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He who created sexual desires and who redeemed them from being only powerful lusts of the flesh is also gracious in providing us a way of escape from the guilt and tyranny of lust. There is hope for those who have already violated God’s pure gift of virginity. There is hope for those who desire to maintain the gift of purity which God gave them. There is hope for those who feel that the power of sex is out of control in their lives.
This comforting hope of Divine healing is not for all. It is only for those with heartfelt sorrow and for those with an earnest desire to do God’s will.
First, God’s healing is the power of His sovereign grace to remove the guilt of sin. Grace is the power which delivers from the filth of our sinful flesh. We may not be able to get our virginity back (even as we cannot remove a hole after pulling out the nail), but we receive God’s gracious forgiveness. Immorality is not a sin which cannot be forgiven. Sexual sins and temptations are to be treated as all other sins and temptations – they are to be confessed, repented of, and forsaken. The prayer for God’s forgiveness and for God’s grace to walk in holiness must be lifted up to Him. Then there may be the assurance of His gracious forgiveness. And He forgives completely. When He forgives, the sin is gone forever, never again to be brought against the sinner. As ugly as the sin is, forgiveness is more beautiful, and grace makes us beautiful before God.
We cannot retrieve our virginity, but we can retrieve our chastity and our purity before God. When God forgives, then He gives us a perfect righteousness. It is as if we had never sinned. It is as if we only did every thing right. Therefore we hide ourselves under the wings of the righteousness and holiness which Jesus earned for us and which God imputes and imparts to us. Then we may be sure that we stand before God in pure, white robes, and we are called “Holy unto the Lord.” Virginity is a precious gift, but an even more precious gift is forgiveness.
Secondly, the Spirit of Christ brings, with complete forgiveness and perfect righteousness, the healing power of deliverance from sin’s power along with the spiritual gift of self-control (called “temperance” in Galatians 5:23). Sexual energies and desires, no matter how strong, are controllable. As powerful as they may be, they can be controlled, for the power that is for us is greater than the power that is against us. The Bible teaches that we are not helpless before these lusts. It is Christ, to whom is given power over heaven and earth, who strengthens us (Phil. 4:13). It is the divine Spirit whose fruit is self-control. We can therefore break with sinful self-indulgence.
We are called not simply to maintain but also to develop Spirit-filled self-control. Jesus spoke of those who were eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake (Mt. 19:12). He spoke of self-control and self-denial for the sake of God’s glory. And He declared that any man who would follow Him must practice self-denial (Mt. 16:24), just like the Master, whose supreme Self-denial brought about the salvation of sinners.
There are sins against which believers are commanded to stand and fight. But the only way the Bible says we are to fight sexual sin and temptation is to “flee” it (1 Cor. 6:18). Consider how Joseph fled from Potiphar’s wife (Gen. 39:7-12). This temptation is the kind that cannot be faced head-on. Will-power and resolutions do not stand a chance before this sin in particular. It is too strong. To think that we can be “brave” and stand up to this sin, is to be the fool. The only way to be faithful to God in regard to this sin is to flee it. The admonition to “flee fornication” has the clear implication that we must not over-estimate our self-control or our spirituality. That is why we are admonished to “make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof” (Rom. 13:14). To control sexual desires, we must realize the importance of avoiding situations where we know we will be tempted by the wiles of the devil. To control sexual desires one needs more wisdom than Solomon, for Solomon fell often to this temptation.
One way not to make provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts while dating is to “be alone with others, never all alone.” Date along with others who are also walking close to the Lord. Also stay away from every form of pornography – it is not “harmless.”
Another way to fight the temptation of this sin is by making a commitment, before we date, to be pure. This means that you must draw the line as to how far you will go. You need to draw a line before you date, because of how powerful the Bible tells us physical attraction is. We cannot have developing romantic love without having increasing desire for consummation. We are fools to deny this. It is abnormal to become more and more intimate mentally and emotionally and not want to become more and more intimate physically and sexually. You are playing with fire if you keep getting closer and closer together when you are not ready to marry. We need to draw the line before we date, because wavering at the beginning often results in our falling in the end.
You can stop what you are doing. If what has been written in this pamphlet pricks your conscience, then realize that you can stop what you are doing by putting the relationship in submission to God. Do not think that God wants to deprive you of something that is good for you. Real love will say, “No! I will not go further!” Real love restrains and controls sexual desires until God says, “Yes.”
It was a hot morning in July when I was asked to attend a Child Evangelism Fellowship camp. I must admit, I was not too keen on the idea of having to go there, mostly because I would be surrounded by people whom I did not know. I was even more set against going when I realized it would be in a den of charismatic teaching, so I would have to walk lightly. The teenagers were delightful though. That seems to make the aversions fade some.
Dee and I were assigned two teenagers to work with. They were very knowledgeable in the Bible, but had trouble with being embarrassed giving out the gospel. They relied on me to teach them and at that time in my Christian life, I had very little experience myself. When they would undergo the training, I too would pay close attention. We learned to tell a story while using flashcards. Dee was the best at it and I was the worst. I have a difficult time with memorizing anything and we needed to memorize the story.
Then came the time to go out and use what we had learned. A wonderful lady had signed up to host a five day club in her home. She had invited about 12 children from her neighborhood to come to the club. We had games and snacks and then told them the first story from the flashcards we had. All of the kids were so mesmerized by the story. They were taking it in like a tall cup of water on a drought cursed land. I was not too amazed when a couple of them got saved that first day and there were four more to follow. Eventually all twelve of them got saved. The story doesn’t end here.
The effect this five day club had on me was profound. I was so excited to see that it was not that difficult to lead someone to the Lord. These teenagers did it just by using these flashcards. I decided that I could do the same. I tried it one afternoon back home. I went out to the park where I saw a group of kids playing in the playground. I walked up to them and asked if anyone wanted to hear a story. Not all at first, but most of them came to hear about God. Using the same flashcards those teenagers used, I was able to lead seven people to the Lord that very day. I admit I was excited. I had never felt this way before. It was very satisfying. Next weekend, I went to an apartment complex where there were always kids playing outside. I did the same thing, “Would any of you kids like to hear a story?” Almost all did. Some even went and got their mothers who came out and listened as well. Right there in the playground, I led several others to the Lord. Like a bear who got his first taste of flesh, I wanted more. This is how I began winning souls to the Lord. It seems so very long ago, yet it is still a near memory which always puts a smile on my fact.
I thank the Lord for teaching me to lead souls to Christ. I learned how to do it. It is not a natural attribute; it is a skill that can be learned. Once learning how to do it, you want to do it more. It is like going fishing and catching your first fish. All of the hours sitting quietly in the boat seem to be worth it just to catch another.
Linda Burnett, 23, a resident of San Diego, was visiting her in-laws and while there went to a nearby supermarket to pick up some groceries. Later, her husband noticed her sitting in her car in the driveway with the windows rolled up and with her eyes closed, with both hands behind the back of her head. He became concerned and walked over to the car. He noticed that Linda’s eyes were now open and she looked very strange. He asked her if she was okay, and Linda replied that she had been shot in the back of the head and had been holding her brains in for over an hour.
The husband called the paramedics, who broke into the car because the doors were locked and Linda refused to remove her hands from her head.
When they finally got in, they found that Linda had a wad of bread dough on the back of her head. A Pillsbury biscuit canister had exploded from the heat, making a loud noise that sounded like a gunshot, and the wad of dough hit her in the back of her head. When she reached back to find out what it was, she felt the dough and thought it was her brains. She initially passed out, but quickly recovered.
Contemporary motivational speakers are those who give comments that will motivate a person to do something. They don’t motivate a person to do something that person didn’t originally want to do, but something they already felt like doing. In other words, motivational speech doesn’t have any effect on a person unless they were in agreement in the first place. Adolph Hitler was a great motivational speaker, as was Mao Tsi Dong, Joseph Stalin and Barak Obama. They were (and are) masters at finding things that people want and presenting it in a way to motivate and inspire people. On the whole, contemporary motivational speakers are “martial arts encouragers.” They use a persons strengths and weaknesses against them, in order to get them to do what they want them to do–usually to buy a product or financially support a cause. In order to accomplish their unseen agenda, they must be sure to stay away from anything negative, else their victims, like the rabbit who is almost caught in the snare, comes to the sudden realization that they are to be trapped, and hop away breathing a sigh of relief.
The truth is, there are two kinds of motivational speakers: Those who tell you what you want to hear (like cheer leaders) and those who tell you what you don’t want to hear (like preaching about sin and death); Jesus was the latter. In fact, all of the prophets and preachers of God in the Bible were of the latter sort. They had a message of hope that was coupled with a message of doom and destruction. It is the message of doom and destruction, coupled with the anger of God displayed in His wrath that was the motivational injection that lethargic people needed. When Jesus said, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19), the Pharisees were shocked into doing something. Noah said, “God’s gonna make it rain and flood the earth killing every living thing. That’s why I’m building this here boat.” He was scoffed at until God’s wrath was coupled with the message this preacher of righteousness had (2 Peter 2:5). They were motivated when they were suddenly caught in the snare of the Devil. With their negative message of destruction came a message of hope; they were coupled together.
The negative message first identifies a need in a persons life. It is a message of judgment and sentence. It is meant to be a warning of some bad or sinful action. It is designed to “wake people up” (1 Cor. 15:34; Rom. 13:11) from a dangerous activity, thought or influence. Then there is hope. Until then, a message of hope cannot be given because the people will not take it seriously. There is nothing to motivate them; nothing to move them or provoke them to do something about their evil ways. A fitting example of this is seen in the preaching of the prophet Zephaniah. He brought the message that the Lord was determined to pour His indignation upon the nations. The message further said that God was going to devour all the earth with the fire of His jealousy (Zeph. 3:8). A negative message to be sure. Why? Why such a message from the Lord? Because God wanted to motivate people to call upon Him (Zeph. 3:9). First the negative, then the positive. This is Biblical and true motivational speaking, and it comes with a price.
John the Baptist had a very motivational message that he preached in the wilderness. It so motivated people that King Herod wanted to hear it for himself. But when John came into his presence, Herod did not like what he heard. He did not hear a sickening sweet motivational speech doting on all of Herod’s achievements. He heard John talk to him about his brother Philip’s wife, to whom he was not wed. John said, “…It is not lawful for thee to have her.” (Matt. 14:4). How did this motivate Herod? It certainly didn’t make him leave the encounter feeling good about himself. In fact, Herod wanted to “…put him to death…” (Matt. 14:5). After some time of imprisonment, this is exactly what happened (Matt. 14:9-10).
So it is no secret that people don’t like to hear negative preaching, and sometimes it cost the preacher, but people need it. They need it to motivate them to do right. Without the negative message, coupled with the wrath of God, people are left to their own devices. And what parent would leave their children to their own with no discipline? Only those who don’t love them. Positive reinforcement never did anything for anybody other than to give the parent a way of escape from disciplining their children. It provides a good way to pass the responsibility on to others.
Preachers who are not regularly preaching against sin, are doing their congregations a huge disservice. They are taking the easy way out; trying to be their friends and be hugely popular. It is always easier to let someone else discipline the members of your church, but God will not hold such preachers unaccountable. Weak-kneed preaching on sin equals popularity, but is comes with a price–skin deep Christians who are looking to have a good time on this earth and enjoy it until Jesus gets back. That is a foolish surmise.
We have a job to do. We are to tell people about Jesus and the gospel. Jesus never told us to have a good time of fellowship until he came back. That is the equivalent of taking your talent and burying it in the sand. That will make Jesus mad. Has any preacher ever told you that if you are not doing something to win souls to Jesus, you are inviting trouble into your life? That God will be mad about that? Why not? That wouldn’t be very motivational by today’s standards, but it sure goes a long way with God. Would you hate your preacher for telling you that truth? Would you leave the church? Or, would you try to do something about it? After all, you do know the Lord is coming back, don’t you?
Many Christians know this. But they just want to have a good time and get by until He comes. After all, is it a sin to enjoy life? Of course not, but it will only be enjoyable up until you see the scowl on the face of the Saviour when He turns His eyes upon you and asks, “What did you do about what I asked you to do?”
There are two kinds of motivational speakers: One that tells you what you want to hear, and one that tells you what you need to hear. Both are motivational. The main difference between the two is your attitude in the way you take their message.
There are things that are important to us in life, but nothing is more important than soul winning. The soul is the part of man that lives forever. It is the part of man that feels pain or joy; happiness or sorrow. It is the center of the man.
Proverbs 11:30 says, “He that winneth souls is wise.” It is a wise and profitable thing to be a soul winner because it pleases God. He has a high evaluation of the soul winner. It is one of the dearest things to the heart of God. Consequently, it pays enormous eternal dividends. A man who turns people to righteousness is wise because he is laying up treasure in heaven.
Conversely, a Christian who is occupied with trivial matters of life is unwise. Majoring on minors is foolish. Therefore, not to win souls is to be guilty of the sin of folly.
If we are to be wise, we should actively be involved in soul winning of some kind. If we don’t know how to win a soul to the Lord, we should learn how to do so. I am sure you can ask your Pastor or Christian friend.
When is the last time you led someone to the Lord? Have you ever won someone to the Lord? There is no shortage of people that need to hear the gospel. They are wondering aimlessly through life, believing a lie that is leading them to hell. People want to be saved. They just don’t know what to do. They know there is an emptiness in their life that is not fulfilled. They know they need something, they just don’t know what it is or how to get it.
There is however, a shortage of Christians who are willing to tell the lost about salvation. There should not be, but there is. We need to be not so. The entire world is in need of the Lord Jesus Christ—and who will tell our neighbors? The Devil will have them hear all of his doctrine, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by every means possible. The Lord left the job of spreading the gospel up to us. Not the TV. Not the Internet. Not the radio. He left it up to us.
Spreading the gospel is not doing good deeds for others. It is not living a right life or even helping the poor. Spreading the gospel is to actively tell people how they can be saved; how they can know for sure they an go to heaven.
These are the last days that we are living in. We live in a unique time. No other people the history of mankind has had so much at stake as we havetoday. We are like the anchor runner in the relay race of life. Lets not drop the baton. Lets not run out of steam on the last lap. Lets give it all we have Got. Souls lie in the balance.
In 1 Corinthians 4:1-2 we are told, “Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” A steward then is somebody that is given something valuable to take care of, and he is supposed to take care of it for his master. Not only that, a steward is to be “faithful” because he has goods delivered to him that don’t belong to him. Such is every one of us who is given stewardship of God’s money. We understand about God giving us money and use it as the Lord would have us to. But here we are talking about a different kind of stewardship. We are talking about the “mysteries of God.” We are talking about stewardship over something that has been given for the purpose of teaching to others.
What are these mysteries? There are seven of them in the Bible and they are committed to preachers to teach to others. I will briefly describe them as follows:
1. The Mystery of Godliness.
1 Timothy 3:16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.
This verse is the greatest verse in the Bible on the Deity of Jesus Christ. If you don’t have a King James Bible you won’t be able to find this mystery defined. All other bibles change this verse in order to take away the deity of Christ. They change the phrase “…God was manifest in the flesh…” to something else. God being “manifest in the flesh” means that God showed up as a baby and later grew up to be a man. It cannot be explained how He did this. Why? Because it is a mystery how it happened. He came down to this earth as a baby, and a woman took care of Him, just like every other baby. He experienced every facet of growing up as a human male.
2. The Mystery of the Indwelling Christ
Colossians 1:27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:
Paul says, “This mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” This means the “mystery” is that Jesus Christ is inside the saved man. It can’t be explained how, but if you are saved, then “Christ” is “in you, the hope of glory”. It can’t be explained how a sinless, perfect Saviour would stoop down to come in and dwell inside a wicked, sinful vessel. Not only that, it can’t be explained how Jesus could be in a vast multitude of saved people all at the same time. There aren’t many individual Jesus’. There is one Jesus and he dwells within each believer. This is a mystery and can’t be explained how it happens. It is the mystery of the indwelling Christ.
3. The Mystery of the Body of Christ
Ephesians 5:30-32 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
The Bride of Christ in this age is espoused to one husband so it can be presented a chaste virgin to Christ (2 Cor. 11:2). This means that every one who is a Believer is all espoused to the same person: Christ. All men and women wind up married to Christ as one unit. How can you explain it? It can’t be explained. It’s a mystery. As far as the spirit is concerned, we are joined to Him right now (1 Cor. 6:17). The marriage has already taken place, but as far as the body is concerned the marriage hasn’t taken place. Our physical bodies are down here and His is up there (2 Cor. 5:6-8). It can’t be explained. We are supposed to believe it. Paul said, “This is a great mystery” (Eph. 5:32).
4. The Restoration of Israel
Romans 11:25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
This mystery deals with the restoration of Israel. The mystery is that God is not through with Israel. And even though God may look like He’s through with Israel, He’s not! Someday God is going to take the Jews and bring them back to Palestine (He did that in 1948), and after the Jews have been reduced down to about four or five hundred people, God is going to get them saved in the Tribulation and convert them to Jesus Christ. That’s the mystery of the believing remnant of Israel which is going to turn to God. Romans 11:28-29 says that “as concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” This means that we should love the Jews. Yes, some Jews out in the world are unlovable characters. It doesn’t matter what you think of them, you’ve got to love Israel and take care of it. If you don’t, the Lord will fix you. In Christ “There is neither Jew nor Greek” (Gal. 3:28). When a Jew gets converted, he’s no longer a “Jew.” He’s a Christian.
5. The Mystery of Babylon the Great
Revelation 17:5 And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
Revelation 17:18 And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.
She is a woman out in the wilderness seated on a beast. The beast has seven heads and ten horns. This is a “mystery.” It is something you’re supposed to believe, but you can’t explain.
The woman is a city that reigns over the kings of the earth. She has a golden cup in her hand full of abominations (Rev. 17:4). And, she is arrayed in purple and scarlet. There is only one city that is built on seven mountains (v. 9), that reigns over the kings of the earth, whose symbol is a golden cup: ROME. The Lord said that that city was a whore (v. 1). She’s a prostitute who sells herself for money. She has such influence that she runs the kings of this earth. She will sell out what she believes and what she professes in order to get along with the world. She’ll let her own priests get killed in Africa if she can get control of Africa. She might even get in a black pope.
6. Mystery of Iniquity
2 Thessalonians 2:3-8 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; 4Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. 5Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? 6And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. 7For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. 8And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:
The mystery of iniquity is the mystery of the Antichrist. His number is 666. He has a sign: it’s a kiss. He has a salute: its two fingers. He has a letter: it’s an X. And he has a name, a religion , a face, and a mark. There’s more information in the Bible on him than there is on any other man in the Bible outside of Jesus Christ Himself. He’s the Antichrist.
7. The Rapture
1 Corinthians 15:51-55 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
The final mystery is the Rapture. It is the disappearance of the Body of Christ in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. There are two kinds of people. Those who are alive when the Lord comes are to be caught up without dying. Those that are dead will be pulled up out of the ground. If you’re mortal, you’ll be caught up without dying and then put on immortality. If you’re dead and buried when the Lord comes back, then you’re down in the ground rotting and you’re corruptible, and you come out of the grave and put on incorruption. The ones that are buried can’t stay in the ground. The live man goes up without dying; and the dead man goes up, and the grave can’t keep him down.
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
The preaching of the word of God certainly does have and effect on people. Sometimes it is a happy and joyous effect, while at other times it makes one sad. There are times when a person becomes severely angry by the preaching of the word of God. Still, there are times when a person cannot move under the awesome conviction of it.
As a preacher, over the last 18 years, I have seen all of these effects take place in the lives of the hearers of God’s word. As a Christian, I have experienced them myself. Still, I, and many others, keep coming back for more. Why is that? I can understand why people keep coming back to feel good about their relationship with Christ, but to hear that they are a sinner, failing on every front, baffles me. When feeling the sharp effects of God’s word, piercing and dividing my life all the way down to my bones, I am amazed as to how much it knows about me. I have come to the point where I am convinced that it knows more about me than I do about myself. It is not fun to be pierced, cut and divided, yet people keep coming back for more and I think it is because of the wonder and amazement that they have for that one book.
Yes, there are those who cannot bear it. They are only interested in feeling good, and if the word of God cuts, pierces or divides in the slightest, they get angry and leave. To me this is the equivalent of putting one’s head in the sand and not learning something about yourself that you need to know. You see, the Bible is not only the way to God, but it is the truth and life as well. It does no good to accept the way and the life without accepting the truth. But there are many people like this. They feel the Bible is true as long as it agrees with them and where it does not, it is not the truth. The devil has been instrumental in getting people to think this. This is why there are so many “truths” in the world today. But I don’t want to talk about that in this article. I want to focus on the way people receive the word of God.
It is funny how one sermon may upset some while at the same time charging up others spiritual batteries. The same sermon may cause some to be compelled to come to the altar, while others stand rigid biting their bottom lip. It has a strange way of having different effects on different people. Now I know that all people are different, but that is not the reason for this strange phenomena. I know that God is dealing differently with different people on His own terms. This is one reason that this book is so wonderful. It knows the thoughts and intents of our hearts. Since we don’t even know our own hearts, it is good for us to hear about ourselves from the word of God.
The Word of God will shape you or the world will shape you. It is your choice as to what will do it. The world is constantly being forced upon you, but God politely does not. While commercials, junk mail, facebook and many other things are intruding upon your life, God sits silently on the shelf awaiting His turn to relate with you. The world is ruthlessly pushing itself into your life, brainwashing you to cater to self and its “truth.” It never lets up. It is violent and hungry to completely consume every part of your life, giving you no choice over the matter, while all the same time deceiving you into thinking you have a choice or vote. God’s Word sits silently and patiently on the side waiting for you to come to your senses and when you finally do, in order to remove the worldliness from your life, the operation it must perform sometimes requires cutting, stabbing or dividing. The only reason that hurts is because you allowed the world to take up residence there in the first place.
Still we can praise God for His glorious mercy in that His holy operation is quick and powerful. It does not take long for it to begin to have its holy effect. So, if the preaching of God’s word seems to anger you; it seems to “step on your toes,” then remember it is because some cancer of the world is being cut out of your life. Joy comes in the morning.
Rev. 13:16-18 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred three score and six.
Many Bible readers over the centuries have been puzzled, wondering just how such a system could ever be established, but it’s no longer a puzzle. Advanced technology has brought the world closer to the Mark of the Beast than any time in history. We know that the coming Mark of the Beast will somehow be connected with the economy, for the Bible says that no one may buy or sell without it. It may very well be that cash, checks, and credit cards are soon to become a thing of the past, because electronic money is becoming more popular all the time.
One form of electronic money is the use of smart cards. A smart card looks like a credit or debit card, except it contains a small computer chip with all sorts of information about the card holder, including bank account numbers and balances. When a smart card is used, the card holder’s bank account is immediately debited at the point of sale by computer transaction. This means more profits to retailers and banks alike, because bad checks and credit card abuse would be eliminated. Many banks and credit card companies believe that electronic money will eventually usher in a cashless society where everyone will buy and sell electronically. Terry Galanoy, former director of communications for what is now Visa International has made this bold remark: “Protesting too loudly about it isn’t going to help either, because the disturbance you kick up is going to end up in one of your files. And on that come-and-get-it day when we’re all totally and completely dependent upon our card–or whatever security device might replace it–you might be left all alone without one!”
In promotional literature from the Danyl Corporation of Moorestown, New Jersey, Robert J. Merkert, Sr., senior vice president, says: “One day in the near future, we’ll be able to pay for almost everything with just one ‘prepaid stored value’ or ‘smart card.'”
Though many industry leaders are very much in favor of a cashless society where buying and selling is done electronically, there is a problem. How can it be guaranteed that the individual using a Smart Card is the authorized card holder? Some believe that this problem can be solved by combining Smart Card technology with Biometric Technology. After all, a Smart “Card” is only a piece of plastic. It’s the computer chip inside the card that stores the needed information. As unbelievable as it may sound, biometric technology has now made it possible to implant small computer chips under the skin of animals and people. The European Community’s Executive Commission has already passed legislation which REQUIRES farmers in the European Community to have their livestock implanted with microchips! In many cities across the U.S., the Humane Society is selling such implants for pets, as a replacement for dog tags.
You say, “Well, that’s just for animals. No one would ever try this technology on people.” I wouldn’t be too sure about that. According to the Bible, The Mark of the Beast, by Paul and Peter Lalond, a plastic surgeon in Florida has hit upon the idea of implanting microchips in people. This would be helpful in locating missing people, such as run away children, kidnapped children, wandering victims of Alzheimer’s disease, and parolees.
Just for a moment, use your imagination and think about the convenience of implanted microchips. You wouldn’t need any cash or checks for making purchases, for your bank account would be automatically debited every time you went through a check-out stand. You wouldn’t need to keep up with a social security card, a driver’s license, a Medicare card, a credit card, or even a smart card, because all of this information could be stored in the implanted chip. You wouldn’t have to worry about getting mugged on the street, because there would be no demand for cash in a cashless society. Now doesn’t the mark of the beast sound wonderful?
We are not saying that the government is going to make you receive a microchip implant, and we aren’t sure how the number “666” can be integrated into all this. We are simply pointing out the fact that THE TECHNOLOGY IS HERE. We do not know exactly what the Mark of the Beast will be in it’s final form, but it is obvious that the possibilities are greater today than ever before.
Only by receiving Jesus Christ as your Savior can you be saved from the wrath to come (1 Thes. 1:10; 5:9). The Lord Jesus Christ will soon return to call His church out of this world (1 Thess. 4:16-18), and only those who are saved will leave. Everyone else will enter into the Great Tribulation (Matt. 24:21), and they will be required to take the Mark of the Beast. Those who do will burn in Hell forever (Rev. 14:11).
When you are ready to accept the fact that you are a lost and dying sinner and that your “good works” are unacceptable to God (Rom. 3:10, 23; 4:5; 10:3), then you can begin to see your need for Jesus Christ. He came into this world to lay down His sinless life for YOU–to pay for your sins, because you couldn’t. Jesus is your only hope for salvation. Only by receiving Him as your Savior can you enter the gates of Heaven. There is no other way.
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me.” (John 14:6)
“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
The Lord Jesus Christ has come and PAID for your sins by shedding His own Blood on Calvary. By receiving Him as your Savior, you can be WASHED from all your sins in His precious Blood (Rev. 1:5; Col. 1:14; Acts 20:28; I Pet. 1:18-19). Notice these important words from Romans 5:8-9:
“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.”
Jesus PAID your way to Heaven for you! By receiving Him as your Savior, you will be receiving God’s ONLY means of Salvation for you. Are you willing to forsake YOUR righteousness and receive Jesus Christ as your Savior, your ONLY HOPE for Salvation? Romans 10:13 says, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Romans 10:9 says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” Are you willing to forsake your own righteousness, and trust Jesus Christ alone? He will save you just as He promised. Why not receive Him today? Tomorrow could be too late. Tomorrow you could face being implanted with “the mark of the beast.”
Galatians 1:6-7 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
Although God used the instrument of Paul to write these words, they still come from Him. God marvels that people would so quickly abandon the liberty and grace that is provided in a relationship with the Lord Jesus. Why would someone want to take that which is free and throw it away for something which is earned?
It is an issue of control. Man likes to have control of his own destiny. Every endeavor that man has created has been to take control of his destiny from God. Evolution, Big Bang and Relativity are a few. But there are even more dangerous ones. They are the ones that pervert the gospel of Christ.
Man has his definition of “perverts” and God has His. A pervert to God is someone who takes the Word of God and changes it. If you find yourself in a religion that is perverting the Word of God, GET OUT! God connects that with people who are trying to take you away from the grace that He freely offers and try to put you in control of your own destiny.
The only true control of your own destiny is to put your life in the hands of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 6:11-17 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
God has a specific manner in which He would have the Christian dress to successfully navigate his earthly pilgrimage. It is not a set of lounging pajamas, nor is it a “dress for success” in the world outfit. It is not a set of rugged work clothes or rain gear. It is called the whole armour of God, and many Christians forget that it is available to them.
Every Christian is to grow up to be a warrior for Christ. As warrior, we must be prepared to defend against the many assaults of the world. Likewise, we should be prepared to attack the influences of evil wherever it reveals itself. When God tells us to “STAND”, He means that we are to “defend the faith once delivered to the saints.” From the very beginning, Christianity has been attacked. False teachers have “crept in unawares” for the purpose of “modernizing” (changing) the way Christ wanted the church to be. There has been a constant bombardment to make the church something appealing to man, taking it farther and farther from the truth. This we must not allow. WE MUST STAND FAST!
Not only are we to stand, but wherever we see one of our enemies: the world, the flesh or the devil, we are to go on the offensive. We must not let them destroy our lives, families, churches, communities or the Bible. We are to do what we can to fight the enemy away. Our Captain, as well as other Christians are in the fight. We too must get prepared and get into it as well. David fought Goliath, Samson with the Philistines, Gideon with the Midianites, and Nehemiah with Sanballat and Tobiah. They didn’t just defend their ground, they took up the offensive against the enemy.
We must be on the watch constantly; watching and praying that we enter not into temptation (Matt. 26:41). Our nature is that we are very willing in mind to do something for the Lord, but our old flesh is not. Self agrees to allow the tongue to say, “I’ll do it” when the brain sends that thought on. But when it comes time, Self always betrays us, turning us into a hypocrite. Then we feel defeated and hesitate to “show our face” again. This is one tactic for getting us out of the battle. To deal with this we must ask the Lord to “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” We can ask Him to guide our steps to avoid the pitfalls of temptations that we would have come into contact with unless He does. And if we do not follow His guidance, and come in contact with a temptation anyway, we can ask Him to warn us and give wisdom so we can run from it as quick as we can (note: When you run from something, you are running to something as well–Run to the Bible).
Now there are special times when many Christians are destroyed by temptations because they let down their guard. Some of these times are: summer vacation, holidays, times of sickness and times of success. During these times Christians are most vulnerable to attack. When we are out of schedule or not feeling well, we tend to let our guard down. I have many times seen Christians in church and at the altar during times of trial or tribulation in their life. But, when the Lord allows them a successful outcome, they start to slip in attendance, tithing and involvement. They become prideful and comfortable and it seems like the don’t need God anymore because they can now handle things on their own. I often wonder if the Lord allows for trouble in our lives because He knows that is what we need to drive us to church to hear His word.
The Lord Jesus Christ was our example. His life was not a life of ease and comfort. He had spiritual battles, too. In fact, He was tempted in all points such as we are and even some that we are not. He was tempted by the Devil in ways that we will never be tempted. When He was on the cross, some of His own people tempted Him to come down and prove Himself, but He continued His fight to pay for the sin of the world. We too need to recognize there is a battle which rages around us and we must fight; defend our ground as well as attack where needed.
Spiritual warfare often surprises many Christians because they are not looking for it. Like the American fleet at Pearl Harbor that fateful day, they know they are in a war, but are relaxed because they don’t think the battle can come to them. We need to be armed, trained and ready for the imminent attack of the enemy. He is a hardened veteran with many years of battle experience. He never relaxes, never takes a day off, never regroups. He is deadly and dangerous to the life of a Christian. So, we must always be prepared to fight him on any ground. We must always be vigilant and the first step is to recognize there is a war, and that we are in it.
Some people try to equip themselves with “enlightenment,” or the “power of positive thinking” or “love.” Whether it is meditation, yoga, or even putting your head in the sand, none of these are God’s appointed formula for equipping yourself for the battle. There is no other armour sufficient to take the place of God’s armour. His armour provides the protection that is needed and we must use every piece of it. No part of our life can be exposed else the armour would not have its designed effect. We must put on the “whole armour of God.” If one part is missing, then we are exposed. If we use all of God’s armour, but decide to exchange one piece of it for something else, then we are exposed and the whole suit is useless. His armour is properly designed to work together as an entire suit for dealing with the battle the Christian is in.
This girdle or belt ties all the other armour together. It keeps the robe from tangling. The meaning of “truth” in this passage is sincerity, transparency, or realness. The Scripture mentions the “unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” Jesus said, “And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” Realness, sincerity, or transparency sets us free from being a fake. It frees us from the “fear of man” or peer pressure. God hates hypocrisy. The word hypocrite means “actor” or “one who wears a mask.” The first piece of armour is sincerity, realness or transparency. Being real keeps us from many of the attacks of the enemy.
The root word of righteousness is “right,” as in being right with someone. The breastplate guards the most vital organ–the heart. Right living guards our heart from wrong emotions and temptations. The habit of right living is a defense against wrong. We are to be militant—“zealous of good works.” Proverbs 4:23, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”
A wise general looks after his soldiers’ shoes. If they wear out, the troops cannot travel. The roads are rough! Footprints of peace are to be left by Christian soldiers everywhere they go. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9). Romans 10:15, “And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” We are to leave peace wherever we go and bring peace between God and man as we witness. Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Prayer keeps our mind at peace. Prayer keeps our footing firm. God gave us feet so we could spread the gospel. Let’s use them for Him!
The Roman shield was about as big as a door. It protected the entire body. They could even be hooked to other shields to form a wall. Some even poured water on their shields to quench fiery darts. In the Old Testament, God told Abraham that He would be his shield and strength. Our shield of faith comes from Bible reading. Romans 10:17 says, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Faith makes us grow. Faith protects us from heresy. Faith entices us to claim God’s promises. Faith is believing God’s word to the point of putting it to the test.
The helmet is the most elaborately designed piece of armour, and it is beautiful. It is a picture of ASSURANCE OF SALVATION. A Christian who has doubts about whether he is saved or not will not win many battles for God. The helmet also guards the mind. We are to guard what thoughts we allow to enter our mind. Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
The word of God is the Holy Spirit weapon in our hand. It is the same weapon Jesus used against the devil in Matthew 4:1-8 where he constantly said, “It is written…” Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” The sword is for close confrontation after arrows had been shot and spears thrown. The sword was double edged. Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Carry it wherever you go! Don’t be caught without your weapon!
Just as a soldier dresses before battle, so should a Christian put on his armour each morning. As you put your belt on in the morning, ask God to make you sincere. Determine in your heart to be truthful with yourself and with others. As you put on your shirt or blouse for the day, determine to live right. Ask God to help you in areas of weakness. Guard your heart for the day. Watch your emotions. Love the Lord with all your heart. Tell Him so! As you put your shoes on, ask God to make you a peacemaker. Ask Him to give you power as you look for opportunities to witness for Christ. Put your Bible in your clothing or purse to have it with you all day. Find Scripture to meditate on all day! As you comb your hair, reminisce about the day you were saved. Praise God for it. Guard your thoughts. Begin your day with a song to keep depression away.
Before you leave the house for the day, remember you are a soldier. There is a warfare to face. Do not be surprised or discouraged over problems during the day! Put on the whole armour of God and be prepared.
Nahum 1:2-8 God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies. 3The LORD is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. 4He rebuketh the sea, and maketh it dry, and drieth up all the rivers: Bashan languisheth, and Carmel, and the flower of Lebanon languisheth. 5The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned at his presence, yea, the world, and all that dwell therein. 6Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? his fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him. 7The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him. 8But with an overrunning flood he will make an utter end of the place thereof, and darkness shall pursue his enemies.
There are people who cannot believe that God would ever do anything as terrible as cause an earthquake, flood, storm, or any natural catastrophe. They can’t believe that God would ever cause people to die in large numbers such a way. “What kind of God would do such a thing?” they demand. “How could a loving God do something like this to us?”
They have failed to see that God is a jealous God. He will not share his position with anyone else. He is appalled by man’s direction of worshipping anything except Him. It makes him angry. It makes him jealous and he calls people who do such: enemies.
“What kind of god would make me his enemy? I never did anything to him?” his critics ask. God did not make you his enemy. The thing that most people don’t see is that THEY made God THEIR enemy. In His Word, He is just acknowledging their position and responding to their treatment of Him. Isn’t it funny how those who refuse to believe in God are the ones who have such a terrible time with this? However, those who accept Him for who He is, and have read the Bible to learn about Him, have little problem with God doing whatever He wants to do.
God does send natural catastrophe’s to judge man. He dies not hide behind that fact. In doing so, He is very fair and merciful at the same time. He has given mankind warning after warning throughout the annals of history. He gave the bible showing what he will do in response to man’s denial of him and pursuit of sin. There are historical examples of his judgment on the world with a flood as well as other famous judgments like the ones on Sodom and Gomorrah. Finally, God has left his people here—Bible Believers—to proclaim His intentions. So, if anyone dies and goes to hell—It’s NOT God’s fault!
Matthew 11:6 And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.
People today seem to be offended about everything. Everybody you meet gets offended about something you do or say. There is no getting away from it. It seems like people go out of their way to get offended about something. It seems like it is the new norm. Everybody has a chip on their shoulder just waiting for someone to knock it off so they can get offended and bring attention to themselves.
Jesus preaches not getting offended, especially in Him. The world would be a much kinder and safer place if people just chose to not be offended. There would be much more love and caring for each other if there was less getting offended. There would be less pride and more helping each other.
The first offence that people have tumbling them down a long slope of bitterness is in the Lord Jesus Christ. More than ever, society is anti-Jesus. They are not neutral as they claim to be best for everyone, but they have taken one side against God; they are offended in the Lord Jesus Christ. The more society moves away from Jesus because they are offended in Him, the less blessing they will receive. We need God’s blessing more than ever. If our country is going to return to it’s former glory, then it needs, no, it must have the blessing of God.
Most people are blind to Christianity, but they think they know a great deal about it. They form their opinion about Jesus based on what other people have told them. They have never even opened the Bible and given God a chance to show them about Himself. They are blind.
The blind man had been healed. The Pharisees were skeptical as usual. They would not accept that he had been blind from birth, so they called in his parents to testify. “How did he get healed?” they demanded.
“We don’t know,” said his parents. “We do know that he was born blind though. He’s a full grown man. He is of age. Ask him yourself.”
Turning to the accused blind man the Pharisees said, “How did he do this thing? He is a sinner. If you are healed, give God the glory and not this man.”
“I don’t know if he is a sinner or not. But there is one thing I know for sure; I was blind, but now I see.”
“What did he do to you?”
“I already told you. Weren’t you listening? How many times do you want me to tell you? I was blind but now I see.”
This is what happens to the Bible believing, born again child of God. It is hard to explain what it is like to be saved to the unsaved. Where they once walked in the darkness of sin, they now walk in the glorious light of the Lord God.
The unsaved think when a person gets saved, it is because they are weak and need a crutch to get by in life. Or they think you just went crazy and began looking for anything that will help you with your problems. They are just like the Pharisees in this story. They keep demanding an answer of how you got saved or they ask others without talking to you at all. This is because they simply don’t understand. And, they never will unless they try it themselves.
Now I don’t like to emphasis this too much because the cults make much ado of getting a feeling that no one can understand: The Mormons have “a burning of the bosom.” Charismatic’s have “speaking in tongues” or “the baptism of the holy spirit. Berean’s have the “knowing in their heart.” These are all perversions of what this blind man said: “One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.” For the cults, this can mean that they are superior because they have something that you don’t, and it is subjective so they can keep you from attaining their Pharisaical level of holiness.
Not this blind man however. His eyes were physically open. No one could deny that this wonderful thing had happened for him. This is where the so called “faith healers” fall short of the holiness of God. Every thing they “heal” is subjective and there is no way to prove it other than the person telling how he “feels.” But the physical is something much different. This is why true conversion, true salvation is accompanied by outward physical change.
When I got saved, I started reading my Bible. I wanted to read my Bible. I craved reading my Bible. When I read it, I began finding answers. As I began applying what I learned in the Bible to what I saw in the world around me, in a subjective sense, my eyes were opened. But, in the physical sense, I changed as well. I wanted to hear things about God. I began the wonderful transformation to a new life in Christ. I quit drinking; not because I thought I had a drinking problem, but because I had no craving for it anymore. I quit smoking. Not because I felt as though I needed to, but because I had no desire to smoke anymore. My whole personage changed: my attire, interests, music, appetites and demeanor. And, I was not the one who noticed it. It was my friends. They were the ones who sought me out and said, “What happened to you?”
“I got born again.”
“I don’t really know, but I asked Jesus to forgive me of my sins and accepted His free gift of eternal life. And you can accept it too. He has a gift just for you. All you have to do is take it.”
“Are you serious?” I was at a pot party and everyone was passing around the booze and drugs, intently listening to me. I had only been saved about one week.
“Sure. God has it and it is just for you. In fact, He has one for each one of you. All you have to do is just take it. That’s what I did. What’s stopping you?”
“My family goes to church.”
“I went to church when I was a kid.”
“I was confirmed.”
I didn’t know much about religion at all. I had not even been to church by that time. I replied to them, “I don’t know much about that. All I know is that I got saved and I am born again and I see things differently.”
“What church do you go to?”
“I don’t go to church, but I’d like to.”
It was confusing to them. But it wasn’t confusing to me. The Lord had changed my life. He had changed me so much so that even my secular friends had seen it. And, when He changes your life; when you are allowed to see where once you were blind, others will see the change in your life as well. It is not just that you see things differently; others who know you and observe you will know that something has happened. They too will be able to see the wonderful work of God in you.
The relationship with Christ is the most important relationship any person can enter into. It is more important than the one that you can have with your spouse or your children. It is more important than the one you can have with your parents or grand-parents (Luke 14:26). Lets face it, who can be more important than God?
There are scores upon scores of “Christians” who do not believe this. Most of these instances can be attributed to their ignorance of the person of God. Most people get saved because they want to escape hell. When confronted with the reality of their sin, and their destination, they quickly want to do something about it. When they learn that all they have to do is accept a “free gift”, they quickly scoop it up, being ignorant of everything else. As long as they get saved, that is enough. What they don’t realize, what they are not taught, is they have begun a wonderful journey in their relationship with God: they are now a “son of God” (John 1:12). But, you never see them studying their Bible, learning from some other grounded Christian or growing in the Lord. Not only does Satan like to get them side-lined, but Christians never follow up on them to wisely guide them around the many pitfalls of life that are awaiting them. And, there are many like this.
It is sad to think that there are many “sons of God” wandering around lost in their relationship with Him. If they could just get some direction, then God could do something in their life that would profit them. Some even think they are growing when they are not. The Devil might have them growing in the social activities of the community or even the church, but not in their relationship with the Lord. This is why it burdens my heart to see people so “off” and “on” about church attendance or Group Bible Study. I know that if they could just keep coming long enough, or often enough, then they will begin to see the secrets of the universe revealed within the pages of God’s Word. They will develop a curiosity for the things of God; a hunger and thirst for the WORD. This too, I have seen many times and it has not been without a perplexing of the mind.
In foreign countries (I have visited 16 of them) people seem to have more of a hunger for God’s Word. This seems to be more prevalent in communist countries. It is a pleasure to see them grow in the Lord. It doesn’t take long before the answers of life begin to reveal themself. Then they become most curious. They want to know more and more. Things begin to connect. They are able to answer their own questions from the Bible, because they have a foundation built into their life that cannot be broken up.
It doesn’t seem to be this way in the USA though. I don’t know why. Perhaps it is a familiarity with what people THINK Christianity is supposed to be all about. I am guessing that is where the answer lies. There is no way to change this except getting people into their Bibles and hoping they stay in it long enough to get hooked. If they do, they will learn what the Bible says instead of what man says.
The Bible teaches that we have a relationship with God. He is our Father and we are His children. We belong to a family of believers, and it is difficult for any family when there are prodigals in it. It tears at the heart of a family when one member turns away from God.
What can we do to prevent this? We must emphasis we are all a part of a family, even before someone gets saved, else I fear that we have just put another name in our Bibles; chalked another one up for our self; another notch in our cane. Winning souls is not a competition. It is just as important to disciple someone than it is to lead them to the Lord. God does not hand out winning lottery tickets to the one who leads the most people to Christ. We are showing people the right way of life. What good may a salvation be that does not change a persons life? We are commanded to “teach them ALL THINGS whatsoever I command you.” (Matt. 28:29). One may argue, “Well, at least they are saved.” This may not be good enough to really help a person develop for Christ.
How many families have a baby and put the baby in the crib and never check on them again? I don’t know of even one family that has done such a thing like that. It would certainly be cruel or abusive. What chance does that baby have of growing up to be a strong man or woman? How would they even survive a few days in such a predicament? NO! We take care of babies. We feed them and teach them for many years until they are able to stand on their own, and this they do gradually.
New born “sons of God” are in this same situation. They need nourishment. They need instruction. They need to develop their muscles and learn to walk on their own. I feel that we often don’t see it this way because they look like a mature human being, and this is true, but they are a new born babe in Christ.
How do we teach them? How do we nurture them if we are not confident in ourselves to teach them the things of the Lord? The answer is to bring them to church. This way they can be in an environment centered on learning about God. Encourage them to be at church; taking advantage of every opportunity to learn. It is vital to their growth.
You can’t give a baby a book and say, “Here you are. Grow up.” They need to be in an environment where they can see how to apply the things they learn out of the Book. They need to have fellowship with others in the church to stretch them and strengthen them. Just like you want your growing child to have supervised association with others for their growth’s sake, new born babes in Christ need the same thing. This is why they need to “rub elbows with” others in the church.
Another very important item is for them to be faithful in learning about the Lord, you must be as well. They will take the things they learn, then look at your life to see how to apply them to their life. SO, you must be a good example.
Yes! Souls need to be saved. But they need to be made aware of their family ties. They need to be introduced to the family so the family can take care of its own. The Lord has placed them into a wonderful part of the body of Christ. Their great adventure awaits them. We must hold them and hug them.
Psalm 116:17 I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD.
Recently, when I read this verse of scripture, the Lord grabbed my attention to the phrase: “the sacrifice of thanksgiving.” I have read the Bible through several times and never noticed this phrase. I guess I assumed that it was a common phrase so there was nothing exceptionable about it. It is amazing however, to read through the Bible continually and find one nugget that you always knew existed, yet you never noticed before. “Thanksgiving of sacrifice.” I wondered what it could mean. I saying “thank you” to the Lord considered a “sacrifice?”
When I teach others how to interpret the Bible, I always emphasize reading the verse in context as well as comparing scripture with scripture (1 Cor. 2:13). Comparing Scripture with Scripture is vital to understanding everything about a given truth. The things of God are best interpreted by the words of God, and the greatest interpreter of the Bible is the Bible itself.
The phrase “sacrifice of thanksgiving” is only mentioned in 6 verses of the entire Bible:
- Leviticus 7:12 If he offer it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the sacrifice of thanksgiving unleavened cakes mingled with oil, and unleavened wafers anointed with oil, and cakes mingled with oil, of fine flour, fried.
- Leviticus 7:13 Besides the cakes, he shall offer for his offering leavened bread with the sacrifice of thanksgiving of his peace offerings.
- Leviticus 22:29 And when ye will offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving unto the LORD, offer it at your own will.
- Psalm 107:22 And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.
- Psalm 116:17 I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD.
- Amos 4:5 And offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, and proclaim and publish the free offerings: for this liketh you, O ye children of Israel, saith the Lord GOD.
Now we know that it is appropriate to be thankful to the Lord for what He has done for us. If your heart has been touched by the Lord at all, then you are truly thankful for you know the value of the gift He has given you freely, as well as knowing the price that He had to pay to purchase it. I mean, in the shadow of such understanding, only a truly touched person could be seriously thankful. The Lord likes such thanks. He does not give us gifts because His ego is tremendous and he relishes and lives for the thanks of our hearts, but He does enjoy knowing that we are thankful, for it demonstrates our complete understanding of what He is doing for us.
Every person of old who brought an offering to God was griping internally at the obligation. It was not easy to bring unleavened cakes mingled with oil, and unleavened wafers anointed with oil. It took work to make cakes mingled with oil of fine flour and fry them. You had to put some time in to make unleavened bread in the middle of the wandering in the Sinai desert. It cut into your provisions to make all of that for the sacrifice. Every one of them fretted that he had lost something by giving up their food to the Lord, and for what? It more often than not resulted in every person who put something on the altar being inwardly consumed with anger that he had to give up something he wanted for himself. They all felt needy. They all felt like victims of religious tyranny. Because of their attitudes, God was outraged that they were all so busy worshiping themselves that they cannot find place to worship Him. God wanted one thing from them: he wanted them to stop worshiping themselves.
This is why He implements a “sacrifice of thanksgiving.” This is why he says that “those who bring thanksgiving as their sacrifice honor me.” They are the people who recognize that “every wild animal of the forest is [God’s].” They are the people who know that they can’t give God anything; it all belongs to him already. They are the people who thank God for all his gifts and for his provision for their every need and for the animal that they put on the altar. The people who give thanks for the sacrificial animal also give thanks for God’s sovereignty. They don’t feel they have lost something when they give God what is his already.
Jesus talked about the same thing. Jesus, God in flesh, said that people who wanted to follow him had to deny self first. In other words, they had to stop worshiping themselves and feeling like victims every time there was some inconvenience or persecution or loss.
We all do it. It comes time to put money in the offering envelope, and it is hard to let go of that money, because the credit card bill is shockingly larger than expected this month. The church asks for volunteers to help serve food to homeless people on Saturday morning, and it seems like a great imposition on the only day you can sleep in. The youth director asks if you are willing to be a chaperon for the summer youth mission project, and you think, “But I only have two weeks of vacation a year. There goes one of them.” We all think we have rights, and we think we have ownership, and we think God asks too much.
God doesn’t ask much at all. All he really asks for is integrity and honesty. He wearies of never hearing a “Thank you” when every good gift we have in life is a gift from him.
The sacrifice of thanksgiving is not a barely audible “Thank you” choked out through clenched lips by a pouting child. We give the sacrifice of thanksgiving when we pray as we are taught by Christ, the one who sacrificed himself for us on the cross, “Thy will be done.”
It seems a bit disproportionate to read the detailed Law of Moses given by God at Sinai, and then to hear God say simply through Asaph, “The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me.” But there is also a refreshing, unburdening confidence that washes over my soul when I consider that God is most pleased by simple, humble gratitude.
How quickly do we begin to think that God is most pleased with our rituals, our devotions, our meetings, and our offerings. We become the givers, and He becomes the recipient. We become the benefactors, He the beneficiary. We busy ourselves and run ourselves ragged attempting to please Him through activity and efficiency, sadly forgetting the sweetness of His grace and the simplicity of the gratitude that He desires.
The danger of sacrifices and rituals is that we are increasingly tempted to believe that we have something to offer God, when the sacrifice is actually meant to demonstrate that we are coming to God as His debtors. We start to assume that God needs what we’re presenting to him, an idea as offensive as it is ridiculous. We become like a convicted criminal congratulating himself on his morality as he offers his monetary fine to the judge who gave him a merciful sentence.
With incredible yet subtle audacity, we find ourselves believing that God is actually impressed. Not only is this blasphemous and horrifically backward, it is also binding. Once I believe that I have impressed God, I am bound to have to do it again. Like making a magical first impression that I can never live up to, I am enslaved to endless and exhausting efforts to win Him over.
This is why I am grateful for Asaph’s rich meditation in Psalm 50. Because he tells us that there are two simple ways to glorify God: to ask (v. 15) and to thank (v. 23). Better to come to God with no offering and a heart of gratitude than to come with the riches of a king and a spirit of self-sufficiency. Of course, better still to pour out offerings and sacrifices from a spirit of gratitude. Either way, may we always remember which one the Lord loves first, and loves best.
“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving.” This a precious admonition to the humble in heart, to those who tremble at God’s holiness and find themselves desperate before His perfect law. He is pleased most of all when we need Him, when we cry out to Him, when we call upon His name. In Psalm 50, God does not want my devotion. He wants my desperation, so that grace can overflow into gratitude.
Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High. (Psalm 50:14). What does God want from us? He does not want mere hymn singing, although that is fine. Nor does He want only prayer, although that too is fine. He does not simply want our attendance, although that is fine. What He wants, first, is a thankful heart. That is what He seeks, a thankful heart. Each one of us is to offer to Him the sacrifice of thanksgiving. A sacrifice is something into which we put effort; it costs us. Have you ever asked yourself why the Scriptures stress thanksgiving so much? Both the Old and New Testaments emphasize that above everything else, God wants thankfulness. Give thanks in all circumstances, says the apostle Paul, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Why is this? It is because thanksgiving only comes as a result of having received something. You do not give thanks until you have received something that comes from someone else. Therefore thanksgiving is the proper expression of Christianity, because Christianity is receiving something constantly from God.
Of course if you have not received anything from God, then you have nothing to thank Him for. Though you come to the service, you really have nothing to say. God is a realist. He does not want fake thanksgiving. I know there are certain people (and they are awfully hard to live with) who think that Christianity consists of pretending to be thankful. They think it means screwing a smile on your face and going around pretending that troubles do not bother you. That is a most painful form of Christianity. God does not want you to go around shouting, Hallelujah! I’ve got cancer! But there is something about having cancer to be thankful for. That is what He wants you to see. There are aspects of it that no one can possibly enjoy, but there are other aspects that reveal purpose, meaning, and reason. God wants you to see this–what He can do with that situation and how you can be thankful. Thanksgiving is the first thing He wants in worship.
The second thing is an obedient will. Fulfill your vows to the Most High. Notice the kind of obedience it is. It is not something forced upon you; it is something you have chosen for yourself. A vow is something you decide to give, a promise you make because of truth you have seen. You say, I never saw it like that before. I really ought to do something about it. God helping me, I’m going to do such and such. That is a vow. God says, I’m not asking you to do things you have not yet learned are important. But when you have vowed something, then do it. Act on it. Obey it.
One of the reason that we have so many pansy Christians is because people neglect the terror of the Lord. Pansy Christians are those who are too afraid to witness for Him. They are the cowards who give up at the first sign of difficulty and run for cover. In a practical sense, they can always be identified as “church shoppers.” They look for what they want instead of what God wants. God wants us to remember sin. He wants us to always have it on our mind because it is the thought of sin that brings us to God in humility; ready to accept His way, and give up the reigns of our life to Him.
2 Corinthians 5:11 says, “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.” It is interesting that Paul said, “knowing.” What is it that Paul knew. Well, many things I am sure, but here he is focusing on the TERROR OF THE LORD! The knowledge of that is what drove Paul to witness for God. It is that unabated terrifying side of God that caused Paul to get out of his “comfort shell” and be made “manifest” to the world as a real Christian (one who would die for the Lord Jesus Christ). He was afraid of what God could do, (and would do), when He was addressing man’s sin. Where are the Christians like that today? Are they waving their hands back and forth in a “gathering” of tee-totaling” academics? Are they standing firm? NO! They are too busy “feeling” God instead of “knowing” God. They have conveniently forgot that they will one day have to give account of their Christian life to God (Rom. 14:12). They are too busy having a “great life” while all the time they are surrounded by people who are dying and going to hell. That is no laughing matter my friend. Not at all!
Acts of compassion should be motivated by the terror of the Lord. Knowing what He can and will do if we are not obedient to Him.
Some motivations for not having sex before marriage are wrong. They can be just as wrong as having sex before marriage. One such wrong motivation is fear: fear of being found out, fear of pregnancy, fear of a disease, fear of the opinions of others.
One proper motivation for doing God’s will is love of our neighbor. The neighbor we are to love as ourselves can be our neighbor’s daughter. Also, your neighbor can be one who will be your wife. And your neighbor is your parents or your future wife’s parents, both of whom would be hurt terribly when your sin is discovered.
But the main motivation is the love of God. Love God for the salvation He has so freely given. Love God for all things, including the sexual desires He has given. Submit your sexuality, along with everything else you are and have, to Him. Let your love for Him drive you to strive to please Him in all of your conduct, including your conduct on a date.
Church Fellowship helps meet man’s need for companionship. God uses fellowship and the church to strengthen the Christian and to accomplish His work in the world. From the time of Adam’s creation, God saw, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Gen.2:18). God’s initial solution was to establish the institution of marriage. However, man’s need for fellowship goes beyond marriage. He needs others with whom to grow in Christ and to serve. Every Christian needs church and fellowship.
Our fellowship in the church is much more valuable than fellowship for other purposes because God’s presence makes it different. Christ established the principle that where two or three are gathered together in His name, there He would be in the midst of them. This makes our time with God’s people very special. Fellowshipping with the saints around the things of God is actually a way for us to fellowship with God Himself because He also meets with us when we come together.
When Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch to report all that God had done with them, the Bible says that they gathered the church together. This means that the church was not a building or an organization but the people themselves. The people are the church. God established the church so that we could meet together, worship Him together, grow together, fellowship together, work together and pray together. God could have just let us do these things on our own or in our separate families, but He didn’t. He knew that we would need the fellowship of other saints to live healthy spiritual lives.
Psalms 8:9 O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!
Too often people don’t slow down enough to even consider God. They know the Creator exists, but they don’t move Him to the front of their minds for special consideration. The Psalmist did, and when he did, he came away with this wonderful thought recorded in this special verse of Scripture. Do you notice that he is not asking a question? He is not trying to find out how excellent God’s name is. He is making an exclamation. He moved the Lord to the forefront of his mind and it came to Him that the Lords name is excellent in all of the earth.
We too can see the excellence of God. We too can be overwhelmed with the excellence of God in His name. All we have to do is take a moment and move Him to the forefront of our minds.
There is a big move in the Christian world to build communities rather than churches. In this they are following the former example of President Barak Obama. They try to organize a community into a viable force to work with, then they can fix themselves up as leaders (or rulers) of that community.
In the roots of the word “community” can be seen the word “common.” From this word also comes the word “communism.” An “ism” is a belief of practice of a religious sort. You can see that community building is done not much differently than communism is done: do things for the people that they deem helpful to themselves in the immediate, so you can control them later down the road. For Biblical example to this, Christian Community Organizers turn to the Book of Acts where it says the believers had, “…all things common.” (Acts 2:44; 4:32). What they had in common was a result of loving God. It was not community of people having a great time together.
If you were to build a community, you could be able to accomplish this task by simply being an investor. You could buy up some land and build some houses on it for people to live in, hence–community. The people would be unified in where they lived, but not necessarily in heart or belief. It is easy to build a community by having a bunch of fun activities for people to do. Therefore, Christian community building is doing anything fun so people will come to your community activity. It is accomplished by not doing or saying anything that may be offensive to another, even at the expense of truth. Christian communities therefore side-step the job of evangelism and go straight to the fellowship aspect of a church; they are a “partial church” heavily stressing fellowship and overlooking obedience and truth. Paul warned of such deceitful activities when he said, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ear from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” (2 Tim. 4:2-4) Today, that equates to having Christian communities who have fun getting together, but could care less about enduring sound doctrine. Their ears itch to have some teacher teach them how to have fun, food and fellowship only.
Jesus gave himself for the church as a husband is supposed to do for his wife (Eph. 5:25). He did not give himself for a “common unity.” Jesus plans to present the “common unity of believers”–church; to himself holy and without blemish (Eph 5:27). Not any old community. He will not present a community of non-believers without spot or wrinkle to himself. It is the church that He is working on to perfect. It is the church that makes up the body of Christ.
God called us to start churches. Churches not only encompass a “common unity of believers,” but first and foremost prepare the individual for presentation to the Lord. Churches seek to carry out the great commission first and fellowship second. Herein lies the great problem–People would rather have the fun, but not do the work of the Lord. Or, they call their service to the community “fun stuff”, their work for the Lord when it is not. Before ascending into heaven, He only gave us one job to do–win souls.
Jesus loves the church as a whole, not just when believers get together to “feel good” about themselves as some sort of modern day “AA” support group. The Christian community organizers would have you to think that the word “church” is some sort of archaic word that has negative or bad connotations. That is a lie. How can Jesus ever use a word that would go out of date? He is eternal and therefore His words are eternal, else one could easily believe that the gospel is archaic. The church does not go out of date. It is contemporary. People are easily deceived because the Devil has worked very hard to dilute and discredit the true church with alternatives (like “communities”). What has happened, is God’s people have given up on God because they are selfish. They don’t want to do anything but be entertained, unless it is something THEY want to do and not something GOD wants them to do.
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One thing which is true of all followers of Christ, eventually you will have your time on the spiritual battlefield. 2 Chronicles 32 covers the actions that King Hezekiah took in order to defend Jerusalem from the Assyrian army, and gives great examples of what we should do in order to win our own spiritual battles:
- Secure Godly support. In verse 3, Hezekiah first consulted with those he trusted. If you don’t have Christian friends who are growing, advancing and deepening their walk with Christ, PRAY for some. Proverbs 15:22 tells us, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”
- Stop the flow of sin. Then, in verse 4, Hezekiah stopped the flow of water which would have given strength to the enemy. There are things which we sometimes allow into our lives which give strength to OUR enemy, the devil. One of the most important strategic moves in spiritual battle is to make sure that the flow of un-Godly, unrighteous, sinful “stuff” in our lives is stopped. It can come in many different forms, including television shows, movies, music, books or websites which contain material which is counter to what God’s word would have us consume.
- Repair, Restore and fortify. In verse 5, Hezekiah began making repairs to the wall around the city. The very nature of this undertaking required first examining the entire lower wall, to find the problem areas. Similarly, it is necessary that Christians examine their own lives often, to make sure there are no areas which make us easy prey for the enemy. Galatians 6:4-5 tells us, each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.
- Weapons for battle. Verse 5 also mentions the weapons King Hezekiah made for his people. You and I are blessed to possess our own “armory”, prepared for us by our King. Read and study Ephesians 6:10-18 to learn more about the spiritual armor. If God’s people go into battle without these resources, we are defeated before we even begin.
The battle belongs to the Lord! Finally, verses 6 through 8 recount Hezekiah’s encouragement of the people for battle, as he reminded them that their enemies were simply fighting in the flesh, but the Israelites had the full power of God with them. He did not simply issue orders and edicts, and tell the people “We’re going to war! Get to your stations!” This king actually took the opportunity in what was a very tense time, to encourage the people, reminding them not of who THEY were, but of who their GOD was.
There are many different verses of encouragement in God’s word which remind us that God doesn’t just go into battle with us, but before us, preparing the way for victory. My wife recently reminded me of one, when she returned from a ministers’ wives retreat months ago. It was part of the short speech David gave to Goliath before he killed him in 1 Samuel 17. He said in verse 47, “the battle belongs to the LORD.”
God’s people will certainly find themselves involved in spiritual battles throughout their lives. However, as the people of God, not only do we need not fear defeat, but we can be assured of victory when we honor our Lord, and use the resources He has given us.
A teenage boy had just passed his driving test and inquired of his father as to when they could discuss his use of the car. His father said he’d make a deal: “You bring your grades up from a C to a B average, study your Bible a little, and get your hair cut. Then we’ll talk about the car. The boy thought about that for a moment, decided he’d settle for the offer, and they agreed on it.
After about six weeks his father said, “Son, you’ve brought your grades up and I’ve observed that you have been studying your Bible, but I’m disappointed you haven’t had your hair cut.”
The boy said, “You know, Dad, I’ve been thinking about that, and I’ve noticed in my studies of the Bible that Samson had long hair, John the Baptist had long hair, Moses had long hair…and there’s even strong evidence that Jesus had long hair.”
His father replied, “Did you also notice they all walked everywhere they went?”