faith

Who Is Jesus?

Who is Jesus? One of the greatest travesties of this current age is the misunderstanding of who Jesus is. People throw His name around all the time, attributing characteristics and traits to Him. But do they actually match the real Jesus?

I hesitate to even write this, knowing that I can’t even begin to touch the surface of who Jesus really is in a blog post. But I feel compelled to at least write something in the face of all of the bad information that is out there. So here goes…

I want to first do a quick overview of who Jesus is and why He came before we look into some of the myths that are believed about Him.

It is important to start with who we are without Christ. We need to understand that we are sinners, lost and without hope, dead in our sins. We are not good people with good hearts. Romans 3:12 b is one of several verses that makes this abundantly clear–

There is none who does good, no, not one.

This leaves us lost and without hope. As sinners, we desperately need a way to be reconciled to God. All the good deeds in the world will not be enough to make us stand righteous before God. We cannot work our way to Heaven. Isaiah 64:6 a says this–

But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;

Since no good and righteous judge can excuse a lawbreaker, we know that we cannot just walk away without punishment. And so we needed a perfect sacrifice to pay for our sins. Maybe this analogy will help:

A murderer sits before a judge, awaiting his verdict. Perhaps he makes his case–yes, I did murder that man but, judge, I’ve given thousands of dollars here and I’ve spent hours helping the poor there. But, of course, we know that there isn’t any amount of good deeds that can make up for the sin that he committed. There is no “balance” between good and bad deeds in real life and there is no balance when it comes to God, either.

As a good and righteous judge, he must punish this murderer. To not do so would mean he is not just or fair. But then someone comes in to the court room and offers to take this man’s punishment. He is offering to pay the price so that this man can be set free. Who would ever do such a thing? I don’t know of any human.

But this is, in essence, what Jesus did for us. We are in that court room, awaiting our death sentence, and He has offered to pay our punishment with His death on the Cross, so that we may go free and have eternal life. We are reconciled to God through Christ’s death when we trust in Him and Him alone for salvation.

But Jesus didn’t stay in that grave.

He is alive and will return again someday! This is our Savior and Lord and King. The King of Kings (Revelation 19:16), almighty, all-powerful. He is calling us to live a godly and discerning life while we await His return (2 Peter 3:14-18).

I Timothy 1:15 says this: This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. 

Jesus came to the world to save sinners. He did not come to make our life here on earth easier, to give us a purpose, or to fill our lives with material wealth and good health. He came to save us from the eternal punishment we deserve because of sin.

But this is not the Jesus we generally hear about today. This modern day “Jesus” is our buddy and he exists to do our bidding and to make our lives better. With this Jesus we can be like the world, we never have to confront sin, and we can join with false teachers. We can lie, we can steal, we can cheat, we can live in sexual sin, we can do anything we want because Jesus always forgives us. This Jesus never gets angry, is never divisive, and never calls out sin. This Jesus accepts everyone into heaven and would never send anyone to hell.

Now before we do a biblical test of these things that we wrongly assume define Jesus, I do want to make it clear that some of the things currently ascribed to Jesus are most certainly true: Jesus loves us. Jesus does have great compassion for the lost sinner. Jesus does forgive our sins. He has no bias for class or race. He is kind and good.

But let’s take a look at some of the other traits ascribed to this character I will call “Cultural Jesus”.  Are the characteristics attributed to our Lord Jesus Christ true or are they false, according to scripture?

1. Our Buddy

The Bible does say that Jesus is our friend. But there is a condition to that friendship. We are only His friends if we do what He commands in His Word (John 15:14). If we do not do as He commands, we have declared by our actions that we are not His friend, no matter what we say.

2. Accepts Anyone and Everyone Into Heaven

“Cultural Jesus” doesn’t care what path people take to heaven. Of course, we know the real Jesus made it clear that He is the only way (John 14:6). “Cultural Jesus” also assures us that everyone is going to heaven. This is another myth. It was the real Jesus who said the way is narrow and few there are that find it (Matthew 7:13-14).

3. Never Confronts

“Cultural Jesus” never confronts sin. But we can quickly find out that this is not the real Jesus. No matter where He went or who He talked to, He called people to repentance and out of their sin. In fact, He had an advantage, because He knew people’s hearts, which often hide the most secret sin: that of motive (John 4).

“Cultural Jesus” also never confronts false teachers. But we can see in scripture that the real Jesus most certainly did call out false teachers–in public! He shows us by his actions that false teachers who pervert the truth of the Gospel can and should be called out publicly (Matthew 23).

4. Never Condemns

The real Jesus does offer us a way to be free from condemnation. And that is to repent and turn from our sins and trust in Him for salvation (Mark 1:15). However, He had little patience for those who were full of self-righteousness and hypocrisy and He did condemn them (Mark 7).

5. No Care for Our Daily Choices, Sinful or Otherwise

“Cultural Jesus” doesn’t care what we do. We can live like the world; go where we want; listen, watch, and read what we want without any break in fellowship. But we know from scripture that all of our choices matter. That they either lead us towards a deeper relationship with Christ or away from Him. And He desires that we abide in Him. In fact, this is the only way to have any fruit of lasting value. Without Him we can do nothing. (John 15:1-8)

6. Loved by the World

The world (and mainstream church) would have us believe that Jesus was the most popular man on earth but we know clearly from His own words that this isn’t true. He declared that we will be hated, just like He was hated. We are to expect this. This flies in the face of “Cultural Jesus” who is loved by everybody. (John 15:18-20)

7. Exists to Make Our Life Here on Earth Happier

“Cultural Jesus” exists to make our life happier and more fulfilled. But the real Jesus says nothing about making our temporal life better. Instead He tells us to forsake all and pick up our cross and follow Him (Matthew 10:38-39; Luke 14:25-33) and that we are to deny ourselves (Mark 8:34). He also assures us that we will experience hatred in our efforts to follow Him (John 15:18-19). While this sounds utterly unfamiliar to so many who use the name of Jesus, it is what we read in the scriptures.

8. Greatest Concern is Unity

“Cultural Jesus” compromises truth in order to be unified. But we know from scripture that this is certainly not true. In fact, Jesus says He came to bring division. (Luke 12:49-53) He also makes it clear that it is impossible to worship God in purity of heart unless we are worshiping in truth (John 4:24) This would then preclude any compromise with a false worship system.

9. Would Never Send Anyone to Hell

While Jesus’s ministry was focused on calling people to repentance, He did mention hell on a number of occasions. He spoke of it as a very real place. (Matthew 5:29; Matthew 10:28; Matthew 23:33; Luke 12:5 to name a few)

10. Indifferent to Sin

Is the real Jesus indifferent to sin? Let’s go to the scriptures to find out. There we will find that Jesus commands people to repent (Matthew 3:2; Mark 1:15; Luke 5:32) Merriam-Webster.com gives this definition of repent: to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life. From this I believe we can safely conclude that Jesus is definitely not indifferent to sin but, instead, rightly expects us to turn from it.

He also tells the man healed at Bethesda (John 5:1-14) and the adulteress (John 8:7-11) to go and sin no more. From this we can assume that Jesus, who forgives our sin, desires that we strive to live a righteous life and to make an effort to sin no more.

 

I hope this short post starts you thinking about the difference between the “Cultural Jesus” and the real Jesus. There are so many more things I could have touched on. This is really a subject without end and one post hardly does it justice. But I do hope it at least brings to light that there is a major discrepancy going on here and instills in you a desire to study who Jesus really is, according to the Bible.

It is important as we hear people throw the name of Jesus around lightly that we take the time to study our Bibles and compare what we hear to what scripture says. How important it is that we understand who He really was during His time here on earth and who He is right now–our risen Savior and King who has promised to return for us!

 

What Determines Truth for You?

“You can’t argue against someone’s experience”

“But this book {that doesn’t line up with scripture} helped me and made me feel closer to God.”

“We play rock music in our church service {or have sermons based on movies or hold church poker nights} because it makes the unsaved feel comfortable and want to come.”

These are all things that I’ve heard people say at least once. Some more than once. And it makes sense to them. If something works why not use it or read it or do it?

In other words, truth is determined by consequences.

Pragmatism first became popular in the late 1800s and was introduced to society by several different men–two of whom you may recognize. John Dewey, of library fame (Dewey decimal system) and C.S. Lewis, the “Christian” apologist. I use quotes because C.S. Lewis’s beliefs and interests were actually not all in line with the Cristian faith (see here and here and here for more information). I continue to remain amazed and dismayed that he has become so respected in the Christian world.

There are some real problems with the ideology of pragmatism for a Christian. Although Christians try to join their biblical beliefs with this philosophy all the time, we can see how pragmatism is a slippery slope that leads us away from scripture.

First, we have to recognize that only one thing can determine truth. Is it scripture or is it by what works? We can’t philosophically have it both ways. We will have to make a choice.

For instance, take the Christian who reads a book that makes them feel good but has a message that does not align with scripture and then they go on to recommend that book to all of their friends. They have chosen pragmatism over scripture. By default, they have made the choice to elevate the consequences (their good feelings) over what the Bible says.

Or take a church that brings in secular rock music or worldly movies to their services. They nobly profess to do this to make the unbeliever comfortable. This works. But, again, they are elevating what works (unsaved in their pews and feeling comfortable) over what scripture teaches (Love not the world or the things that are in the world I John 2:15).

In fact, that church had already given in to pragmatism when they realized that their numbers would increase if they chose to market to the unsaved rather than to follow the biblical church model. In scripture we find that the local church isn’t for the unsaved but for the saved; and that it doesn’t exist to make us feel comfortable but to encourage, teach and support us as we strive to grow in holiness. Comfort is never the goal of church. For saved or unsaved. And, yet, pragmatism, would say that comfortable = increased numbers at church. See how this works?

Can you see how this has infiltrated and changed everything?

It has crept into our own lives far more than we even realize. I wrote in this post how I was struggling to get through Jeremiah and mentioned to my brother (Pastor Dean) that I just wasn’t enjoying that particular book of the Bible. He laughed and reminded me that the Bible wasn’t for my enjoyment but to teach me about God. Oh, how dismayed I was to realize that I was viewing my personal Bible reading pragmatically! I was judging my Bible reading by how it made me feel.

Can you see how seductive this belief is? How invasive and natural it has become for us to judge things in this manner? We see it not only in churches, but on a large scale in the corporate world, in the academic realm, and everywhere else. It has invaded en masse and it’s not going anywhere soon.

But we can’t have it both ways. We can’t have our experience determine truth and the Bible determine truth. If we don’t intentionally set a line in the sand and say we choose the Bible, I can almost guarantee that we will be lured away into this dangerous and faith-squashing philosophy.

Second, we have to recognize that if truth is determined by consequences, then it must follow that truth is changeable. What works one year may not work another year. What worked in the past may not work in the future.

But God tells us that truth never changes. His Word is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. It is the same forever. Isaiah 40:7-8 puts it like this–

All flesh is grass,
And all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
Because the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands forever.”

Peter repeats this thought in I Peter 1:23-25

Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth [i]through the Spirit in [j]sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, 23 having been born again, not of [k]corruptible seed but [l]incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides [m]forever, 24 because

“All flesh is as grass,
And all[n]the glory of man as the flower of the grass.
The grass withers,
And its flower falls away,
25 But the[o]word of the Lord endures forever.”

From these verses we know that God’s truth does not change. Current culture does not change it. Modern desires and demands do not change it. Because truth doesn’t change.

The Bible remains a blessed anchor in the midst of a world where “truth” is what anyone wants it to be. Where “truth” is what works for that moment.

Pragmatism is a big word but it has literally affected each and every one of us. It is important that we examine our hearts and lives for the fruits of this deadly philosophy that so easily and subtly slip in.

Because we know that the Scripture does determine truth and we know that the truth we find there never changes. What a relief in this ever-changing and mixed-up world!

 

*A link for further research–

ThoughtCo:What is Pragmatism?

 

Cultivating A Healthy Soul (Why we need both the positive and the negative to be healthy Christians)

Something that has disturbed me greatly over the past ten or so years is the belief that if a message is positive it is good and righteous and if a message is negative it is bad and sinful.

Where did this belief come from? For it is certainly not from the Bible. (Actually I do know where this belief originates and there is a link further on in this post for those of you who would like to know, too.)

Jesus Himself tells us to look out for false teachers, to deny ourselves, to expect hatred from the world, explains the awful (and extremely negative) things to expect in the last days, and calls out and even severely criticizes false teachers. These would not be called positive messages by anyone’s standards.

Paul follows the example of Jesus and encourages us to confront fellow Christians living in sin, publicly calls out those who have left the faith, and encourages all of us to examine our lives for sin. Again, not positive by anyone’s standards.

Thankfully, both Jesus and Paul also abound in positive messages. The Bible provides the perfect balance of both because the Bible is the holy and inerrant Word of God.

Yesterday I heard an illustration by A.W. Tozer regarding this very thing. It had to do with the human body and how it stays healthy. It so impacted me that I actually did an online search to find it in print. I found it in a book called Gems from Tozer. Here is a brief portion of it–

The healthy soul, like the healthy blood stream, has its proper proportion of white and red cells. The red corpuscles are like faith: they carry the life-giving oxygen to every part of the body. The white cells are like disbelief: they pounce upon dead and toxic matter and carry it out to the drain. Thus the two kinds of cells working together keep the tissues in good condition. In the healthy heart there must be provision for keeping dead and poisonous matter out of the life stream. This the credulous person never suspects. He is all for faith.*

I have been thinking about this since I heard it and how applicable this comparison is to our spiritual lives. I even did some further research. What happens if our blood is out of balance? Without getting too technical, I thought I’d give a quick overview. The field of medicine is not my field (by any stretch of the imagination) so hopefully I get this right–

Too Many Red Blood Cells: The condition of the body creating too many red blood cells is called polycythemia vera. This slow-growing cancer actually can sometimes be symptom-free. But whether the person feels it or not, the blood is thickening and the blood flow is slowing down, which can lead to all kinds of issues, including death. You can be feeling great but still have this fatal disease. Thankfully, the medical world has developed a treatment for this cancer and those that have it can expect to live a fairly normal life as long as they make regular visits to the hospital for treatment. But the key here is that this can cause symptoms in a person or it might not but, either way, the over-production of these red blood cells will eventually cause death if there is no treatment.

Too Few Red Blood Cells: The condition of having too few blood cells is called anemia. Most of us have heard of this. It is a condition that leads to sluggishness and exhaustion. When the red blood cells are working properly they distribute oxygen and also carry carbon dioxide to your lungs from other parts of the body to be exhaled. If there aren’t enough red blood cells they can’t do their job and it keeps the body from functioning properly.

Too Many White Blood Cells: This condition is called leukocytosis. Elevated white blood cell count can be caused by many things–leukemia, infection, stress, immune system disorders, and smoking can all lead to an elevated count. High white blood cell count is an indication that something is wrong in the body and the body is working to fight against it.

Too Few White Blood Cells:Called leukopenia, this condition leaves your body at risk for other infections. This is the reason that some patients die from diseases and infections unrelated to their original diagnosis. Chemotherapy will often cause this and this is why cancer patients must be so concerned about catching colds. Without a proper white blood cell count, the body is in grave danger.

Okay, so let’s pretend that the red blood cells are the happy, positive thoughts and words and white blood cells are the negative, unpleasant thoughts and words.

We obviously need both in order to have a healthy soul.

If we only focus on the happy and the positive, we may not realize it, but we will be putting our souls at peril. We may feel great but, meanwhile, a deadly lethargy is invading our blood stream while we are blithely unaware. However, if we never focus on the good and positive things, we put ourselves at risk for an apathy in the faith. We will lack vibrance and joy. We won’t encourage, we won’t be lifting others up, and we will have a tired and lackluster faith. Both extremes lead to a severe and harmful imbalance.

And, of course, if we only focus on the negative and unpleasant, constantly talking only about how bad this world is and making sure everyone knows every false teacher that is out there, then this is an indication that something is not quite right with the health of our soul. We should never be so focused on the negative that we completely ignore the positive. But, on the opposite side of things (and where I believe more people are) are those that never want to focus on the negative and believe it to be a sin. These folks put their souls in grave danger. They have compromised their spiritual immune systems and are at risk to fall for all kinds of false teachings and wrong belief systems.

We can see that none of these are ideal. And just as we shouldn’t have too many or too little of red or white blood cells, we also shouldn’t be spiritually imbalanced when it comes to our focus on the positive or the negative.

As I mentioned above, I believe that there are few that focus on the negative. That type of life style has been so maligned that we have been almost (not quite but almost) led to believe that someone who focuses on the negative is not a Christian. And they most certainly aren’t a good Christian, even if they are one. After all, negative words aren’t kind words (according to most) and the majority of Christians don’t want to be known as the negative, unkind one (not understanding that “unkind” is being defined by this culture and not by it’s historical definition).

I think far more of us have bought the lie that positive messages are all we should speak. That negative words are sinful. This is what we are being taught in so many different ways. Whether it’s the latest “Christian” books, TV preachers, popular blogs and podcasts, social media, and even sometimes in our own churches, we find that we are praised by men for speaking the positive and uplifting and we are marginalized and condemned for speaking the negative and discerning. Ironically, and tragically, the truth seems to be irrelevant.

Of course, if we are serious about our walk with the Lord we desire to have a healthy soul. We want to be obedient and submissive children. So how do we do this? We do this by getting our instructions for living from the Bible and not from pop Christianity or humanistic psychology. What does the Bible teach? What does the Bible say?

2 Timothy 3:16 can get us started–

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for [a]instruction in righteousness,

There we find both the positive (doctrine and instruction in righteousness) and negative (reproof and correction). If you have time, do a study of this topic in God’s Word.

For it is only by knowing what God has to say about this that we can defend ourselves against the plethora of lies that abound around the idea of “positive thinking” (which is an occult/new age teaching, by the way! find out more at this link).

We must have a balance of the positive and the negative; of both love and truth; both grace and justice. Leaning one way or the other will cripple our souls and hinder our work for Christ.

May we be filled with plenty of red blood cells–positive, encouraging, happy thoughts and words that carry life and oxygen to our souls and to the Body of Christ and may we also have a healthy amount of white blood cells–discerning the true from the false, diligently removing and warning of the toxins that threaten our own soul as well as the souls of other believers. For both are critical to cultivating a healthy soul.

 

 

*Tozer, A. W.. Gems from Tozer: Selections from the Writings of A.W. Tozer (Uqp Poetry) (Kindle Locations 625-629). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Other resources:

https://www.mayoclinic.org

http://blog.insidetracker.com/45247913486-high-white-blood-cell-count-what-you-should

 

Six Hated Truths from the Word

I have been thinking recently about the specific things the Bible teaches that the world hates. And, along with this, about just how many in the church are scrambling about trying to appease the world and to change and twist what the Bible says. What it has always said.

It’s a strange place we find ourselves in as Christians committed to the inerrant, inspired, and sufficient Word of God. We are labeled bigots, unloving, intolerant, etc. simply for believing what the Bible teaches. Of course, if anyone who said that knew anything about history at all, they would know that true Christians aren’t any of those things and, in fact, are responsible for much that is good in this world. But that’s another post for another day.

So what does the Bible teach (that we believe) that is so distasteful to the world and to a worldly church that is trying to appease and be like the world? (By the way, I will give only one or two verses below for each point but each of these things is an integral part of the Christian faith, as written in the Bible. They aren’t mentioned just once or twice but in several–and often many–places, so that there is no question about interpreting them correctly. This leaves us confident that there is no hidden or different interpretation than that which has always existed.)

First, Jesus is the only way to heaven. Oh, this is one that is hated and that seems so unfair. How could a kind and loving God only provide one way to spend eternity in heaven? And I have to confess that I don’t understand myself. But I believe this with the understanding that I am finite and small and God is infinite and perfect. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) No man comes to the Father except through Jesus Christ. A hard truth to swallow for many. This is why universalism is pushed so hard today–both outside the church and within. Many popular authors and preachers are now preaching that everyone can be saved, no matter if they believe in Jesus or not. There is even a video with Billy Graham saying this very thing.

Second, forsaking our sin is part of the deal. In Luke 5:32, Jesus says this: I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance. Repentance is a conversion from sin to God. From sin to God. We can’t have both. But the world wants their fire insurance from hell and their sin. As do many who claim Christ. And so talking about sin and forsaking it is no longer even a thought to those in the world and it has also completely gone out of vogue in many churches.

Third, Christians are called to holiness. I Peter 1:13-16 couldn’t make this any clearer:

Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”

Being a believer is a sober and serious task. We are to turn away from who we were in our efforts to become more Christlike. As believers, we are in a lifetime battle with our flesh. Few want to hear this news and so this doctrine is generally ignored.

Fourth, works must back up our claim to faith. James couldn’t make this any clearer:

But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? James 2:20

But, just in case, you need more evidence for this unpopular truth, Jesus confirms James words in Matthew 7:18-20:

A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.

We can expect good fruit from the life of a true believer. There may not be a lot and their “tree” may be unhealthy but there will be some fruit to back up their claim of being a believer in Jesus Christ.

I find it interesting why this one causes so much conflict. This same truth holds forth in all aspects of life. If my husband tells me he loves me, I can and will expect that to be evident in how he treats me. If we say we are committed to our job, we will expect to see that commitment played out in our lives or else we will know it is a lie. If it is like this in all of life, then why, in claims of faith in Christ, is it so distasteful and hard to believe that actions must match words in order for the words to actually be true?

Fifth, we are not to love the world. This does not mean we are not to love the people in the world or that we are to become hermits in the deep woods never talking to anyone. Obviously, we are commanded to share the Gospel, so we know that this can’t be what it means. We can go to a few places in scripture to help us understand what separating from the world does mean–

James 1:27   Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

I John 2: 15-17 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.

While we can (and most certainly should) show love and kindness to the people of the world, we should not love the same things they do. The actual ramifications of this are staggering, when you think of it. How many Christians do you know who love the same things that their ungodly friends love? Gambling, drinking, partying, the way women dress, entertainment, anger, language, gossip, slander–why it is downright hard to tell the difference anymore between Christians and non-Christians if we look at these things. And, yet, the Bible clearly shows that this should not be. And so separating ourselves from the world is abhorred by those who desire the things of this world or just don’t have the courage to look different from the world.  This leaves us with a weak and ineffective church. For how can you encourage someone to new life in Christ if your life looks just like theirs? What do you even have to offer?

Sixth, homosexuality is a sin. I guess we could see this one coming back in the 80s. Right around the time Murphy Brown had her child out of wedlock and Dan Quayle was crucified for mentioning the immorality of this, I think I knew things were changing. Anyone else remember that? When we start tossing out the morality of the Bible, anything goes. We shouldn’t be surprised. And so the world doesn’t just hate that homosexuality is labeled a sin, it hates that anything is labeled a sin. This really stems back to the rebellion that lives in the hearts of the unredeemed. Christians may cave to the desires and the name-calling and the pressure, but it doesn’t change the truth. All sex outside of marriage between a man and woman is sin. Here are a few verses to confirm this–

I Corinthians 7:2 Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband.

I Timothy 1:8-11 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers,[b] liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound[c] doctrine, 11 in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.

Romans 1:26-27 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

 

If we read on in Romans 1, we will find a description of our current culture–

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

And so this is where we are. Believing the unpopular truths that the Bible teaches in a culture that hates the God of the Bible. But believing or not believing what the Bible teaches doesn’t change the truth. And the truth is that the Bible is TRUE. It has been proven over and over. There is an incredible and miraculous validity to the scriptures. The Christian faith that has been passed down since its inception is solid and true. No matter what others like or don’t like; believe or don’t believe.

If we can remember this, it will help us stand strong and confident–not in our own selves. Never in our own selves. But in the Word of God. The Holy Bible that was given to us by God in order to know Him and to make Him known.

So let us stay true to the Word, no matter if the whole world turns against us. And remember–

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

(Romans 8:31)

 

 

The Half Trees

I was driving along on a familiar road when I saw them. I can’t believe I hadn’t noticed them before. I wish I could have stopped and taken a photo.

Towering pines reached to the sky and yet they were forlornly bare on one side because of the electric wires that ran next to them. The choice had been made to remove the branches to protect the wires, rather than to cut down the trees completely. They had been granted life but at what a cost!

Imagine if you will a strong, tall pine tree without any boughs on the one side. Only the scars of cut off branches remained. There was a whole row of them.

It reminded me of us. We desire to be so perfect but our bad choices starts removing our boughs. The axe of consequences and sin scar our trunk and starts cutting off our beautiful, green boughs. Sometimes it is the choices of others that brings that terrible axe into our lives and starts hacking away. And many times it is the axe of trials that are completely outside of our control that starts to remove those branches, one by one.

Until some of us are left with a half a tree.

And yet, in Christ, we can still be so strong.

The trees I saw were beautiful in their own way. Sure, they weren’t perfect but they stood so stately as if to say–we survived. We are marred and imperfect but we are strong and we have survived.

You can’t really imagine how something so imbalanced could grow so tall and strong–and yet–they did.

And so can we. God is in the business of strengthening, supporting, nourishing, and transforming those He has saved. Sure, we won’t ever be perfect. And we will continue to live out the consequences of sin and a fallen world. Some of us more than others. It is the nature of life.

But that doesn’t mean the Lord can’t use us. That we are rendered ineffective for the cause of Christ.

In fact, if those trees wouldn’t have been cut in such a way, I wouldn’t have even noticed them. It was in their very uniqueness that they stood out. They were different. They showed that even without wholeness there can be health.

Just as those trees remained a tall and stately witness to living a healthy life of incompleteness, so, too, are we called to live out a testimony of a healthy life lived in and for the Lord–despite our imperfections and deformities.

And, rather than be a deterrent to the Lord, we actually stand out and can draw people to the Lord when we bring glory to His name and point people to Him, no matter what the struggle or trial.  Sure, we come out on the other side minus a branch or two, but God will often use this very thing to demonstrate His power and strength. As healthy, imperfect “half-trees” we give people hope!

Just as a light shines so much brighter in the darkness, so the power of Christ is evidenced more fully when we turn to Him in our trials and struggles. No matter what the consequences (or lost branches), God can use these things to make us stronger, to draw people to Himself, and to be a witness to His power and glory.

Paul says something about this in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10–

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to [b]buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

So I want to encourage you this morning to use your scars, your past, your current trials–whether brought on by bad choices or they are hopelessly outside of your control–to point people to Christ. To show that God is the great and ultimate healer and that we can be strong and healthy despite the consequences of sin in our lives.

Just as those tall, stately half-trees stand as a testament to health despite their many removed branches, so let us, too, be a testament of our amazing God, showing how He has worked and is working to make us whole and healthy on the inside–no matter how we might look on the outside.

 

 

And Then There Was Only a Trickle

I stood under the shower trying to rinse out my short hair in the pathetic stream of water that trickled from the shower head. What in the world? The water stream had been weakening as the weeks passed by. And I kept forgetting to ask my husband about it.

Finally, after weeks of these miserable showers, I asked him what was going on. He informed me that the shower head needed replaced, as years of gunk and buildup had impeded the water flow. He had already bought a new one but hadn’t gotten around to installing it yet.

A day or two later, he switched out the shower head and–Wow! What an incredible difference! The change in pressure was like night and day. Taking a shower was once again easy and even enjoyable. I had not realized just how weak the water flow actually had been because the change had been so gradual.

This incident reminded me of I Thessalonians 5:19–

Do not quench the Spirit.

I found this paragraph on this verse at StudyLight.org, written by Adam Clarke–

“The Holy Spirit is represented as a fire, because it is his province to enlighten and quicken the soul; and to purge, purify, and refine it. This Spirit is represented as being quenched when any act is done, word spoken, or temper indulged, contrary to its dictates. It is the Spirit of love, and therefore anger, malice, revenge, or any unkind or unholy temper, will quench it so that it will withdraw its influences; and then the heart is left in a state of hardness and darkness. It has been observed that fire may be quenched as well by heaping earth on it as by throwing water on it; and so the love of the world will as effectually grieve and quench the Spirit as any ordinary act of transgression.”

Just like our shower head became filled with debris that stopped its flow, so, too, can our lives so gradually become filled with habitual sins, unholy attitudes, or a love for the world, that we quench the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. We can quench it by following after false teaching, by our lack of submission and obedience to God, by holding grudges, by keeping immoral company, and by a lifestyle of idleness or selfishness.

A lack of prayer and a disregard for our time spent in the Word keeps the gunk and buildup firmly in place, hardening there and diminishing the flow of the outworking of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

And then one day–just like that day in the shower when I realized just how bad the pressure really was–we suddenly realize that we are living a powerless Christian life that feels dead. We do not feel close to God and we do not understand why.

An honest inventory of our lives will often reveal the real reason. Some sin we love. Some worldly entertainment that we aren’t willing to give up. Some person we aren’t willing to forgive. A lack of trust in or anger over God’s sovereign will in our lives. The list goes on. Something is there that is quenching the work of the Spirit in our lives.

I Corinthians 13:5 puts it this way–

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.

But most of us do not enjoy self-examination. It is painful and change can feel daunting. Or we love our sin and aren’t willing to give it up. And so we content ourselves with a weak and ineffective Christian life, never feeling like we live in victory.

And this is when so many fill in the gaping gaps left with the things that make one feel close to God–supernatural experiences, personal messages from God, being led by dreams and visions. I am convinced that an unwillingness to examine our lives for sin and unholy attitudes has left us with a gaping hole that is being filled in a desperate attempt to feel close to God without sacrificing our own personal and fleshly desires.

You see, scripture makes it clear that a holy life is necessary if we are going to truly be close to God. But that takes a lot of work and sacrifice and so we must decide: Is it worth it?

Are we going to stand in a shower that trickles, looking for counterfeit ways to convince ourselves that we are in a shower that is full pressure? Or are we going to go to the work of cleaning, fixing, and repairing so that we actually return to full pressure?

Are we going to pretend that we are close to God (something that Satan is more than happy to help us with) or are we going to follow the scriptural principles of self-denial, confession of sin, and sacrifice that is required for a healthy relationship with God?

And let’s not forget: Confessing sin and denying self leads us into the most fulfilling and wonderfully victorious Christian life we could live. It seems a contradiction, but it is true. What looks so unappealing to our flesh actually leads us to the full working of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Which is truly a miracle.

 

Salvation is not a Moment

Does one prayer give us fire insurance from hell for the rest of our lives? Does it secure our place in heaven forever? Well, it might. But it might not.

You see, salvation is not a moment. And since we can’t know someone’s heart when they say that prayer it takes time to figure out if they truly were serious.

We learned this many years ago when one of our young employees was really struggling in life. My husband talked with him about the Lord and connected him with our pastor. He “got saved” and things seemed to change. We saw him around church for the next few months. And then, gradually, he stopped coming. A year or two went by and he ended up cheating our company by using our machines to do his own work on the side while he was supposed to be working for us. That was the end of his employment with our company and the last thing we ever heard about him was that he died in a motorcycle accident, leaving a wife and two young children.

Do I know he wasn’t genuinely saved? No, I can’t possibly know that. We lost touch and he could have changed. And, honestly, we can’t possibly declare if anyone is or isn’t saved. Only God knows the heart.

But what we can see are the repenting person’s transformation, or lack thereof. This young man, in desperation, called out to the Lord. But when things started to get better, the things of the Lord grew uninteresting and unnecessary.

It reminds me of the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:1-9–

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

I believe this passage teaches that there is only one type of prayer that leads to genuine salvation and that is the prayer that comes from the good soil of a repentant and humble heart and then produces a crop of spiritual fruit. Just because someone says a prayer doesn’t necessarily mean they are saved. We honestly can’t find it anywhere in the Bible. While Jesus tells us that to be saved we just need to believe in Him (John 3:16), we also know that true belief gives us a hatred for wickedness and evil by reading verses 19-21 of that same chapter–

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

So you see it is impossible to claim Christ as your Savior if you don’t love the light. While believers are not perfect and never will be on this side of eternity, we do love the light. We do desire to walk like and be like our Savior. We hate sin and yearn for righteousness.

If there isn’t even a smidgen of these new desires in someone you love who claims they are a Christian because they said a prayer, you have cause for concern. Pray for them. And talk with them as God gives opportunities (but never, ever saying they aren’t saved, because we can’t possibly know, but, instead, taking them to the scriptures and showing them what the Word says about genuine salvation).

I get why we like to think salvation is a moment. It is a comfort to us, isn’t it? It assures us that we will spend eternity together with those we love. But the Bible clearly shows us that this is a false belief. Oh, how I wish it wasn’t so, but it’s there. All through the scriptures. Not just at one, vague place but all through them. True salvation yields change.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.[b] The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

So what does this mean for those of us that are genuinely saved? It should give us a more passionate prayer life and compel us to speak the truth in love and grace. For what could possibly be sadder than believing that a sentence you prayed as a kid saved you for eternity and then finding out too late that you have believed a horrible lie?

It is better to speak the truth that hurts and then heals, than falsehood that comforts and then kills. (Adrian Rogers)

Yes! a thousand times, yes! May we be kind. And may we be filled with God’s love. But may we speak the truth that heals rather than comfort people with lies that lead to their eternal damnation.

Salvation is not a moment.

 

The Love and Compassion that Swallows Fear

I heard someone ask Ray Comfort the other day if he stills gets scared when he witnesses to people. If you don’t know who Ray Comfort is, you will find him at Living Waters teaching people how to share the Gospel and doing a lot of that himself. After all these years you would think he’d be super comfortable sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with others, but he actually said he is still terrified. And then he said he has learned how to hold that terror and gave a little analogy that I wanted to share here–

If you had a pool filled with floating ice cubes and the coldest water you could imagine, you wouldn’t think about jumping in. But if a three year old fell in that pool, you wouldn’t think about it for a second. You’d just jump in and save him. There is a love and compassion that swallows fear.

That is true love, isn’t it? The kind that swallows fear?

And this isn’t just relevant to witnessing. It’s relevant to being a godly parent, being a godly leader, and encouraging Christians away from false teaching. These all take a love that will swallow that consuming fear that comes when we think about any confrontation.

What kind of fears do we fight?

There are so many but they all have one thing in common–

 

fear that people won’t like me

fear people will think I’m weird

fear that people will think I’m a fanatic

fear that people will think I’m divisive

fear that my comfortable circumstances will change

fear that someone won’t be my friend anymore

fear that people will be mean to me

fear that people will gang up on me

 

Do you see the main thing listed in these fears? Me and I. I am sure there are so many more fears but can you think of one fear you have in regards to telling others the truth about the Bible that isn’t wrapped up in you?

So this is a natural thing, isn’t it? We naturally want to live pleasant, happy, carefree lives. Of course, we don’t want to rock any boats or upset anyone because that means we have to deal with the unpleasant consequences that follow. The easiest thing to do is to just stay quiet. And so we don’t tell unbelievers about Jesus Christ–or if we do, we conveniently leave out the part about them being a sinner and needing to repent. All of that unpleasant stuff that no one wants to hear. And we don’t love our Christian brothers and sisters enough to call out sin or to mention that the author or the preacher they love so much is a false teacher.

Because our fear is bigger than our love.

You’d think–with my blog and all–that I wouldn’t struggle with this, right? I mean, let’s face it, when you do this kind of blogging there isn’t really any question of where I stand. But I still struggle with this. Somehow talking with someone one-on-one seems a lot more frightening than writing a blog post. I would imagine most bloggers and writers feel that way. In fact, you may feel that way even with social media, feeling much freer to share there (although that’s probably worth a blog post in and of itself–social media is not the place for these conversations, as a rule. If we wouldn’t say it to someone in person, we shouldn’t write it on a Facebook wall or tweet it).

Now, I must add one thing and this seems to be the perfect place to add it. “Jumping in that pool” to save someone is always the right thing to do. And because we do not know when someone is going to die, there is an urgency to witnessing that we cannot deny. However, while this isn’t really the topic of this post, I do think we need to remember to be wise. If we broach the subject of salvation or of a false teacher or of their own sin with someone and they grow angry and defensive, then we must know when to back away. We are not bulls in a china closet. We don’t just keep going, ramming Bible verses down their throats. There is a grace and love that must accompany speaking the truth.

But most of us never even get to the point where we are willing to speak the truth. To anyone. About anything. Because of that terrifying fear. But we have the power to overcome that fear. I John 4 tells us that God’s perfect love casts out that fear–

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

I think we must ask this question: At what point does our fear become a sin? At what point does it move from being a natural human response to an actual sin? Anger and envy are natural human responses but we don’t give them the same pass as fear, do we? Why is that?

Of course, this is compounded greatly by the fact that we are literally becoming the great enemy of the western world more and more each day. The agenda to demonize biblical Christians is vigorous and influential and so this intensifies our fears. And there is much to fear these days. The days of freely sharing biblical truth are slipping away into the twilight.

But there is a love and compassion that swallows our fear! And if we are born again, we have access to it. Right now. Today. Why are we allowing ourselves to be controlled by fear when we should be controlled by love?

 

 

Is the Lord Still Speaking?

I have been meaning to write this post for a while now. I have also been dreading it. I know that most of you–my readers–are going to disagree with this post (I even disagreed with it myself a few years ago!) However, I also recognize that this is probably the area that Christians are most vulnerable in this age that is driven by mysticism (experience=truth) and clouded by pragmatism (if it works, it must be true).

I also want to say right up front that if you don’t agree with me, I hope that you will stick around and that we can still be friends. I am not demanding that you believe as I do, but, instead, just ask you to open your mind as I simply share why I believe that the scripture teaches this. I ask you to do some digging of your own into the Word rather than just imbibing the messages of fallible authors, pastors, and teachers or listening to the experiences of friends.

A few months ago, I had a conversation with someone. We were talking about whether or not God still speaks to individuals today. The woman adamantly assured me that special revelation most certainly does continue. When pressed, however, for scripture to back up her viewpoint, she couldn’t give any.

Honestly, that used to be me. Until a good friend started talking with me about this and opened my eyes to the ramifications of this belief. If this is true, then the words God speaks to us must, by their very nature, be as authoritative as the words of the Bible. Wow. That is a Pandora’s box that we will never close once the lid is cracked (and this is exactly what is going on today). This same friend also handed me a book that not only changed my mind but also deepened my conviction called “Is That You, Lord: Hearing the Voice of the Lord, a Biblical Perspective” by Gary Gilley. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Almost always, the Old Testament or the book of Acts is the go-to for those who do use scripture to back up their case for special revelation. But there are a few problems with this. First, the Old Testament was under a totally different covenant and during the time when the Holy Spirit was not indwelling believers, so we can expect God’s communication with men to be very different than under the New Testament covenant. Regarding the book of Acts, we can see that if we carefully study the New Testament as a whole that Acts is a transitional book that had many unusual and supernatural occurrences as God built the early church. If you would like to know more about this, I encourage you to read Pastor Dean’s short essay on this very thing, which you can find here.

I thought I’d share with you some other reasons that I have arrived at the conclusion that the sign gifts and special revelation are not applicable to us today.

First, we cannot possibly know if we are hearing from God or Satan (or a demon).  2 Corinthians 11:14 makes it clear that Satan comes as an angel of light. This means he pretends to be something he is not in order to deceive. So let’s say you hear a voice say something to you. Even if it is a good thing—perhaps to help a neighbor—how can you possibly know it came from God? How can you know with absolute certainty? You see, Satan could feasibly pretend to be good—perhaps even for many years—until you trust that voice and listen to that voice. And then he will suddenly start to steer you off the narrow path. He is like a lion who wants to devour us and he is a deceiver. We dare not underestimate him when it comes to hearing a voice in our head.

Second, as we study the gifts we can see that the sign gifts as described in the Bible are absolutely nothing like the sign gifts of this modern age. Two really obvious examples are tongues and healing. First, tongues in the Bible (see Acts 2) were actual languages that were used to tell foreigners of the Savior. They were always used to bring glory to God and never to self and they were always to be interpreted (See I Corinthians 14). This is in complete opposition to the gibberish of today, which is rarely (if ever?) interpreted and looks much more similar to the demonic sects of Hinduism and other false religions. The similarities are truly shocking! As for healing—Acts 5 shows that even Peter’s shadow healed people who were obviously sick and dying. Today, modern apostles who claim to heal never heal radically. It’s always something you can’t see such as headaches or lengthening a leg. Never radical healing where someone with spina bifida can walk instantly or someone in hospice is radically healed in the blink of an eye. That is because the time for that is over. NOW, can God heal? Yes, yes, yes! He can and He does. Being a cessationist doesn’t mean you don’t believe in miracles. God works in marvelous ways and I have been privileged to see that on occasion. I just don’t believe He gifts prophets to do that healing in this day and age and I don’t live for miracles. Perhaps that is the biggest difference between a cessationist (someone who believes the sign gifts have ended) and most continuationists (someone who believes the sign gifts continue): Cessasionists appreciate miracles and we praise God for them, but they are not what make up the excitement or substance of our Christian lives.

Third, God put Himself in a box. Inevitably, the argument is always that we can’t put God in a box, but I want to assure you that God did that Himself. When we read His word, we see a couple of things that stand out. First, I Timothy 3:16 says this—

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Do you see verse 17 says that scripture will make us complete and thoroughly equipped? We don’t need any other word from God or special experience to equip us for the Christian life.

And Jude 3 says this—

Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.

Do you see the words “once for all”? This means that we shouldn’t expect any more revelation from God. As I already mentioned above, if God is speaking to us today those words must hold the same weight as the Word of God. No revelation from God can be more important than another one. And this causes us a major problem–especially because so many who claim to hear from God speak things in complete opposition to the Bible. In fact, did you know that almost all false religions started with a vision or “special message” from God? Do a little research and you will see. It is a sobering reminder of just how deceptive and crafty Satan really is.

Fourth, experience is the opposite of faith. The accusation I hear frequently is this: If we don’t believe in the sign gifts and special revelation, we are lacking in faith. But I would beg to differ. I believe that those who must rely on special experiences are actually the ones lacking in faith. We read this in Hebrews 11:1–

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Faith means we haven’t seen or felt or heard it physically but are trusting God and His Word that what He says will come to pass. We must have faith to believe that He has saved us through grace alone in Christ alone. True faith means that we don’t need any special messages or visions to confirm this.

Fifth, God’s special revelations in the New Testament always had to do with growing the Church and sharing the Gospel. They were rarely (if ever?? I’ve not done a thorough study) about someone’s personal dreams or desires or health or wealth. For example, in Acts we see several places where Peter and Paul experienced the supernatural, but it was always to point people to God and the Gospel. It always had to do with furthering God’s Kingdom and had nothing to do with their own selfish motivations and desires. This is a rather significant contrast to most special revelations claimed today.

Sixth, we must do a careful evaluation of the fruit that has resulted from the movement that promotes and endorses these things. I have not seen churches grow stronger or sounder or more biblical as a result of practicing the “spiritual gifts” but instead we see, as a general rule, movement away from the sufficiency of scripture and sound doctrine, while moving towards mystical, experience-based religion that has no absolutes. Individually, most end up in a self-absorbed, mystical religion that is always hungering for the next experience, which inevitably takes their focus off of studying, submitting to, and obeying the Bible.

And seventh, and most importantly, is that the emphasis on special revelation always takes the emphasis off of the Word and places it on to personal experience. Interestingly enough, we know from a study of the book of Revelation that in the last days there will be a one world religion. This religion will draw all men together into the final false religion of the antichrist. If we take an honest look at the fruit of the charismatic and NAR movements, we can see that they are drawing men away from the Word and making them reliant on mystical experiences. This is exactly what Satan wants. You can’t rely on experience and on the Word. They are mutually exclusive. So we can see that this movement is drawing men away from true Christianity into this mystical one-world religion that is coming.

So these are some of my reasons.

BUT what about…

I know you are asking it, so let’s just go there. What about the time that I felt like I just needed to pray for someone and found out later that they needed prayer at just that time? Or the time that I could “hear” the Lord say “give so-and-so some groceries” and I find out later that they desperately needed those groceries?

Phil Johnson has written a great post on this, which you can find here. But I want to share this quote from it that, to me, wraps it all up rather nicely–

I am convinced by all the clear commands and best examples of Scripture that God would have us seek understanding and guidance by looking into the more sure Word of Scripture, rather than listening to the declarations of uncredentialed modern “prophets” who frankly admit that they often mistake their own imaginations for revelation from God.

What does this have to do with providence? Glad you asked. I’m willing to acknowledge that God has sometimes employed my intuitive hunches, spontaneous notions, subliminal logic, unconscious thoughts, or whatever, to order my steps providentially.

I emphatically deny that this is a form of prophecy or revelation, because it is notoriously fallible. And following your sense of intuition will get you in trouble at least as often as it works out well. To regard one’s intuition as a gift of prophecy or claim it as a kind of special revelation is really no better than what pagan fortune-tellers and occult clairvoyants do.

Now this is something to think about, isn’t it? Are your hunches and intuitions and impressions and thoughts of action always right on? Mine are certainly not. And that is how we know that God can use them but they aren’t prophecies or special revelation. I encourage you to read Phil’s entire post if you would like to understand this subject better.

Now, after all of this, I recognize that many (probably most) of you will not agree with me on this. I share this post to just encourage you to not come to your conclusion lightly as you ponder this subject. I did this myself and I believe that I came to the wrong conclusion. If not for my friend, I would still be at that same place–strongly holding an opinion that I don’t believe, after studying the scriptures, was the right one.

I want to reiterate that I do not share this to cause division and I still warmly consider you as part of my Christian family, even if we disagree on this area. This is one of those secondary issues that seems fuzzier than it should. It’s one of those things I’d like to ask God about when I get to heaven. Sooooo why didn’t you make it clearer, God? My suspicion is that if it was clear the mainstream church (as opposed to the remnant of the true Church) would never be drawn into the one world religion predicted in the last days, but time shall tell.

Well, I hope this post has been an encouragement to those who agree with me, and that it has caused those of you on the fence to really think about what you believe, and that it will drive those of you who disagree with me into the Word to disprove what I have written.

I’ve said this before but I’ll repeat it: My opinion on this doesn’t matter. At all. Don’t rely on me. Go to the Word. We must get our opinions on biblical matters from the Bible. Personally, I believe this is what the Word teaches after extensive study. I simply suggest that you, too, only make a firm opinion about this after doing your own study of the issue with a humble and submissive heart.

 

Are You Treating God Like Your Personal Genie?

At the beginning of this year, I asked God to teach me how to pray. I have felt for a long time that this is an area of my life that is sorely lacking. It’s not that I haven’t been praying at all but I was keenly aware that when it came to the topic of prayer, I was just not what I was supposed to be.

God has been answering my prayer and He is teaching me a lot. One of the things He has been teaching me I’d like to share with you here today. We probably all know this already (I did), but sometimes a good reminder is just what is needed to get us back on the right path.

Somehow in 2018 we have landed in a world that is all about self. Self-advancement, Self-centeredness, Self-indulgence, Self-aggrandizement. All of life is all about self for most everyone. We can see this in our workplaces, restaurants, stores, sports fields, and even in our churches. We especially see this in families, where moms and dads are often off busy chasing their dreams while they leave their kids to be raised by strangers. This is probably worth a post itself but I really just needed this paragraph to remind us of how selfish we really have become as a whole in this current age.

And, as believers, while we know we are to be the opposite of all of the above, we can sometimes get caught up in this, as well. Sometimes without thinking. And I believe one of the ways this happens is in our prayer lives.

How often do we treat God like our personal genie? Asking only for the things we need and want personally? Asking (and maybe sometimes even demanding?) for the things that affect us in some way. And yet how often we never find the time to spend time praising and thanking God or to bring the requests of others before His throne.

As I was thinking about this a bit this morning, I thought of my relationship with my kids. If all they ever did was to ask for things from me or to use me and my resources to their advantage, I would not feel very loved. And I think we can say that this would be an indication that they don’t love me. At the very least, we can be sure that they love themselves more than they love me. This doesn’t really lead to a healthy relationship, does it?

James 4:3 describes a skewed prayer life by putting it like this: You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

When we ask out of wrong and selfish motives, we ask amiss. Sometimes we can fall into this pattern without thinking–trying to use our relationship with the Almighty, Omnipotent Creator to our own advantage. We can find ourselves always asking, always taking.

So how do we keep this from happening? What steps can we take to have a healthier prayer life? Here are five things that will help–

1. Spend the first few minutes of our prayer time in praise and adoration.

2. Spend some time thanking God for answered prayer requests. Thank Him for how He has worked in our life and for what He has already provided.

3. Spend time in His Word with a submissive and obedient heart, reading what He has to say to us with a willingness to live it out.

4. Submit our wills to God’s with all requests. Never demand, but ask with a heart that will take “No” for an answer without getting mopey or holding a grudge.

5. Live righteously before God, pleasing Him with our actions and obeying His commands, so that He knows we truly do love Him and we don’t just view Him as our magic genie in the sky.

Prayer is a tough thing, especially now that it has been hijacked. Satan has badly mangled it by bringing contemplative prayer to the scene, turning it into a self-centered (notice that word “self” yet again) time of experience and feelings. But prayer isn’t about what we can get. It’s about God and our relationship with Him. It is an opportunity for us to praise and worship God each and every day. It is an opportunity for us to submit our wills and lives to Him as a living sacrifice. AND it is also an opportunity to bring our requests before Him. Yes, we should do this. He wants us to do this. But let’s be careful that selfish requests aren’t the only thing we are bringing before Him, lest we fall into the trap of treating God like He is our personal genie, waiting to do our bidding.

 

P.S. If you want to know how to pray biblically, Jesus told us Himself in Matthew 6:9-13–

Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.[a]
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,[b]
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,[c]
12 and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.[d]

Notice that He doesn’t tell us to be silent before Him or to wait for Him to speak to us. If this was critical to our personal prayer time, I am quite sure Jesus would have mentioned that here where He is teaching His disciples how to pray. The fact that this type of prayer is never recommended in scripture anywhere should be enough to keep us far away from this type of mystical praying that comes straight from eastern religions and Catholic monasticism and has nothing to with biblical prayer.

 

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