Can you spell “Laodicean?”

dj lrspellingbee0531 19Recently a young lady from Kansas, Kavya Shivashnakar (which is hard for me to even say, much less spell) won the Scripps National Spelling Bee after spelling the word “Laodicean.” 

Smart kid-especially in a day when we all rely heavily on spell checkers.

If you are not familiar with this word Laodicean it means to have have a “lack of concern for religion and politics.” (Merriam Webster).  It is associated with the apathy and indifference of  a church in the Bible that Christ confronts after he ascended into heaven.

I thought this spelling bee and young Kavya’s winning word was ironic! 

It is reminder of the Bible text found in Revelation 3:14-22 where Jesus Christ says, “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”

This is a staggering rebuke from God’s Son!

I recall the insightful warnings about this spiritual state proclaimed by men of God in our churches in the past when I was a young convert and they warned us that we should not allow material wealth,  popularity and various successes to be a barometer for our spirituality.  But I think it is much deeper than that-because you can be poor and still be lukewarm toward Christ.

The Bible also warns about apostasy and some believe that it is going to be typical of the “last days” in the “church” but it does not have to be because Laodicea and its ministry were called lukewarm two millenia ago. I am not going to focus on the eschatological settings of this scripture.

Are these persons Christians and their spiritual fire is smoldering and their spiritual life is at a low ebb? I am sure it does apply to that.  As the LBC states, “And though they may, through the temptation of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins, and for a time continue therein, whereby they incur God’s displeasure and grieve his Holy Spirit, come to have their graces and comforts impaired, have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded, hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves, yet shall they renew their repentance and be preserved through faith in Christ Jesus to the end.” (Matthew 26:70, 72, 74; Isaiah 64:5, 9; Ephesians 4:30; Psalms 51:10, 12; Psalms 32:3, 4; 2 Samuel 12:14; Luke 22:32, 61, 62).

Are these unsaved or lost people who only appear to be Christians? It can apply to them as well. They are described as the hypocrite or the one who is only a church goer and trusts in their own morality.  Like the Laodiceans they do not know the danger they are in, for they soon perish in hell. “The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” (Isa. 33:14).

Let me attempt to paint a picture about the Laodicean condition.

If a woman cheats on her husband she may be married to him but her affections belong to someone else. She alienates her husband while still married to him because she is indifferent and cold to him and her heart belongs to another. He becomes resentful, suspicious and jealous.

This is what the Laodicean pastor and his church  are guilty of: cheating on the Lord.  That is why God says, “Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you.” (Jer. 3:14).  They are guilty of spiritual adultery because they want the security of being married to the Lord and be in bed with the world at the same time. God accuses them of spiritual adultery and says that anyone who is a friend of the world system is an enemy of God. (James 4:4).   Like Israel they vex and they irritate and grieve his Holy Spirit and “he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them.” (Isa. 63:10).

Some are you are incredulous at this statement: God turned out to be their enemy. How could an all loving God be at war with people?

God is a jealous God. I know Ophrah Winfrey does not like that (and she has a twisted understanding of that concept) but Christ has set his armies in array against the arrogance of those who defy his word!  What kind of war are we speaking of? Jesus Christ says to lukewarm church people today that if they do not repent he will fight against them with the sword of his mouth (Rev. 2:16). What does he mean? Hosea answers that: “I cut you in pieces with my prophets, I killed you with the words of my mouth;  my judgments flashed like lightning upon you.” (Hosea 6:5NIV). Jesus Christ says that he will send the ministers of his Word, who preach the truth and they will come at you with the two-edged sword of his Word until you change your cheating ways!

How can you tell if you are lukewarm?  Instead of going through a whole list describing what this person does, it can simply be summed up in one word-you do not have a whole hearted, passionate, devotion to God. Loving God with all your heart soul mind and strength is devotion (Deut 6:4-6).  Lukewarmers  do not have a strong regard, dedication and love for Christ and the things of God. They think they are devoted to God  because they give some things to God. The read their Bible every once in a while and even pray. They attend church, give in the offering and may even be a small group leader. They say they have received Christ but they are not devoted in any sense but their relationship is much too casual with God. Like Ananias and Sapphira who “kept back part of the price”  (Acts 5:2) when it came to serving God they hold back on their relationship with God.  John MacArthur says, “They’re just hypocrites touched in someway by Christianity but not belonging to Christ.  And there is something obnoxious about them.  They nauseate Christ.  They make Him sick.”

The Lukewarmer lives in a state  the Bible calls a “divided heart.” (Hosea 10:2).  James says that these people are guilty of being “double minded” which can mean “double souled”  (James 1:8; 4: 8).  The Bible says they are “double hearted” as well (Ps. 12:2). Thomas Manton says that the Hebrew term for double hearted is that they have “a heart and a heart.”  They struggle between “two opinions” (1 Kings 18:21) and hobble like a crippled man with a cane at a crossroads, not sure of which road to take.  Like ancient Israel, “They feared the Lord and served their own gods.” (1 Kings 17:33).  Imagine that. They worship God on Sunday and bow low to their idols the other six day. Two minds, two hearts and two opinions and it seems like such a understatement to describe them as lukewarm, but not to Christ, it grieves him so he gets ill! 

mooringYou must understand Lukewarmers are hard to catch because backsliding is not an overnight thing it is a slow drift away from God where the knot of the soul loosens its grasp on the cleat and the mooring to the shore of obedience (Heb. 2:1).  They can still say the right things, go to church, give in the offering, even preach behind the pulpit but they make Christ nauseous. That is the difficulty.  They may have a past with God so they feel that they have a present with God. But as the Bible says, “Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof…” (Eccl. 7:8).

The thing that most people who I have heard comment on this passage is that they direct its message toward the church-but it is actually directed toward the angel of that church as the other prophecies to the seven churches of Asia.  This does not refer to those spiritual beings who worship God in heaven above. This is another way of referring to the pastor of  that church.  This message is a direct communique from Christ  to this lukewarm pastor and the ones of today.

Some believe this pastor to be Archippus the son of Philemon of whom Paul’s letter to Colosse found its way and was read in Laodicea (Col 4:16). Paul told him to,  “Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it” (Col. 4:17). The Lukewarm Pastor of today needs to hear those words as well. You are supposed to be a man of the Word, a man of prayer not an activities director or pulpit psychiatrist.  They are messengers so it must be implied that their message has become lukewarm, emetic or vomit inducing.  Christ employs the language of the Older Covenant which says, “Ye shall therefore keep all my statutes, and all my judgments, and do them: that the land, whither I bring you to dwell therein, spue you not out.” (Lev. 20:22). He is about to remove this pastor from his place and he will remove the lukewarm pastor out of his position as well.  God says that he will remove men who do not speak as his messengers-he will spue them out! Christ says, “You pastors who compromise with the world make me sick!”  

Instead of giving all the theological ramifications of this passage let me relate it to you in another way: the state of lukewarmness  is like a steaming bowl of soup that cools off or a cold glass of ice tea that melts and becomes room temperature.  In the same way a person who professes to be a Christian Pastor has either cooled off or become “world temperature”  in their heart.  They no longer preach the word with zeal, pray with ardor, worship with passion, but are perfunctory in their duties.  They will burnout at the church office and play the role of CEO and CFO but they are at a point where they do not know they have lost the sweet sense of Christ’s presence as the one who walks among the churches and all they can do is manufacture churchianity by media, music and motivational topics.

jesus_of_nazarethI am sure they were surprised at Laodicea when this sharp written rebuke came from Christ when all on the surface seemed to be going well. This means they had no spiritual faculty or sense to discern their true condition. They were deceived. The church was flourishing with people, the city was prospering but Christ saw their pastor and congregation as diseased, impoverished and pathetic despite their success and wealth (Rev 3:17). In fact, they could not discern their own spiritual state and Christ has to use this harsh language in order to open their eyes.

Like many in today’s church, Christ is sicknened at their lack of love for him he says that are not hot or,  “fervent in spirit; serving the Lord.” (Rom. 12:11) or “aglow and burning with the Spirit.” (AMP). They do not pray or seek God and do not have the fire of devotion in their lives (Song 8:6; Luke 24:32).   They are not cold or they do not refresh the people of God being like a cold drink of water (1 Cor 6:18; 2 Cor. 7:13; 2 Tim 1:16; Phil. 1:7) and they are dried up wells and clouds without water (2 Pet 2:17; Jude 1:12).

We must also consider what many pastors today are unwilling to consider-that some of these folks who sit in their church, despite the morality, involvement in programs  and positions in leadership are not saved.  Some pastors, elders  and ministers should be questioning their own salvation. John MacArthur says again, “”It is the sickening condition of thinking you are spiritually rich when you’re bankrupt, of thinking you are beautiful when you are wretched, of imagining you are to be envied when you are to be pitied, of believing you see clearly everything when you see nothing.  You are stone blind…a feeling you are clothed in spiritual finery and you are stark naked.” 

They need to start doing business with Christ! There is no other way. Like the foolish virgins they must go to those that sell and pray the door is not closed upon them and they are treated as unwelcome guests (Matt. 25:9-12). He wants to be their spiritual broker and make them invest in eternal gold for he says,  “Riches and honour are with me; yea, durable riches and righteousness.” (Prov. 8:18). He sees them like Adam and Eve (Gen 3:21) and desires to clothe their nakedness as their tailor and give them a makeover for their shabby wardrobe  and give them beautiful white raiment for their burned out religious ashes (Isa. 61:3). He wants to be their Great Physician to help with their poor eyesight and give them the balm of Gilead for a  prescription for medicine that will help them see their true state correctly (Jer 8:22). A lukewarm person is oblivious and in a dense fog about their true state before God because they are so busy trafficking in the sinful flesh and the world system they do not not realize are broke, busted and disgusting spiritually.

Jesus warns, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” (Rev. 3:19). Jesus Christ tells them they better be zealous or very enthusiastic in their repentance because he is about to bring his board of education to their seat of understanding! They are lost if they do not repent-period. No repentance, no restoration. Those among that group who belong to him he will chasten, because he will only chastise his own children (Heb 12:6).  They are in desperate need of Christ attentive correction.

Christ tells them that this letter is not just a writing but a knocking on the door of this church that is locked to him.  His presence is not among Lukewarmers. They have form without godliness. In todays’ American Churchianity it seems image is everything but it does not fool Christ. He is not even a visitor. But he gives a final opportunity for them to turn from their worldliness. Christ says that there are those among them he loves. He is calling them out of their apostate starvation to enjoy a meal at the table of fellowship with him. Sit down with Christ today and start discussing your spiritual portfolio over a good meal.

How do you spell L-a-o-d-ic-e-a-n? Do not know how? Then you may want to try the word “I-c-h-a-b-o-d” because the glory departs from people who are not devoted  and are lukewarm (1 Sam 4:21-22).

Unity Through Truth

rated-rWhat is a creed? It is a testimony of the faith in God and the scriptures that defines “those things which are most surely believed among us.” as Christians. (Luke 1:1). It is simply says, “We believe” or, “I believe.” The Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the Word of God and are the all-sufficient rule of faith and practice (2 Tim 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21). It is the only criterion of doctrine that has any power to insist people to believe and obey what it teaches. All other standards that a person subscribes to are of value or authority only as they teach what the Scriptures teach.

 

R.C. Sproul said that “creeds are distinguished from the Scripture in that Scripture is norma normans (“the rule that rules”) while the creeds are norma normata (“a rule that is ruled”).[i]  The wonderfully practical thing about creeds is that they summarize and give clarity to what we believe as Christians and they are important for the harmony of God’s people because they help us to unite around important issues. It is hard to have unity with others when you do not know what they believe. Creeds were intended to bring unity not division despite the fact that creedally challenged people today seem to think that they are divisive.  But men who made creeds and confessions studied the scriptures and considered it their duty to intellectually and logically construct a system of faith out of the materials presented in scriptures. When you can be specific and clear on what you and the church believe, unity becomes more cherished and unity must be based on truth, not the lowest common denominator. 

 

How can you fellowship with someone when you do not know what they believe? How can you ignore the teachings of the scripture for the sake of unity? Today the great sickness in the thought process of people is pluralism-the belief that all religious paths lead to acceptance with God. This is anti-Christ thinking and will only lead to religious slavery and eventually societal breakdown. Unity today is at best the setting aside of your beliefs for the “greater good” of soceity. But the Bible makes it clear that Jesus Christ and Christianity are the true religion and this cannot be compromised.

 

Many ministers egotistically teach that we have no creed but Christ. But the Bible asks, “What? Came the word of God out from you? Or came it unto you only?” (1 Cor 14:34). The men of God who hammered out and forged the creeds of the church should not be ignored or set aside by those who question their teaching just because it is seen in a creed. This erroneous attitude of non-creedalists is nothing new. It goes back to the time where the church in Corinth was having terrible disunity, “Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.” (1 Cor. 1:12). I that group who do you think was the most problematic? Was it Paul’s group? Was it Peter’s denomination? I think not. It was that elitist congregation those who claimed that they exclusively belonged to Christ above their brethren that were the most dangerous.

 

I read somewhere that the real question is not about accepting the word of God over the creeds of men or placing the Creeds above the holy Scriptures but the issue is the tried and tested faith of the collective body of God’s people, versus the private opinion of the person or groups who object to creeds to make up or reinvent the church and their own beliefs. Creeds are an expression of beliefs that line up with scripture (orthodoxy) and are detailed in their phraseology to avoid beliefs that deviate from scripture (heresy).

 

The Article Seven of the Belgic Confession states this adamantly concerning scriptures and any other human writing, “For since it is forbidden to add to or subtract from the Word of God, this plainly demonstrates that the teaching is perfect and complete in all respects. Therefore we must not consider human writings– no matter how holy their authors may have been– equal to the divine writings; nor may we put custom, nor the majority, nor age, nor the passage of time or persons, nor councils, decrees, or official decisions above the truth of God, for truth is above everything else.

 

Creeds demonstrated how the church developed and became more sophisticated in their interpreting Scripture. It also serves to help discern pure doctrine and defend it from the distortion of heretics and the assault of unbelievers, and creates a unity of faith through teaching.  They also give us a syllabus in training our children and other Christians. They should manifest a convincing competent knowledge of the fundamental teachings of the Christian faith and live a life that glorifies and serves God.

 

Many people will say that they do not agree with the Greek and Roman forms of the church and that is why they do not accept Creeds. That is why we must test the Creeds in light of the scripture. I think the Second Helvetic Confession says it beautifully, “Wherefore we do not despise the interpretations of the holy Greek and Latin fathers, nor reject their disputations and treatises concerning sacred matters as far as they agree with the Scriptures; but we modestly dissent from them when they are found to set down things differing from, or altogether contrary to, the Scriptures. Neither do we think that we do them any wrong in this matter; seeing that they all, with one consent, will not have their writings equated with the canonical Scriptures, but command us to prove how far they agree or disagree with them, and to accept what is in agreement and to reject what is in disagreement.”

 

[i]Norma Normata A Rule that is Ruled Right Now Counts Forever By R.C. Sproul © 2008 Tabletalk Magazine

Exposing The Beast of Man’s Praise

to_chain_the_beast “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” (Rev. 21:8KJV).  I want to focus on the word fearful or cowards. Are the fearful cowards those who retreat from war, those who abandon their homes and family, or civic responsibility? These may be included but it focuses mainly on those that apostasize or fall away from Christ on account of fear. A.T. Roberston says that it is an old word that refers to recanting or retracting your beliefs under persecution.

The Beast in the book of Revelation has many interpretations but I am using this as an analogy not eschatologically. I see Satan intimidating preachers by his growling Beast and the seductive woman that sits upon it. From Saddleback to Broken Back he will do anything to stop the preacher of the gospel of Christ! This Beast threatens them with the fear of the loss of  finances, congregation size, and reputation. On one hand Satan raises up external forces like militant homosexuals, violent Islamic extremists, liberal politicians in places of power to make the preacher back down. Internally, the Devil raises up recycled church hoppers full of rebellion and bitterness,  he strategically places unregenerate people on an elder board, or church goers who are into the latest and greatest spirutual fads.  He coerces them to downsize their doctrine, and be generously compromising in their orthodoxy- upgrading activities, programs and entertainment. Idolatry to say the least is entertaining. That is what makes the Beast come to life.

God help those who choose this path that serves the Beast called “the praise of man.”  This is a day and age where courage is needed the most, especially behind the pulpit. God has called men to preach the gospel and minister his Word despite the consequences without letting fear deter them from their calling (2 Tim 1:7). But many men have become ashamed of the gospel of Christ and ashamed of Christ himself! It is almost as if they have taken black highlighter and smeared it all over the Bible.

With that that being said, today there is a growing number of ecclesiastical Castrati.  We have men standing behind the pulpit today with absolutely no guts to speak the truth (if they know what truth is) especially, if they are part of the church growth cult. The church growth movement is anti-biblical because it rejects the purest teaching of scripture the Sovereignty of God in his purpose of election by grace. It is also a reinvention of the church. It is not supernatural and definitely unnatural. It is not “the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47) but a religious factory that employs empirical, social, scientific principles to build worship centers with entertainment, magic shows, and carnivals and a party like atmosphere that gives life to the image of their Beast so all will wonder (Rev. 13:15). 

Oh preacher friend take not the mark of such a delusive Beast! The Beast uses the fear of man to entrap many pastors. Your church must be built on the unique foundation of Christ! Appeal to people so you fill the building, building ideas and agendas on people make seem like there is spiritual life there but it is not. It is only the Beast becoming animated! It will make you  the lowest slave, subservient to the whims of people that change like the wind. But how seductive the praise of man remains batting its eyelashes, forcefully kissing and leading him away to the slaughter. Yet they love the praise of men more than the praise of God (John 12:43).  That is why all you hear is emaciated cheer-leading, unsubstantial motivational speaking and diet Bible sermonettes. It does not rock the boat. I am sickened by this limp wristed  “sharing.” Sure, every once in a great while they will preach something that touches the surface of truth and prick their congregation with a pin, or pinch them with a non specific message about sin but they are fearful to swing the sword of the spirit unless they gash of few of their large tithe payers. This is done at the cost of souls. How such preachers will spend eternity in hell for such cowardice.

You can see the fear of man in the content of preaching. They will say that they cannot preach about certain truths in the Bible. God did not call them to pick and choose!  They are to preach the whole counsel of God.  Then preachers play the psychologist. They concentrate on the many hurts and wounds of  church people. But God has not called them to invent medicine to heal them. Only God Word can help them. Only truths balm heals as its wine hurts.  Instead of exposing sin as the real culprit to save people from its power to hurt, they paint a pretty picture of their lives and fill them with false hopes and dreams (Lam 2:14).  Thus they breed and hatch a new kind of proselyte, manufactured of the flesh and not born of the spirit. It may seem shocking but Satan censors their preaching. How? Because they operate in fear and they engage in man centered, humanistic  pulpiteering .

American church structures  are so much like corporations they need motivational speaking the keep people working hard so they do not have time to be troubled about their souls. They make people feel as though they have  godlike potential and fill them the idea that their destiny is in their hands. It is despicable. They savour the things of men like Peter who for a moment rejected the idea of a crucified Savior (Mt 16:23). They set aside  the power of God for the attributes of man. They savour this christened humanism, they relish and enjoy it slowly! The message of the cross of Jesus Christ has been footnoted or made a deeper truth.  They have forgotten that all we preach is foolishness to the heart of an unregenerate person (1 Cor. 2:14) and it must be spiritually revealed. This is a heart condition that rejects the idea of a Supreme Deity!  The idea of an omnipotent God has no place in their hearts practically and eventually biblically. The God who decides in mercy who he will save and who in justice he condemns is seen as legalistic. They would rather pander to the felt needs of people rather than God’s glory. They have forgotten that every sermon should be holy and an act of worship not another commercial for agendas or new programs.

Truth is always subversive and shocking and pastors must not let the consequences that may come deter them  from their God given calling to walk uprightly according to the truth of the  gospel (Gal 2:14). While pastors must shepherd their flocks with love, compassion and understanding we still must speak the truth in love to a generation unwilling to receive the love of the truth (Eph. 4: 15; 2 Thess 2:10).  Oh that our fellowship was based on what John the apostle taught as we see our brethren as those we love in the truth! (2 John 1:1).  That preaching the truth would be seen as honorable, dignified and praiseworthy for men to blaze the truth of God from their pulpits and everyday lives that threaten the Beast of man worship. It is a frightening animal that tests the faith of every man or woman of God everyday. But it has been defeated in the lives of those who seek to do all things for the glory of God.

No Pajamas In Church, Please

pajamasI recently visited a church near where I live and sat down with my son in my normal Sunday suit. It actually fit this time of year. It was just around Christmas time and the church was practicing for worship service before Sunday, which I have understood is the worship leaders last resort because he works with people that do not even know how to spell s-a-c-r-i-f-i-c-e in making out during the week and preparing. 

It is noisy and takes away from settling in, praying and reading your Bible so your mind is on God. It is like going to a wedding and the music is always too loud and you have to literally scream in your neighbors ear to say, “Can you pass me a tithing envelope, please?” I wonder if it could be said, “My house is a house of prayer but you have made it a den of noise.”

But I am just a visitor so I grin and bear it.

The first thing I beheld (which the pastors wife later explained to me was for a Christmas play later that day) was that the altar area. It was surrounded by cardboard candy canes, cut out gingerbread men and enough cotton balls to gag a wise man’s camel. In the middle of it was a communion table.

There they practiced, guffawed and one girl even gave the worship leader and nice shoulder massage.  With recent events, I began to think I am in hell (for you neo-evangelicals that is eternal hell not annihilation).  I had been pondering recently the lack of reverence for God and the picture preachers paint of Christ that he is giddy and fun loving. I know some people will think I am Pharisee, Sadducee etc. go right ahead call me whatever,  but I guess that is better than Heresy.

I manufactured an artificial smile and began to quote the love chapters in my mind and my teenage son was looking at me for some response but he saw it in my eyes and that was enough. I  prayed I could keep my mouth shut in such a situation which would be a modern day miracle, for sure.

Then, during service the Pastor walked in (a large man) wearing pajamas and a robe with the Yankee insignia. I was hoping it was an object lesson and I was praying, “Oh, Lord let this be an object lesson.”  But it was not, it was an advertisement for the Christmas play that night and they invited everyone to come with their pajamas on at 5pm. Then there were comments from the seats about baseball teams and other foolishness.

He showed a Charlie Brown Christmas cartoon for a introduction. Rats, he even preached, took the offering and served the Lord’s Supper in his pajamas and at last, the Pentecostal Pajama party was over.

After that service I could identify with Chuck Brown. I wonder if he were a professing Christian  looking for a church that actually preaches the Bible without all the shiny bows and pretty wrapping of religious commercialism. Where is that scripture toting Linus when you need him anyway.

So, here we have it.  Christ tells us, “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning.” (Luke 12:35ESV).  Pajama clad sleepy Christians need not apply. The American Church has an empty, lifeless false advertisment  by offering people a pillow padded life full of positive self esteem as they ignore, delay or set aside repentance from actions that lead to a dangerous sleepy death. God says, “Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you  to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.” (Romans 13:11).  Oh God ,wake your people who are asleep and save those who are wandering lost in sin! The visible American church needs to wake up and not hypnotized by the world and its bait of entertainment.

“Wherefore he saith, ‘Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.’ ” (Eph 5:14).  How are we going to get  American Christianity out of its ecclesiastical sleeping bags  into a well armored unit ready to fight off the temptations of this evil age?  Sadly, it is not walking in the Spirit, it is sleep walking. This is the where great work of the Sovereign Lord of the church will be seen!

Nothing wakes up the church like the Word of the Lord being preached in power! He says, “Wake up!”  It takes the power to raise the dead and he says, “Rise From the dead!”  It takes drawing back the curtains of dullness, and let the blistering white hot light of Christ shine on them.  he says, “And Christ will give thee light!”  Preacher preach, Preach with all your might the word of Christ! Preach loud, preach hard but in the name of jesus Christ rise up and walki into that pulpit without the lameness of man’s methods and preach the Scripture and let all of its force weigh down on the consciences of the hearers. The power of his presence is still available to the obedient man who is not a captive slave to the opinion of men!

A Clean Church

From the Series: “The Ideal Pentecostal Church” by Seth Rees.

Purifying their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:9).  Holiness is a state; entire sanctification is an experience; the Holy Ghost is a person.  We come into the state of holiness through the experience of entire sanctification, wrought by the omnipotent energies of the Holy Ghost.  This is the “baptism with the Holy Ghost and fire” administered by Christ himself, as John the Baptist declares.  He did not mean that there were two baptisms, one with the Spirit and another with fire, but one “baptism with the Holy Ghost ” under the symbol of fire. 

There are some things which the application of water will not cleanse.  Water may cleanse the loose dirt on the outside, but fire alone can make inwardly, intrinsically clean.  Metal ore is not refined by mere washing — it must undergo the crushing and smelting processes.  Again and again the base ore is subjected to the fiery ordeal, until every iota of the useless grit and undesirables and is destroyed and the metal is left free from alloy.  So the water of regeneration will free the soul from external sin-commission, but the sanctifying process of the Spirit is requisite if the heart is to be holy and sinless.

Poisonous air may be driven from old wells and mine-shafts with fire.  The deadly gases must yield before the flame.  And the fire of the Spirit will rout all miasma and malaria from both pulpit and pew. 

Nothing is more refreshing on a hot, sultry July afternoon than a thunderstorm.  A few vivid flashes, a half-dozen dashes of blinding flame, and lo, the atmosphere has become bracing and invigorating.  Of all urgent needs, none is more truly evident than that the church ought to be struckwith double-geared lightning from the upper skies.  The jagged bolts should be allowed to play on both preacher and people.  This celestial electricity would sweeten the spiritual atmosphere in our churches and in our own souls.  It would burn away all the fog of uncertainty and unbelief and doubt, and give us convictions born of assurance. 

Proud flesh requires the fire.  Nothing rivals it in the dispatch and effectiveness with which it does its work.  A Boston physician told me that, with all the modern discoveries of science, there had been nothing found that would do but fire.  In the moral world there is nothing obtainable that will cure proud flesh in our natures and in our churches except Pentecostal fire.  This alone will kill the “brag,” the pomp, the gusto, the ungodly strut so evident in so many professors of religion today.  Let us take down our lightning rods, all our preventatives, and fire, celestial fire, will leap over the battlements of heaven and fall upon us, slaying all our pride, destroying all our tin, dross, and reprobate silver, and giving us a joyous release from all chaff and from all that is lightweight.

Those who have received their Pentecost live pure, holy lives.  They never practice unclean habits, whether secret or known.  They do not have unclean thoughts, unchaste desires, or unholy passions.  They do not use wine, beer, tobacco, snuff or opium.  True, a man may have his name on a church-book and yet indulge in these things of which we speak; but he might just as well have it on a board fence, for it does not make him a member of the Pentecostal company.  He may “belong to the meeting-house,” but he is not one of this blessed fire-crowned throng. 

Men who are in unholy connection with this Godless world in lodges, fraternities and Christless institutions, or who will stoop to the commercial trickeries of this age, or who will lend their influence to abet a questionable business, have not been through the furnace of the upper room.  Pentecostal Christians have “clean hands and pure hearts.” “Hands” in the Bible refers to the outward, manifest, visible life.  It refers to what man sees.  The word has regard to conduct. The life must be clean. A man can not be in close contact with the world without being contaminated. Lot well nigh became a Sodomite by dwelling in Sodom and among Sodom’s inhabitants; and intimate relationship with men of unrighteous lives always means demoralization for the Christian. “Clean hands” hold no bribes, they never deal unjustly, they do not give thirty-five inches for a yard nor fifteen ounces for a pound, they do not pay debts at forty cents on the dollar when they could do more. 

The behavior of the tongue is included in the life.  The conversation must be pure and chaste, never vulgar, never immodest.  The jest with its indelicate association is never heard on the mouth of the Pentecostal saint. 

The phrase “clean heart” relates to the inward, invisible, secret nature — that which God alone sees.  It describes a condition of things in which there is no pride, or anger, or jealousy, or envy, or strife, or selfishness, or worldly ambition, or any unholy temper.  Desire for place or position in church or state is purged away.  We who are of the Pentecostal Church see no one who has a place we would desire.  We are not wire pulling to get a position.  We are saved from political scheming in ecclesiastical circles, as well as elsewhere.  In honor we prefer one another. There can be no anxiety, for God makes all our appointments for us. 

When the heart is clean the Holy Ghost saves us from all peevishness, fretfulness, sensitiveness and touchiness.  We hardly know when we are insulted and, therefore, never take offense.  As Dr. Carradine says, we get so we “can live on cold shoulder and cold tongue.” We are not looking out for slights. If any one pays any attention to us, it is that much more than we deserve, that much clear gain. 

How plainly uncleanness of heart reveals itself in the actions, tempers and ambitions of the disciples previous to their Pentecost!  They were selfish: they wanted the best places.  Instance John and James bidding for chief seats.  Notice the anger and indignation consequent upon the rest of the twelve hearing of the request of the two brothers.  But, passing the upper room experience, we look in vain to find evidences of envy or self-seeking in these men.  That Pentecostal electrocution forever put an end to the self-life. 

How this fiery cleansing would relieve the church today!  Office-seeking preachers would not buttonhole the bishops.  This continual lobbying of which the presiding elder or superintendent is the unhappy subject would cease.  Men would be more anxious to show their devotion to Christ and self- denial for his cause, than to obtain the best appointments.  An unheard of thing might possibly be, viz., a vacancy on the official board, and no one sitting up nights concocting a scheme which would lift him to the place. 

Would-be generals are abundant nowadays.  There are plenty of men who would gladly boss God’s army.  They want to be bell-sheep.  They must tinkle the bell, and no one else. If they can’t be bell-sheep, they won’t be sheep at all, but turn goats.  Certainly we need the holy flame to extirpate unholy ambitions. 

Before Pentecost, the disciples were sectarian. One poor fellow was having a glorious time casting out devils. “Does he follow us?” “NO.” “Forbid him. Stop the revival; complain to the authorities! Schism!  Tendency to divide!  Come-out-ism!” There are thousands of people who have no sympathy with a work, however praiseworthy, without the movers in that work are in full unison with them on all points. 

A revengeful spirit crops out in the pre-Pentecostal disciples. “Opposition?” “Down with fire!” “Do not like to hear us preach?” “Rain brimstone!” This is the un-Christlike spirit of even some so called Holiness preachers.  “We can’t punish you, but God can.  We will get the Lord to revenge us.”  How different is the meekness, the heart-lowliness of the Son of God.  “Despised” and “rejected” yet he opened not his mouth. Vengeance and retaliation are burned out of us when we are sanctified, and unholy resentment thereafter finds in the soul no place.

Seth Rees was born at Westfield, Indiana. In March 1873, Seth was converted. Just after his 19th birthday, he attended the Quaker quarterly meeting in Westfield. Under the Spirit’s prompting, Seth mounted a pile of dirt and preached his first sermon. He became known as the “Earthquaker” for his strong preaching of holiness.

Plain Vanilla

“So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.” (Neh 8:8).  

WE need to preach the Bible as it is, plain vanilla. Is it such a novel concept to let God speak for himself, to us from the written Word? Just to preach the scriptures without marketing, slogans and flimflam. That is why I believe God is calling out to men today to make known openly and publicly the Word of God it in its full strength. We should make it obvious that we are intentionally and unmistakably broadcasting the scriptures in our homes and from our pulpits. The scriptures ought to be perspicuous: plain to the understanding especially because of clarity and precision of presentation (Merriam Webster).  How preachers need to stop apologizing for the Bible and avoiding certain topics and take up the attitude, “What I am saying is between you and God!” with the people they pastor. God has not called us to force his words down people throats but he has called us to preach them until their hearts are under the influence of Sovereign grace and saving faith.  We also need to recognize that we deal with holy things and that we should not waste them on wild dogs and ungrateful pigs, so said Jesus Christ in Matthew 7:6. We should take the book of the covenant of God and his elect people and read it in the audience of the people (Ex. 24:7). In Nehemiah’s Day It says, “they read from the Book of the Law of God and clearly explained the meaning of what was being read, helping the people understand each passage.”  (Neh. 8:9NLT). 

Christ unbolted the closed minds of men so the could understand the Older Covenant scriptures in their revelation of Him (Luke 24:25). The Holy Spirit would bring back to the Words of Christ as spoken to their minds (John 14:26; John 16:13-15). They would write these things down and give them to us in a book, “Jesus saith unto them, Have ye understood all these things? They say unto him, Yea, Lord. Then said he unto them, Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.” (Matt. 13:52).  The apostles wrote and proclaimed the scriptures (2 Peter 3:16). God has called men to bring out the treasures of the Word of God its silver, gold and precious gems to those who are humble, harassed and hungry for righteousness.

Only his Words are powerful enough to save the soul (Heb. 4:12). There has never been a generation more ignorant of the scriptures than today. I see in churches, among the most well meaning pastors, the methodologies of the flesh, that only have human power and cannot save. It frightens me. The tactics of manipulation, placing Divine endorsement like a stamp on the packages they sell and of course speaking of how relevant and practical these methods are, go forth like a new gospel. It is positively medieval. I would rather “fail” in my “ministry” preaching the whole of scripture and only winning a few people than preaching motivational psychology and ending up with many people who participated in a clinically tested religious laboratory experiment that is not endorsed by scripture. Why you ask? “Thus saith the Lord, “Cursed is the man and maketh the flesh his arm and whose heart departeth from the Lord.” (Jer. 17:5). As the Old hymn says, “The arm of flesh will fail you, ye dare not trust your own.”

Only his Word can save the soul from hell, not human tradition. Not new experiences.  People are spiritually sick because the Word is not flaunted. I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.” (Acts 20:32)  Paul was full of passion to warn his brethren, build them up and preach a message that if they would believe, it would assure them of their part in their eternal inheritance. Like the ground that God cursed because of Cain, we should reject the notion of being only, “engaged to the method but married to the message.” Paul tells Timothy, “thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim. 3:15).  It is the scriptures that make people wise about salvation. But not the philosophy and psychology of the world.  The lost will die in their sins unless we preach the Word of God to them. “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” (1 Cor 1:21). This is not God calling for us to be stupid but to be uncompromising. God the Savior of all men especially those that believe (1 Tim. 4:10) is calling us away from the impotent, lifeless methods of the flesh because the world cannot know God by philosophy and psychology. They can never know God by speculation and behavioral science, only by preaching God’s Word by the power of His Spirit. Jesus made it clear to his disciples “What gives life is God’s Spirit, human power is no use at all. The words I have spoken to you bring God’s life giving Spirit.” (John 6:63TEV).