O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.
Psalm 139:1–4 NKJV
Our God is beyond our understanding. Thankfully, He has revealed Himself to us, to a degree, in His Word. Those who claim to serve Him, but treat His Word as if it was not important, or refuse to submit to the truths therein are fools. That has always puzzled me about those who take a sliver of God’s Word, misinterpret it, and then build massive doctrines around their misinformation. Have they no fear of God?
God is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. He knows all, is everywhere at once, and is all-powerful. Those who play games with Christianity must have no understanding of this for if they did, they would not dare trifle with God Almighty!
For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. Romans 8:13, ESV
God is Holy. God is Righteous. God is Just. God is Sovereign. Yehōwāh (יהוה) our Adhōnāy (אדן אדון), God our sovereign one, our Lord, our Kurios (κύριος), is also Love, Mercy, and Grace. We must not have a view of God that emphasizes His love, mercy, or grace over His Holiness.
We are commanded to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). We are commaded to delight in God and come boldly to His throne of Grace, yet we must never take His Holiness for granted. This is why we have so much exhortation in Bible to put to death the deeds of the flesh and then become Spirit-filled thereby walking in repentance.
Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Leviticus 10:1–2, ESV
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2:9–10, ESV
In his second epistle, Peter is describing Christians as a royal Priesthood. What does this mean? Since the elect is this Priesthood then each one of us who are in Christ are priests in Him, that is, Christ. It would be safe to say that we are witnessing in our day the culmination of a period in which this truth has become distorted within the visible Church.
The necessity of personal holiness for each believer has been neglected and discounted by antinomians whose cry is “Free Grace!” On the other hand, legalistic Christians have made the acts of obedience to God’s commands into idols unto themselves. My brethren, both of these extremes are Strange Fire unto the Lord.
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. 1 Peter 4:1–2, ESV
Even though genuine Christians are new creations and have been purchased out of the world through the redemptive work of Christ on the Cross, as they attempt to live godly lives in the temporal, they will come under tremendous pressure to compromise by reverting back to the fleshly way of dealing with life. This way of reacting to circumstances, both good and bad, has emotions as its catalyst motivated by a form of self-righteousness that is manifested through self-exaltation and self-protection.
Here we witness ourselves reacting to the good and bad in a way that is little different than we did prior to our salvation. We may even attempt to justify our actions by proclaiming that we are only seeking justice. Pride is the culprit behind this and when we stumble into these sins it is because we are not spirit-filled and, therefore, not humble.
While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” Luke 22:47–48, ESV
When the dogs and swine come to harass and distract it is not pleasant, but I can bear it. However, when someone approaches this ministry as if a friend only to be discovered later to be a deceiver it is somehow much more difficult to bear.
When one breaks the bread of the Word of God with us then turns on us it is a bitter thing. Why? Deceitfulness is as the word suggests, it is the process of deception, for whatever purpose, that causes trusts to be broken and fills us with anguish and grief. It is hurtful.
Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” Matthew 8:18–22, ESV
For the Christian, this life is a test as well as a proving ground in which God grows and matures those who belong to Him through pruning and removing what is not of Him in order that the believer will be humbled and, therefore, enter deeper into the process of becoming more Christlike. There is a cost of following Jesus, but if you listen to certain preachers and teachers in our time, this is not true at all. Instead, what they teach is that repentance is not a part of one’s salvation at all.
However, repentance is a marker of Christian authentication. On the other hand, in the visible Church in our time there are many voices that seek to normalize homosexuality for instance. However, to make this claim they must ignore what the Bible clearly teaches about what constitutes marriage (Genesis 2:24; 1 Corinthians 7:8–9). Those who truly follow Jesus must do so on His terms, not the terms of this lost and dying world.
No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Luke 13:5, ESV
I was in Elementary School in the late 1950s and early 1960s. That means I was in Junior High and High School in the the 1960s and College in the late 1960s and the early 1970s before I went into the U.S. Navy. I can remember very clearly segregated schools in Oklahoma and when segregation ended.
I can remember when there were race riots all over the country it seemed and then it seemed insanity went from bad to worse with the assassinations of the black rights leaders like Medger Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King. I was in school in the 7th grade when we heard about the assassination of our President, John F. Kennedy.
It was a few years later when I was in High School that his brother, Robert F. Kennedy, who was probably going to be the Democratic nominee for the Presidential election in 1968, was assassinated. All of that took place with the grim reality of the war in Viet-Nam and the draft awaiting all of us when we turned 18.
It was because of this bleak, insane, dark, seemingly hopeless period that so many in my generation rebelled and dropped out. They sought peace through love. They sought to change everything top to bottom by going to the extreme left. They sought to nullify everything that generations before had done and start over. Sound familiar?
Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, Ephesians 6:14, ESV
Temporal focus is deadly for Christians. We know that God’s will for us is our sanctification, 1 Thessalonians 4:3 but we tend to let our focus drop from God to self.
Our flesh is insidious in its desire to drive us to partake of the world and its ways for self-gratification. Our enemy knows this; therefore his temptations are often rooted there. No one is immune or exempt from this. In fact, God uses this battle to test His saints.
Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:12, ESV
What is the good fight of faith and why is it necessary? The main problem is the condition of what is called The Church in our time. It is decidedly lacking in spiritual maturity and, of course, much of it is not genuine. Christian spiritual maturity is a compound of wisdom, goodwill, resilience, and creativity.
On the other hand, since this is lacking big time in the visible Church, what we have in that part that claims to be “evangelical,” is man-centered, manipulative, success-oriented, self-indulgent, and sentimental. It is 3,000 miles wide and half an inch deep. It is lead by many false, manipulative men who are pushing false gospels and false doctrines while pointing people to a Jesus that is not the Jesus Christ of the Bible.
Therefore, as we become more and more obedient to the Lordship of Christ, we will be called by our Lord to enter the fight as good soldiers to fight the good fight of faith. This is necessary for in this fight we become the mature disciples who bring glory to God and those who are our enemy’s seed will fill up the cup of wrath that God is preparing for them as they use deceit, lies, and all sorts of wicked things in attempts to draw those fighting the good fight into unfruitful activities where they can be silenced and shamed by injuring their consciences. In order to fight this good fight of faith we must do so according the will of God, not according to the plans and devices of men.
You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra-which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 2 Timothy 3:10–13, ESV
“Christians” in the United States and other “civilized” countries do not exist in a climate of a fear of persecution like those in China and India (for now). Some would say that is because of our culture or that there are huge numbers of Christians here. However, the truth of the matter is that Christians who live in total obedience to their Lord will be persecuted. So, what does that say about Christians who live at peace with the world around them?
The truth of the matter is this; the reason Christians are not persecuted is that very few of them are walking in the level of obedience to their Lord that would draw attention to them from those who hate the real Jesus and the Word of God. However, if they were living holy lives, sharing their faith, actively making disciples, and preaching the whole Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ the wrath of Satan and his seed would come upon them.
Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. 1 John 3:13, ESV
There is a vast difference between the wisdom of the world and that of the Holy Spirit. What I mean is that no matter how profound or emphatic or pious sounding an enemy of the truth is, it is almost laughable how easy it is to spot their error and observe their self-importance as they attempt to belittle those who stand firm in the midst of God’s truth. I have a set of rules for governing comments on my blog. I had to implement them because there are certain people who think it is their job to disrupt or shout down God’s truth.
The rules are really quite simple. If anyone desires to dispute what I have taught or what a commenter has said then they must do so by using the Word of God alone as the source of their proof. It is amazing how many comments never make it through moderation because those commenters behind them are attacking what I had taught or what someone else and said, but their point of contention contained no truth. All they can come up with is innuendo or accusation, but no grounds for complaint. I can understand that coming from atheists or people from another religion, but these are professing Christians who have a huge problem with the literal interpretation of Sacred Scripture.
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:22–27, ESV
We are exhorted throughout God’s Word to persevere even in the most rugged of circumstances. We are given a promise of what awaits those who do persevere, the adoption as “sons” and redemption of our bodies, which is positional for all truly in Christ. Yet, we look forward to these and other promises with eyes of faith. This temporal part of our life as Christians can be quite a battle with the flesh to the point of crying out like the Apostle Paul, “O wretched man that I am!” Weakness in this battle is directly attributable to a lack of praying as we should, while, conversely, victory in this battle is directly attributable to proper praying in the spirit, that is, in harmony with the leading of the Holy Spirit rather than according to one’s own agenda. There are many “church” things out there that are not good for us. These “church” things are the product of those scoffers who have entered the Church to divide it.
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6:7–10, ESV
Repentance is not a large part of the paradigm that is the 21st century version of the visible church. The current trend to build Mega-Churches has as one of its main tenets that the prevailing culture within which the church resides must determine the content of the Gospel.
In order to attract the largest possible number of people to be part of these churches, absolutely no emphasis is placed on living a life of repentance by the professing Christian. Instead, the way “church is done” is to bring the world into it, to not be threatening in any way to those who have no desire to abandon their flesh oriented lifestyles.
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar- Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. Matthew 16:13–20, ESV
Genuine Christians, God’s heirs, are those who have believed.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16, ESV
Carefully read this very familiar passage from John chapter 3. Who is it that does not perish, but has eternal life? It is whoever believes in the Son. Not everyone who attempts to “follow” Jesus believes.
When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat. ’” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. John 6:25–36, ESV
And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. 1 John 2:28–29, ESV
All who are truly in Christ must admit that this walk is fraught with doubt as well as pressure to conform to a form of godliness that has no power, to be faithful at doing church as the primary indicator of our genuineness, as well as to live up to the idea that lost people have of what a Christian must be.
As many of you know, I grew up as a Southern Baptist. While I am grateful for the deep Bible knowledge that I gained through being in Church every Sunday, I have also learned that much of the focus of organized religion is geared more to creating religious faithfulness rather than to disciple believers to abide in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.
ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ· ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω σοι, ἐὰν μή τις γεννηθῇ ἄνωθεν, οὐ δύναται ἰδεῖν τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ. John 3:3, NA28
Jesus answered and said to him, “Amen, amen I say to you, unless one is born again, he is not able to see the Kingdom of God.” John 3:3, translated from the NA28 Greek text
The more I deal with those who are adamantly against the fact that God’s Word is absolute truth as they claim the correct way to understand the gospel is as if it is some sort of smorgasbord or rotating buffet in which the sound doctrines taught to us from the Bible are simply one of untold numbers of various ways to God, the more amazed I become at the abject spiritual blindness exhibited by them. These same people want an understanding of the Bible that is loose and easy to hedge.
Why? It is so they can include every person on planet earth as on “a” path to God regardless of status as a Christian or not. This multi-path concept to God is a perfect seedbed for the apostate authors such as Brian McLaren who wrote A Generous Orthodoxy. McLaren and those like him are rethinking “Christianity” so that it becomes the all-inclusive container for all religions. The end-product of this rethinking of Christianity is not Christianity at all. It is an open-ended, man-made false religion that has as its foundation the philosophies of men, not the Word of God.
But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old. When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them.
And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, “‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’ — for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. Acts 4:19–28, ESV
When we make statements like, “God is Sovereign.” we sometimes include a qualifier in that statement like this, “God is Sovereign over ‘something.” That is a fallacious statement though meant well. God is Sovereign.
There is no need to add any qualifier to that statement. I have heard many well meaning people say, “God is Sovereign over salvation.” Well, He is, but He is also Sovereign over all of creation. There is nothing over which He is not sovereign.
For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. For forty years I loathed that generation and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.” Therefore I swore in my wrath, “They shall not enter my rest.” Psalm 95:7–11, ESV
Preaching or teaching from God’s Word is serious business. The responsibility that goes with each is eternal. Those who minister through the Word will be held accountable. We must ask each time we preach or teach, “Did I treat what is Holy as it deserved? Have I fallen into doing my ministry perfunctorily?” Those of us who teach must never do so in way that is in any way motivated by anything other than our love and devotion for our Lord.
Yes, there will be circumstances that we respond to and use as inspiration or input, but, even in that, we do a tremendous disservice to our Lord if we don’t go to Him in prayer first before we respond, write, preach, or teach. While the leader has a huge responsibility to minister by the Spirit, those who hear the truth from God’s Word will also be held accountable.
Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. 1 Thessalonians 4:1–8, ESV
Holiness is commanded by God. He wills it. Our Lord Jesus Christ requires it and the Word of God calls for it. The goal of our redemption is that we become Holy as God is Holy. Our Lord died on the cross in order that all of His people would be justified. This justification is God’s declaration that we are righteous having Christ’s righteousness imputed to our account. This had to come first in order that we may be sanctified and made Holy.
But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:5, ESV
One of teachings of the Word-Faith movement from their leadership is that Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross was insufficient to accomplish the salvation of His people. They teach that Jesus then had to go to Hell to suffer as a lost person by being tormented by Satan. If that were true then what did Jesus mean when He said, “It is finished”? (John 19:30)
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33, ESV
The natural man in each of us wants to paint God as a combination of a spiritual Santa Clause and the Genie from Aladdin’s Lamp or at least a lesser deity whose will is subject to his. We tie our good works into how well our lives go. If we do good things then God will surely see to it that we don’t lose our jobs or we get a great raise each year or our health is good.
Some even demand this and hold God accountable if He “does not come through.” Equity or fairness is our cry. Just look at our society. Even though it isn’t a reality everyone seems to demand that no one be offended or that everyone be treated fairly. This has bled over into the Church in the 21st Century.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1–2, ESV
One of the markers of genuineness in a Christian is separation from the World. This isn’t a physical removal from planet Earth or a disintegration of the body of a Christian. A genuine Christian’s character should be in a continual upgrade unto Christlikeness. That means that as he or she cooperates with God in their sanctification, working out their salvation with fear and trembling, their character will take on more and more of Christ’s character instead of being patterned after the world and its ways. They will love what He loves and hate what he hates. God is love, but He hates a certain type of love.
As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. Matthew 13:20–22, ESV
The Bible very clearly teaches that Christians should examine themselves quite often in order to see what their spiritual condition is. Genuine Christians are not perfect people. Neither are they always full of happiness, in perfect health while having plenty of money in the bank. No, the fact that all believers are called to be humble, poor in spirit, meek, pure in heart and many other things that are growing in their character means that they will spend much of their time in the fires of sanctification.
It is during these times of pruning that believers are in the greatest danger of becoming despondent, discouraged, and even depressed if they have not learned to view their circumstances correctly.
Despite what many in the Easy-believism or Universalism camp teach, there are people who profess Christ who are not genuine. They are not regenerate nor do they have the Holy Spirit. They are not in Christ. Genuine Christians abide in Christ. They remain. They may go through the worst tribulation imaginable, yet they remain attached to the Vine. However, when tribulation descends on the disingenuous professing Christians they do not endure because they have no root in themselves. The world and the deceitfulness of riches cause others to fall away. These are not genuine believers.
to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:6, ESV
Our salvation, our redemption, is God’s handiwork end to end. In all my many years as a believer, I have run across multitudes of professing Christians in spiritual bondage because they have a “distrust” of God that they absolutely refuse to admit is there, but prove it by walking in unbelief.
This “walking in unbelief” consists of believing their salvation is entirely up to them and their performance in walking in repentance to remain in God’s good graces. It is as if they have the offer of salvation, which they have accepted, but they are in deadly fear that the offer will be revoked if they sin or or not work hard enough.
This is a form of unbelief because God’s Word does not teach that. In fact, it teaches the opposite. I wonder if those in this bondage have every considered the fact that since none of us could do one thing to save ourselves, therefore, the teaching we will be held eternally accountable to a standard of perfection that is impossible for us to be conformed to in this life is a heresy.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. Matthew 7:21–25, ESV
Genuine Christians should be seeking the joy of the Lord and are, perhaps, perplexed because their circumstances are anything but joyful. Our Lord gave us the example through the way He walked throughout His earthly ministry in which we are given what true joy is and how we must live in order to obtain it.
The following passage is right in the middle of that part of John’s Gospel dealing with the Samaritan woman at the well.