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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.”
It is too bad that there has to be so much emphasis today on MONEY! We all know that the Word of God tells us that “…the LOVE of money is the root of all evil” (1 Tim. 6:10). Of course, no real Christian relishes being immersed in evil, but we must all deal with this potential “time bomb” of spiritual destruction in the world in which we live today. It is almost as if it is one of those “necessary evils” to which we are bound, and can never shake loose from. WE NEED MONEY!
Families need money to live. We need “bucks” to pay for a place to live, put food on the table and clothes on our backs. These are the very basic’s of life. Everything else beyond this can be a luxury when considering the principle of “needs vs. wants.” Without the things that we need, we would be in a very bad way indeed. It is no wonder money becomes so valuable that we have a tendency to hoard it for the time when we may need it in the future. Of course, saving for specific needs is not bad, but we can get dangerously close to crossing over the line and LOVE our money. This is where we become contributor to the evil world system. Until that point, we are living under the evil effects of “love of money” that others may have; we are not actually contributors to that evil.
How does one know when they actually love their money vs. exercising good stewardship with the wealth that God has given them? It all lies in your reaction to money when you lose it. If you are devastated by the loss of it on a personal level, then most likely you are in love with it. However, if you are disappointed, but not smitten to the heart, (in other words: your joy for the Lord is affected), then you are not in love with it. You are just disappointed in your stewardship of it. But, this test is not always an indicator of love for money or not, but it is a good place to start.
God has put some very good and sure fire ways to keep from falling in love with this necessary evil, which we use every day. GIVE! Luke 6:38 tells us that we should “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom.” If we have a heart to give, then we can step around ever falling in love with money. Man does not give away that which he is truly in love with. For example: I would never give to you my wife. I love her. She is very dear to my heart. I would never give to you my children, grand children, siblings or parents. I love them very much. However, I can give to you something that I hold highly valuable to me, but I am not in love with it. I value it, I do not love it. I can live without money, but I cannot live without my wife.
Money needs to be this way for us in our life. To keep from loving it, we need to give; not just once, but continually. In other words, we need to develop a giving heart. It is not coincidental that when we give, it is an expression of love towards others, but when we keep to ourselves, it is an expression of love of self.
God is not timid about providing an example in giving. He gave everything He had to redeem man from loving self. He showed the depths of His love in giving. Surely we too can give, and it doesn’t always have to be money. We can give of our time, talents, as well as our treasure. These are the three basic areas of our life which we have stewardship over where we can get tripped up. If we give of these areas of our life, then we are developing a giving and loving heart. Of course, as you examine them, the easiest and most likely to give from is our money. That simple little coin or ink covered piece of paper represents effort; effort that we exerted in which we were compensated for.
God wants us to keep from loving money because it will often times cause us to err “from the faith.” The primary effect of this evil for the Child of God is a falling away from God. When we cease from giving, and the love of money becomes rooted in us, we will certainly begin a downward spiral away from God. We know that God is the greatest giver of all, and if we are to be in fellowship with Him, we will be associated with the giving God. The sacrifices and offerings that we give to His cause is only a miniscule contribution to what He gives to them every day. And here is the reason why many people lose direction and faith in God: They have lost their desire to identify with Him in this area of their life. They may have lost it for a good reason or it may be a fabricated excuse, but they have lost it. It is logical and reasonable to conclude this since God told us this can happen and there are many Biblical examples from which we may take note. Some of the most famous are Ananias and Sapphira; Judas; and Demas, but there are many contemporary examples that each of us have certainly known. So, one sure fire way to keep from falling away from God is:
- Don’t fall in love with money.
- Develop and keep a giving heart.
Falling away from God is always subtle and slow. It doesn’t happen overnight, although one specific event could be the root cause to our beginning this downward trip. The Devil engineers it to be slow and subtle because he wants it to take hold in our life. If it was sudden, it would be too noticeable. We gradually plant, replant and transplant our produce so that it can grow steadily without a growth stunting shock. If we waited until it was too big, the roots would be all torn up when we transplanted it and it would either die or not recover in time enough to bear fruit for the season. Likewise is our giving in to the love of money. It happens slowly so we are not shocked by its effect on us. If we realized it was happening, we would discontinue following its sorrow piercing path.
No Christian wants to fall away from the Lord. No Christian wants to be pierced through with many sorrows. That is why I am writing this article: to give some insight to the process in which these are the results. If we can understand the mechanics of how this happens, then we can be aware of the signs our life projects; we can deal with it before it is too late. It could suffice to just say, “Give so you don’t fall in the condemnation of the Devil.” But there is really much to be said about that one bold statement. I strongly feel if people can understand the process, then they can be better equipped to deal with the product. So, I hope this message gives you a little insight to help you keep a strong and vibrant relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ.
Contemporary motivational speakers are those who give comments that will motivate a person to do something. They don’t motivate a person to do something that person didn’t originally want to do, but something they already felt like doing. In other words, motivational speech doesn’t have any effect on a person unless they were in agreement in the first place. Adolph Hitler was a great motivational speaker, as was Mao Tsi Dong, Joseph Stalin and Barak Obama. They were (and are) masters at finding things that people want and presenting it in a way to motivate and inspire people. On the whole, contemporary motivational speakers are “martial arts encouragers.” They use a persons strengths and weaknesses against them, in order to get them to do what they want them to do–usually to buy a product or financially support a cause. In order to accomplish their unseen agenda, they must be sure to stay away from anything negative, else their victims, like the rabbit who is almost caught in the snare, comes to the sudden realization that they are to be trapped, and hop away breathing a sigh of relief.
The truth is, there are two kinds of motivational speakers: Those who tell you what you want to hear (like cheer leaders) and those who tell you what you don’t want to hear (like preaching about sin and death); Jesus was the latter. In fact, all of the prophets and preachers of God in the Bible were of the latter sort. They had a message of hope that was coupled with a message of doom and destruction. It is the message of doom and destruction, coupled with the anger of God displayed in His wrath that was the motivational injection that lethargic people needed. When Jesus said, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19), the Pharisees were shocked into doing something. Noah said, “God’s gonna make it rain and flood the earth killing every living thing. That’s why I’m building this here boat.” He was scoffed at until God’s wrath was coupled with the message this preacher of righteousness had (2 Peter 2:5). They were motivated when they were suddenly caught in the snare of the Devil. With their negative message of destruction came a message of hope; they were coupled together.
The negative message first identifies a need in a persons life. It is a message of judgment and sentence. It is meant to be a warning of some bad or sinful action. It is designed to “wake people up” (1 Cor. 15:34; Rom. 13:11) from a dangerous activity, thought or influence. Then there is hope. Until then, a message of hope cannot be given because the people will not take it seriously. There is nothing to motivate them; nothing to move them or provoke them to do something about their evil ways. A fitting example of this is seen in the preaching of the prophet Zephaniah. He brought the message that the Lord was determined to pour His indignation upon the nations. The message further said that God was going to devour all the earth with the fire of His jealousy (Zeph. 3:8). A negative message to be sure. Why? Why such a message from the Lord? Because God wanted to motivate people to call upon Him (Zeph. 3:9). First the negative, then the positive. This is Biblical and true motivational speaking, and it comes with a price.
John the Baptist had a very motivational message that he preached in the wilderness. It so motivated people that King Herod wanted to hear it for himself. But when John came into his presence, Herod did not like what he heard. He did not hear a sickening sweet motivational speech doting on all of Herod’s achievements. He heard John talk to him about his brother Philip’s wife, to whom he was not wed. John said, “…It is not lawful for thee to have her.” (Matt. 14:4). How did this motivate Herod? It certainly didn’t make him leave the encounter feeling good about himself. In fact, Herod wanted to “…put him to death…” (Matt. 14:5). After some time of imprisonment, this is exactly what happened (Matt. 14:9-10).
So it is no secret that people don’t like to hear negative preaching, and sometimes it cost the preacher, but people need it. They need it to motivate them to do right. Without the negative message, coupled with the wrath of God, people are left to their own devices. And what parent would leave their children to their own with no discipline? Only those who don’t love them. Positive reinforcement never did anything for anybody other than to give the parent a way of escape from disciplining their children. It provides a good way to pass the responsibility on to others.
Preachers who are not regularly preaching against sin, are doing their congregations a huge disservice. They are taking the easy way out; trying to be their friends and be hugely popular. It is always easier to let someone else discipline the members of your church, but God will not hold such preachers unaccountable. Weak-kneed preaching on sin equals popularity, but is comes with a price–skin deep Christians who are looking to have a good time on this earth and enjoy it until Jesus gets back. That is a foolish surmise.
We have a job to do. We are to tell people about Jesus and the gospel. Jesus never told us to have a good time of fellowship until he came back. That is the equivalent of taking your talent and burying it in the sand. That will make Jesus mad. Has any preacher ever told you that if you are not doing something to win souls to Jesus, you are inviting trouble into your life? That God will be mad about that? Why not? That wouldn’t be very motivational by today’s standards, but it sure goes a long way with God. Would you hate your preacher for telling you that truth? Would you leave the church? Or, would you try to do something about it? After all, you do know the Lord is coming back, don’t you?
Many Christians know this. But they just want to have a good time and get by until He comes. After all, is it a sin to enjoy life? Of course not, but it will only be enjoyable up until you see the scowl on the face of the Saviour when He turns His eyes upon you and asks, “What did you do about what I asked you to do?”
There are two kinds of motivational speakers: One that tells you what you want to hear, and one that tells you what you need to hear. Both are motivational. The main difference between the two is your attitude in the way you take their message.
Attitude makes the difference. You CAN memorize. You have memorized names, dates, addresses and phone numbers. In learning verses you have the help of the Holy Spirit to “guide you into all truth.” You “can do all things through Christ, which strengthens you” (Phil 4:13). He will empower you to learn as you ask Him
Now begin in this manner. After a verse is selected, read it in the Bible in context. Reading the chapter around the verse is best. It helps you understand the verse meaning. Read the verse thoughtfully several times aloud. Then begin learning the verse in this order: say the topic, then the verse reference, then the first phrase of the verse. Stop at the first punctuation mark if you like; repeat the verse reference again. Then start over; topic, reference, phrase, reference. ALWAYS beginning at the first, then adding a few more words, ending with the reference; “bit by bit” until you have the whole verse learned.
REVIEW it during the day; use spare moments. Say it at meals, when traveling, before you sleep; ask someone to check you. Visualize yourself in the verse. Repeat it daily with reference for 60 days. Use it in the ministry, or review weekly thereafter.
Pray the verse back to God. Then meditate on each verse you learn. Ask God for an experience with the verse in your life. Each verse contains something for you to know, stop doing, begin doing or share with others. The ultimate purpose through the verse is to identify with Christ in His will, know Him better and multiply His glory.
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.
“Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.” (Romans 7:13)
Years ago, an unusual experiment was conducted on a prison inmate. He had the option of having brain surgery to remove the evil tendencies he had. In return, he could have his freedom. He eagerly submitted to it. However, a few weeks after surgery he murdered someone. Surgery cannot cure sin! There is only one cure for sin: the BLOOD of the Lord Jesus Christ.
How bad is sin anyway? A little cursing, a little lying, a little lusting? Is it really that bad? Today it is called “situation ethics” in an attempt to “keep up with the changing times. But the Bible says what God hated 2,000 years ago, He still hates today. God has not changed, people have. Their consciences are so seared that they no longer recognize sin for what it is. It is no longer called sin. It is called a mistake.
The book of Genesis introduces the world to the presence of sin. The book of Revelation speaks of a new earth without the presence of sin. But in between are the sad results of sin’s effect on the lives of people: Thorns, disease, and pain in childbirth began after sin entered the world.
Sin means “to miss the mark.” If you have shot archery or guns before, you know that the goal is to hit the bull’s-eye. God has given us a Book of commands called the Bible to aim at. When we miss the mark and fall short, no matter how close we come, it is called sin.
“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” (Romans 3:23)
In tennis, if a serve goes into the net or lands out of bounds, it is called a fault. The same holds true with sin. We are to live within the boundaries God has set for us. This is to ensure us a joyful life and make us a more effective servant for God.
No one can ever paint sin too black. But, how does one recognize it? Sin is a weed in the garden of God. Sin is deceitful. Sin is full color on the outside, but only black and white on the inside. Sin always comes disguised. Sin takes but never gives. Sin brings pain and shame. Sin binds. Sin blinds. Sin is venom. Sin is a poison. Sin is a rabid dog at your heels. Sin is a leech that wants to drain every ounce of goodness, potential joy, and fulfillment out of your life.
Sin is like a pit that has no bottom. It never stands still and is like a cancer that destroys the body and soul. Sin caused Cain to murder his brother Abel. Sin caused the city of Sodom to be a homosexual city. Sin caused King Herod to kill all the boys less than two years of age. Sin caused Joseph’s brothers to sell him into slavery. Sin caused Saul to lose the kingdom. Sin caused Amnon to rape his stepsister. Sin caused Absalom to try to destroy his own father.
Sin may start small but always ends big. Sin always leaves scars. Sin, like a cute puppy, can grow up into a vicious mongrel. Sin will make you stoop to do things you never imagined you would do.
Years ago, a father tried to teach his son how wrong sin was. Every time the boy did wrong, the father nailed a nail into the tree in the backyard. After several months, the boy was broken hearted over all the nails in the tree. He asked if his father would take a nail out of the tree for every time he behaved well. The dad agreed. Finally, the day came when the last nail was removed. The son thought he would be excited. Instead, he was saddened. Though all the nails were out, the scars and holes remained. Though a person becomes a Christian, the scars of sin remain.
A famous painter once searched for a young boy he could paint as a model for “innocence.” He found such a boy and thus completed the painting. About twenty years later he searched for a man to pose for the contrast of the first painting. After much searching, he found just the man who exemplified all that was wicked, wasted, and vile. After the portrait was completed, he asked the man’s name. He said, “You know me. You painted my picture twenty years ago when I was a boy.” How sin destroys!
SIN WILL TAKE YOU FARTHER THAN YOU WANT TO GO:
- Sin leads from a drink to drunkenness.
- Sin leads from dating to adultery.
- Sin leads from cigarettes to cancer.
- Sin leads from a high to an addiction.
- Sin leads from a joke to a perverted mind.
SIN WILL COST YOU MORE THAN YOU WANT TO PAY
Sin’s checkout price is always higher than the advertised price. Thrill now-bill later! Sin costs reputation, peace of mind, and health.
SIN WILL TAKE YOU WHERE YOU DON’T WANT TO GO
- Sin took the prodigal to the pigpen.
- Sin took Absalom and Judas to a tree.
- Sin will take you to a gutter.
- Sin will put extra wrinkles on your face.
- Sin will take you to the unwed mothers’ home, mental institution, or cancer ward.
SIN WILL KEEP YOU LONGER THAN YOU WANT TO STAY.
Lot went to Sodom to sojourn (visit.) He stayed for twenty years and lost his family. Naomi went to Moab to visit and lost her husband and sons. Sin invites you just to visit.
To a Christian, sin is like a bullet in the body. There can be no strength and healing until the bullet is removed. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Confession is to admit to God that we have sinned. After we repent, the closeness to God is there again!
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A CHRISTIAN SINS?
- Sickness (1 Corinthians 11:30; James 5:15).
- Death. (Acts 5; Deuteronomy 32:51-52; 1 Corinthians 5:5; 11:28-30; 1 John 5:16).
- Prayers are hindered (Psalms 66:18).
- Robbed of joy (Psalms 51:12).
- Chastening comes (Proverbs 3:11-12).
- Reaping comes (Galatians 6:7-8). When a Christian sins, seeds are planted in the garden of life. A harvest is to be expected. A Christian reaps what he sows; reaps more than he sows, and reaps unexpectedly
- Children are affected (Exodus 20:5).
- Christ is shamed (Hebrews 6:4-6). Sin caused Jesus to die on the Cross. It is not a light thing to God when one of His children sins.
THE STEPS TO SIN
James 1:13-15, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”
The steps to sin are L S D: Lust Sin Death. God never tempts Christians to sin to see how good a Christian they are. The Devil tempts to sin. The first step to sin is lust (desire). That is how the Devil tempts. He knows what our desires are and simply “opens the door” so we can fulfill them. If someone is entertaining the idea of adultery, the Devil has available a ready participant. If someone has a desire for liquor, guess who “drops by” and offers them a drink? This is why a Christian needs to carefully guard his thought life and desires. If what we want is wrong, the Devil wants to give it to us.
James 1:14 speaks of a Christian being “enticed.” This is a hunting or fishing term. Enticement is a lure to get the animal or fish away from safety. The Devil uses many lures. He may use music, TV, old friends, money, moving, nature, a new house, a job, fame, a boyfriend or girlfriend, etc. His tackle box is full of proven lures. What has he used on you? Although he cannot read our minds, he does know human nature. GUARD YOUR DESIRES!
THE FIRST SIN
Genesis 3:1-7, “Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit Jerusalem the trees of the garden: But of the fruit Jerusalem the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.”
The first human sin took place in the garden of Eden. The Devil was present in the form of a serpent. There was a series of steps he took Eve through to get her to sin:
The Devil appeared to the follower first (verse 1). Eve was approached first-not Adam. The devil tries to tempt those under authority first.
The Devil questioned God’s Word (verse 1) “…Yea, hath God said…?” That is why the devil is attacking the authority of God’s Word today. If you begin doubting God’s Word, you will soon discard His commands. The Devil has given us the many “versions” of the Bible so people will doubt if any of them are true.
The Devil majored on what Eve was not allowed to do (verse 1.) “…Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” God told Adam and Eve that they could eat of every tree in the garden but one. You mean if you are a Christian you can’t do this or that? Christianity is a can religion, not just a can’t! Do not let the devil make you feel that you are missing out on something by being a Christian.
Eve talked to the Devil and tried to reason with him. She was to “resist” the Devil. Instead she listened to him. Do not listen to people that entice you to do wrong.
Eve did not know the command of God well enough (verse 2-3.) When she tried to quote what God said, she misquoted the command. Ignorance of God’s commands will always lead to trouble. The disciples of Jesus were discouraged and disillusioned after the resurrection because they did not know the scripture about the resurrection.
The Devil lied (verse 4) “…Ye shall not surely die:” All sin is based on the lie “you can be your own god.” No one can tell you what to do. Be your own boss. Study the Word of God so lies will be recognizable.
The Devil mixed truth with error (verse 5). He said that Eve would see and become as God. Part was true. She would see that she was naked. The other part was a lie. The fruit did not make her more like
God. All false religion is based on some scriptures or truth mixed with error.
Salvation gets you to heaven (true)
Salvation + Baptism gets you to heaven (false)
Truth + Error = Lie
The Devil worked on Eve’s desires (verse 5-6). Perhaps Eve ate the fruit because she believed it would make her wise and more like God. She loved God and wanted to be more like him, so perhaps that is why she ate it. See the importance of reading the Bible daily and being faithful in church? It is to keep you from believing the Devil’s lies.
Her sin affected her husband (verse 6-7). Not only did she break God’s command but also enticed another to sin. Our sin always affects others.
Their sin separated them from God (verse 10). Adam and Eve died spiritually that day. They were afraid, naked, and hiding. What a true picture of sin’s affect on us.
IS THERE ANY HOPE?
Will a Christian ever stop sinning? NO. Not until we receive our new body in heaven will we be free of sin’s power. But do not give up! You may not stop sinning, but you can hate it.
Hebrews 1:9, “Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.”
Jesus was the only sinless One who ever walked on the face of the earth. How did He have such victory? He was totally yielded to the Holy Spirit of God. That caused Him to hate sin. As He hated sin, it caused Him to be totally yielded to the Holy Spirit.
Hate Sin—>Holy Spirit Filled
Holy Spirit Filled—>Hate Sin
We will be filled with the Holy Spirit to the degree we love right and hate sin.
Twas the night before Jesus came and all through the house, not a creature was praying, no one in the house. Their Bibles were lain on the shelf without care, in hopes that Jesus would not come there. The children were dressing to crawl into bed, not once ever kneeling or bowing a head. And Mom in her rocker with baby on her lap was watching the Late Show while I took a nap. When out the East there arose such a clatter, I sprang to my feet to see what was the matter. Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutters and threw up the sash! When what to my wandering eyes should appear but angels proclaiming that Jesus was here. With a light like the sun sending forth a bright ray I knew in a moment this must be The Day! The light of His face made me cover my head; it was Jesus returning just like He had said. And though I possessed worldly wisdom and wealth, I cried when I saw Him in spite of myself. In the Book of Life which He held in His hand was written the name of every saved man. He spoke not a word as He searched for my name; when He said “It’s not here” my head hung in shame. The people whose names had been written with love he gathered to take to His Father above. With those who were ready he rose without a sound while all the rest were left standing around. I fell to my knees, but it was too late; I had waited too long and thus sealed my fate. I stood and I cried as they rose out of sight Oh, if only I had been ready for tonight. In the words of this poem the meaning is clear; The coming of Jesus is drawing near. There’s only one life and when comes the last call, we’ll find that the Bible was true after all.
Text: Psalm 11:3 If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?
The most critical part of any structure is the foundation. It supports the whole thing. It must be built right for everything it supports to be right. Of course, if the structure strays from the foundation, then it will be perverted.
1. What Are Our Foundations?
Isaiah 28:16 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.
A) Foundations are Physical
Our society was built on certain principles, morality and ideals. Those being outlined in the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights, in which there is an acknowledgement of a Creator (GOD), who is our chief cornerstone. The mindset of the framers of these documents reveal their interpretation in Black and White and can be read by all. It’s in our history which cannot be changed no matter how angry it makes the rebellious progressive liberal feel. IN GOD WE TRUST.
The foundation of our society is not in the government, it is in God. The government does not teach you about God, the church does. That is the whole purpose of not allowing the government to meddle in the business of the church, but to allow the church to influence the government. It is the church (using the Bible) that is supposed to teach the foundational principles of our society such as:
- GOD— You ought to have God in your home, in your conversation and amongst your friends.
- Prayer–We ought to have prayer often in private, as well as public. We should not be ashamed to talk to God.
- Biblical Morality— We should do right before God and our neighbors.
- Marriage— We should love that husband or wife. Nothing should be more important to us other than God. Not any hobby, interest, children or anything.
- How to raise and educate Children
- How to live in a Free yet governed Society
These are the foundations that our society is built on. And, this is the foundation that we must continue to build upon.
B) Foundations are Spiritual
The foundation of a persons life is either in one of two places: God or self. We will either trust in God and His instruction or in our own understanding. If we trust in our own understanding, our life will crumble because our foundation is in self. But, the person who trusts in the Lord and makes Him the foundation, their life will not have need or want. You cannot have a correct foundation of Society without a correct foundation of the individual.
2. How are our Foundations Destroyed?
To destroy society, there must be an attack on individuals first. To bring down a building, you destroy the pillars that are holding it up. There are three very distinct elements that are constantly attacking the foundation of man that have the goal of bringing down the structure.
A) Foundations are Destroyed by Sin
Sin is any transgression of the Law of God. It is an offence against a personal lawgiver. It attacks a persons fundamental belief and subjection to God. It causes a person to rebel against God and therefore move off the true foundation.
B) Foundations are Deceived by Satan
The Enemy of God wants to destroy mans faith in a sure foundation (Isa. 28:16). He does this through deceit and deception. He offers alternatives that are almost the real thing. They look, smell, taste, feel and sound like the real thing and this is how people go astray. They think they are on the sure foundation of Christ when all the time they are following their own way of righteousness. (Examples: false Bibles, false churches, religion, false gods, idols, ism’s, government, etc.) The alternatives he makes available are:
- Advertising (lust)
All of these are forms of promoting self.
C) Foundations are Dieafied by Self
Self is the biggest enemy of all. Naturally, man wants to follow self. He must get control of self and do what is right. Self is the largest of all addictions and is difficult to ignore. Anyone who has given up smoking, drinking or drugs can attest to the difficulty in gaining control over the control of self. Self wants what self wants. It wants to be its own foundation. It wants to be pre-eminent. Anything else requires humility, but self is full of pride. It is often accompanied with phrases that heavily incorporate the word “I”.
3. What can we do about Destroyed Foundations
Psalm 11:7 For the righteous LORD loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright.
When the foundations are destroyed, the righteous can turn to the Lord, for He loves the righteous.
Righteousness always has something to do with relationship. How do we do that?
A) Repent of Sin
Acts 17:30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
Repent is to change your mind and your way. It requires action. It does not just end with words. It must be acted upon. Our nation cannot experience repentance without the personal repentance of its people.
B) Return to the Lord
Acts 26:20 But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.
Coming to the Lord with a repentant heart is what provides forgiveness. Forgiveness is what is needed to erase the past and allows for the new start. Forgiveness is essential for the foundation to be reconstructed, repaired or reclaimed.
C) Remain in His presence
Repenting is like being sorry for doing something. It is like taking something that is wrong out of your life. But, you must replace it with something good or it is quite likely that some sin will fill the void in it’s wake. You must come to the Lord, but more importantly, you must continue to walk with Him. You must keep on top of the right foundation and not waiver off to the side.
1 Thess. 5:11-23 11 Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do. 12 And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; 13 And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves. 14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. 15 See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men. 16 Rejoice evermore. 17 Pray without ceasing. 18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 19 Quench not the Spirit. 20 Despise not prophesyings. 21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 22 Abstain from all appearance of evil. 23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The SOLE business of the church is SOULS. The church is souls looking upward in praise; inward in penitence; outward in practice; and forward in promise. The church at Thessalonica was church born out of the storms of persecution (1:6; 2:14; 3:3-7). Paul gives this church a check-list for encouraging one another (5:11). How does he do this? By telling them to “Comfort” (vs. 11, 14) and “exhort” (vs. 14).
- Building up one another (5:11).
- Value and Love church leadership (5:12-13).
- Avoid Quarreling (5:13)
- Warn the undisciplined (5:14)
- Comfort the fearful (5:14; cf. Isa. 35:3-4)
- Care for the weak (5:14)
- Practice Patience (5:14)
- Do good to someone who treats you wrongly (5:15)
- Rejoice in everything (5:16; cf. Hab. 3:17-19)
- Stay in an attitude of prayer (5:17)
- Maintain an attitude of thanksgiving (5:18)
- Don’t smother the spirit’s working (5:19)
- Beware of a bad attitude towards preaching (5:20)
- Stay clear of compromising situations (5:22)
It is a dangerous thing to not go to church, especially if you are a parent. First and foremost its obvious it affects your relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. When you are not going to church, the less you want to go. The more you go to church the more you want to go. Now we all know that it is certainly not God that is influencing us to keep us away from church attendance. That leaves only two causes; it is either at the direction and influence of Satan that we are not going to church or by the pull and draw of self.
Jesus Christ died for the church, he loves the church. He told us to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together. A good healthy love for the Lord Jesus Christ should be enough for any individual to continue in and be dedicated to church attendance. If you are not feeding the relationship you have with someone, then it begins to diminish. When you have a relationship with people then you certainly spend time with them. You spend time with them privately and you spend time with them publicly. The private devotion of a Christian is not sufficient for a proper and healthy relationship with God Almighty. You must join together with God’s people because Jesus said where two or three are gathered together in his name that he would be there in the midst of them. So you can either have a private relationship with God or you can have a public relationship with God, or you can have both.
Before becoming a preacher, part of my job as an electrician was to take working trips for the government. This meant that I would have to leave my family behind. I would go off sometimes for thirty days, some times for six weeks and some times for just two weeks. To me it did not matter if it was just the weekend or not, I was apart from my family, my friends and those whom I loved. If you ask my wife you will find out that the largest phone bills we ever had was when I was on trips because I was constantly on the phone with her. Why is that? I desired that relationship. I needed it to be fed. I loved her and you could tell because of the amount to time I wanted to relate with her.
We need time to be with God Almighty. Having a long distance relationship with him is not sufficient just as the phone calls from across the country to my wife were not sufficient. It filled a need but I sure couldn’t wait to get on that airplane and come home. I needed those kisses and those hugs. I needed that surrounding to be whole and complete in my life. Christians unless you have the surroundings of God and God’s people you will not ever be whole or complete in your life. It is dangerous when you are not going to church.
Another danger is how God will react. You see, relationships work both ways. Its is not all dependent upon you, although some people deceive themselves and think that it is. Relationships also depend upon the other person as well. Have you ever tried to talk with someone that didn’t want to talk with you? Have you ever tried to make friends with someone that didn’t want to be friends with you? It is near impossible. Have you ever had a friend that suddenly, for no reason at all just started keeping away from you? Maybe your relationship gradually became a long distance one? What would you do? I venture to say that you would be concerned. At the very least and there would come a point when you would decide that you wanted to figure out what the problem was. You would probably want to know if it was a problem with you or a problem with them. God is the same way. When His people move away from him, and slowly begins not going to church, It is just like the long-distance relationship. He wants to figure out what the problem is. He wants to confront you about it. Then He wants to inspire you to do what is right because he knows the relationship is healthy for you and for Him. When you are not going to church, the danger is that God may act and you are not always exactly sure how He will do that.
The third danger is, people are looking at you and your testimony. Every Christian has what is called a living testimony. It is how you act as compared with what you say. You can say to people all you want that you need to be committed to the Lord, but it will mean absolutely nothing if you are not as committed as you expect them to be. Many Christians subconsciously know this and that is why they stay away from various subjects–Subjects where the Christian might be found a hypocrite. But, my friends, people watch your life and if you are doing one thing but saying another it doesn’t help the cause of Christ. It is not neutral and it hurts the cause of Christ. You are either for Christ or you are against Christ.
When we first get saved we begin learning how to live for Christ. Slowly and gradually as the Holy Spirit begins working on us, from that day forward. All the way until the end of our life we are in the process of learning how to live for Christ and die to self. So the danger is, people are looking to see how they are supposed to live as a Christian. When they see that you are not going to church, then they begin to pick up on your example and do the same.
My friends what do people say about you? When they look at you, do they say that your interests are Jesus, the Bible or the Church? Or do they say your greatest interests are: health or birth or job or family? Anything other than Jesus means they see Jesus is not first in your life. Now let’s take this information, file it in our memories and use it for his glory. God bless you all. Amen.
Dearest Brethren, The end of all things is at hand. It has been for some time now. Each generation of Christians have thought the same as we do today: “How can things get much worse?” Each generation has had to deal with a turbulent and spiteful world system, while at the same time loving the souls that are captured by it. How did they do it in the past? How can we deal with this awkward and evil situation ourselves?
Well, it is safe to assume that they took comfort and instruction from the Word of God. In 1 Peter 4:7-10 we are instructed to be “…sober and watch unto prayer.” Most importantly, to “…have fervent charity among…” ourselves because charity covers a “…multitude of sins.” Furthermore, to be hospitable “…one to another without grudging…” and to take care of each other as we “minister “…as good stewards of …” “grace”.
To not get duped by this world system, we need to be sober. This deals directly with the intoxicating influence of alcohol, liquor or spirits. But too, it addresses the influence of any passion of worldly influence. In other words, it addresses keeping one’s “right mind.” You have heard it said that in any stressful situation you should not panic, to keep your wits about you? This admonition speaks to keeping a sober mind. If we do so, then we will be attentive to the sneakiness of the Devil. He is more deceptive than one can ever imagine. How can we combat this deception? How can we keep sober? We must pray. But not just any old praying.
Dealing with the deception of the Devil is like suddenly realizing we are in the middle of a field of land mines. We find ourselves in such precarious situations because we do not pay attention to where we walk. By ourselves, we can never detect the mines; they are so well hidden. So we need a mine detector to sweep the area in front of us so we can find the mines. Only then we can traverse the field safely. Our prayer to God needs to be for a mine detector of spiritual deception of the Devil. We need to ask God to show us were the mines are that can so easily trip us up.
“God please show me where the Devil is working on my life. He wants me to fall, and I cannot see His deception. Please identify them and help me to go around them so I can walk through this day for you without being a casualty.”
Charity (i.e. Love) is our combative weapon for dealing with a love stripped world system.
Love does not beat people down for their problems of failures. Love either exalts someone else or says nothing at all that would be derogatory about them.
People of the world system love too! There is no doubt about that. They were created in the image of God as well, so they too have the attributes and emotions that God has. It is just that they use them for things they are not meant to be used for. Have you ever needed a screwdriver for some household chore and couldn’t find one? I’ll bet you headed for the utensil drawer of the kitchen and picked out a butter knife to use it as a screwdriver. What happened? Did you bend the tip because the screw was too tight? Probably.
The world uses love to love self and not others. They use something God gave them for helping others for themselves. They bent the tip and ruined it.
Christians need not “bend the tip.” Loving one another is the only combative weapon that Christians have to fight back against this world system.
How is it so effective in fighting the world system? It covers the multitude of sins. It looks beyond peoples faults. You say, “But he/she does things wrong.” Yes, you will notice the faults of others. We all do that. But love is when we know someone’s faults, but we choose to ignore it. We choose to not bring it up. We choose to not make a big deal about it. That is love. That is how Christians treat each other, especially during these last days. We have enough enemies. There are enough people in the world telling us to love self, pointing out our faults and directing/establishing blame. With love, we don’t need any of that.
This is where “grudging” or begrudging comes in. There are enough people in our lives that hold grudges. “Grudging” is: being uneasy at another’s possession of something which we have a desire to possess. Somebody else has something and we want it. That is holding a grudge. This can be with a physical object (new car, tv, dress, etc.) as well as prestige, honor or focus. When someone gets special favor and you don’t, that is grudging. Why does he/she get attention and I don’t? Usually, we won’t say it out loud to someone because we are afraid of sounding petty or immature. But we should not even think it for even one second, and if we do, we should shake that thought out of our head immediately. That is called love. That is thinking better of our brother or sister and rejoicing in their blessing. This is how we minister to one another—LOVE.
With this type of living, all of our Christian ancestors have survived under difficult circumstances. In fact, the trials for some was death, torture and degradation. Yet they still loved. Why? They did so to cope with the difficulties they experienced. After all, what kind of life would you have if all you ever did was begrudging and hating your entire life?
So, let us be sober and watch unto prayer. Lets look for ways to love each other and the community in which we live. What can we do in the life of another person that can make their journey along the pathway of this life a little easier? Then, let us turn it into a fervent love so we can cover sin. Sin does not need to be exposed and exalted. It needs to be disdained and covered over with the blood of the Lamb. Lets have a little grace. With grace we can minister to each other. The primary ones to “hold up” are those of our own church first. It is no good to help other Christians while overlooking those of our own family. In this we are “…stewards of the manifold grace of God.” ~Pastor
Living a worry free Christian life by setting your affections on things above.
Christians today struggle with how to make it in this world. Life is hard and there is no respect for the Christian who lives off of “spiritual welfare.” God has given us all of the tools that we need to navigate this life, but we must not become a part of this world system. Christians should live above of this world system, and it should hold nothing that would compete for our affections, but it does.
Christians have a choice to make regarding their affections: we can give them to this present life, or to the life to come; we can give them to this world or to the new world. This present world, and all of the things we are affectionate about is going to be destroyed by God and replaced with a new one. The choice is whether we will set our affections on the things of old or the things anew.
To live a healthy, worry free life, you must set your affections on things above and not on things of the earth. All true lovers of God know that they are dead to this worldly life and the things that it has to offer. There is nothing in the world that can compete with the life that we have hidden in Christ, which will be revealed to us when He appears. Christians who live for the pleasures, satisfaction or rewards of this life, are misguided in their affections. It is not what Christ can do for you, it is what Christ has ALREADY DONE for you. Is this world your home or are you just passing through?
Date Created: 11/22/2013
(Psalm 107:1) O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.
(Psalm 118:1) O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: because his mercy endureth for ever.
1. He is Good
A) He is good when it is fashionable to be Bad
In order to impress others as being different, each generation degenerates yet a little farther, just to be different. People have such a need to be different from others that they do terribly bat things. I recently saw a photo of a person who had his lower lip pierced, inserting a large window in it so that you could see his teeth and gums.
B) He is good when the world is becoming Evil.
(Psalm 40:12) For innumerable evils have compassed me about: mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of mine head: therefore my heart faileth me.
C) He is good when we need something good in our life.
Nobody NEEDS bad things. They WANT to do bad, for whatever reason. When troubles and trials come, people want something good to happen for them.
2. He is Merciful
A) He is Merciful when the Devil is NOT!
The Devil has no mercy at all. Even though you get saved, he still keeps working on you.
B) He is Merciful because we need MERCY!
We do wrong things and need forgiveness. When we don’t have the funds to pay our debts, it is nice to know there is a place we can go for mercy.
3. He is Enduring
A) He is Enduring because He is Stable.
B) He is Enduring because there is an Eternity (Isaiah 57:5).
(Revelation 21:6) And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.
C) He is Enduring because we will be forever.
(Jude 7) Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
(Jude 21) Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
What creates church growth? Are members responsible for growth of the body of Christ? Jesus used an analogy from farming to explain the manner in which the kingdom of God grows (Mark 4:26-29). Once the farmer plants the seed, it grows by itself. Although fruit comes through the miracle created within the seed, the farmer has to work hard to prepare the ground for productivity.
So it is with church growth. The apostle Paul explained that he had planted churches, Apollos had watered, but it was God who gave the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6). So how do Christians plant and water so God’s church can grow?
Empowering members to grow.
I more prefer to call this, “Allowing members to have ownership in their church.” Every member of a local church needs to feel that it is his/her church. This is a vital area in which a member can use their talents for the Lord; an area in which they can serve God, and thereby be an active part in the Body of Christ. Otherwise they become like a cancerous or foreign object. If they a member has no ownership in their church, then they will not consider it to be “their church.” These are those who fall away because they are not really connected to anything. Find something to do in your church and be a part of the body.
Using your God-given gifts to serve God and your neighbor.
God has given each member in the church certain talents that no one else has. When He leads you to a particular church it’s that He has a purpose for those talents to be used for that church’s growth. Most obviously, it would be impossible to have piano in the song service if there were no piano players willing to use the talent that God gave them. Other talents are more subtle; like fixing things, electrical work, greeting, or cleaning, just to name a few. Find out what you can do and do it in the church.
Use your passion, fire, and enthusiasm for the church.
Everyone is passionate about something. When Jesus gave sight to the young man who had never seen, He told him to tell no one. But the bible says he, “…went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter…” (Mark 1:45). He was passionate about telling others what happened to him. Some things which people are passionate about are such things as: sports, music, babies, family, health, cars, work, etc. You can tell what people are passionate about by listening to what they are continually talking about, especially after the service is ended.
Support the structure and function of the church.
When you support the structure of the church, you are building the church. Supporting the structure of the church shows respect, honor and love for it. Many churches die simply because they are filled with members who say they love the church but, do not support it. It is not supportive to tell people you love your church when you talk bad about its members behind their back. Taking an unsaved, potential member aside and warning them off about some member you don’t like is actually tearing down the church. It doesn’t matter how much you say you love the church, your actions are destructive. Paul faced this exact situation among some of the churches he planted (1 Cor. 1:10-13).
It is not necessary to agree with all of the structure of the church, but it is necessary to support it. And where you disagree, use prudence in not voicing it inappropriately.
Pray for and acknowledge inspiration in the worship services.
Prayer is necessary on all fronts. It improves the Believer’s relationship with God. However, it is vital to pray for God to inspire all aspects of the worship service. We did not come to church to hear a man give a speech or lesson. We came to hear what God has to tell us. It is vital to ask God to talk to us and give us exactly what we need in our life. Unfortunately, it hurts to get our “toes stepped on” by the message being preached. And we often blame the preacher for “preaching at me” and forget that God can use the preacher to deliver HIS message. We need preaching from God to shake us deep down in our souls so we can grow as believers. When the members of the church grow, so does the church. Pray that God will not only inspire the message, but the music, giving, specials, fellowship and our own hearts as well.
Form friendships with other members and do things together outside the church.
Everyone knows that a family cannot grow when each member of it only comes together for one or two hours a week. It is impossible! Likewise, the church cannot grow when its members only interact with each other one hour a week. It is crucial for church growth that the members develop friendships with each other and have fellowship outside the church. I know the main complaint about this is: “I don’t have anything in common with anyone else.” Unfortunately, you neglect to see the folly in such a statement—you have church in common. If you are a family with children, your kids may be friends. Why not get together and do something. How about invite someone over to eat? This is a basic and common thing for people to do so they can get to know each other.
When members have their friendships outside the church (with non church members), their hearts are slowly and subtly drawn away from the church. Therefore, the church not only doesn’t grow, it begins to shrink. It is important that Believers hold each other up. This principle is illustrated when the Israelites were battling Amalek. They prevailed over Amalek when Moses’ hands are raised up, and they lost when he gets tired and lowers his hands. So, Aaron and Hur helped him hold up his hands until the battle was over, and Israel won (Exo. 17:10-13). So must we support members when they are in time of need. This is easier when we become friends and we know what each other is going through.
Sharing your Christian life by example and story.
For the church to grow, it is essential that Believers share their faith with others. They must do everything they can to compel people to come in and hear the message of the Bible. Everyone knows the old saying: “talk is cheap.” This is very true and it indicates that talk is worthless. If then it is worthless, what then is of such value that it can make a life change in someone else? Of course, it is the life story of the Christian. The example of a believer living for God is the most powerful way to witness. When people see the life of a truly dedicated believer, and how it is lived, they are affected to their core. Your life story always supersedes what you say. Even children know this at a very young age. They will listen to mommy tell them to not get started in some bad habit, but if their mommy does it, they will eventually do it as well.
The best way to grow the church through witnessing is to tell the proper life story.
Possess sincere love for the other members.
Love accomplishes much good in growing the church. When members have loved one for another, they tend to be more tolerant and willing to accept anyone. Not only that, everyone wants to be loved; they want to experience true sincere love. The world is severely lacking in sincere love. It exists in many families, but in few other places. Since God is love and you cannot truly say you know God if you don’t have sincere love (1 John 4:8, 16), a church can never grow because you cannot grow a church without God. People know that you truly love God when you have love for each other.
It takes effort to love. You have to work at repressing your ugly thoughts about those whom you don’t like too much. But then you have to go the extra mile and set yourself aside and love the person in spite of what your feel. Love, among many other things, is the giving of self.
When a church is first formed, it is little more than a fledgling. It takes time and effort on the part of everyone for it to become established and for a root to go down into the fertile ground. Without the patient diligence of adhering to these outlined principles, it will never take hold and be able to support itself; it will always need a support to be tied to. It cannot be done by just the pastor alone. It cannot be done by just the faithful few. Everyone has to chip in and help. All hands must be involved. So, we must each ask ourselves, “which of the eight characteristics is my weakest?” Ask God for strength and allow Jesus to lead you to grow.
Which are your strengths? Use them to serve Jesus and his church.
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?”
An old gentleman lived alone in New Jersey. He wanted to plant his annual tomato garden, but it was very difficult work, as the ground was hard. His only son, Vincent, who used to help him, was in prison. The old man wrote a letter to his son and described his predicament:
I am feeling pretty sad because it looks like I won’t be able to plant my tomato garden this year. I’m just getting too old to be digging up a garden plot. I know if you were here my troubles would be over. I know you would be happy to dig the plot for me, like in the old days.
A few days later he received a letter from his son:
Don’t dig up that garden. That’s where the bodies are buried.
At 4 a.m. the next morning, FBI agents and local police arrived and dug up the entire area without finding any bodies. They apologized to the old man and left.. That same day the old man received another letter from his son.
Go ahead and plant the tomatoes now. That’s the best I could do under the circumstances.
Vincent was able to help his aging father even though his circumstances were not so good. Because he loved his father, he was able to do something for him that he could not physically do himself. He was able to do so because he didn’t allow himself to be discouraged by his circumstance. He looked for a way to help. He looked for something he COULD DO instead of focusing on what he COULD NOT DO.
Life is full of such similar circumstances. Oh, we are not always going to plant a tomato garden, but there are things that are going to cross out path of life that we are just not able to do; there are times when we want to help someone, but we see that we cannot do what we would like to. These are the times for innovation and application. Oh, I am not saying that we should be devious and get others to do our work for us. Vincent was that way. He lied to get the FBI to dig up his dad’s yard for him. That is wrong of course, because lying is always wrong. But, if we think positively, pray and give God enough time to show us a way, we can do amazing things.
Paul wanted to get Christ preached to the world. He had much opposition to that noble goal. There were people going around preaching Christ in a mocking manner, trying to put a stop to Paul’s ministry (Phil. 1:14-18). Instead of getting discouraged by this big problem, Paul saw something positive. He saw it as Christ being preached. He rejoiced that Christ was being preached. He didn’t get upset, angry; of even try to get even. He rejoiced.
Too often, Christians are leading a discouraged life because their sights are set upon their circumstances. All they see is the evil, bad things. They choose not to see how God is working in their life. The classic Biblical illustration of this is Peter. The disciples were in a boat in the middle of a raging storm when Jesus came walking to them on the water. The Lord beckoned Peter to come to Him, which he did. He was walking on the water just fine until he took His eyes off Jesus and began focusing on his negative circumstances. When he did, he began to sink.
You can identify Christians who are consumed with their circumstances because:
- They always say “can’t.” They talk about what they “can’t” do rather than what then can do. When presented with a challenge, they immediately begin analyzing why they won’t be able to accomplish it instead of putting their energy into thinking how they can do it. In fact, it is amazing how quickly they discard any challenging idea. In fact, they are thinking of themselves: what it will cost them, how difficult it will be for them to do it. The Bible says, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Phil. 4:13).
- They always make excuses. This goes back to not really wanting to do something in the first place. If a person really wants to do something, and they are interested in it, they will not need any excuses because they will find a way to do it. People do what they are interest in. If they are not interested in something, they look for excuses why they can’t do it. Excuses are different from reasons. Excuses are what we fabricate when we can find no good reason for getting out of doing something we don’t want to do. The Bible says, “But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea: and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.” (Jas. 5:12).
- They are undependable. They say they are going to do something, then they don’t come through. If they really cared, they would be dependable, but they are not. Unlike a reason or excuse, undependability is when we flat out lie; saying we will do something when we have no intention of doing it at all. They just tell them what they want to hear so we can get them off of our back and have no guilt. They make a commitment, but they begin looking at the circumstance and back out, leaving the one to whom a commitment was made, hanging out in the wind. The Bible says, “Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.” (Ecc. 5:5).
- They are “money minded.” They are constantly talking about money; of their lack thereof. They think that without money, they can do nothing, but Jesus said, “…without me ye can do nothing.” (John 15:5). The problem is a misplaced faith. Their faith is not in the Lord God, but in the “almighty dollar,” but as we know, the dollar can fail. It has done it before, it will do it again. People are constantly bombarded with the idea that wealth is money, but there are more important things than money: happiness, contentment, joy, relationships and love for a few.
- They are gamblers. They depend on luck. People who place their faith on luck, are the most unlucky people in the world. Any true Christian knows that “luck” does not exist. Everything is a design. There is a designer and He has a plan. When you begin looking at what you cannot do because of your circumstances, you are tempted to return to the vomit of “luck” (Pro. 26:11; Job 20:15). The Bible says, “He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; not he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity.” (Ecc. 5:10). You tend to hear them talk about what they will do if they win “the big one.”
- They talk about their past. People who focus on their circumstance and look at the negative will often bring up memories of their past; memories of how they used to be able to do things. But, now, with their circumstance changed, they can’t do anything. The Bible says, “Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.” (Isa. 43:18). It does no good to dwell in the past. Old accomplishments were for old times. New times demand, and require, new accomplishments. The Bible says, “…if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Cor. 5:18). Because you are a new creature, and old things are passed away, any new thing you do, becomes old right after you do it. Seconds after you accomplish it, it becomes an old thing and is part of your past. When you come across people who live in the past (there is a difference between living in the past and reflecting on old memories), it is because the person is of an negative mind set. They are looking at what they cannot do, instead of what they can do. Yes, they cannot do the things that they once could do, but there is a whole set of new things that they can now do that they couldn’t do before.
- They are easily discouraged. When people convince themselves that they cannot do something, they become discouraged. This discouragement is out of frustration only because they feel that they can’t do what they want to do. Instead of looking for a way to accomplish something, they do nothing and get discouraged about it. It is more healthy for the mind to focus on what you can do instead of what you cannot do.
- They live a false Christian life. In other words, they give up on Christ, but instead of going completely back into the world, they put on aires of being a Christian so that they can hide their embarrassment. The Bible calls this: backsliding and has much to say about it. Proverbs 14:14 says, “The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways: and a good man shall be satisfied from himself.” The implication is that they begin craving and living the life that they used to live, even though they are a Christian and can never change that. They act like they are spiritual when they are only concerned with themselves.
All of these reasons focus on self. Self is extremely negative because that is the way it feels when it is being deprived. It comes up with the message: “What happened to me? No one cares about me!” We commonly call these: “pity parties.” Contrariwise, the positive outlook pleases others. A positive focus does whatever it can to help others. In short, this is called: LOVE. So, do you seek to do that which you can do? Or do you complain about what you can’t do?
Heaven ought to be a very wonderful place. In fact, so wonderful, that we cannot even imagine how wonderful it will be. It should be a place that not only overwhelms our senses, but out intellect as well. When I read the Book of the Revelation of John, I try to imagine all of the things that John must have been seeing that moved him to write so. When I read it, I cannot even imagine, even a little bit, what it will be like. I’m not talking about the Tribulation parts, but the description of heaven. How could anyone imagine streets made of gold (Rev. 21:21)? Where did all of that gold come from and why make streets out of it? Is it to remind us of its “stumbling block” qualities to the world (Eze. 7:19)? How can I imagine gold that is so pure it is like clear glass (Rev. 21:18)? It’s all just too wonderful for my finite mind to comprehend.
Yes, heaven ought to be a wonderful place. The smells should be too wonderful to describe. I have tried to imagine smells so wonderful and pure that my senses are so captivated that I actually want to study them; catalogue them; meditate upon them. How can they be so intense as to remove from my soul the lust for more (Rev. 18:13)? Do the smells, remind me of the prayers of the Saints, and become to me a sweet smelling savor as well (Rev. 5:8)? And, how can prayers smell good to me like they do to God? I am soon to find out what heaven smells like. I am sure that it will use the sense of smell that I am given in such a way that I have never imagined.
God has given me a wonderful sense of hearing. I love to be able to hear. I cannot imagine being deaf and I have tried, but it is just something I could never do. Similarly, I cannot imagine the sounds of heaven. I know that the sounds will be different. It won’t be like any church service I have even attended. The sounds of praise for the Lord will be the greatest that have even been uttered (Rev. 19:6), and I will be there to hear it. Perhaps it is not the sound at all, but the message that will overwhelm my senses. When that “great voice” makes it’s soothing proclamation about God being with us (Rev. 21:3), I am sure I will be overcome with joy. Such will be the joy, that I will not be able to forsake the production of tears of emotional joy (Rev. 21:4).
Yes! I can see. I have the wonderful gift of sight that God has so freely given me. Some have it not, and I have tried to imagine what life would be like to live in the absence of sight, but I cannot. Even though I have this wonderful gift, and there are many beautiful and magnificent things to behold in this life, I have never used this gift to it’s fullest. There is coming that day though. Like John, I will see the things that the Lord has for me in the future. Until that day, I like many others, wonder what it will be like to behold all things new (Rev. 21:5). I have seen “new things” before, but I have never seen “all things new.” What will it be like to see “the bride, the Lamb’s wife” (Rev. 21:9)? I cannot grasp this thought even, let alone envision it. I am sure it will be the greatest wedding ever. And, how can the great city, the holy Jerusalem be in heaven, descending? I cannot imagine it. But that is okay because, after all, who can imagine a city descending out of heaven? I am sure that my eyes will be overworked on that day.
The senses feed information to the brain for thoughts to be processed. With all of the new sights, sounds and smells, I wonder if I will have a headache trying to process it all. But, that leads me to a silly thought, what will a holy headache feel like? Or, will I have a greater capacity to process information than I even did before? I suspect that my brain will be more active, but with no greater effort; my thoughts will be clearer, more focused, more precise. How could the brain that I have now begin to embrace the information that will flood it?
Yes! Heaven must be a wonderful place. In fact, too wonderful, for a sinful saint like myself to even imagine it. I don’t think that anyone can. Not because I don’t have that ability, but because God wrote of it in His word. Because He did so, clearly tells me that He is describing what is waiting for us. When He describes it to us, there are no uses of similes to help us to identify it. So, the most wonderful part about heaven is the use of parts of the mind and the senses that we never knew existed. He we learn just how fearful and wonderfully made we actually are.
See you there.Date Created: 11/8/11
Text: Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
There are stories upon stories about people who were addicts, got victory over their addiction and then returned to it once again. Usually, each time when they return to their addiction, they fall deeper and deeper into it, until they feel so hopesly lost, that it is no longer an addiction, but life for them.
Christians too are such addicts, but they are addicted to something else. They can have victory over it, if they learn one simple principle: TO BE CRUCIFIED WITH CHRIST. They must crucify the root cause of these addictions. They are…
1. The Crucifixion of Death to Self.
Each Christian must come to the point of giving in. Not just for salvation, but to defeat self and allow Him to lead us through this journey of life. We must realize the cross is continually calling. As it took the death of the Lord Jesus Christ to allow us eternal life, so it takes dying to self for us to come alive. Being alive to Christ can only come by death to the world, self and sin.
A) Self wants to Control.
Self is continually struggling to dominate control of our life. When you get control of one area, self dominates another. It is like the elephant trying to stomp out the hordes of bothersome ants.
B) Self wants to Conceal.
The evil works of man are done under the cover of darkness. Self wants to dominate your night. It wants to bring you into the dark areas of your life and if it can’t bring you there, it will create them. The way to combat self is to put on the armour of light–the word of God. Then to stay away from them, therefore getting a bigger picture and being able to identify what is wrong with them. Stay in the light.
Self wants to condemn a person so they will live a defeated life; always feeling like they are good for nothing. People convince themselves that there is really nothing wrong with them. But, the greatest condemnation in the world is to not accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your saviour. The good news is—all you have to do is just DO IT!. Self can be ignored for a little while. Once you have the Lord in you, you will begin the long series of battles for domination of self, not self domination.
The saviour calls for daily dying because we live in the world day by day. If we do not surrender our hands to the piercing nails which hold us to the cross, then we cannot be set free from the world. We must ignore the world and abide in the suffering eyes of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is possible to live in this world yet abide in the power of his resurrection. Instead of living in a hopeless death, we do have the power to come alive.
The world wants us to befriend it. A little compromise here, a little there, then later a little more; and more and more, until it has completely influenced us to live as an enemy of God. It’s influence is so subtle, that we don’t even realize it is happening to us.
The more the world can infiltrate our life, the more control it has upon us. Practically speaking, this can be seen in worldly peer pressure: hair cuts, clothes, make up, music, talk, etc. Why is it that Christians are not as submissive to Christianly peer pressure as they are to worldly pressure? Because the world is infiltrating our lives in a much greater way. We can turn that around by seeking more time with Christians and less time with the world.
When the Christian finally allows the world to “set up camp” in their lives (to inhabit), there is no desire at all for Christian influence. THere may be token attempts to go to church once in awhile when times are bad, but their zeal and love seem to be gone. When the world inhabits the life of a Christian, it is hard to begin living for the Lord again.
3. The Crucifixion of Death to Sin.
Sin’s influence on a Christian is not nearly the same as the world’s or that of self. Sin is worst of all, yet for the Christian who has read his Bible, is the easiest to identify. Simply put, sin is the bad things we do that we know God does not like; it is the things we do that make God angry. We do not need sin in our life. We must nail our sinful nature to the cross. This is where it belongs.
God can abide much, but He cannot abide sin. Sin is too much for a perfect God to accept. It is beyond His principles to accept it. It must all be dealt with harshly. Because of its corrupting nature, sin must all be separated from Him; every single bit of it. Thank God for the Lord Jesus Christ who paid for our sin.
Sin ties us down so we cannot run the race for God that we ought. It holds us back as we drag it around like so many spiritual anchors, trying to hold us in one place. We must crucify it to the cross. We must die to it to unshackel its weighty influence.
The greatest shame that sin causes in the life of the christian is in not telling others how to be saved. If the blasphmy of the Holy Ghost is not accepting Christ and getting saved, how much are Christians adding to this sin by not telling others how to be saved?
I Live By God’s Faith
I Live By God’s Love
I Live By God’s Sacrafice.
Living a crucified life allows you to see things like you never did before. His wisdom shines through the muck and mire of the world, sin and self. there are new discoveries and revelations of old things known. all things become new by the light given from a crucified life.
We will be called the sons of God. We are likened to Him by our crucifixion of Sin, self and the world.
Life is eternal and you can have it. A defeated Christian can have it right now. An unsaved person can have it right now. all you have to do is to accept it.
There is no greater sacrifice, than to be crucified with Christ. Yet it brings life.
Christian rights group China Aid says the faithful are worried that the church demolition could be a sign that the government is tightening its grip over the spread of Christianity in China
For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. (2 Cor. 10:12)
I recently read an article where the basic premise was: “If you don’t agree with gay marriage, then don’t marry a gay—problem solved.” Something struck me as quite odd with that statement and after thinking about it for a few minutes I realized what it was. It settled upon the word: “agree.” You see, they were saying, “If you don’t agree, and then don’t do it and your problem will be solved.” The solution to your problem depended upon your agreement to the problem or not, and what you did with that agreement (i.e. do it or don’t do it.).
Now, I have never known a problem to go away just because I did or did not agree with it. I can disagree with a police officer that I was not speeding and therefore I will not pay the fine to the judge; and my problem will be solved. I cannot leave my wallet at home and agree that I don’t need it; and my problem will be solved. In fact, my problem will be compounded because, this type of reasoning does nothing more than attempt to pass your problem on to someone else. Okay, I don’t bring my wallet. I reason that I disagree with needing it. I go to the clothing store and do some shopping, saunter up to the checkout stand, receive the news of the total payment required, and tell the cashier, “I don’t agree with needing to pay for my purchase.” I have effectively tried to place the burden of my problem on the cashier. She gets her manager where, in turn, the problem is attempted to be placed on him. He refuses receipt of goods and therefore rejects the problem becoming his, or the cashier’s or the stores. So now a clash of wills occurs. Somebody will have to back down and I do not think it will be the stores, for they are the ones who are presently in possession of the goods. You see, right or wrong is not determined upon how someone accepts or does not accept a certain thing, idea or lifestyle. For those who insist that it does, it reminds me of the Bible where it says, “…every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” (Jud. 21:25).
Since our state of agreement does not solve any problem, then what is it? It must be something deeper that we are missing in the statement. Right! It is the determination of what is right and what is wrong. For all of the USA’s history, it is the principles and morals of the Bible that set the standard for us to determine right or wrong. The Bible has been the backbone of our value system and it is now under attack. I see this in a three fold attack by the Devil:
Dilute the Word of God.
Obfuscate the Word of God.
Eliminate the Word of God.
Diluting the Word of God will be subtle and will cause people to see the grand love and the harsh judgment of God in a much “lighter” atmosphere. People will then begin to pick and choose what they want to believe or not. This great maneuver has been accomplished by the production of so many different Bible versions that it is impossible to keep count; with more coming out every year. It used to be one word of God, one holy Bible. But now, you can actually choose which Bible you want to have based upon your desire for what God says that appeals to you or not. In other words, what you agree with or not. No matter how many different versions (perversions?) of God’s word there are, it will not change what God’s opinion is of a thing. He stands by His word and as far as He is concerned, it is settled (Psa. 119:89). Whether you agree with Him of not is irrelevant.
The obfuscation (or, confusion) of God’s word is once again accomplished by the multitude of perverse Bibles floating around the world today. When people read them, and they teach something totally different than what God’s true word says, they confuse themselves about God. I have been told that I hate gay people because I am a Christian. I do not hate gay people, I hate homosexuality. I hate the practice, not the person. Neither does God hate the person. He came into the world to die for the people of the world that they might be saved. He did not come into the world to die for mans sinful ways so that man might retain his sin for eternity. There is a big difference between the two. Where does this grand obfuscation come from? Well, of course it comes upon the back of the success of the Devils second maneuver.
The elimination of God’s word is what we see happening in full scale today. These are the troubling times that the “Age of Grace” church finds itself. During these last few hundred years; the church has not faced much persecution at all. But now, on a grand scale, persecution will come because persecution of God’s word is directly related to persecution of God’s people. Therefore, the attempted elimination of the Bible from society is an attempt to eliminate God’s people. The word itself is of little threat without the people who live by its instruction.
Overnight there seems to be a reversal of roles in society. The gays have come out of the closet while the Christians are being shoved into it. Again, this has only happened because God’s people have fallen for the Devil’s dilution, obfuscation and elimination of God’s word. So they defend, half heartedly, an institution (Christianity) that is watered down and confusing without even knowing it. But it doesn’t have to be that way. They can do right. They can cling to God’s word. They can learn about being truly free in Christ. They do not, because they do not want to.
Now, since there has been an effective assault upon God’s people through attacking His word, I submit that any response to this situation be likewise returned: tit for tat! I am not talking about fighting! Oh no! I am not talking about defending God’s word! I am talking about throwing off the shackles of shame that the Devil wants to place upon us to turn us into walking wounded. In other words: use their same argument against them in the antithesis. So, “If you don’t accept gay marriage just don’t marry a gay—problem solved,” respond with, “If you don’t accept Christians, don’t marry one—problem solved!” Another one, “Bible thumpers are the rudest people in the world,” respond with, “Heathens are the rudest haters of God in the world!” Another: “Why do Christians always try to go to the Bible to shove their ideas down my throat?” Respond with, “Why do heathens never go to the Bible to shove their ideas down my throat?”
I see the big mistake that Christians of today make is trying to defend God and His word. There is no need to be on the defense when we were commanded to be on the offense. Again, I remind you, I am not talking about anything violent in any way whatsoever. I am simply talking about not being ashamed of God. Or, in other words, refuse to be put into the closet. Maybe, just maybe we can even get the heathens to pray to God for our rapture. Wouldn’t that be a sight.
What is an “apostle?” What are the qualifications for “apostleship?” Who are called “apostles” in Scripture? Who are the “twelve apostles” who will sit on twelve thrones and have their names on the twelve foundations of the New Jerusalem? Are there “apostles” today?
The first reference of the word “apostle” gives us a clue to the meaning—Matthew 10:1-5. The key idea here is that an apostle is a “sent one;’ an ambassador delegated to carry a message (“messenger”). Every man who is called an apostle fits this description. Even Jesus Christ is called the Apostle in Hebrews 3:1. That is because He is The Sent One.
The name apostle is different than“disciple” which means “learner; pupil; follower.”
The TWELVE men ordained by the Lord Jesus Christ “to be with Him” (Mark 3:14) differed from others who were called apostles in Scripture. They were UNIQUE, in that Jesus gave them special power and authority for the performance of their office (Matt. 10:1, 8; Luke 10:19).
When Judas Iscariot fell from apostleship a replacement was chosen to fill the “twelfth” spot. The number twelve is significant.
1. Twelve is the number of the earth (4) times the number of the Trinity (3). This shows God’s intervention within the human family.
2. Twelve is Israel’s number. There are TWELVE-TWELVES in Scripture: (1) 12 tribes—Gen. 49:28; (2) 12 stones on the breastplate—Ex. 28:21; (3) 12 gates into the New Jerusalem; (4) 12 foundations of the city—Rev. 21:14 cf. Eph. 2:19-22; (5) 12 manner of fruits on the tree of life; (6) 12 months to a year with twelve constellations (zodiac) which match the twelve months—Job 38:32; (7) twelve apostles; (8) 12 thrones in the Kingdom—Luke 22:30; (9) 12 hours in a day—John 11:9; (10) 12 musical notes (7 white keys + 5 half notes); (11) 12 colors; (12) 12 national boundries (cf. Deut. 32:7-8—North America; Central America; South America; Antarctica; Asia; Africa; Australia; Middle East; Europe; Artic; the Indies; Greenland).
The question arises, who will sit on the twelfth throne and whose name will appear on the twelfth foundation? Several other men are called “apostles” in Scripture: Matthias (Acts 1:26); Barnabas (Acts 14:4, 14); Paul (Rom. 1:1; 11:13); James, the Lord’s brother (Gal. 1:19; 2:9). Which of these would be the twelfth man?
Acts 1:21-22 give four qualifications for Judas’ replacement: He would have to be one who—(1) Companied with the original twelve during the earthly ministry of Christ (Luke 8:1); (2) was a witness of the resurrected Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 9:1); (3) baptized by John; (4) ordained by the Lord (Acts 13:2 cf. 14:4, 14). That eliminates all but Matthias. You will notice in 1 Corinthians 15:5, that J
esus was seen “of the twelve.” Judas had already hung himself, so who were “the twelve” that saw the risen Christ prior to Paul? It had to be the eleven with Matthias.
Jesus with the “Twelve” had a special comission to Israel (Matthew 10:5-6; 15:24; cf. Rom. 15:8). That is why the replacement must be one who was with Christ while He offered the Kingdom to Israel (Matt. 10:7). Th
e apostle Paul’s ministry was primarily to Gentiles (Rom. 11:13 cf. 1 Tim. 2:7; 2 Tim. 1:11).
The Scripture is clear that Matthias was numbered with the eleven, which would
What about today? Some churches claim “apostolic succession,” i.e. each generation has it’s own elite group of “apostles” to replace those of the previous generation (Mormons; Catholism; etc.) The Apostolic ministry was certified by signs and miracles (2 Cor. 12:12). These “signs” confirmed that the man was really an apostle (“sent one”). If a man didn’t have the signs of an apostle (Mark 16:17-18), he was found to be a liar (Rev. 2:2) and a false apostle (2 Cor. 11:13). make twelve. This is evidenced in Acts 6:2 where “the TWELVE” are mentioned. This is before Paul, Barnabas, or James are called apostles.
With the death of the last Apostle, John the beloved, the Apostolic Age came to an end. Apostles exist today only in the sense of a missionary being one “sent” by the Lord and delegated by the local church to carry the message of the Gospel (Rom. 1:5-6).
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.”
Micah 3:5 Thus saith the LORD concerning the prophets that make my people err, that bite with their teeth, and cry, Peace; and he that putteth not into their mouths, they even prepare war against him.
There are false prophets that actually cause people to err from the truth. They are a stumbling block to people, causing them to follow lies. God identifies these prophets as those who declare “peace” but He never gave them that message to give. They are the enemies of God. Jesus said that He did not come to bring peace on the earth, but a sword (Matt. 10:34). On the other hand, on the night He was born, the angels in heaven declared Peace on earth, good will toward men (Luke 2:14).
There is only peace in Jesus Christ. There is no peace in anything outside of Him. If you are in Jesus Christ, even though there is turmoil and destruction all around you, you will be at peace because you know where you are going. However, if you are outside of Jesus Christ, you will never experience peace. You will have to bear the brunt of turmoil and destruction and there is no amount of humanistic help that can soothe you.
BEWARE of those who proclaim PEACE who are not offering Jesus Christ as that peace!
Psalm 116:17 I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD.
Recently, when I read this verse of scripture, the Lord grabbed my attention to the phrase: “the sacrifice of thanksgiving.” I have read the Bible through several times and never noticed this phrase. I guess I assumed that it was a common phrase so there was nothing exceptionable about it. It is amazing however, to read through the Bible continually and find one nugget that you always knew existed, yet you never noticed before. “Thanksgiving of sacrifice.” I wondered what it could mean. I saying “thank you” to the Lord considered a “sacrifice?”
When I teach others how to interpret the Bible, I always emphasize reading the verse in context as well as comparing scripture with scripture (1 Cor. 2:13). Comparing Scripture with Scripture is vital to understanding everything about a given truth. The things of God are best interpreted by the words of God, and the greatest interpreter of the Bible is the Bible itself.
The phrase “sacrifice of thanksgiving” is only mentioned in 6 verses of the entire Bible:
- Leviticus 7:12 If he offer it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the sacrifice of thanksgiving unleavened cakes mingled with oil, and unleavened wafers anointed with oil, and cakes mingled with oil, of fine flour, fried.
- Leviticus 7:13 Besides the cakes, he shall offer for his offering leavened bread with the sacrifice of thanksgiving of his peace offerings.
- Leviticus 22:29 And when ye will offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving unto the LORD, offer it at your own will.
- Psalm 107:22 And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.
- Psalm 116:17 I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD.
- Amos 4:5 And offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, and proclaim and publish the free offerings: for this liketh you, O ye children of Israel, saith the Lord GOD.
Now we know that it is appropriate to be thankful to the Lord for what He has done for us. If your heart has been touched by the Lord at all, then you are truly thankful for you know the value of the gift He has given you freely, as well as knowing the price that He had to pay to purchase it. I mean, in the shadow of such understanding, only a truly touched person could be seriously thankful. The Lord likes such thanks. He does not give us gifts because His ego is tremendous and he relishes and lives for the thanks of our hearts, but He does enjoy knowing that we are thankful, for it demonstrates our complete understanding of what He is doing for us.
Every person of old who brought an offering to God was griping internally at the obligation. It was not easy to bring unleavened cakes mingled with oil, and unleavened wafers anointed with oil. It took work to make cakes mingled with oil of fine flour and fry them. You had to put some time in to make unleavened bread in the middle of the wandering in the Sinai desert. It cut into your provisions to make all of that for the sacrifice. Every one of them fretted that he had lost something by giving up their food to the Lord, and for what? It more often than not resulted in every person who put something on the altar being inwardly consumed with anger that he had to give up something he wanted for himself. They all felt needy. They all felt like victims of religious tyranny. Because of their attitudes, God was outraged that they were all so busy worshiping themselves that they cannot find place to worship Him. God wanted one thing from them: he wanted them to stop worshiping themselves.
This is why He implements a “sacrifice of thanksgiving.” This is why he says that “those who bring thanksgiving as their sacrifice honor me.” They are the people who recognize that “every wild animal of the forest is [God’s].” They are the people who know that they can’t give God anything; it all belongs to him already. They are the people who thank God for all his gifts and for his provision for their every need and for the animal that they put on the altar. The people who give thanks for the sacrificial animal also give thanks for God’s sovereignty. They don’t feel they have lost something when they give God what is his already.
Jesus talked about the same thing. Jesus, God in flesh, said that people who wanted to follow him had to deny self first. In other words, they had to stop worshiping themselves and feeling like victims every time there was some inconvenience or persecution or loss.
We all do it. It comes time to put money in the offering envelope, and it is hard to let go of that money, because the credit card bill is shockingly larger than expected this month. The church asks for volunteers to help serve food to homeless people on Saturday morning, and it seems like a great imposition on the only day you can sleep in. The youth director asks if you are willing to be a chaperon for the summer youth mission project, and you think, “But I only have two weeks of vacation a year. There goes one of them.” We all think we have rights, and we think we have ownership, and we think God asks too much.
God doesn’t ask much at all. All he really asks for is integrity and honesty. He wearies of never hearing a “Thank you” when every good gift we have in life is a gift from him.
The sacrifice of thanksgiving is not a barely audible “Thank you” choked out through clenched lips by a pouting child. We give the sacrifice of thanksgiving when we pray as we are taught by Christ, the one who sacrificed himself for us on the cross, “Thy will be done.”
It seems a bit disproportionate to read the detailed Law of Moses given by God at Sinai, and then to hear God say simply through Asaph, “The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me.” But there is also a refreshing, unburdening confidence that washes over my soul when I consider that God is most pleased by simple, humble gratitude.
How quickly do we begin to think that God is most pleased with our rituals, our devotions, our meetings, and our offerings. We become the givers, and He becomes the recipient. We become the benefactors, He the beneficiary. We busy ourselves and run ourselves ragged attempting to please Him through activity and efficiency, sadly forgetting the sweetness of His grace and the simplicity of the gratitude that He desires.
The danger of sacrifices and rituals is that we are increasingly tempted to believe that we have something to offer God, when the sacrifice is actually meant to demonstrate that we are coming to God as His debtors. We start to assume that God needs what we’re presenting to him, an idea as offensive as it is ridiculous. We become like a convicted criminal congratulating himself on his morality as he offers his monetary fine to the judge who gave him a merciful sentence.
With incredible yet subtle audacity, we find ourselves believing that God is actually impressed. Not only is this blasphemous and horrifically backward, it is also binding. Once I believe that I have impressed God, I am bound to have to do it again. Like making a magical first impression that I can never live up to, I am enslaved to endless and exhausting efforts to win Him over.
This is why I am grateful for Asaph’s rich meditation in Psalm 50. Because he tells us that there are two simple ways to glorify God: to ask (v. 15) and to thank (v. 23). Better to come to God with no offering and a heart of gratitude than to come with the riches of a king and a spirit of self-sufficiency. Of course, better still to pour out offerings and sacrifices from a spirit of gratitude. Either way, may we always remember which one the Lord loves first, and loves best.
“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving.” This a precious admonition to the humble in heart, to those who tremble at God’s holiness and find themselves desperate before His perfect law. He is pleased most of all when we need Him, when we cry out to Him, when we call upon His name. In Psalm 50, God does not want my devotion. He wants my desperation, so that grace can overflow into gratitude.
Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High. (Psalm 50:14). What does God want from us? He does not want mere hymn singing, although that is fine. Nor does He want only prayer, although that too is fine. He does not simply want our attendance, although that is fine. What He wants, first, is a thankful heart. That is what He seeks, a thankful heart. Each one of us is to offer to Him the sacrifice of thanksgiving. A sacrifice is something into which we put effort; it costs us. Have you ever asked yourself why the Scriptures stress thanksgiving so much? Both the Old and New Testaments emphasize that above everything else, God wants thankfulness. Give thanks in all circumstances, says the apostle Paul, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Why is this? It is because thanksgiving only comes as a result of having received something. You do not give thanks until you have received something that comes from someone else. Therefore thanksgiving is the proper expression of Christianity, because Christianity is receiving something constantly from God.
Of course if you have not received anything from God, then you have nothing to thank Him for. Though you come to the service, you really have nothing to say. God is a realist. He does not want fake thanksgiving. I know there are certain people (and they are awfully hard to live with) who think that Christianity consists of pretending to be thankful. They think it means screwing a smile on your face and going around pretending that troubles do not bother you. That is a most painful form of Christianity. God does not want you to go around shouting, Hallelujah! I’ve got cancer! But there is something about having cancer to be thankful for. That is what He wants you to see. There are aspects of it that no one can possibly enjoy, but there are other aspects that reveal purpose, meaning, and reason. God wants you to see this–what He can do with that situation and how you can be thankful. Thanksgiving is the first thing He wants in worship.
The second thing is an obedient will. Fulfill your vows to the Most High. Notice the kind of obedience it is. It is not something forced upon you; it is something you have chosen for yourself. A vow is something you decide to give, a promise you make because of truth you have seen. You say, I never saw it like that before. I really ought to do something about it. God helping me, I’m going to do such and such. That is a vow. God says, I’m not asking you to do things you have not yet learned are important. But when you have vowed something, then do it. Act on it. Obey it.
After living what I felt was a “decent” life, my time on earth came to the end. The first thing I remember is sitting on a bench in the waiting room of what I thought to be a court house. The doors opened and I was instructed to come in and have a seat by the defense table. As I looked around I saw the “prosecutor.” He was a villainous looking gent who snarled as he stared at me. He definitely was the most evil person I have ever seen.
I sat down and looked to my left and there sat My Attorney, a kind and gentle looking man whose appearance seemed so familiar to me, I felt I knew Him. The corner door flew open and there appeared the Judge in full flowing robes. He commanded an awesome presence. As He moved across the room I couldn’t take my eyes off of Him. As He took His seat behind the bench, He said, “Let us begin.”
The prosecutor rose and said, “My name is Satan and I am here to show you why this man belongs in hell.” He proceeded to tell of lies that I told, things that I stole, and in the past when I cheated others. Satan told of other horrible perversions that were once in my life and the more he spoke, the further down in my seat I sank. I was so embarrassed that I couldn’t look at anyone, even my own Attorney, as the Devil told of sins that even I had completely forgotten about.
As upset as I was at Satan for telling all these things about me, I was equally upset at My Attorney who sat there silently not offering any form of defense at all. I knew I had been guilty of those things, but I had done some good in my life–couldn’t that at least equal out part of the harm I’d done? Satan finished with a fury and said, “This man belongs in hell, he is guilty of all that I have charged and there is not a person who can prove otherwise.”
When it was His turn, My Attorney first asked if He might approach the bench. The Judge allowed this over the strong objection of Satan, and beckoned Him to come forward. As He got up and started walking, I was able to see Him in His full splendor and majesty. I realized why He seemed so familiar; this was Jesus representing me, my Lord and my Savior. He stopped at the bench and softly said to the Judge, “HI, DAD,” and then He turned to address the court. “Satan was correct in saying that this man had sinned, I won’t deny any of these allegations. And, yes, the wage of sin is death, and this man deserves to be punished.” Jesus took a deep breath and turned to His Father with outstretched arms and proclaimed, “However, I died on the cross so that this person might have eternal life and he has accepted Me as his Savior, so he is Mine.
My Lord continued with, “His name is written in the Book of Life, and no one can snatch him from Me. Satan still does not understand yet. This man is not to be given justice, but rather mercy.”
As Jesus sat down, He quietly paused, looked at His Father and said, “There is nothing else that needs to be done. I’ve done it all.”
The Judge lifted His mighty hand and slammed the gavel down. The following words bellowed from His lips. “This man is free. The penalty for him has already been paid in full. Case dismissed.”
As my Lord led me away, I could hear Satan ranting and raving, “I won’t give up, I will win the next one.”
I asked Jesus as He gave me my instructions where to go next, “Have you ever lost a case?”
Christ lovingly smiled and said, “Everyone that has come to Me and asked Me to represent them has received the same verdict as you, Paid In Full.”