Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. Acts 20:28–31, NASB
True, genuine, authentic Christianity is exclusive. It is not a smorgasbord or buffet of options from which men may take what they like while rejecting the rest and still call themselves Christians. While a statement like that may not be popular in this postmodern, politically correct, 21st century culture which advocates tolerance that is sort of a give and take “conversation” in which people with opposing views find a middle ground, it is still the truth. Authentic Christianity is quite the opposite. That is not to say that many who call themselves Christians have not colored their own personal theology with postmodern presuppositions, but these are what we call apostates. What is that?
And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” Mark 8:34–38, NASB
Jesus is coming back. Are you ready? Are you trusting in man-made or self-made religion to be what God will recognize as sufficient so that Christ will be your Advocate before the Father when you are judged? Without Christ as your Advocate, you will have no defense. How does Christ become our Advocate? How do we know if He is our Advocate? Let us examine Christ’s own words about this.
Nebuchadnezzar the king to all the peoples, nations, and men of every language that live in all the earth:“May your peace abound! It has seemed good to me to declare the signs and wonders which the Most High God has done for me. “How great are His signs And how mighty are His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom And His dominion is from generation to generation. Daniel 4:1–3, NASB
The deepest, widest blind spot that most professing Christians have is that they are convinced their religion pleases God. Pride disguises itself in many different ways. One that I have noticed in most professing Christians is a form of self-righteousness that sees their religion as making them so well-pleasing to God that anyone who is not part of their denomination or church could not possibly be right with God. Pragmatism springs from a desire by spiritually blind Christian leaders to mimic what other “successful” preachers or pastors do to grow their congregations or baptize huge numbers of converts. When these manipulating processes seem to work the first result is deeper spiritual blindness. Why? Idolatry always produces spiritual blindness. This blindness keeps those in it deceived into believing a lie. What lie? The lie is that God is not totally sovereign and needs their help to further the Kingdom. Their religious efforts may appear to “work,” but since the results are the fruit of fleshly methods and the works of men they only lead to cultivating pride. However, we must never forget that God is Sovereign.
There is a myth in these post-modern times that has deceived untold numbers of professing Christians. The deceived have believed the lie that Christians are not to confront and rebuke false teachers nor preach or teach anything that has the potential to cause division within the visible Church. The visible Church contains the churches we see all across this globe. This would include denominations and local churches and ministries that we can see visually and of which we can partake. The invisible Church is made up of the elect, the called-out ones. This is the true Church of genuine believers. It is within the visible Church. Therefore, the visible Church contains both genuine believers and professing believers who are not genuine.
“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this:” Revelation 3:7, NASB
One of the big errors of our time in the visible church of the 21st century is the misguided concept that truth is subjective. In other words, truth is what you want it be. This concept is, of course, simply borrowed from the world, which loves it. While I do not contend that I know when our Lord will return, I do know that it will be at the end of this age prior to the age to come. I know that He has been given a people for Himself from the Father. I know that His blood purchased them at the cross. I know that those whom He saves must live in this sin-sick world to be sanctified, to mature in Christ, and for their lives to glorify God. These truths, and so many more from God’s Word, are not subjective.
And it happened that while He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him, and He questioned them, saying, “Who do the people say that I am?” They answered and said, “John the Baptist, and others say Elijah; but others, that one of the prophets of old has risen again.” And He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.” Luke 9:18–20, NASB
We must agree that there is a growing apostasy that appears to be consuming the visible Church. This can cause us anguish and grief along with some growing excitement in anticipation of the soon return of our Lord Jesus Christ. However, let us not forget that there are many who claim to be “christian” who view this as the very thing they are trying to accomplish. They view our exposition of it as “interference” and “over reaction.”
You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. James 4:4, NASB
Compromise is a term the world system likes. In fact, the world system as we know it in our time runs on rails greased by compromise. Even though the U.S. Constitution protects the right of free speech to its citizens, the political correctness movement is doing all it can to squelch or smother the expression of “opinion” that is contrary to what it deems as inoffensive. It appears that the right of the easily offended is more protected than the right of those who speak the truth and live by it.
The emergent movement, for example, teaches that it is wrong to preach the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in completion. Why? It is divisive. It is exclusive. It offends. Instead, its leaders teach that we should only preach things that bring people together. Another difference between orthodox Christianity and the emergents has to do with separation from the world system. We teach what the Bible teaches, that is, Christians must not be friends of or part of the world system because those who are actually prove that they are an enemy of God. On the other hand, the emergents consistently teach that repentance is no big deal and all sorts of sins condemned in the Bible are not grounds for separation from the local body of believers.
“After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also.” John 14:19, NASB
When our Lord spoke of the “world” in John 14:19, He was talking about those in this temporal existence who are not believers. They are not Christians, even though some in that group may profess to be so. In this context, He was also referring to the Jewish religious leaders of His own day who so opposed Him and His ministry, and who would continue to oppose the early Church, as is seen all through the books of Acts for example. What is it that separates those alive in this world from those who are not is that the living truly see Jesus for who He really is, believe and are saved, while those who refuse to do so, reject the gospel, and remain in their sins – even if they may develop a form of Christianity that suits them, but is absent of the real Jesus.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. Matthew 16:24–25, NASB
The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is a message given to be passed on as “Good News” of the completed work of Christ on behalf of those He came to save. The message is about His incarnation, His perfect life, His death on the cross, His three days and nights in the tomb, and His resurrection. All of these things were attested to by witnesses. The resurrection is the proof that our Lord is God and that the work of the atonement is complete. Those who effectually hear the Gospel, believe it, receive it by grace through faith and repent as they turn to Christ as Lord and Saviour. As is made clear in Ephesians 2:1–10, there is no one is able to do this on their own, God must intervene making then alive in Christ who were once dead in their sins so they could believe and be saved.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:3–6, NASB
Not long ago I listened to an attack on “Reformation Theology” in which the preacher based his entire case upon one single charge. He said that a Monergistic interpretation of the Bible is based upon a faulty presupposition. That presupposition is in two parts. The first part is that we say man is dead in trespasses and sins and incapable of obeying all commands to come to God in his own ability. The second part is that we say God takes the initiative and regenerates those whom he has elected before the foundation of the world, enabling them to repent and believe and come to Christ and be justified by faith.
This fellow totally ignored the fact that this theology is based upon God’s free choice before the foundation of the world, and the redemptive work of Christ in the obedient life and keeping the Law and going to the cross to the become the propitiation for those elect. That’s right, he totally ignored what was actually accomplished at the cross. Instead, his interpretation of all those “difficult” passages like John 6:44 are best to be seen as God’s people being those who come to him in repentance and then he saves them. So, totally ignoring all these passages about election and imputation, he says salvation is a totally synergistic system which man kicks-starts by first coming to God in repentance, and then God takes over from there. He gave examples of genuine converts he had seen who came in brokenness, and he could tell they were saved because they grasped the truth and walked in repentance, et cetera. He contrasted that with false converts who were simply religious who never walked in repentance. Right, could it be that he is confusing the order of things? Could it be that those he is seeing coming in repentance have been regenerated by God first, and now are able to believe because they are the elect of God?
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and God was the Word. John 1:1, translated from the NA28 Greek text
εν αρχη ην ο λογος και ο λογος ην προς τον θεον και θεος ην ο λογος John 1:1, Textus Receptus
εν αρχη ην ο λογος και ο λογος ην προς τον θεον και θεος ην ο λογος John 1:1, Tischendorf New Testament
εν αρχη ην ο λογος και ο λογος ην προς τον θεον και θεος ην ο λογος John 1:1, Wescott and Hort New Testament
Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος. John 1:1, NA28
We live in a time where truth is under attack from every side. Even amongst those who claim to be Christians there is a growing number demanding that we hold God’s truth as relative in order to unoffensive to everyone. We hold that John 1:1 teaches that the Apostle John was teaching, inspired by the Holy Spirit, that Jesus Christ is deity, is a member of the Holy Trinity, and pre-existed His incarnation as a man.
Then Joshua said to the people, “You will not be able to serve the Lord, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgression or your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you after He has done good to you. Joshua 24:19–20, NASB
One of the products of the growing apostasy of the Church in our time that is especially tragic is the loss of the understanding of God’s Holiness. Several years ago I wrote a post about our great need to walk in fear of God. Some of the comments I received on that post were heartbreaking. Some insisted that Jesus was their buddy or their homeboy or their ‘bro’ and he loved them so much that it really did not matter how they lived. My brethren, God has not changed. He is immutable and perfect. He neither changes nor has any need to do so.
Following a period where the Ten Commandments have been much abused, discern.org has a helpful corrective.
Photo credit: Sun rise on Mt. Sinai 2, Endlisnis.
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8–9, NASB
In my last post, _The deceitfulness of human reason_, we looked at how those who are in Christ are works of God, not works of human reason or works of men of any kind or sort. The focus of that post was primarily on the Sovereignty of God and the futility of those who are simply religious and who attempt to reason away the good doctrines of God because they are offended by them.
Why did I concentrate on that? I have been experiencing this a great deal lately from many quarters. I learned a long time ago to pay attention when something like that happens continually over a short period of time. It is time for me to focus, again, on the root of the problem behind that, so I wrote that post. After I wrote it, I was contacted by a certain person who has been doing so in a shadowy way over the last several weeks, but I have not posted any of his/her comments nor have I taken the bait to get into another fruitless “debate” on this subject, which has been completely settled.
But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith. 2 Timothy 3:1–8, NASB
Genuine or authentic Christianity is not a world religion. Instead, it is a fellowship of believers who have been justified by Faith. There are many professing Christians who would not fit that definition. They may be religious. They may have made a “profession of faith,” but they are not regenerate nor do they have The Holy Spirit. Why? They have not repented and submitted to the Lordship of Christ. They are not New Creations through the washing of Regeneration, which quickens believers from being spiritually dead to spiritually alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:13).
Saving faith is not the result of human reason. It is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8–9). Knowing God and obeying God requires an active faith that is outside of human reason. Over last several days I have been in several discussions with some folks that were obviously very bright, but their arguments were based entirely within intellect and totally outside of faith. After a few rounds of back and forth responses it becomes very obvious that unless God opens their hearts to the truth they simply will not believe it. They will even say things like I and those who fight the fight along side me have no regard for the truth or that we present truth outside of the love of God. How do we answer a charge like that when all we do is present the truth as commanded in sacred scripture? They have their own understanding of the truth that they have formulated via human reason, which looks at Biblical Truth as relative because it makes demands that are outside of what they can understand or see as fair or right.
If you haven’t yet listened to Dr. Rod Rosenbladt’s masterful presentation, you’re missing out. And if you have, you’ll probably want to hear it again.
Photo credit: Leanda Xavian.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Romans 8:37, ESV
How often have you heard Romans 8:37 in support of the concept of a “higher Christian life?” I have heard it in that context, but I have also heard it in its proper context, which is found in the entire chapter of Romans 8. In this context we learn that it is only in the context of suffering that Christians can learn what it means to be “more than conquerors.”
To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in You I trust, Do not let me be ashamed; Do not let my enemies exult over me. Indeed, none of those who wait for You will be ashamed; Those who deal treacherously without cause will be ashamed. Make me know Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; For You I wait all the day. Psalms 25:1–5, NASB
Doubting God and His promises, and worrying about things that are in God’s control, are sins. Our enemy focuses primarily in His attacks on us in attempts to bring us to a place where we doubt God. This struggle comes to all who commit themselves to serving God with their lives. The closer they draw to God, the more Satan or his forces attempt to bring discouragement and despair to bear on these believers in an attempt to thwart their devotion to their Lord.
“I kept looking Until thrones were set up, And the Ancient of Days took His seat; His vesture was like white snow And the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne was ablaze with flames, Its wheels were a burning fire. “A river of fire was flowing And coming out from before Him; Thousands upon thousands were attending Him, And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him; The court sat, And the books were opened. Daniel 7:9–10, NASB
Before we look at Revelation 20:11–15, take a moment to reflect on the carnage being wrought upon the visible church in our time by the very men who, by their own positions, should be shepherding the sheep. Instead, they are actually doing the very things to bring about the famine of hearing the Word of God and, hence, spiritual darkness seems to be all around us right in the midst of the “Church.” Mysticism in the guise of Spiritual Formation is being flim-flamed off on the unsuspecting as if it is another form of Christian prayer. We have rock-star pastors who measure their success by how many books they sell and how many branch churches they have who watch them preach via satellite. Of course, if you measure the content of their sermons by the Word of God, what you have is simply man-centered propaganda meant to appease, tease, and keep people coming through the front door instead of confronting them with their sin and need of a Saviour. Now, as you reflect on that, consider what awaits those whose names are not found written in the book of life.
Therefore the Lord heard and was full of wrath; And a fire was kindled against Jacob And anger also mounted against Israel, Because they did not believe in God And did not trust in His salvation. Psalms 78:21–22 NASB
Dealing with Emergents, pragmatists, and others who insist that they are Christians while what they say and do is marked as distinctly the fruit of unbelief, can be a very trying experience. I suppose that is why our enemy will never stop his attacks on those who are called by the name of Christ to discourage and confuse them. Several years ago while working with my friends Chris Rosebrough and the late Ken Silva, I became aware of a “discussion” they had with an Emergent named Doug Pagitt. Chris posted a link to Pagitt’s response to that conversation, which I read. Pagitt and his fellow Emergents came up with a concept that they felt described those of us who would be considered orthodox Christians, which was that we are so because we are driven by fear. However, the one thing that struck a chord with me in this was Pagitt’s description of the differences in our faith and his was that they are nothing more than different “streams of faith.” I have never forgotten that.
However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. Romans 10:16–17, NASB
This ministry began as part of an effort to resist the overtaking of huge parts of the SBC by the Purpose Driven Paradigm. I was a deacon at a small Baptist Church in Olathe, Kansas, but had served in the same capacity at a much larger SBC church in Oklahoma. At that church, I had witnessed one of the first PDC takeovers in Oklahoma, which was in the mid-1990s. I lost many friends who stood up to the change and were told by the pastor(s) that they either went along with the changes or they weren’t welcome. During that same period I was so busy I really didn’t know what was going on. I had no idea who Rick Warren was, but I did know that our entire staff flew out to California to spend a week at Saddleback Valley Baptist Church for indoctrination. In any case, by the time my company relocated me from OKC to Tulsa in 2000, most of the people at that church were strangers to me and when I taught classes, I was not ever allowed to go any deeper with them than the shallow end of the kiddie pool.
Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. “Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes! “If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire. If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell. “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven. Matthew 18:4–10, NASB
This fallen world is diametrically opposed to God and His ways in every part. Even those of us who have been delivered through the redemptive work of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life in Him can find ourselves at times with a temporal focus, which causes us to make compromises in our walks.
Then Moses said to Aaron, “It is what the Lord spoke, saying, ‘By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, And before all the people I will be honored.’” So Aaron, therefore, kept silent. Leviticus 10:3, NASB
God is far more serious about His glory than anyone else. Does it feel wrong to you that our God demands that we be humble before Him while also demanding that His creation exist solely to glorify Him? (Isaiah 43:7; Colossians 1:10; 2 Timothy 2:4; John 8:29; Romans 8:8; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; 1 Thessalonians 4:1; Ephesians 4:1; 2 Corinthians 5:9.) If that concept rankles within your soul then it is imperative for you do some self-examination. Don’t feel too bad about that because all of us who are in Christ are in the process of becoming conformed unto the image of the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29–30; Philippians 2:12–13). That process is called sanctification (Romans 6:19–23; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; 1 Peter 1:2).
See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. 1 John 3:1–3, NASB
On this last day of 2014 looking back on the themes of the posts I have written this year, especially in these last few weeks, I have never been more convinced that God’s people are being called to draw nearer to Him, to examine their walks with Him and, from that, come to a deeper and fuller understanding that God’s truth is knowable and also that we will be held accountable for how we handle it.
Also, His truth is as His attributes and character. He is immutable. His truth is never changing. He is Holy. His truth is Holy, separate from the corruption of the world. His truth, the Word of God, is precise. It supernaturally divides man’s “truth” and understanding from God’s genuine truth. It is sharper than a two edged sword.
Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:16–22, NASB
CSM is an acronym for “Contemplative Spiritual Meditation.” It is a perverse melding of Christian prayer with Eastern mysticism. Bottom line, those who are behind this are deceived. They have been taken in by deceptive spirits because they have not “tested” every spirit, but have, instead, eagerly sought spiritual influences from outside the Church. The Word of God expressly warns believers against this sort of thing. In this post I would like to unpack 1 John 4:1–6 which does indeed address this.