Stuck on the Steeple

Recently two men were stuck at a height of 122 feet in a construction bucket which stopped working and lodged against a New Jersey church steeple for hours before they were rescued. These men were working on a restoration project, according to the church’s pastor. Not even the fire department could help them.  As surreal as it seems, the New Jersey State Police dispatched two helicopters to assist those men! After about three hours, the men were taken down by a basket hooked to a crane. The Pastor was thankful and even prayed with those that helped.

I wonder what it would be like to listen to these men tell the story to their friends and family about the day they were stuck on the steeple.

I am not here to blame the pastor for that nightmare, and the breakdown of equipment.  I am not against church repairs. But for the sake of illustration, I wonder about pastors who are more like religious business owners and whose focus is on how tall the “steeple” of the church more than the souls of their people.  There is a sermon  here in fact, it is very possible churches and church goers are stuck on the steeple. I am prompted to advise pastors with the scripture,

“Be diligent to know the state of your flocks, and look well to your herds.” (Prov 27:23)

This passage encourages the pastor to know the faces or the state of his sheep, to put his heart into the condition of those that God has entrusted to his care. The pastor has a job to know the condition of the souls of the people he pastors, nothing else is more important. Soul work is hard work and all the work done in a church should flow the condition of people’s hearts.

Pastors today feel the lure of the new models of religious marketing and church growth. That shining serpent beckons to them and promises them freedom from “old religious ways”  and to attract more crowds to church in the name of love and healing. I am concerned that they may have forgotten their true call, to care for their sheep.  I have seen pastors and churches advertise and market programs and go light on preaching. When they do preach, they are sloppy on the gospel.

There is a possibility of involving people so much in “God’s Work” that they get end up in a dangerous situation. In seemingly thriving churches I have seen adultery, drug abuse and financial controversy. How could this happen? They are stuck on the steeple. Pastors may be putting people  in danger, because their agenda has become their gospel.  We shuld love helping the poor, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry we should do it without a second thought but these things are NOT the gospel. Man cannot live on bread alone. Full stomachs can result in anorexic souls.

I have been part of churches where Sunday after Sunday they push small groups, leadership programs, denominational conferences so much that it becomes forced. It is like an arranged marriage to an ugly partner. The religious peer pressure kicks in and you either get left out or singled out.

The bottom line is not the project it is the condition of people souls! Their souls are more important than any agenda you may have. Is what you are doing, contributing to a dangerous situation for them spiritually?

Many of these pastors seem promote membership and Churchianity.  They preach with passion the importance of attendance and faithful tithing. If only they would preach the cross and exposit scripture with such fire! They quote Hebrews 10:25 and have the nerve to shake their finger at people for neglecting the fellowship. But I wonder, what is the sense of going to church when they nauseatingly preach a man centered message to a gospel hardened people?

I have heard messages that were not messages at all. I have heard pastors talking about sex until it bordered on soft porn. I have hjerad them use vulgarity when preaching. I have heard them preach on finances until you felt like you were going to work and they were about to sell you a new 401k plan. They act like stand up comedians who use the Bible as a punchline. Many look like slobs and act like slobs. They will show movies, plays and concerts in place of what used to be Sunday morning worship. This is a bad dream and “Ouch!” that pinch hurts when you realise you are wide awake.  It breaks my heart. When you confront these things all you hear from these same people is that you are “religious” “judgmental” or pharasaical! That gets old fast mainly because it is so unoriginal.

How many more churches and preachers must be exposed for their malpractice until they repent!  Some men see people problem and clear themselves of the blame saying it is this or that person’s fault. But they say that are praying for them. Oh you will pray for them? Ah, to little too late. 

Recently, the Michael Jackson wrongful death case was blazed in the media. Dr. Conrad Murray was found guilty.  He gave drugs to this troubled man who was depressed, full of anxiety and despite all his success and charity was empty inside. The man that should have helped him heal, created the perfect storm in his body and killed him. We do not know all the wherewithal about this case still, but we know that a Doctor who was supposed to keep an oath to care for the welfare of his patient literally gave him the drip of death. We are aghast at this! Yet how much more those who give the drip of death to the soul.

You are being charged with malpractice by the Surgeon General of Souls! If you continue to go against the scripture or only use scripture as a garnish for the toxic candy you serve people God will remove your license to practice. The salt is in danger of losing its savor. Repent now, help those people stuck on the steeple you have made!

Imagine your people stranded to the point where the world has to come in and “rescue” them. We surrender our problematic people and flock to the programs of men, their philosophy, their psychology and counsel. We exalt the counsel of the wicked to help them and because we have laid aside God’s Word, his true grace, true love and true forgiveness. The repair of their souls cannot be found in the hands of those like Absalom who kiss them and steal their hearts from the Lord. People who call themselves Christians live dangerously close to the world and not for the gospel. I watch them dabble in all sorts of witchcraft, violence, idolatry of all kinds and I wonder what are they hearing in church? Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you?

Stop using the pulpit for idiocy! You are endangering the souls of your people! Stop being an activities director, a marriage counselor or financial guru and start looking at the faces of your flock. Look at them burned out on the steeple, forced  to work in man-made vineyard and yet neglecting their own spiritual vintage. Start preaching and ministering to their hearts.  Look at your people, they are miserable, on the verge of spiritual collapse stuck on the steeple you sent them to repair. They trusted you as their pastor and you are more like a taskmaster.  Repent now, your candlestick is in danger of being removed!  Look to God’s Word for your guidance. He will show you the path and he will make it clear how to minister to your people. He loves them. He will rescue them. Let God’s glory and their spiritual welfare be your goal. Let God speak to them through you by his Word, and he will rescue them from being stuck on the steeple.

God is sending help to rescue these people from these taskmasters and their steeples. Just like in the Garden of Eden he will expose these lies for what they are and all your fig leaf suits and hiding behind your Bible won’t stop his presence from exposing it!

 (c) 2011 Soul Health Care Ministries, If you share this article just let them know about us and where it came from.

The Truth in Love

How often do you hear people half quote the scripture and say, “Well, now brother…sister…we need to speak the truth in love.”  But how often has that out of context phrase been misused to sacrifice truth and to justify people’s sinful lifestyle all in the name of fake love.  It is what the old preachers used to call “sloppy agape” or it is “grease” instead of grace. We know how often Satan is prone to misquote scripture when he employs his choice weapons of compromise and deception.

But we know that truth refers to the holy book of the scriptures (John 17: 17) and Christ is the truth personified (John 14:6) and the real church guards that truth (1 Tim 3:15).

The context is as follows:

That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, [even] Christ. From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. (Eph. 4:14-16).

That phrase will somehow seem different in light of the other verses with which it is associated.

It is clear from this passage that God calls people to stop acting spiritually childish or immature and in order for that to happen the truth must be expressed in love.

1. People who act spiritually childish are (v. 14):

  •  Fluctuating: Their hearts and minds are in disorder like the surf on the beach they are back and forth. They are double minded (James 1:6-8).
  • Restless:  The word used here periphero where we get the word peripheral. They are easily moved by the winds of side or surface issues. They love the latest spiritual fads and trends and reject biblical tradition (2 Pet 3:16).
  • Unstable:  No matter the wind whether a gentle breeze or tornado, because they are not firmly anchored to the pure doctrine they are easily blown away (2 Tim. 2:18).
  • Cheated: The sleight of men is kubeia which means they roll the dice by taking chances on the methods and formulas made up by false teachers (Jude 12, 16).

2. Speaking the truth in love means (v. 15):

  • The truth needs to be spoken, the clear, unvarnished truth of scripture. It represents things as they are.
  • The truth spoken in the original language means “truthing in love” it is seen as walking or holding up the plain truth of scripture in Calvary love or agapao love (3 John 4).
  • The truth must be spoken without a sour, unfeeling disposition and a genuine concern and love for others spiritual welfare.
  • The truth has a goal of maturity of the hearer which has for its model Jesus Christ who is the truth (John 14:6).
  • The truth is necessary because we are members of one body and when one part is infected all are in danger of being hurt (Eph. 4:25).

3. Christ is the head and body of all pure teaching (v.15-16):

  • Incorporated: The truth incorporates us into Christ who is the head and Lord of everyone and everything (Eph. 1:22).
  • Positioned: The truth of scriptural teaching brings organization and body’s parts are anatomically correct. It represents Christ (1 Cor. 12:12, 27).
  • Consolidated: The body is united and connected by the truth of scripture and Christ (1 Cor. 12:3; 1 John 2:19).
  • Proportioned: The body is supported and not one part overworked, every part is in exact proportion to its strength in Christ (1 Cor. 12:24).
  • Edified: The body grows and builds itself in strength and maturity all by the principle and power of Christ’s love (1 Cor. 14:5).

We need to speak the truth with “Calvary love” to those who are easily affected by waves of doubt on the inside and winds of deception on the outside. They are being cheated by false teachers and lying spirits who use the methods of men and extra-biblical practices to mislead them and by hurting the immature and weaker brethren they hurt us and they attempt to steal the glory from Christ.

We speak the truth with the love of Christ, not human compassion or understanding but in light of the truth. This is an hour where unity cannot be based on the LOWEST common denominator but the high standards of scripture and the loftiest model of Jesus Christ head of the body, his church!

“When principles that run against your deepest convictions begin to win the day, then battle is your calling, and peace has become sin; you must, at the price of dearest peace, lay your convictions bare before friend and enemy, with all the fire of your faith.” Abraham Kuyper

Selfish or God-ish?

The Bible says to “be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 

I don’t care what anyone says, when we think of being filled with something,  it gives us the picture of having a liquid like water poured into a glass until it is full. It probably means something else in the Greek.  It always does it seems, but thank God for the English Bible. Somebody apparently  thought we would understand what “filled” would mean.

No, I do not disparage scholarship nor exposition. I love it. When we understand this to be filled to the full  it makes much more sense.  But it does not seem to carry the meaning to accomplish or execute or be fulfilled.  That makes no sense in the context. It is quite clear that God wants all of us. He wants to fill us. Paul describes being filled with the Spirit as the displacement of self and the replacement of Himself  in our lives like water replaces the air in the glass with liquid. 

When we are full of self we cannot be full of God.  It is so easy to be full of self mainly due to the fact that  I am…me-myself and you are your self.  When we are full of self we are selfish as human beings. We are self-centered or egocentric. “Selfishness, in its worst or unqualified sense, is the very essence of human depravity, and it stands in direct opposition to benevolence, which is the essence of the divine character. As God is love, so man, in his natural state, is selfishness.” (Websters 1812 Dictionary).  The suffix, “ish”  in essence means “belonging, pertaining or tending  toward.”  Thus a person who is selfish does what pertains to, or tends toward self.

There is a tincture or hint of selfishness even in the very best, most selfless things we do. We are such needy people because sin contaminates the best things we do. This is why the sinner must be justified by Christ and the work he did on the cross alone or we would be lost simply and easily. It was the most selfless act. It was God-ish. That is also why we need to be filled with the Spirit of God.  I see that benevolence although the linguistic opposite of selfishness just does not cut it for the point of this writing, so I pray you will indulge me on this point. I guess it would awkward to say but we need to be God-ish  but that is the meaning that is carried with being filled with the Spirit of God. It is a life that tends toward, leans and pertains to God’s Spirit at work in us.

It would seem obvious with the following verses of the text above that after a person is filled with the Spirit they are God-centered or theocentric.  That involves, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (5:19-20). They live for God’s glory not their own whims. Being conscious of the influence of sin should drive us to our knees to ask for the Spirit of God to work in us, but we act so independently of God’s power most of time, we invent our own idolatrous devices, thus we are selfish because we are man-centered. 

Being filled with the Spirit is not an esoteric level of spirituality-it is a life centered around God and his laws.  It is a life that worships God in every aspect of their lives, individual character, family, work and church.  It is a God-ish life. The only way this can happen is by the grace of God that gives us the recognition and awareness of His presence. I believe the Latin term Coram Deo comes into play which is,

“Something that takes place in the presence of, or before the face of, God. To live Coram Deo is to live one’s entire life in the presence of God, under the authority of God, to the glory of God. To live in the presence of God is to understand that whatever we are doing and wherever we are doing it, we are acting under the gaze of God. God is omnipresent. There is no place so remote that we can escape His penetrating gaze.” Coram Deo, R.C. Sproul 

This is a genuine fear of the Lord. It is what I like to call the comfort and dread of the Lord. When I read about the omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence of God in passages like Psalm 139 it brings me a sense of relief and freedom from anxiety to know he sees all that I do. It also brings a fierce fear and awe of the God who sees and knows all that I do.  To know he is everywhere and with that knowledge is to honor him and is evidence of being  filled with his Spirit.  It is to be God-ish. Oh that we might be filled with his Spirit in every part of our lives.

THE SECRET STASH OF OIL

lamplight2“And the foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’  But the wise answered, saying, “No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, “Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.” (Matt. 25:7-13NKJV).

This parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. The Kingdom of God is like these ten virgins. The virgins would seem to be symbolic of people who say they are Christians. They all appear to be believers. But they are not. In the Age to come, only the righteous and holy people will live together. Jesus said that in his day and ours it is like coexistence between weeds and wheat, good and bad, and of course, the wise and foolish (Matt. 13; Mark 4).

The Lord’s verdict is that five were sensible enough to have that secret stash of oil and five were foolish for not bringing it. The parable goes on to show the bridegroom delayed in his coming. The hour became late and there was no specific time given for the bridegrooms coming so they nodded off and went to sleep. There is some spiritual blackout approaching before Christ’s coming and if there are no batteries for your spiritual flash light you will be in the dark forever.

Oil is an accepted symbol of the Holy Spirit and the oil mentioned here in this passage has to do with the work of the Spirit of grace in our hearts. The Holy Spirit wants to teach us about Christ, “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall bear witness of me.” (John 15:26RV).  He gives us illumination and understanding about Jesus.

The Holy Spirit also wants to help us in our devotion and dedication to Christ, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Phil 2:13). In another version it says, “It is God who produces in you the desires and actions that please him.” (GW). The grace of God is the secret stash of the oil grace that will burn with knowing and loving Christ that gives us the illumination and dedication to Christ we need.

There are two instances in the gospel that shed light on this passage. On the mount of transfiguration when Jesus brings his disciples up to pray, the disciples slept: “But Peter and they that were with Him were heavy with sleep and when they were awake they saw his glory…” (Luke 9:32). When Christ unveiled his glory instead of praying they experienced blackout. Like oil in the lamp that fuels its flame so that it lights up the room, Christ wants to illuminate our hearts by his Holy Spirit teaching us about him. The light of Christ enlightened our hearts when we first became Christians (Heb 10:32). This is called illumination or the time “God’s light shone on us” (GNB).

But in the time of illumination or the time Christ would have given them understanding they experienced blackout!

Again, in the garden of Gethsemane, while Christ was agonizing in prayer, they could have demonstrated their dedication to him. Instead he found his disciples, “…sleeping for sorrow, and said unto them, “Why sleep ye? Rise and pray lest ye enter into temptation.’” (Lu. 22:45-46). What is interesting is that the name Gethsemane means “oil press” and can relate to the beaten green oil used for the golden candlestick of the Old Testament tabernacle. Jesus prayed and profusely sweat great drops of blood (Luke 22:44) and he wrestled with drinking the cup of God’s wrath against sinners on our behalf. He would say, “Not my will but thine be done” (Luke 22:42). The oil of devotion was pressed out of the Son of God who learned, “obedience by the things which he suffered (Heb 5:8). It was the same for the disciples, when the oil of devotion should have been pressed out or created in their hearts they slept. In the time of devotion and obedience they blacked out.

The disciples were blacked out in sin. They had to be saved by grace (Eph 2:8-9). Sleep on take your rest Jesus told them (Mk 14:41). Jesus would have to sleep for them three days in the tomb (1 Cor. 15:1-3). Jesus turned them back to himself (Luke 22: 31-32). That is the oil of God’s grace. Sleeping means they were out of the picture. They could not manufacture oil or save themselves. Like Adam (Gen 2:21-22) and Abraham (Gen 15:12). God was doing a work of grace they had no part in (Eph 2:8-9). Only Christ could give them the oil they needed. We know that Christ’s everlasting love has softened our hearts in his Sovereign grace, “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light’ (see Eph. 5:14).

They all were startled awake as they heard the cry, “Behold the bridegroom approaches go out to meet him!”  Now, the only time that remained at this point was to ignite their lamps. There are people very proud of their lamps. They have the “sinner’s or salvation prayer” lamp or the water baptism lamp, church attendance lamp, the ministry lamp but no oil of grace in their spiritual inventory. I want to tell you that they loved their lamps of self-righteousness more than the oil of knowing and loving Jesus Christ! That is clear from this parable. There is no difference between the ten virgins until that fateful moment when we see five ladies holding radiant torches and the others staring at their smoldering lamps.

These types of weddings commonly took hours and this presented the possibility for their lamps to burn out so the sensible girls brought extra oil. The thing that is most surprising is that since most of the weddings of that culture took place at night, it would seem just plain common sense to bring oil with them, thus their folly and stupidity is seen. Something so important, a fact of such common knowledge is overlooked.  Jesus taught, “You also must be ready all the time for the Son of Man will come when least expected.” (Mt. 24:44).  

The five simple ladies were excited at first, but their enthusiasm sprung a leak.  As far as they were concerned, the party is over before it has begun.

They look at the other ladies igniting their torches, chattering with excitement, their hearts glowing with an amber flame like their faces. The silly ladies cry, “Give us some of your oil, we have run out!”  The response of the wise virgins was, “We only have enough for our lamps. You are going to have to buy oil of them that sell!”

We must remember that the oil was something that the sensible virgins could not give to the foolish virgins.  We cannot give the oil to others; they must buy it for themselves. This means a denomination or organization cannot dispense oil.  You cannot rely on a refueling with oil from your pastor or church.  Children who have Christian parents cannot siphon their parents oil tanks for a ride into heaven, nor can a wife borrow oil from her husband or a husband from his wife. They were asking the wrong people at the wrong time for oil. It is Christ and only Christ that can pour the extra oil of his spirit into our hearts. No one can give you what he can.

What a lesson for us- we should be found greeting Him at the door upon His arrival, not shopping for oil in the middle of the night.  Love and devotion cannot be bought. Anyone who waits this long does not love and know Jesus they only like his parties. The sensible virgins watched the foolish go out to buy oil at midnight and of course, there are no shops open. They slept through business hours. Our Father’s business of salvation will close its doors one day. There is coming an hour where no matter how genuine the repentance God will not honor anyone’s requests due to their procrastination. “Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near” (Isa. 55:6). You and I are on God’s schedule, not He on ours.

The bridegroom comes while they were away and the door of “opportunity” is permanently shut with a sickening clap. It was customary for the owner of the house where a wedding was taking place, after all the invited guests were checked in, to close the door, not allowing a soul to enter no matter how persistent they were in their pleas. This prevented the curious and unwelcome guests from access to the reception. The door we speak of is the entrance to God’s kingdom (Lu. 13:28). It will be like the constant ringing of a phone, and no answer. It will be like a running to a gate at the airport, to find you have missed your flight and all flights to that place have been cancelled indefinitely. It will be knocking on a door that refuses to open. The Bridegroom will eventually separate those who know him from those who do not. Christianity cannot be casually browsed through, you cannot come late! What a warning for those who have lamps but no oil. Like Augustine said, “God promises forgiveness for repentance but what promise does God give for our procrastination?” There is coming a time when God cannot be reached and therefore be ready at all times.

The foolish virgins can hear the laughter and music of the wedding reception and their hearts see a closed door. They are missing the wedding. They panic and bang and bang on the locked door until a response is given.

If we add the commentary of Luke chapter thirteen, they begin to panic and cry, “Lord, Lord, open to us!”

There is a muffled voice behind the door, “Sorry, you’re not on my guest list…I do not know you!” 

They say, “But we’ve known you all our lives!’

He interrupts, “Your kind of knowing can hardly be called knowing. You don’t know the first thing about me.” (see Luke 13:25-27Message).

No excuses, apologies, or explanations are accepted. Why? This is the heart of the matter: they are strangers to him. He does not have a close relationship to them. They do not burn with the secret stash of oil that shows they know and love Christ.  Jesus affirmed this declaring, “I know mine own and mine know me” (John 10:14). Salvation is God knowing us. God is omniscient he knows everything but this is a different knowledge. It is saving knowledge. Paul said, “But now after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God…” (Galatians 4:9). It is a privilege for a person to have God reveal Himself to them. It is an honor for us to love him who loved us so much. We would do well to put salvation in those terms.

As for the foolish virgins of today, they have been duped by the worst kind of lie, self-deception, and they do not know the bridegroom. They only look like virgins and have a lamp, but they have no oil. There are many who profess to belong to Christ and even claim to know and love Him, but they only have a façade of religiosity, just an empty lamp with no light, with no evidence of “the power of God unto salvation…” (Romans 1:16). This is a terrifying prospect for silly neglectful church goers. They do not care until it is too late. Their “break glass in case of emergency” relationship with God will not help them. The Lord’s delay serves as an opportunity for these hypocrites to sin. They do not see it as the Lord’s longsuffering (2 Pet. 3:8-10) and giving them opportunity to repent (Rev. 2:21) but they think the Lord is neglectful and careless about his promises. Jesus warned, that day would be, “like a trap. That day will surprise everyone on earth.” (Luke 21:35CEV).  They will be caught and trapped by their own hardness of heart.

As for the elect wise virgins, they went with him into the marriage! This passage is an encouragement because God is our Savior. Heaven is where Jesus is. That is why the wise virgins want to go to heaven. It is not heaven unless Jesus is there. We are saved and supported by the secret supply of his grace in the most difficult of times. His mercy and kindness is extended to all who will prepare to meet with Him. They are promised that their “bottle of oil shall not fail” (1 Kings 17:14). They are vessels of His mercy and He who is the author and finisher of their faith oversees their salvation.

Thomas Brooks the great puritan writer wrote about this and said, “Oh, God forbid that my heart should be affected or taken with anything in comparison with Christ. The more I know Him, the more I love Him; the more I know Him, the more I desire Him; the more I know Him, the more my heart is knit unto Him. His beauty is captivating. His love is ravishing, His goodness is attracting, His manifestations are enticing, His person is enamoring, His lovely looks please me! His pleasant voice delights me, His precious Spirit comforts me, His holy word rules me! All these things make Christ to be a heaven unto me!

Don’t Create A Monster

monsters-inc-25306We are in danger of creating a monster!  How is that you ask? By abandoning the truth of scripture and  “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (Mk. 7:7).  It seems Pastors are teaching what ever suits them using religious language to help people be successful, happy and reach their dreams and potential.  In American Christianity today there is no doubt that an ugly caricature is growing at an alarming rate.  We are seeing  “worship centers” (I will not call them churches) who want to build the size of their numbers by man-centered sociological, psychological rules rather than by the written Word of God. Then there are the media versions of Christianity that are like infomercials for blessings such as, weight loss, marriage,  healing and deliverance.

Since we never would desire to create a monster, we must have every good intention to create something good. That may be the intention of ministers and their staff members today. But no matter. Monsters are a creation of the imagination run amuck. Like the fictional Dr. Victor Frankenstein, Ecclesiastical Scientists (I will not call them Preachers)  focus on playing God by creating life from dead flesh.  They are attempting to either imitate or replace the work of the Spirit by man-centered principles that are “born of the flesh or products of the sinful nature of men.  They want to create people in a religious mould. The One True God asks,  “Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” (Gal 3:3).  The church growth movement is an religious experiment like no other in today’s form of humanistic Christianity. Rather than relying on the tried and tested testimonies of the scripture they test and try marketing techniques on people in churches. They are salesman selling soul dope and religious paraphernalia. It has ended up creating a religious monster, destructive, worldly and odious.

Only the power of the Holy Spirit can regenerate, only Christ can save and we are but men who should put our entire being into knowing Christ! Oh that America would repent of this great evil-that we have forsaken the Lord and turning churches into fleshly creations of idolatorus imaginations! Oh preachers are much too civilized, born and bred themselves in a religious matrix, and they are unwilling to face the truth and offer people the blue pill that keeps them slaves fed with religious misinformation that blinds them to the shining face of the Son of God (2 Cor 4:4).  They are the most diabolical agents of Satan, shimmering angels of light ( 2 Cor. 11:13-14). I think preachers need not only to offer the red pill but say like  Morpheus, “Remember, all I’m offering is the truth. Nothing more.” 

But is the truth enough for the man behind the pulpit today? The Gospel is a hard pill to swallow, scripture is dangerous to his projects and activities. American church goers  love the fleshpots of Egypt and are losing their freedom (Gal 5:1). They are forfeiting it for a false sense of security and a knock off God made in their own image. They are moral, weight watching, non smokers, non drinkers, heterosexual pro-life Republicans and so people see them as Christian. This is not enough to help those who are dead and lifeless in sin. You may find as you stand before God you worshipped in vain and all you learned was wrong.

Oh minister friend let your plans come to a screeching halt in the presence of a holy God. Let all your fleshly ideas unravel and your comeliness, vigor and strength become pale in the presence of the radiant light of God’s presence (Dan. 10:8)! Stop this foolishness and let the Lord Jesus of the Bible reign in your minds and hearts! The French theologian John Calvin stated, “Man’s mind is like a store of idolatry and superstition; so much so that if a man believes his own mind it is certain that he will forsake God and forge some idol in his own brain.”  The greatest idolatry is found right in the human heart-that is why all our notions, dreams, visions and goals must without another thought surrender to the Bible and it teaching about God and serving him.

People are lawbreakers in God’s sight and are hell bound souls-preaching the cross of Christ and the gospel serves as a warning to them. Left to themselves they will go to hell with ease. Like C.S. Lewis said, “The safest road to hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”  The man of God will warn them with no self interest. The man who shivers and breathes heavy even to correct his congregation is a gutless, spineless jellyfish. The greatest tragedy among pastors is when they step up to the pulpit with a message geared to “meet the needs of the people” rather than a message that is worship to the God who actually only can meet the needs of the people. Many pastors today are big schmoozers skilled at politics rather than “men sent from God” from the burning deserts where they have learned to hear the voice of God in the scriptures alone.

They reject the classical Christian Creeds and Confessions saying that they are inventions of man and tout, “I don’t have religion but a relationship with God!” or “We only need the Bible!”  But reject the systematic teaching set forth in scripture by the Reformers and hammered out by men of God in history. They constantly bend, I mean change the rules by introducing something they learned at the new Meccas of Saddleback or Willow Creek.  On the other hand, some will try even more extremes that range from a Toronto Blessing or Lakeland Revival.

Have they forfeited their relationship with Christ to be a servant of men? Paul’s idea of spiritual growth was “that I may know him” and his idea of ministry was to “make known Christ” was yet how often have we preached on the attributes of God that conveniently leaves out his Sovereignty, wrath, holiness, justice?! The grace, mercy and love preachers speak of today is not the same as scriptures testimony of the Lord but they have reinvented a more palatable version of Christ, the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit in the name of being in sync culturally.

Theology needs to have a prayer meeting and knee-ology needs to go to school. Forgetting the call has weakened the gospel ministry into religious science and clinically tested churchianity. It is turning people out in the church who are confused in their relationship with God.  That is the heart of the problem with religion and that is why the Reformation began in Europe because people ended up religious slaves! God heard their groanings and cries and sent men like Moses the man of God in the humble Reformers.

Many pastors purvey a  flimsy, spiritual sentimentality that calls for spiritual disarmament and focus on the pop-culture spin doctor theology. They are creating a monster.  The diseased infectious church growth movement is the bogus invention of spiritual mad scientists who for lack of courage to preach the Bible as it is and have embraced motivation psychology above the Word attempting to get the evil world system and the church in a strong relationship on some spiritual E-harmony commercial saying, “We love you” and can match you on 29 points of compatability!  It is a false advertisement when in fact they cannot love someone they are lying to.

Martin Luther in his commentary of Galatians said: “To this day you will find many who seek to please men in order that they may live in peace and security. They teach whatever is agreeable to men, no matter whether it is contrary to God’s Word or their own conscience. But we who endeavor to please God and not men, stir up hell itself. We must suffer reproach, slanders, death…The world is crucified unto me,” means that I condemn the world. “I am crucified unto the world,” means that the world in turn condemns me. I detest the doctrine, the self-righteousness, and the works of the world. The world in turn detests my doctrine and condemns me as a revolutionary heretic. Thus the world is crucified unto us and we unto the world.”

It is time for the men who stand in the pulpit to know that God’s judgment will fall like rain upon them removing them from their positions unless they repent! The Lord is passionate for his justice and his glory in his church,“For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth.” (Isaiah 62:1) and he gladlywill  replace the ecclesiastical scientists with men who preach the truth, “I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night: ye that make mention of the LORD, keep not silence, “And give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth.” (Isa. 62:6-7).

How many leaders will end up like Victor Frankenstein that as soon as his monster came to life he said, “the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart.”

 Tell them the truth-don’t create a monster!

DID GOD KILL ADAM?

expulsion1Hamartiology is a theological term that refers to  the study of sin.  Yes, I said the word sin and the word theology. This article will be heavy theology to some by wade through the waters if you can. I am just a student attempting to learn more about our Lord. 

Sin means to miss the mark of God’s standard and perfection. I know it is an unfamiliar word in some circles but it is the most dangerous influence in the universe. The truth about sin is an acquired taste and it is definitely unpalatable to this generation and in times past. Sin is breaking God’s law (1 John 3:4). The Bible calls it the plague of the heart (1 Kings 8:38). People do not, cannot and will not become conformed to the will of God because they are deformed in their nature because of sin. Sin is not just a habit or an illness it is the punishment that  has brought spiritual death. We need to study about the radical depravity of humans because unless we know about the  nature, origin and consequences of sin we can never genuinely worship God for his mighty power to save and free us from its penalty, power and presence. 

The book of Genesis records that God created our planet in six 24 hour periods or days (Gen. 1-2). God created human beings in his image and breathed life into them (Gen. 1:26; 2:27).  Adam was a man who had a body which served as an earthly exterior and he was given “the breath of  lives” and given a spirit and soul or heavenly insides. God made a garden paradise for them to live in (Gen 2:8).

Grace or Work in The Garden

Certain theologians insist that adhering to the belief that God and Adam had a covenant of works-based on the obedience of Adam to God’s command as a test of whether you really have pure doctrine.  But John Murray says,

“Towards the end of the 16th century the administration dispensed to Adam in Eden, focused in the prohibition to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, had come to be interpreted as a covenant, frequently called the Covenant of Works, sometimes a covenant of life, or the Legal Covenant. It is, however, significant that the early covenant theologians did not construe this Adamic administration as a covenant, far less as a covenant of works. Reformed creeds of the 16th century such as the French Confession (1559), the Scottish Confession (1560), the Belgic Confession (1561), the Thirty-Nine Articles (1562), the Heidelberg Catechism (1563), and the Second Helvetic (1566) do not exhibit any such construction of the Edenic institution. After the pattern of the theological thought prevailing at the time of their preparation, the term ‘covenant,’ insofar as it pertained to God’s relations with men, was interpreted as designating the relation constituted by redemptive provisions and as belonging, therefore, to the sphere of saving grace.”  (John Murray, Collected Writings of John Murray: 4, Studies in Theology, “Covenant Theology,” (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1982), pp. 217-18).

But there is too much evidence of  grace and mercy in the Garden of Eden  as God condescended to the first couple.  Adam was not left to himself without help and and just because his decisions or his will were unfettered from evil desires does not mean he did not need God’s life and communion. He was made to fellowship with God.  Because Adam fell was he more dependant on God for mercy?  I do not think so. Adam needed God’s presence and life just in his glorious state of perfection as well.  God was the Creator and He was still the created. Eventually, we see the root of his sinful pride was that he did not want to depend on God alone. But Adam, holy and innocent as he was stood out as a specimen of the Sovereign grace of God. His wife was a gift by grace. His home, work and title were all gifts of grace.  He owed his very existence to God’s grace!   The biggest problem with the Covenant of Works is that it misconstrues God’s dealings with Adam. Does God legally deal with Adam on the basis of his works and obedience and then make another covenant of grace later that deals with us in mercy apart from our actions?   What did Adam fall from anyway? It was an awful apostasy and breakdown from the life, love and communion he had with God.  He fell from grace!

Wanted: Adam Dead or Alive

Adam was  promised life for obedience and threatened death for disobedience.  He has to obey God or he could not enjoy fellowship with God. As many preachers point out that he was free to eat from every tree except that one. The emphasis was on God’s grace and Adam’s status. Adam was a representative or federal head of all human beings (Rom. 5:12-19; 1 Cor. 15:22, 47).  There is a biblical implication that God made a covenant with Adam but it was because of grace and steadfast love (Hosea 6:6-7). Then our first parents disobeyed God (Gen 3).  When he disobeyed things changed. When Adam sinned he died spiritually (Ezek. 18:20; Eph. 2:5) and He became a slave to sin (Romans 6:16; 2 Peter 2:19) and the sin he sinned and the death he died was transmitted to all of humanity (Rom. 5:12). Simply put, total depravity means human beings are dead in sin and sold out to its power. Death and total depravity are synonymous.

The idea of God giving Adam the death penalty for his crime had somehow slipped our minds.  But it is clear as day. God’s justice and mercy are woven through the tapestry of scripture. God sentenced Adam to slavery to sin and spiritual death. Was God unrighteous to enforce this penalty as Creator and Lawgiver? His perfection, holiness and justice are limitless! He hates sin. All sin is against God (Psalm 51: 4).  This must never be forgotten. Adam countered God’s goodness, kindness and glory with violating his law! Adam was made for God’s glory and to serve him and Adam betrayed the God of heaven with what R.C. Sproul refers to as “cosmic treason.” Adam deliberately rebelled against God and defected to serve Satan and his lies. That is why God inflicted capital punishment upon him and sentenced him to death, “in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die!” (Gen 2:17).  God takes vengeance upon Adam and repays him to the face for his deed with spiritual and eventually physical death and also slavery to the sin Adam loved so much (Deut 7:10; Rom 12:19).

Arthur Pink comments that man, “is like a murderer in the condemned cell awaiting execution…he is dead vitally, without a single spark of spiritual life. Thus he is totally dead to God and holiness, cast out of His favor, without any power to recover it.”  That is total depravity in a nutshell. Adam was put to death by God.  He was executed for his crime. The day he ate he died inside and he sat on death row until he died physically. The payback of sin is death (Romans 6:23).  Human beings are so entrenched in sin they cannot produce anything that is equal to God’s standard for heaven.  The heart and will are dead. This does not mean he cannot feel guilt or is unable to discern right and wrong. This does not mean they cannot make day to day decisions or feel affection for others. What this means is that men are incapable of loving God in and of themselves and in their mind hate the truth of God are defiant against it. In everything humans do is tainted with sin. This truth should humble us.

A Love-Hate Relationship

God was angry at Adam for what he did.  American Christianity will avoid talking about God’s wrath or deny God has anger at all.  They think  it portrays God having some fault or blemish in his character. But he detests, loathes and has an aversion to evil and hates sin. God does not separate that anger toward those who live in sin either. People will say that God’s wrath was an Old Covenant issue, not in the New Covenant. Ridiculous! Right now God’s wrath is revealed from heaven (Rom. 1:18).  There is a day of wrath coming (Mt 3:7; Luke 3:7; Rom 2:5). For people who do not believe in Christ God’s wrath is upon them (John 3:36), they are ominously called “the children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3).

God does love righteousness and hate iniquity (Ps. 45:7; Heb. 1: 9). Let us be clear: God’s hatred for sin and the God’s passion for justice  are divinely foreign and transcend human emotions and affections. He does not love as we love, he does not hate as we hate-He is perfect love and perfect holiness! Many people point out that God is love (1 John 4:8) but He is not all loving and all forgiving. He also is holy and just. There are scriptures that teach God hates the unrepentant reprobate (Hosea 9:15; Ps. 5:5; 11:5; Lev. 20:23; Prov. 6:16-19; Mal. 1:3; Rom. 9:13)!  Does this shock you? How could this be? I know it is a lot to think about. We have always been taught that God does not hate anyone.   The Bible teaches this in contradiction to much preaching today. This is the most difficult truth for anyone to swallow because the majority of people especially church goers under spin doctor preaching or pop theology want unconditional acceptance from God no matter what they do. God giving people over to their desires such as Romans 1:18-32 is another truth that sours in their spiritual stomachs.

They also think in humanistic terms because what they do is not as bad as others. Notice the comparison they use, “not as bad as others.”  We hate (tolerantly, politely and sometimes angrily) those who commit awful crimes. The molester, child abuser or murderer are an object of hostility, abhorrence and revulsion. Whereas we know we should not take the law in our hands but when justice is served upon awful criminals, molesters, murderers-we loathe them and want to see justice served.  Those who we appoint to represent us and to deal with crime, are called God’s servants,  “an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” (Rom 13: 4). But God’s wrath is free from anything tainted by sin and what are the sinful actions of we human beings contrasted with the thrice Holy God of the universe? Where angels since eternity involuntarily past spill out and never grow weary of crying out, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty!” (Rev. 4:8).  What sin ticks God off? All sin  whether in thought, word or deed (James 2:10). Even taking a piece of fruit in the Garden angered him, because He commanded Adam not to do it.

Christ is the Only Hope For Sinners

In Genesis chapter three Adam and Eve were unable to clothe themselves, hide themselves, excuse themselves and unable to save themselves. The flimsy leaves of their self righteousness could not clear them of their deeds (Isaih 64:6). I believe that God acted in mercy toward the elect first parents by slaying the animal and clothing them with animal skins. Sin had to be punished and at the same time he wanted to save his creation! But how could he justify the ungodly without violating his own laws (Prov 17:15)? Only Jesus, the eternal Son of God was the only One who could save them.  His sacrifice was the only act that could save us. For Adam and Eve, Abel and others those who saw the shadow of the cross across their path were saved retroactively (Heb. 10:1).

Christ removes spiritual death and the last enemy to be destroyed has already been dealt a death blow (1 Cor 15:26).  The God-man was the perfect once-for-all sacrifice (Heb 10:10). King Jesus, the Lord of glory (1 Cor. 2:8) left his throne above to come and die in the place of sinful men, to satisfy a God who was offended at the despicable acts of man. This was a type of what the predicted “seed of the woman” would do (Gen 3:15). He would be sacrificed to appease the anger of  God. That is the meaning of the word propitiation and atonement. Only in Christ can we be saved from God’s wrath (Rom. 5:9; 1 Thess. 1:10). 

Jesus Christ came into this world for lawbreakers and sinners (1 Tim. 1:15) and they can only be saved by the power of the Spirit of God drawing them to foot of Calvary’s cross (John 6:44).  Jesus died saying, “Father forgive them!” (Luke 23:34) in making covenant in his blood (Heb 13:20). he not only made the covenant but he  was the Covenant (Isaiah 42:6)  and he sealed these people as he died for them to give them eternal life (Eph4:30).  Jesus could look at  the people given to him by the Father and say, “because I live ye shall live also.” (John 14:19).  The last Adam was a life giving spirit (1 Cor 15:45) who came and resurrected the lost souls of his elect people by his own resurrection.  He is the first of the harvest of the resurrection (1 Cor 15:23). Jesus will resurrect human beings from their graves notonly physically (John 5:28) but he gives new birth to those whom he breathes on and speaks life to (John 3:5; 20:22; Eph 2:1, 5). He will give life, eternal life to believers, those ordained to eternal life (Acts 13:48).  He sees people in their dead condition and he says, “Come forth!” (Luke 11:43). 

Notice what Jesus says, “For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.” (John 16:27). “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” (Eph 5:25).  Jesus loves us, he comes as God’s answer not ours. He died in love for his church, “having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.” (John 13:1). He stooped down to wash their sins away and to remove the reason for God’s wrath against them!  He loves the justified sinner (John 14:21). The blood of Jesus Christ washed their sins away (Rev. 1:5). He lavishly, abundantly poured out the riches of his grace and forgiveness “in love” upon his own, those he has saved (Eph 1:4-7). We are rooted and grounded in that love (Eph3:17) and Christ is the sole hope of salvation.

Must God Kill Us?

Some of you bristle still at the fact that God executed Adam for his crimes and sentenced him to return to the dust. But there is a death we all must die that is not physical. It is through the conviction of the Holy Spirit that the Word of God must kill us (John 16:8; Heb 4:12).  God says to Israel, “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). Real biblical preaching  puts to death the pride of humans and exalts God! That is where surrender to God comes in the form of repentance. Why?  Repentance is the death to self that we all must die so that we come alive in Christ clothed in his righteousness not the tattered rags of our self righteousness. We must take up our cross and follow Christ.  Adam’s flimsy leaves, and taking cover behind the tree of his sins could not cover his sin.  Like him we cannot hide. All the church of today offers with its self improvement, motivational psycho-gospel  leaves us red faced and ashamed in the presence of the God whose piercing gaze cannot be bribed with the good works of man.  Humans must take on the robe of Christ and hide behind or in the rugged wood of the cross of Christ! 

Let me finish with the words of Charles Spurgeon:

“This downcasting and slaying is good for us. We take a deal of killing, and it is by being killed that we live. Many a man will never live till his proud self is slain. O proud Pharisee, if you are to live among those whom God accepts, you will have to come to the slaughterhouse and be cut in pieces as well as killed. “This is dreadful work,” saith one, “this dividing of joints and marrow, this spiritual dismemberment and destruction.” Assuredly it is painful, and yet it were a grievous loss to be denied it.  Alas, how many are so good and excellent, and strong and wise, and clever, and all that, that they cannot agree to be saved by grace through faith. If they could be reduced to less than nothing it would be the finest thing that ever happened to them. Remember what Solomon said might be done with the fool, and yet it would not answer–he was to be brayed in a mortar among wheat with a pestle,-pretty hard dealing that, and yet his folly would not depart from him. Not by that process alone, but through some such method, the Holy Spirit brings men away from their folly. Under his killing operations this may be their comfort that, if Jesus Christ rose literally from the dead (not from sickness, but from death), and lives again, even so will his people. “

Reformation Now!

martin20lutherHappy Reformation Day! is not the usual greeting you expect on October 31st. But it is this day in history over 490 years ago that began a spark that turned into a blaze when Dr. Martin Luther challenged the existing form of Christianity with the Holy Scriptures. Sadly, the real meaning of this day in history has been ignored or forgotten by the evangelical church with its harvest festivals to substitute for the secular celebration of Halloween. In a day when the study of church history is either revised or ignored we are tempted to relegate the chronicles of the Christian church and things like the Protestant Reformation to the place of insignificance. 

 

In the days of the Holy Roman Empire, the church was living in a Babylonian Captivity or under a religious slavery for over a thousand years! The people of God could not even read the Bible or pray in their native tongue in those days. The scriptures, written in Latin, were chained to an altar for a thousand years and prayers prayed directly to God by ordinary people were forbidden. People were told that absolute unquestioning obedience was the only way to be saved from hell. People could not partake of the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper. People lived in fear of a vengeful God and forgot the mercies and love of God.

 

But God heard the cries of his people groaning under this tyranny and began to light the torch of the Protestant Reformation. Through men like John Wycliffe, John Huss and William Tyndale who set the foundation for this movement, Martin Luther arose.

 

Through a simple, innocuous act on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed a proposal on the doors of a church in Wittenberg, Germany to debate the erroneous doctrine and practice of indulgences or paying for the forgiveness of God as a tax to release people from a mythological place called purgatory a place where sinners went after they died to pay for their sins and be purified by a “temporary” punishment that could last from hundreds to thousands to millions of years!

 

People were taught that gazing at relics would shorten their time in purgatory like purchasing an indulgence or a payment for pardon for sin. A relic was some body part or clothes of a dead saint. A saint was a person who seen as having a superior holiness and virtue above other people in the eyes of the Roman Church. People were taught that the viewing of these relics promised to reduce their time in purgatory just like paying for an indulgence. This entire tradition that existed for hundreds of years, was based on the false doctrine of a metaphysical “treasure chest of the church,” which supposedly contained the merits of Christ and the extra spiritual credit of the super-saints. They were like leftovers of good works that these super saints did not need for their own salvation. The Roman church taught that this surplus could be used vicariously or used on the behalf of others. The Pope was entrusted with this surplus and could draw on it as if it were a bank account for the use of others.

 

The Pope at that time, Leo X, used this tradition for to raise funds for St. Peters Basilica and to fill the empty bank accounts of Rome. He appointed a Dominican monk name Johann Tetzel a fast talking religious salesman, who went through the cities and villages of Germany to promote the sale of indulgences. This monk produced live infomercials that manipulated people to buy indulgences to get forgiveness of personal sin and amnesty for a loved one or a relative who had died and whose soul was in suffering in the flames of purgatory. It was a fast growing Christian marketing technique that some people bought hook, line and sinker. Others were disgusted by it. It was confusing and was a major turn off to Germans and a blatant double-cross of true Christian faith and teaching! Pope Leo X approved as long as money kept rolling in.

 

Thus Dr. Luther was strategic in his choice to nail his 95 theses to the Castle Church doors. Since the Castle Church faced the city of Wittenberg’s Main Street, the church door operated as a public bulletin board and was the best place for posting important notices. It was All Saints Eve and indulgences and relics were particularly sanctioned. This one document exposed the rats hiding in the Church of Rome’s basement! Martin Luther’s life had been completely changed by the discovery that the scripture taught that being made right with God by grace alone, through faith alone and by Christ alone. He began to scrutinize other practices of the Roman church in light of scripture at that time and the more he investigated the practices of the church he saw this religious business as a symptom of an ever-growing deformation of the Church. We could say more but time does not permit. But let me ask you a few questions.

 

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO INTRODUCE A NEW REFORMATION INTO THE CHURCH? Do you even think American Christianity needs to reform? This church needs an overhaul and restructuring! By this I do not mean peripheral issues of church government, styles of worship or denominational distinctiveness. But we should break down the idols of the new church growth movement and focus in on growing the people we pastor. What we need are men and women who are attentive to the illumination of the Holy Spirit upon Holy Scripture. God is calling us to respond to the words of Christ who said, “I will build my church!” (Mt. 16:18). Christ will build his church and he word of Christ should dwell in you richly (Col. 3:16). You must let God’s Word shape the church you have been called to pastor. God created the world by his Word (John 1:1) and he can build his church with it! You must read, preach and pray the scripture and let it by itself interpret itself and it will change lives. It should hurt you to see the preaching of the gospel substituted with motivational humanistic messages. Media and religious entertainment have replaced the spiritual gifts. The church is spiritually sick. People are wounded, hurt, and guilty and slaves to destructive, overwhelming sins. The church today focuses on behavior modification, psychology, marriage seminars, step programs, principles and keys for success instead of having the heart changed through an encounter with the one who turns the heart of stone into a soft heart! Where are those shepherds willing to pour in the stinging wine of truth and correction where there is disease? Where are the men and women who comfort not with false hope but with the application of the balm of mercy and forgiveness to heal them after their repentance?

 

THE CHURCH MUST BE VERY DIFFERENT IN ORDER TO REACH THE WORLD. Consider what God sees in the world and says that, “I am exceedingly angry with the nations at ease.” (Zech 1:15MKJV). The people in your community are not terrified at their coming day in court for eternal sentencing in hell. They are rushing headlong into it! He is grieved with what is happening in the world. Today is much like the days of Noah, human wickedness is becoming more and more unrestrained and the earth has become a cesspool of sin. We live in the last days! Seven years have passed since 9-11 and even then after the short lived flood of souls into our buildings, it showed us that the church is not ready to bring the masses of hurting souls to Christ! Mobsters and madman control entire countries. Terrorists unafraid of killing others and themselves are brainwashed in thinking their eternity is secure if they will annihilate themselves for their religion. The global economic collapse around us is a wakeup call to the corruption that is rampant in the government and corporate America and smacks of a certain inclination to having the man of sin ushered into power. Christianity has become an object of scorn by those who do not know the Lord and we have lost our credibility. Oh that the church would return to the Lord their God with fasting and weeping in his presence! You must lead and be an example in that repentance.

 

LET GOD OPEN YOUR EYES TO THE WAY THINGS REALLY ARE. Like King Josiah who rediscovered the scriptures you may be shocked at what you see (2 Chr. 34:14-21)! How things change when the word of God is really understood! In certain periods of history the church’s beauty has gone to its head and made her vain and apathetic. But the people of God who think they are rich can be miserable, poor, blind and naked (Rev 3:17-18). Many churches and preachers are backslidden. The religious and societal pluralism and multiculturalism of our day has made the people of God in danger of unknowingly exchanging their God for other gods and ensnaring them in the trap of Satan. All the compromise with the world has left the church of America powerless and we sit outside begging for the blessings of God like Lazarus did for the crumbs of the rich man (Luke 16:21). Christianity has become an object of scorn by those who do not know the Lord. Hypocrisy is the worst enemy of the church, not atheism or liberalism. The children’s bread has been given over to the dogs, the pigs trample the pearls of biblical spiritual truth and we have forgotten the blueprints that scripture gives us for a simple pure love for Jesus Christ. Instead of being beside themselves for Christ, consumed by a love that breaks their heart for the lost people in the world (2 Cor. 5:11) people in church are selfish and cold. The people of God are living dangerously close to the world in these last days! No matter your beliefs about prophecy we are not to take this lying down. Can you handle the truth about yourself and the church? It is a special grace to love the truth! That is why,

 

YOU MUST BE WILLING TO REPENT OF PRAYERLESSNESS AND NEGLECT OF SCRIPTURE. This is the pastor’s greatest sin and a gravest error! A preacher must be a man of prayer. Do people see you as someone they would call for prayer? There are not many preachers that we would call for prayer but we know some mothers among us we would call first. Satan would rather you do anything other than pray. He will begin to see if can distract you by urgent issues and will even viciously oppose you and try to stop you by guilt, fear, loneliness, accusation and anxiety. The scripture is our food and sustenance and if we do not feast upon it we cannot feed others. We cannot give a drink of living water to anyone if we have not tasted of the powers of the age to come on a regular basis. You have not had a call on your life since you were born to throw it all away because you are unwilling to spend time with God in solitude and secret prayer. You will become cold, dull and lifeless and Satan will lull you into a stupor and a conceit where you won’t even know you are dead. Nothing can satisfy us like being in the presence of the God who loves you. We were set aside that we might be with him (Mk. 3:14). Without Christ we can do nothing (John 15:5), but it is not what we have done that Christ looks for but if we knew him (Mt. 7: 21-23). Our greatest asset in the kingdom is that we know him (Jer. 9: 23-24). A person who knows the Lord is a vessel meet for the Master’s use. No matter how animated and skilled in speaking you are it does not matter. That is not the anointing only man fueled talent. On the other hand, your messages are not dull and ineffective because of your personality, but because they are not delivered with a burning heart ignited by the Spirit of God. Where have all the men of God gone? The Bible says, “There was a man sent from God whose name was John.” (John 1:6). To be a man or woman of God you must come from his presence in prayer to be sent out to the world. When we pray with all our hearts we will find him (Jer. 29:13) that is how,

 

WE LET GOD REMOVE ALL OF OUR MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT HIM. God says, “My people are fools; they do not know me. They are senseless children; they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil; they know not how to do good.” (Jer. 4:22NIV). We cannot be valiant for the truth if we do not know the Lord ourselves (Jer. 9:3). This can only happen as we pursue to know the Lord intimately, personally and let him remove all our mistaken beliefs about him by the study of scripture and learning about our relationship to Christ (Hosea 6:3)! What we understand about God will impact our personal lives and the relationships around us. Job said, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5-6). Men and women of God how we need to know the Lord! Dr. Luther had many issues but despite all his faults and sins he was the vessel God chose to use in his day! An unknown monk, the product of the religion of his day who shuts out all other counsel and turned to the Holy Scriptures for guidance about his guilt ridden soul, his misconceptions about God and found out that a merciful loving Christ was a man forsaken by God and crucified to make us right with God. We must do the same and that revelation will shake us to the core (Psalm 1:1-3). God tells us,

 

YOU ARE A SERVANT OF CHRIST AND MUST PREACH THE ENTIRE SCRIPTURE IN ORDER TO PLEASE GOD. You cannot pick and choose what you think will help people, or what you think will meet their needs. A man pleaser cannot be a servant of Christ (John 12: 43; Gal 1:10). You are first and foremost a messenger that gives what God says, not what you say. God can replace the preacher who refuses to preach his Word with someone who can do it much better. There is a homeless man drunk sleeping on a park bench somewhere that God can save and fill with his Spirit that can preach better than you. God speaks through his Word and Jesus Christ, the Lord of the church, is very interested in what is being taught in your church (Rev 2:14-15). We have been wrung out of truth by the tightening grip of men who refuse to preach the Word of God, the Bible (Rom 1:18), and let it loose to do its work despite the consequences. They are disappointing clouds that have no rain and that cannot quench spiritual thirst! These rebels are wandering planets who cannot be trusted for direction because they do not proclaim hearty, wholesome biblical truth. They have a look of godliness that denies the power of the Word and the power of the spiritual gifts (2 Tim 3:5)! No wonder the Bible says, “And the prophets shall become wind, and the word is not in them.” (Jer. 5:13).  They seek to meet the felt needs of people but sell those souls religious products and principles rather than giving them Christ-God’s unspeakable gift! God says their need is the preached Word and the presence of the Holy Spirit at work among them! It is only the spoken Word and the Holy Spirit that can slay the spirit of antichrist that has run amuck in the United States with the sword of his mouth and the brightness of his coming among the people of God. How we need men like the prophet Elijah in the scripture who had a voice like a thunderclap and a heart like a raging inferno!

 

YOU MUST DETERMINE TO BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS. What if men and women of God, pastors, and churches, decided this Sunday that enough is enough? The Bible is not just a sermon book but a book that is living a powerful to reveal the God who saves, heals and fills people with the Spirit of God (Heb. 4:12)! What if right now you developed a courage that is completely fueled by heaven? A courage that despite all your fears of what your people in your church or community will do or say or act that you will determine to preach what God gives you through your intense prayer and study of scripture every time you stand behind the pulpit. This decision you are about to consider has danger. It may cost you. Courage is not the absence of fear but right action in spite of fear. It is at times these that God has a man or woman to speak the heart of God to the Church and bring them back to him. You must determine to be that person. The religious spin doctors, powerful leaders in the community, even some positioned in your church are far more agile and powerful than you and they will oppose you. God will be with you, do not be discouraged and depressed or fearful (Josh 1:9). The Spirit of God will give you a mouth, or ability to speak and wisdom that your enemies will not be able to withstand or contradict (Luke 21:15).

 

YOU MUST RECOGNIZE THE CLEAR TRUTH THAT THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST IS WHAT SETS THE CHURCH APART FROM THE WORLD! The place of religious amusement and pretending end with this truth: Christ among us and in us and as us. The church is the body of “Christ members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.”  (Eph 4:30). Should we not begin to ask, “Saw ye him whom my soul loves…My beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone: my soul failed when he spake: I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer.” (Song 3:3; 5:6). Without the scripture being the center of our lives and preaching how can we say he is among us? Jesus among his people is the real acid test of the Christian faith. For he says, “there am I in the midst of them!” (Mt. 18:20). Is it unreasonable theology to believe that Christ walks among his churches (Rev. 2:1)? There is a unique, biblical experience other than omnipresence (Acts 17:28) that Christ actually manifests himself in the life of obedient Christian individuals and church gatherings (John 14:21-23). Where is the preaching that talks about Christ as the scripture portrays him? Where are those who preach about Jesus Christ and who he is? Where is the message that Jesus saves and Jesus heals and Jesus fills with the Holy Ghost! The beauty of Jesus among his people is our main message! The old chorus we used to sing was, “Jesus in the morning, Jesus in the noontime, Jesus when the sun goes down!” That was the secret of the apostles-it was a full diet of Jesus! We are poverty stricken without Christ’s abiding presence. It is time to seek the Lord! It is time to stop the wheels of religious machinery from turning and fill the altar of our churches with weeping! We must pray that God cleanses our hearts from sin, prayerlessness and disregard of his Word! The hammer of Martin Luther that tapped so long ago the Wittenberg Church is now drowned out by a louder knock of Him who seeks entrance to this lukewarm, tepid, church in America! How long will we leave him outside covered with the dew of the night as we live sterile lives, focused on self and success rather than on those who need the message of the scripture! We need a Reformation Day of our own.

 

God Bless you as you go to prayer and the Word to seek him!