Spiritual Warfare Prep

Spiritual Warfare Prep
We Are In The Lord's Army

Friday, October 24, 2014

What Is Legalism And What Is Lawlessness And Why Does It Matter?

   There are two stumbling blocks many Christians fall into when it comes to the Gospel. One of them is legalism, and the other is lawlessness. 

  Legalism is simply trying to obey rules to please another. It is making our own efforts to try to please God either in order to be able to receive salvation or in order to progress in our Christian walk. 

   Some examples of legalism might be the following; baptism, church attendance, moralism, church membership, evangelism, serving in the church, and things like that. 

   There is nothing wrong with the listed activities above. They are good things in themselves, and have a place in the life of a person who has trusted in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. They become wrong when we do them for the wrong reasons.

  I have asked people whom I am sharing the Gospel with, if they have ever come to a place where they repented of their sins and trusting in Jesus Christ, and many times, I get an answer like, 'I was baptized when I was eight'. They are basically thinking that their baptism will help them get into heaven. But the Bible says, 'Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but by His mercy, He saved us'. 

   The Apostle Paul had some strong words that he said to a group of people called the Galatians. The Galatians were people who came to know the Lord, but they wanted to go back into Judaism in order to continue in their walk with God. They began in the Spirit, but they were continuing in the flesh. Paul asked them, 'Who bewitched you?'. 

   Lawlessness is the opposite side of the pendulum. There are professing Christians who understand that salvation is free, and assume that since salvation is free, they know that they cannot do any works to please God, therefore it does not matter what they do, once they have come to Christ. They are far from being legalistic. They get it. They understand that they cannot be saved by works. So, they throw out the works part of the equation, and live in the same way that they did before they came to Christ. 

   An example of this would be a well known Christian artist who is set free from legalism to pioneer the Christian music industry, yet wants everyone to make sure she can continue to make out with boys. As soon as her music began to hit the charts, people were calling her a 'female Billy Graham' which she resented. She made it very clear in her concerts and talks that she was interested in guys, and eventually she married and had a family. This woman left her husband for another man and received 'Christian counseling' in which she learned that God's primary concern for us is that we are happy. Her counselor advised her to leave her marriage since she was not happy in it. She is now married to the man whom she was having an affair with, even though this man is not a professing Christian. This is an example of lawlessness. 

   We think it has to be one or the other. Are we still under the law? Can we do whatever we want once we are saved and still be saved? There seems to be a lot of mystery when it comes to where the boundaries are and what they define.

   Is it really that complicated though? I think a look at Scriptures can help us understand it more clearly.  Most of us probably know the verses in Ephesians 2:8,9 which tell us that we have been saved by grace, through faith, not of works lest any many should boast. But in Galatians Paul says that if righteousness comes by the law, then Christ died in vain. It doesn't come much clearer than that. 

   As far as the lawless go, I think they actually grasp the idea that we don't have to work to atone for our sins, but they would go to the extreme of saying that it doesn't matter what we do or don't do. They do not see anything wrong with sinning, for the most part, because Jesus died for our sins. The problem is, that when they came to Christ, did they grasp the seriousness of the sin issue before God, or do they just think that the blood of Jesus will take away every sin we commit from now on, so, it doesn't matter if we sin or not.

  Let's look at this a little deeper though. We know we can't do anything to atone for our sins. But, since Jesus died for our sins, is it ok to stay in our sins? 

   Romans 6 makes it very clear when Paul was asking the Romans this question. Paul answered his own question right after he asked it and his answer was 'God forbid'. This leads to further questions about this issue.

  If Jesus died for our sins, and the greater our sins are, the more grace abounds, it would make sense for us to keep sinning in order to receive the grace to be forgiven, but something happens when a person is truly born again. A change of the attitude toward sin comes to the person who has truly experienced salvation. A person receives a brand new heart, with brand new desires from God at the time of new birth. This heart does not want to sin. This heart will battle against sin. The new believer will be aware of God's presence and this will produce the fear of God in him or her, which will keep the new believer from sinning. God also gives the power to say 'no' to sin. So when temptations come, even lifelong ones, they begin to lose their power and grip on the person. 

   Does that mean a person who is truly born again will never sin? Not at all, but his or her desire will be to not sin. Some have even fallen into sin for a while, but God's mercy is great and they came back and were restored. 

  So, we can't be saved by good works or deeds, or by avoiding certain things. We are saved completely by the blood of Jesus Christ, who died to pay for all of our sins. If we try to add anything to that, it would be an insult to God. We get into heaven on His score alone, not His score and a little of our score. 

  But if we have the mindset that we can be saved and still do the things we like that we know are contrary to God's standard, we have to wonder if we are truly saved. Jesus said that if a person does not forsake all he or she has, then he or she is not worthy to be His disciple. Being a disciple is not legalism. We are not working to keep our salvation. If a person does not want to forsake all they have for the sake of the kingdom of God, then we have to wonder if God has truly done a work in the person's heart. 

   If you knew that Jesus was in the same room as you are, would you be pleased with what you find in your room? Would you be concerned about what Jesus would think about whatever is in your room? Perhaps people who believe that we can do anything we want once we are saved, have a small, powerless god they are worshiping? Maybe they don't know God is everywhere all the time. Perhaps they don't understand that God is all knowing. Maybe they think of God as a Genie in a bottle? 

   Salvation is not a formula to get to heaven. It is having our sin sick souls treated with the spiritual medicine to cleanse us from it. It is the process of being set free from those things that hold us in bondage and are opposed to God, in our lives. We hold onto our sins, and our sins hold onto us. It is when we are both free from sin that we can experience the freedom that is promised in John 8:32 '“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” ESV

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Can We Ultimately Avoid Hardships?

O.K., I know things in life are going to get harder. It is going to be challenging to be a Bible believing Christian. Nominal Christianity could become non-existant.

   So, what should our attitudes be? If I know there is a certain consequence for my actions, and I don't want to face that consequence, I would do whatever I could to make sure I do not do the activity that will bring the consequence.

    I guess some people go as far as they can, thinking somehow they won't get caught, or they will be able to get out of the punishment somehow. That is not how I look at the impending threats to our freedoms. I want to take caution to make sure that whatever I do in life, will not bring about bad consequences.

So, when we see things like Muslims raping girls and going free, and teachers instructing their students to write Jesus' name on a piece of paper, then stomp on it, we see an injustice to what is right and fair, being done. When we see these things being done, what should our attitudes be?

  For some, it is just carelessness. It is under the guise that 'Jesus is coming back soon so it doesn't matter'. While it is true that Jesus is coming back soon, we have to remember that He could come tonight, but He could come back 20 years from now, or maybe 100 or more. In God's eyes, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day. It's been almost 2,000 years since Jesus ascended back into heaven, so maybe in God's eyes, that is like almost 2 days. So, if Jesus is coming back tomorrow, how should we respond? What if we just let everything go, and Jesus comes back in 50 years from now? We would be living in a country where the leadership are tyrants. That is just the default for people when the citizens let go of their responsibilities.

   But before Jesus left earth to go back to heaven, He told His disciples to 'occupy' until He returns. Occupying does not mean just sitting back and doing nothing until He returns. It means we are to be busy with the kingdom of God. We are to be diligently studying His word and letting His word fill our hearts. It means we are to depend upon the power of the Holy Spirit to change. It means that our focus in life will be different than it was before. Everything we do should be to promote the cause of Christ on earth, while we are here.

   The reason I am writing this blog, is because too many Christians respond to the horrible things happening today by just saying, 'that's terrible', or, 'how can he get away with that?' These same people do very little in society. This world is not our home, but we have to make the best of it while we live here.

   Is it easier to do evangelism in a country where freedom reigns or is it easier to do it underground, in a country where there is little or no religious freedom? If we don't take responsibility soon, we will be doing evangelism underground. We will risk our lives for loving the truth. Attending a church meeting will be risky. Many who profess Christ today, will end up denying Him because it will be too hard to be a Christian.

   I am not saying that persecution is bad in itself, but it is hard. In some ways, it is preventable. For example, years ago, children were able to take their Bibles to school and read them. In fact, many lessons were taken from the Bible in Early American schools. But today, Madeline Murray O'Hair went to the Supreme Court and brought with her a bogus case that actually got accepted and now it is considered illegal to carry a Bible to school. Did you know that there is nowhere in the Constitution that talks about 'separation of church and state'? The whole concept of 'separation of church and state' came about when the Pilgrims arrived here in 1620. The reason they left England was to be able to have a normal church setup, where there was a pastor who gave oversight, and took care (spiritually speaking) of the flock. But in England, instead, they had a king who was over the church. He called the shots and decided how the people would worship. The king was not a pastor. The king was not even a Christian. But because he was the ruler, he made the rules, and he ruled the church as well as the land. The Pilgrims and other groups got tired of that and made their way over to a new land to set up a new place to settle in and live, without a king presiding over their churches!

   Sometime later, the people who were members of Danbury Baptist church in Connecticut were concerned about the possibility of a leader of the newly found country to run the church. Thomas Jefferson wrote back to them and used the phrase 'a wall of separation between church and state' meaning that the church would be protected from any governmental opportunities to gain control or give oversight to the church.  In the First Amendment, it states 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceable to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.' This doesn't sound like forbidding Bibles to be in schools, does it? It has to do with the government taking initiative in trying to establish a religion or religious thought.

    Our rights to believe and hold dear to our hearts, God's word, are being violated. Ultimately, it is our fault that this is happening. The reason it is our fault, is because we have not been vigilant in protecting our freedoms. Even today, people are making up bogus cases and bringing them into the legal system to have them enacted. Why aren't we doing the same? Are we too distracted with plans to go to Disney or the beach? Or, is it just laziness on our parts?

   No one challenged Madeline Murray O'Hair when she went to court. No one was there during the Roe vs. Wade court hearings to challenge them. Today, people do not even know that it is a sin for people to sleep together outside of a marriage relationship. That is because they were never taught the 10 Commandments because the 10 Commandments are being stripped off our school walls as well as other government owned buildings.

   Where are the true Christians in this? Do we not know what is going on? Or do we not care? Here's the point: If we don't start caring soon, we are going to lose our freedoms altogether. Please don't think that that would never happen. It will. But it doesn't have to.

   Next time you hear about someone coming up with a law that will enable people to sin, don't just sit on the back burner. Do something. Even if all you do is pray, that is significant. All of us need to be praying for our country to be restored.

   The alternative is to watch our children and grandchildren be swallowed up in a confused world filled with hate. How would you like your 13 year old granddaughter to be raped by a Muslim, and the Muslim gets away with it because he has the right to do that, according to his religion? How would you like your grandson to be kidnapped by a Satanic worshiper, in order to offer his body as a human sacrifice? How would you like your son to not be able to get a job, because the area he lives in is predominately Muslim? All these things are going to be happening to us, because we don't care, or we don't believe that they will happen to us. Somehow, we think we are invincible, or that God loves us so much that He wouldn't let those things happen to us. They are happening because of our apathy and indifference.

   So, we need to repent from apathy and indifference and ask God to give us hearts that will be aware of what is going on around us. In the book of Revelation, God is going to spit out those who are lukewarm or indifferent. On the other hand, we really can make a difference in our churches and in this country.

   I pray that the day will come when we will not see articles where Muslims get away with raping 13 year old girls, and students will not get arrested for bringing Bibles to school. I pray that the day will come when every parent will attend PTA meetings and protest books like, 'Heather Has Two Moms'.

   I always ask myself, 'where did the breakdown occur in our country?' There were probably several events that caused us to breakdown, but the one I have seen which brought a significant change was when Madeline Murray O'Hair went to court and had prayer taken out, and following that, the 10 Commandments being removed (under the guise of 'separation of church and state'). This happened in the 1970s, or earlier. When I was a teen, everyone knew it was wrong to sleep together. If people were doing this, they kept it secret. There used to be a standard of right and wrong. The standard (10 Commandments) is gone today. I talk to many people and meet professing Christians who are living together with their boyfriend or girlfriend. They have no idea that this is sin before God. Someone needs to tell them.

   Another problem is the churches that exist today. Many of them do not believe in the authority of Scripture. They pick and choose what they want to believe. They make a god that makes them happy. They believe that God wants them happy. These people also believe that when Scripture and culture conflict, that the Scripture must bow to culture. What? Did I hear that right? Yes, they believe that. They believe that God doesn't know what He is doing and that He didn't know how hard life was going to be in the 21st Century. You see, they don't know God. They don't know the all-powerful, all-knowing, Uncreated One, who lives and reigns throughout Eternity. They have made a weak god that they think will make them happy.

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.



Friday, October 17, 2014

Is God A Bully?

   I have been in Skeptic forums and have noticed a big accusation toward God as being a tyrant or bully. But are these claims valid?

   A bully is a person who has some kind of power or authority over another and takes advantage of the other. It is basically abusing one's authority. Bullies in school are usually bigger than those they pick on, or they could just be more clever and sarcastic.

   Bullying is a serious problem. It can happen in marriages. It can happen between parents and children. It is a very unhappy situation for all.

  Why would people think of God as a 'bully' though? I think the answer can be reflected in a common scenario between teenagers and their parents. Parents have rules, or boundaries for their teens, but sometimes the teenager wants to resist this authority. They do not enjoy having boundaries and think they should have freedom to do what they want to do. So, are parents who have boundaries 'bullies'? Are they abusing their authority?

   I think of a story in the book, 'Little Women'. Scarlet Fever was going around and the mom of the March girls did not want them to catch this disease, so, Marmie instructed the children to not go over to another girl's home, because she was sick and Marmie did not want her children to bring Scarlet Fever home with them. I believe it was Beth who defied this rule. Maybe Beth's heart was right as far as wanting to help her friend, but she was instructed to stay away from this family until they got well. Beth sneaked out a couple of times. Eventually, she contracted Scarlet Fever.

   Another true story that I have heard is the one where there was an expected eclipse and a girl was told not to look at the sun. When the eclipse came about, the girl looked at the sun and guess what happened to her? She went blind. She did not obey the instructions she had. Do you think her mom was a bully for telling her not to stare at the sun?

   While it is true that many times people get away with breaking rules and going against authority, God knows what is going on. He wants us to repent when we know we are doing wrong. He gives us the strength to repent if we want it and ask Him for it.

   Is God mean for having boundaries though? Is it mean of God to command people to not commit adultery? Is it mean for God to tell people not to murder? Is it mean for God to tell us to honor our parents? Is God mean by having a judicial system which holds us all accountable for our sins?

   Deep down in each person's heart is written a law of right and wrong. There are some basic things common to every human being which knows what is right and what is wrong. When I was a child, I learned the 10 Commandments. I was a very literal person, so, if I lied, I knew I broke a command. But not everything was spelled out as wrong. But I knew deep down inside that I did something wrong. We do know when we do wrong.

   There was a remote civilization somewhere I read about, and they had never heard of the 10 Commandments, yet, in their community, there was a stiff penalty for committing adultery. We know when we are doing wrong. God gave us a conscience to help us know when we are doing something wrong. A dog knows when he is doing wrong, but it is only because he knows that there will be a penalty for what he is doing wrong. But when a person does something wrong, we feel bad. We feel shame. We feel guilt.

   But we don't like the boundaries God has placed around us, and we also believe the culture's lie that we have a right to do whatever we want to do. Where does this lie come from? The Bible does not say anything about a woman's 'right' to her own body. It isn't even found in the Constitution. It doesn't exist. It never did.

   Whether we want to believe this or not, God has put boundaries around us, not only for our protection, and the protection of others, but He wants to protect us from sinning against Him. All sin has to do with going outside of the boundaries, but sexual sin is even more defiant. This sin is not only against God, but it is against ourselves.

    Because our culture teaches us that we have certain 'rights' that we can act out, doesn't mean that that belief is true. When culture and Scripture do not agree, then culture must bow to Scripture, not the other way around. God makes the rules and He calls the shots. But does this make Him a bully?

   The people who call God a bully are the ones who say that the Old Testament portrays God as a monster. But is that really true? Let's look at some situations and see what they really indicate.

   God created Adam and Eve and walked with them in the Garden of Eden. Keep in mind that God is the Creator, not us. God is big. We are not. God told Adam and Eve clearly not to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Let me ask you here, do you think God was a bully for telling them the rule concerning the Tree? Of course you probably don't (unless you are a super strong willed person!). There are consequences when we do wrong. Adam and Eve went ahead and ate the fruit of the forbidden tree, based on the lies of the devil. God told each one what the consequences would be for doing that action.

God told them ahead of time what the consequences would be. So, they went ahead and did it anyway, even knowing there were consequences for their actions.

   We have God's word for us today. His rules don't change. God never changes. He tells us not to sin. He tells us that He will judge immoral people and whoremongers. Why do we think we can get away with being immoral? And even more, why do we complain when we face consequences for our actions? We call God a 'bully' because He gets to call the shots and He doles out the consequences when we do wrong. We don't like His rules. We certainly don't like His consequences.

    Throughout the Old Testament, we see Israel continually going astray. They told God that they wanted a king, when God said that He was their king. They told God that they wanted to be like the other nations. God told them what would happen if they were allowed to do what the other nations did.

   God told Noah to build an Ark. Now this thing was probably very obvious to all. Talk about a good evangelism ice-breaker! People were being warned of the Judgment that was to come. No one paid attention. No one cared. Only 8 people believed God. God sent the flood finally, and closed the door of the Ark. Was God a bully for doing that?

   God is a bully in the eyes of those who hate boundaries. Just as children sometimes think their parents are mean because they don't get them that car or latest toy or video game, some people think God is mean because we can't have sex with whomever we want to.

    God created sex in the beginning as part of the reproduction method. Because we are human beings, there is a bond between people who have sex. They become 'one in spirit'. This is good in a marriage relationship. It is not ok outside of marriage. Sex is not ok in a porn shop. Sex is not ok by looking at playboy. God created sex for people to enjoy, but only in the context of marriage. God forbids same sex relations. In fact, it is called an 'abomination' in the book of Leviticus.

   Also keep in mind that God didn't have to intervene at all. But remember, His holiness requires us to be punished for our sins and wrongdoing. God's intervention would help people to avoid His wrath. But instead, we think His intervention is ruining our lives and taking our 'rights' away. Again, there is nowhere in the Bible that says we have 'rights' to what we want. We don't have rights to sleep around. We don't have rights to have sexual relations with people of the same sex. We don't have rights to sexual relationships outside of marriage. We don't have rights to abuse our spouses and use them in a wrong way sexually. We don't have rights to pornography. These things are forbidden by God, and will face a severe penalty in the end.

   This God, whom many would call a 'bully' is the same God who continually intervenes so that we can be saved from our sins. This God is the One who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. This God is the One who has the greatest love out of any living being anywhere. If we spurn Him, we should spend eternity in torment forever.

   Any person who hates boundaries because it takes away his or her 'rights' needs to examine what the issues are. Is society more powerful than God, or should we fear the One who created us. The choice is really ours. If we don't like His boundaries, then we can just send ourselves to hell. It really is our choice. God paid a great price so we don't have to be in hell, but if we don't like His rules, we should end up there. That is the default for us who want to be autonomous of Him.

   If you or anyone you know has been duped into believing in any of the false Gospels going around, please consider what God says. God is not an all-loving God who 'understands' and lets us get away with sin. God loves us too much to let us stay in our sins. We can shake our fists at God all we want, but we are the ones who will lose. Those who reject Him will be shaking their fists throughout eternity. Does that sound like a nice way to spend the life that never ends?

   Technically, bullies are those who abuse their power. If you think God is abusing His power, then you are most ungrateful. God didn't have to give you life in the first place. He could have withheld life from you by not even allowing you to come into being. Are you grateful that He gave you life? Are you grateful for the life you have been given, even though you don't always get your way?

  If you are interested in knowing this God who created you and will redeem you if you respond to Him in repentance and faith, please go to http://thegospelconversation.blogspot.com or http://test4gp.wordpress.com


Thursday, October 16, 2014

You Might Fool People But You Can Never Fool God!

People can be clever. We can hide things from our friends. Sometimes, we hide things so well, that we end up suffering when we could have opened up and talked about whatever it is we are hiding.

  I remember seeing a video somewhere where a man was walking on a sidewalk, and he looked in all directions to make sure no one was looking. When he saw no one around, he tossed his banana peel into someone's yard. He knew that if someone saw him doing that, he could have ended up in trouble, but since no one was around, he went ahead and did what he knew was wrong. But was there really no one around?

   God is all-knowing. God is all-seeing. God saw when the man tossed the banana peel out. The man was not aware of that though. You see, people think that if God is really watching, then they would get caught. Since they do not get caught, they continue to do wrong things. But one day, it will catch up with us. We will all stand before God and all our banana peels that we tossed will have been recorded.

   People, many times, don't have a clue. When the disciples were gathered at the Last Supper, Jesus informed them that one of them would betray Him. No one could figure out who that person was. But God knew what was going to happen, and He knew which person was going to betray Jesus.

   We look at people's appearances but God looks at their hearts. God sees all the wickedness inside of us. We might try to hide it from others, and we might even be successful, but God knows what is there.

   No one has to hide anymore. We can bring all our sins to the Cross and God will remember them no more. We will not have a reason to hide. No more guilt or shame either. God can take all that away and He will if we repent and turn to Him. We must acknowledge the seriousness of our sins and the power of Jesus Christ's death on the Cross to pay the penalty for those sins. God will cleanse us from our filth and He will also set us from from the snare of sin. Our identity can be in Him, and not in the crimes we used to do.

   Yes, God knows every detail of your life. He knows what decisions you will be making 10 years from now. He knows the times you tried to deceive others. He knows the guilt you have for the things you have done in the past. He is the only One who can help us out of our sin.

   For more information on the Gospel and what God has done for us, please go to http://thegospelconversation.blogspot.com or http://test4gp.wordpress.com

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Thought For The Day On Islam

   I know that with all the talk on Islam and all the advances they are making, many of us are beginning to be afraid of what might happen to us. Should we be concerned? Yes, we need to be, but, there is something that can counteract Islam, and I think we are in fear, and our fear is causing us to not look at how we can respond.

   The way to counteract Islam is with the Gospel. For some reason, we are not thinking of this. The Gospel is the cure for Islam. The Gospel is the cure for homosexuality. The Gospel is the cure for all of our sins, whatever they are.

   The Gospel is not a quick fix so that we can bypass hell and get to heaven when we die. The Gospel is the cure for all of our souls. If we miss the Gospel, then we will be disadvantaged, ourselves.

  The Gospel counteracts everything that opposes it. We counteract error with truth. Are we teaching others the Gospel or are we cowering in fear and forgetting the Gospel?

   The Bible says to 'preach the Gospel'. We have a call to do the work of evangelism. Because we are so used to having everything convenient, we leave the work of evangelism to others, while we want the benefits of being part of a church. But being in the Army of God is hard work, and everyone who has put their trust in Jesus Christ is called to serve in this army, whether they want to or not.

   The Gospel is the cure for Islam. While we live on this earth, we cannot eradicate sin from this earth and from every single person living, but it will bring light to the lost and also correction to those who are in error.

  Always keep in mind *Islam must bow it's knees before Jesus Christ*.

   We don't have to fear Islam, even though it could cost us our lives, but we do have a responsibility to preach the Gospel and do evangelism. Who knows, perhaps if we had been doing evangelism all along, our country would not be in the condition it is in today, and Islam would have been put at bay, at least around us.

   It's time to pray for our country, and preach the Gospel. It's time for us to be discipled and to be discipling others. When this happens, change will take place and we will have the power of God to counteract the sin in our own lives and help others to be delivered from their sins. This is what we need to be doing. This is what we should start doing today.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Life Really Is A Vapor

Wow. I just came back from my 40th high school reunion. It was nice to see people who I used to know in school, many years ago. But what was surprising was 1. how different most of us look and 2. How many people have passed on.

  I don't think of myself as that old, but I heard words tonight like 'retired' and 'passed away'. In my class, there were at least 27 who have gone on into Eternity. That's scary. Some of them died from cancer. Others had heart attacks. A few were killed in an accident.

   Maybe I just have a good memory, but I remember when those old people (Mostly gray haired or bald) were kids. I remember clearly some of the things they did. But 27 of them are no longer with us?

  As I looked around the room many times, I saw old people. These people are my peers. They are the same age I am, or close to my age. This just shows more and more that life is just a vapor.

   For those of you who are young, you might be thinking of your life as so restrictive and boring, but, one day you will be on your own, and you will appreciate all the boundaries that are placed around you now. One day, you will not have mom and dad to make the rules, and you will be out on your own. But realize this; your life is like a vapor. It is here today, and gone tomorrow.

   It seems like not that long ago, I was in school with these people. Then we graduated and went to college or got married, or whatever it was we did, we did it. Then we had children and then our  children  grew up and grandchildren came and then it's time to retire. What happened? Life happened. And it is only a vapor.

  No one knows when the vapor from their life will disappear. No one is guaranteed a long life, or even tomorrow. What we do today counts for Eternity. For those who know the Lord Jesus Christ, the things that are done today will effect the things that will happen in Eternity. For those who do not know the Lord Jesus Christ, the works that are done will be paid for in a place of torture throughout Eternity.  Whatever we do, whatever we sow, we will reap benefits or repercussions.

   Last year, I found out that three of my class mates from a school I went to up North have passed on, including one of my best friends in third grade. The older we get, the more friends we will have lost. I wonder how many will have passed on by the time we have our 50th class reunion?

   James tells us that our lives are like a vapor. Our lives will be over with in the blink of an eye. We could say, along with the Ghost of Christmas Present, "Remember Scrooge, life is short, and suddenly you are not there any more."

   Will our lives count for God and His glory, or will we live them out for our own glory and desires?

  For more information on the Gospel message, please go to http://thegospelconversation.blogspot.com
or  http://test4gp.wordpress.com

Thursday, October 2, 2014

My Concerns For The 'Strange Fire' Theology

   I know that the Strange Fire conference is long over, but there are a couple of things I have concerns over with this whole concept.

  First of all, I respect John MacArthur as a solid Bible teacher and have learned and benefitted from his writings. However, when it comes to everything that this Strange Fire conference entails, I have concerns.

   I don't necessarily expect every Bible teacher to have a handle on teaching the spiritual gifts, but I am surprised when one who is respected teaches, not only against the spiritual gifts, but also against those who use them (Charismatics/Pentecostals/Continuists). It is one thing to look at certain groups or people who are doing things wrong, and to address that. It is another thing to call these people false converts.

   We all know it is possible for people in any group or denomination to be false converts. That is just a given, but to say that those who use the spiritual gifts are false converts is dangerous. It causes division in the body of Christ. In Proverbs 6, one of the abominations before God is a person who sows discord among the brethren. That is what I see when I see the fruit of this conference. I see a man with a teaching which is sowing discord among brothers and sisters in Christ.

   What if the person who is using the spiritual gifts has had a genuine, radical encounter with the true and living God, and has been born again because he or she has turned away from their sin and trusted in Jesus Christ as Savior from their sins? Yet, if they use the spiritual gifts, they are false converts? Does the using of spiritual gifts nullify the person's conversion experience? Does this make sense?

   But the second reason of concern is one of limiting the Holy Spirit's work in our lives. Let me give an example of what I am trying to say. Let's say, you are going out to do evangelism in a couple of hours and you have this thought in your mind that says, Tonight you will meet a girl named Brandy. Tell her that ......". You kind of dismiss the thought because you just think it is a random thought, but, you go out there and start talking to people. In the process, you are talking with a young woman. When you ask her what her name is, she says "Brandy". Then you remembered the thoughts you had earlier and shared with her those thoughts. Brandy ends up coming to Christ as a result of this.

   You have a couple of choices. You can think the thoughts were from the devil, and that you were receiving a counterfeit gift. You can think that is interesting, but since the spiritual gifts are not for today, it must have been coincidence. Or, you can think that God was revealing something to you that would help you minister to someone, and those words would somehow bring the person to Christ.

   What if you are sitting in a church service, and the power of God falls on you? What will you do? Will you think it is the devil? Will you think it is just your imagination? Could it be God?

   What if God wanted to empower you to pray? What if God wants to give you boldness in sharing the Gospel in a way you never experienced before? What if you are talking to someone, and you can actually see a picture over the person's head with words that give insight into what the person is going through? What if God wants to heal someone from a terminal sickness, or, what if God uses a person to raise someone from the dead? Would you be thinking that these things are just counterfeits because God doesn't work this way anymore? Since the spiritual gifts have ceased, how can we have the power of God in our lives to do His work? What if an expression of the power of God is in using the spiritual gifts? Would you be open to that?

  The Bible says that we are not to quench the Spirit. It also says that we are to test the spirits. We are to be discerning. That takes power from the Holy Spirit in order for us to be enabled to do that. How can we believe in the power of the Holy Spirit without the use of the spiritual gifts?

   Yes, we do need to be discerning. Yes, we do need to test the spirits. There are counterfeit gifts. But if there are counterfeit gifts, that means that there are genuine gifts. Things are only counterfeit when the real thing is there.

   And just one more thought. The Bible is the word of God. However, it will do us no good unless the Holy Spirit activates God's word in our hearts. It takes both the work of the Holy Spirit and the word of God. They work together to make God's word alive and effective.

   Are we going out witnessing in our own strength? Are we working through difficult relationship issues in our own power? If we don't believe in the power of the Holy Spirit anymore, then, by default, we are. But Jesus did say, You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses....

   So, if the spiritual gifts are no longer used today, does that mean that God has changed who He is? We see the spiritual gifts, for the most part, in the Old Testament. We see them in the New Testament. But now that the Apostles are dead, then the gifts are no longer used? Did God lose His power after they died? That would mean that God's attributes change, and the Bible is very clear that God's attributes never change. For 4,000 years or so, spiritual gifts were used, but then they ceased. Hmm. Doesn't make sense to me.

"What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent;  or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:11-13 ESV

For those who doubt that the church fathers believed in the continuation of the spiritual gifts, here are a few examples of those who did acknowledge and see the operation of the gifts during their lifetimes.

  • Justin Martyr (100-165): “For the prophetical gifts remain with us even to the present time. Now it is possible to see among us women and men who possess gifts of the Spirit of God.”
  • Irenaeus (125-200): “In like manner we do also hear many brethren in the church who possess prophetic gifts and through the Spirit speak all kinds of languages. ... Yes, moreover, as I have said, the dead even have been raised up, and remained among us for many years.” 
  • Tertullian (150-240): “For seeing that we too acknowledge the spiritual charismata, or gifts, we too have merited the attainment of the prophetic gift ... and heaven knows how many distinguished men, to say nothing of the common people, have been cured either of devils or of their sicknesses.”
  • Novation (210-280): “This is he [the Holy Spirit] who places prophets in the church, instructs teachers, directs tongues, gives powers and healings, does wonderful works ... and arranges whatever gifts there are of the charismata; and thus making the Lord’s church everywhere, and in all, perfected and completed."
  • Origen (185-284): “Some give evidence of their having received through this faith a marvelous power by the cures which they perform, invoking no other name over those who need their help than that of the God of all things, along with Jesus and a mention of his history.”
  • Augustine (354-430): In his work The City of God, Augustine tells of healings and miracles that he has observed firsthand and then says, “I am so pressed by the promise of finishing this work that I cannot record all the miracles I know.”
These testimonies clearly demonstrate that spiritual gifts continued to be common in the church from the Day of Pentecost and up to the beginning of the fourth century. The Episcopal scholar Morton Kelsey was correct when he said, “These men were well aware of Paul’s list of the gifts of the Spirit and what it included. In no place do they suggest that any of them had dropped away.”
In an appendix entitled “Voices From Church History,” MacArthur seeks to substantiate his doctrine of cessation from church history. Interestingly, the earliest quote he presents is from John Chrysostom (344-407), who refers to his ignorance of spiritual gifts and their cessation. The reason MacArthur begins with Chrysostom is that there is no evidence of a cessation theory prior to this time.
MacArthur next quotes Augustine’s statement that the tongues at Pentecost were a sign “adapted to the times” and had passed away. But what he fails to mention is that Augustine’s views on this matter changed with time and that he later fully embraced the continued work of the Holy Spirit and His gifts in the church (see the above quote). Nonetheless, Augustine’s earlier comments were taken up by those not experiencing spiritual gifts and used to justify their experience, or lack thereof.
While some articulated a theory of cessation to explain the lack of miracles and spiritual gifts in their midst, others throughout history have acknowledged that the problem has been a lack of faith and holiness within the church. This was the view of A.J. Gordon, 18th-century Baptist pastor and founder of Gordon College in Boston, who wrote, "It is not altogether strange that when the church forgot her citizenship in heaven and began to establish herself in luxury and splendor on earth, she should cease to exhibit the supernatural gifts of heaven."