Recently posted articles
potpourri of past articles
The Seattle Seahawks football team is renowned for its fans which have earned the title: “the Twelfth Man”. This is because there are normally eleven men on the playing field at any one time, but because of the “heart” of the fans, the team considers them to be with them in spirit as well. Therefore, they are “the Twelfth Man.”
The Seattle fans are extremely enthusiastic and supportive of their team. They are wild and even border on the edge of becoming lunatic in their support of the Seahawks. Before each home game in Seattle, there is the ceremonial raising of the blue flag sporting the large white numbers: “12”. One of the largest selling items of team clothing is the jersey sporting the large numbers “12” with the name displayed proudly on the back: “Fan”. Seattle fans fanatically love their Seahawks.
Jesus too had twelve men on His team. Of all of the disciples following Him, He only chose 12 men to be on His team. Of course, I am talking about the 12 who later became apostles. They were the only twelve who were on the field of play during His battle for victory over death.
In addition to them, there were huge crowds of others who followed Jesus as well. They were His fans. Although they were not in play as starters, they were very dedicated fans. Recognizing this is what drove the Pharisees crazy with jealousy and envy. Like the “Twelfth” man with the Seahawks, these extra followers of Jesus could be called His “thirteenth man.” They were not on the actual field of play, but they were such fans that they were there in heart.
It is funny though that Seattle fans can be called “the twelfth man” where we can call Jesus’ fans “the thirteenth man.” This is because numbers have meaning in the Bible and the number 13 indicates rebellion. There were 13 American colonies that “rebelled” from their king to form the United States of America. The first time the number appears in the Bible is in Genesis 14:4 telling us, “in the thirteenth year they rebelled…” We read about Judas Iscariot in John 13:13 whose name consists of thirteen letters. John 13:13 also has thirteen words in it and thirty nine letters, which is three times thirteen. The word “dragon” appears thirteen times in the book of Revelation. Nimrod, who is the thirteenth from Adam, is a type of Antichrist. The Book of Mark mentions Satan in the first chapter verse 13. And so on… Jesus’ fans were, and still are a rebellious lot.
The thirteenth man of the followers of Jesus are those who love Him for what He can do for them, but never take a thought for what they can do for Him. In other words, they are selfish. The worst type of these are pointed out in Acts 4:33 to 5:11. There we have the story of unity in the church. The “team” is on the field and they are winning. The “thirteenth man” is supporting the team. They are fanatically cheering them on. That is all except two rebellious fans. They are Ananias and Sapphira. They are cleaver. They are sneaky. They have observed the others and patiently learned what is to be expected of them. They have not responded from their heart. With their heads, they have formulated a very elaborate plan. They would bring in some of their support of the team, but would “ACT LIKE” they were a true, blue, 100% lover of the team. They would pretend to be a fanatic supporter of the battle being waged, when all the time, deep down in their hearts, they were laying back, pretending to support the team, but waiting to see just what the team could do for them. They were evil and wicked, and for their wickedness, they were relieved from their position of being a “thirteenth man”. They were kicked out of the Jesus fan club. God KILLED THEM!
Later on, more and more of these rebels began to pop up. Everywhere that Paul went to start a church work, we see problems of people feigning a good Christian life, but their hearts are not in it as a real “fan of Jesus.” They in fact are “fans of self”, but are pretending to be Christians so they can receive the benefits of Christian life. They are like those who talk about Christ inside the church, or in the presence of other known Christians, but rarely, if ever, talk about their “team” with others. It is not that way with the Seahawks fans. They don’t care if they know you or not when they lift their fist in the air and convincingly say, “GO HAWKS!” Strangers coming away from that type of encounter know one thing if nothing else, that person loves the Hawks. But not so with the rebellious “thirteenth man” on Jesus’ team. They are watching, conniving, waiting for a way to incorporate Jesus into their life, when all the time they are supposed to be incorporating themselves into His life.
There are many fake thirteenth man “fans” that have ruined peoples chances for ever accepting Christ. These so-called fans of Jesus are the most dangerous of all people as far as spreading the gospel. They are dangerous because; on the outside they look like the right thing. They sound like the right thing. They act like the right thing. But, all the while, they are like rebellious Judas Iscariot. They are waiting to see how being a Christian can help them instead of how they can help the team. They have taught people how to “get by” as a Christian instead of “get into” supporting the team. They are proudly wearing the jersey, but the lack of fanaticism is apparently lacking. They are content to observe instead of get involved and their actions have taught others to do so as well. Like Judas, they sit on the fence because they don’t want to ruin their chances of getting the Pharisees mad at them and they don’t want Jesus or the team to get mad at them as well. Their balancing act has been intricately conceived and expertly managed, but what they don’t realize is that, like Judas, it will come to an end when they don’t realize it. All of their “playing” church; their “playing” at being a true fan will come to a crashing halt. Unfortunately for that hypocrite, they will always fall on the side of self, pleasing the Pharisees, and engulfed by the world. And with them, will follow all of those who were influenced by them and their lessons on how to be a thirteenth man. This is why they are so very dangerous.
Fans of Jesus should be like the fans of the Seahawks—They should dress up, get ready, stand in lines to see the team play, buy season tickets as soon as they come available, get their jersey, scream to the top of their lungs, and make such an impression that the entire nation knows that, coming to play our team at home is going to be tough because our team has—“the thirteenth man.”
Matthew 7:1-2 Judge not, that ye be not judged. 2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
This passage has probably been more misused and misunderstood by Liberals and Christians alike than any other passage in the Bible, other than the so-called “Lord’s prayer.” Many Christians misunderstand this passage because they take it completely out of context. They believe that this passage teaches that we should not judge other people. In many cases it is not their fault that they believe so; they have been TAUGHT wrongly. Pastors, teachers, and even friends have explained it erroneously. Or, they have read it in a corrupted bible that has been passed off to be God’s word, when it is not.
They are not alone in their error. If the world doesn’t know anything at all about the Bible, it certainly know this passage. This is testament to the fact that it is one of Satan’s favorite passages, along with Acts 2:38. He has used these passages to “trip up” thousands upon thousands of Christians.
By constant repetition of the passage, False teachers have intimidated Christians into not speaking out against anything or anybody doing wickedly. These same false teachers have even gone so far as to use these verses to teach that you can’t tell whether anyone is saved or not. That way you have no business dealing with them personally about their soul’s salvation. Now that’s pretty bad! That’s not the only result of their false teaching though; they use these verses to teach Christians they must be tolerant of others beliefs and accept all forms of sin, especially if it can fall into any “lifestyle” category. But, nothing could be further from the truth.
Christians are commanded by God to: “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment”(John 7:24). Christians are commanded to judge things and people, but when they do, they are commanded to judge “righteous judgment.” I know this may be a shock to you, especially if you have been taught otherwise, but just open the Bible and read it. If you are of the world, then this just goes to show how ignorant you are of Christianity; probably because your only exposure to it has been the news media.
The vital command in Matthew 7:1 to “Judge not” has to be reconciled with:
- “He that is spiritual judgeth all things” (1 Cor. 2:15),
- “Why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?” (Luke 12:57),
- “We shall judge angels” (1 Cor. 6:3).
Of course, if you are a Bible reader and believer you know the Liberal overlooks these texts. Every time that someone uses “Judge not that ye be not judged” to try to make you feel “un-Christian” about not tolerating their sin, in your mind you know they are just ignorant. Or, like the Devil, they are using bits and pieces of God’s word to justify themselves.
At times you will hear from the uninformed Christian that this passage in Matthew concerns judging wether someone is going to hell or not. There is no mention of “Hell,” in the passage at all. Think for a moment! If the issue is judging a man to be lost, no one has to judge that, for the man is already judged and condemned. Consider the following verses:
- 1 Corinthians 5:13 But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.
- John 3:18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
This “righteous judgment” has something to do with the way we suffer for Christ in this life, and for the rewards we will receive in the Kingdom. 2 Thessalonians 1:5 says: “Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:” It means to judge in a manner that keeps man’s relationship with God right. Therefore, A Christian who is tolerant of sin when exposed to it, is affecting their relationship with Christ.
A Christians motive for judging should never be based on what judgment will be placed on him/her later along life’s pathway. The correct motive for judging should always be based on how to please God and NOT how to please self or how to be tolerant of sin. If a Christians motive and focus is truly on how to please God, then the Christian will naturally be doing right by others as would expected.
Here are some examples of misguided judgment as a result of not interpreting Matthew 7:1-6 properly:
- I should not tell anyone about Jesus because I don’t want them to tell me about their religion.
- I should not condemn sin because I don’t want anyone to condemn my sin.
- What goes around comes around.
- If I do good to others then others will do good to me.
- I’ll give money to the church so that God will give money to me, (maybe I’ll win the lottery).
- I’ll help someone, (be their friend), so that in the future they can help me.
On the other hand, a Christian does not have some special “duty” to seek out people to judge. What other people do is their business. But if the things they are doing somehow affect a Christian so that the Christian has to make a decision or judgment, then the Christian is to judge righteously in a manner that will be pleasing to God, regardless of how it will affect self or others. Some Christians feel that they have a free license to stick their nose into other people’s business because the Bible teaches them that they are to judge the righteous judgment. This is not true and they are confused because they neglect to realize that God told them what kind of judgment they are to judge by; They are to judge a “righteous” judgment. This is the judgment that pleases God. It does not please God when Christians go around looking for something to judge, but when a Christian is faced with a judgment to make and judges righteously so as to please God it does this very thing: pleases God!
Why then does Jesus mention this matter of judgment?
Because He is speaking to them about how things will be in the kingdom of heaven (or, the Millinium). During that dispensation (time period), the judgment that He will impart to a person will be based on how they judged other people. Therefore, He encourages them to make sure that their own relationship and life is right before they make any decisions or judgment upon others. He teaches them to examine themselves first before they make any decisions so that they won’t be hypocrite’s. He encourages them to do right, but their motive for doing right is concerning obedience to their Jewish king, otherwise they will suffer the consequences and be judged in the same manner that they judged others. So, the rule for judgment in Matthew is a general rule concerning rules of conduct between Jewish saints, with a direct reference to the Kingdom-age.
For the Christian, the judgment that God imparts to us is primarily our acceptance of His Son: Jesus Christ. We are encouraged to: judging righteously and consider our relationship with God and what pleases Him. Therefore, our motive for judgment is not so much one of obedience, but of love; a love that expresses thankfulness to God for the grace that we received from Him. The Christian does not judge in order to receive something or to give something. The Christian judges righteously in order to demonstrate his love toward God so that God will be pleased.
Unlike the idea of those who say, “Christians should not to preach against anything or anyone, and be tolerant of everything,” Christians are to judge and discern. The Bible clearly teaches that Christians should:
- Judge things in their own life and the lives of others
- 1 Corinthians 11:13 Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?
- 1 Corinthians 11:31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.
- 1 Corinthians 5:3 For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed,
- 1 Corinthians 6:2 Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?
- 1 Corinthians 6:4 If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church.
- Not judge a brother as unsaved if that brother disagrees with him on MINOR doctrinal points of practice.
- Romans 14:1-10 Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. 2For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. 3Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. 4Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. 5One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. 6He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. 7For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. 8For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. 9For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. 10But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
- Romans 14:13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.
- Not judge anything hastily, when not required, unmercifully or from an unscriptural standpoint.
- Identify and avoid preachers and teachers who do not believe the word of God, or who profess to believe it but, practically, deny it by their preaching and teaching.
- Romans 16:17-18 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. 18For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.
- Philippians 3:18-19 (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)
- Matthew 7:15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
- Judge the “fruit” quickly and accurately by the standard of absolute truth.
- John 17:17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
The Liberal teaching that we are not to judge whether or not a doctrine is true is nothing but a Satanic snare for those who are too lazy to “search the scriptures.” The problem is that it works in many cases. Christians buy the world’s teaching over the Bible all too often. This is why they stick with this tactic. This is why apostate “Christians” are given a hearing over Bible believing Christians any day, but when one person crosses a Bible believer and begins to hear the truth’s of God’s word, they are refreshed and curious. The Devil just has to get Bible believers to keep quiet.
There are a lot of practical things however, that we can learn from this passage of Scripture to help us Christians. It is good for us to consider ourselves before making a judgment of righteousness so that we can identify with a person. If we do so we will often see an avenue for dispensing mercy. “Mercy” is when a person does not receive something that they rightly deserve. “Grace” is when a person receives something that they do not rightly deserve. If a Christian considers and examines his own life first he will certainly be reminded that he has received not only mercy from God but grace also. This can only influence the Christian to judge righteously in a manner that God would judge using mercy and grace rightly. Otherwise the Christian runs the danger of judging in a corrupt manner that would please self or some other man. It is also very practical for the Christian to remember that he too is a sinner and that he deserves the harsh judgment of God for his sin, and if he judges the sin of others without remembering this he is a hypocrite. When the Christian acts in a hypocritical manner it does nothing more than to push people away from Jesus Christ.
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.
2 Timothy 4:3-4 “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 ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”
Listen! What do you hear? I mean, what do you hear about Jesus? Is it something YOU don’t agree with? Or, is it something from the Bible that you just don’t like? This is the case with most people. They don’t like the way a preacher preaches or they don’t like the message God has given him. Perhaps it “steps on their toes” a little bit and they think, “He’s preaching at me.” These kind of people do not love truth, and they are greatly mistaken on the power of God. Like Lucifer, they lift themselves up with pride and deny the presence of God by pawning it off on a man. Huh? They think the preacher is preaching instead of God preaching through him. In other words, they have lost faith in the power of God.
So, because they don’t want to humble themselves, they start shopping for another teacher to tell them what they want to hear. They would rather turn their ears away from the truth than search their hearts to see if God is speaking to them? They are so “right with God” they never have a reason to go to the prayer bench.
Listen! What do you hear? Do you hear God, or do you hear your own self?
Rev. Ron Coale, Pastor
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?”
Jim Rigby (a proclaimed preacher) posted on Facebook the Ten Things I wish the church knew about homosexuality. His very questions display his ignorance of the Bible and the subject for which he claims to be an authority. So that his teachings (and the teachings of others like him) do not infect innocent and ignorant minds, I have responded to his teachings below:
1. If Jesus did not mention a subject, it cannot be essential to his teachings. WRONG—You should read your Bible. Jesus as the son of God is the author of the entire Bible and He mentions much about the sin of homosexuality.
2. You are not being persecuted when prevented from persecuting others. YOU are being persecuted when others are NOT PREVENTED from persecuting YOU. SO, it depends on who is on the RIGHT SIDE and God’s side is always right for He is your CREATOR.
3. Truth isn’t like wine that gets better with age. It’s more like manna you must recognize wherever you are and whoever you are with. WRONG—Truth is truth no matter who you are with or wherever you are. It is not relative to your opinion or position.
4. You cannot call it “special rights” when someone asks for the same rights you have. WRONG—It is “special rights” when their rights oppose or conflict the rights of truth.
5. It is no longer your personal religious view if you’re bothering someone else. WRONG—Your personal religious view is your personal religious view no matter who is bothered by it. AND, if it is based on “truth” then it really doesn’t matter what your view is or not. It only matters what the truth is.
6. Marriage is a civil ceremony, which means it’s a civil right. WRONG—marriage is a command given to humans by their Creator who designed humans to fulfill that command. It is not a right whatsoever.
7. If how someone stimulates the pubic nerve has become the needle to your moral compass, you are the one who is lost. WRONG—If your moral compass offends the A-moral, then you are on the right track.
8. To condemn homosexuality, you must use parts of the Bible you don’t yourself obey. Anyone who obeyed every part of Leviticus would rightly be put in prison. WRONG—If man had obeyed the Books of Leviticus all along instead of swaying from it, then it would be the standard of living now. (Note: regarding homosexuality, the book of Leviticus (written to the Levite Priests) is not the only book in the Bible condemning homosexuality. There are the books of Genesis, Exodus, Proverbs, Psalms, Romans, etc.). Also, Jesus does not hate the homosexual, He hates homosexuality. Jesus loves the people of the world and died for them so they could have forgiveness of their sins and a means of overcoming them.
9. If we do not do the right thing in our day, our grandchildren will look at us with same embarrassment we look at racist grandparents. WRONG—It is never permissible to do the wrong thing based on how our grandchildren will look at us. If they were taught right, they would have hero’s instead of villans.
10. When Jesus forbade judging, that included you. WRONG—Jesus did not forbid judging. In fact He command us to judge the righteous judgment (Isa. 1:17; John 7:24) just as He gave us example in doing (John 5:30; 16:11)
Right, wrong, or indifferent, he obviously has no idea about what the Bible says about the subject.
Motives for “getting people in.”
The modern, progressive church has failed on many fronts because they have failed to think of GOD. While they are busy changing to keep up with the times, God still remains the same. When the church changes their approach on worship they’re doing so to accommodate themselves not God. There are actually thinking about themselves. This is wrong! Since He is the creator, and man is the created, it is up to man to conform to His image, not the other way around.
God is not a god of the gimmicks. He does not need to appeal to the flesh in order to try to get some people to like Him. Man needs to satisfy the flesh, but God does not. God’s plan for the flesh is to burn it up when He burns the entire world (2 Peter 3). He loathes the flesh of unrighteousness and will give new bodies to all of His saints.
When the church continually tries new things just to “get people in,” you have to question their motives: Do they want to actually reach more people for Christ? Or do they want to build their congregations so they can be thought of as “successful” according to the world’s standards?
The only thing that God needs for people to fall in love with Him is His word: the Bible. The flesh doesn’t want to read it, and no wonder why; guess who else would not want you to read it?
Luke 6:31-33 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. 32For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. 33And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.
This passage of Scripture describes how we must treat each other during the Millennium if we are to remain in a “right” relationship with the Lord. Even though it is a millennium passage, it is still profitable for us today (2 Tim. 3:16).
There are some very good principles presented by the Lord Jesus Christ for us to use to navigate the pilgrims passage that we have before each of us. Although the keeping of these words does not determine our salvation, as it will in the Millennium, it will help us conform to a more likable image of Christ.
Treat others the way you wish to be treated.
Why is there not more of this happening in the church? Do people treat others the way the wish to be treated? There seems to be a great disparity between the way we are treated and the way we treat others. The two don’t always match. Should they, there would be less conflict.
People are not sensitive enough to observe how others are treating them. It is often overlooked because others are not looking for it. Face it, it is quite embarrassing to tell someone, “Now this is the way I wish to be treated…”. No one is likely to do that. There are self-help, sharing groups that are full of people saying how they wanted to be treated, but others could just not see it. It is expressed in statements like, “They knew I didn’t like that, but they did it anyway.” The answer is: they didn’t know you did not like it because they simply never paid attention to what you liked or not.
On the whole, people have a predetermined idea of how they wish to be treated, but seldom think of how they should treat others. Their focus is on “self” and not others. Once they come to that predetermined conclusion of how they wish to be treated, they do not broadcast it because it would not seem a right thing to do. Others are supposed to perceive it and if they don’t, then watch the sparks fly.
There is the story of Ted and Jane. Jane made herself up real pretty for her birthday so when Ted came home from work, he would notice something different about her and be reminded of her birthday. She didn’t feel right about saying to him, “Ted, you know it’s my birthday tomorrow.” It just felt too selfish of an act to do something like that. She opted for a more subtle way to help him remember.
Ted totally forgot about Jane’s birthday. He was completely oblivious to the matter. Coming home from work, he greeted her as always, with a kiss. They talked about their day and proceeded with their evening as usual. Not only had he completely forgot her birthday, he didn’t even notice that she had made herself up nice and pretty. Jane was deeply hurt inside. She had an expectation; he was supposed to notice and that would remind him of her special day, but that’s not what happened. He was not sensitive enough to observe how she was treating him. The result was pain and hurt. Had he observed how she was treating him, he would have noticed something different. The result would have been joy.
People don’t notice how others are treating them because they are more concerned with self; they are more concerned with the way others are treating “THEM.” This is purely a focus on self. We want others to notice us, but we don’t notice others. The Lord Jesus said, “…as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” That is not: “…as ye do unto men, they should do likewise unto you.” You treat others the way you expect to be treated, but you make the first step, AND have no expectation that they will treat you likewise. After some time, it will wear off on them and have an effect. But, you must take the first step. You must lead by example, treating them the way that you wish to be treated, all the while observing them so you can be sensitive to their expectations. There is no room for: “This is the way I am—take it or leave it!” This command by the Lord is not a goodie box of “what you get,” but rather “what you should give.”
Love those who do not love you.
This is perhaps one of the most difficult things to do as a child of God. It is difficult because when you love someone, you are laying your heart out before them and there is a risk that they will trample on it. Even though there is a risk, any attempt to master this precept will make you a much better person.
There is no doubt that the world is lacking in love. People love themselves (but they don’t know it), their family, and their friends. There is little room for anyone else. We hold back from helping others because we fear an obligation might develop, or they might take advantage of me. But we fall deeper and deeper into a selfish hole until we have no way for mankind to climb himself out.
To turn around this downward spiral we need to take the first step: love our enemies, remembering the weight of the enormous pressure our enemies can bring to bear. We need to adopt, and develop, a loving life to all. Yes, we may get bowled over by the world, but just as worldly living is infectious, so is love. You must not love your enemies looking for immediate results, but for long term solutions. This does not mean that there are no immediate results. Adopting this teaching into your life will help you immensely in your attitude towards others and your outlook on life. If you can do it long enough, it will become habit, and not only will it be easy, but it will make living for the Lord easier on the whole.
To love someone who loves you in return is easy, but to love your enemies is difficult. It is here where lies the true lessons of love. When you give out a good helping of your love and get some love in return, you have, in a sense, exchanged some love for some love. This is similar to purchasing something: you exchange something that is valuable to you so in return you may obtain something that is valuable to you. The Beatles sang, “Can’t buy me love.” The reality of the fact is we do it all the time when we love those who love us in return. We just don’t know we are doing it.
Do good to everyone
Too many people are doing bad things to others. Even Christians get drawn into the oppressive style of living, repaying evil for evil (1 Thess. 5:15). We like to “pay back” others who have wronged us. In fact, we are so good at it, we do it before we even know what we are doing. A wife says something mean to her husband. The husband responds with saying something mean back to his wife. We just react. So spontaneous is this exchange that we don’t even realize it happened. The proof is in the making up process when they say to each other, “I didn’t really mean what I said.” The question remains: “Then why did you say it?” The response is: they don’t know why, but they didn’t mean to do it. It is because we are so conditioned to live by such worldly standards that doing otherwise seems impossible, but it is not.
We must take the first step to do good to others. Although, the world as a whole may not appreciate such living, those whom we do good to will. When they in turn do the same to others, it begins to spread. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live in a society where everyone loved each other? This is what living in the kingdom will demand, and this is what heaven will be like as well. You won’t have to worry about someone having some kind of ulterior motive when they do something good for you.
The Lord Jesus lived by this guiding principle. Not only was it His nature to love (1 John 4:16), but it was to us—His great example.
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.”
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!
THE LAODICEA CHURCH WE LIVE WITH
Revelation 3:14-20 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; 15I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. 17Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: 18I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. 19As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. 20Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
Today we find ourselves living in the Laodicean Church age. It is the last period of time before the Lord Jesus Christ comes to rapture out His church. Compared to the other periods of church history, the Laodicean is the worst of all and that is because of the apathy of believers in Christ. The word “Laodicean” means the “rights or justices of the people.” Literally the civil rights of the people. It is a time when the church is more interested in their individual rights and have totally forgotten the rights of God—their Creator. Unfortunately, this is the mess that the church is in when God returns to get us. AND, do not fret my friends; there will be no exercising of personal rights at the rapture for God’s rights will overshadow all. When He says, “come up hither,” will it not be with anger in His voice rather than that of the compassionate Jesus Christ Superstar that many envision Him to be? Will He not be angry at the church for lack of interest in winning the lost to Him?
The last church claims a belief in God while at the same time living a dead, skin-deep Christianity. People in this church, profess belief in the “fundamentals of the faith” while embracing ecumenical works. It is a church where you cannot really tell what it stands for or what it stands against. It is a church which conveniently balances itself on both sides of the fence; it is neither hot for God or cold against Him (vs. 15). It is the worst kind of church there can be: LUKEWARM (vs. 16)—close enough to God to be warmed by the Bible, and far enough away to be chilled by the world. It is the epitome of rotten apostate modernism.
God is an extremist. He does not believe in getting along with the world in a kind of “fake Christianity”. He “would thou wert cold or hot.”
The Laodicean church makes God sick (vs. 16)—sick enough for Him to “spue thee out of my mouth.” Why is this? Could it be because of the tremendous material assets this church has that others in history did not? Could it be because it is more interested in bragging about its busses, holdings, how much the property is worth, how much the offerings are or how many missionaries it supports? After all, this church says it is “…increased with goods, and have need of nothing.” But God sees the truth. He gets to the heart of the matter. His response to all of our vast access to resources that we are “… wretched, you’re miserable, you’re poor, you’re blind, and you’re naked.” This is the opposite of how we see our self. People today have too many churches to go to. The pastor does something that they don’t like, or another church member does something that they disagree with, they just “hop on over” to another church that more fits their need. People in this age are more interested in themselves instead of God, and God’s preacher better tell them what they want to hear or else.
The great problem with the church today is that Christians are afraid to stand up for Jesus. Oh, we sing the song, “Stand up, Stand up for Jesus…”, but that is just lip service. Christians have worked out a way to be a Christian on Sundays and just a regular guy the rest of the time. That way they can AVOID CONFRONTATION. This is a joke of a Christian who claims that he has to put on the “armour of God”, when he knows in his heart that he is not really going to use it.
This Laodicean church lives by feelings, just like the rest of the world. Like the Israelites of old, temples to Baal have been erected amongst our ranks and the only thing that can “shake the church” loose from them is some tragedy; else God will never get our attention. If there was one thing that I could make the church see, it would be the reality and magnificence of GOD. Hence, people would see how much they owe to Him. But God does not demand our deaths; He demands our death to self, so that we might be able to live the true life that He intended. It is sad that it takes hard times in our life to bring us to our senses.
God counsels that we buy of Him “…gold tried in the fire…” (vs. 18). That is to say, He counsels that we see things as they truly are; that faith in Him is worth much more than gold or riches or prestige or honor (1 Pet. 1:7). This entire world is going to be burned up and all that is contained therein. There is absolutely nothing that will survive His hot wrath. Any investment in this world is futile. I know that right about here the concept of “stewardship” is usually slipped in, but there is a vast difference in caring for things that perish verses things that do not. The only thing that will not perish will be the souls of men who are right with God. This is “stewardship” in its most correct form: to win souls, develop them and teach them how to win more souls. But this cannot be done without “CARING”.
You say, “I don’t see it that way.” I know. I know there is a problem with how you look at things. That is why God urges to “anoint thine eyes with eyesalve…” (vs. 18). This is why the Devil has so many things to look at in the world today. This is why things like TV, pornography, movies, sports, internet, etc. work so good for him. Man is curious, and his curiosity will never be satisfied. This is a good thing if it is channeled to learning about the personality and character of God. But this is not so. Man is more interested in tickling his sin nature. The “forbidden fruit” only becomes the draw to man when he looks at it (Gen. 3:5-6). We have a problem with our eyes. Therefore, we need the eyesalve of God’s Word that we can see correctly. Can you imagine the fruit of the tree looking rotten, moldy, corrupt and covered in maggots? In other words, can you imagine being able to see sin for what it is? The only way that can be done is to:
- Stay in your Bible. You need the Bible. It is your strength and your sword. Without it, you will only see what the world is showing you. Or, you will only know what the world tells you about the Bible. The cults (Mormons, Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, etc.) are experts at offering a candy coated glob of slop.
- Stay in Church. Don’t just “attend” church, come expecting something from God. Expect that God is speaking to you from the Bible via His messenger. Presuppose that God is real and He can do anything even in spite of the preacher or teacher. Expect God to be a blessing to you and discard the thought that you will be a blessing to God.
- Pray faithfully. Tell God how special He is to you. Talk to Him. Tell Him how much of a blessing He is to you. Tell Him what you think of His Book, His church and His preacher. Tell Him what you would request of Him, but resist the urge to give Him your grocery list of problems to solve for you.
- Witness! This cannot be stressed strong enough. You must witness for God. There are many ways in which you can do this. Use your mind and think of a way you CAN do it instead of inventing ways you cannot do it. The fact of the matter is this: if you love something strong enough, you can do things you never thought you would be able to do. Or, if you want to do something bad enough, you will figure out a way to do so.
It is time now to repent of being a lukewarm Christian. Can you truly say you are giving your all to Him? Are you tithing? Are you attending church? Are your words just more empty promises to God? God’s way for dealing with those whom He loves in this Laodicean church age is to rebuke and chasten. REPENT! Change your ways. Be zealous about Him (vs. 19). Be given over to the draw of the Holy Spirit. Be zealous for Him and the things that He loves and forget about the world. Stop comparing yourself to others who are not living for the Lord.
Do you realize that at the end of the Laodicean church age Jesus is outside the door of the church? The door has been slammed shut in His face. He is knocking to come in and who is listening? Are you? Do you hear His humble rap upon the door? Why is He on the outside in the first place? Who came to church and left the Lord outside? I do not want to be a Laodicean even though I happen to live in this age. You don’t have to leave Him outside. You can bring Him in with you. Or, you can answer the door. The problem why many do not is that they don’t even hear His voice anymore (vs. 20). They are too worried about money, satisfaction of self, offending others or becoming accountable to God’s word (they don’t want to hear what He has to say about their sin). But if YOU open the door to Him, He will come in to you and have fellowship with you, even in spite of anyone else. But until you do, until you open the door of your heart, you can not have sweet fellowship with Him. You will be a Laodicean.
There was a famous American pastor who went to Africa to preach for a summer. He preached in many countries while there. The crowds who came to listen were various, but always large in numbers. After finishing with a crowd of over ten thousand souls, he and his hosts were headed to a town where there was expected to be three thousand. But the country that he was in did not have a very stable government. That particular day, the government ceased the sale of gasoline that morning. On the way to the church, there were cars lined up all over the sides of the road. Some were left abandoned; others had frustrated owners camping out in them. It was a dreary and ominous sight for the American pastor, especially when earlier a tremendous storm blew in. There was lightning and thunder all around the area. On the way to the church that morning, the American pastor thought to himself, “There probably won’t be very many people in church today. In a church of three thousand, if half of the people come, it is going to look pretty skimpy today.”
When they arrived at the building, it was about half full of people milling around preparing for the service. But it didn’t stop there! People continued to trickle in all throughout the morning until the building was “bursting at the seams.”
First they prayed. They prayed for a good hour. He thought it would never end. He had never experienced anything like this before. Then there was singing and praising. It bubbled over into exuberant exaltation of the Lord in dance (proper dance) and joy. There was such an atmosphere of love and praise for the Lord that the pastor was even able to “get his ‘jam’ on.” He then preached for about an hour, but when he finished, as the storm raged outside, the faces of the people looked surprised. The song leader stepped up and the singing began again. Then there was prayer and more testimonies of praise. There was such praise for the Lord that the shouting and elevating of Jesus spilled over once again to jubilant song and dance. Some were standing with outstretched arms; some were kneeling at the altar. Some were smiling and shouting; others were crying and shaking their heads in sorrow and deep conviction. He sheepishly, but willingly joined in praising Jesus right along with everyone else. An announcement was made and the people began sitting, still shouting with joy. Eyes turned to the pastor and he quickly deduced that they expected more from the word of God.
He preached yet another full sermon. At the invitation, the altar was full. Then prayer broke out in the building once again. Five hours had passed. First it seemed like the church would be empty, but it filled. Then it seemed like you couldn’t pry the people away. Amazed by this display, he asked the national pastor, “Why aren’t these people leaving?”
“Things are different between Africa and America. The people here, THEY NEED GOD. You see, the people here have nothing. Some of these people have walked 2 and 3 hours to get here. They don’t even know if they will eat tomorrow, let alone have a job. These people are a devastated people without God. They live one day at a time. There is such a desperate need for God over here, that every time there is an opportunity to come face to face with God, and be in His presence, they take advantage of it. They can’t afford excuses, or compete with television shows or radio. They NEED to be in God’s presence.”
As I listened to this story, I began to wonder about that very simple, yet convicting phrase: “We need God here.” It was a shocking and unexpected answer from that simple African pastor: “WE NEED GOD HERE!” He was not saying that Americans don’t need God as well. Nor was he criticizing American churches. He was stating a simple and plain fact. It was truly how the African pastor saw things from his position. Having been in several third world countries myself, I can relate to that statement. Having lived in third world countries for a big chunk of my life, I can see that statement formulate into a vision. At no fault of the general American, there are just too many choices, especially in the way of “religions” competing over their interest. At no fault of their own, the general citizen of this country has an abundance of food, water, health care and shelter available to him. In short, there are very, very few instances in our great land that cause our citizens to be driven to their knees, yearning for an opportunity to be in the presence of God because they have no food, water, shelter or food, just to make it another day. There is not much real NEED of GOD HERE in our great land.
Friends, because we don’t have that situation here, does not mean that we don’t NEED God. Everyone needs God. We all need God. I need God, and so do you. So far, God has not driven us to this realization. So far, God has granted us a reprieve from such a destitute situation; a situation where there is no other place to turn to but Him. For now, He has left us to ourselves. We can turn to our government, families, and charities for help. The lines at the food banks are not full of starving people so far.
For now, God has given us the “choice” to need Him or not, but it might not be that way for long. I know that this is something that most of my fellow countrymen cannot “relate to” because they have never seen anything like that with their own eyes. They have only heard stories about such situations, or seen it on T.V. I assure you that there is a big difference between seeing it on T.V. and seeing it in person. Let me go even farther than that. There is a big difference between seeing it for your self, and living it in person, but when you do, when you have absolutely no other place to turn to but God, you will crave the presence of God. I don’t mean coming to the end of your rope in such a sense that you can’t figure out any other way to fix your problem except asking someone to pray for you. You know, the kind of problem where you have already solved it, but you just can’t grasp the resolution because it lies just outside of your reach. I am talking about the kind of problem that has no resolution. These are the kind of problem where you absolutely NEED GOD to live another day. These are the real big problems. These are those that drive you to God and keep you there. The kind of problems where you not only welcome an opportunity to be in His presence, but are disappointed if you cannot be there.
So I ask, “Do you need God?” Do you need Him so much that you would not so much as lift up your eyes unto heaven, but smite your breast saying, “God, be merciful to me—a sinner.” (ref. Luke 18:13). How poor are you?
I am not saying you need to be poor. I am asking, How much do you Need God? It shows in your desire to be in His presence.
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 then steward 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 us using it as the Lord would have to do. 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: “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 isn’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 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.
- Point People to Jesus. (The God of heaven, he will prosper us. Neh 2:20)
- Don’t Quit (We his servants will arise and build Neh 2:20)
- Realize Ridicule Never Stops (…they laughed us to scorn, and despised us, and said What is this thing that ye do? will ye rebel against the king? Neh 2:19)
- Pray (Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night, because of them. Neh. 4:9)
- Don’t be Afraid (Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses. Neh. 4:14)
- Remember the Importance of the Work. (I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down Neh. 6:3)
Proverbs 6:16-19 These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: 17 A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, 19 A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.
While God is a God of love, He is also a God of hate. We know that God loves His Son Jesus, and that He hates sin, but it doesn’t end right there. He loves many more things. As we read the Bible, we can see that He loves mercy, truth, humility and kindness to mention just a very few. But here, in this one passage of Scripture, He gives a concentrated list of some of the more important things that He hates. They are all self-explanatory and even the child can understand what they are. However, when God gets to sowing “discord” among the brethren, He is now dealing with the church only, for we in the church are: brethren.
Discord is any attempt to gender disagreement or difference of opinion. It is attempting to put at variance or opposition to the rest of the body. It win’s it’s evil victory when it produces angry passions of dispute or contest between persons. It’s method of attack is to clash; it does not disagree with a proper attitude of love and therefore seeks it’s own exaltation. This is what the Lord HATES–discord AMONG THE BRETHREN.
You cannot have a group of people where people do not talk about other members within the group. It is common and natural to do so because; well, they all have something in common–the group. Discord therefore, has nothing to do with talking about other members in the group. It has to do with talking about others with the intent to divide and hurt the group. God hates this very much and will not long abide it within the church He is trying to build. It is important to remember that because I will come back to that later.
The greatest example of attempting to sow discord amongst the group (other than the Devil himself) was Judas Iscariot. He thought he could sell out the Lord and divide the group. He was motivated by greed and self. He wanted to be and feel important. He could be up there with the big wigs setting the direction of actions for the nation, but in fact he was used. Yes, the Pharisees used him, but more so, he was used by the Devil to carry out his attack on God’s work. That is what people who sow discord amongst the brethren do today. They are being used by the Devil and they don’t even realize it. They are an instrument of his destruction, yet they cannot see it, and like Judas, the Lord will separate them from the group in His own time. Until that time, they will be continually frustrated that they are not able to gain foothold, because the Lord protects His flock.
Some might say, “Doesn’t the Bible say that we are supposed to divide the word of truth in 2 Timothy 2:15?” Well, not exactly. It says there that we are to “RIGHTLY DIVIDE” the WORD OF TRUTH. This is not for sowing discord, but in being able to interpret it properly. If you continue to verse 16, the next thing it says is that we are to “…shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.” So, when a person is continually trying to sow discord amongst the brethren, God’s answer for this is to “shun”. This is not done in the old Quaker or Mennonite sense, but it means to don’t converse with them. Why? Because even if your guard is up, and even if you are determined to change the subject if you hear something divisive, the problem is that you still hear it. You can’t take it back. You can’t get it out of your mind. It is imbedded there and the Devil knows that. Your mind will ponder it, even if you don’t discuss it with anyone else, the seed is planted and it begins to grow into it’s evil work. So, the best thing to do is tell the person that you will not entertain any part of that subject, and if you persist, then I must leave. If there is no change on their part, and they persist in sowing discord, then it is best to not even fellowship with them. Love them, but don’t listen to someone who is saying things that are dividing up the brethren. Once it is in your mind, it will eat you up.
If you think you are unintentionally sowing discord amongst the brethren, then you need to ask the Lord for forgiveness. Then the best rule of thumb is to hold your tongue (James 3:5, 6, 8). Learn to be a good listener and not a talker. If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all.
If you are not sure if you are saying divisive things or not, you need to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to put His finger on that part of your life and identify it. You will know if the peace of God comes upon you. You will know if you are being true to yourself or not.
The vehicle of discord is GOSSIP. Gossip is a truly destructive thing. I am not talking about talking about each other. That is not gossip. Gossip is when you a person speaks idle tales; tattles; or tells destructive things about each other. You can always tell a gossip because they like to talk allot. They talk so much that it is difficult to end a conversation with them. They also like to say the same thing over and over. And, the subject of their conversation does not brag on or build another person up, it tears others down. Their conversations therefore, are usually filled with self exaltation at the expense of others. And this is where the discord comes in. To promote self, you must put down others, hence–discord.
Recently our church has come together with one common cause. The Devil does not like it when we are united. His attack will come in many forms, but all with the intention of sowing discord amongst the brethren. I trust this article will give you some insight on how to recognize it and what to do when you identify it. May God bless you richly as you serve the Lord.
“(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)” (2 Corinthians 10:4)
Someone said, “Christianity is all in your mind.” There is much truth in that statement. The mind is primarily responsible for growth in the Christian life. Let us notice what the Scriptures say about your mind:
GOD KNOWS ALL YOUR THOUGHTS
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.”
God is keenly interested not only in our actions but also in our thoughts. It is estimated that you have 10,000 thoughts a day. To God, your mind is a window without curtains.
YOUR CHRISTIAN BATTLEFIELD IS YOUR MIND
The world, the flesh and the devil fight for your mind.
- Romans 8:7, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.”
- Colossians 1:21, “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled”
- Hebrews 12:3, “For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.”
Man is a very complex creation. Have you ever seen a suicidal puppy or a depressed canary? You say, “What makes thoughts so difficult to control?” Secrecy and the absence of restraint. A parent can control a child’s actions but not his thoughts. God is very interested in our thoughts because thoughts produce actions. God destroyed the world by flood because man had unrestrained thoughts.
Genesis 6:5, “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
In Romans 1:28 God speaks of the reprobate (rejected) mind in the downward progression of a civilization.
In Romans 7:25 Paul says: “…with the mind I myself serve the law of God;…”
The mind is the control room or computer of the Christian life. The control room must be guarded. Lot never guarded his mind.
2 Peter 2:8, “(For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;)”
SEEING AND HEARING
When the mind is right, the actions are right. YOU ARE NOT WHAT YOU THINK YOU ARE, BUT WHAT YOU THINK–YOU ARE! (Read that over until it sinks in.)
Proverbs 23:7, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.”
In order for a Christian to alter his behavior, the thinking must be changed! You must plan and guide what enters your mind. An idle mind is the devil’s workshop. That is one of the things wrong with hypnosis, drugs, and liquor. They put the mind in neutral so the devil can jump into the driver’s seat. Keep a busy mind! Do you know one reason God destroyed Sodom?
Ezekiel 16:49, “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.”
Idleness was a cause.
Dr. Bob Jones Sr. used to say: “Behind every human tragedy there is a slow process of evil, wicked thinking.” No one ever falls into sin. They have been falling a long time. We only saw them when they landed. Sin began in their thoughts.
Sir Francis Bacon was asked what he thought the outlook was for the next generation. He declared, “Tell me what the young people are thinking and I’ll tell you.”
THOUGHTS produce ACTIONS
ACTIONS produce HABITS
HABITS produce LIFE-STYLES
What you put into the computer comes out. Put in 48 hours of television a week and you’ll have someone who acts, talks, and thinks like television personalities. Put in 30 hours of rebellious radio music per week and you’ll have someone who has philosophies and rebellion like the groups he hears. What have you been programming into your computer?
True, you can’t help but have some evil thoughts cross your mind from time to time, but do you entertain them? Someone said if you nurse sin on the knees of thought it will grow into a giant. You will never regulate your passions until you regulate your thought life.
TRANSFORMING YOUR THOUGHTS
Romans 12:1-2 says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
A transformation is an inward change that produces an outward change. A biologist cannot change a caterpillar into a butterfly-it has to come from the inside. So it is in the Christian life. Worry and depression are not solved by psychiatrists, but by thinking what God wants us to.
Isaiah 26:3, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.”
In Philippians 4:8, God gives us a list of things to occupy our thoughts: “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.”
Sad to say, the average mind is like a toilet. To keep it clean, it needs constant flushing with godly thoughts, much prayer, much Scripture, and much grace.
THE THREE MINDS
There are three types of minds mentioned in Scripture. You have one of them. There is the natural mind, the carnal mind, and the spiritual mind.
NATURAL MIND — UNSAVED
1 Corinthians 2:14, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
This is a non-Christian. He has no spiritual appetite for the things of God. He cannot comprehend spiritual truth. He is dead in trespasses and sin (Ephesians 2:1). He may be outwardly religious and morally clean but cannot comprehend the Christian life. His thoughts will be what is right in his own eyes, situation ethics, humanism. The natural mind thinks whatever comes natural to a lost person.
CARNAL MIND — WORLDLY CHRISTIAN
Romans 8:7, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.”
Carnal means “of the flesh.” The carnal mind is a saved person who lives for the flesh. The church at Corinth was full of carnal Christians. Paul called them babies. He said they could only swallow the milk of the Word. They had to be taught when they should have been teaching. They were cliquish, immature, divisive, and easily offended.
The Christian with a carnal mind is not satisfied in Christ alone. He chases after things, amusements, and delights rather than in the things of God. He is quarrelsome, touchy, and often is the source of chruch problems. He has feeble digestion and cannot get his own food spiritually. Deep Scriptures do not interest him. There is very little difference, if any, between the natural man and the carnal minded man.
The lost see no difference and have no conviction when around a carnally minded Christian. The carnal mind needs to get right with God, be serious, and fill itself with scriptures! (See also 1 Corinthians 3:1-4; Romans 7:14-15; James 4:4.)
SPIRITUAL MIND-SPIRITUAL CHRISTIAN
1 Corinthians 2:15, “But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.”
This is the Christian who is filled with the Holy Spirit and has a mind full of Scriptures. He is mature, has understanding of spiritual things, has the ability to teach other Bible truths, and is fruitful. He has the mind of Christ.
Philippians 2:5, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:”
If you think the thoughts Jesus did, you will live the way Jesus did. To do that we must think Scriptures—meditate upon them. Because of that, our minds will be going forward, will not be in neutral and will not have a chance to go backward (backslide). The spiritual minded man needs to make sure he does not get satisfied. (See also Hebrews 5:12, 14; 1 Corinthians 3:3; Galatians 5:22-23.)
LET US NOT BECOME SATISFIED!
SOURCES: Things I’ve Learned by Bob Jones, Sr.; The Battle for the Mind, Catlay
God’s Word is exalted
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”—2 Tim. 3:16-17
A healthy church is one that has at its very center: the Word of God. There is no other substitute. The statute of the church is the exaltation of God’s Word, and nothing else. There is no “program” or “social function” that is to eclipse this all important decree. The Bible is the only thing that is “profitable” for the church. Everything else is secondary. A Church that does not “major” on the Bible is one that “minors” on God. Yon cannot have God without His Word, and you cannot have His Word without having God as well—the two are synonyms.
“…Be filled with the Spirit;” —Eph. 5:18-21
“Be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.” —Eph. 6:10
Experiencing God and following Him are indications of the health of the ministry. Being “Spiritually minded” will transform you into seeing things God’s way, and this is the goal. The power and closeness of the Holy Spirit allows us to live genuine Christian lives because the Spirit always teaches us to depend on God and not self. The more we yield to the Spirit the less we yield to self. This can be measured in the prayer life of the church as well as the members. Prayer is a reflection of a deep dependence upon God. Any church that has a weak prayer life is not healthy because they are not spiritually passionate.
Envelopment in Evangelism
“The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” —Luke 19:10
The church that is healthy is driven to reach it’s community, nation, and the entire world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The budget of such a church would most likely reflect a high commitment to outreach, both locally and worldwide. Winning souls for Christ produces committed disciples of the Lord. A church waning in it’s evangelism program becomes stagnant and self-centered. True! Not everybody can go out to win souls, but each saint “rubs elbows” with someone. Everybody can give a tract with a stranger or leave it at a strategic place in the community. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. Someone told each of us about Christ. We are indebted to them and out debt can be repaid by telling others about Jesus. Not only that, A church that seeks to win souls for Christ is a church that is obedient to the Lord’s command to go into all the world to preach the gospel. Evangelism is essential for the health of a Christian and this is true for the church as well. Nothing sparks revival in the church more than people getting saved.
“Make a joyful noise…come before his presence with singing…Enter into his gates with thanksgiving…” —Psalm 100
Inspiring worship that glorifies God and connects the hearts, minds, and emotions of people with God must be a trait of our group worship. Healthy churches are characterized by a spirit of joy expressed in worship. The downhearted are picked up, the weary are revived, the discouraged are encouraged, the batteries are charged. There is something that happens during a healthy, “Spirit-filled” worship service. It is easy to identify an unhealthy trait of the church when the worship service is not a “worship” service at all, but a laborious endurance of time. Heaven is not filled with the “stuffed” shirt, lemon faced Christian, nor should the church be.
Great Commission Emphasized
“Go ye Therefore…” —Matt. 28:19-20
Our churches must have a clear sense of God’s mission and a compelling vision for the future clearly communicated. It should be with such clarity that it becomes “owned” by the members who should eventually display a commitment to it. It should be so emphasized as to guide all the ministries and decisions of the church. It should be embedded in the church structure and purpose.
“…commit thou to faithful men…” —2 Tim. 2:2; 1 Tim. 3:1-13; 1 Pet. 5:1-11; Eph. 4:11-16
Healthy churches should be committed to leadership development of not only women, but most importantly—men. The desire should be to train, godly men who are spiritually mature to lead our congregations. A healthy church desires to see mature leaders positioned in ministry as workers for the harvest. Healthy leaders not only promote the spiritual growth of the members, but also develop others in ministry and in the family unit. Too many men are sitting at home letting their wives do all of the spiritual leading of their family. Men need to take the leadership responsibility for the spiritual development of their family as well as the church.
“…in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost partof the earth” —Acts 1:8
Healthy churches are committed to, and involved in, reproducing themselves. They have a vision for planting or facilitating the planting of churches in nearby communities, as well as the world. There would be no church if some other church was not given to this task because churches are only produced by churches. The cry that churches are slowly dwindling in number is a conviction that churches are not doing what they should be doing—planting other churches.
Rich in Good Works
“Nor trust in undertain riches…do good, that they be rich in good works…Laying up…a good foundation…” —1 Tim. 6:17-19
Healthy churches demonstrate faithful stewardship and investment of all the resources God has entrusted to them. This begins by a church meeting its own needs and overflows to advance God’s work and meet the needs of others. Education of Stewardship is emphasized, and pastors must address the issue of time, money, skills, and possessions in a biblical, relevant, and practical way. There should be no “empire building” for the church. Resources should be “first class” but used in the proper manner for the calling that God places on the church. Involvement in caring for those who are hungry, hopeless, and hurting instills a vivrant aire about the church because it is more blessed to give than to receive, but this ministry should never exceed that of the primary mission of the church: Worship God, win souls to Christ, Disciple saints.
Intentional Disciple making
“Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you…” —Matt. 28:19-20
Disciple making builds mature Christians who can promote spiritual growth of all members. Such disciple making ministries help believers move from a new life in Christ to an alignment of all personal priorities with the Lordship of Christ, whatever the cost. In short, it moves the Saints from being raw Christian recruits to Christian veterans. A healthy church is committed to disciplining the Saints to Spiritual maturity.
“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one another.” —John 13:35
Recognizing that all people are made in God’s image and are loved by Him, the church must reach across cultural, social, economic, and racial lines with practical acts of love within the church and the community. Ministries should always address people’s spiritual needs. When churches are characterized by believers who are committed to the reconciliation of relationships among people, it is a sign of good health. Within the local church, loving relationships produce unity, accountability, including loving discipline, and a powerful demonstration of God’s presence within our communities. Beyond the local church, they are manifested in cooperation and interdependent relationships with other Christians locally, nationally, and internationally.
“And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:42).
There are many places where Jesus warned against the danger of false motives. In giving, He reminded us that we must not give our tithes in order to receive glory of people (Matt. 6:1–4). He also warned us against praying to receive applause of people; prayer is for conversing with God rather than a speech to be heard and admired by people (Matt. 6:5 – 6). He warned us against displaying our personal godliness by revealing our private spiritual disciplines so as to win the approval of people (Matt. 6:16–18). Regarding these two things, Jesus was talking to his disciples about proper motivation. He declared that all worship and service should be motivated by the single desire to please God.
A motive is something which “moves.” What the mainspring is to the clock, motives are to the Christian, what the motor is to the automobile. Motives certainly do affect our lives in many ways. Some examples of these are:
- Selfishness — everyone likes to feel important;
- Self-gratification — we like that which pleases us personally, and we like to have our own way;
- Self-interest — it is human nature for each of us to look out for the best interest of self. We find it easy, even if unconsciously, to ask, “What’s in it for me?”
One does not have to be an expert in motivational research to know that the above motives are inadequate for those who would invest their lives in the Service of God and others most effectively.
When examining the early church in the book of Acts, we discover what it was that made the church so effective. Just as well, we see that they did not serve purely out of love. They were human beings like us, and they served out of mingled motives rather than the pure motive of love for God and love for others.
The early church achieved one success after another in what appeared to be an impossible assignment with tremendous handicaps. The book of Acts is a thrilling success story. What were the motives of the early Christians? Can we have the same motives today? Why did the early Christians witness so faithfully?
They discovered the joy of being a bearer of good news (Acts 2:41 – 47; 5:42; 8:8). In obedience to the command of the Lord, by word of mouth, they spread the good news of his resurrection. They proclaimed God’s love for sinners and his desire to forgive sin. They could not conceal the good news that death had been defeated and that the grave had been robbed of its victory. This was such wonderful news that it brought joy to their hearts just to bear it. For them, witnessing about the saving acts of Jesus Christ was natural. Not to have done so would have been unnatural, inhuman, and unchristian for them. They received great inward joy through witnessing.
The early church recognized and responded to the authority of the crucified but risen and living Lord (Matt. 28:18b; Acts 2:36; 5:29). They believed that God had resurrected Jesus Christ from the dead and had bestowed upon him the authority of lordship. They believed that this gave Jesus the right to issue orders and to command their time, talents, testimony, and treasure.
These early Christians believed that it was right for them to obey Christ even if this obedience brought them into disfavor with both religious and civil authorities. At the risk of being imprisoned and beaten, they chose to obey the Lord.
Many of today’s Christians consider obedience as being optional. There seems to be little recognition of the present lordship of Jesus Christ. Consequently, disobedience characterizes the modern Christian more so than does obedience. Perhaps this is why the church is not effective today. Perhaps this is even why the world seems to be changing so drastically towards evil. It certainly has some effect, not only on the Christian, but on the world surrounding him as well. The motives of the Christians of the early church were a strong sense of duty, the desire to be obedient. This is the critical element that helped motivate the early church to be a faithful witness to their generation. They paid dearly for their motives, and their sacrifice made it easier on the church which was to follow. But today, there has been a moving away from what they gained in the world, and it is none more evident as it is in the USA, where everything seems to be “fundamentally changing.”
Yes, the early church suffered the shock of persecution (Acts 8:3–4). It was this persecution that scattered the early Christians, even though they were very nationalistic and felt that Christianity was a Jewish movement. They were prejudiced against Gentiles to the extent that God put forth special efforts to reveal that the Gentiles were also included in his love and purpose of redemption (Acts 10). Had it not been for the persecution that stirred up the church in Jerusalem, it is highly possible that Christianity never would have gained worldwide significance. The early Christians went everywhere preaching the Word, not because of the compulsion of compassion, but because they were scattered by persecution.
They could have given up on Christianity. They could have just quit. But, they were surrendered to the leadership of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:29; 10:19; 11:12; 13:2; 16:6). The Holy Spirit came into the church on the day of Pentecost to equip each believer to be a spokesperson for God (Acts 2:17–18). He came to lead, guide, and teach the disciples as the Lord had taught his apostles (John 14:26). The book of Acts is the dramatic account of divine initiative on the part of the Holy Spirit and human cooperation on the part of our Lord’s disciples. They lived and labored in fellowship with and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is still in the heart of each believer and in the church to carry on the work of the Lord today. We need faith to believe and accept that He is present; we need to surrender and cooperate with Him. We need to pray for His power as one of God’s best gifts (Luke 11:13).
The early church believed that all people separated from Christ were lost from God and did not know the way home (Acts 4:12). Have you ever been lost in a wilderness or desert? Were you ever lost as a child in the park or in a large department store? Can you remember the fright that filled your heart when you realized you were separated from loved ones and that you were in a position of danger? The unbelieving world knows that something is wrong, but many do not know what it is. People have a deep, unsatisfied longing in their hearts that the world, with its treasures and pleasures cannot satisfy. The Bible teaches, and experience verifies, that Jesus Christ provides the answers to the mystery and meaning of life.
The early church believed that people were lost from God and living under the condemnation of sin. They believed that humankind’s only hope of forgiveness was through faith in Jesus Christ. They believed that they had been entrusted with the good news that would make it possible for people to be saved from hell and to heaven where the deepest longings of the heart would find full satisfaction in continuing fellowship with God. Because they wanted all people to be saved, they continued to bear their witness.
It was the natural, normal, and proper thing for a Christian to talk about the joy and satisfaction of knowing Jesus Christ as Savior both in time and for eternity. Consequently, day by day and week by week in the temple, in the synagogues, on the highways and streets — anywhere and everywhere — these early disciples bore their witness. With mingled motives, they loved, they labored, and they lifted men and women toward God. May the same motives command our intellect, our emotions, and our energies in the Service of God and of a needy world.
Start with a cage containing five monkeys. Inside the cage, hang a banana on a string and place a set of stairs under it. Before long, a monkey will go to the stairs and start to climb towards the banana.
As soon as he touches the stairs, a mechanism sprays all the other monkeys with cold water.
After a while another monkey makes the attempt with same result, all the other monkeys are sprayed with cold water. Pretty soon when another Monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other monkeys will try to prevent it. Now, put the cold water away. Remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new one. The new monkey sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs. To his shock, all of the other monkeys beat the snot out of him. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs he will be assaulted. Next, remove another of the original five monkeys and replace it with a new one. The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous newcomer takes part in the punishment with enthusiasm.
Likewise, replace a third original monkey with a new one, then a fourth, then the fifth. Every time the newest monkey takes to the stairs he is attacked.
Most of the monkeys that are beating him up have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs OR even why they are participating in the beating of the newest monkey. Finally, after replacing all of the original monkeys, none of the remaining monkeys have ever been sprayed with cold water. Nevertheless, no monkey ever again approaches the stairs to try for the banana.
Because as far as they know, that is the way it has always been done around here. And that, my fellow monkeys, is how Congress operates – And precisely why we need to REPLACE all the original monkeys.
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.
An old proverb says, “When you sup with the devil, use a long spoon.” Presumably, NO genuine Christian would want to sup with the devil at all and yet many may be doing so in ignorance.
The origins of Halloween are Celtic in tradition and have to do with observing the end of summer sacrifices to gods in Druidic tradition. In what is now Britain and France, it was the beginning of the Celtic year, and they believed Samhain, the lord of death, sent evil spirits abroad to attack humans, who could escape only by assuming disguises and looking like evil spirits themselves. The waning of the sun and the approach of dark winter made the evil spirits rejoice and play nasty tricks. Believe it or not, most of our Halloween practices can be traced back to these old pagan rites and superstitions.
In the fourth century, Christians attempted to co-opt the holiday by celebrating the lives of faithful Christian saints the day before Halloween. This was a conscious attempt to provide an alternative and re-focus the day away from ghouls, goblins, ghosts, witches and other “haunted” experiences. Since that time many Christians have decided to allow their children to dress in more “innocent” costumes of pumpkins, princesses, Superman or as a cowboy. Part of this is due to the simple reality that in today’s Western culture it is nearly impossible to “avoid” Halloween.
Halloween is a real, sacred day for those who follow Wicca. In fact, it is one of two high and holy days for them. The Celtic belief of spirits being released is current, along with the worship of Samhain (the lord of death) – both are promoted as something to embrace on that day. Those who believe and follow the practices of witchcraft, Halloween represents an opportunity to embrace the evil, devilish, dark side of the spiritual world.
Halloween is still celebrated as an ancient pagan festival of the dead by witches all over the world. Unfortunately, just giving the date a “holy” name like All Hallows’ Eve or All Saints’ Eve cannot change its grisly character. Halloween is an occasion when the ancient gods (actually demons) are worshiped with human sacrifice. The apostle Paul warns us: “But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils” (1 Cor. 10:20).
During the 8th century in the diocese of Rome, Pope Gregory III moved All Saints Day to November 1, officially making October 31 “All Hallows Eve,” some say, as a way of claiming the celebration for Christians. However, this feast commemorating the martyrdom of the saints had already been celebrated by Christians for many centuries prior to this time. Pope Gregory IV broadened the feast to include the entire Church. Inevitably, some of the pagan practices associated with the season persisted and have been mixed into modern celebrations of Halloween.
It is astonishing just how many Christians let their kids celebrate Halloween. Some churches even sponsor “haunted houses” and similar events on what is the Number One satanic “helliday” of the year. If you are a Christian parent, God has given you a precious responsibility in your children. Remember, their ability to resist spiritual wickedness is much less than yours. If you allow your children to participate in Trick or Treating, costume parties, etc., you are allowing them to play on “the devil’s turf,” and Satan will definitely press his home court advantage. You are opening up doorways into their young lives for evil by bringing them into a kind of “fellowship” with these ancient “gods.”
As Christians you and I are placed in this world to be a light in a world of darkness. There is no lasting benefit to ignore a holiday that exists around us, but it also does harm to celebrate Halloween as it has originated and grown over the centuries. My suggestion? Christians should be teaching their children (age appropriately) that: there is a spiritual world filled with goodness from God and evil from Satan (Eph. 2:1-10); life with Christ has power over darkness (I John 4:4); and those who celebrate Halloween either are unaware of its roots, or are intentionally promoting a world where evil is lauded and viewed as an ultimate power.
To counter the evil influence of Halloween, we need to join together and celebrate the reality of the heroic efforts of Christian saints over the evil in their day. Many leaders in the past — and present — have fulfilled the mandate of destroying the works of the devil through their sacrificial commitment to Christ and His Kingdom.
Too, rather than “hide” in the face of evil, we should unabashedly and boldly create an alternative that is positive and uplifting; that celebrates good over evil and the triumph of God over Satan. We need to provide an environment that also makes room for heaps of fun while using the day as a “teachable moment” to celebrate God’s protection, provision and purpose for our lives.
We are commanded not to become involved with the unfruitful works of darkness (And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. Eph. 5:11). There have been far too many examples of how breaking this command works out in lives. Remember, while we have God’s promise of protection for ourselves and our children, that promise may be negated if we allow our children to celebrate this dark holiday. Case after case has been revealed of children in rebellion. In many of these families, the problem can be traced back to the children being exposed to parental compromise with the world at a young age. It is hard enough to raise children these days in a Godly way without exposing them to Satan’s realm.
Are some Christians trying to remove themselves from the world? Ignoring Halloween or celebrating it wth believers only is not exactly an evangelical approach. Aren’t we supposed to “become all things to all men so that by all possible means” we might save some? (1 Corinthians 9:22)
As Christians, why are we here in this world? Are we here to live in a safe and protected environment, guarded against the evils in the world, or are we called to reach out into a world filled with dangers and be the light of Christ? Halloween brings people of the world to our door step. Halloween brings our neighbors out into the streets. I can think of various creative ways to seize this opportunity for developing new relationships and sharing my faith.
Is it possible that our negativity toward Halloween only alienates the people we seek to reach? Can we be in the world, but not of the world?
Ultimately, Christians must decide for themselves and follow their own convictions regarding the observance of Halloween. Christian perspectives on the observance of Halloween are strongly divided. Some believers feel complete freedom to observe the holiday, others run and hide from it, many boycott or ignore it, a number celebrate it through more positive and imaginative observances or Christian alternatives to Halloween, and still others choose to take advantage of Halloween’s evangelistic opportunities. Many Christians believe that participating in Halloween is a form of involvement in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness. However, many consider the modern-day Halloween activities of most to be harmless fun.
Give serious thought to the appropriateness of judging another Christian for observing or not observing Halloween. We do not know why another person participates in the holiday or why they do not. We cannot accurately judge the motivations and intentions of another person’s heart. Study the matter for yourself and follow the convictions of your own heart. Let others do the same without condemnation from you.
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.
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.”
All too often I am amazed at the so called “Christian Community” for their lack of understanding God. In fact, it has been perplexing. When I think of what God did in my life; how He saved me from the grip of death, cleansed me and set me in a noble place with Him, I feel like I owe Him my life. I am sure that others feel the same, but their sacrifice to Him seems to be so misguided.
When it came birthday time or Christmas, a time when I would be receiving gifts, I hoped I would get something I liked. In fact, I went a little beyond hoping and dropped hints to Mom and Dad in order to give them good ideas. I always loved it when they asked me, “What do you want for your birthday?” or “What do you want for Christmas?” Sometimes I got it, and sometimes I didn’t. But, I can tell you, when I got the thing that I wanted–the thing I asked for–I was happier than when I got something I didn’t ask for. Now that I am older and can look back on that, I wonder why that is? I think the answer lies in my present relationship with God. You see, as a born again child of God, I know that He has asked me for certain things–there are certain things that He would like from me. When He gets them, He is much happier than when He gets something He didn’t ask for. God greatest request of me; The thing that is on the top of His list of things He would like, is that I love Him more than anything else and that I love others as I love myself (Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27).
So, how do I accomplish this one request which contains two aspects? He told me how I could do that. He told me that I should win souls. This one activity encompasses loving God (Doing what He told me to do.) and loving others (showing them the way of life). It is by no accident that I use the phrase “showing them the way of life” because if I used the phrase “preaching the gospel” people might get confused. The phrase “preaching the gospel” has become so diluted that no one can really interpret it anymore. This is where my perplexity begins.
The gospel that we are to preach; the gospel that pleases God; the one that is at the top of His “wish list,” is the one that results in another soul being saved. If you have any merit as a Christian at all, then you know what I am speaking is true. You know it because you were once unsaved and someone told you how to accept Christ as the atonement for your sins. You know it! You might have been saved for so long that you have forgotten it; or, you might have backslid from it, but you know it. You know it because the Holy Spirit is in you and He is constantly urging you to tell someone about God’s substitute for their sins. You know it! You are either ignoring it or you are evading it, but you know it!
Some people think that “preaching the gospel” is:
- Having a nice social where they all get together and have tea and cookies and bring a guest.
- Sell Amway or other self-marketing items
- Help people with their chores (i.e. wash their car; cut their grass; do their shopping; etc….).
- Joining ecumenical “Christian” activities.
- Letting their kids go to church while they stay home.
- Singing in the choir.
- Talking with the preacher.
- Reading their Bible.
- Supporting para-church groups.
- Helping others in their churches.
- Being friendly to people of other churches.
- Not offending anyone.
- Living a good life.
- Supporting the Red Cross.
- Feeding the poor.
The list is practically endless. If you think about it, many of these things are really good things to do. In fact most of them are good things to do. But, the gospel is not good things–It is good news of a certain kind. It is the good news that Christ came and died and shed His blood so that you can be free from your punishment if you so choose to accept THAT THING HE DID FOR YOU!
There is another grossly misused phrase amongst the so called “Christian community”. It is the phrase “accepted Christ” or “accepted Jesus.” To be saved, a person does not need to accept Christ or Jesus as much as they need to accept what He did for them, and that He alone could do it because HE IS GOD! To be saved, you must accept what He did, and who He is. It is a little incomplete to ask someone, “Have you accepted Jesus?” You must accept who He is, what He did and how He did it.
So, we have an army of so called “Christians” who have taken salvation freely, but after that, they could care less for the rest of the world. They are saved. They are living out their Christian life, getting along with others, being good church members, helping the elderly, etc… but they are not giving to God what He asked for. At the top of His wish list is: souls to be saved. That is what He wants. But what He gets is a bunch of “good stuff”, but it is not what He asked for. Just like I would feel a little rejected by getting clothes, a new lunch pail, shoes, toothpaste, or patches for my old jeans, the Lord God gets from us–GOOD WORKS, and feels a little unloved.
Can you imagine how God would feel if you brought to Him some souls that you worked hard to get saved. Have you ever opened the gift and said, “WOW! Just what I asked for! Thank you so much!”? Wouldn’t that be great if God could say the same thing over your life? Or, do we keep giving to Him a bunch of good junk? He wants us to love Him and love others. How does Christian involvement in ecumenical groups do that? Think about it! You know! You know what He wants First! You know because He told you. If you are not on track with that, then you are either ignoring Him or you don’t care.