SATAN’S ISLAND IS IN DANGER

jonah_24“Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown…These are the words of the One who has the sharp, double-edged sword. I know where you live, where the throne of Satan sits.” (Jonah 3:4; Rev. 2: 12-13)

YES I SAID IT. I called Staten Island, Satan’s Island. Now before you think I am just using a pejorative to describe a place known for having the world’s largest garbage dump, bear with me. Now I am not pretending to prophesy anything but this is more a general observation that no person, no place is safe without Christ. I am sure this message could be easily applied to other places. What I don’t want anyone to think is that some disgruntled person is bitterly spouting off in a blog. But calling some place Satan’s Island or a reference to a place being where Satan’s seat (as offensive as it is to your delicate ears) is not unprecedented. Hey, New Jersey is no better. Christ himself in the book of Revelation (Rev 2-3) also used the term Jezebel and Balaam in reference to the other churches or the people in them. Just like ancient Pergamum Christ points the sharp two edged sword at the churches and its pastors with a scathing reprimand-I know where you live is where Satan lives. Their compromise with the world has caused an unholy alliance and cease fire between them and Satan because when a preacher or church deviate from the scriptures they side with Satan. 

I see Staten Island as “Nineveh” most days because like Jonah. I don’t want to go there. I am just being honest. Jonah did not want to go to Assyria for many personal reasons. Staten Island is like my Ninevah, the only difference being I have more of a love hate relationship with it.  Although there are people I love there, and know there are good brethren, Staten Island is a place full of “know it all” rebels trying to pretend to be sophisticated using scripture and religious excuses to rationalize their spiritual ugliness and stupidity.

What is worse and frustrating is that churches are blind to the peril of compromise and sinners to the approaching eternal storm that no one can escape from without Christ.  

Staten Island IS in danger. Do you care? People are lost and churches are backslidden. Do you see it?  You say, “Not my church or Pastor! I say, “Yes, YOURS! You spiritual cheerleaders will not escape God’s rebuke for your “half gospel” church and pastor.

“For the time for judgment has come, and it is beginning with the household of God. If it is starting with us, what will happen to those who have rejected God’s good news? It is written in Proverbs, ‘If it is hard for the righteous ones to be saved, what will happen to the ungodly and the sinners? (1 Peter 4:17-18 Voice).

Notice that? God deals with the church first before the unbelievers! There are what we call temporal judgments on cities, nations and even continents ever since Christ died and they still happen despite the prevalent pseudo-grace theology. But what does the Apostle Peter warn us about? 

The severe trial which would determine character. It refers to such calamities as would settle the question whether there was any religion, or would test the value of that which was professed. ” (Barnes Notes)

The indictment I have against pastors on Staten Island is that they are supposed to be training their people to be ready to face not just the temptations of Satan but THE TESTS OF GOD! This article is a warning that God is coming in visitation to his church as he has done in history many times to test and try it. They are NOT ready.  An article like this as well, can test what is in your heart and your reaction will reveal much. 

I wonder why God would want me to address a people who don’t seem to care, or shun from having me preach in their pulpits. Why can’t God be like he was in Hosea’s day and just say, “Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone.” (Hosea 4:17). I am no prophet. I just am just a preacher the Word, a scripture man. But Staten Islander’s have allowed their souls to become such deserts they can’t even shed a tear over their spiritual condition. What a sloppy, fairly tale culture some Christians have developed as they chant in the dark with colored lights and unscriptural lyrics.

The misguided fundigelicals will praise the acidic politics of Donald Trump but Godhqdefault forbid if their pastor called them stupid, lazy and illegal aliens to the kingdom of God -that would not be entertaining at all for them. They would be insulted and outraged and would leave to fall in the arms of Pastor Lovemetenders church. This nonsense has gone on for years! They will have to stand before the Thrice Holy God one day and they will shiver in his presence and all their words and thoughts will exposed.  God help them. 

As I visit Staten Island I feel a great darkness. It is like walking over dry long bridge of dead body parts and bones everywhere. After yet another troubling dream recently, where the Island was about to be hit by some kind of wave that would destroy it I woke up with my heart racing, frustrated.  To be honest, I was thinking-enough is enough God. They don’t want me there and why should I have to say something to these churchians who go to a place where their Pastor coddles them right into eternal fire and they like it that way.

Yet, I feel sad, wondering the fate of the people of my hometown. Why do they refuse to listen. I am distressed about churches and pastors that I have cautioned face to face to abandon false doctrine, church growth sales tactics because they are Satan’s way of seducing the church away from the pure gospel. These Staten Island people are mutinous against their captain Christ and would rather float in the Bay with a religious flotation device rather than get on board and be committed to be obedient to the command of scripture and their commander, Christ.

I will never forget when I read that one night the great evangelist D.L. Moody asked his congregation to evaluate their relationships to Christ and return next week to make their decisions for Him. But that night the city fire bell began to ring. At first, no one thought much about it. But that crowd never regathered.  The Chicago fire destroyed that city.  Many of them died in their sins without Christ.  Moody was able to rescue and relocate his family but he was never the same. The fire forced him to reevaluate his ministry. 

After 9-11 and then Superstorm Sandy, one would think that most preachers and churches would have reevaluated their ministry to some degree. People died.  Worse, people went to hell. For a while we gave people, canned goods,  wet vacs, blankets and underwear but were people were too busy to consider Divine discipline. Would something like this storm change the spiritual atmosphere of the area. IT DID NOT! It became worse.  

Worship-lights-megachurch-facebookAh, I can see it, Staten Island has its so called Sunday expression, or worship celebration where people in worship centers sing in the dark, with a dance club atmosphere and loud religious pop music (the only thing missing is an open bar). Then a nerd trying to be cool guy gets up  to talk about God. Maybe some of these Staten Island preachers think they are preaching against sin because they speak about the acceptable evangelical hot topics of liberal politics, homosexuality and abortion but they cough and snort because they are allergic to topics such as, alcohol, listening to worldly music, immodest dress, fornication and adultery, going to R rated movies, and ugly tattoos that say John 3:16!  What about preaching about the rapture? They don’t believe that anymore. How about hell? Well, they have redefined it or excluded it not to hurt the feelings of their tithe payers. God’s wrath against sin? Nope. The Staten Island Church is in danger of losing their testimony and Christ threatens such people with removing their candlestick of gospel witness unless they repent. 

It is although they preach God loves everyone “as is” and act as if He never wrote a law against anything they do and everyone goes to heaven by default. 

Staten Islander, and wherever you live I have a question for you: “What if these things taking place today are a sign of God’s judgment?” They belittle or ridicule such a question coming from what they perceive to be legalistic old school thinking wondering, “How dare I ask that question!”  I can hear the protests of leaders on trying to appear theologically well bred, “Why this is the devil, or just the groans of creation or just a weather pattern!”  They are bluffing their people. They don’t know the signs of the times! Their silly, heartless, thoughtless preaching is a worse tragedy than any terrorist act or disaster.  They have lost their fire, their sense of urgency and market their vapid flavorless messages to souls who do not know any better. They do not preach in light of eternity and those that do are made to feel like they are fanatics or unbalanced.  

I realize the Northeast, especially Staten Island is one of the most difficult areas to be called to pastor a church. The evangelical churches on Staten Island are a hodge-podge of people who have been recycled from church to church and they either slow down the work or sometimes are just plain destructive. A growing number of the church people of Staten Island are becoming more fickle, critical, jaded and stupidly rebellious to their own harm. When they become dissatisfied with the Pastor they begin to attempt to discredit him. They refuse to do the will of God and stay put and these wandering stars should repent of this nasty habit. 

These punks scamper to another church cry about how bad it was in their last church and are received into membership in yet another church by some witless pastor desperate for tithes.  Oh I pray Jesus Christ does not say of them, “Disregard them! They are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” (Matt. 15:14).

I have news for all of you Staten Islander’s: God will not send revival to Staten Island no matter how many time you quote 2 Chronicles 7:14. The block parties, carnivals and movies won’t do it. It is amazing at the selected scriptures they use without the ones that they should be using the convicted scriptures they show them their error. Since they are so good at quoting scripture to fit their own needs-here is God’s evaluation of the whole matter: “Yet they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit. So he turned and became their enemy and he himself fought against them.”  (Isa 63:10). I can hear all the people say but we live in a time of grace and they starting singing their favorite mantra chorus, “I am a friend of God.” NOT IF YOU DISOBEY HIM!  “If you love me” Jesus said, “you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). You are no friend of Christ if you throw his words out like you have the old hymn books. 

The drug problem, poverty, crime is seen by many pastors as still a social problem. They are too sophisticated to call it a sin problem.  There are some ministers who are like the godfather’s of their area and raise their legs and mark their church people and real estate like feral beasts. They bicker and argue like a bunch of old women fighting over a bench. All the while storms gather and they leave their people unprepared and hell yawns with delight and gathers in the damned souls who are left without Christ.  I never seen Christians with more opportunity to reach the lost, yet they sell out to religious marketing and like Jezebel paint their face to attract its new comers or act like prophets-for-hire like Balaam. Oh repent now! Turn from your sins back to the God of the Christian scriptures. 

Staten Island is in danger. Oh backslidden people return to God! if you don’t Peter says, “For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.” (2 Peter 2:21). Who will seek to restore the reputation of God in the eyes of jonah-and-big-fishthe world? What about the unsaved? What about the lost? Oh dear God, multitudes descending into the fires of hell! Staten Island is like Death City! Satan is gaining ground wanting to bring souls to hell with him. The Island is like Nineveh unaware of the spiritual danger in which they are and Jonah has not yet been vomited out of the belly of some Staten Island Ferry to even walk the shores of Satan’s Island.

© 2015 Rev. Stephen S. Gibney

THE HEART WHISPERER

God tells the prophet Isaiah to speak comfortably or literally to speak tenderly to the heart of his people (Isaiah 40:2).  The heart is the priceless human soul (Mt 16:26) the source of our affection and appetites and it is the divine target of redemption. I was pondering the verse where King David says, “No man cared for my soul.” (Ps. 142:4). That is no feeble accusation of today’s church. Many times we have failed to do this. We talk to people’s felt needs and offer life enhancement principles but we have such difficulty addressing heart issues and their real needs concerning Christ, sin, repentance, forgiveness and spiritual birth. Perhaps we fear turning them off to church and God? Maybe we fear not being “loving” enough? We can give dangerous superficial comfort to people in the name of being sensitive to their needs.

Christ sees past all the surface issues and looks into the inner recesses of the heart. This does not refer to the Son of God using a soft voice when he speaks. It refers to those who realize that God’s still small voice through the scriptures carried by the Holy Spirit speaks life to the wounded human heart and lifeless spirit. While we are to be those who tenderly and affectionately speak his truth, let us not be confused about genuine comfort! The Holy Spirit is called the Comforter and yet he functions in his office to convince “the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment.” (John 16:8NLT).  If that is what the Holy Spirit does-why don’t we do the same in our message?

HEARING CHRIST ABOVE THE NOISE

Popular preachers along with the mega-church phenomenon engage in marketing, religious entertainment, mushy self-esteem psychology and motivational speaking. There is a developing concern that droves of people will end up filling these religious stadiums and campuses that have never been saved or born again. These preachers and churches run the risk of being what Job called, “miserable comforters” (Job 16:2) and when it comes to the soul they could easily be called, “physicians of no value.”  (Job 13:4). God alone knows the heart; he alone knows its condition and cure! They do not preach the heart of God in the scriptures and thus do not reach the heart of people! 

There are so many religious salesmen crying for our attention today producing torrents of spiritual confusion and biblical error.  They try to sell you whirlwinds in their books, earthquakes in their seminars, and fire in a bottle. But few offer the free gifts of the still small voice in the scriptures as sufficient! Christ the Heart Whisperer has bent low to bring people out of this “horrible pit” (Ps. 40:2) or a “pit of noise” and wants to “set their feet upon the rock” of Bible promises. Christ’s still small voice in the scriptures will be lifted up above this racket and that voice that they were deaf to will become like the roar of the ocean waves in the new heart and in the real church (Rev. 1:15).

FOOTSTEPS OF THE HEART

What is God’s assessment of the human heart?  “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9). That is what God says about the heart-GOD! The word deceitful in Hebrew is two adjectives which form the phrase “footprints on a path.”  With every heart beat there is a footstep, it shows the direction the sinner’s life is going. They are heart-prints. In the scene of a crime footprints would serve as crucial evidence to showing the presence of a person who perpetuated the crime. God even now is tracking the criminal footprints of people’s heart or heart-prints and he acts in wrath against them (Rom. 1:18)!  He says, “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). The death sentence is the wage-or what the sinner deserves (Ezek. 18:4). Sin is dangerous and results in infinite crimes and an infinite penalty against an infinite God. The apostle Paul said the sin in his heart, “deceived me, and…killed me.” (Rom. 7:11). Every person who is not saved is dead spiritually (Eph. 2:1-3). That is a great problem and need.

 

CHRIST EXPOSES THE HEART

The heart was not hidden from the eyes of the Son of God. Jesus said, “For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.” (Mk 7:20-23NLT). How can one preach self-esteem to those who should be ashamed that they have committed treasonous crimes against the crown of heaven? The only hope of the sinner is that his self-esteem is brought into the dust and he sees the glory of God. The Heart Whisperer exposes the real condition of the heart. 

THE HEARTPRINTS OF CHRIST

Christ whose heart full of love, made his way up to Calvary marking each step with heart footprints to pay for your sin and satisfy the anger of God against the sins of the heart. God only saw his footprints not mine, not yours. There his footprints were stained with blood as he bore our sins to the Cross. Now the evidence of our crimes and sins fell upon him! The justice of God tracked it all the way to Calvary.  Christ took my sin, gave me his righteousness and was judged on my behalf and I went away free. He who lighted the light of the sun and furnished the light of the night, he who made springs in dry lands, the Lord and of the heaven and earth, the sea and rivers, the sun moon and stars, the lofty mountains and the lowly valleys, the God of the heaven and in heaven and under heaven. Alas, we have seen the son of the living God stretched out on a cross. Alas, the body that possessed wisest dignity had been plunged into blood. A crown of thorns was placed about his beauteous head; the blood of Christ is flowing from his bleeding side; this cross is like the parting of the day from night!  The Heart Whisperer comforted me. He took the punishment I deserved. The Heart Whisperer spoke salvation into my heart of those who he calls and his heart-prints mark our lives forever.

TERMINAL HEART CONDITION

God’s says the heart is desperately wicked which refers to an incurable disease. The heart is injured by sin, it is bruised and broken. It has a life threatening illness. “This is what the Lord says: “Your injury is incurable, a terrible wound. There is no one to help you or to bind up your injury. No medicine can heal you.” (Jer. 30:12-13NLT). The Lord says again, “Why do you continue to invite punishment? Must you rebel forever? Your head is injured, and your heart is sick. You are battered from head to foot-covered with bruises, welts, and infected wounds-without any soothing ointments or bandages.” (Isa. 1:5-6NLT). It is not just life’s trauma, exploitation and abuse that broke your heart. It was already broken by sin when you were born (Ps. 51:5). The heart is helplessly sinful, it is broken beyond repair, it is wounded beyond relief, and it is beyond human treatment. Only Christ can heal the cancer of the heart! The Lord who sees the heart is the only qualified surgeon of the soul.  No psychology or religion can help you. Christ is the help of the helpless. Here is a novel idea: preach more about Jesus Christ! He is the Heart Whisperer he can only speak a word and they will be healed.

THE STUBBORN HEART OF ROCK

The Bible warns of the hardening that comes from the, “deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:13). Sin deceives the heart and hardens it, making it cold, brittle, and resistant to change.  When the message of the gospel comes to the hearts of some people, they are like Pharaoh (the poster boy of hard hearts) and in their hearts they say, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him …I do not know the Lord.”  (Ex 5:2). God’s reply to them is, “Because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” (Rom. 2:5).  Unless there is a one hundred and eighty degree change, the hard hearted person will face God’s perfect justice one day and their unrepentant soul will be smashed upon the rocks of his righteous anger. There is no safety outside of Christ. Their refusal to turn from sin is storing more and more wrath where only an eternity in hell will satisfy the justice of God against them.  That is a deep problem-a great need wouldn’t you say? Only the fire of the Holy Spirit can thaw a frozen heart.  Preach to meet that need. Only Christ can conquer the feral, untamed human heart, only he can save the soul! No methodology, no program, no other religion can help the hard heart. The Holy Spirit is speaking to hearts here though scripture, “Today if you will hear his voice harden not your hearts.” (Heb. 3:7-8NLT). The Heart Whisperer may be speaking to you tonight.

THE NEW HEART OF THE NEW BIRTH

God tells us in Ezekiel’s prophecy that he will take away the heart of stone and give us in its place a heart of flesh. Jesus tells us, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3). Here is the most foundational, cardinal and essential truth the Heart Whisperer can speak! YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN!  It at the very heart of the gospel message: regeneration must take place in order for a person to repent and trust in Christ for salvation.

W.A. Criswell comments, “How can you preach the gospel to a stone?  And how can you argue with a rock?  The man in his nature is hard.  He is indifferent.  He will pass by the sacrifice and the cross of Jesus without any repercussion in his soul at all.  He is lost.  He is hard.  His heart is like a stone.  And you can talk to him, and you can plead with him, and you can speak to him of the grace of the Lord.  He is impervious.  He is unmoved.  He is untouched.  His heart is like a rock.  He is lost. God must do something. 

God must give him a new heart if he is ever responsive, if he is ever teachable, if he is ever sensitive, if he ever repents. But when God gives a man a new heart, he is almost unrecognizable compared to what once he was.  You talk to him about the Lord Jesus and point to the cross and he will weep.  You talk to him about the grace of God, and his heart will overflow.  You speak to him about the Spirit, and the call, and the way of the Lord Jesus, and he is all attention.  He has a new heart that is the difference.”

HEART MEDICINE

Please stand. The Holy Spirit wants to introduce you to Jesus Christ who is the warm satisfying bread of life to those who are spiritually hungry (John 6:35) and he is cool running water to the spiritually thirsty (John 4:14).  I think of the scriptures that says, “Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee.” (Mk. 10:49).  Only he can satisfy! What he has done for others he can do for you! You never need go, “hungry while the daily bread of grace is on the table of mercy.” (CHS). The Holy Spirit will be placed in your heart so he keeps fresh and alive in your new heart your desire to love and obey God.  Isaiah 53 asks who will believe the report about Jesus Christ the Son of the Living God. You see him despised so you could be loved, rejected so you could be accepted, experiencing the depths of grief so you could have the heights of joy. He carried your weakness and the burden of your sorrows and was punished for your sins! You see him pierced for your rebellion, crushed for your sins, beaten and whipped so you could be whole. 

You must see this as the one and only remedy for sin. You must see that God will only accept one payment for sin and the propitiation of Christ to appease his justice against you.  You must see that Christ and his death is the one and only way to be saved. You must put your whole confidence in what Christ did in payment for sin. Lay aside your good works. They cannot save! Put down your sin and turn away from them and call upon the Lord to save you from the power of evil. !  Through a message like this it is my prayer that God will shoot a bullet of the gospel into some soul that triggers a wound that only he can heal. “For He inflicts pain, and gives relief; He wounds, and His hands also heal.” (Job 5:18).  Such is the way of the Heart Whisperer.

DO NOT DISHONOR GOD’S NAME

“For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; he will save us.”  (Isa. 33:22).

The last time we focused on the immensity of God the LORD. This message is much more sobering because it deals with God’s holiness and the grievous sin and error of  misusing God’s name and titles. God’s  name shows all that He is.  It shows God’s disclosure to us, pulling back the curtain on all his attributes. The recent controversy calling the God of the Bible the Islamic name of  “Allah” is seen as blasphemy according to scripture.

That is among the many reasons why we should hallow his name and never at any time misuse it. Understanding something about His name should produce a holy horror and a sense of scared sacredness in our hearts!  This is not theophobia. In fact,  it is only because of people’s love of sin and hate of God, that they see him as dangerous and they run away in fear from Him (Gen. 3: 10; Ex. 20:18-20). 

I know many men do not preach this way today, but the Bible does not give us a surface report of the human condition. It gives us a diagnostic of the human heart and life and exposes its depravity for all to see.  Oh how I long for men of God who will teach people, “the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean.” (Ezek. 44:23). People may have redefined the fear of God to the point that even their definition of it as “reverence” is watered down. It is not just respect. It is loving God for all he is: His wrath and peace, his love and holiness. They are devoted to Him for who He is, even if it scares them they want to know and become closer to Him. 

The Bible teaches in the third commandment, “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” (Exodus 20:7).   The Word “vain”  is sheqer in Hebrew which means all that associates God’s name to anything that is deceptive or false (Ps 119:29).  It is anything that misrepresents, defames, blasphemes his name. “Do not bring shame on the name of your God by using it to swear falsely. I am the Lord.” (Lev. 19:12NLT). We should not even  “idly utter”  his name (Ex. 20:4 Darby).

Blasphemy  is a serious sin (Lev 24:16).  People have such hardness of heart and a dangerous willful rebellion and ignorance when it comes to holy things. 

The Hebrew word for blasphemy is nĕ’atsah. It means a disgust and hatred considering God unworthy of respect (2 Kings 19:3)  and it also involves actions that provoke God’s anger (Neh 9:18, 26).  The Greek word blasphēmias paints a picture of  character assassination upon God Almighty (Mt. 12:31)  with disrespectful actions and speech that  brings disgrace to God’s majesty (Col. 3:8; Rev. 13:6).

God is offended by disrespect and it  provokes him to holy anger (Rom 1:18). The Bible says, “ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” (Jude 1:15).  “For they speak against thee wickedly, and thine enemies take thy name in vain.” (Ps. 139:20).  God is so insulted by this that  he says he will punish anyone who dishonors his name, as a Judge would sentence a criminal and, “he will not hold him guiltless.” 

This sin is so often committed and is so obvious that there is no need to illustrate it. We should avoid using God’s name as a swear word or meaningless exclamation. We are not to commit blasphemy which means we are not to use his name flippantly, tell jokes about God or spiritual things, laugh at spiritual things or connect anything that relates God, Christ, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, Holy Ghost  to profanity because all these violate the third commandment.

I have heard even some “brethren” justify their use of profanity with some lame cultural arguments. It is clear that anger is connected to cursing and profanity. It is a sinful habit. When it comes to saying, “Oh my God!” a common exclamation we have developed, it would help us to know that it is profanity  in any other use than prayer. It’s very simple. Do not connect God, Christ, Lord or the Holy Spirit to anything except in testimony, preaching and prayer-period.

It can also be the misinterpretation and misapplication of scripture by false doctrine (Deut. 13). It is a violation of God’s law to attach God’s name or approval to something that  human beings came up with on their own (Deut 18:20-22). This is something every pastor, expositor, preacher and teacher should keep in the forefront of what they say: does what I teach and preach glorify and represent God Almighty correctly. The idea that the preacher gets behind the pulpit as a humble servant and representative of God should bring a godly fear to his heart.

Notice the prophetic role of the preacher is seen simply in this: preach the Words of God as he conveys it in scripture.  Do not add anything to it, do not take away from it, tell them what I tell you. Anything else is vanity. “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” (1 Tim 4:16).

Misusing or taking God’s name in vain can be  seen as saying one thing and acting in another way: hypocrisy,  offensive unchristian behavior and backsliding. This is always a danger for those who profess to know Christ as Savior. That is why the King prays,  “Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die: Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.” (Prov. 30:7-9). Matthew McMahon (my favorite Presbyterian) puts it this way, ” …When we profess God’s name but do not live answerably to it. It means we live hypocritically. Thomas Watson said, “pretended holiness is merely double wickedness.” Whenever we do not live up to the call of the Christian life, we take God’s name in vain. We are mirrors that should reflect the perfection of God. If the mirror claims to be Christ’s and reflects tendencies of hell, then we use the name of Christ in vain, and people see that.” 

There is a relatively unknown passage (as far as the exposition of it goes) in the book of Leviticus that illustrates the serious nature of this subject: “And the son of an Israelitish woman, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the children of Israel: and this son of the Israelitish woman and a man of Israel strove together in the camp. And the Israelitish woman’s son blasphemed the name of the Lord, and cursed. And they brought him unto Moses: (and his mother’s name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan:) And they put him in ward, that the mind of the LORD might be shewed them. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Bring forth him that hath cursed without the camp; and let all that heard him lay their hands upon his head, and let all the congregation stone him. And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, Whosoever curseth his God shall bear his sin. And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the Lord, shall be put to death.” (Lev. 24:11-16).

While that was an unforgivable blasphemy. People will still protest, “Oh well, that is the Old Testament.”  But it is still a sin in either Testament and payback of sin is spiritual death (Rom. 6:23).  This is not to promote a legalistic nitpicking about every word you say-so be cautious about that. Blasphemy falls under what the Bible calls presumptuous sins or a willful reckless, unthinking rebellion against God which despises his Word (Num 15:30-31; Ps 19:13). Whereas all manner of sin and blasphemy can be forgiven, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit that a person that is not a child of God commits, “shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.” (Mt 12:32).  There are certain sins that result in physical death (1 John 5:16) even among Christians for which God chastises them with death and calls them home. Christians once saved do not die spiritually, but some sins causes God to discipline them by physical death.  

This happened when the Corinthians approached the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy, undiscerning manner (1 Cor 11:23-34).  Some of them became sick and some even died (1 Cor 11:30) I know pretty scary-and this is the New Testament!  That is why the Bible says,  “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.” (1 Cor 11:31-32).

People misuse and take the Lord’s name in vain so much these days, to correct others would be like cutting open a pillow and chasing its feathers. This is not to be legalistic but we do have a responsibility to confront people. “And if a soul sin, and hear the voice of swearing, and is a witness, whether he hath seen or known of it; if he do not utter it, then he shall bear his iniquity.” (Lev. 5:1).  God’s law is for all people but I think this applies more to people who should know better an profess to be Christians!  How is it they can swear, use profanity or take the Lord’s name in vain? Among Christians this should be a settled issue. We should avoid abusive, corrupt, obscene, filthy, foul language (Eph 4:29, 5:4; Col. 3:8) and never misuse God’s name.  As brethren we are accountable to one another for the witness of the gospel should be seen in our words and actions.

What about the unsaved or unbeliever? Some people might say, “Well it’s not me but I am around it every day at work or when I visit my unsaved family. What am I supposed to do? I can’t keep rebuking and correcting them.”   We are concerned as appearing self-righteous (but we should be more concerned about God’s glory) yet I would like to offer  some plausible  imaginative ways of approaching this.

When people at my work place break this commandment (which they do creatively and continually)  I have found if I am in the vicinity they apologize.

Funny how that works right?

They know what I believe and they think they are offending me. I appreciate that. I attempt not to be snotty or discourteous with them but I sometimes say, “You did not sin against me!” 

Or I will smile and say, “Don’t speak about God that way he is bigger than you!”

Sometimes they say, “Jesus Christ!” I reply, “He is worthy to be praised!”

I do sometimes hear them connect the expletive “damn” to the Divine (you know what I mean) and I tell them, “there will be no damnation today!”

Sometimes I just say. “Easy, easy, gentle…”

Let us hallow his name with our lives and magnify the Lord in the eyes of others and honor his name to the best of our ability.

Can You Hear Me Now?

The Galatians were saved. How were they saved? Paul asks, “Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (Gal. 3:2).  They were saved by the hearing of faith, they sincerely believed what they heard about the message of Jesus Christ.  Hearing was a gift. Faith was a gift.  The Holy Spirit was a gift. This is because the Bible says we were dead in sin and it is by God’s gift of grace we are saved (Eph 2:8-9). Simple enough. They heard the message of the gospel of Christ and believed and were saved.

It is also wise to note that dead people do not hear anything.  There is no awareness of sound in the grave. After a loved one has died talking to them at their grave site may be psychologically beneficial for you but really they can’t hear you. Why bring that up? Because God had to give us the ears to hear what he was saying by raising us from spiritual death to life.  A person must be born again first then they hear, believe and repent.  The Bible teaches, “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise.” (Eph 1:13). God gave us the hearing of faith after regenerating us and brings us back from the dead spiritually and then we heard the word of truth and then received his Spirit!

But can we hear him now? Are we listening to God now? Yes, there is a difference between hearing and listening, just ask my wife. In fact, James insists that we should be, “swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” (James 1:19). Notice the idea of being swift to hear and being prepared to listen to God’s Word, with the readiness that cultivated soil has to receive seed. Hearing or listening is a heart issue.  It tells us whether we are living in error or not.  God spoke though Isaiah, “I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear: but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not.” (Isa. 66:4).  Hearing was connected with the act of obedience, disobedience was seen as not hearing.

Real listening brings prompt obedience. We have so much to repent for. The Christian should praise God everyday for what Christ did on the cross, and justification by faith through grace or we would truly be lost, just for the fact we drag our feet to obey when God tells us what he demands.  We should feel crushed at  how slow we are to obey.  Jesus rebuked his disciples saying, “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken…” (Luke 24:45). God wants us to pace ourselves with his Word. In an unagitated manner, in a peaceful heart  be ready to receive the Word. “I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.” (Ps. 119:32NIV). No delays, let me run in the path of your commands. He who has the liberty to obey, being set free by Christ liberating power should run as fast as they can to obey.  

The Apostle James states that we should, “lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.” (James 1:21 italics mine).   The word used for filthiness here can refer to a filthy garment and several commentators agree that it actually means “wax in the ear that plugs up the sound.”  Spiritual ear wax, imagine that.  Ears are one of the parts of the body that adults forget to clean, they also have to be careful how they clean them.  But this is not hygiene we are talking about.  The people here are not listening, they have so much sinful wax build up, they have neglected their spiritual walk and are deaf to God.  

I have had to shout and still was not heard with people who have “ear-buds” listening to their MP3’s.  I even see it in some churches where kids instead of listening to the message sit in church “plugged up.” It is like that. Imagine the Pastor attempting to preach with everyone in his congregation with ear buds inserted.  They are playing games, listening to music or watching a video. They cannot and will not hear him. They can smile, throw in an amen and hide their yawn, but they are basically deaf. As preachers we cannot really tell who has heard our message every time we preach. Even Isaiah asks, “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?” (Is 53:1). We cannot visibly see the evidence of the hearing of faith, it only be seen in the fruit of people character. I am sure there is many a preacher who would like to tap his microphone and ask, “Can you hear me now?”

Any time we are unable to hear the voice of God in the scriptures,  that is when the flesh takes over and masquerades as religion and spirituality.  Sadly, we do not realize that we are stunted. What is worse is that we begin to listen to “voices” other than the Holy Spirit through Scripture.  It is not an intellectual issue, or being locked up in a room and being tortured and brainwashed by heretics. It is frightening how easily this can happen. We do not even notice our deafness and suddenly when we need to hear him most-we cannot! God open our ears! Teach us to pull out the weeds from the garden of our hearts. Teach us to change our spiritual oil and maintain a clean heart. As Christians we must make a lifetime commitment to throw off the whole network of evil and malice, the remnants of sin in our lives so that we can hear the Word. 

The Spirit brought us into union with Christ so we might hear his voice. He who breathed on the disciples will not shun from whispering to us through the scriptures. But when we develop or are taught human ideas about what pleases God, or it can cause confusion, and deafness or we become sluggish, slow, lazy and begin to do stupid things because we are “dull of hearing” (Heb 5:11). That is legalism.  The most dullard thing to do is depend on our strength rather than the Lord’s mighty power. When we are plugged up our love for God and others, our joy and our peace is completely based on what we do rather than on who Christ is and what he has done. For without the Word the Christian is  frustrated and discontent. How many times in the beginning of the New Testament did Christ say, “ye have heard, but I SAY?’   We have heard so many man centered things. It is nauseating. Oh that we would shut our ears to all men and be locked in with the scripture. The sad condition of many who have professed Christ is that they are walking in defeat and self worship because all they hear is opinion and bad teaching. They are agitated, anxious and angry.  They need to rest in Christ who says, Come unto me all ye who a weary and heavy laden.” Can you hear me now?

Many people  just do not listen to God anymore. They have shut their ears to the scriptures. “But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear.” (Zech 7:11). They listen to MAN and his teachings and their worship is empty (Mk 7:7).  We need our hearing checked.  How can you test your hearing? We need be careful about the content of what we hear that it lines up with the scripture. “For the ear trieth words, as the mouth tasteth meat.” (Job 34:3). If it is not scriptural reject it and move on. There is no perfection on this side of heaven but there are things which are most surely believed among us as Christians and we should adhere to those things and those things alone. Jesus said, “Take heed what ye hear…” (Mk. 4:24).  

Then the way in which we listen should be adjusted.  How am I listening? I should be asking, “Did I hear you right?  Let go back to the above illustration of ear wax and I won’t dwell on that too much because it would be way to wierd, but let me note ear wax or cerumen can be beneficial against bacteria, fungus and insects.  God obviously wants us to protect our hearing,  “to discern both good and evil.” (Heb. 5:14).   We should not listen to anything that we have not tested to see if it matches up with the scripture and the confessions of the church. He says to  “test everything; hold fast what is good.” (1 Thess 5:21ESV).  If sin is in our hearts we cannot hear correctly. We should take an inventory before we hear the word like we are taking inventory before the Lord’s supper. We should examine, test the mettle of our hearts and motives, and be in an open prepared state to hear the Word of the Lord in the scriptures. Once again Jesus teaches us to, “Take heed how ye hear…” (Luke 8:18). How we need to tune in to what he is saying and adjust the frequency of our hearts.

If you long to hear and obey Jesus said you will have clarity and peace. “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” (John 7:17). If you are but willing and the Spirit of God has ignited in your heart and fire to hear Christ Words he will teach you and receive you to himself. You will be where he is and walk with him and speak to him as a man speaks to his friend.

He will say, “Can you hear me now?” Good!

Your Wandering is Over

Wandering

“Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon: for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions? If thou know not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherds’ tents.” (Song 1:7-8).

I realize you have been wandering, dear one. The many buildings or places that are called churches are places where you can lose your way. I know you are looking for Jesus, so I hope you will pay attention for a few brief moments. Previously in this chapter, the Shulamite woman is awakened, convinced and longs in her heart for her beloved to, “kiss her with the kisses of his mouth for thy love is better than wine.” She has never experienced this before and she desires his affectionate kiss. She insists in so many words if anything is going to happen in their relationship he must kiss her first. In her eyes, the first act of love must be his right from the beginning because not every girl can kiss the King.

Is this not true of Christ and his bride? God has loved us as he loves Christ and that love was before the foundation of the world (John 17:23-24). That is the love of God that chooses us to be his own. His foreknowledge is not his omniscience alone, it is not based on what he sees is going to happen and bases his choice on the choices people make. He did not see us choosing him, we could not and would not (Rom 3:10-12)! Sin made us slaves without strength to reach out to the only one who could save us (Rom. 5:6). But Jesus saw us, he took pity on us! He loved us first! He fore-loved his people in Christ. “We love him, because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19).  It also is reminiscent of  the cry of Augustine who said, “My whole hope is in thy exceeding great mercy and that alone. Give what thou commandest and command what thou wilt.”  (Confessions, Book 10, Ch. 24:40).  How we must pray, “Lord, you must start the work in my heart or I will be lost, wandering forever in a far more confusing place than the world, but religion which has no power or truth!”

Like Israel who he found abandoned in the wilderness, he desires to take us from being infants in peril and nurture and clothe us with security and then develop us into “exceeding beautiful” womanhood so we are ready to mature ”into the time of love.”  (Ezekiel 16:1-13). There is a certain turning point in a persons life after regeneration where we begin to understand the Sovereignty of God in our lives as far as our sanctification is concerned. I am not speaking of another class of Christian but one who is growing in Christ.  The scripture teaches this is a point of maturity that develops in the life of a Christian where the milk of the Word is not enough, they must have meat, solid food (Heb 5:12-14). They also put away childish things because they are growing up. They become stable. Everything changes from babyhoodto adulthood (1 Cor 13:11). This woman is ready to know Christ as the lover of her soul and Christ hears her cry and will show her great and mighty things that she has not known! (Jer. 33:3).

She calls him, “O thou whom my soul loveth…” This is where wandering screeches to a halt. This kind of love is is so beyond any human love because it is birthed by the Spirit of God.  It is a love where any rival or competition to Christ begins to be put down by the increase of his government that is conquering the heart (Isaiah 9:6-7). Christ is loved by the Christian with their very heart, soul, mind and strength (Deut 6:4-5) but like the conquering of Cannan sanctification takes time. The child of God wants to love God more as they mature and this love must come from the deepest part of us. It is God who loves us first, and in turn we love him and that love makes us want to be near him and we learn to love him with the love he loves us with in some small measure.

She asks him, “where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon.”  She looks for the place where her soul can rest and she can eat “the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.” (1 Cor. 10:3-4). God requires us to have faith in his provision and not wandering around attempting to find other secondary or tertiary sources rather than from Christ himself. Sadly, this is a common practice among people who profess to be Christians. “For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.” (Jer 2:13). Christ offers them the children’s bread and to eat from the food off of the Masters table. He calls us to come and dine! Christ is a good shepherd (John 10:11) who feeds his sheep and those who love him are only satisfied with him and the authentic spiritual food he offers! That is the whole mystery of John chapter 6. Christ offers himself as food for the soul, only he can satisfy.

Mature believers recognize how much they need the guidance and protection of God because they are more aware of the dangers around them, wandering is not an option. Satan is like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8) and he feasts on wanderers. While Jesus is the tender shepherd that carries his little lambs in his arms (Isaiah 40:11) the person who desires the meat of the Word needs more. The Bible says, “And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God; and they shall abide: for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth.” (Micah 5:4).  God allows the soul to go through greater trials and snares-sometimes we are at our wits end. So the greater the test, the greater the care and power God places at our disposal. His great Sovereign power is shown by his provison for his people. He never grows faint or weary in doing this! 

When a believer matures they stop their wandering in the emptiness of performing mere external service to God they will begin to seek out a place where the LORD feeds his flock and gives “a rest for the people of God.” (Hebrews 4:9). This woman labored under the harsh rules of her mothers brethren and almost withered under the blistering hot sun and their constant anger farming their fields and neglecting her own vineyard. She left them behind for love of her King and now she does not want to be seen as one wandering aimlessly.

“For why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?” This is where the idea of protection from evil comes into play. Maturity results in the senses being able to discern between both good and evil. This scripture shows how much she hates the idea of being seen as a wandering woman. We should also hate the idea of being carried away by our own desires. Like her we should say “Why?” It makes no sense when I belong to the King and I am supposed to be under his care. Why should we substitute that relationship by looking even to his close companions when we can say “I am my beloved’s and he is mine!”  I have the One himself? Why?  WHY?

These companions of the Lord could fall into two classes: they could be true men of God who people look to rather than directly to Christ.  Like the Corinthians they divide into parties that say, “I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.” (1 Cor. 1:12). People have their preferences and their tastes and each on of these men preached the gospel but people separated and created division in the churches based on these men’s distinct ministries. They may have loved the down home values of Peter, the writing abilities of Paul had or the eloquent speaking ability of Apollos. These is a subtle idolatry. But people became distracted from Christ and were on their way back to the house of their mothers brethren because man centered religion is a cruel taskmaster.In these days we will hear many different religious authors, churches, movements, ministries, saying, ”Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, he is there; believe him not.”  (Mk 13:21). He is in that church, that revival, or this movement. No, he is always where he has been- in his Word.

“For thy love is better than wine.”I wanted to complete the verse we started with. She loves her beloved with all her soul because his love is makes earth’s sweetest substance inferior to his love. It is actually plural or loves. He constantly lavishes and demonstrates his love for his own. Paul speaks of the mercies of God  (Rom. 12:1) or his many mercies (Psalm 51:1).  His compassions never fail (Lam 3:22).  Jesus is all you need and he satisfies you souls need for rest and refreshment. How sweet is the love of Christ for his people. It is like wine. The bread of his body and the wine of his blood are real food for the soul (John 6:35-63). The spiritual presence of Christ that we celebrate in the Lord’s supper is where we can lift up our hearts to the Lord and seek those things which are above where Christ sits at the right hand of God (Col. 3:1). Do not waste your time, money and energy on religious products that attempt to sell you a better, deeper relationship with God but enslave you to condemnation and guilt. God offers you the free wine and milk that is offered to those who are thirsting for Christ (Isa. 55:1). All Christ offers us for free is also better than those who sell us religion. He has found you dear soul, desring to feed and care for you and your heart cannot rest until it rests in him

Your wandering is over.