all the way to the other side of the spectrum (probably in reaction to Universalism) in saying that a person has to keep the commandments. Both groups have some truth in them but in reality, and based upon Scriptures, we repent of our sins, trust in Jesus (not just mental assent) and when we do truly repent, God does come in and makes the sinner a new creation in Christ and gives him or her a new heart. The person who has genuinely repented and come to Christ on God's terms (not his or her own) is 'born again'. When that happens, a person has the ability to obey God, because the Power of God lives inside that person. The word of God is activated in that person and they can live a holy life. But, because of indwelling sin, that same person can still sin. It doesn't mean that God will leave him or her because of the sin, but it does mean that the person who is born again can repent and turn back to God and continue to walk with God. This person will not be held down by their sin anymore (note: some will have serious struggles with sin and will need others in the church to walk with him or her until they are fully delivered). Now back to the main point of the post. There really are two kinds of sinners. There are those sinners who repent of their sins and trust in Jesus, and there are those sinners who continue to oppose the Gospel (and use excuses like 'Christians are hypocrites' to avoid responding to the Gospel.) The issue isn't that Christians are on a high, supernatural level, better than everyone else, because they have figured out a way to keep the commandments and please God. Always keep in mind that any true Christian is a sinner. The only difference is that those who put their trust in Jesus Christ have their sins forgiven and have become new creatures in Christ, not by anything they have done, but because of what God has done for them. Always remember, salvation is a gift of God. It is never achieved by any works by human beings. But it is a gift that must be received and acted upon. If you knew you had a gift at someone's house, but that person lived far away, the gift wouldn't do you any good, would it? You would have to go to the person's house and take the gift, open it up, then use it. That is similar to the way salvation works. We have to receive it and it becomes activated in us. Only then can we benefit from it.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

More on Pelagianism

With all the talk about heretics and false teachers/teachings on the Internet, I am surprised that no one has picked up on Pelagianism. Pelagianism is creeping into many areas of Christianity without notice. Yet, if someone disagrees with us doctrinally, we call them out and label them as heretics. I am puzzled by this. I am not going to go into all the doctrines of Pelagianism, but will summarize here what they believe in, so the rest of what I write will make sense; 1. They do not believe in original sin, 2. They believe a person can lose their salvation, 3. They believe a person is responsible for their sin, 4. They believe that salvation is two-fold- faith in the finished work of Christ and obeying the commandments. My personal opinion is that they are reacting to those who profess to be Christians who say that once we are saved, we can do whatever we want and still go to heaven. First of all, that kind of thinking is wrong. It's not Biblical. The Bible doesn't teach us that we can come to Christ in repentance and faith, then go out and do whatever we want. I almost can't imagine anyone really believing that doctrine, but since Paul had to deal with it in Romans 6, it really does happen. One thing I want to point out is that a Pelagian's understanding of what sin is, is different from what a Calvinist, for example, believes. The Bible teaches that sin comes from the heart. Here is what Jesus says about the things that defile a man, 'For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.These are what defile a person." Matthew 15:19,20 ESV Pelagians think that sin is the big bad things we do. They don't see the pride in their hearts as sin, so therefore they think they don't have sin. Or homosexuality. That, of course, would be sin. The thing that seems to be missing from both the Pelagians and those who would hold to the belief that a person could come to Christ in repentance and faith, then do whatever he or she wants and still be saved, is simply one thing; the new heart. When a person comes to Christ and is born again, he or she receives a new heart. Not just a new heart, but also the Holy Spirit lives inside now. The Holy Spirit gives the believer the power to live a Godly life. The new heart provides the desire to live a Godly life. If a person is very sick, and there is a special, expensive medicine that can make him well, and someone gives him that medicine, he is not going to take the medicine and pour it down the drain (unless something is seriously wrong with his mind!). No, he will prize this medicine. He will be grateful for it. He will use it wisely so it will work. He will protect it from being lost or stolen. This is normal behavior for something we cherish. If a person is truly saved, he or she will treasure the Gospel. We will be grateful for the Gospel and for what God has done for us when He sent His Son, 2,000 years ago to become the atonement for our sins. We will not treat this carelessly because it will be precious to us. Pelagians don't understand the value of the Gospel. They believe we are responsible for our sins. If we sin, we need to stop sinning (I am not saying we should continue in sin. We cannot deliver ourselves from sin.). If Pelagians are right, then we aren't able to come to God until we show that we are ready by cleaning up our act first, then come to God. Sure, we can clean up the outside of our cups, like the Pharisees did. This is what the Pelagians do. They clean up the outside of the cup, but they don't realize that the inside is what's dirty. God looks at our hearts. Man only sees the outside. That's why we need a new heart. So, today's lesson is simply that we need a new heart. Many Christians miss this concept and try to make up for it by being extra good or trying harder. Jesus lived a perfect life and died a death that we should have died. Our sin is that bad before God. God did what only God can do for us in our helpless state. We can't fix it. But yes, we can repent of our sins, and God will grant us repentance when we see the ugliness of our sin and turn to Him.

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Neighborhood Cat - The Scardey Cat

A couple of months ago I decided to make popcorn everyday for the squirrels that are in our back yard, mainly because I want to keep the squirrels away from the garden and well fed, so that they will not be as tempted to attack the plants in the garden. We had 12 squirrels at one time gathered under the tree where the popcorn was placed. But the squirrel population decreased and now we only have one or two left. But what we did get was a raccoon who came daily for his ration of popcorn as well as a stray cat. All these animals had the same coloring too. I haven't seen the raccoon lately, but the cat comes around every day. He is very thin and is probably very hungry. I got some cat food for him from the store and placed a bowlful per day for him or her. The food seemed to be gone immediately. Now I have to remember that the raccoon could be eating it as well, so I am placing more food in the back yard for them. I have been doing this for months now, yet, whenever the cat is out there in the back, eating the food I provide for him or her, as soon as the cat sees me, it runs away. It still doesn't trust me. Today I was putting a letter in the mail box and saw the cat from a distance. I informed the cat that I had some food for him/her, but as soon as the cat saw me, it ran off. Will this cat ever trust me? I think we are like that so many times. Most of us have no concept of a God who loves us and wants to be with us. We are good at hearing (and preaching) how God hates sin (and He does) and will punish it One Day. We know that people will be judged for their sins. Many do not want to give up their sins in order to be saved. But some really would, if they understood that God really does love them and wants them to be free from their sins. We are so untrusting toward God. We believe the devil's lies about God. One of the biggest lies the devil tells people is that God wants to take away our fun. He tries to get us to not trust God by believing that God doesn't want what is best for us. Yes, we are much like the frightened cat who doesn't want to come near me, but appreciates the food I give him/her. As soon as we hear God's voice, we run away (or explain it away). I have heard a phrase about God being the 'Hound of Heaven'. I am not sure of what is intended in this phrase, but I think it means that God pursues us because He loves us and wants a relationship with us. He also wants us to repent and trust in Him. When we do that, we become new creatures in Christ with a new heart. But we continually run away from God because of our own sinful hearts and the lies of the Enemy of our souls. Yes, we are much like the cat that roams our neighborhood looking for food. We gladly eat what God has provided, yet we run away from Him. Here is what God says, 'Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.' He also tells us that anyone who comes to Jesus will in no way be cast out. Will you come to God, or will you continually be running away from Him? The choice is yours.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Why Christmas Makes Me Cry

I don't know about you, but lately when Christmas comes around, I find myself crying more. I think a lot of it has to do with my kids growing up and leaving home. Some of it could be due to the fact that I am not running around with these kid activities and taking kids to school, going to concerts, etc. anymore. Kind of sad. But I wonder if there is another reason for Christmas being a sad time of the year. About a month ago, I found out that someone who was attending our church committed suicide. Last week, a church member's brother was killed while jogging. Another friend's mother passed away. Another friend has an aunt who is declining in health with terminal cancer. A person who had just stepped down as pastor ended his life a couple of days ago. Life is really sad. I wonder if there is any connection to these events and Christmas? I think a couple of things come to mind here; one of them is that loved ones are probably clinging onto life until Christmas, as much as possible. Certainly those who are killed can't do anything about the timing of their deaths though, but it is still very hard to have a loved one die around the holidays. Another thing though, that I think is more prevalent is that people who are depressed, will experience deeper depression around the holidays, especially if they are alone or not in a church body where there is life and community in relationships. People are, by nature, gregarious. No man is an island, as the song goes. We were not intended to live isolated lives. We were not made to have to live hidden lives, yet so many people do. I think if we realize this, it is the first step to helping ourselves if we struggle with depression. The depressed person needs to be in relationships with other people in the church. He or she needs someone who is trusted and who they can confide in. The Enemy of our souls would love nothing more than for us to be destroyed and if we destroy ourselves, so much the better, as far as he is concerned. All of us are vulnerable, to some degree to depression. If we think we are above it, we are deceiving ourselves. That is exactly what the Enemy of our souls wants us to believe. The Enemy of our souls is always lying to us individually, and he has specific lies for us that he knows we will believe. We need to know the Word of God, and be able to use it against the Enemy. The word of God needs to be activated in our hearts, and that will be a guard against the onslaught of the Enemy. The Holy Spirit will activate God's Word in our hearts if we want Him to. So the key weapon is, God's word activated in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. But there are other guards we can have as well. One of them is the church. By church, I mean the body of related believers in Christ. Not every 'church' is a Bible believing, Spirit-filled church though, so we need to find one. Just because it has the label of 'church' doesn't mean it is a functioning church. The church was intended to be a body of related believers who live together in community (not necessarily living in the same house though!). If you go through the New Testament, you will find the term 'one-another' quite often. This is how we are to live our lives. The Christian family is a community of believers who are learning to live a new life in a new way, with new hearts. (For a message about 'one-anothering' please go to http://www.metrolife.org/sermons/sermon/2013-11-17/one-anothering) Around this time of year there are many lonely people around. Some are believers in Jesus Christ, while others have never heard the Gospel. We need to be reaching out to these people, especially this time of year. They are vulnerable to Satan's attacks and do not know how to guard against them yet. I believe that the suicide level will be lower if we minister to these people. This is a good time of year to reach out to the lost. Some have never experienced Christmas with a family. They will never appreciate what most of us have unless they are brought into our families during the holidays. Christmas is a season of giving. But the best gifts are those we give to others. Jesus said that it is better to give than to receive. The joy of giving ourselves to others is priceless. Serving those who are alone at this time of year is very rewarding and can cause a life to be changed forever. I know that next year people will still die at Christmas time. But what I hope is that death will not be caused by suicide. I hope that every lonely person will feel our love and acceptance and that God will provide opportunities for us to take people in, whether it be for Thanksgiving, or a Christmas meal, or some other creative idea that we could do which would include these people. The alternative is that they will be casualties next year, or some later year, because they didn't know how to reach out to us, or they possibly didn't know that we would receive them and didn't want to try. So, some ideas I have, and there are certainly way more than I can come up with, are; having people over for the Thanksgiving dinner, having people over for a Christmas meal, making gifts for neighbors and spending time talking with them (this is a hard one for me!). Please feel free to post any ideas you have. If you are alone this holiday season, please, I beg you to try to reach out to those in the church. Find a church that teaches the word of God and has relationships going. You will be pleasantly surprised when you meet the right group of people and get involved!
"Show hospitality to one another without grumbling." Peter.

Monday, November 25, 2013

If Jesus Came to Your House Poem With Picture in Background

   I found this poem on a tract many years ago. Out of all the tracts I have seen, this one is actually one of the best. The poem is online, and I believe it is public domain. It asks a question and poses a hypothesis. But, in reality it is true. I only copied part of the poem because of lack of space. Enjoy this one. Feel free to download the pic too.

"If Jesus came to Your House" poem
with background.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Some Hard Bible Verses

   What Bible verses do you find hard? Not necessarily hard to understand, but ones you would struggle with personally?
  I have a couple of them. Here is one from Matthew 7:21-23ESV
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
   Could you imagine this; instead of hearing 'Well done thou good and faithful servant' hearing this verse? How horrible that would be.
   There are other verses too. Here is one from Matthew 12:31-32 ESV "Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come."
   Do you fear God? I hope you do. If these verses concern you, then you probably do fear God. But there are those in our Christian communities who would actually freely call people heretics and false teachers, simply because someone wrote it on a blog somewhere. That concerns me, especially because it involves slander. But it gets worse. Now well known Bible teachers and various people in the Christian community are saying that people using the spiritual gifts are from the devil. Friends, you better make darn sure that these people are really from the devil before you start giving the devil credit for what could be from God. 
   I know of one person in particular who said 'So and so is demon possessed'. But the So and So (unnamed person) is not demon possessed! He is a Spirit filled man of God, but people have slandered him to no end. So, my recommendation is that is you suspect someone really is demon possessed (and there are people who are) please, be careful about what you say about people. If someone gets healed, but the person who prayed from the healed person is someone you disagree with doctrinally, please be careful about what you say about who healed the person. You could be on dangerous ground.
   I have a friend who is  a Jehovah's Witness. I told her about some of the things God healed me from. She replied that it might have been the devil who healed me. How serious is that? 
   Let's consider who might be demon possessed and help them. Let's consider those who are in error doctrinally and pray for them. Let's be careful to not jump on a bandwagon and follow the blogs that slander a particular person under the guise of 'warning the church'. Find all information from all different angles about something before making assertions publicly about it.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Complexities of a Saved Person

      Someone was asking me some questions about salvation last night. He seemed confused on what some Christians had said. He asked about the group of people who say that a person can receive Christ, and no matter what they do, they will always be saved. They can do whatever sins make them happy and still go to heaven.
   My first thought was 'I only have a couple of minutes. How can I walk this person through this thinking and show him what the Scriptures teach?'. I would like to summarize my thoughts on this subject, right here, so the answer can be clear to my readers as well as to the young man who asked this last night.
   We have to go back to the Scriptures and understand, first of all, what happens to a person when they come to Christ. The Bible teaches us that such a person is born again. Being born again comes from God, not just something we  do to ourselves. We are adopted into God's family, and God becomes our Father. Our spirit, the part of us that we can't see but lives forever, is now alive, whereas our spirits were dead before we came to Christ. Now we can't see our spirits, and people get tripped up at this point. We tend to look for an outward sign or a feeling to confirm that this has happened to us, but there probably won't be any feelings or anything visible that we can see that will indicate we have been born again. Another thing that happens is that the Holy Spirit of God comes to live inside of the person who has truly come to Christ. The Bible says that the person who is saved is a new creature in Christ. But here is what the issue of concern is; even though a person is truly born again, with a new nature and the Holy Spirit dwelling inside, he or she still has an old nature that will still be tempted to sin. This is where Christians divide and have confusion about salvation.
   Throughout the Old Testament, when people sinned, they offered a lamb sacrifice (there were other animal sacrifices as well, but I will just stick with the lamb sacrifice here). Something always had to die because of sin. Not only that, but sin kills us spiritually. The wages of sin is death, the Bible tells us. 2,000 years ago, God sent His Son to become the Ultimate Sacrifice for our sins. We don't sacrifice lambs anymore to cover our sins, but now we trust in Jesus' death to pay the death penalty for our sins. But Satan's weapon against us is to tempt us to sin. Whenever you see temptation to sin, it is because the devil wants you to sin, because he knows that sin brings death to us. But that is when we turn to Christ. We look to His death and ask for forgiveness for our sins when we do commit sin. God willingly forgives us of our sins because of Jesus' death which paid for sin.
   But that raises the question we have about continuing in sin. If Jesus died to pay for our sins, and if God so graciously forgives us of our sins, does that mean we can continue to sin and be ok with God? The Bible answers that question in Romans 6. Paul asks that question of his readers and then answers it himself. His answer is, 'God forbid'. Then we have to ask another question. What does is mean when we do sin? Will God not forgive us because we shouldn't sin? The Apostle John answers that question in one of his epistles. He tells us that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins. He also tells us that when we sin, we have an Advocate, who is Jesus Christ, the only righteous One.
   So, that almost sounds confusing, until you go back again and look at what happens to a person when they come to Christ in repentance and faith (trust). Is it ok if he or she sins or is it not ok? The person who truly knows God and is 'born again' has a new nature, and a new heart. The new heart can only have good desires. The new heart itself does not sin. The person with this 'new heart' must feed himself or herself spiritually with the word of God. What happens is that the born again person has now 'two' hearts, in a sense. One is the old, sinful heart, which must be put to death daily, and the other is the new heart, given to him or her by God at the time of receiving salvation. The devil still comes along and tempts a person to sin, even though the person has a new heart. The devil will not tempt a person to sin in ways that are obvious to that person, but in sneaky ways that the person won't notice. A born again person has to guard his 'old heart' against the temptations of sin that Satan will still throw at him or her. A saved person will probably only sin in areas that he or she isn't aware of being sin.
      A person who has a strong conscience won't commit adultery, for example. But what happens is that little, tiny, almost unnoticeable temptations come about, that seem insignificant, at least in the beginning. Then the bigger ones come. Before you know it, the person is having an affair, yet the sin didn't start out that way. It came about because the tricks of the devil are very subtle and go unnoticed for a long time. That's why Jesus explains the act of committing adultery by simply lusting sexually after a person who they are not married to. We think flirting isn't a big deal, but it is a heart issue that leads to adultery. This is why we need to know what the Scriptures say and use the word of God as a weapon to protect us from the temptation to sin, just as Jesus did in the Wilderness.
   So, a saved person can easily be tempted to sin, but now he or she has to power to say 'no' to that sin, because the Holy Spirit will enable him or her to resist. Not only is there the power to resist sin, but now the saved person also has a new heart which will have the desire to not sin. But there is the struggle between the old heart and the new. The struggle is a sign that the person has been born again, and this is good. A person who is not a true believer in Jesus Christ will continue to live in sin, because there is not a new heart that desires to be free from sin.
   So, to recap what happens to a person when they repent (turn from living for self to living for God) and trust in Jesus' death for salvation, here is the list:
  1. The person is born into God's family
  2. The person is fully forgiven by God for their sins
  3. The person receives a new heart with Godly desires
  4. The Holy Spirit lives inside and gives power to overcome sin
  5. The person now has eyes that can see spiritual things (he or she is no longer spiritually blind)
  6. The person is now a new creature in Christ
But we must still be aware of the old nature that is still there. The old nature didn't disappear, but now it will contend against the new nature. We are to put to death the old nature, and live out our lives in the new nature, by the power of God. We will slip and fall, but God promises to pick us up again. God also promises to discipline those who are His. This is a good thing. We might not like it, but it is a sign that we are God's children.
   So, to answer the young man's question about if we can be saved and continue in sin, I hope this makes it a little clearer. Yes, it is possible and probable that we will still sin. The devil will look for vulnerable places to tempt us. Sin kills us, and he wants us dead and wounded. But we have a new heart that doesn't want to sin anymore. We also have the power of God to resist sin. We don't have to sin anymore and our new status should cause us to be motivated to run away from sin. Sin is not good for us. It is Satan's weapon to wound or kill us. But we can resist his lies because God's truth is in our hearts. We will not want to continue in sin, but we will still struggle against sin until the day our bodies die and we go to be with Him.
   It is possible that people who want to continue in sin are really not saved. They might be false converts who are deceived into thinking that it is ok to continue in sin since Jesus paid for our sins. It appears that these people do not have a new heart. For if they did, they would let go of every sin that is holding them down, and receive the Promise of God which is far more valuable than anything sin or the world could offer.
   If someone gave you a million dollars, how would you feel toward that person? Let's say, you were very poor, and someone who had a lot of money gave a lot to you. Now you could buy a house to live in. You could have food on your table again. Your physical needs would be met. You would be grateful to that person who helped you out financially. So, let me ask you this question; Would you take the money he gave you and buy a gun and shoot him with it? Of course you wouldn't. You wouldn't if you are a normal person because you have a conscience. That would seem ridiculous. Yet, that is what it is like when we believe we can still sin and have Jesus' blood cover our sins. I am not talking about the struggle we have against sin. All of us have that struggle, if we are believers in Jesus Christ. I am talking about a careless attitude about continuing in sin and thinking that God is all-loving and all-forgiving and sin doesn't matter to Him anymore.
   If you are not yet a believer in Jesus Christ, and are struggling with sin, please be assured that God wants you to be delivered from sin. Please don't let your sin, no matter how powerful it seems over you, to keep you from coming to Christ. Some sins are so entangling that it takes time to be set free from them. Some sins that entangle us can be broken through deliverance. God can save anyone, no matter how enslaved to sin you are. God can set you free, so you can know Him and be born again into His family. Please go to http://thegospelconversation.blogspot.com for more info or send me an email if you want more information.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Being Shaped Like a Key

  I am always trying to come up with Biblical illustrations to help us understand Biblical truths so we can know how to make Biblical applications to our lives. There really are no perfect illustrations, but many can help make a point more understandable.
  I was thinking about the issue of salvation last night, and what is involved in the process. How do we explain the Gospel without involving works, at least works that are done by us to receive salvation? Or, how do we explain works when it involves God working in us and our response to that?
  What are some things we have to let go of when we come to Christ? What if we didn't know those things were going to be gone, or on their way out, after we responded to the Gospel?
   I have been listening to 'The Cross and the Switchblade' telling of David Wilkerson's adventures in NYC ministering to young men and women who were part of gangs. What he did was dangerous, but God's protection was there, and many of these gangsters came to Christ.
  A couple of the presidents of these gangs came forward and wanted to receive Christ. They wanted change. They really hated what they were doing and gladly gave up their violence and hatred in order to receive Christ. They were truly born again and from that point on, they risked their lives because of the Gospel. Most of us have no idea what that is like, unless we live in a country that is hostile to the Gospel.
   When a couple of the presidents of these gangs came to Christ one evening, you could tell that they really grasped the Gospel, but they didn't know anything else that would happen to them until they started growing in their faith. So, they received Bibles and as they left the building, each one lit up a cigarette and walked out. One of them even used a curse word telling David Wilkerson that he gave his life to God. They definitely were not saved long enough to realize all the many details of their sins, but, that would come in time!
   All of us are like that though, in a sense. When we come to Christ, we know some things we will have to give up. Some things will have to be let go. Some things we are not aware of yet, but later on we will be.
   After we come to Christ and become a new creature in Christ, the Bible says that old things go away and all becomes new. As we grow spiritually, we understand more truth, and the lies that we used to hold onto, we start letting them go. We will never become perfect in truth until we are in the next life though, but we can grow in the knowledge of the truth every day during our short stay on this earth.
   This reminds me of a key. If you have ever had a key made, you know that the key has to be shaped exactly like the inside of the lock. Every key is different and has a different shape it will correspond to. When a key is being made, tiny pieces are chipped off. This process continues until the key fits the inside of the lock perfectly. When the key is finished, it fits the inside of the lock and can be used for it's intended purpose.
   We are like that key. As we grow spiritually, little by little, we are being chipped away. Little lies fall off here and there. The pieces that get in the way get smaller and smaller until they fit exactly. The image we are going to be shaped in is Christ. He is the model key and we will be like Him. Jesus is the door and He is the key. We will be like keys opening up the door to eternal life so others can enter. We don't want to be crooked or rusted keys that cannot be used.
  So, as you grow in your Christian life, just as the key is being shaped to fit the lock, you are being conformed to the image of Christ. Not always easy and fun, but there is no other way to compare with the greatness of what becomes of a person who is in Christ and is growing spiritually.
If you do not yet know Jesus Christ, and He is not your Savior, please go to: http://thegospelconversation.blogspot.com for more information on your relationship with God.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Body Of Christ Needs To Use Spiritual Weapons To Fight With

     As I am wondering what is wrong with this picture, I get partial answers at times. The picture is the body of Christ, and what I see wrong so many times, is a symptom of something much more serious. If I have a child who is sick, I will analyze all the symptoms and try to treat the illness, and if I can't, I will call a doctor for help and medicine, with the hopes of a correct diagnoses. So, here is the thought that came to my mind this morning, as I think about this continual 'symptom' that I see over and over again in the church worldwide. By the church, I mean brothers and sisters in Christ who make up the body of Christ altogether.
   What is the problem that I am seeing? It is a two-fold problem. First, I am seeing a strong desire from many believers in Christ for revival. It is a heart cry for many. But it doesn't seem to be happening. And we always have to ask 'why'?
  Secondly, I am seeing many good Bible teachers teaching wonderful truths out of the Bible. One of the best teachings that also is practical is the teaching of peacemaking. The Peacemaker is a class that is taught in many churches and explains the principles of peacemaking out of Scriptures. We went through this class in our church and many of the principles were put into practice in our lives. I'm sure this has happened in many churches at least in America if not around the world. But in the last couple of years, I have seen more hatred and division in the body of Christ than I have ever seen in my whole Christian life. Perhaps I am seeing more because of being on Facebook and the Internet. Maybe it was there all along, and I just never saw it to the degree that I see it now.
   Yes, we have been taught these principles, and we know better than to slander people today. The Bible is very clear on the fact that slander is an abomination to God. Slander is demeaning to people and there is never a time when we should use it. Slander is one of Satan's favorite ways of destruction. But Christians use it every day. Not only that, but they resort to name calling and vicious attacks against others that they don't agree with in doctrine. And because they don't believe the other party is really truly converted, they feel they have a right to slam the opposing group. Friends, we are not playing football here. Our goal should be to work together in unity where we can. Where we disagree, there should be love. We don't see in Scriptures where people who disagreed slandered those they disagreed with. We are to warn people about those who are divisive. Warning people doesn't involve slander. When we slander someone, we don't have an excuse for doing this because the opposing team is wrong. Even false teachers and prophets should not be slandered. We can warn our church family about these people and we don't have to slander them in doing so. We don't have to hate the false teacher. Sure, we hate what they do. What they teach makes us angry, and it should. But we don't have a right to slander them.
   Here is my thought from this morning: "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal. They are spiritual. When we use the weapon of hate, we are using a carnal weapon. We are not fighting against the Enemy with the proper weapon and we will become casualties."  Remember we are in a spiritual battle and our common enemy is the devil, not each other or not other groups we disagree with. If we see a Christian group of people who appear to be in error, could we take time to pray for them? Could we understand that all of us (us included) are all in the growing process of sanctification and some will be weak? Can we pay attention and be our brother's or sister's keepers and help them be delivered from the sins which are binding them? Can we handle warning our church families about false teachers by using charity? 
    I am concerned that we have used the subject of 'false teachers' in a wrong way. For example, if we are Calvinist, some of us will call Arminians 'heretics'. That is not fair, nor is it courteous to those who are true believers who hold an Arminian viewpoint. The issue isn't whether Arminian or Calvinist is correct, but whether the person is in Christ or not. As we grow spiritually, God makes His truth clearer to us more and more. We will let go of things that are not true, even if we have been holding onto them for a while.
   But when it comes to false teachers, do you not think it would be better to teach the true doctrines that would make sense, rather than attacking individual people? For example, there really is a dangerous teaching that has crept into the church that I am surprised not many have caught onto yet. But I see professing Christians adapting some of the beliefs of this false doctrine. I can tell by what I read in the things they post and talk about that many have fallen into the doctrine of Pelagiansim. Not many will know what Pelagianism is, but most of us have been taught well against its principles. Pelagianism would teach, if I understand correctly, that salvation is two-fold; belief in Christ and obedience to God. Any Christian who has a basic understanding of the Gospel would know that this is wrong. But I see many who embrace Pelagianism and to my surprise are open about their erroneous beliefs. This is what I call dangerous. Do we hate Pelagians? No, we should be praying for them. We should be sharing the truth of salvation being a free gift of God, not of works lest anyone would boast. 
   We ignore the major heresies, but embrace the individuals we don't agree with and attack them. In the debate world, this is called ad-hominem. It means attacking the person instead of the belief system. It is a rule you do not want to break while doing a debate. If it is that important to follow in debating, how much more should we follow the word of God when it tells us to be peaceful in our relationships and that we should be marked by love? 
   Love is the healing power for this sickness in the body of Christ. Humility is the agent that will make love work. When we truly love someone, we want the best for him or her, even at our own expense. It is not about us, but it is all about God and making His name known in truth. When we truly love God, we will genuinely love one another. This is the evidence that we have been born again and are part of the body of Christ. Until we develop this kind of love, the church will stay in an unhealthy state. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Are We Powerless and Weak or Can We Have the Power of God in Our Lives Today?

    Friends, I have been very affected after reading the book, 'The Cross and the Switchblade' in the past couple of weeks. (Actually, I didn't read it but listened to it from an audiobook from Christianaudio.com). I have a whole new dimension of thinking when it comes to evangelism now, maybe even a new direction, but not sure where and how, or even when.
   Years ago, when I was seeking the Lord, I felt very drawn to learning about the power of God in our lives. I really believed in the power of the Holy Spirit in living out our Christian lives and doing evangelism, but I believe that I have discounted a lot of what I believed to be true, do to the emphasis/teaching in the Christian circles on all the 'false teachers' who were out there carrying on with the spiritual gifts. Don't get me wrong. I still believed the gifts are for today, and they are there to help us minister in the church and bring true glory to God's name. I have seen the spiritual gifts used properly, and people have been edified and encouraged in the faith. I have also seen the gifts used in evangelism and people have no doubt that God is present. So, what am I lacking?
   I always believed that we should be Spirit-filled believers, but the meaning is unclear to many of what that really means. I would pray every day that God would fill me with His Holy Spirit, and believed I am Spirit-filled, but still, I seemed to lack power or maybe not quite experienced the dimension I know was there. Not sure of what it was.
   For the past 7 years, I have surrounded myself with lots of Reformed teaching and most of it is excellent. I have really grown in my understanding of the Bible in so many ways. But part of my problem started here, I think. I have heard teachings from Godly men saying that God doesn't speak to our hearts any more. That was distressing, for I know God has spoken to my heart. Was it not really God? What about all the people that have used the Spiritual gifts and God has spoken to them and wonderful things have happened? I have put all that on a shelf for a while. When I heard someone talk about God speaking to their heart, I just had doubts about it. I'm not sure God speaks to our hearts any more, except when it comes to salvation.
   But as time went on, I learned from these men that the spiritual gifts are no longer in use today. Also, they teach that we receive everything from God the moment we are saved, therefore when we ask for more of God, we are asking wrongly. Finally, one more thing I noticed, was that it seemed like God was just some kind of theory about how we get into heaven. We have to be holy. We have to repent. We have to trust in what Jesus did on the Cross for us. I agree. But it just seems like a formula to get into heaven to be with this distant God that is waiting to judge the world because of all its wickedness. Don't get me wrong. All of that is true, but, what if God wants to have a relationship with us? What if God really is pursing us and what if He wants us to know Him personally? Where is that in all the teachings I have heard?
   Is God some kind of distant Being that we just should appease by our repentance and belief in Him? I believe in sanctification and growing spiritually, but, can we grow in our relationship with God and really actually know Him? Can we truly hear His voice and does He truly speak to our hearts? I have to say that I believe the answer is 'yes' to those questions.
   We have relegated God to a formula. Instead of preaching about a person, we are preaching the formula we need to follow in order to get saved. It is fine to preach the formula while explaining the Gospel, but God is a person, not a thing.
   Anyway, getting back to the power of the Holy Spirit. We need to depend more on the Holy Spirit to help us. I think we are afraid to draw upon the Holy Spirit because we are afraid that the devil will intercept and we will get a counterfeit gift if we are not careful. We have to remember that Satan has no hold on us unless we give ground to him. If we are truly seeking God, would God allow Satan to come in and sneak one of his gifts in instead? Jesus tells us that if we, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more will God give the Holy Spirit to them who ask Him (Luke 11:13) Also, it is a reaction of many Bible teachers to the Todd Bentley thing. Todd Bentley believes he hears from God, but does he really? One more thing about this too; the office of the prophet of the Old Testament is not the same thing as the spiritual gift of prophecy. I think both non-charismatics and some Pentecostals believe that they are the same. That makes it even more confusing.
   Getting back to the new direction in my thinking on evangelism, after reading The Cross and the Switchblade, I am ready to turn to the people who are weak, poor, needy, and looking for an answer for their sin. I have spent countless hours learning apologetics. I don't regret doing that one bit. But I go back to the story of the Cross and the Switchblade. First of all, David Wilkerson not only trusted in God for help, but specifically asked for the Holy Spirit as he ministered to the gangsters who lived in NYC in the late 1950s. He left the comforts of his home to live among the gangsters and preached the Gospel to them. These gangsters were on their knees! I was thinking of some of the words of a young man at that time, named Nicky Cruz. He came to the meeting only because Israel (the president of the gang) ordered that the men in the gang were going to attend. Nicky was opposed to David Wilkerson probably because he thought erroneously that David Wilkerson's intentions were to break up the gangs. Nicky already showed defiance toward David and he reluctantly went to the meeting along with the other members of the gang. While David was preaching, Nicky thought to himself, 'I want that' and 'I need that'. He was serious. He did a complete turn around and repented that night. Many other gangsters also repented and good fruit came out of that meeting, even though that week of meetings started out kind of rocky.
   We live in a town near colleges, so the people around here are very 'knowledgeable'. One problem that comes with being knowledgeable is that we become prideful as well. The Bible says that 'knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.'. When we receive a lot of knowledge, we become unteachable. We can't learn anything new because we think we have already learned everything. So, preaching the Gospel to these people is hard. They already 'know' God, or, they are Atheists and aren't really interested in what we have to say.
   Please don't hear what I am not saying. I am not saying that it is wrong to preach to college students or wealthy people. They need to hear the Gospel too. But they are not as open. I think colleges are great places to defend the faith, and to present the truth. Many years from now people may remember what they heard while in college, but they resisted it when they were in school. So keep on going to the campuses. But I am going to look for those whom I can have a conversation with that might end up with eternal results.
   You don't have to go very far from my home to find such people to talk to. We have a lot of people who don't even have a car to drive, or a nice home to live in. We have people who are trying to find odd jobs to pay the bills. There are many people who never went to college and are learning in their own way how to make life work. And there are those who are homeless. Some of these homeless people are ripe for hearing the Gospel. Others have seen a form of Godliness and know the talk, but life is still missing from them.
   I enjoy so much, talking to people and explaining the Gospel from the book of Genesis through Revelation, and after I talk and converse with people, many of them will say, "I never heard it put that way. Thank you so much for sharing with me." I didn't have to go through a bunch of apologetics of arguing the existence of God with them. I can introduce them to a Person who they need to meet. So, that is going to be where I will look for in ministering in the future.
   I will still study apologetics and have my apologetics blog. For some people, this is really going to be helpful. But for those who want to spin my wheels, I will go to another group and leave them spinning wheels until they get tired of it and want to respond to God.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Angels Cry 'Holy' - Do We?

   If we had eyes to see God right now, we would not even be able to stand. We would be flat on our faces and totally, completely amazed and in awe.
   Isaiah was one such person who saw God's glory and he became undone. You can read his account in Isaiah 6. Another person who was affected by the reality of God's presence was Peter. He and his companions were trying to catch fish one night, but nothing was happening. The livelihood of these men depended upon catching fish. This was not a good night for them. They had met Jesus not too long before this, so they were beginning to understand new things. But this morning they saw a new dimension of God. Peter's eyes were opened to something beyond amazing. Jesus was his teacher now, but something new, something different was about to happen. Jesus told the men to put out their nets, but Peter argued. I can imagine Peter was thinking that since Jesus wasn't a fisherman, He really didn't know much about the trade. But Peter immediately changed his mind and they put the nets out. There were so many fish in the nets after this that the nets were breaking! The men stood in amazement. They were in awe. It wasn't about the amount of fish they caught. It was because they knew they were in God's presence. They didn't really understand that until that moment. Peter was in awe, so much that he told the Lord to go away from him because he was a sinful man. That is what happens to us when we see God. We see our sins before us. But God provided a covering for our sins by sending His Son to die in our place for our sins.
   You can read Peter's story in Luke 5. I believe we can all see God if we really want to. God will give us eyes to see Him with. We will never be the same, once we see Him.
   The way we write our posts will be affected. Everything we do will be affected once we see God. I have a feeling we will not spend so much time arguing over doctrine and petty things, if our eyes are opened and we see God's presence around us.
   We talk about God's holiness and have a good understanding of it theologically, but does it affect us personally? Or are other things more important to us than being in God's presence?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Revisiting Saint Francis Again

  "Preach the Gospel. Use words if necessary" supposedly quoted by Saint Francis, is one of those quotes that seems to have valid arguments both ways. Both sides of the argument have good points that we need to consider when evangelizing. But as I think of this quote, there really is more to it. I think the quote is implying something that asks the wrong question. So, we need to identify what is the wrong question, why is it wrong, and what is the right question.
   The argument is valid. One side claims that you can preach the Gospel without having to proclaim the Gospel. In other words, people can look at your life and figure out the Gospel and consequently, get saved. The other side says that people can only be saved if they hear the Gospel. Who's right though?
  As the arguments progress (which really is a good thing, as long as the arguments are done in the spirit of love) it looks like both sides are, in a sense, saying something similar, although not exactly the same thing. Most will agree that a person who evangelizes needs to be living a life that matches what he or she is proclaiming. That makes perfect sense. The difference between the two sides is really a matter of deciding if a person can get saved without hearing the Gospel.
   First, let's take into consideration the fact that most people hear the Gospel in bits and pieces. Somewhere he hears a Bible verse or Scriptures telling of his need for a Savior. Someone else comes along who is a Christian and invites him to a church event which depicts the resurrection of Christ. A billboard explains that in life there are many choices, but eternity only has two. A couple of years later, he finds a tract explaining that lust is the same as committing adultery. Then he watches a move called, 'The Passion of the Christ". All this time, God is preparing this man's heart to respond to the Gospel. While his son and wife are in the hospital, a family steps in to minister and serve where this family has needs. They are devout believers and share the Gospel on a regular basis. This man experienced many opportunities to hear 'seeds' of the Gospel, and, finally after years of God's working in his heart, he comes to Christ.
   Every person who comes to Christ has to hear the Gospel, whether it be in the form of many seeds over a period of time, or someone just sharing the Gospel in love with him or her. But, there is something very effective about serving people and living a life of love for others. The key word here is 'living a life of love for others'. We can serve people with everything we have, and still miss the boat on ministering the Gospel. It is never wrong to serve someone, but serving by itself is not the same as sharing the Gospel.
   Part of the problem with serving others with love, is that we really don't know what love is. Yes, most of us have heard or read 1 Corinthians 13 and are familiar with that 'love' chapter. Knowing about something and living something out are two different things though. We hear about God's love for us, but we really don't have a clue what that means. Unfortunately, to an unregenerate mind, it means a self centered, self serving type of love, where we are the objects being served and catered to. We use God like an idol, because we think His love is like that. Love involves a lot more. It involves sacrifice for the success of others. If we really love someone, we will lay down our lives for them. But this can be tricky. We can sacrifice and give up things thinking we are serving and loving, but it is for a different motive, so many times.
   We see many organizations that give their all to help the weak and orphans. We see men stepping in to protect little girls, who are so vulnerable. We give lots of money to organizations that help children get well. We donate blood because we care about those who need to receive more blood. Human beings are created in God's image and, although this image is severely marred because of Adam's sin, some things still shine through, like compassion. Even rotten people can have compassion. It's part of being created in God's image. However, it doesn't mean that we are born again. Many of these organizations are founded by people who are not Christians. So then, what does love look like? Real love, that is?
   Love involves sacrifice. It involves laying down our agenda, for someone else's benefit. It involves dying to our own wants and happiness, so others can be happy and safe. Some examples of this kind of love are: Eight young men decide to renounce everything they could have because they live in America, and going to a slave-trading island to reach the slaves there for the Gospel. This mission doesn't involve just giving money to some people in a far away place, nor is this mission one that will last just a couple of weeks. The young men are now living and working among the slaves and owners that live on this island.  Another example is a young country preacher sensing a call to go to the inner city of New York and eventually move his family there to minister to gangsters. The family leaves their home with no promise of anything, and relocates to New York leaving family and comforts behind. God puts a love in their hearts for the young gangsters who live in NYC. There are many, many more examples of people showing love, out of the love they have received from God.
   Perhaps a better question to ask than 'Can a person come to Christ by just watching a Christian living out their lives?' would be, 'Why do we evangelize?'. Are we doing evangelism because we don't want people to go to hell (which isn't a wrong reason in itself)? Are we doing evangelism because we feel pressured? Do we evangelize because we have friends in the church who do evangelism and we want to be accepted by them? There are thousands of reasons we might do evangelism, but there is only one reason why we should do it. The reason is, because of the love that God has put into our hearts. This sounds shallow to some Old Timers, because, like I said, we don't understand what love really is. It goes back to the definition and meaning of love. Everything we do, in our Christian walk, is to be done with love, and because of love. If we do anything out of duty (because we have to, or because we should) it is not out of love.
   The answer of 'love' answers both sides of Saint Francis's quote. If we truly love, our lives will manifest it (demonstration). If we love, we will proclaim the Gospel (proclamation). We need to have both in our lives on a regular basis. This will happen as we abide in the Vine. This will happen as we grow spiritually. This will be an outworking of our salvation.
   People need to see demonstration as well as proclamation. The shortcoming of this would be, for example, street evangelism. We can do evangelism on the streets and be very productive. Those who we share the Gospel with, will not necessarily see the demonstration of our lives, but, perhaps they will have seen the demonstration in someone else's life, which will be helpful. And even though they won't see the demonstration in our lives, necessarily, that doesn't mean we have an excuse to live like we want to, in a selfish way, nor is it an excuse for others to not preach the Gospel, since we are commanded to do so (Mark 16:15). We might be the only Bible that some people will get to read. Some will read our lives. Others will hear, from our mouths, the Gospel we preach. But if we preach the true Gospel, but live outside of it, we are only fooling ourselves, and God will not be honored in our evangelism endeavors.
   The main thing to remember is that God does the work in the heart. Whether it be from a person observing the Gospel or hearing the Gospel, God makes His truth real to people. And God works in our hearts to receive His grace to change and to give away what He has given to us. We sow the seeds, but God does the watering and harvesting.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Strange Fire in the Church

   I am really distressed this week as I heard about this conference put out by John MacArthur called, 'Strange Fire', but as I think more upon this, I think I am coming to the bottom of the pile of what is really disturbing me about this. Even more serious than this conference is, I am seeing something really ugly in the body of Christ that is happening, especially in America and our Western culture today. I will attempt to explain what is bothering me.
   Earlier in the week I struggled with people who are Pelagians. These people have a different Gospel which believes that people can choose whether they want to sin or not. According to them, we don't have sinful hearts we are born with, but we sin because we choose to. But even worse, is their belief that salvation is two-fold. 1. We must believe in Christ's death on the Cross  and 2. We must follow God in obedience. As one Pelagian stated, 'Jesus wouldn't give us a commandment to obey, if it were impossible for us to obey it'. This doctrine is definitely heresy and I will fight for the truth and learn how to respond to those who hold this view. I want to manifest God's grace as I present truth. That is what I am learning this week.
  But my real struggle is, and has been, with 'Christians' who hold contempt for other Christians that they don't agree with. For example, this whole activity of finding and exposing 'false teachers' has gone way out of the boundaries of Scriptures. The Bible is very clear that we should expose false teachings. We should never receive 'another Gospel' (not that there is any). The Bible is clear that we should rightly divide the word. We should be discerning. We should love the truth so much that we should be willing to die for it. But, the Bible doesn't have many examples of Jesus, Peter, or Paul taking people and slamming them because they are false teachers.
  As I was reading the Scriptures this morning, I read about a man Paul pointed out who was doing him great harm. I think there were two verses on it. That was it. Paul didn't write letters or articles against those who were false teachers, and even those doing him harm. Even Peter, who has a lot to say about false teachings, doesn't mention anyone by name. He points out who they are to the people he is writing to, and they knew who these people were, but even that was short. How does that compare to us in the church in America today?
   There are a couple of things to keep in mind. One of them is that today, there is a tendency to throw the baby out with the bath water, especially in the church. For example, if someone believes apostles are for today, we call that person a false teacher. But we don't stop there. We tear that person apart. What does the Bible say we should do? How are we to treat those who don't agree with us in our interpretation of the Scriptures? Does the Bible say to hate them? Yes, when we tear someone apart by name calling or speculations, we hate. More than that, we are slandering. We are not 'warning' the body of Christ. We are using our knowledge, whether our facts are true or not, to put down someone. Why do we do this? Because we haven't put to death our own flesh. We think we have, but in reality, we are arrogant Christians. We are bullying other members of the body of Christ around by slandering. We can rename this all we want. We can convince ourselves that we are 'loving' the body of Christ when in reality we are using our God given authority to wound others. I like the phrase in the Casting Crowns song which says, 'The Sword is not ours to wield'. God has given us His authority, and His word is a sword. We are using this sword to destroy others in His name. I think God is repulsed with what we are doing.
   We really don't understand Biblically, the subject of exposing false doctrine and the hidden works of the devil. One of the main reasons for this is, that we have not dealt with our pride. We are so deceived that we don't even think we have pride! I can give you my testimony on this. When our church first started 28 years ago, we had a thorough teaching on pride, based on Scriptures. I never saw myself as prideful. I thought I was ok, but when I studied this subject, I realized that there is pride in many different areas of my life that has to be dealt with, if God were going to work in my life and use me for anything. Also, on the other hand, learning about humility. Forget any aspirations of becoming great in the kingdom of God without humility. Humility does not come easily to any of us. It has to be cultivated. We have to pursue it. The Bible is clear that God will resist us with pride. God will respond to us when we are humble, and only when we are humble. Pride has to be dealt with daily in our lives. We have to put it to death. Humility and love are concerned with others being successful, even at our expense. If I love someone (which the Bible commands and God promises to give grace for) then I will want the object of my love, whoever that is, to be successful in God, even at my own expense.
   Christians in underground countries experience the power of God in a way American Christians don't. I have always wondered why. I believe the Lord showed me the main reason why is because of our pride. We always have a back up system if God doesn't come through. Plus, should God do miracles in our midst, we would take credit for it. We would want the recognition for it. We are glory stealers. Citizens of countries that are poor or under Communist rule don't have this option. If God doesn't come through for them, they are toast. But God does come through for them. Even those in remote countries are hearing the Gospel. Many are coming to Christ. Miracles do take place. The blind are receiving their sight. God is moving in these Third world countries. But why not in America?
   Two reasons why God isn't moving in America. Maybe more. First is pride in the church. Second is lack of love in the church. Another one though, is that some church leaders really don't believe in the supernatural power of God to work. There could be a lot of reasons for this, but, I think one of them is simply, a lack of faith in who God is. God says He is many things. He is healer, provider, sovereign, supernatural, love, Father, etc. We tend to shy away from these things because it is hard for us to believe that God would do supernatural things in our midst. I actually had a Jehovah's Witness lady tell me that the devil was the one who healed me when I was healed from certain things. I fear for the body of Christ in America today, because we are limiting God because of our lack of faith, or maybe just ignorance on what He could do in our midst if we let Him. Our thinking is just as bad as the Jehovah's Witness lady!
   The other reason really goes back to the lack of love issue. We really are not charitable to our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. We look at those who are struggling with sin and accuse them of being false converts. We expect other Christians to come up to our level of understanding of Christianity and critique them when they fail. This whole thing has gone way out of hand. It is like a strange fire in the body of Christ. It is a fire of hate and arrogance. It is a form of being 'holier than thou' in our midst. It is ugly and it glorifies the devil.
   Jesus says that the world will know we are Christians by the love we have for one another. I would rather have love for those in the body of Christ than to have all my theology ducks in a row. Our love for God is measured by our love for one another, and, in America today, this doesn't look very good. Maybe that's the reason America is in the condition it is in. When we come together in love and unity, even with our differences, God will meet us. God will meet us when we humble ourselves and stop stabbing one another in the back. Until then, God will be distant, and we will never understand what it is that is wrong.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Calling Out False Teachers

   There seems to be an unusually large amount of posts, comments, and articles about false teachers today. Almost everywhere I turn, I am learning about a new 'false teacher'.
   Most of the posts I read are on Facebook and they go something like this, 'So and so is a false teacher'. There seems to be a vindictiveness about it as well.
   First of all, do we really enjoy finding out about these 'false teachers'? Does it edify us to talk so much about them? What would be the reason we enjoy this so much? Could it be that we think we can get away with ripping someone else up, but in the name of 'exposing false teachers'? Let's look at our hearts first.
   Throughout the New Testament, Jesus, and the Apostles give a lot of instruction on various things that involve our individual lives as well as the life of the church. Out of all the things that were given out for us to grow in and to serve the church with, are the instructions to expose false teachings. We are to stay faithful to the truth and defend it. That is one main reason we need to be in the word continually. We need daily bread. We need to feed upon the word. God's word builds faith in us and helps us to be discerning. It helps us to discern false teachings as well. But exposing false teachings is only one slice of the pie. There is so much more.
   My second concern is, why aren't we telling our readers, about the greatness of God? What has God done in your life lately? Do you want others to know about Him, and to come to know Him personally? Then you need to be communicating to others who He is. The things we love we will talk about. This is Scriptural. Out of the abundance of our hearts our mouths speak.
  If we speak about the things we love, do we love finding false teachers more than we love talking about God? Sure, we need to deal with false teachers as they come up, and they will come up, but to talk about them almost all the time indicates something is off.
   Years ago, there was a man in our area who had a home church called 'Tree of Life'. Many from our church were leaving to go to this home church. We listened to the teachings from the founder of this ministry, and there was a lot of truth missing. This man believed essentially in Universalism. Our pastor talked with the congregation about this man and his teachings. They were dangerous and our pastor did not want those in our church to go astray. I think of two people who left the church to go there, and there are real problems now with them, sadly. I don't know if there was a connection between the false doctrine of Universalism and the results of their lives, but it is very likely. But we didn't have to continue harping about this man and his teachings. We exposed the false teaching. We exposed the false teacher. Job was done.
   The third concern I have is for the fact that there really are corrupt doctrines that are creeping in the church today, that are serious and need to be addressed. The main corrupt doctrine we have to avoid is called 'Pelagianism' which is a doctrinal belief system that says that man is basically good and is capable of choosing sin or not choosing sin. Salvation is dependent upon Jesus death and our obedience to God. Sadly, some of my Christian friends have indications that they believe this way, possibly without even realizing where this doctrine came from. For example, my Christian evangelism friends hold up signs that say 'Repent! Stop sinning!'. While this might look like a somewhat plausible explanation of repentance, the fact of the matter is, human beings cannot stop sinning. If they think they have stopped sinning, then they are deceiving themselves. If they go back and do sin, they will feel like a failure before God. Many turn away because they subconsciously think they have to stop sinning in order for God to accept them. That is a Pelagian belief. But this is overflowing into the church and the church is buying into it without even realizing it. For more information on Pelagianism or Repentance being stopping sin, go to CARM.org and it will explain both of those concepts clearly.
   And lastly, what does the world see when they see our posts on false converts and teachers? The Bible says that people will know we are Christians by our love. Love is listed as the first fruit of being a Christian, out of a list of several other fruits. Without love, we are nothing. In other words, if we don't have love, we have missed the boat. We could have 100% of the truth we stand on, but if we are lacking love, we have missed God. God is love. When we show hatred for someone, we are not representing God properly. We could get everything else right, but love is the key to representing God and reaching the lost. Are we showing love when we openly criticize someone with name calling and speculations? What does that say to the world?

How To Treat A Fallen Brother Or Sister in the Lord

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Galatians 6:1-3 ESV

This is a friendly reminder that, even though we are new creations in Christ, that we will have to contend against sin every day until the day we leave earth. There is no room for casting stones here. We are instructed to restore a fallen brother or sister in the body of Christ, but with gentleness, because we could also fall, if we are not careful.

After Cain killed his brother, God asks Cain where Abel is. Cain responds with this question, 'Am I my brother's keeper?' God informed Cain that sin would be at the door. Cain was going to have to guard against the temptation to sin. Sin will be at our door every day. If not at the door, it will be at a window, or some place where it can enter. We have to keep the doors and windows locked so that temptation doesn't get in.

   It is not wrong to be tempted to sin. But, the temptations are the Enemy's weapon to get a foothold into our lives and ensnare us with sin. Jesus says, 'Whoever commits sin is a slave to sin'. Satan knows that sin can enslave us. He also knows that our hearts are deceitful, and we don't even really know where we are vulnerable to sin.

   Also, we are to pick others up who have fallen into sin. Today, I'm concerned because, instead of picking up those who have fallen into sin, we stab them with our own weapons. We resort to name calling and hatred. We say that the fallen brother or sister is a false convert. While that is possible, it is also possible that the fallen person is a true believer and has become ensnared in a sin. Our job is to pull him or her out and help that person to become free from the snare that he or she is in. Also, it can happen to us, whether we believe it or not.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Salvation By Faith Alone Resulting in Good Works, Or, Salvation By Faith And Good Works Together?

  Ever since I became a new creation in Christ, I have had pounded in me, the fact that we are saved by faith in Christ alone. But in recent years, I have been able to put this whole thing into context because the Bible seems very clear that there are no 'works' involved in our salvation. Some would say that the good works do not atone for our sins, but are still necessary for us to receive salvation. What do you think and what does the Scriptures actually say?
  If we go all the way back into the Old Testament, we see the Creation of God, and God says that all of these things are 'good'. Then we see the fall of man when Eve took the forbidden fruit and Adam did not intervene, but went along with it and ate the forbidden fruit as well. Then we see something interesting, but without a whole lot of detail. We know that Adam walked with God in the Garden of Eden, but the Bible doesn't tell us exactly what God told him or what happened there. But we do know that ever since mankind fell into sin, one thing that continued to occur was the action of producing an animal sacrifice. God produced the first one when Adam and Eve sinned by killing an animal and covering Adam and Eve. Then we see both Cain and Abel producing sacrifices. Cain's was a sacrifice of vegetables, but Abel's was an animal sacrifice. God was not pleased with Cain's sacrifice though, so that is a hint of something very important. God must have required a certain type of sacrifice that had to do with animals. Later in, during the time of Moses, God gave more specific instructions on the animal sacrifices, and what they were supposed to be done for. We are beginning to see the picture of what is called, 'The Atonement'. We needed an atonement because of our sin. Whenever someone sins, there has to be something to cover that sin. There is no peace between humans and God without an atonement. Then, something amazing comes about; the Passover. During the Passover, the Israelites were trying to get out of Egypt, yet God seemed to be stalling by hardening Pharaoh's heart. God used this to bring about plagues in Egypt to punish the Egyptians, but the last plague, before the Israelites actually were able to leave Egypt, was the worst one. God instructed the Israelites to take a lamb and slaughter it. The blood of the lamb was to be placed on the door posts of every home. Every door post that was covered with blood was protected from the Death Angel who was to come out and kill every firstborn male in the homes in Egypt. There was great wailing that night because of the deaths in the households that weren't covered by the blood of the lamb.

   Passover is a serious holiday for the Jewish people, but sadly, many of them missed the point of the event. Today, in the 21st Century, the memory of the Passover, along with its meaning, is lost. In fact, the meaning of any animal sacrifice is lost. That is why we don't make the connection of the reason why Jesus came and died. Jesus is called the 'Lamb of God' because He was the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. We don't kill lambs today to cover over our sins, but sadly, this is why we don't really understand the Gospel. But even throughout the Old Testament, people didn't understand the Gospel either. Much like people today think, the Hebrews thought that by producing their sacrifices they were saved. They didn't understand that the sacrifices were to cover their sins. They thought that by doing the sacrifices, they were saved. It became a 'works' salvation mentality, much like it does today.
   We can be doing many good things, but our motives could be totally wrong. Salvation comes from God providing a sacrifice for us. If we 'get it' we will see the ugliness of our sin and want to turn from it in repentance. I think many people think that by going to church on Sunday (or Saturday), giving tithes, sharing the Gospel, and praying, will save a person, or at least earn brownie points with God. Those things cannot atone for our sins. But they are the result of a new heart that has been given by God to a person who is saved. A saved person will produce good works in his or her life, but those good works are not the means to salvation. Faith (trust) in God produces good works. A person who truly knows God will produce good works, but the Ultimate Sacrifice to atone for our sins is Jesus Christ, God's only Son, who died to pay for all our sins.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Why It Is Hard To Talk About The Gospel - One Reason in Particular

  I find it interesting that today, we have such a hard time talking about the Gospel with our family members and friends. The Gospel is supposed to be incorporated into our lives, but, when it comes to talking about it, we don't know how to do it, at least not naturally. Why is that?
  There may be several reasons, and it may be different for different people, but some reasons are common, at least to us in America, in the Twenty-First Century. One reason for this is that we are powerless many times, because we rely on ourselves to do God's work. We need to be Spirit filled believers. If not, we will not have the power to talk about the things of God, let alone being awkward about it. But another reason, I believe, is because today, 2,000+ after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, our understanding of the 'bigger picture' of the Bible story, is faded. Let me explain further.
   Before the Cross, the Israelites were instructed to sacrifice lambs for atonement for sins. This was a big deal in Israel. Plus, the Israelites were looking for a Messiah, someone who would deliver them. God used many illustrations to help the Israelites understand the coming Gospel. If any of them were looking for an answer to their sin problem, they were able to understand why Jesus came and died for the people. It was a whole package deal. But today we don't generally understand this. Americans don't really understand about sin and God's coming judgment for sin, nor do we really understand why Jesus came and died. It is not important to us because we have not been taught to deal with our sins, and that there are consequences for sin.
   It is like being told the end of a mystery novel. If you know the end of the story, you won't have the same kind of appreciation as you would if you had read through the novel from the beginning. If we are never taught about our sins, like the Israelites were, we don't really think of them as serious. But we hear that Jesus died for our sins, and many believe that. But it doesn't seem like a big deal because we don't understand that sin requires a payment.
   So, we tell people that Jesus died for their sins, and it means nothing to them, because they don't understand why someone would have to die for sins, or even that sin is bad. One person told the story of how he told someone that 'Jesus died for you'. The other person said, 'Oh, I'm sorry'.
   So, when we talk about the Gospel with people, it seems like a foreign subject, because it doesn't have anything to do with what we are doing today. Could it be that because we only know the 'end of the story' that we communicate it to people, and they give us a blank stare? The Israelites were able to tie in Jesus' death with the sacrificing of lambs, and put the concept together in their minds. We don't kill lambs today (and don't need to) but it does help us if we understand what the Bible says about the Gospel from the beginning to the end. If the Bible story is precious to us, we will talk about it. Talking about the Gospel will become more natural.
   I think learning formulas using sentences and questions can be helpful sometimes in sharing the Gospel, but, I think sometimes these formulas become a substitute for the life of God that He wants us to share with others. I think because we are familiar with the 'end of the story' (the good news) that we fail to explain 'the bad news' to people, and they only get part of the picture. We are so concerned with people going to hell that we try to truncate the Gospel message hoping they will understand the 'formula' we give them, rather than taking the time to show them the life of God, and the love of God, along with explaining the 'Big picture' of the Gospel. We need to share the life of God, and that can only come when we spend time with Him. Then the Gospel won't be so distant to us. Something to think about.