Calvary covers it all
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potpourri of past articlesDate 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.
2 Timothy 4:3-4 “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”
Listen! What do you hear? I mean, what do you hear about Jesus? Is it something YOU don’t agree with? Or, is it something from the Bible that you just don’t like? This is the case with most people. They don’t like the way a preacher preaches or they don’t like the message God has given him. Perhaps it “steps on their toes” a little bit and they think, “He’s preaching at me.” These kind of people do not love truth, and they are greatly mistaken on the power of God. Like Lucifer, they lift themselves up with pride and deny the presence of God by pawning it off on a man. Huh? They think the preacher is preaching instead of God preaching through him. In other words, they have lost faith in the power of God.
So, because they don’t want to humble themselves, they start shopping for another teacher to tell them what they want to hear. They would rather turn their ears away from the truth than search their hearts to see if God is speaking to them? They are so “right with God” they never have a reason to go to the prayer bench.
Listen! What do you hear? Do you hear God, or do you hear your own self?
Rev. Ron Coale, Pastor
SPANKING IS A PART OF PARENTING
Researchers say there is never a good reason for spanking your child. This is because social scientists decided many years ago to stamp out the evil of spanking. Unfortunately, their zealousness to remove God from society and the family will continue until spanking is outlawed or until it completely goes out of style. For them, truth does not matter when you have an agenda.
Man has been convinced of things that simply are not true. He has serious misconceptions about spanking children for disobedience. Unfortunately, most Christian parents today do not get their understanding of discipline from the Bible. They get it from the world. Here, we will show the scriptures that correct these parenting misconceptions.
Nothing God says in His Word and nothing said in this article makes allowance for true child abuse. Jesus was a protector of little children and we should be as well. Anyone who truly abuses a child deserves everything the law can throw at them. To permanently injure a child for any reason is a wicked act and it deserves swift and exact punishment.
Spanking can be misused in many ways. Love must still be the primary factor in parenting any child. Spanking can be too harsh, too inconsistent, too late, too hasty and too much. The fact that you spank your children does not make you a godly or righteous parent. You must use God’s wisdom and always deal with the child for his own good. There will be no lawsuits where the pastor or GBC will be used as an excuse for abusing or mistreating your children.
The only absolute authority for how to raise children is to be found in God’s word—the Bible. Preachers and teachers may make mistakes and teach things incorrectly. They are not the final authority. However, God’s word is always true. Raise your children according to the Bible and God will honor His word.
What are the misconceptions people have about spanking. You may be surprised to see them, one by one, dealt with in the book of Proverbs. We must all be ready to obey the Lord in these matters of parenting.
Spanking is an Act of Hatred:
There are parents who would not spank their children until they were so mad that they felt like spanking them. This is wrong and dangerous. You do not spank your children because you are mad at them. Spanking is not an act of hatred. God says that it is an act of love.
Proverbs 3:11 – “My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.”
Notice that God corrects (spanks) those He loves. His chastening hand is proof that He loves us. If he hated us, He would let us go our own way and head for destruction.
In fact, the Bible teaches that you show hatred toward your children by not correcting them. Proverbs 13:24 – “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” To withhold the rod of correction is to demonstrate hatred for your child. In a sense, if you do not correct your children, you are saying, “Go on; head for ruin and destruction; I don’t care.”
Of course you really love your children. That is why you must show it by correcting them when they disobey. Correct them by spanking them. Show them how much you love them.
In love, there will probably be times when you actually cry with your children before you spank them. This is where it is said, “this will hurt me more than it will hurt you.” Then you explain that statement by telling them that you must punish them because you love them too much to let them go the way they were going.
When you spank your children for the right reasons, it is an act of love. Do you see it as an act of love? Do you express your love in your time of correction?
Today, there are more preachers than ever who are selling out on the Lord Jesus Christ. In order to accommodate worldly Christians, they begin to compromise on their convictions. In order to entice the world to come to their churches, they compromise on God. Instead of giving people what they need, they give them what they want; a dangerous thing to do indeed! Like the parent who always gives in to their child and gives them everything they want, instead of what they need, they raise up spoiled, rebellious, selfish church members, who “shop” for churches instead of letting God lead them.
When preachers sell out for what is convenient instead of that which cost, they are not acting like men. They are most probably being run by their wives. Every Christian is commanded to (1 Cor. 16:13) “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.” This goes especially for preachers. Why would God have to exhort Christians to be a man about things? Because some men take the timid way out. They are too afraid of the tough road of watching, standing and being strong. They capitulate into the Devil’s hands. Preachers wives are not innocent in this either. If they were standing behind their men, satisfied to be their wives instead of needing self-gratification somewhere else, then preachers would have encouragement at home. In fact, Preachers wives can be key to the success of the ministry of pastors.
I cannot think of one pastor who has been successful in the ministry who did not have his wife satisfied to be his supporter. Notice I didn’t say that she “claims” to support her husband. I mean she is a keeper at home first. A lady who takes care of the burden of the home life in a large way so he is free to give his time to the ministry. I do not mean an anchor who actually holds him back. This takes sacrifice on her part so most pastor’s wives take this on as their purpose in life and are satisfied completely in it. No man will be able to “be strong” “like men” should be when he has to be mama at the same time, but their are few exceptions to this rule.
When things get out of whack, and God has to remind us to be strong like men should be, He says it for a reason. Not only is there a “selling out” on the home front, but their is a selling out on manhood as well. This is mainly accomplished by worldly influence. This is usually seen in trying to be “all things to all men” while at the same time, NOT trying to get people saved.
The devil would like to replace soul winning with anything appealing, (or even logical), except soul winning. Charts and status and figures, all meant to be helpful, are in fact hurtful because they lead a preacher away from soul winning. I have sat in on evangelism meetings that did not mention one peep about soul winning at all. Oh, there was talk about development and planning in a logical and methodical way, but winning a soul was no where in sight. Weak, worldly, feminine Preachers allow planning and organizing to replace soul winning. As I said before, it is not bad to plan and organize, but to stop there, and not win souls, is the great demise.
It is sad that God has to remind men to “get a backbone.” If preachers did, then they would be certainly less miserable in the ministry. In this area they are actually putting themselves, their families and their churches in bondage. So God has to remind us to not only get a backbone, but to, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” (Gal. 5:1).
I guess God knows our nature is to return to the worldly way of doing things. Of course, the worldly way is a way of bondage that is hard to break free of once we are weighted down with it’s burden. He knows that the temptation to return to doing things like everyone else would be so strong that He had to tell us to “Stand Fast!” Is there anyone reading this article who needs to know what that means? Is the inference not clear? Does anyone who has been truly saved not know the liberty that comes with Christ? Why then do Christians, (and even preachers), feel that the ministry is a burden? Why do they feel in bondage? It is because they have moved away from Christ. They have entangled themselves with the worldly way of doing things. For preachers, this may mean trying to do things “like all of the other churches do” so they can build a congregation of hapless drones. They want to please all of the Christian prima donna’s (def: a vain or undisciplined person who finds it difficult to work under direction or as part of a team.). They become a compromiser in the name of “being called”, but they are no more called than Jack-the-Ripper. Instead of carrying the burden the Lord has placed on them, they would rather have the burden of worldly entanglement. Preachers who are thus, are not called at all. In fact they are not even preachers. All Biblical preachers suffered persecution and loss. Some were turned on even by their own families. Some died stranded and alone. Others were tortured and killed. They certainly didn’t achieve such wonderful fates by tickling the public’s fancy.
Real preachers strive. They strive for the faith of the gospel. They strive for unity of the mind and spirit. Philippians 1:27 tells us to “…stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” God must have known that the ministry would not be a “bed of roses.” He must have known that it would take some fighting; a little bit of blood, sweat and tears. He must have known that the Devil would try to get preachers to “cash it in” for an easier, more elaborate and fulfilling “ministry” than the one He assigned them to. Preachers sell out easily because the going gets tough. They are constantly surrounded by negative news; people always tell the preachers the bad things that are happening in their life. Preachers are constantly being criticized and talked about behind their backs. In so doing, the “brethren” are actually tearing down everything that they worked for while at the same time “talking it up” to their faces. It is not a job for the weak man; and there are many of them who “think” they are called because all they see is the wonderful aspects of the job without ever delving into the inner workings. But, when they do, they throw up their hands and surrender.
They surrender first on doctrine. This is because doctrine divides, and it needs to be divided correctly (2 Tim. 2:15). Compromising of doctrine is the first step to a long and lonely downhill fall away from God. Most preachers give up on this first because it takes work; it takes a lot of time in the study to make sure you know what is correct and what is not. So, the preacher with a wet noodle for a backbone will depend on what someone else wrote in a book and teach it before they will put in the effort to study for themselves. It would be wonderful if they would take a pop quiz every once in awhile. I do so by asking if the congregation has any questions. That is when I am on the “hot seat”, and I have learned much about doctrine by my study for the answers to those questions.
After doctrine goes out the door, then everything else follows suit: (dress, music, interests, books, denominations, salvation, baptism, communion, etc.) they become weak, sickly “sharers” of the word; and I am not sure you can even call it that. It is ungodly (2 Tim. 2:16)! It is manly! It eats up the body of Christ all in the name of “being fair to everyone.” It is in error and it overthrows the faith of some (2 Tim. 2:18), starting with their own families especially.
When all is said and done, preachers, like everyone else, are commanded to, “…stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.” (2 Thess. 2:15). There is a tradition (Def: The handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another.) to uphold. If preachers would just hold fast to that which they have been taught instead of constantly trying to improve on the plan, then the Christian world of today wouldn’t have near the problems that it does. It is good to improve on one’s understanding of self, but the plan was given by God Himself and needs no improvement. In fact, it is a perfect plan: go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. Win souls. Show people how to be saved. Train up the Saints so they can win souls as well. This is God’s plan and there is no improvement upon it. What it lacks is preachers with a backbone who are truly called to stand up and stand fast. It needs preachers who won’t SELL OUT for that which is convenient.
The modern “tongues” movement is primarily embraced by the “Charismatic”. This is not an English word. It comes from the Greek word “charisma” which means gifted. Therefore a person who claims to be “charismatic” (by the definition of the Word), claims to be gifted. By insinuation, this indicates that there are some “Christians” who are not “gifted”. This is wrong as the gift of the Christian is the Holy Spirit Himself. Not only does the “Charismatic” claim (by the definition of the word) to be gifted, he (whether he admits it or not) claims to be more gifted than other Christians. The Bible tells us what to think of those who brag on these gifts. Proverbs 25:14 says, “Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift is like clouds and wind without rain. It also tells us what to think of people who profess to have apostolic gifts who don’t have them. 2 Corinthians 12:12 Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds. Revelation 2:2 says, “I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:”
The signs of the apostles (Mark 16:14-20)
Cast out devils.
Speak with NEW tongues.
Take up serpents.
Not be hurt by poison.
Heal the sick
Since these are the “signs of an apostle”, only those who believed under the ministry of an apostle received these gifts (signs). Therefore, anyone who wanted to counterfeit the apostolic succession must counterfeit the apostolic signs. The Bible labels anyone who is counterfeiting an apostle as a FALSE APOSTLE (2 Cor. 11:10-14). NOTE: The anti-Christ is also Charismatic.
2 Thessalonians 2:9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,
One of the biggest lies that a Charismatic participates in is the perversion of Acts 2 and 1 Corinthians 14. Acts 2 deals with the baptism of the Holy Ghost and 1 Corinthians 14 deals with the use of unknown tongues. Anyone who can read can readily see that in Acts 2 there is no reference to speaking in an unknown tongue (Acts 2:6 says that “every man heard them speak in his own language”). Likewise, there is no baptism of the Holy Ghost in 1 Corinthians 14.
Baptism of the Holy Ghost
In regards to this, notice Acts 2:
No one is kneeling or praying for any “baptism”.
The “initial evidence” is NOT tongues. It is the sound of a mighty rushing wind.
1 Corinthians 12:13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. (KJV)
What is it then (1 Cor. 14)?
In chapter 14 we read that the important gift is prophecy. This is because by prophecy, you can teach about something that has already been written in the Scriptures. This is how Jesus taught (Matt. 21:42; Mark 7:6; John 12:14).
Unknown Tongues: From the relationship of mankind in general, there is no such thing as an unknown tongue. Some man on this earth knows the tongue that a person speaks. Here in this passage, tongues is an existing language that was not previously learned. Don’t let some man deceive you into thinking that it is a special heavenly prayer language. This is NOT in the Bible.
Modern day teaching is that tongues is a sign that one is baptized in the Holy Ghost. This is not Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 12:13.
Spiritual gifts are not obtained. They are GIFTS from the Holy Spirit, given as HE sees fit (1 Cor. 12:11).
If speaking in tongues is evidence of being baptized (immersed into) in the Holy Spirit, and therefore being placed into the body of Christ, why then does 1 Corinthians 12:18 teach us that God places us into his body as He sees fit?
Not everybody IN THE BODY OF CHRIST will speak in tongues (1 Cor. 12:30).
There is a more excellent way (1 Cor. 12:31).
God’s emphasis is that we should desire to prophecy as it edifies the church (1 Cor. 14:1-3, 12).
Tongues are for a sign to them that believe not (1 Cor 14:22).
There is a difference between speaking with and in tongues (1 Cor. 14:39).
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.
Matthew 11:6 And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.
People today seem to be offended about everything. Everybody you meet gets offended about something you do or say. There is no getting away from it. It seems like people go out of their way to get offended about something. It seems like it is the new norm. Everybody has a chip on their shoulder just waiting for someone to knock it off so they can get offended and bring attention to themselves.
Jesus preaches not getting offended, especially in Him. The world would be a much kinder and safer place if people just chose to not be offended. There would be much more love and caring for each other if there was less getting offended. There would be less pride and more helping each other.
The first offence that people have tumbling them down a long slope of bitterness is in the Lord Jesus Christ. More than ever, society is anti-Jesus. They are not neutral as they claim to be best for everyone, but they have taken one side against God; they are offended in the Lord Jesus Christ. The more society moves away from Jesus because they are offended in Him, the less blessing they will receive. We need God’s blessing more than ever. If our country is going to return to it’s former glory, then it needs, no, it must have the blessing of God.
Church Fellowship helps meet man’s need for companionship. God uses fellowship and the church to strengthen the Christian and to accomplish His work in the world. From the time of Adam’s creation, God saw, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Gen.2:18). God’s initial solution was to establish the institution of marriage. However, man’s need for fellowship goes beyond marriage. He needs others with whom to grow in Christ and to serve. Every Christian needs church and fellowship.
Our fellowship in the church is much more valuable than fellowship for other purposes because God’s presence makes it different. Christ established the principle that where two or three are gathered together in His name, there He would be in the midst of them. This makes our time with God’s people very special. Fellowshipping with the saints around the things of God is actually a way for us to fellowship with God Himself because He also meets with us when we come together.
When Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch to report all that God had done with them, the Bible says that they gathered the church together. This means that the church was not a building or an organization but the people themselves. The people are the church. God established the church so that we could meet together, worship Him together, grow together, fellowship together, work together and pray together. God could have just let us do these things on our own or in our separate families, but He didn’t. He knew that we would need the fellowship of other saints to live healthy spiritual lives.
Zechariah 8:17 “And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the LORD.”
John Lennon wrote a song saying that it was easy to imagine that there was no heaven. It is easy to imagine things that are not true because we focus on those things. Also, today’s media is very effective in encouraging us to imagine falsehood.
There is enough evil in the world to go around for everyone. There really is no need for us to imagine any more. When we do, we keep spiraling down out of control with little hope of coming to our senses unless we purpose to stop imagining evil against our neighbor.
God hates it. He hates when we imagine evil because He knows that it is our nature to follow after things that we imagine. Why not imagine good? Why not think righteous and pure thoughts?
An elderly Chinese woman had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which she carried across her neck. One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water.
At the end of the long walks from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. For a full two years this went on daily, with the woman bringing home only one and a half pots of water.
Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it could only do half of what it had been made to do. After two years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, it spoke to the woman one day by the stream.
“I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house.”
The old woman smiled, “Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.”
Each of us has our own unique flaw. But it’s the cracks and flaws we each have that make our lives together so very interesting and rewarding. You’ve just got to take each person for what they are and look for the good in them.
So, to all of my crack pot friends, have a great day and remember to smell the flowers on your side of the path!
Most people are blind to Christianity, but they think they know a great deal about it. They form their opinion about Jesus based on what other people have told them. They have never even opened the Bible and given God a chance to show them about Himself. They are blind.
The blind man had been healed. The Pharisees were skeptical as usual. They would not accept that he had been blind from birth, so they called in his parents to testify. “How did he get healed?” they demanded.
“We don’t know,” said his parents. “We do know that he was born blind though. He’s a full grown man. He is of age. Ask him yourself.”
Turning to the accused blind man the Pharisees said, “How did he do this thing? He is a sinner. If you are healed, give God the glory and not this man.”
“I don’t know if he is a sinner or not. But there is one thing I know for sure; I was blind, but now I see.”
“What did he do to you?”
“I already told you. Weren’t you listening? How many times do you want me to tell you? I was blind but now I see.”
This is what happens to the Bible believing, born again child of God. It is hard to explain what it is like to be saved to the unsaved. Where they once walked in the darkness of sin, they now walk in the glorious light of the Lord God.
The unsaved think when a person gets saved, it is because they are weak and need a crutch to get by in life. Or they think you just went crazy and began looking for anything that will help you with your problems. They are just like the Pharisees in this story. They keep demanding an answer of how you got saved or they ask others without talking to you at all. This is because they simply don’t understand. And, they never will unless they try it themselves.
Now I don’t like to emphasis this too much because the cults make much ado of getting a feeling that no one can understand: The Mormons have “a burning of the bosom.” Charismatic’s have “speaking in tongues” or “the baptism of the holy spirit. Berean’s have the “knowing in their heart.” These are all perversions of what this blind man said: “One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.” For the cults, this can mean that they are superior because they have something that you don’t, and it is subjective so they can keep you from attaining their Pharisaical level of holiness.
Not this blind man however. His eyes were physically open. No one could deny that this wonderful thing had happened for him. This is where the so called “faith healers” fall short of the holiness of God. Every thing they “heal” is subjective and there is no way to prove it other than the person telling how he “feels.” But the physical is something much different. This is why true conversion, true salvation is accompanied by outward physical change.
When I got saved, I started reading my Bible. I wanted to read my Bible. I craved reading my Bible. When I read it, I began finding answers. As I began applying what I learned in the Bible to what I saw in the world around me, in a subjective sense, my eyes were opened. But, in the physical sense, I changed as well. I wanted to hear things about God. I began the wonderful transformation to a new life in Christ. I quit drinking; not because I thought I had a drinking problem, but because I had no craving for it anymore. I quit smoking. Not because I felt as though I needed to, but because I had no desire to smoke anymore. My whole personage changed: my attire, interests, music, appetites and demeanor. And, I was not the one who noticed it. It was my friends. They were the ones who sought me out and said, “What happened to you?”
“I got born again.”
“I don’t really know, but I asked Jesus to forgive me of my sins and accepted His free gift of eternal life. And you can accept it too. He has a gift just for you. All you have to do is take it.”
“Are you serious?” I was at a pot party and everyone was passing around the booze and drugs, intently listening to me. I had only been saved about one week.
“Sure. God has it and it is just for you. In fact, He has one for each one of you. All you have to do is just take it. That’s what I did. What’s stopping you?”
“My family goes to church.”
“I went to church when I was a kid.”
“I was confirmed.”
I didn’t know much about religion at all. I had not even been to church by that time. I replied to them, “I don’t know much about that. All I know is that I got saved and I am born again and I see things differently.”
“What church do you go to?”
“I don’t go to church, but I’d like to.”
It was confusing to them. But it wasn’t confusing to me. The Lord had changed my life. He had changed me so much so that even my secular friends had seen it. And, when He changes your life; when you are allowed to see where once you were blind, others will see the change in your life as well. It is not just that you see things differently; others who know you and observe you will know that something has happened. They too will be able to see the wonderful work of God in you.
There is a big move in the Christian world to build communities rather than churches. In this they are following the former example of President Barak Obama. They try to organize a community into a viable force to work with, then they can fix themselves up as leaders (or rulers) of that community.
In the roots of the word “community” can be seen the word “common.” From this word also comes the word “communism.” An “ism” is a belief of practice of a religious sort. You can see that community building is done not much differently than communism is done: do things for the people that they deem helpful to themselves in the immediate, so you can control them later down the road. For Biblical example to this, Christian Community Organizers turn to the Book of Acts where it says the believers had, “…all things common.” (Acts 2:44; 4:32). What they had in common was a result of loving God. It was not community of people having a great time together.
If you were to build a community, you could be able to accomplish this task by simply being an investor. You could buy up some land and build some houses on it for people to live in, hence–community. The people would be unified in where they lived, but not necessarily in heart or belief. It is easy to build a community by having a bunch of fun activities for people to do. Therefore, Christian community building is doing anything fun so people will come to your community activity. It is accomplished by not doing or saying anything that may be offensive to another, even at the expense of truth. Christian communities therefore side-step the job of evangelism and go straight to the fellowship aspect of a church; they are a “partial church” heavily stressing fellowship and overlooking obedience and truth. Paul warned of such deceitful activities when he said, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ear from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” (2 Tim. 4:2-4) Today, that equates to having Christian communities who have fun getting together, but could care less about enduring sound doctrine. Their ears itch to have some teacher teach them how to have fun, food and fellowship only.
Jesus gave himself for the church as a husband is supposed to do for his wife (Eph. 5:25). He did not give himself for a “common unity.” Jesus plans to present the “common unity of believers”–church; to himself holy and without blemish (Eph 5:27). Not any old community. He will not present a community of non-believers without spot or wrinkle to himself. It is the church that He is working on to perfect. It is the church that makes up the body of Christ.
God called us to start churches. Churches not only encompass a “common unity of believers,” but first and foremost prepare the individual for presentation to the Lord. Churches seek to carry out the great commission first and fellowship second. Herein lies the great problem–People would rather have the fun, but not do the work of the Lord. Or, they call their service to the community “fun stuff”, their work for the Lord when it is not. Before ascending into heaven, He only gave us one job to do–win souls.
Jesus loves the church as a whole, not just when believers get together to “feel good” about themselves as some sort of modern day “AA” support group. The Christian community organizers would have you to think that the word “church” is some sort of archaic word that has negative or bad connotations. That is a lie. How can Jesus ever use a word that would go out of date? He is eternal and therefore His words are eternal, else one could easily believe that the gospel is archaic. The church does not go out of date. It is contemporary. People are easily deceived because the Devil has worked very hard to dilute and discredit the true church with alternatives (like “communities”). What has happened, is God’s people have given up on God because they are selfish. They don’t want to do anything but be entertained, unless it is something THEY want to do and not something GOD wants them to do.
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?”
2 Peter 3:16 “…as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; 16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. 17 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. 18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.”
With the attack of the world (fueled by inspiration of the Devil) upon the church, Christians are showing wobbly backbone when the battle gets rough. With just a little goading by the devil, the yellow streak shows clear and bright. How can those who were once “strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Eph. 6:10) so easily lose their “steadfastness”? How can they change so suddenly?
In fact, the change in them (and perhaps in YOU) is not a sudden one at all. It has been happening over a long period of time. Instead of growing in GRACE, they wrest with the Scriptures and are led away by those who are unstable and unlearned in the ways of truth. Over time, they join the ranks of those who are of another Christ (1 John 2:18, 22; 2 Thess. 2:7-8; 2 John 1:7) because they were introduced to them by one of the “…many false prophets… gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). Instead of growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, they grew in knowledge of the world and self. Then one day–“snap!” They were gone.
When you belong to one fellowship or church, it is either because the Lord put you there or you put yourself there. If you are following the Lord and are true servant of the Lord, no matter what, you will obey the Lord’s decision for the rest of your life. If you are listening to self, or are lusting after the worlds temporary enlightenment, then you will bounce around from place to place looking for fulfillment of self.
In the Lord, there is no variableness (James 1:13). In fact there is not even a shadow of changing in Him; He does not change His mind. Any change of mind indicates that He was wrong and is now changing to be right, or He was right and is now changing to be wrong; or He is wrong and is now changing to another wrong. But you can never be right and change to be right. Right is right. Since God never makes any mistakes, everything He calls for is right. The problem is when people attempt to interpret God’s calling for their life and bring with the interpretation their selfish desires and nuances. When they do, they try to work it out that God’s calling for their life lines up with what THEY WANT instead of accepting what they know GOD WANTS for them. This way, self can get what it wants and justify it because they reason (and claim) that God is calling them this way. They join the ranks of the many “anti-Christ’s” on the scene today. “Preacher! Isn’t calling them anti-Christ’s a little harsh?” Well, when we go against God’s will for our life, we are “anti” to His plan. Since His plan is Christ: To love Him and obey Him; then to listen to self is to be against Him.
Since God put you in a fellowship of believers, it is not up to you to “feel” like you are a “hand” when everyone else in the fellowship is a “foot.” This is reasoning your selfish desire to gain acceptance with God and it will not work. You may rejoice initially, but that is just self being happy that you are listening to and feeding it. It won’t take long for the Holy Spirit of God to begin working on you or those around you; doing whatever it takes to get your attention so He can, “Reason together” (Isa. 1:8) with you. God is not unreasonable. He doesn’t satisfy self–He reasons with truth.
“But this doesn’t adequately explain the sudden change in a person. I know you said it happens slowly, but how?”
When you are a member of one church, but go outside of your church to other churches or para-churches for fulfillment in so-called “Christian activities” of interest, you are opening yourself up to follow self instead of obey God. This is a difficult thing for people to do: OBEY! Especially for the generation of young Christians today; they don’t like being told to obey. The world has successfully indoctrinated them with the “free willed philosophy” of self.
Little by little, as they learn a little about this church here; a little there; a jot here; a tittle there; the doctrine from the church which God placed them becomes diluted until it becomes totally unimportant. Oh, they say it is important, but the fact that they leave because they “FEEL” that GOD is moving them, betrays this line of thinking. Leaving, especially by clandestine means, speaks loudly against supporting what they say God is doing in them, because even the smallest babe in Christ knows God would not do something so foolish. They are led away with the error of the wicked until they fall from their own steadfastness. They are not steady nor are they fastened. They become shaky and loose; so much so that they one day are gone.
“How do I keep this from happening to me?”
First, you don’t get involved in activities from other churches or the world. If your church does not have an activity that you are interested in, then start one. If you cannot get enough people involved to successfully start one, then perhaps God is saying I have something else for you to do right now; something else that I wish to teach you; something else I want to develop in you at this moment. In other words, accept what God has for you and pray and ask Him for the other.
Second, Find comfort in growing in grace and knowledge of the Lord (vs. 18). In everything, God wants you to grow in two things: grace and knowledge. If these two things don’t “turn you on” then perhaps you don’t understand what they are. If grace and knowledge sound boring to you, then perhaps you have never delved into the wonderful overwhelming power that is contained in them. If you try, but get nothing out of it, then perhaps you are not patient enough to let God work on you in His own time, perhaps you are neglecting Christ and growing in self instead.
Third, Start thinking right. Are you one of those people who live by the saying: “live life to it’s fullest?” Or do you misunderstand when someone says, “you only have one life to live” or “That’s the life” or “You only go around once in life.” For the Christian it is true that you only have one life to live, but what we go through on this earth is so miniscule that God is going to burn the whole thing up after He takes us off of it. You can NEVER, NEVER “live life to its fullest” on this earth. It is a lie from the Devil to get you to focus on self instead of God.
Finally my friends, I leave you with this thought. If God has put you someplace, He has done it for a reason. If you are unhappy there, it is not because God is not working on you. It is not because the people have changed. Its because YOU MADE A DECISION FOR YOURSELF INSTEAD OF WAITING ON GOD. ONLY YOU CAN FALL FROM YOUR OWN STEADFASTNESS!
One of the most tragic things that have ever happened in the world is the gruesome and ruthless death of the Lord Jesus Christ. When you think that he did nothing wrong to deserve such treatment it makes the thought yet more sobering. I don’t think that any one of us can ever relate to what He endured. He had only done well for the nation of Israel and the recorded accounts of His life never reveal any violent actions at all. In fact, they all seem to be peaceful except when dealing with the Pharisees and religious hypocrites. Even then, there is never any account of violence towards them. On the contrary, he loved them enough to tell them where they were wrong in an effort to get them to do right. He was a man who was meek and peaceful yet at the same time hard and steadfast. To add to His treatment, when we read the Bible, it is hard to think that it was His own people who were crying out for His death. It was the very people whom He was a part of that were pummeling Him and spitting on Him with frenzied jeers of contempt. He was treating them in the most honorable way anyone could who loved someone. At the same time, they were treating Him with the most contempt that anyone could be treated. It is a sad picture to say the least, and I am glad I was not there to witness it.
As I think of every punch, slap, shove and strap He received, I become more mixed in feelings inside. When I imagine every stripe of the scourging; every rip in His body, every grimace of agony on His face, I become angry. When I come to the cruel crown of thorns placed upon His already bruised and puffy face, I want to do something about it. At every turn in the punishment where He could have just said something to end it all, I wonder why He didn’t. Why didn’t He speak to end it all? When every drop of blood streamed from His body, leaving a trail of goodness throughout a world of wickedness, I wonder why He did not just call the angels from His heavenly kingdom to end it all and prove to the Jews and Gentiles alike that He was a king to be feared. My hatred grows for the Pharisees, Scribes and Philosophers of the day. I want to fight. I want to do something to stand by Him, but I am frozen in my fear. Something is holding me back. Something deep within is not allowing me to move from my spot. How glad I am that I am not there, but alas I am. I am there in the imagination of my soul, and it is as real as if I were there that fateful day. I am ashamed.
Peter is not the only one who has denied Him. The world is full of people today who deny Him, although their state is much worse than mine. They ignorantly go about their daily activities as if He never existed. They are truly ignorant of every thought of Him, but I cannot be. My anger for the Pharisees who called for His crucifixion, and sought false witnesses, is real and present. When Pilate offered to let one prisoner go, they called for Barabas. When asked what they wanted to do to Jesus, they called out for His crucifixion. And so it began: The sad and bloody journey up to Golgotha.
He is carrying the burden of His very own cross, but it seems as if there is something much more, because He staggers under its very weight. He clings to it for support, barely able to lift the heavy load. He is leaving a trail of blood behind Him. The Roman soldiers are taking every opportunity to strike Him. His own people are jeering with contempt for Him. They are under the Pharisees spell. They sit comfortably upon their mules, their faces stream pride for their, yet another, accomplishment. I loathe them. Surely they could have a little mercy. How can there be no compassion for the beating of any human being beyond the point He is at? His eyes are puffed up and are barely able to open, yet the cruel blows continue to fall. His hands are shaking under the intense pain. He staggers, but still bears the heavy burden, and once again I would like to help Him, but I cannot. How can the Pharisees allow this barbarism? What is it in the heart of the people that drives them to such frenzied acts of violence? How can any human being be so grossly vicious?
My mind cannot process all that is being taken in. Why? How? He stumbles under the burden and I want to help Him, but I am fixed in one place. By chance, (Is it by chance?), our eyes make contact. Through all of the suffering; through all of the pain, through all of His spilled blood, it’s as if He is conveying to me a calm and merciful forgiveness. I feel torn. Why do I receive such a gaze? I have inflicted no blow. I have brought down no whip? I have not spit into His face, nor even jeered at Him. I have felt no contempt for Him at all. It is then that I realize: each blow He receives if because of me. The bruised eyes, crown of thorns, and open wounds are as if I put every single one of them there my very self. It is not the Pharisees, nor is it Pilate or the Roman soldiers. It is not because of Judas (His betrayer). It is not because of any skeptic. It is I who has inflicted this pain upon Him, for I have sinned.
He suffers because of the sin of the whole world, of which I am a part. I cannot even say that each wound that He bears represents a sin that I have committed, for I have sinned much more than the stripes that I see upon Him. My anger is now redirected from the Pharisees and their foolish pride, to me and mine. The thought is sobering and does not remain long in my head, before immediately moving to the deepest regions of my heart. The thought, like a dagger, has pierced me to my very core, and I feel that I must now do something: I must ask for His forgiveness. But, the crowd is too many. The soldiers are too good at their jobs of keeping back the crowd. I push and strain, but there is no gap in the crowd where I can make my way to Him. I am completely cut off. For the first time in my life I know what it is to be: undone. It is my sin that brought this upon Him. Mine and mine alone.
People do not realize that. They blindly go through life as if it belongs to them, but it does not. They are completely oblivious of the Love that the Lord paid for their redemption to Him. Somehow, we are under the impression that it is the Jews who killed their King, but it is not. It is our sin that has brought this sad state of affairs upon the very King of Glory. We ought to ponder this from time to time and never live outside of its sober parameters. Forgive me Lord.
An old proverb says, “When you sup with the devil, use a long spoon.” Presumably, NO genuine Christian would want to sup with the devil at all and yet many may be doing so in ignorance.
The origins of Halloween are Celtic in tradition and have to do with observing the end of summer sacrifices to gods in Druidic tradition. In what is now Britain and France, it was the beginning of the Celtic year, and they believed Samhain, the lord of death, sent evil spirits abroad to attack humans, who could escape only by assuming disguises and looking like evil spirits themselves. The waning of the sun and the approach of dark winter made the evil spirits rejoice and play nasty tricks. Believe it or not, most of our Halloween practices can be traced back to these old pagan rites and superstitions.
In the fourth century, Christians attempted to co-opt the holiday by celebrating the lives of faithful Christian saints the day before Halloween. This was a conscious attempt to provide an alternative and re-focus the day away from ghouls, goblins, ghosts, witches and other “haunted” experiences. Since that time many Christians have decided to allow their children to dress in more “innocent” costumes of pumpkins, princesses, Superman or as a cowboy. Part of this is due to the simple reality that in today’s Western culture it is nearly impossible to “avoid” Halloween.
Halloween is a real, sacred day for those who follow Wicca. In fact, it is one of two high and holy days for them. The Celtic belief of spirits being released is current, along with the worship of Samhain (the lord of death) – both are promoted as something to embrace on that day. Those who believe and follow the practices of witchcraft, Halloween represents an opportunity to embrace the evil, devilish, dark side of the spiritual world.
Halloween is still celebrated as an ancient pagan festival of the dead by witches all over the world. Unfortunately, just giving the date a “holy” name like All Hallows’ Eve or All Saints’ Eve cannot change its grisly character. Halloween is an occasion when the ancient gods (actually demons) are worshiped with human sacrifice. The apostle Paul warns us: “But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils” (1 Cor. 10:20).
During the 8th century in the diocese of Rome, Pope Gregory III moved All Saints Day to November 1, officially making October 31 “All Hallows Eve,” some say, as a way of claiming the celebration for Christians. However, this feast commemorating the martyrdom of the saints had already been celebrated by Christians for many centuries prior to this time. Pope Gregory IV broadened the feast to include the entire Church. Inevitably, some of the pagan practices associated with the season persisted and have been mixed into modern celebrations of Halloween.
It is astonishing just how many Christians let their kids celebrate Halloween. Some churches even sponsor “haunted houses” and similar events on what is the Number One satanic “helliday” of the year. If you are a Christian parent, God has given you a precious responsibility in your children. Remember, their ability to resist spiritual wickedness is much less than yours. If you allow your children to participate in Trick or Treating, costume parties, etc., you are allowing them to play on “the devil’s turf,” and Satan will definitely press his home court advantage. You are opening up doorways into their young lives for evil by bringing them into a kind of “fellowship” with these ancient “gods.”
As Christians you and I are placed in this world to be a light in a world of darkness. There is no lasting benefit to ignore a holiday that exists around us, but it also does harm to celebrate Halloween as it has originated and grown over the centuries. My suggestion? Christians should be teaching their children (age appropriately) that: there is a spiritual world filled with goodness from God and evil from Satan (Eph. 2:1-10); life with Christ has power over darkness (I John 4:4); and those who celebrate Halloween either are unaware of its roots, or are intentionally promoting a world where evil is lauded and viewed as an ultimate power.
To counter the evil influence of Halloween, we need to join together and celebrate the reality of the heroic efforts of Christian saints over the evil in their day. Many leaders in the past — and present — have fulfilled the mandate of destroying the works of the devil through their sacrificial commitment to Christ and His Kingdom.
Too, rather than “hide” in the face of evil, we should unabashedly and boldly create an alternative that is positive and uplifting; that celebrates good over evil and the triumph of God over Satan. We need to provide an environment that also makes room for heaps of fun while using the day as a “teachable moment” to celebrate God’s protection, provision and purpose for our lives.
We are commanded not to become involved with the unfruitful works of darkness (And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. Eph. 5:11). There have been far too many examples of how breaking this command works out in lives. Remember, while we have God’s promise of protection for ourselves and our children, that promise may be negated if we allow our children to celebrate this dark holiday. Case after case has been revealed of children in rebellion. In many of these families, the problem can be traced back to the children being exposed to parental compromise with the world at a young age. It is hard enough to raise children these days in a Godly way without exposing them to Satan’s realm.
Are some Christians trying to remove themselves from the world? Ignoring Halloween or celebrating it wth believers only is not exactly an evangelical approach. Aren’t we supposed to “become all things to all men so that by all possible means” we might save some? (1 Corinthians 9:22)
As Christians, why are we here in this world? Are we here to live in a safe and protected environment, guarded against the evils in the world, or are we called to reach out into a world filled with dangers and be the light of Christ? Halloween brings people of the world to our door step. Halloween brings our neighbors out into the streets. I can think of various creative ways to seize this opportunity for developing new relationships and sharing my faith.
Is it possible that our negativity toward Halloween only alienates the people we seek to reach? Can we be in the world, but not of the world?
Ultimately, Christians must decide for themselves and follow their own convictions regarding the observance of Halloween. Christian perspectives on the observance of Halloween are strongly divided. Some believers feel complete freedom to observe the holiday, others run and hide from it, many boycott or ignore it, a number celebrate it through more positive and imaginative observances or Christian alternatives to Halloween, and still others choose to take advantage of Halloween’s evangelistic opportunities. Many Christians believe that participating in Halloween is a form of involvement in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness. However, many consider the modern-day Halloween activities of most to be harmless fun.
Give serious thought to the appropriateness of judging another Christian for observing or not observing Halloween. We do not know why another person participates in the holiday or why they do not. We cannot accurately judge the motivations and intentions of another person’s heart. Study the matter for yourself and follow the convictions of your own heart. Let others do the same without condemnation from you.
God gave the Law so that mankind would realize they are sinners. The Law is foundational in what we know as the Ten Commandments. No man can keep the Law unless they are perfect, but that is not their purpose. Their purpose is to convince stubborn man that he cannot attain to God’s standard.
Why would there be a great move to remove the Ten Commandments from public facilities? Because man doesn’t want to confront God’s standard. Man doesn’t want to know he is a sinner, but hiding one’s head in the sand does not change the truth.
Let’s do everything we can to keep God’s law before people. It really needs to be written on the hearts of the individual. It’s not weather it’s on a building or in a school. This important thing is that it makes its way to the heart of a person.
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?
I was once a slave.
I was once a slave. Not in the sense that I was owned by any human master, but in the sense that I was a slave to vices that submitted to. The common masters of the human soul today are sex, drugs and booze. These things all draw you back to them. When we cling to them, they gain control bit by bit. Little by little they own us until we are completely taken in by their powerful draw. Then, the chains of addiction bind us until we cease to have any choice in how we live. We are hooked. We are owned.
In the USA where slavery was once an issue that divided the nation, it is no wonder we are sensitive to the word. Yet, we do not think it slavery to be enslaved by terrible, and deceitful vices? People have sold themselves into bondage for a little good feeling today. In doing so, they disregard any thoughts for the future. They would rather feel good for the moment at the expense of others future. Listen to the story of the present day slave and his liberation…
When I was on the auction block, naked and in chains, my thoughts ran wildly from anger to fear to humility and back again. Angered because selling one human being to another was wrong. But it was really no different than selling myself to a life enslaved to wicked vices. Fear because I was totally exposed to everyone. Being naked, there was nothing to hide behind. Humbled because there was nothing I could do to change anything. I was the lowest of all human beings; being bid on by the various slave owners looking for “new stock” to work their fields and breed their females.
I was poked, prodded and examined. Fingers picked through my hair and my mouth was pried open to expose my teeth for inspection. Finally it came time for the bidding to begin. I dreaded this, but my fears soared when no one bid on me. The auctioneer kept trying to persuade people to bid on me, but no one did. Amidst all of my shame, the worst, and most humiliating thing I had ever experienced was when I came to realize that I was unwanted by anyone. Didn’t I have any worth to anyone? Surely I was valuable for something. If no one bought me, what would be my end? Would I be put out to pasture?
The thoughts were interrupted when, when to the surprise of all present, I heard a voice say, “I’ll take him.” It was crowded, but when I looked in the direction of the sound of the voice, I saw a common man making the only bid for me. Encouraged by the bid for me, the auctioneer was renewed with enthusiasm to increase the bid and get more people involved. It was to no avail. No one else wanted me. The auctioneer had worked himself up into a sweat, but no one would make a bid for me.
“He’s yours,” the auctioneer told the man.
“Take off his chains. You can have them. I won’t need them.”
“He might be wild and attack you. You never can tell with these kind of people.”
I had never remembered a time in my life when I didn’t wear chains. It was strange and liberating. The weight of the chains literally lifted from me. I wondered why I had been treated this way. What was the catch? Surely nothing good was going to come from this. “Come with me,” my new master told me. I got down off the block and followed the customary 3 steps behind him. I didn’t mind being totally naked because it meant the chains I wore all of my life were gratefully gone.
We arrived at the bath house where my master told them he wanted me cleaned proper. That meant he wanted my beard trimmed, hair cut, nails and feet cleaned and scrubbed. I had never been cleaned this way before. As I wondered at the four people working on me, I realized that, in fact, I had never even been clean before. It was fresh and new. I knew then that I wanted to stay clean forever. “Please follow me,” my master asked more than demanded.
Out into the street once again this time brought a tingling of envy on my part. I knew I was naked, but I was clean. The chains were gone and I was clean. Into the clothing store he led me where he told the clerk, “Put on him the best suit of clothes you have in the house. Money is no object. I want him to have the best.”
I was being measured and prodded. Pins and needles and markers were all about me. Finally they brought out the clothes they had made for me. I had never had clothes like this before. The silk ran softly across my clean cool skin. There were no restrictions in movement anywhere. The best thing was—the color was blue.
I appreciated the coincidence of making my first new suit of clothing out of my favorite color–blue. This very thought was overwhelming as I had began the day as a slave, the lowest of low, being sold on an auction block where, nobody wanted me. I was totally worthless. Now I was standing on the street, unshackled, clean with a new suit of clothes made in my very favorite color.
All of this was new to me. I still could not comprehend it. There was a tint of joy mixed with cautious apprehension as my appreciation for my owner grew.
“Have you eaten today?” he asked. I had not, but I hesitated to tell him so. He had already done so much for me and I didn’t deserve any of it. How could I take him for granted? “Come on, you can tell me if you’ve eaten or not.” he coaxed.
As was the custom of slaves, I dare not look him in the eyes. I safely stared at the ground when he addressed me. I stammered, not knowing how to answer him. His rugged hands touched me under the chin and raised my head up. “You can look me in the eyes.”
Looking in his eyes, I could see something that I had not seen since I was a child. I first saw it from my mother. It was the look of deep compassion coupled with sincere concern. It was the look of someone who cared about me as a person and not an object. It enveloped a kind of friendship, but I could not accept that my master could ever be my friend. Those eyes looked deep into my soul in such a way that I knew everything about me was revealed. It was as if my whole life was laid out before Him there on that street.
My life did not have much true joy in it. It was filled with pain and suffering; things that I did not want to share with anyone because I did not want to confront them again. There were things that I put in a hidden compartment of my mind because the only thing I could do to overcome them was to bury them deep into the compartment of distant memory. His gaze seemed to open up all of those hidden compartments of my life and not only see the pain, but experience it himself. I was not really sure, but I think I saw a tear well up in the corners of his eyes as he said, “come on, lets get you a meal.”
Off we went down the street. Because he wanted to walk with me, it was impossible to walk three steps behind him. The slower he went, the slower I went until he beckoned me to walk with him. I was very uncomfortable with this because I knew people were looking at Him with disgust because of the way he treated me. their comments were not nice. They threw at him words that contained a terrible, hateful message. These were the kind of words I was accustomed to hearing, but he did not deserve anything like this. He was being punished for compassion and it made me feel defensive of him. I did not know this new master very well, but at least I knew I was His, and I didn’t like what they were doing to him.
We arrived at the boarding house with a following. The owners were not going to let me eat in the main dining hall because I was a slave. After some deliberation, we went into the back room where slaves could eat. He beckoned me to sit down, which I did. Then the biggest surprise of all was that he sat down at the table with me. The owners were trying to get him to go out into the main dining hall, but he would have none of it. “I eat with my friend”, he said with a tone of finality. “Master, you don’t have to do this,” I said. “You’ve already done too much. There is no need to embarrass yourself so.”
“It’s okay. I want to be here with you.”
“Master, I promise I will wait for you. I won’t run off.”
“I know you won’t. But I want to eat with you. I want to know you better. What’ll you have?”
“Whatever you want for me to eat Master. It’s not proper for me to choose for myself.”
“Waiter! We’ll take two of the finest steaks you have.”
When the steaks came, I looked at it without knowing what to do. He showed me how to use the knife and fork and cut it. I had never been allowed to hold a knife before. It was the first time I had ever held the cool steel in my hand. No one had ever trusted me with a knife, especially one sharp enough to cut a steak. With a little difficulty I cut the meat and put it in my mouth. The sensations were so active I could only think they were going to collapse in a type of fatigue.
Today was a day of firsts. I had never tasted meat like this before. It was the best meal I had ever had. I enjoyed it so much that I almost forgot who I was. When it was time to leave, I quickly remembered my place. As we went outside in the streets, there were people waiting to persecute my master. They didn’t like it that he ate with the slaves. They thought it showed a wrong message. They didn’t want to be held to His standards. They wanted him to digress to their standards, but my master was courageous. He stood up to them all and did the right thing.
Following him to the end of the street, the crowd thinned. this is where it happened. At the end of the street, he turned to me and told me something I will never forget. He said, “I bought you so you will never have to be in bondage again. You are free to do as you please. Here are your papers. I love you and I am sorry that you ever had to be in bondage in the first place.” I was stunned. Was I hearing correctly? Was I being set free? Did he really buy me, clean me, clothe me and feed me to set me free? I had long since lost hope of ever being free. It was so far out of reach that I had even refused to think about it. Now I was being set free by a master who loved me. I didn’t really know him, and now he was setting me free.
I hardly realized he was shaking my hand in a gesture of departure. I was trying to come to grips with my thoughts. By the time I came to myself, he had already turned and was walking away. Again I didn’t know what to do. I had no where to go. If I went back to the world, I would certainly be put in bondage again. I knew I didn’t want that, but what could I do? I had never been faced with making so many choices. I knew I couldn’t stand there forever. “Whatcha gonna do boy?”, a burly man watching with amusement asked. I was being pushed. People were beginning to surround me. It didn’t take long for the world to catch up to me and press in. They were mocking, pushing and demeaning. There was nothing I could do about it. Hands were tearing at my new set of clothing. They wanted it for themselves. They wanted me to return to my hopeless, naked, enslaved position.
It came to mind suddenly. When I had no thought of what to do, I wanted to cry out for my master, but he had gone on. If I really wanted him to be my master, why had I not followed him? I was so infatuated with my freedom, that I forgot Him. Pushing through the crowd, I went after Him. After a short time, I caught up with him. I had never wanted someone to be my master before. I had always despised those who were proud of the title. But this time was different. I knew I wanted him to be my master. “Master,” I cried. He turned to wait for me. “Can I come with you?”, I asked.
“You don’t need to. You’re free now.”
“I know. You gave me my papers.”
“You can go anywhere you want to go.”
“I know, but can I follow you? If it’s okay with you, can I be your slave?”
“I didn’t buy you because I wanted a slave. I bought you because I care.”
“I know that now. But I want to be your slave. I want to follow you. I want you to be my master.”
This is the attitude that a sinner who has been saved by the Lord Jesus Christ should have. There should be a deep desire for devotion to their master. Under grace, He has put no requirements on the sinner. The Lord bought us, cleaned us, fed us and clothed us; then He set us free. We are free to do as we wish. We can run off back to the world; we can follow selfish ambitions; or we can follow the master, not because He demands us to do so, but because we appreciate what He did for us.
Many Christians today have it all wrong. They approach a relationship with Jesus because they are looking for what He can do for them. Like those who demanded food from Jesus were disappointed when He would not give it to them (John 6:34-66), Christians today fall away when God doesn’t do exactly what they want. They are the master of the relationship instead of allowing Jesus to be the master. Yes, they may speak like He is the master, but their actions show a much different thing. They go to certain churches because they are looking for a certain: children’s program, support group, bible study, activities for the family, marriage counseling, etc. They are what is commonly know as “church shoppers.” They are looking for the perfect place where God can give them what they demand of Him. God may not ever give them what they want because it goes contrary to what He wants. He wants them to freely follow HIM!
Confused Christians have their masters. If they are not the vices of the day, they are the programs a church can offer. It is not the Creator. If He was their master, they would be willing to forego the programs and sit under good Godly preaching that would help them. Preaching that would show them where they are right as well as show them where they are wrong. They would not let personalities in the church dictate their attendance. They would not care if someone said something bad about them or not. They would only care about following the Saviour who rightfully bought them, cleaned them up, clothed them, fed them and set them free. They would give up their freedom for a devoted life of following Him no matter how difficult it would be.
I would that every Christian reading this article would be able to say, “I am glad to be His happy slave.” Why? Because He doesn’t demand it.~
In 1 Corinthians 4:1-2 we are told, “Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” A steward then is somebody that is given something valuable to take care of, and he is supposed to take care of it for his master. Not only that, a steward is to be “faithful” because he has goods delivered to him that don’t belong to him. Such is every one of us who is given stewardship of God’s money. We understand about God giving us money and use it as the Lord would have us to. But here we are talking about a different kind of stewardship. We are talking about the “mysteries of God.” We are talking about stewardship over something that has been given for the purpose of teaching to others.
What are these mysteries? There are seven of them in the Bible and they are committed to preachers to teach to others. I will briefly describe them as follows:
1. The Mystery of Godliness.
1 Timothy 3:16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.
This verse is the greatest verse in the Bible on the Deity of Jesus Christ. If you don’t have a King James Bible you won’t be able to find this mystery defined. All other bibles change this verse in order to take away the deity of Christ. They change the phrase “…God was manifest in the flesh…” to something else. God being “manifest in the flesh” means that God showed up as a baby and later grew up to be a man. It cannot be explained how He did this. Why? Because it is a mystery how it happened. He came down to this earth as a baby, and a woman took care of Him, just like every other baby. He experienced every facet of growing up as a human male.
2. The Mystery of the Indwelling Christ
Colossians 1:27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:
Paul says, “This mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” This means the “mystery” is that Jesus Christ is inside the saved man. It can’t be explained how, but if you are saved, then “Christ” is “in you, the hope of glory”. It can’t be explained how a sinless, perfect Saviour would stoop down to come in and dwell inside a wicked, sinful vessel. Not only that, it can’t be explained how Jesus could be in a vast multitude of saved people all at the same time. There aren’t many individual Jesus’. There is one Jesus and he dwells within each believer. This is a mystery and can’t be explained how it happens. It is the mystery of the indwelling Christ.
3. The Mystery of the Body of Christ
Ephesians 5:30-32 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
The Bride of Christ in this age is espoused to one husband so it can be presented a chaste virgin to Christ (2 Cor. 11:2). This means that every one who is a Believer is all espoused to the same person: Christ. All men and women wind up married to Christ as one unit. How can you explain it? It can’t be explained. It’s a mystery. As far as the spirit is concerned, we are joined to Him right now (1 Cor. 6:17). The marriage has already taken place, but as far as the body is concerned the marriage hasn’t taken place. Our physical bodies are down here and His is up there (2 Cor. 5:6-8). It can’t be explained. We are supposed to believe it. Paul said, “This is a great mystery” (Eph. 5:32).
4. The Restoration of Israel
Romans 11:25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
This mystery deals with the restoration of Israel. The mystery is that God is not through with Israel. And even though God may look like He’s through with Israel, He’s not! Someday God is going to take the Jews and bring them back to Palestine (He did that in 1948), and after the Jews have been reduced down to about four or five hundred people, God is going to get them saved in the Tribulation and convert them to Jesus Christ. That’s the mystery of the believing remnant of Israel which is going to turn to God. Romans 11:28-29 says that “as concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” This means that we should love the Jews. Yes, some Jews out in the world are unlovable characters. It doesn’t matter what you think of them, you’ve got to love Israel and take care of it. If you don’t, the Lord will fix you. In Christ “There is neither Jew nor Greek” (Gal. 3:28). When a Jew gets converted, he’s no longer a “Jew.” He’s a Christian.
5. The Mystery of Babylon the Great
Revelation 17:5 And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
Revelation 17:18 And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.
She is a woman out in the wilderness seated on a beast. The beast has seven heads and ten horns. This is a “mystery.” It is something you’re supposed to believe, but you can’t explain.
The woman is a city that reigns over the kings of the earth. She has a golden cup in her hand full of abominations (Rev. 17:4). And, she is arrayed in purple and scarlet. There is only one city that is built on seven mountains (v. 9), that reigns over the kings of the earth, whose symbol is a golden cup: ROME. The Lord said that that city was a whore (v. 1). She’s a prostitute who sells herself for money. She has such influence that she runs the kings of this earth. She will sell out what she believes and what she professes in order to get along with the world. She’ll let her own priests get killed in Africa if she can get control of Africa. She might even get in a black pope.
6. Mystery of Iniquity
2 Thessalonians 2:3-8 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; 4Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. 5Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? 6And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. 7For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. 8And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:
The mystery of iniquity is the mystery of the Antichrist. His number is 666. He has a sign: it’s a kiss. He has a salute: its two fingers. He has a letter: it’s an X. And he has a name, a religion , a face, and a mark. There’s more information in the Bible on him than there is on any other man in the Bible outside of Jesus Christ Himself. He’s the Antichrist.
7. The Rapture
1 Corinthians 15:51-55 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
The final mystery is the Rapture. It is the disappearance of the Body of Christ in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. There are two kinds of people. Those who are alive when the Lord comes are to be caught up without dying. Those that are dead will be pulled up out of the ground. If you’re mortal, you’ll be caught up without dying and then put on immortality. If you’re dead and buried when the Lord comes back, then you’re down in the ground rotting and you’re corruptible, and you come out of the grave and put on incorruption. The ones that are buried can’t stay in the ground. The live man goes up without dying; and the dead man goes up, and the grave can’t keep him down.
NewsMax, Thursday, 19 Dec 2013 04:45 PM, By Wanda Carruthers
The controversy over “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson and his views on homosexuality could prove to be a tipping point for people “sick and tired of being pushed around by a very small minority of leftists,” talk show host Rush Limbaugh said Thursday.
“There could be an effervescing tipping point taking place out there, below the surface, right now, that nobody’s aware of, fed up with this,” Limbaugh said on his radio show.
“I think a lot of people are sick and tired of being pushed around by a very small minority of leftists who use weapons, like political correctness and censorship, intimidation, and everything else, in order to shut up the people who say things they don’t want to hear or disagree with,” he added.
THE LAODICEA CHURCH WE LIVE WITH
Revelation 3:14-20 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; 15I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. 17Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: 18I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. 19As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. 20Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
Today we find ourselves living in the Laodicean Church age. It is the last period of time before the Lord Jesus Christ comes to rapture out His church. Compared to the other periods of church history, the Laodicean is the worst of all and that is because of the apathy of believers in Christ. The word “Laodicean” means the “rights or justices of the people.” Literally the civil rights of the people. It is a time when the church is more interested in their individual rights and have totally forgotten the rights of God—their Creator. Unfortunately, this is the mess that the church is in when God returns to get us. AND, do not fret my friends; there will be no exercising of personal rights at the rapture for God’s rights will overshadow all. When He says, “come up hither,” will it not be with anger in His voice rather than that of the compassionate Jesus Christ Superstar that many envision Him to be? Will He not be angry at the church for lack of interest in winning the lost to Him?
The last church claims a belief in God while at the same time living a dead, skin-deep Christianity. People in this church, profess belief in the “fundamentals of the faith” while embracing ecumenical works. It is a church where you cannot really tell what it stands for or what it stands against. It is a church which conveniently balances itself on both sides of the fence; it is neither hot for God or cold against Him (vs. 15). It is the worst kind of church there can be: LUKEWARM (vs. 16)—close enough to God to be warmed by the Bible, and far enough away to be chilled by the world. It is the epitome of rotten apostate modernism.
God is an extremist. He does not believe in getting along with the world in a kind of “fake Christianity”. He “would thou wert cold or hot.”
The Laodicean church makes God sick (vs. 16)—sick enough for Him to “spue thee out of my mouth.” Why is this? Could it be because of the tremendous material assets this church has that others in history did not? Could it be because it is more interested in bragging about its busses, holdings, how much the property is worth, how much the offerings are or how many missionaries it supports? After all, this church says it is “…increased with goods, and have need of nothing.” But God sees the truth. He gets to the heart of the matter. His response to all of our vast access to resources that we are “… wretched, you’re miserable, you’re poor, you’re blind, and you’re naked.” This is the opposite of how we see our self. People today have too many churches to go to. The pastor does something that they don’t like, or another church member does something that they disagree with, they just “hop on over” to another church that more fits their need. People in this age are more interested in themselves instead of God, and God’s preacher better tell them what they want to hear or else.
The great problem with the church today is that Christians are afraid to stand up for Jesus. Oh, we sing the song, “Stand up, Stand up for Jesus…”, but that is just lip service. Christians have worked out a way to be a Christian on Sundays and just a regular guy the rest of the time. That way they can AVOID CONFRONTATION. This is a joke of a Christian who claims that he has to put on the “armour of God”, when he knows in his heart that he is not really going to use it.
This Laodicean church lives by feelings, just like the rest of the world. Like the Israelites of old, temples to Baal have been erected amongst our ranks and the only thing that can “shake the church” loose from them is some tragedy; else God will never get our attention. If there was one thing that I could make the church see, it would be the reality and magnificence of GOD. Hence, people would see how much they owe to Him. But God does not demand our deaths; He demands our death to self, so that we might be able to live the true life that He intended. It is sad that it takes hard times in our life to bring us to our senses.
God counsels that we buy of Him “…gold tried in the fire…” (vs. 18). That is to say, He counsels that we see things as they truly are; that faith in Him is worth much more than gold or riches or prestige or honor (1 Pet. 1:7). This entire world is going to be burned up and all that is contained therein. There is absolutely nothing that will survive His hot wrath. Any investment in this world is futile. I know that right about here the concept of “stewardship” is usually slipped in, but there is a vast difference in caring for things that perish verses things that do not. The only thing that will not perish will be the souls of men who are right with God. This is “stewardship” in its most correct form: to win souls, develop them and teach them how to win more souls. But this cannot be done without “CARING”.
You say, “I don’t see it that way.” I know. I know there is a problem with how you look at things. That is why God urges to “anoint thine eyes with eyesalve…” (vs. 18). This is why the Devil has so many things to look at in the world today. This is why things like TV, pornography, movies, sports, internet, etc. work so good for him. Man is curious, and his curiosity will never be satisfied. This is a good thing if it is channeled to learning about the personality and character of God. But this is not so. Man is more interested in tickling his sin nature. The “forbidden fruit” only becomes the draw to man when he looks at it (Gen. 3:5-6). We have a problem with our eyes. Therefore, we need the eyesalve of God’s Word that we can see correctly. Can you imagine the fruit of the tree looking rotten, moldy, corrupt and covered in maggots? In other words, can you imagine being able to see sin for what it is? The only way that can be done is to:
- Stay in your Bible. You need the Bible. It is your strength and your sword. Without it, you will only see what the world is showing you. Or, you will only know what the world tells you about the Bible. The cults (Mormons, Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, etc.) are experts at offering a candy coated glob of slop.
- Stay in Church. Don’t just “attend” church, come expecting something from God. Expect that God is speaking to you from the Bible via His messenger. Presuppose that God is real and He can do anything even in spite of the preacher or teacher. Expect God to be a blessing to you and discard the thought that you will be a blessing to God.
- Pray faithfully. Tell God how special He is to you. Talk to Him. Tell Him how much of a blessing He is to you. Tell Him what you think of His Book, His church and His preacher. Tell Him what you would request of Him, but resist the urge to give Him your grocery list of problems to solve for you.
- Witness! This cannot be stressed strong enough. You must witness for God. There are many ways in which you can do this. Use your mind and think of a way you CAN do it instead of inventing ways you cannot do it. The fact of the matter is this: if you love something strong enough, you can do things you never thought you would be able to do. Or, if you want to do something bad enough, you will figure out a way to do so.
It is time now to repent of being a lukewarm Christian. Can you truly say you are giving your all to Him? Are you tithing? Are you attending church? Are your words just more empty promises to God? God’s way for dealing with those whom He loves in this Laodicean church age is to rebuke and chasten. REPENT! Change your ways. Be zealous about Him (vs. 19). Be given over to the draw of the Holy Spirit. Be zealous for Him and the things that He loves and forget about the world. Stop comparing yourself to others who are not living for the Lord.
Do you realize that at the end of the Laodicean church age Jesus is outside the door of the church? The door has been slammed shut in His face. He is knocking to come in and who is listening? Are you? Do you hear His humble rap upon the door? Why is He on the outside in the first place? Who came to church and left the Lord outside? I do not want to be a Laodicean even though I happen to live in this age. You don’t have to leave Him outside. You can bring Him in with you. Or, you can answer the door. The problem why many do not is that they don’t even hear His voice anymore (vs. 20). They are too worried about money, satisfaction of self, offending others or becoming accountable to God’s word (they don’t want to hear what He has to say about their sin). But if YOU open the door to Him, He will come in to you and have fellowship with you, even in spite of anyone else. But until you do, until you open the door of your heart, you can not have sweet fellowship with Him. You will be a Laodicean.
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)
The Purpose of the church-EXAMINED.
The purpose of the church is multi-faceted, but it revolves around one—only one—activity. That activity is the winning of souls. In short, it is telling others how to be saved, encouraging them to get saved, and leading them in the process of being saved. We are very plainly told in the Bible that, “…he that winneth souls is wise.” (Pro. 11:30). The activity of winning souls stands over every endeavor a Bible believing church is involved in. It is paramount, un-negotiable and vital. If you do not think so, then you are sadly mistaken.
Today, the church has evolved into some kind of conglomerate, some kind of multi-functional business venture (emphasis on “business venture). Like some Good Samaritan club, people come together to escape the harsh attacks of evil that they withstand throughout their week. It takes the place of some good, wholesome fun that can be found no place else in the world. And, it becomes an educational source where people can go and have their morals sharpened by the word of God. Of course, all of these are not wrong, but they have somehow upset the cart; the scales have become out of balance. Where at one time soul winning was the most important thing, now it has been replaced by all of the rest. Instead of being slightly off, the church has now become grossly out of balance in the area of winning souls.
In what areas do many churches weigh heaviest? In what areas do they invest the bulk of their resources? They are vast and range from small group encouragement sessions to being the vassals of the distributors of Christian books and programs. I have been to churches where they canceled meetings so they could show the super bowl. I have preached in churches that were divided right down the middle. On each side of the aisle sat the two prominent families of the church along with their supporting families. The poor pastor was stuck right in the middle of the feud. I preached at one church where I actually did no preaching at all. The auditorium was exactly like a movie theater auditorium and the “stage” was full of rock band equipment. All they did was play Christian rock music and there was no mention of Jesus, salvation or the Bible anywhere. My preaching was the privileged task of being the guest of honor in the very front row center. This is only a small sample of what some churches now call “preaching the gospel.” It is what they have replaced for winning souls. No one in any of those churches even thinks of winning someone to Christ, let alone actually trying to do it. Yet they are all “busy about the Lord’s work.” In fact, there have been some people who have left churches where I pastored who said, “I can’t grow. In everything you say, you always say something about winning souls. Could you please stop telling me that?”
Now, to have support groups, encouragement and structure for Christian growth is truly important. It is good to have classes to teach how to rear children the Biblical way. Classes of marriage and handling of finances are necessary and the Bible speaks of these subjects and many more like them. It is necessary for Christians to, “Bear one another’s burdens…” (Gal. 6:2). It is good to be glad in the house of the Lord (Acts 2:46) and to be encouraged by the singing and worship (Col. 3:16). Not every moment of the Christians life must be winning a soul. Every soldier needs time to regroup and rearm. He even needs time away from the battle to resort. The problem is, that most churches have remained stuck in the regroup, rearm and resort area and no one is actually in the battle. They have forgotten that you cannot win a war with only the rear echelon. You must have the fighters. And, in the army, every soldier is a soldier first and foremost.
One day Jesus approached Peter and Andrew while they were fishing, He did not ask them to join a fellowship. He did not offer to them a support group. He didn’t even offer them an answer to their personal problems. What He told them was, “…Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matt. 4:19). He wanted to make them into soul winners. He intended to teach them how to tell others about the gospel (good news) of salvation. He wanted them to be equipped to carry that gospel to others throughout their entire life. And, that is exactly what they did, and they did it at the hazard of their own lives. They never lost sight of the main goal. They never got their number one main order out of sight. They always had their “prime directive” before them. The Jews of old would carry God’s word in little boxes strapped to their foreheads called–frontlets (Deu. 11:18). This was in command to God’s directive to have no other Gods but Him (Exo. 20:3). It was their main mission to teach this to their children and this is how they would remember. Too bad the churches of today do not have spiritual “frontlets”. Too bad they keep forgetting their number one mission.
The apostle Paul said, “To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” (1 Cor. 9:22). Though he taught many of God’s principles of help to the church, he still never lost sight of this first command given by Jesus (Acts 1:8). He was committed to even going to the uttermost parts of the earth, and he was pretty successful about it. Even though he had all the cares and concerns of helping the different churches, making a living and dealing with the little concerns of life, he still found time to win souls.
We all know the gravity of the situation; the importance in winning a soul (James 5:20). It is a life and death matter for the one who is won. But in a certain sense, it too is a life and death matter for a church. Where the members of a church are not actively trying to win souls, the church, like a dried up piece of fruit, will die on the vine. It does so because the Christians within dry up and die on the vine. You can always tell those who are drying up because they present reasons why they cannot do it. Listen! People can do anything they want to do if they want to do it bad enough. Churches (dead churches) are filled with people who side-step the command to win souls by replacing it with a little program and then soothe their guilty souls by convincing themselves that they are really serving the Lord. It is really amazing how many churches spend more energy and resources in humanitarian aide rather than Godly aide.
So, let us end on a good note. Let us end on the assumption that you have determined you are going to do something about pleasing God in this area of winning souls. John 4:36 says, “And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.” I hope that you will receive wages abundantly for your eternal work. I pray that you both reap and sow. I look forward to that for you personally and for the church as well. It would be fantastic to have a church full of those who can rejoice together—rejoicing that can only come from laboring in the field. The church does not ever need to be a dry, dead place. The only way to keep it alive and vibrant is to win souls. This is our purpose—to win souls. There is no other way around it. Nothing can replace this God given formula for joy.