“To the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. Revelation 3:1–2, NASB
When my dad died in 2010 I inherited my grandfather’s Bible. My grandfather was a remarkable man. He was born in 1877 and became a preacher of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in the 1890s in Indian Territory, which is now Oklahoma. My grandfather preached from this Bible well into the 1950s. It is full of notes and his own cross references. However, there is one thing in the bible that no one, apparently, knew was there. It is a letter written to him from one of his sisters, Lucy. It had to have been written to him either in the late 1940s or early 1950s, since she died around that time. Below is a quotation from it that I found especially fitting in light of the present condition of the visible church.
And do not enter into judgment with Your servant,
For in Your sight no man living is righteous.
Psalm 143:2, NASB
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Matthew 5:3–4, NASB
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I have hope in Him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
To the person who seeks Him.
It is good that he waits silently
For the salvation of the Lord.
Lamentations 3:24–26, NASB
Despite the “popular Christian” teachings in our time that suffering is never God’s will for His people, a close, sober, and honest study of scripture reveals that the fires of tribulation are used by God to form and refine His people. The view that God desires of each Christian always to be healthy and prosperous is based on many false assumptions. One false assumption is that salvation is somehow deserved and those who profess faith can claim anything they want from a god who is bound to meet all their requests. Another false assumption moves the focus of salvation from God glory to the person’s glory and their “having their best life now.” Sin is seen as simple mistakes that God overlooks because He is all love.
For those who are unfamiliar with the name Jonathan Welton, he’s one of the contributors to The Physics of Heaven along with Bill Johnson, who claims to be a modern day “Super Apostle”, and Johnson’s wife Beni. Apostle Bill runs the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry in Redding, CA that trains its students “to enjoy the presence of God, say what He is saying, and do what He is doing.” According to John Lanagan, the book serves as a roadmap to Christian entanglement with the New Age and quantum mysticism. Lanagan writes:
While writing a booklet concerning The Physics of Heaven, I was fascinated to learn Jonathan Welton states, “I have found throughout Scripture at least 75 examples of things that the New Age has counterfeited, such as having a spirit guide, trances, meditation, auras, power objects, clairvoyance, clairaudience, and more. These actually belong to the church, but they have been stolen and cleverly repackaged.”
According to The Independent:
Children may be born with parents of the same sex following a breakthrough which scientists believe paves the way for “two dad” families.
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. John 15:4–10, NASB
For the first 20 or so years of my Christian pilgrimage, I was in a very immature spiritual state. I was utterly convinced during that time that my worth as a disciple depended upon my performance, my learning, my obedience – my righteousness. With that mindset it was a very horrible experience at times, since I was on a roller coaster ride of obedience and backsliding. What amazed me during that period was that I was looked at as one of the more mature believers at our church. I knew better. That all changed in 2004 and 2005 as God drew me into the light and drastically changed that ‘mindset’. It was as I learned and held to the truth that our salvation is all according to God’s will, not ours, that I began to have peace and freedom. He chose us according to the good pleasure of His will, not according to our abilities or any other inherent attribute we may have, and we are righteous in His eyes because He has imputed Christ’s righteousness to us. With this remaking of my mindset came the beginning of the end of that cycle of obedience and backsliding. It was as if it had been put to death or that it had lost traction.
Christian Headlines reports on an online survey of young adults. According to the survey, “Young adults who said their fathers explained ‘biblical principles’ to them on a daily or weekly basis growing up were significantly more likely to say they lived by typical Christian behavior as adults by praying, volunteering, reading the Bible, and attending church frequently and avoiding pornography, marijuana use, abortion, and co-habitation.”
“Is it possible for a Christian to know God’s will and not have to agonize over it?” asks CRN contributor Marsha West. Moreover, “Should a believer make a decision without first spending hours in prayer, asking God to reveal His will? Must a Christian avoid making a decision until he or she has a ‘peace about it’? What about waiting for a ‘sign’ from God?” In part 1 of this series, Marsha addresses the visible Church’s slide into mysticism to find the answers to these questions.
Christian News Network reports:
The governor of Alabama, who formerly served as a deacon and Sunday school teacher at the Baptist church where he remains a member, says that he will obey the recent federal court ruling striking down the state’s Sanctity of Marriage Act as being unconstitutional.
“Have you understood all these things?” They said to Him, “Yes.” And Jesus said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old.” Matthew 13:51–52, NASB
Charles Spurgeon spent the last several years of his ministry contending with “liberalizing” efforts within the evangelical churches in England in what came to be known as the “Great Downgrade Controversy.” That “downgrade” gained momentum not only in England, but here in the United States and around the world. It began in the 19th Century when seminaries began embracing “higher criticism” of the Bible. This caused many promising biblical scholars eventually to cast loose that which moored them to orthodoxy, the belief that the Bible is God’s Word – inerrant, and complete. Even though movements came forth to contend with this liberalization, this downgrade, instead of dying, has only changed form many times while still poisoning the Church like a parasite, sucking the spiritual life from it.
To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. For,
“The one who desires life, to love and see good days,
Must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit.
“He must turn away from evil and do good;
He must seek peace and pursue it.
“For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous,
And His ears attend to their prayer,
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
1 Peter 3:8–12, NASB
This era of the Church is one of extreme deception due to compromise with the standards and focus of the world. Separation between the Church and the world is not being kept. Instead, the holy barrier between the two has been breached as false prophets have welcomed in not only the world and its ways into their churches, but have also embraced the world and it ways including mysticism of the Eastern religions. Syncretism is the new byword of the Emergent Village for instance.
On the other hand, God is good. He keeps His promises. The Lord told Peter that He is the one building His Church and no evil will ever be able to destroy it (Matthew 16:18). If this is true, and it is because our Lord spoke it, then how do we reconcile the rapid apostasy of so much of the visible Church with what He said?
God always keeps a remnant during times of rampant apostasy. These Christians are the small group whom God has reserved who have not bowed the knee to Baal. These are also the ones in whom God is developing Christlikeness and through the fires of persecution by those in the visible Church who have succumbed to the heresies and ungodliness going on in it, He is teaching them how to stand firm and never compromise with evil. In this they learn the difference between debate and dialogue and know that the former actually clarifies the truth and why they hold to it while the latter is only a conversation which has the intent of compromising the truth.
But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down), or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).” But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. Romans 10:6–10, NASB
Easter is approaching as I write this. It’s still over a month away, but it seems like we are already in some sort of “Easter season.” Of all the markers we celebrate as Christians, Easter was the one I had the hardest time understanding when I was a small child. It seemed so wrapped up in chocolate bunnies and Easter baskets, Easter egg hunts, dressing up in new clothes for church, et cetera. My mother tried to help me see the Biblical connection with our Lord’s Resurrection, but I failed to make sense of it until I was older. I saw it as a teen and young adult, but did not really “get it” until God had mercy on me, a sinner, and resurrected me unto new life as a Christian.
Former Mars Hill Bible Church pastor and Emergent leader Rob Bell is a controversial figure. Recently, Bell was invited by Oprah Winfrey to host The Rob Bell Show on her OWN channel. Bell denies the existence of hell, promotes “Mother God,” and insists that homosexuality is not a sin, thus our “homosexual brothers and sisters” must be accepted by the Church. Therefore, it is no surprise that he is reportedly thrilled by the idea that same-sex ‘marriage’ may soon become legal in America. Amy Spreeman, co-host of Stand Up For The Truth, offers Christians this advice:
When it comes to heretical teachers like Bell, we are NOT to “eat the meat and spit out the bones (advice found nowhere in Scripture), but instead we are to follow the command to mark and avoid false teachers.
Christian Headlines reports:
The Florida high school that told a student not to say “God bless America” during morning announcements said this week that the student did not violate the U.S. Constitution.
“Upon consultation with legal counsel and review of legal advisories, the Nassau County School District has taken the position that a student’s use of the phrase “God Bless America” during the morning announcements at Yulee High School does not violate the Constitution of the United States,” the school district said in a statement.
In 2014 WORLD Magazine revealed that Seattle’s Mars Hill Church paid a California-based marketing company somewhere around $250,000 to ensure that a book by its pastor Mark Driscoll and coauthored with his wife, Grace made the New York Times best-seller list. Some say the practice is “dishonoring to the Lord.” The magazine now reports that popular pastor and author David Jeremiah’s ministry, Turning Point, purchased copies of at least three of Jeremiah’s books to ensure that they would make the New York Times bestseller list. Last year WORLD asked Jeremiah about his book marketing practices, to which he replied: “You can’t just write a book and say I’m not going to have anything to do with marketing. If you don’t care enough about it to try and figure out how to get it in the hands of other people, nobody else is going to either.” In the acknowledgments section of his 2012 book God Loves You, Jeremiah even credits the man who got Driscoll in so much trouble – the president of Result Source, Kevin Small – as the “genius behind the plan.”
Christian News Network reports:
A florist from Washington is in jeopardy of losing her business, home and life savings after a judge ruled against her on Wednesday for declining to fulfill an order for a same-sex ceremony, but rather provided a referral for the regular customer.
For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:20–23, NASB
If you read or listen to the “testimonies” of the “new evangelists” or the emergents, or even those in the conservative denominations like the Southern Baptist Denomination who are working very hard to transform themselves into something they perceive as more culturally relevant, you will discover that they, across the board, arrived at their theology as they became “refugees” from some form of pietism or American Evangelicalism that leaned heavily towards semi-pelagianism and/or legalism. That mix, in whatever proportions, is intellectually veneer-thin. When the leadership within those groups move at all away from being centered on God’s Word and His grace then all that is left is the legalism that only leads those in unbelief to despair for, without the preaching of the Good News according to the Free Grace of God, all that is left is simply manmade religiosity. These “refugees” now look at all whom they view as dogmatic in any way about their theology as simply “fundamentalist”, even though there is a vast difference between what we preach and teach and that from which they fled. Of course, these “refugees” are mired in unbelief, no matter how “religious” they appear.
“For from the least of them even to the greatest of them,
Everyone is greedy for gain,
And from the prophet even to the priest
Everyone deals falsely.
“They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially,
Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’
But there is no peace.
“Were they ashamed because of the abomination they have done?
They were not even ashamed at all;
They did not even know how to blush.
Therefore they shall fall among those who fall;
At the time that I punish them,
They shall be cast down,” says the Lord. Jeremiah 6:13–15, NASB
Some may read my last few posts and believe that I and all who agree with the theology taught in those posts are antinomians. However, that is a case of missing the point. The doctrine of salvation by grace alone through faith alone is Biblical. Works-righteousness only leads to self-righteousness and never to peace and joy that is found by the regenerate who know their salvation is bound up in the righteousness of another, the Lord Jesus Christ, not their own. Those who despise the doctrine of imputation say that it leads to antinomianism. I present this post in answer to that.
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Matthew 3:7–12, NASB
In the passage above John the Baptist was addressing a form of spiritual blindness that was afflicting the Pharisees and Sadducees. Is there the same sort of stubborn blindness pertaining to Christianity? Yes, sadly there is. Spiritual blindness is a darkness beyond our ability to describe. This blindness is rampant in the “visible Church” in our day. Jesus prophesied about this.
Over the weekend, a video surfaced showing Islamic terrorists beheading 21 Coptic Christians for no other reason than for their religious beliefs. There are anywhere from 10 million to 60 million Coptic Christians worldwide. What do Coptics believe? According to Christian apologetics site GotQuestions.org, Coptic Christianity is similar to Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy in that it emphasizes faith-plus-works in salvation as well as liturgical ritual.
According to Christian News Network:
The recently-released findings from an in-depth study of nearly 10,000 young adults show that Millennials who were homeschooled are less likely to leave the faith than individuals who attended private or public schools.
For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. John 1:17 NASB
ὅτι ὁ νόμος διὰ Μωϋσέως ἐδόθη, ἡ χάρις καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐγένετο. John 1:17, NA28
Without a doubt the “visible church” in our time is in a great deal of confusion. Why? It is because there are scores of so-called “Christian leaders” who have compromised the truth in order to make their ministries more acceptable to the world.
As our Lord stood before Pilate and said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”
Pilate said what to our Lord? He said, “So you are a king?”
Our Lord replied, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”
What was Pilate’s answer? He said, “What is truth?”
What is it that our Lord is teaching us here is that we must learn and appropriate and apply to our lives? God’s truth is not editable. It is not modeling clay. It is not something that changes as times and seasons and culture changes. Grace is our theology.
The Daily Mail reports that New Age guru Shirley MacLaine “has provoked widespread fury by claiming the victims of the Holocaust may have brought their fate upon themselves.” Moreover, she insinuates that the “six million Jews and millions of others systematically murdered in Hitler’s death camps in the 1940s were ‘balancing their karma’ for crimes committed in past lives.” The Hollywood star also offered this bizarre speculation:
‘What if most Holocaust victims were balancing their karma from ages before, when they were Roman soldiers putting Christians to death, the Crusaders who murdered millions in the name of Christianity, soldiers with Hannibal, or those who stormed across the Near East with Alexander? The energy of killing is endless and will be experienced by the killer and the killee.’
Christianity Today reports:
Family Christian Stores has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Yet the ministry assured customers yesterday that it “does not expect” to close any of its more than 250 stores or lay off any of its approximately 4,000 employees.