7 Of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God having been given to me according to the working of his power.
8 To me, the least of all the saints, this grace was given to the gentiles to preach the unsearchable wealth of Christ 9 and to enlighten all men as to what is the stewardship of the mystery hidden from the ages in God, the one who created all things 10 that it might be made known now to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenlies through the Church the many faceted wisdom of God 11 according to the plan of the ages, which he made in Christ Jesus our Lord 12 in whom we have boldness and access in confidence through faith in him. 13 Therefore, I ask you not to despair concerning my afflictions for you, which is for your glory. Ephesians 3:7-13 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
If you have been reading our last several posts then you know that God has had me focusing quite a bit on humility contrasted with pride. Pride in Christians is never right. However, if we are honest, we must all agree that that there is a growing disrespect for God in today’s various teachings on prayer along with current expressions in contemporary worship. My brethren, these things are products of pride! While boldness does mean that those who are truly in Christ need not have any inhibitions as they come before God, they must still never forget that God is God. To treat God as if he is a “buddy,” to bring him down to our level in any way, is truly blasphemous. It is insolence in action to do any other than respect and worship God as he deserves. He is not our “buddy” or “pal,” but our heavenly Father and our God. What does it mean to come before him in boldness while not being insolent?
17 One day He was teaching; and there were some Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem; and the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing. 18 And some men were carrying on a bed a man who was paralyzed; and they were trying to bring him in and to set him down in front of Him. 19 But not finding any way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down through the tiles with his stretcher, into the middle of the crowd, in front of Jesus. 20 Seeing their faith, He said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” 21 The scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, “Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?” Luke 5:17-21 (NASB)
I have known many people over the years who professed to be Christians, but who held to doctrines that placed the burden and veracity of their salvation on themselves. For the first 20 or so years of my walk with the Lord, I was a member in 4 different Southern Baptist churches in two states. The SBC is not a denomination of churches that are consistent across the board on doctrine. There are Reformed and Arminian Churches in the convention along with everything in between. In fact, until God woke me up and drew me into the light in 2004 I really had no idea what the difference was. I had never heard of Arminianism. I had only heard of Calvinism in World History classes. However, as I studied doctrine I found to my great surprise that my own personal doctrine of salvation was a mishmash of Calvinism and Arminianism. Most non-Reformed Southern Baptists believe in a ‘doctrine’ of ‘Once Saved, Always Saved.’ It is not the same thing as the Reformed doctrine of ‘The Perseverance of the Saints.’ The former appears to be a holdover from the old days of the Baptist churches that were predominately Reformed in their doctrine.
1 Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. Romans 13:1-2 (NASB)
There are some who teach that our salvation is something of a crapshoot. Oh, they don’t ‘use words like crapshoot to describe their Soteriology, but their insistence that a person’s salvation is a mere decision means that their approach to the Gospel is one of mood and emotion manipulation that can be resisted by a person and, therefore, results in nothing more than some emotional decisions amidst many equally emotional rejections. Is this the means that God uses in the building of His Church?
17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; 21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. Ephesians 5:17-21 (NASB)
Arrogance, boasting, retaliation, and self-protection are just a few of the fruits of Human pride. The natural mind exalts pride while demeaning humility. Timidity is often confused with humility. Timidity is actually a fruit of pride and is a form of fear. It is the method pride uses for self-protection. On the other hand, boldness is often confused with pride. Biblical boldness is actually a fruit of humility. Biblical boldness is the method humility utilizes in our obedience to God. It is an expression of self-denial as our flesh is crucified as we submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
When we are bold as we obey our Lord we are often accused of being full of pride. Those opposed to our message use this argument as we proclaim the truth and refuse to compromise with those insisting that Christianity must contain multiple versions of “truth.” As Elijah stood in the gap against overwhelming numbers as well as spiritual oppression, we must remain humble and bold. If we become timid then we are operating from a base of fear and will become self-protective and will not obey God nor stand for His truth.
Let us begin with a church history exam question. Cardinal Robert Bellarmine (1542–1621) was a figure not to be taken lightly. He was Pope Clement VIII’s personal theologian and one of the most able figures in the Counter-Reformation movement within sixteenth-century Roman Catholicism. On one occasion, he wrote: “The greatest of all Protestant heresies is _______ .” Complete, explain, and discuss Bellarmine’s statement.
How would you answer? What is the greatest of all Protestant heresies? Perhaps justification by faith? Perhaps Scripture alone, or one of the other Reformation watchwords?
Those answers make logical sense. But none of them completes Bellarmine’s sentence. What he wrote was: “The greatest of all Protestant heresies is assurance.”
18 Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before stumbling. Proverbs 16:18 (NASB)
8 To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, Ephesians 3:8 (NASB)
At the root of hypocrisy is, of course, pride. Pride is the antithesis of humility, which is exemplified for us by Paul’s attitude to the Ephesian church in Ephesians 3:8 (above). On the other hand, pride is absolutely never portrayed in the Bible in a positive way. Never is pride tolerated. Never is it praised as it is today. However, in the visible church in our time don’t we hear sermons and read teachings about “positive pride” and the building up of self or the searching inside to find that real “you” that God is deeply in love with and only wants you to find it so He can show you what a fantastic you that you really are? Well, I have a Greek word for that, σκύβαλον. In any case, let’s look at the Greek words in the New Testament translated as “pride,” “proud,” and “puffed up.”
Pelagianism? What is it and why should believers be concerned that it has become pervasive in the visible Church? Listen to Michael Horton and the White Horse Inn panel examine the “Heresy of American Pelagianism.” Following is Mike Horton’s intro:
The fact that recent polls indicate that 77% of the evangelicals today believe that human beings are basically good and 84% of these conservative Protestants believe that in salvation “God helps those who help themselves” demonstrates incontrovertibly that contemporary Christianity is in a serious crisis. No longer can conservative, “Bible-believing” evangelicals smugly hurl insults at mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics for doctrinal treason. It is evangelicals today, every bit as much as anyone else, who have embraced the assumptions of the Pelagian heresy. It is this heresy that lies at the bottom of much of popular psychology (human nature, basically good, is warped by its environment), political crusades (we are going to bring about salvation and revival through this campaign), and evangelism and church growth (seeing conversion as a natural process, just like changing from one brand of soap to another, and seeing the evangelist or entrepreneurial pastor as the one who actually adds to the church those to be saved).
25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. 26 It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, 27 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28 (NASB)
There are a group of men who I do not allow to comment on my blog, but who attempt to do so anyway. Their comments go immediately into the SPAM folder. I usually just dump it once a day without reading them. However, once in a while when I know that, through the discernment ministry God has given me, I have hit a precious target of our enemy, certain men in that group start commenting in direct, vicious attacks meant to do one thing alone. That one thing is to discourage me and thwart me from continuing obeying my Lord as His δοῦλος in exposing false teachers and their doctrines to the Body of Christ. It is an interesting way to gauge whether I am on target or not at times. I also find it very interesting that the accusations in those attacks are always meant to rouse me to some sort of self-defense or rebuttal type of response meant to “put them in their place.” When my anger reaches that point I know that my flesh has taken over and it is time to spend some time in humble repentance with my Lord before the Throne of Grace. What is my response to the attacks after that? I simply erase the SPAM and move on.
3 For we have wasted enough time participating in the desires of the Gentiles, having proceeded in licentiousness, lusts, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties and unlawful idolatry. 4 Wherein they think it strange you are not running with them into the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. 1 Peter 4:3-4 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
I got the following A.W. Tozer quote from a friend.
The Loneliness of the Christian
“The loneliness of the Christian results from his walk with God in an ungodly world, a walk that must often take him away from the fellowship of good Christians as well as from that of the unregenerate world. His God-given instincts cry out for companionship with others of his kind, others who can understand his longings, his aspirations, his absorption in the love of Christ; and because within his circle of friends there are so few who share his inner experiences he is forced to walk alone. The unsatisfied longings of the prophets for human understanding caused them to cry out in their complaint, and even our Lord Himself suffered in the same way.
“The man who has passed on into the divine Presence in actual inner experience will not find many who understand him. He finds few who care to talk about that which is the supreme object of his interest, so he is often silent and preoccupied in the midst of noisy religious shoptalk. For this he earns the reputation of being dull and over-serious, so he is avoided and the gulf between him and society widens. He searches for friends upon whose garments he can detect the smell of myrrh and aloes and cassia out of the ivory palaces, and finding few or none he, like Mary of old, keeps these things in his heart.
“It is this very loneliness that throws him back upon God. His inability to find human companionship drives him to seek in God what he can find nowhere else.”
18 “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. John 15:18-19 (NASB)
I write this on Monday evening the day after the church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas. I wanted to address it in last night’s post, but decided to wait until more details came out about the shooter. The church was the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Sutherland Springs has a population of around 400. It is about 30 miles S.E. of San Antonio. The shooter, Devin Kelley, was from New Braunfels, a suburb N.E. of San Antonio. At first the reporters on the scene could not understand how someone would randomly drive from a town like New Braunfels about 35 miles into the country to this little town, park his car across the street from a church as services were going on, walk over there and just start shooting it up, killing as many people as possible. However, as I watched their coverage I knew there would eventually be some sort of connection and today it was learned that the shooter was a very troubled individual with connections to people who were part of that church.
Josh Buice of Delivered by Grace examines 1 John. Find out how a person can know if they are a true Christian:
Yesterday I had the opportunity of preaching from 1 John 4:13-21 in our series through the epistle of 1 John. As we’ve pointed out all through the series, John has a desire for his readers to know some things about God, about themselves, and to have assurance of their salvation. We have purposely titled the series, “Know” for that reason.
Millions of professing Christians wake up everyday and approach life without concrete assurance of their salvation. They ask themselves often if their faith is real, if their religion is genuine, and if they have truly pleased God. However, they continue to fall back into ongoing patterns of sin and seem to have very little if any love for God’s Word and their local church. How can a person know they are indeed a true Christian?
3 Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. 4 For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. Jude 1:3-4 (NASB)
Carefully read the passage above my brethren. The writer of the Epistle of Jude is the brother of James, the well-known leader of the Jerusalem church (Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21;18; Galatians 2:9) and, therefore, the half-brother of our Lord Jesus Christ. In v3 we read that Jude had intended to write a letter on salvation as the common blessing enjoyed by all true believers. This intent was probably to emphasize unity and fellowship among believers as he reminded them that God is no respecter of persons, however, his plans were changed. He doesn’t say why he “found it necessary” to write something else, but what we have in this letter is actually a call to battle for the truth in light of the appearance and infiltration into the Church of apostate teachers.
1 Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who prophesy, and say to those who prophesy from their own inspiration, ‘Listen to the word of the Lord! 3 Thus says the Lord God, “Woe to the foolish prophets who are following their own spirit and have seen nothing. 4 O Israel, your prophets have been like foxes among ruins. 5 You have not gone up into the breaches, nor did you build the wall around the house of Israel to stand in the battle on the day of the Lord. 6 They see falsehood and lying divination who are saying, ‘The Lord declares,’ when the Lord has not sent them; yet they hope for the fulfillment of their word. 7 Did you not see a false vision and speak a lying divination when you said, ‘The Lord declares,’ but it is not I who have spoken?”’” Ezekiel 13:1-7 (NASB)
A false prophet is one who claims to teach the truth from God and His Word, but who actually teaches from the counsel of his or her own heart. God is forever unchanging. He is immutable. His ways never change. His standards never change. At the time of Ezekiel, the kingdom of Judah had become consumed with idolatry. The people mixed Temple worship of YHWH with the worst forms of idol worship. They had taken on the culture and religion of the nations around them. Their culture had become pluralized. They were no longer a separate and unique people from the rest of the nations. The mechanism in people that powers this is compromise. The standard for God’s people has always been to be eternally focused with God in control. Compromise always moves God’s people to make decisions that are temporally focused because obedience to God is always counter to the demands of culture and the temporal.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me (Psalm 51:12).
Several years ago, while I was preparing to preach a sermon on this psalm, I received an anonymous letter from someone in my congregation saying that he was a Christian but was involved in a very serious and continuing moral failure. The letter was an attempt to be honest and tell me the trouble in his life. I didn’t know if that person would be in the service the next Sunday or not, but I hoped he would be.
I decided to refer to the letter in my sermon for two reasons: first, because it was anonymous, and I could do it without betraying a confidence; and second, because the problem was of such a serious nature that I wanted to help the person if I could.
The writer had acknowledged that he knew the action was wrong but finally excused himself on the basis that God had not yet given him the power to break away from it. That was self-deception. The truth is that God has given us the power to break away from these things. Peter clearly declares:
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). The very possession of the life of Jesus Christ in us is the power that it takes to break away from habits of sin. No one will ever be free from the awful grip of evil upon their lives until they understand that they already have from God all that it takes to be free, if they will but step out upon it.
13 But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. John 16:13-14 (NASB)
Even though it is discounted by many today, the Protestant Reformation was a wonderful work by God in that the Gospel was freed from the captivity of the apostate Roman Catholic Church. Over the centuries the Gospel had become obscured as the Bishop of Rome was declared perfect with authority over Scripture. Any resistance to his authority was dealt with through excommunication followed by being burned at the stake. The Reformation not only recovered the Gospel and Justification by Faith, the Bible became available to the common people whereas before this, no one was allowed to read it by the edicts of the Pope.
At Luther’s trial at the Diet of Worms when pressed to recant of His teachings he proclaimed, “Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason–I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other–my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.”
19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; 20 for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” 21 When they had threatened them further, they let them go (finding no basis on which to punish them) on account of the people, because they were all glorifying God for what had happened; 22 for the man was more than forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed.
23 When they had been released, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, “O Lord, it is You who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them, 25 who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Your servant, said,
‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
And the peoples devise futile things?
26 ‘The kings of the earth took their stand,
And the rulers were gathered together
Against the Lord and against His Christ.’
27 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, 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur. Acts 4:19-28 (NASB)
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.
35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:35-36 (NASB)
Probably the command from our Lord that is the most difficult for us to obey is found in Luke 6:35 (above). That is, it is hard or difficult if we are full of pride and are self-focused. However, as the master vinedresser prunes us as we abide in the True Vine and the refiner burns away the fleshly dross from us in the refiner’s fire, we will be humbled as we surrender to the potter, as the clay should. This humbling is what is required for Christlikeness to become manifest in and through us. Why? If we are being driven by pride then we will be self-focused and operate as if we are the center of our universe. However, the humble believer is one who has given that up as something that hinders their walk with the Lord. He or she sees the things of this world, the very things the world runs after, as nothing but dung in comparison to what they have in Christ. He becomes their all-in-all. Their love for Him spills over into all parts of their lives and for the Saviour’s sake they love their enemies and are merciful to all just as He was and is. Our Lord demonstrates the epitome of this as He was crucified.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another. Galatians 5:22-26 (NASB)
On one hand, we are commanded in Sacred Scripture to stand firm while holding to God’s truth as “The Truth” with no exceptions. On the other hand, we are also commanded in the same Word of God to walk in unity with the whole Body of Christ. Unfortunately, many today insist on the latter while teaching that in order to obey it we must totally neglect the former. The cause of this, of course, is that those saying such things are taking passages out of context. Those who excise segments of Sacred Scripture outside of their proper context run a great danger of error. One example is found in Ephesians 4 in which Paul calls for the Church to be unified in love while not being divided over “every wind of doctrine.” Some have used this passage in attempts to silence our call for the Church to return to adherence to proper doctrine.
1 But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NASB)
The lack of tolerance within the visible church for the exclusivity of the genuine Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is rooted in the “Hermeneutic of Humility.” Even amongst some pretty solid Christians that I am close to, I have noticed that pained or shocked look on their faces when they hear me succinctly define the Gospel the way our Lord Jesus did and the way the Apostle Paul did. These reactions are rooted in the “Hermeneutic of Humility,” which is a way of looking at our faith and interpreting the very Word of God through a filter that sees certainty as a product of pride and uncertainty as a virtue. It looks so humble to these people when they hear a Christian leader say that they don’t know the full truth about this or that, but as far as they know, “blah…blah…blah.” These people contend that to be certain divides people while uncertainty creates an environment of unity. I have been accused of being filled with pride over the last several years more times than I can count by some people because I will not agree with their interpretation of scripture or whatever. My brethren, our God does not give us His truth in shades of gray. He tells us succinctly what is truth and what is not. The Gospel, for instance, is very well defined and those who insist on a variegated version of it do so because they view certainty as divisive and uncertainty as being truly humble and uniting.
16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. Matthew 10:16 (NASB)
34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and A man’s enemies will be the members of his household. Matthew 10:34-36 (NASB)
The number one accusation against those who proclaim the truth from God’s Word in the face of apostasy is that they are being divisive. I believe we should be “innocent as doves” with all men, but we must be prepared by being “shrewd as serpents” to encounter conflict with those who refuse to submit to God’s truth. We are never called to be at peace with false teachers or false prophets or apostates.
From Jesus’ own teachings we learn that the cost of being His disciple is very high. Grace is free, but becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ costs us everything. We are told that no one is worthy of the Kingdom of God who is in love with this world. We cannot serve God correctly if we love our own life more than Him. We cannot love our families more than Him. We cannot love possessions more than Him. We are called to be the interim or peacemaker between those whom we love and God. We are to be the one God uses to bring them into the Kingdom. However, we are also called to not waiver and turn our backs on God and His ways because pressure is continually put on us to compromise our walk with God for the sake of peace.
And I say,
It is my grief that the right hand of the Most High has changed (Psalm 77:10 RSV).
Here is a man who is really trying to be honest. He says,
I have analyzed my situation: I tried prayer all night long. In the past I have been given help, but no help has come now. God has made my heart to sing in the past, but it is empty, barren, and cheerless now. Why is this? I have thought about it: I searched my own life, my own heart, and these questions have come to me, and I cannot answer them. My conclusion must be that I have misjudged God. I have thought that God was changeless, that He would always respond every time I came to Him, but He has not. Therefore, I am driven to the irresistible conclusion that He is like a man, and you cannot count on Him.
This psalmist is facing the possibility of losing his faith. All that he once rested on, which has been such a comfort to him, which has strengthened him and given him character and power among men, seems to be nothing but a crumbling foundation that is disappearing fast. Soon he must lose all that he has held onto in the past. This is the
day of [his] trouble and his present distress. Is that not the hidden problem with many of us? I have lost track of the times people have called me up and said,
I just don’t know what to do. I’ve tried prayer, I’ve tried reading my Bible, I’ve tried to think through, but nothing seems to help. I don’t know what to do. What’s happening to me?”
15 When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. 17 When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them. Luke 2:15-20 (NASB)
Human faith is not the same thing as genuine (saving) faith. The former is based in Human reason and intellect. The latter is supernatural. What passes for faith in many professing believers’ “Christianity” is a belief based in who preaches to or teaches them. This is not Genuine faith because it is not a belief in the Word or in God through the Word. These are “believers” who will eventually fall away. Some may last a lifetime in their religiosity, but as soon as the fires of tribulation come upon them they slide into apostasy because their faith is not of the substance that endures.
3 Take your part in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 2:3 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
One of the examples God continually uses in my walk to draw me away from being self-focused into being Christ-focused, repentant, and, therefore, usable in His Kingdom is John Bunyan. Why? I have a tendency to focus inward and with that comes a sense of my sinfulness and unworthiness to even be called a Christian. I look at those whom God uses to feed me spiritually and I see how small I am. How can God use one such as me? God has helped me through this by showing me through the life of men like John Bunyan that His ways are not man’s ways and we are much better off being in the center of His will than where our flesh wants us to be. What do I mean? The well educated and those with large ministries are more often then not the ones who are on the road to apostasy just as in Bunyan’s day. Bunyan was barely educated and his only education in theology was from the Word of God and sitting at the feet of his pastor. God raised him up to do a mighty work in the Church, but it was one that involved much suffering. Has God changed how He does things?
28 And now little children, abide in Him that when He is manifested, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. 29 If you know that He is righteous, you also know that everyone practicing righteousness has been born of Him. 1 John 2:28-29 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
How is it that people who profess faith as Christians and supposedly placed their faith in the Incarnate Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, actually display a moralistic, therapeutic, deistic religiosity that is centered in their own moral uprightness. We find this in Church leaders such as pastors and especially scholars at the seminary and denominational level, but, sadly, because of the former, highly prevalent in the pews. In 1 John 2:28-3:10, the Apostle John gives us “evidence” that is most definitely not “politically correct” that will enable us to determine those who really are the genuine children of God and those who aren’t. Of course, we should take a close examination of ourselves as we go through this passage.
1 Nebuchadnezzar the king to all the peoples, nations, and men of every language that live in all the earth: “May your peace abound! 2 It has seemed good to me to declare the signs and wonders which the Most High God has done for me.
3 “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 actually a deepening of that 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 remember that God is Sovereign.