What Has Happened to Christianity?

IMG_4907_ATimes are changing around the world and Christians are being persecuted more now than at any time in history.  Christianity is losing its influence in culture, education and politics. Recently while reading a book my wife bought by Erwin Lutzer The Cross in the Shadow of the Crescent made me think on the waning influence of Christianity in the modern world and why this is so. No greater illustration of this than what has happened in Turkey. Turkey (Asia Minor) was at one time the epicenter of the explosion of Christianity with the Apostle Paul and the school of Tyrannus in Acts 19 where in the space of 2 years and three months every person in Asia Minor heard the word of the Lord Jesus and the Word of God grew mightily and prevailed.

Listen to the record of the power and influence of Christianity in which is now modern day Turkey:

Acts 19:8ff: And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God.But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus.10 And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.11 And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul:12 So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.13 Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth.14 And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so.15 And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?16 And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.17 And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.18 And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds.19 Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.20 So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.

“Prevailed” in the Greek means to exercise force, to wield power and to have the strength to overcome. The Word of God grew to the point it wielded power in the lives of the Christians, those that heard and even the culture. It had the power to overcome all the occult powers, evil spirits, religious arguments and physical ailments of the age. Look at the power of God over the forces of darkness. The Word of God first must grow and prevail in our lives before it can exercise power in our neighborhood, cities and nation. Is the Word of God prevailing today or has it been corrupted and water-downed. 2 Corinthians 2:17: For we are not, like so many, [like hucksters making a trade of] peddling God’s Word [shortchanging and adulterating the divine message]; but like [men] of sincerity and the purest motive, as [commissioned and sent] by God, we speak [His message] in Christ (the Messiah), in the [very] sight and presence of God. The word in the Greek for peddling means to be a retailer that would adulterate or water down their commodities to make a gain; to make money by selling anything and the merchandising of God’s Word for sordid gain. Have you ever turned on Christian television lately? Much of it is peddling the gospel to make a gain. Selling the Word of God to make money for luxurious mansions, cars, jewelry, jets and material gain. We have too many spiritual hucksters trying to sell the blessing of God for seed money. Doesn’t this sound like the indulgences of the Dark Ages when the Roman Catholic Church would sell salvation and other blessings for a price? This is a major reason that the Church is hurting and straying from its calling. We do not sell the Word of God like a commodity on the stock market. You cannot buy God or a blessing. Peter rebuked Simon the sorcerer for this and said “May your silver rot with you! Because you thought you obtain the gift of God by money.” Acts 8:20. The Word of God says such thinking is of those who are “depraved in mind and depraved of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.” I Timothy 6:5. These “desires plunge people into ruin and destruction and cause people to wander from the faith.” I Timothy 6:9,10.  Unfortunately many that preach these modern day indulgences are pastors and spiritual leaders in the Church and it is wreaking havoc on the witness of Christianity.

Not to get sidetracked: Paul and Barnabas also taught the gospel for a whole year in Antioch and the believers were first called Christians in Antioch which is in modern Turkey:

Acts 11:19ff: 19 Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. 20 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. 22 The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, 24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. 25 So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.

Yet today Christianity is almost non-existent in Turkey as it is 99.8% Muslim and .2% Christian. What happened that Christianity has little influence in this region? Much of what we call the Islamic world today was once Christian. Islam is spreading rapidly in Western Europe with churches closing and being bought and turned into mosques and a rising anti-Christian sentiment in the public square and all walks of life. This is especially surprising given the violent nature of many in Islam and their increasing brutality and terrorism around the globe. Yet Christianity is becoming the hated “religion.”

Why do we not see the church in Acts in Christianity anymore? Where is the power? Where is the deliverance? Where is the passion? We have more passion for our football or basketball teams than we have for Jesus Christ. Where are the miracles? Where are the healings? This is supposed to be a daily occurrence in Christianity as God backs up His word and confirms it with signs, miracles and wonders. Do we just go through the motions but Christ is not a living reality in our hearts?

Mark 16:15-20  And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.19 So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.20 And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.

When the Lord works, there are signs, miracles and wonders. This type of power manifested did not go out with the Apostles of the First Century. It is available today and should be the norm in Christianity.

Look at the commission of Jesus’s own disciples:

Matthew 10:8: Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.

Luke 10:17ff:  The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” 18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

As Christians we have been given the authority of the name of Jesus Christ. We have full power of attorney rights. Satan is not falling like lightening because we are not walking in that authority. We are instead still in bondage to the Prince of the Power of the Air and the course of this world. We have been given power over the entire kingdom of darkness. Nothing can hurt us when we stand in that authority. Devil spirits will flee, sickness and infirmity will vanish and the power of God will explode on the scene by our faith in our Faithful God.

Do you believe this promise?

John 14:12-14: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

We are to God in the authority and power of our Lord Jesus Christ. In Him we are unstoppable, immovable, unconquerable and a force to be reckoned with in this world. God needs laborers to go forth into the harvest in the valley of human need and to be witnesses to Him in the power of the Spirit.

Matthew 28:18,19a: 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,

Immeasurable power is released when we believe. All things are under our feet and we are filled with the fullness of Christ:

Ephesians 1:18ff: Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Acts 5:12ff:  Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. 13 None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. 14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, 15 so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. 16 The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.

This type of power is absent in the church today. Signs and wonders were the norm. Even Peter’s shadow falling on the sick would heal them. Today many churches do not even believe in healing or claim sickness is the will of God. Even though God’s name is Yahweh Rapha, the Lord who heals. All those afflicted with unclean spirits or sicknesses were healed. Why don’t we this in the church today?

There is no political solution to the problems of America or the world. There is no economic solution for the problems of America or the world. It is much deeper. It is spiritual. Jesus Christ is the solution to every problem and ill and malaise of this world. Anything else is built on sinking sand. It is not a Republic or Democrat solution, a Russian or USA solution, a liberal or conservative solution for if you think so you are being deceived. The Body of Christ is to represent Jesus Christ to the world. Yet most of us have manifested more of what Jesus is not than what he is in our lives. Why is this so?

In thinking about what has gone wrong with modern Christianity I am not an expert or claim to have all the answers. I am not pointing fingers but am humbling thinking about what can be done to reverse this disturbing trend. I am going to bring up a few points that God has laid on my heart, but ultimately it has to be a God solution, not a man solution. It has to be a Bible solution and not a human reasoning or self-focused solution. Here are some genuine things to think about to restore the majesty and impact of Christianity in our times.

  1. We have failed to shine as the lights of the world and failed to be the salt of the earth becoming bland like the world.

Matthew 5:14,15:  “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

You (humeis) is emphatic meaning “you yourselves”.

Genuine faith in Christ turns a man from darkness to marvelous light, and transforms him into “light in the Lord”; his aims and objects, his desires, his speech, his actions, become full of divine light, which illuminates all the chambers of his soul, and then pours forth from the windows so as to be seen of men. 

Your light – If you are a believer you are a supernatural “light”. And you are responsible for letting your light shine forth.

Let…shine – Jesus does not make a suggestion but as discussed below issues a command “Since you are light, then shine!” Shining is not optional for believers.

Let…shine (lampo) means to radiate brilliantly or beam forth.  Jesus gives His a command to do this right now and do it effectively (aorist imperative – conveys the idea of urgency). This is a permissive imperative which means to permit your light to shine. Don’t do anything that will cover it, hide it or snuff it out. To shine is not optional! If we fail to obey our Lord’s command we will fail to fulfill His purpose for us in His glorious plan.

What Jesus intends is for believers to live out the Christ life which is in them (Col 1:27), a way and quality of life that is so different from that of the world (including the religious world) and so distinctive that it shines light into the darkness. Let the character of Jesus shine forth. The Puritan writer Thomas Brooks wrote that…A Christian’s life should be nothing but a visible representation of Christ. Has anyone mistaken you for Jesus lately? Am I truly living a life different from unbelievers? Is there anything about my life which one might recognize as supernatural? Am I giving a proper opinion of my Father by the way I live? The logic is clear and direct – just as the function of a household lamp is to give light in the house, so too believers are to provide illumination to all they encounter in this spiritually dark world.

Philippians 2:13-16: For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.

The word used for lights is the same as is used in the creation record of the lights (sun and moon) which God set in the dome of the heavens to give light upon the earth. Paul is saying the saints at Philippi and by way of application believers of all ages are to shine out in stark contrast to the darkness of this godless society shining forth as “heavenly bodies of light” (lights powered from heaven) stationed upon the earth enshrouded in the darkness of sin. We are now “light in the Lord” and are to reflect the glory of the Lord in the middle of this present darkness. The darker the night, the brighter the light appears. Christians are lights or light-bearers. They cannot create any light, but they can reflect the glory of the Lord so that others may see Jesus in them.

Matthew 5:13: “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

We are supposed to be the salt of the Earth, as something that gives flavor to make a meal taste good. But when we are not attracting the lost, but rather repelling them, then our salt has lost its savor. What makes it even worse is that we are even repelling the saved.

I Peter 2:9 (NIV) But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a dedicated nation, [God’s] own purchased, special peoplethat you may set forth the wonderful deeds and display the virtues and perfections of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.

 

Ephesians 5:8-16 (NIV):For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9(for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10and find out what pleases the Lord. 11Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said:
“Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

 15Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

  1. We have forgotten about the gift of holy spirit received at the new birth and it lies dormant and ineffectual in our daily living.

Acts 1:8: But you will receive (lambano-into manifestation) power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

Acts 2:38: And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

II Timothy 1:6: Fan into flame the gift of God which is in you.

I Corinthians 12:7:  But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.

A born again believer received the gift of holy spirit at the time of the new birth conversion. It is power, a comforter, a teacher, an enlightener and a fruit producer. God has given us none manifestations to operate in I Corinthians 12 and we must begin to walk by the Spirit, fanning into a flame that burns the chaff in our lives and sets our hearts on fire for God.

  1. We have failed to live sanctified from the world:

2 Timothy is Paul’s last book. All Asia had turned away from Him. Principal keys for the Christian, for leaders and for the church how not to fall into apostasy.

2 Timothy 2:20-22: But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. 21 Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. 22 Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

John 17:14-19:  I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

What do you desire for your life as a Christian? Do you long for a heart that is aflame for God or extinguished by the world? Romans 12:2: Do not be conformed to the passions of this world. We love Jesus being our Savior but hold back in making Him our Lord in everything. We still want to sit on the throne of our heart and run our own life. We want to get our ticket to heaven and return to living the way we were before. We will make no impact for the gospel of Jesus Christ with this thinking.

Skip Moen in Spiritual Restoration: Sanctification is not about becoming perfect. It is about becoming perfectly His. It is about giving more and more of my life over to God for His possession. When God met Moses at the burning bush, he took off his sandals to show he had no ownership of the ground he stood on. It belonged to God. That’s what we must do-transfer ownership to Him, give up our claims and consecrate ourselves to His purposes. God is not asking for the perfect life. He is asking to set aside the life we have entirely for Him.

  1. Oh Ye of Little Faith:  We have so little faith as Christians today as there is a great need for a revival of faith in the church. Our entire culture is designed to build fear and unbelief in the promises of God and doubt as to God’s true character and His enduring faithfulness. We have more faith in the devil to afflict and oppress us than in the power of God to deliver us, change us, empower us, and demonstrate His mighty nature in and through us.

. We have made God too small; our vision of God is mundane and tiny; we do not see or understand the character of God and just who He is, and thus our faith is miniscule, weak and shipwrecked on the island of doubt, worry and fear. Faith must once again come alive with a holy vibrancy rooted in the unchangeable truth that our God cannot lie and the promises of His Word are awaiting to be ignited in our heart by our audacious faith that God is who He says He is and can do what He says He can do. True Faith has absolute confidence that our God is able and willing to bring about the impossible, the miraculous, the supernatural and the extraordinary in our lives. How many times did Jesus chide his disciples and followers saying “O ye of little faith!”? We must elevate our faith in Him to the mountaintop where it belongs and, if we are ever to live the audacious, vibrant, bold and world-changing Christian life, we must have faith that moves mountains.

Eric Ludy: Do we know the power and grandeur of God in our day? Does our generation comprehend that the God of the Bible is without “shadow of turning” and that He is “the same yesterday, today, and forever.” There is a vast shortage of believers who simply believe with childlike faith that God will do what He says He will do and is worthy of our trust and is always faithful to His Word. Romans 4:19-21 (KJV)- 19And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb:20He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;21And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. 

There’s nothing our world needs more desperately today – in individuals, families, businesses, churches, and communities – than God’s saving, supernatural acts. And he’s ready to act if we will be bold enough to ask, not just for a good day or a better life, but for the impossible. Then step forward to act in audacious faith.

Each of us is called to be a Joshua—each in our own way, in our own circumstances, with our own God-given personality. As you’ll see in the pages ahead, you and I are called not just to have faith, but also to regularly activate our faith by asking God for giant outcomes, taking giant steps. If we have the audacity to ask, God has the ability to perform. That’s how God turns His amazing promises into everyday reality in every generation—for Joshua’s and for ours.You and I may not see the same miracles Joshua did, but we serve the same God. His nature never changes. The same power that stopped the sun and raised Christ from the grave lives in every believer. God still demonstrates His power and supplies His provision in direct proportion to the faith of his children.

Mark 11:22-24 (NIV):

22 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. 23 “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. 24Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

“Have the faith of God” (Young’s Literal Translation)

Do you have the faith of God? Or do you have the doubt of the world? Do you believe that God can move mountains through your faith? Or are you consumed with the avalanche of fear and anxiety and not confident that our God can and will move mountains with this God-inspired faith and child-like trust in Him and Him alone? Would you ask God for the sun to stand still? Or is that just too big and too impossible for your faith? God has not changed. He still loves and passionately desires to do the impossible. He is waiting for one person to energize His faith and move out with audacious faith that there is a God in heaven with unlimited power and ability who loves to move and rule in the affairs of men and women.

  1. We Love the World and the things of the world more than we love God.

Jesus life-changing question to Peter: “Do you love me more than these?”

I John 2:16,17: 15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

2 Timothy 2:3,4:  Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.

James 4:1ff: (Voice): Where do you think your fighting and endless conflict come from? Don’t you think that they originate in the constant pursuit of gratification that rages inside each of you like an uncontrolled militia? You crave something that you do not possess, so you murder to get it. You desire the things you cannot earn, so you sue others and fight for what you want. You do not have because you have chosen not to ask. And when you do ask, you still do not get what you want because your motives are all wrong—because you continually focus on self-indulgence. You are adulterers. Don’t you know that making friends with this corrupt world order is open aggression toward God? So anyone who aligns with this bogus world system is declaring war against the one true God. Do you think it is empty rhetoric when the Scriptures say, “The spirit that lives in us is addicted to envy and jealousy”? You may think that the situation is hopeless, but God gives us more grace when we turn away from our own interests. That’s why Scripture says, God opposes the proud,  but He pours out grace on the humble.So submit yourselves to the one true God and fight against the devil and his schemes. If you do, he will run away in failure. Come close to the one true God, and He will draw close to you. Wash your hands; you have dirtied them in sin. Cleanse your heart, because your mind is split down the middle, your love for God on one side and selfish pursuits on the other.

Quote from my upcoming book The Heart: The Key to Everything in the Christian Life:

The world will never love you like God loves you. He will never leave or forsake you, and He will always lead you in the path of true righteousness. Isn’t He worthy of owning ALL your heart and not just part of it? Why give away even the smallest part of your heart to the world? The world will never satisfy like God satisfies. It will only betray you in the long run like an unfaithful lover and lead you down a path of destruction.

Has your hearing become so dull, our eyes so blind, that you are giving leftovers of your heart to God? Francis Chan, in Crazy Love, says:

God wants our best, deserves our best, and demands our best. . . . [Yet] God gets a scrap or two only because we feel guilty for giving Him nothing. A mumbled three-minute prayer at the end of the day, when we are already half asleep. Two crumbled-up dollar bills thrown as an afterthought into the church’s fund for the poor. . . . We say to the Creator of all this magnitude and majesty, “Well, I’m not sure You are worth it. You see, I really like my car or my little sin habit or my money, and I am really not sure I want to give them up.” . . . How can we think for even a second that anything on this puny little earth compares to the Creator and Sustainer and Savior of it all?

This is the great deception of the kosmos, that God is not worthy of our best love, our first love, our greatest love. We give God only leftover scraps from the table of our hearts and forget His majesty and grandeur and how much how much our hearts need Him. Jesus declares to the church at Ephesus, “I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first” (Revelation 2:4). Does God really satisfy you? Are you consumed with God? Is God your first love? Carter Conlan, in The 180 Degree Christian; Serving Jesus in a Culture of Excess, says:

What I believe grieves God most is we have robbed Him of our hearts. It is as if He would say to us, “You have robbed Me of the full heart of surrender that I was looking for that would have allowed Me to fill you from the crown of your head to the soles of your feet. If only you would have turned to Me! I would have caused you to live such a profound life that you would have stood out as a light shining in a darkened world.”

6: We don’t want to give up our idols:

 Kyle Idleman in Gods at War: Defeating the Idols that Battle for Your Heart says:

Idolatry is the number one issue in the Bible…Idolatry comes into every book…What if I told you that every sin you are struggling with, every discouragement you are dealing with, even the lack of purpose you’re living with are because of idolatry?…Idolatry isn’t just one of many sins; rather it’s the one great sin that all others come from. So if you start scratching at whatever struggle you’re dealing with, eventually you’ll find that underneath it is a false god. Until that god is dethroned, and the Lord God takes His rightful place, you will not have victory. Idolatry isn’t an issue; it is the issue. All roads lead to the dusty, overlooked concept of false gods. Deal with life on the glossy outer layers and you might never see it; scratch a little beneath the surface, and you will begin to see that it is always there, under some coat of paint. There are a hundred million different symptoms, but the issue is always  idolatry.

I John 5:21: Little children, keep yourselves from idols. I Corinthians 10:14: Flee from idolatry.

An idol is anything that is more valued, loved, sought after, desired and honored than God. An idol is worshipped in place of God and becomes the obsession, passion and craving of the heart above all else. Timothy Keller in, Counterfeit Gods, says:

What is an idol? It is anything more important to you than God. It is anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give. A counterfeit god is anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living. An idol has such a controlling position in your heart that you can spend most of your passion and energy, your emotional and financial resources, on it without a second thought. It can be family and children, or career and making money, or achievement and critical acclaim, or saving “face” and social standing. It can be romantic relationship; peer approval, competence and skill, secure and comfortable circumstances, your beauty or your brain, a great political or social cause, your morality or virtue, or even success in the Christian ministry…An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, “If I have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning, then I’ll know I have value, then I’ll feel significant and secure”…If anything becomes more fundamental than God to your happiness, meaning in life, and identity, then it is an idol.

Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2010), 5.

Do you have an idol that has captured your heart?  What are you most devoted to? What occupies almost all your time? What commands your attention? What do you think about constantly? What makes you happy above all other things? What gives your life value and meaning? What absorbs you on a daily basis and controls your life? What consumes you? What can you not live without? What drives you on a daily basis? These questions are a litmus test to determine what idols you may have in your heart. These are mountaintop questions meant to reveal what has climbed to the peak of your heart. Martin Luther said, “Whatever your heart clings to and relies upon is your God; trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and idol.”

At the root of all idolatry is a misplaced trust in some person, object, idea or image above God. We trust the idol to make us whole and give us value. We have faith in the idol to fulfill its promises. We believe the idol more than we believe God. We lean on our idol in times of trouble. The idol has captured the gaze of our eyes. The idol becomes the voice we listen to. The idol energizes us to action.

We must tear down the altars to other idols in our hearts and worship the on true God always.

7: Christians have failed miserably to walk in unity but instead criticize, judge and destroy one another with their words, attitudes and actions.

Can you imagine that there are 41,000 Christian denominations and organizations? Are we missing something? Isn’t this another reason why Christianity has lost its effectiveness? Look at church history and it is not a pretty picture. Wars, inquisitions, bitter strife and schisms, persecutions, killings and hatred. How can the Body of Christ accomplish anything on earth when all of its members are warring against each other and pointing the finger of judgment? Nothing makes a mockery of Christianity more than disunity among believers. The Devil does everything in his power to keep the church divided as disunity has become a major obstacle in reaching the world with a life-changing gospel.

Look at the example of the First Century Church:

Acts 4:32-34a: Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them…

Acts 2:42-47: The community continually committed themselves to learning what the apostles taught them, gathering for fellowship, breaking bread, and praying.43 Everyone felt a sense of awe because the apostles were doing many signs and wonders among them. 44 There was an intense sense of togetherness among all who believed; they shared all their material possessions in need. 45 They sold any possessions and goods that did not benefit the community and used the money to help everyone in need. They were unified as they worshiped at the temple day after day. In homes, they broke bread and shared meals with glad and generous hearts. 47 The new disciples praised God, and they enjoyed the goodwill of all the people of the city. Day after day the Lord added to their number everyone who was experiencing liberation.

It takes humility, gentleness, patience and love to walk in unity as Christians. Are you eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace or eager to cause division and strife in the church by your judgmental attitude and critical words?

Ephesians 4:1-7: I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

There are to be NO divisions in the church but we are supposed to be united in the same mind and judgment. But instead we say oh I follow Calvin, oh I follow Luther, oh I follow the Pope, oh I follow the prosperity gospel and on and on and on. We quarrel over everything and bring mockery to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have emptied the cross of Christ of its power in modern day Christianity by our divisive actions.

I Corinthians 1:10ff: I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

We remain infants in Christ, never growing into maturity because there is jealousy, strife and division among us as we walk according to the flesh and not the spirit.

I Corinthians 3:1ff: But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

Colossians sets for the standard, the measuring rod for every Christian.

Colossians 3:12ff:  Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

There are to be no divisions by race, culture, geography, gender or denomination.

Galatians 3:28: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 

I Corinthians 12:12ff:  For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

We must stop the hatred, the division, the slander and the finger pointing among different Christian groups and denominations. Everyone thinks they are right and the other group is wrong. Remember we are all members of the Body of Christ and are supposed to be one in Christ Jesus. We will never be effective in the gospel until we put aside our petty squabbles and begin to walk in unity and love among each other. Romans 12 says in honor we are to prefer one another above ourselves. It is sad commentary in my over 40 years as a Christian when I have been persecuted, put down, criticized, slander and hated, 99% of the time it is coming from other Christians. Christians trying to destroy other Christians’ lives and ministries is far too common in modern day Christianity. The Devil is called the accuser of God’s brethren (Revelation 12:10) Why should we become his evangelists and spokepersons when we slander and judge our very own Christian brothers and sisters. The Bible says in Ephesians that NO corrupt communication is to come our mouths about anyone or anything but our words are to edify and minister grace to the hearers (Ephesians 4:29. What a change that would be. The Bible says we are to be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32). Where has the kindness and forgiveness gone in churches today. Why do we backbite and gossip and judge so much? Maybe we have forgotten what we were forgiven for. At every opportunity, we are to do good to everyone especially those who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10). Do you know much impact a kind word has, a tender touch and a helping has? Or are we like the priest and Levite who walk to the other side of the street when they see someone in need? Where is the compassion? Where is the love? Where is the empathy? We are supposed to walk and think Jesus Christ! (Philippians 2:5, I John 2:6, I Peter 2:24). How we have fallen short! We must watch out as Galatians wars that we do not bite and devour and are consumed by one another instead of spreading the gospel in word and deed (Galatians 5:15).

Let us heed Jesus’s prayer: John 17:20-23:  “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

8: Failure to Love: Waxed cold on love and waxed hot on gossiping, tearing down, criticism and judgment.

The Bible speaks eloquently to these issues. Now is the time to hear and obey it.

Matthew 24:12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will wax cold.

John 2:3-11:  And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because[a] the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him[b] there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

John 13:35: By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.  

Ephesians 5:2a: And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us…

Colossians 3:12ff:  Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

  1. Not Rendering Sin Unemployed:

Romans 6:4-6.11-13 (Amplified):

We were buried therefore with Him by the baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, so we too might habitually live and behave in newness of life. For if we have become one with Him by sharing a death like His, we shall also be one with Him in sharing His resurrection by a new life lived for God. We know that our old unrenewed self was nailed to the cross with Him in order that our body which is the instrument of sin might be made ineffective and inactive for evil, that we might no longer be the slaves of sin. Even so consider yourselves also dead to sin and your relation to it broken, but alive to God, living in unbroken fellowship with Him, in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore rule as king in your mortal, short-lived, perishable bodies, to make you yield to its cravings and be subject to its lusts and evil passions. Do not continue offering or yielding your bodily members and faculties to sin as instruments tools of wickedness. But offer and yield yourselves to God as though you have been raised from the dead to perpetual life, and your bodily members and faculties to God, presenting them as implements of righteousness. For sin shall not any longer exert dominion over you, since now you are not under Law as slaves, but under grace as subjects of God’s favor and mercy.

Colossians 3:5(a) Amplified:

So kill, deaden, deprive of power the evil desire (lust) lurking in your members [those animal impulses and all that is earthly in you that is employed in sin]…

Galatians 5:24, 25 (KJV):

And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

Phillips:

Those who belong to Christ have crucified their old nature with all that it loved and lusted for.

If our lives are centered in the Spirit, let us be guided by the Spirit.

We yield our hands, feet, mouth, eyes, ears and heart as tools of righteousness to our God, and never allow our body to be an instrument of sin.

  1. Silenced as to the gospel. Most Christians are ashamed to speak the gospel of Christ in the public arena. We have become passive in witnessing and sharing of the truths of God’s Word. We fear man more than we fear God. We are fearful of what people may think, fearful of being labeled a religious nut, fearful of rejection and ridicule, fearful of not being accepted and liked by our friends, neighbors and culture that we are silenced. We refuse to open our mouths and witness to the greatest message ever in the history of the world. We forget that Jesus was despised and rejected of men, hated by the religious established, mocked by the winds of culture. Romans 10:8-17: But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? 17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

You have been sent to preach this word of faith, the gospel, to every living person. No one can believe unless they hear and no one can hear without a preacher, someone holding it forth to them. We are all commissioned preachers of the gospel. We preach in two ways: By our words and by our lives. We are living epistles known and read of all people. (2 Corinthians 3:2). Our lives are preaching 24 hours a day which may turn many off from our words of sharing the truth of God’s Word. If we preach love, but judge, gossip and hate others our message has lost its power. If we preach Lordship but are sold out to the lusts of our flesh and our own selfishness than our message has little impact. If we preach compassion but refuse to give to meet the needs of others than our message becomes hypocritical. Our love must not be hypocritical or two-faced as Romans 12:9 declares. We cannot play the part when it comes to love. We do not become an actor when it comes to loving others. Putting on a show but really not caring much.

2 Corinthians 5:17-20: Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.

We have the ministry of reconciling men, women and children back to God and the word of reconciliation to accomplish this as ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ. You are an ambassador of Jesus Christ! Are you a silent ambassador with the ministry of reconciliation closing its doors in your life? Are people not hearing the gospel because you have chosen to remain silent?

We should hold forth the Word of life with boldness mixed with tenderness, grace, mercy and love in the power of the Holy Spirit. We should be like Stephen that people could not resist the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking (Acts 6:10).

Colossians 3:5,6: Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.

11. Lack of Devotion to Pray and Study and Meditation of the Word

 O how we have underestimated the power of prayer!!God has provided us a defense and power that will enable us to stand against the schemes and flaming arrows of our enemy-the Prayer of faith. Eric Ludy-Prayer is not some bb gun that God has given us to try to shoo away raccoons in the night. Prayer is nuclear power, world renovating in its epic strength. When used according to the pattern of Scripture, prayer alters history, alters the natural world, and alters the human soul. The Sword of the Spirit is too heavy for a mere man to carry, but prayer enables us to lift it, swing it, and transform the world around us with it. Prayer is the catalyst behind everything Godly taking place in the earth.

A. W. Tozer portrayed a praying Christian as a constant threat to the stability of Satan’s government writing that…

The Christian is a holy rebel loose in the world with access to the throne of God. Since prayer is detrimental to the evil one’s purposes, Satan and his minions do their utmost to interfere when we pray especially opposing us when we try to take time for prayer because the enemy knows better than most Christian’s the power of persistent prayer! In any posture, in any attire, at any time, in any place, and under any circumstance prayer is appropriate. Prayer is to be a total way of life, an open and constant communion with God.

Bona fide, heaven-inspired prayer-the kind that moves mountains and calms storms-is not something the modern church is use to. Prayer in our modern day has been diminished, and as a direct result, the power of the church of Jesus Christ has seemingly vanished. We are not a triumphant lot anymore, but rather a weak, sin-stained, defeated one. We lost our strength, our confidence, our absolute assurance that God is with us in battle. So many amongst our ranks are literally scared to fight because they honestly don’t know if they are going to win if they do. Lion-hearted prayer warriors are rare these days. Men and women with wild and holy abandon are so few nowadays as to be confused with being non-existent. Could it be you are the stuff of prayer legends and God is saying to you right now, “Its time my son or daughter. Rise up and live this life like you mean it!!” Will you be a part of a legendary generation of prayer heroes? Do you want a greater cause, a greater purpose, a greater destiny to fill your life? Then become a lionhearted prayer warrior for God.

EM Bounds- Our praying needs to be pressed and pursued with an energy that never tires, a persistency which will not be denied and a courage that never fails.

Colossians 4:2 (NASB)-Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; I Thessalonians 5:17 (NASB)-Pray without ceasing. Phillips-Never stop praying. Romans 12:12 (NIV) Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 

AW Tozer-The man who would know God must spend time with Him. True prayer demands more of our lives than most are willing to give and therefore few ever taste of its power and delights. You need to be radical in your prayer life.

2 Timothy 2:15: Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

John 5:39a; Search the Scriptures

Psalm 1:1-3 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
 nor sits in the seat of scoffers;but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.In all that he does, he prospers. 

We should be spending at least an hour a day in prayer and the Scriptures. We must make time for God in our busy lives. He must be number one priority. We must train our minds to think about Scripture during the day and meditate upon God’s promises. There is nothing better to think about. One hour a day can transform you, your family and the church in amazing ways. You will begin to reflect the image of Christ more and think like Jeus instead of like the world.

These 11 points are not a comprehensive list by any means but they will help the Body of Christ get back on track as shine as a bright light in this crooked world.

Tim Rowe

Goodness of God Ministries http://www.thegoodnessofgod.net

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The Sun of Righteousness Will Arise

sun-of-righteousness3THE SUN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS – The last prophet of the Old Testament wrote “For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,” says the LORD of hosts, “so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear My Name the SUN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS will rise with healing in His wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall.” (Mal 4:1-2) And so the Old Testament closes with the prophecy of the day of the Lord and the coming of the Sun of Righteousness. The New Testament ends with the testimony “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, the BRIGHT MORNING STAR.” (Rev 22:16) Who promises that to those who “hold fast until I come…who overcome (not a special group but all believers – see 1Jn 5:4-5)…who do  my will to the end…I will give the MORNING STAR” (Rev 2:25-28) Christ Himself as our eternal possession! Hallelujah! The prophet Daniel adds “those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” (Da 12:3) Dear tried and true saint remember that though we live in a time of great spiritual darkness, the MORNING STAR heralds the SUN RISING with healing in His wings. In the meantime, we must hold fast to (and be held fast by) “the prophetic word made more sure, to which we do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the MORNING STAR arises in our hearts.” (2Pe 1:19) The darker the night becomes the brighter the MORNING STAR shines and the nearer must be the hour of the fulfillment of the pledge of the Sun of Righteousness to come again. This blessed event, the Second Coming, is the hope of the church, the hope of Israel and the hope of the world. Just as the sun drives away darkness and clouds, bringing light and joy, so the Sun of Righteousness will appear to forever dispel gloom, oppression, and injustice. “As the sun is full of light, the ocean full of water, Heaven full of glory, so may our hearts be full of Thee, O Sun of Righteousness.” (A Puritan Prayer)

The One described as the Sun of Righteousness can be no other than Jesus Christ Himself to Whom the ends of the earth will sing “Glory to the Righteous One,” (Isa 24:16),  the “Righteous Branch of David shall spring forth” (Jer 33:15), the One Who “loves righteousness and justice” (Ps 33:5), the One Who brings healing in His wings causing the unrighteous to “become the righteousness of God in Him” (2Cor 5:21), for “by His doing (we) are in Christ Jesus, Who became to us…righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” (1Cor 1:30) And at the end of this age the Sun of Righteousness will rise “to judge the world in righteousness” (Ps 96:13), and “all the arrogant and every evil doer will be chaff.” (Malachi 4:1) “In His days the righteous will flourish, and abundance of peace till the moon is no more,” (Ps 72:7)  and in that day “the earth will be filled With the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” (Hab 2:14) May our song ever be “Christ, Whose glory fills the skies, Christ, the true, the only Light, Sun of Righteousness, arise, Triumph o’er the shades of night, Dayspring from on high, be near, Daystar, in my heart appear.” (C Wesley)

Spurgeon writes that while the Son of Righteousness rising with healing in His wings was “fulfilled once in the first advent of our glorious Lord, and will yet have a fuller accomplishment in his second advent, this gracious word is also for daily use. Is it dark time with you reader? Does the night deepen into a denser blackness? Still let us not despair: the Sun will yet rise. When the night is darkest, dawn is nearest. The Sun which will arise is of no common sort. It is the Sun—the Sun of Righteousness, Whose every ray is holiness. He Who comes to cheer us, comes in the way of justice as well as of mercy, comes to violate no law even to save us. Jesus displays the holiness of God as much as His love. Our deliverance, when it comes, will be safe because it is righteous. Our one point of inquiry should be—“Do we fear the Name of the Lord? Do we reverence the living God, and walk in His ways?” (Mal 4:2) Then for us the night must be short; and when the morning comes, all the sickness and sorrow of our soul will be over forever. Light, warmth, joy, and clearness of vision will come, and healing of every disease and distress will follow. Has Jesus risen upon us? Let us sit in the light of the Sun. Has He hidden His face? Let us wait for His rising. He will shine forth as surely as the sun.” And while we wait we sing “Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace! Hail the Sun of Righteousness! Light and life to all He brings, Ris’n with healing in His wings.” (C. Wesley)

Ralph Erskine rightly said that “The sun in the sky is only a shadow of the Sun of Righteousness and of His glory.”  The sun is the great star of our galaxy but the Son’s brilliance infinitely outshines the sun. Balaam prophesied of a Star, the Sun of Righteousness, declaring “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A STARshall come forth from Jacob, and a scepter (King) shall rise from Israel.” (Nu 24:17) Habakkuk saw an incredible vision of the Sun of Righteousness rising declaring “His radiance is like the SUNLIGHT. He has rays flashing from His hand, and there is the hiding of His power.” (Hab 3:4) The wise men asked “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His STAR in the east, and have come to worship Him.” (Mt 2:2) Zacharias filled with the Holy Spirit, prophesied of the coming of the Sun of Righteousness, saying “Because of the tender mercy of our God, with which theSUNRISE (DAYSPRING – KJV) from on high shall visit us, to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace (“with healing in His wings”).” (Luke 1:78-79) Peter, James and John saw Him on the mount “And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the SUN, and His garments became as white as light.” (Mt 17:2) Paul was healed in a moment by the Sun of Righteousness when “at midday (he) saw on the way (to Damascus) a light from heaven, brighter than the SUN, shining all around.” (Acts 26:13) John “was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day” and beheld the Sun of Righteousness testifying that “in His right hand He held seven stars; and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the SUN shining in its strength.” (Rev 1:16) And because Jesus is the Sun of Righteousness, John writes “the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining” (1Jn 2:8) and in that glorious day to come “the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb.” (Rev 21:23) Hold on, dear stormed tossed child of God. The Sun of Righteousness will soon rise with healing in His wings! “One day He’s coming. O glorious day! O glorious day!” (Song by Casting Crowns)

Spurgeon again applies the truths of Sun of Righteousness – “Believer, in the midst of plenty there is a famine if your Lord is absent. The sun may shine, but if Christ is hidden all your world is dark and it is night (cp Jn 13:30). Is the Bright and Morning Star gone and there is no other star to yield a ray of light in its place? What a howling wilderness this world is without our Lord! If we do not see Him our flowers wither, our enjoyable fruits decay, the birds stop singing, and storms overturn our hopes. All the lights of earth cannot produce daylight if the Sun of Righteousness is eclipsed. He is the Soul of our soul, the Light of our light (Jn 8:12), the Life of our life (Col 3:4). Dear believer, what would you do with the temptations and cares of this world if you did not have Him? What would you do when you awaken and prepare for the day’s battle if you did not have Him? What would you do at night when you arrive home exhausted and weary if there were no door of fellowship between you and Christ? Blessed be His name, the Sun of Righteousness. He will not leave you. His promise is sure, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb 13:5 – Greek has 5 negatives!) When you think what life would be like without Him, it magnifies His preciousness.” May our prayer daily be “Sun of my soul, Thou Saviour dear, It is not night if Thou be near; O may no earth-born cloud arise, To hide Thee from Thy servant’s eyes.” (John Keble)

The Sun of Righteousness has come. He has risen from the grave! He is here. He has risen in the hearts of those who fear Him with a sense of reverence and awe! And He will come again “on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory” (Mt 24:30) and we will come with Him “clothed in fine linen, white and clean, on white horses” (Rev 19:14)! O glorious day! Indeed, the Sun of Righteousness has come and He has risen, shattering the power of sin and death that we might be justified by grace through faith in His glorious Gospel of peace (Eph 6:15). Then the Sun of Righteousness rose from the earth (Acts 1:9-11), sending us His Spirit, the Helper, the Spirit of Truth (Jn 15:26), that we might might be sanctified and transformed from glory to glory, as with unveiled faces we behold as in a mirror the glory of the Lord (2Cor 3:18). And yet the best is yet to come for when the Sun of Righteousness rises with healing in His wings “we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is.” (1Jn 3:2-3) and “we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” for “this perishable will put on the imperishable and this mortal will but on immortality” (1Cor 15:51-54) Dear child of God, “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Ro 8:18) Therefore “let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary,” (Gal 6:9). Instead may God’s Spirit grant us faith to wait for the LORD that we might gain new strength (exchange His strength for our weakness) and mount up with wings like eagles, able to run and not get tired, able to walk and not become weary (Isa 40:31), ever mindful that the Sun of Righteousness says “Yes, I am coming quickly.” And so we cry “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus.” (Rev 22:20)

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This Same Jesus: He is Coming

blue-sky-and-white-clouds-high-definition-green-skyEcclesiastes 3:11: He has planted eternity in the human heart.

Eternity: What would you do if you knew this is your last year, or month, week or day upon the earth? Do you ever think about eternity? Have you ever thought what is going to happen to you after this life? What is waiting for you when you die? Is it important? Have you ever thought that there is a spiritual world just as real as the physical world? Have you made any preparations for eternity? Why not? Our physical lives are so short and pass so quickly. What is 60,70,80 years when compared to eternity? What do you think is more important: making preparations for this life or for eternity? The Bible calls it everlasting life and it does not end. Death is not the final chapter.

It has always been difficult for men to believe that there are unseen realities, invisible to human eye and investigation, but, nevertheless, very real and very important. Do you desire that your life count for something great? Do you long for your life to have eternal significance? It is not too late. Your decision can change everything tonight.

You get one pass at life. That’s all. Only one. And the lasting measure of that life is Jesus Christ. He is the standard in which every life will be measured.

John 3:16,18: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already , because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

John 5:24: 24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.

CS Lewis: Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.

God is called the God of the hope in Romans 15. With God there is always a future better than you can ever imagine. Hope is the anchor of the soul: Hebrews 6:19a: We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure . No matter how rough the waters, hope anchors us.

Proverbs 22:15: Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.

Deuteronomy 33:27: The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are his everlasting arms.

God is eternal and He has given an eternal hope to those who trust in Him. This hope begins with these three words: “Jesus is coming!”

Acts 1:6-11: When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.10 And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.

At any moment, any time, and at any day Christ could return. God promises this with certainty. This same Jesus is coming back to earth. The word “coming” in the Greek speaks of the personal presence of the one coming. This is not a metaphor or figure of speech. Jesus himself is coming back.

The hope in Scripture: Starts with Christ return but is so much more. It includes a resurrection, new bodies, rewards at the bema seat of Christ, judgment of the wicked, Christ’s millennial kingdom and the new heavens and earth.

The hope is the cure for a troubled heart. John 14:1-6: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?] And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”] Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Prepare-to make ready, to make the necessary preparations. Jesus is preparing a place FOR YOU. You have an exclusive room in the Father’s house. But this only comes thru Jesus and no other.

The gathering together or rapture as promised in Scriptures:

I Thessalonians 4: 13-18:  But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

He is coming back to bring you home. You were born to be with Him. The Lord Himself is coming for you. You will meet him in the air, see him face to face and always be with the Lord. This is God’s promise. This is the hope.

Before the foundations of the earth, You created me. Before I took my first breath,

You breathed life into me. Before I ever loved You, You loved me first. Before there was time, You numbered my days.

When I carried hatred and rage in my heart, You taught me to love. When terror and fear consumed me, Your perfect love cast them out. When I crumpled from the weight of my sin and shame, You paid for it all and lifted me up! When I struggled to forgive those who hurt me, You filled me with Your mercy and love.

And, Lord, though it seems the whole world is against me, As long as You love me, what does it matter? And, Lord, when I am alone and in pain, this I remember: You promised to never forsake me and stay with me always. And, Lord, every time that I stumble and fall, You lift me up, with Your righteous right hand. And, Lord, though some are born for fortune and fame, I know that I was born to be with YOU!

The 2nd great section of Scripture on the rapture and the hope:

I Corinthians 15:49-58:  And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,52 In 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.53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.54 So 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.55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

Romans 8:15-25: 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

What can compare to the hope?: The glory that will be revealed in you!

Philippians 3:20,21: But we are citizens of heaven, exiles on earth waiting eagerly for a Liberator, our Lord Jesus the Anointed, to come and 21 transform these humble, earthly bodies into the form of His glorious body by the same power that brings all things under His control.

For the Christian, this earth is not our home. We are exiles in a foreign country. He promises to transform our earthly bodies at His return.

Hebrews 2:10, 13-16: For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. 13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

Heaven is our true homeland, our true city not this world. This was the hope of Abraham and the hope of the Christian believer.

Hebrews 9:27,28:And just as it is appointed for all men once to die, and after that the certain judgment, 28 Even so it is that Christ, having been offered to take upon Himself and bear as a burden the sins of many once and [d]once for all, will appear a second time, not to carry any burden of sin nor to deal with sin, but to bring to full salvation those who are eagerly, constantly, and patiently waiting for and expecting Him.

If we live each day in expectation of his return, how would that change us? How would our daily activities change? How would our goals in life change? How would our passions and motivations change? God promised Jesus is most assuredly coming back. He cannot lie. Are you ready for the day of Christ’s return?

No one will escape the day of Christ’s return. It will affect every human who ever lived. There are three resurrections at different times as every person who has ever died will be raised and stand before God at one of the three judgment seats either the bema, the throne of Christ’s judgment or the Great White Throne Judgment.

Luke 21:25-34: 25 “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26 people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”29 And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. 30 As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth.

Some may doubt Christ will come back. Some think it is foolishness but you would do well to take heed to these words for all the doubters:

2 Peter 3:1-13: This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires.They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you,[a] not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

The fate of the scoffer, mocker and unbeliever:

Revelation 6:15-17 And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;16 And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:17 For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?

Revelation 20:11-15 11 And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

These are sobering words to those who have rejected Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. This verdict from the Great White Throne Judgment is final and eternal. They will die the second death and never enjoy the blessings of eternity with their Creator.

The day of the Lord’s return will come as a thief in the night at an hour no one will expect. I Thessalonians 5:1-11: Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers,[a] you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the nightWhile people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.For you are all children[b] of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

Matthew 24:36-44: 36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son,[b] but the Father only. 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left.42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

Therefore, we patiently wait for His return with eager expectation that it may happen today: James 5:7-9:  But be patient, my brothers, as you wait for the Lord to come. Look at the farmer quietly awaiting his precious harvest. See how he has to possess his soul in patience till the land has had the early and late rains. So must you be patient, resting your hearts on the ultimate certainty. The Lord’s coming is very near.Don’t make complaints against each other in the meantime my brothers (as you wait for Christ’s return)—you may be the one at fault yourself. The judge himself is already at the door.

Every eye will see His return. Will it cause us great joy or great sorrow? Will it cause us great excitement or great regret?

Revelation 1:4b-8: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail] on account of him. Even so. Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

The magnificent appearance of the King of Kings:

Revelation 12:12-18: 12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest.14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

Only Jesus has the keys to Death and Hades and the key to life.

Thousands of Scriptures prophesied about the second coming of Christ. It is a major theme in the Bible verifying its truth and importance. It will happen because God has promised it will happen.

Daniel 7:13,14: “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven    there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days    and was presented before him.14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion,  which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one  that shall not be destroyed.

His kingdom will never end. It will never be overthrown, expire or fade away.

The promise of a new heavens and earth:

Revelation 21:1-6: Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place] of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.[c] He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.

Revelation 21:3-7a: No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants[c] will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.”“And behold, I am coming soon.20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.

Jesus last words in the Bible he says twice to emphasize the certainty of what He is saying. It will definitely come to pass. No power in this world can stop it. No government or religion can forbid it: Jesus proclaims: “Surely I am coming soon!”

The Great Banquet with the King

Luke 14:15-23: When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’

21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’22 “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’”

Are we making excuses for being indifferent to eternity? Are we making excuses why we are not accepting Jesus invitation of salvation and eternal life? Is anything tonight more important than this this. God wants you to enjoy eternity with Him and His Son. He want to give you eternal life, pay for your sins and open the door to eternity with Him. This is where you belong. This is how valuable you are to God. He paid the price. You just have to accept the invitation. He wants to write your name in the book of life.

Romans 10:9,10: The acceptance of the invitation

Ephesians 2:1-10: The promise of salvation

I John 3:1-3: The Promise of His coming and our future transformation.

We do not need to be discouraged for he is coming. We must focus on eternity and the future glories of His kingdom.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18:So we have no reason to despair. Despite the fact that our outer humanity is falling apart and decaying, our inner humanity is breathing in new life every day. 17 You see, the short-lived pains of this life are creating for us an eternal glory that does not compare to anything we know here. 18 So we do not set our sights on the things we can see with our eyes. All of that is fleeting; it will eventually fade away. Instead, we focus on the things we cannot see, which live on and on.

I want you to think about these words tonight? Are you ready to meet Jesus face to face? Are you prepared for His second coming? It is not too late. Confess Him as your Lord tonight, repent and believe that God raised Him form dead. Receive His gift of salvation. Let our cry be, “Come Lord Jesus!”

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The Heart of the Father

bigstock-Happy-family-EditHere are my teaching notes for Wheeler Homeless Mission tonight on this Father’s Day:

The one great yearning of the heart of God is to be a Father and this was His great and earnest desire since the beginning of time. God as a Father is one of the most amazing truths in the entire Bible as the whole purpose of God restoring the earth after the fall of Lucifer from heaven was to have children that He could cherish and be their Father. E.W. Kenyon, inThe Father and His Family, says:                           

What is the reason for the earth? …The heart of the great Creator God had a yearning, deep, mighty, eternal. It was the primordial passion for children. The Father heart of the Creator God longed for sons and daughters. The yearning passion took form and God planned a universe for His Man, and in the heart of that universe He purposed a Home…When love laid the foundations of this mighty universe, He planned, He purposed it all to be the Home of His Man. It was to be Man’s birthplace, Man’s Garden of Delight, Man’s university where he would learn to know his Father God…God’s heart yearned for children, craved for sons and daughters. He had angels to minister to Him as servants, but He wanted children…What a place that Man must hold in His heart, in his dream, in His Eternity!

Adam and Eve were formed, made, and created to live in the fullness of the presence of God and to worship Him. This is what God always wanted. This was God’s dream. God wanted to be with His children; He wanted to delight in them and treasure them; He wanted to be close to them; He wanted His children to delight in Him and come running with joy into His presence. He put Adam and Eve at the pinnacle of His creation and set them apart from all the birds, fish, cattle, and animals on the earth, for they were created in the image of God. Adam and Eve were designed to have a personal, vital, and living relationship with God as their Father.

Jesus Christ is the mediator that paid the price of Adam’s sin and reconciled back to the heart of the Father. John 14:6: Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. No one can have God has His father except thru Jesus Christ. He is the way back to the Father. Jesus also revealed or made known God as a Heavenly Father whom we can address in the most intimate terms as ABBA. He showed us the Fathers heart. He was the perfect illustration of the Father.

John 1:18: 18 No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him (made him known).

The Jewish religious leaders sought to kill Jesus because he called God his father (John 5:18) The Jews insisted, ‘We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God’.” (John 19:6-7). This was his crime against society was claiming God was His Father. The Devil intensely hated this about the ministry of Jesus and the message of the gospel. The Devil wants to step in that role as a spiritual father (John 8:44).

It is certainly true that God made the heavens and the earth. He is the Creator and Sustainer, and is worthy of our adoration and worship. Yet the Word reveals that the moment I accepted Jesus as my Lord, I became a member of the family of God. Thus the emphasis should be upon the fact that God is my Father. Our highest privilege and deepest need is to experience the holy God as our loving Father, to approach Him without fear and to be assured of His fatherly care and concern….But cannot this be said of every person, Christian or not? Emphatically no! The idea that all are children of God is not found in the Bible anywhere. The gift of sonship to God becomes ours not through being born, but through being born again in Christ (John 1:12-13).    God is the Father of all who believe in Christ in a special sense not shared by unbelievers. God is called their Father because they have a new standing before Him. When we believe in Christ as Savior, our estate is wonderfully changed from grim condemnation to privileged sonship. This new standing grants to all believers the legal right and spiritual privileges of divine sonship: “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Ro 8:17). God is the Father of believers also in the sense that He gives them new life through the new birth. 

If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all. For everything that Christ taught, everything that makes the New Testament new, and better than the Old, everything that is distinctively Christian as opposed to merely Jewish, is summed up in the knowledge of the Fatherhood of God. “Father” is the Christian name for God.

I John 3:1,2: See(Behold) what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

(Behold – KJV) (idete – verb = horao) means to discern clearly (physical or mental), and does not call for the reader to merely “see”, but also to have an actual perception of the object. God is saying with the word “Behold”: Stop everything else! Look at this! Think about it! Ponder its significance!

John calls upon his readers to contemplate the amazing reality of present membership in God’s family.

Think about it, mediate upon it, and let it consume your vision. See how great a love – Not just “love” but “great love”!. Beloved, have you ever asked Him to illumine this great truth in your mind and heart? What will happen to our thoughts, words and deeds when He answers affirmatively? Will not we “fall on our face” at having been shown to be unworthy benefactors of His ineffable, infinite, invaluable, never failing love? Will not this sense of His love poured out in our heart by His Spirit motivate us to live for Him rather than for ourselves?

Children of God is not simply a high-sounding name that we bear; it is a reality! We are God’s children! We do not expect the world to understand this thrilling relationship, because it does not even understand God. Only a person who knows God through Christ can fully appreciate what it means to be called a child of God.

Children: (teknon from tikto = to bring forth or bear children ) literally refers to those who are “born ones” and in the plural (tekna) refers to descendants, posterity or children, those viewed in relation to their parents or family. Here teknon is used to refer to those who have by grace through faith been born again from above (by the Spirit – John 3:5678Ephesians 2:89). It is a literal birth with God’s incorruptible seed, sealed with the holy spirit. (I Peter 1:23;Ephesians 1:14).

God’s emphasis in text: “And we are!” so we know this truth assuredly.

2 Corinthians 6:16ff: What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,” I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.17 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you,18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” The fatherhood of God separates us from this sinful world.

Father is God’s family name which can be uttered with its full significance only by His children, those in the family having been born again by His Spirit. As John makes clear even though all men are made in the image of God, not all men are His children…He (Jesus) came to His own (Jews), and those who were His own did not receive (take into their possession, join themselves to) Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:111213)

Because God is our heavenly Father, we do not come to Him in fear and trembling, afraid that He will rebuff us or be indifferent. We do not come to God to appease Him as the pagans do to their deities. We come to a tender, loving, concerned, compassionate, accepting Father. A loving human father always accepts the advances of his children, even when they have been disobedient or ungrateful. How much more does our heavenly Father accept His children, regardless of what they have done or not done? Paul approaches the Father with boldness and confidence, knowing that He is more willing for His children to come to Him than they ever are of going to Him. He knows that God has been waiting all the while with a Father’s heart of love and anticipation.

Matthew 7:9-11:  Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

“How much more!” is the standard of our Heavenly Father.

Galatians 4:1-4:  But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Verse 8ff: During the time before you knew God, you were slaves to powers that are not gods at all. But now, when you are just beginning to know the one True God—actually, He is showing how completely He knows you—how can you turn back to weak and worthless idols made by men, icons of these spiritual powers? Haven’t you endured enough bondage to these breathless idols?

Jesus Himself used Abba (Aramaic for “Father”) in addressing God, a use without parallel in the whole of Jewish literature. Abba was the word used by a young infant addressing his or her father. It was an everyday family word, which no one had ventured to use in addressing God. It would be like saying “daddy.” Jesus uses it quite naturally to address His heavenly Father in as childlike, trustful, and intimate a way as a little child to its father. And He was saying, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for Thee; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what Thou wilt.” (Mark 14:36)

 

Abba is one of the great names of God. No other Name so completely reflects the reversal of the curse and the separation that resulted from Adam’s sin bringing separation to all Adam’s sons of disobedience (Eph 2:2Eph 5:6). We can now openly address God as Abba, because of the finished work of His Son. Hallelujah! Abba is transliterated into English from the corresponding Aramaic word. Abba conveys a warm, intimate sense just as with our expression “Dear father.” Abba emphasizes the warm, intimate and very personal relationship which exists between the believer and God. In Abba filial tenderness, trust and love find their combined expression.

William Barclay

There is a world of loveliness in this word Abba, which to our western ears is altogether hidden, unless we know the facts about it. Joachim Jeremias, in his book The Parables of Jesus, writes thus: “Jesus’ use of the word Abba in addressing God is unparalleled in the whole of Jewish literature. It was an everyday family word, which no one had ventured to use in addressing God. Jesus did. He spoke to His heavenly Father in as childlike, trustful, and intimate a way as a little child to its father.” Even when he did not fully understand, even when his one conviction was that God was urging him to a cross, he called Abba, as might a little child. Here indeed is trust, a trust which we must also have in that God whom Jesus taught us to know as Father.

Abba expresses the intimacy of the family relationship as one would expect from an unhesitating trust and dependence from a child who is wholly secure in the loving arms of their father. “Abba.” It is the word of the babe, when first in that dialect he knows the filial language, and reads the father’s soul in his eyes; the simplest articulation of language; the most trustful outburst of affection—”Abba, Father.”

Romans 8:12-20a: So, my brothers and sisters, you owe the flesh nothing! You do not need to live according to its ways, so abandon its oppressive regime. 13 For if your life is just about satisfying the impulses of your sinful nature, then prepare to die. But if you have invited the Spirit to destroy these selfish desires, you will experience life. 14 If the Spirit of God is leading you, then take comfort in knowing you are His children. 15 You see, you have not received a spirit that returns you to slavery, so you have nothing to fear. The Spirit you have received adopts you and welcomes you into God’s own family. That’s why we call out to Him, “Abba! Father!” as we would address a loving daddy16 Through that prayer, God’s Spirit confirms in our spirits that we are His children. 17 If we are God’s children, that means we are His heirs along with the Anointed, set to inherit everything that is His. If we share His sufferings, we know that we will ultimately share in His glory.18 Now I’m sure of this: the sufferings we endure now are not even worth comparing to the glory that is coming and will be revealed in us. 19 For all of creation is waiting, yearning for the time when the children of God will be revealed. 20 You see, all of creation has collapsed into emptiness,

Spurgeon adds that “this sweet word Abba was chosen to show us that we are to be very natural with God, and not stilted and formal. We are to be very affectionate and come close to Him, and not merely say “Pater,” which is a cold Greek word (for father), but say “Abba,” which is a warm, natural, loving word, fit for one who is a little child with God, and feels the freedom to lie in His bosom and look up into His face and speak with holy boldness. Abba is but a babe’s lisping. Oh, how near we are to God when we can use such speech! How dear He is to us and dear we are to Him when we may address Him in this manner. (Abba) implies a fervent cry, not a flippant utterance nor mere words on our lips, but a cry that comes up from the depths of our soul. We cry after Him (Ps 57:2), our heart and our flesh cry out for God (Ps 34:17 Ps 119:145), for the living God (Ps 42:2Ps 84:2), and this is the cry “Abba, Father, I must know Thee, I must taste Thy love, I must dwell under Thy wing (Ruth 2:12), I must behold Thy face (Ps 11:7Ps 17:15), I must feel Thy great fatherly heart overflowing and filling my heart with peace (Rom 15:13). If an earthly father watches over his children with unceasing love and care, how much more does our heavenly Father? Abba, Father! He who can say this, hath uttered better music than cherubim or seraphim can cry! There is heaven in the depth of Abba! Father! There is all that I need! All that I can ask! All that my necessities can demand! All that my wishes can desire! I have all in all to all eternity when I can say, “Abba! Father!”

Psalm 89:1,8,13-16,26: I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations. O Lord God of hosts, who is mighty as you are, O Lord, with your faithfulness all around you? You have a mighty arm; strong is your hand, high your right hand. 14 Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.15 Blessed are the people who know the festal shout, who walk, O Lord, in the light of your face,who exult in your name all the day and in your righteousness are exalted. He shall cry to me, ‘You are my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation.’

The Father is the Rock of our salvation, faithful with steadfast love, strong and mighty in His protection, filling us with joy as we make know His name.

The relationship Jesus Christ had with the Father is a model of the relationship we should have with the Father. He was ever conscious of his Father’s love and presence.–He lived in the present tense of his Father’s love, which was so real as to rob his life of all sense of loneliness (John 5:208:29). He knew that his Father heard Him always, as his spirit rose in perpetual fellowship and communion, unhindered by the densest clouds of human unbelief (John 11:42). Yes, there was something deeper still in his habitual realization that the Father dwelt in Him; so that his words, and works, and influence, and plan of life were the perpetual working out of what his Father was working in (John 5:17;14:10). And why should not we live in a fellowship equally hallowed and close? It was his one desire that his relationship with his Father should be the model of our relationship with Himself (John 17:212223). He was perpetually engaged in reading the open book of his Father’s will.–He had no will of his own to seek, no object of his own to serve (John 5:30). He had come, in his Father’s name, to do his Father’s will, and to glorify his Father’s name (John 5:3043;17:4). It was the passion of his being to do God’s work on God’s plan. And his eye was thus ever kept on the movement of the cloud of his Father’s unfolding purpose. The Father showed the Son what He was doing. And the Son, having seen it, translated it into the language of daily human life (John 5:20). But what a model for ourselves! He waited for the Father to show Him what next He would have Him do. The pattern of his life was gradually outspread before Him, as that of the tabernacle was unfolded before the great lawgiver, shut up with God. He seemed ever a learner in his Father’s workshop, making all things on the pattern shown Him from hour to hour. This made Him so still, so calm, unmoved by difficulty, unperturbed amid a hail of murderous stones (John 8:59;9:4). And it would bring rest, and unity, and power, into our own lives, if it were the one purpose of our being to discover and do only the good works which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. Better do less that we may do more. Better stand still than run without being sent. Better withdraw oftener from the valley to the brow of the Transfiguration mount, than, by fussy activity, miss the radiant vision, and the bitter need which waits for us at the mountain foot.

Jesus said in John 6:57: “I live by the Father” This should be our cry of Christian living.

John 10:27-29:  My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. (What comfort to know that no fear, worry, person, circumstance or power can snatch us from our Father).

John 14:23: 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

We are the home, the dwelling place of our Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus.

John 16:31,32:  Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? 32 Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.

The Father will never abandon us or leave us alone.

John 17:23, 25, 26: I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. ” O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

The Father loves us just as much as He loves Jesus. The Father’s love is to dwell in us. Jesus wants us to know intimately the name of God as Father.

Luke 2:49: And He said to them, How is it that you had to look for Me? Did you not see and know that it is necessary [as a duty] for Me [n]to be in My Father’s house and [occupied] about My Father’s business?

Matthew 6:24ff: There is no anxiety when we know and have faith is God as our Father. If he takes care of the birds and the flowers, He will take care of us.

Matthew 10:29-30: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”                  The Father knows every intimate detail of our lives and we are of great value to Him.

Heart of the Father with the prodigal son: Luke 15:1ff. The Father was looking for him to return and ran to meet son regardless of his past sins and rebellion. The Father celebrated with great fanfare for the return of his lost son. God even sings and dances over us:

Zephaniah 3:17: The Lord your God is in your midst,  a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. “Rejoice over you” – literally means “dance, skip, leap, and spin around in joy.” God dances with shouts of joy over us!

This is the Father’s love: “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3).

The Heart of the Heavenly Father is seen in His name Yahweh. Everything that God is, is for the benefit of His children. Yahweh is the name that represents a personal invitation to partake fully in everything He is, to enjoy and experience the fullness of God in all His glorious and manifold characteristics. There is no limit and there is no boundary to what God can do in our lives. The ancient cultures had thousands of gods for every occasion, problem, and area of life. But the name Yahweh declares that God is the only one you ever need in every circumstance, every age, every season and every area of life. He is the all-sufficient One, our all in all and everything that is necessary for life and godliness is satisfied in Him. If God be for us who can be against us? Jeremiah 32:17 boldly proclaims that nothing is too hard for Yahweh. There is no mountain in life that Yahweh cannot move; there is no obstacle in life that Yahweh cannot overcome; and there is no need in life that Yahweh cannot abundantly provide. Yahweh is the solution, the answer, and the key to everything in life.

Yahweh means “He who will be; the ‘Coming One’ or ‘Becoming One.’ Yahweh is the “Coming One”, always ready to come to the rescue and deliver His children from any enemy, any problem, any oppression and any circumstance. He is ever ready to intercede with all His might and power when we call upon His name. He will come like lightening to fight all the battles of His beloved sons and daughters if we will only turn and cry out to Him. Yahweh is also the “Becoming One” God becomes whatever is lacking in our time of need. Do not get frustrated if you did not see the promise come to pass immediately for God is faithful to what He promises and it would come to pass in His time not theirs. God’s promise always come to pass without exception. We live in the instant generation wanting everything right now and that is why most Christians have a hard time waiting on God. We give up on our faith, we easily lose confidence in God and we began to doubt His promises because we become impatient with His timetable. We must learn to see with the eyes of faith for we know the flawless character of our God. His faithfulness is beyond human comprehension. His trustworthiness is beyond approach. His timing is always perfect. He is Yahweh, the Coming One, and when the time for the fulfillment of the promise arrives, He comes without delay.

Our pledge to the Father. We can minister to the heart of the Father.

Psalm 101:2-4: I will walk with integrity of heart within my house;I will not set before my eyes  anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me.A perverse heart shall be far from me; I will know nothing of evil. I will look with favor on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; he who walks in the way that is blameless shall minister to me.

He is ravenous to consume you with His lovingkindness and tender mercies. You are His obsession. God wants you. He wants more of you. He wants all of you. He wants you now. God wants to teach you to hear His voice continually, use His strength constantly and experience His love fully. God wants you to know Him better and better as your Father.

The Promise of the Father: The gift of holy spirit:

Acts 1:4-8: And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me;for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 2:38-41:And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

Magnificent Blessings of the Father through Jesus Christ

Ephesians 1:2-6: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

Ephesians 2:12,13-16,18-22: Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.   18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Galatians 1:3-5: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

The Father is the God of all mercies and comfort who will never leave us in our time of need. He is the God of hope and grace.

2 Corinthians 1:3,4: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

2 Thessalonians 2:14-17:  To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, 17 comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.

James 1:27: Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (Don’t allow the world to stain your relationship with the Father).

I John 1:3: That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

The love of the world versus the love of the father.

I John 2:15-18a: Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.18 Children, it is the last hour…

The Father’s comforting and uplifting promise to His children in Hebrews:

Hebrews 13:5-7 (Amplified): Let your character or moral disposition be free from love of money [including greed, avarice, lust, and craving for earthly possessions] and be satisfied with your present [circumstances and with what you have]; for He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor [c]give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down ([f]relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!]So we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently and boldly say, The Lord is my Helper; I will not be seized with alarm [I will not fear or dread or be terrified]. What can man do to me?

God has tattooed us on the palms of His hands and promises He will never forget us and will always have compassion on us.

Isaiah 49:15, 16: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.16 Behold, I have engraved (tattooed) you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.

Isaiah 41:10,13: Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you,  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”

How deeply the Father knows and understand us:

Psalm 139 O Eternal One, You have explored my heart and know exactly who I am; You even know the small details like when I take a seat and when I stand up again.     Even when I am far away, You know what I’m thinking. You observe my wanderings and my sleeping, my waking and my dreaming,     and You know everything I do in more detail than even I know. You know what I’m going to say long before I say it.     It is true, Eternal One, that You know everything and everyone. You have surrounded me on every side, behind me and before me,     and You have placed Your hand gently on my shoulder. It is the most amazing feeling to know how deeply You know me, inside and out;

I Peter 5:7: Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully.

Never forget the awesome truth of God as our Heavenly Father. He is the perfect Father loving and caring for us in a way that is beyond human comprehension. Let us live in His bosom, crying Abba Father daily, understanding that the Father knows best. Let us have a deep rich fellowship with Him and tell others of the amazing invitation to them to be part of the family of God. This Father’s day let us also thank and praise our Heavenly father for being the perfect Daddy.

 

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Running Through the Paper Wall

AUGUST 28, 2014 -  Anderson McCallum during the first half of action in the Taco Shack Bowl held at House Park in Austin, Texas on Thursday, August 28, 2014.   Anderson head coach Jeff Rhoads and McCallum head coach Charles Taylor (RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls” (Hebrews 12:1–3, NKJV).

This passage of Scripture speaks of a great race that each of us is called to run. When you came to Christ and He became your Lord and Savior, God’s Holy Spirit came to dwell inside your physical body. In other words, you became the temple of the living God. You were born again by the Spirit of God, and the old things in your life that once governed and hindered you began to pass away. Now you have become a new creation—with new strength, new thoughts, a new heart, and a new mind. A life of supernatural possibility has been opened to you, for God has purposed to glorify His name on the earth through you. That is why you and I are still here; that is the purpose of the Church of Jesus Christ on the earth. We are to be an irrefutable, living testimony to the reality of God’s incredible love that sent His Son to a cross for all humanity.

Therefore, in a day when morality is failing, civility is quickly becoming a thing relegated to the past, family breakups are common, and teenagers are living in debauchery, it is imperative that you and I run with endurance this race that is set before us. Yes, we are running it together, but each of us still has our own individual part to play. The race we are called to run will often involve a pathway that looks impossible. Indeed, it is impossible in the natural. But remember, God is not calling us to do anything in our own strength. Jesus made a way for us to run this race by triumphing over evil; He made impossibility possible through the victory He won at Calvary. And now the Lord is simply calling us to be the vessels through whom He will carry His own name to glory. All He requires of us is a willingness to believe Him.

Of course, knowing these things does not necessarily make it easy to run this race. I often have days that are tough, and it is evident in the Scriptures that those who have gone before us have had to experience very difficult days as well.

For example, consider David—a man who was appointed by God to be a king. David was only a boy when the prophet Samuel took a horn of oil and anointed him in front of all his brothers (see 1 Samuel 16:13). David knew that he was being set apart for the purposes of God, appointed to lead the people of Israel. His heart was filled with incredible promise and vision for the future. Yet right away he was sent back out to continue looking after his father’s sheep. One day, a lion came into the little flock of sheep that he was protecting and grabbed a lamb in its mouth. Suddenly the Holy Spirit came upon David, and he was given the power to grab the lion by its mane and kill it. How stunning that hidden victory must have been! On another occasion, a bear came up against him, and he was empowered to defeat it as well. David was later sent by his father to check on his brothers during a season when Israel was at war with the Philistines and they were being taunted daily by a giant called Goliath. While the rest of the Israelite army stood paralyzed by fear, the Holy Spirit came upon David once again. He courageously ran into the valley and won a marvelous victory over Goliath! By that point, it must have seemed as if things were only going to get better until the promise and purpose of God for his life were fulfilled.

However, things soon took a turn, and David found himself being pursued like “a partridge in the mountains” (see 1 Samuel 26:20). That is when he penned Psalm 18. “The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid. The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me” (Psalm 18:4–5). David was essentially saying, “In every direction I looked, all I saw was my inability to finish what I felt I was called to do. I could not see a way forward. I had no idea how God’s call on my life was ever going to be accomplished.”

How many of you know that feeling? Perhaps you started out running the race with zeal, experiencing victory after victory. You knew that God was with you, for there was no way you could have won those battles without His strength. Bondages in your life were broken and you entered into new realms of freedom. God gave you the power to be honest when nobody else was telling the truth; He enabled you to respond graciously when people were unkind to you. Soon you began to conclude, “Wow, God really does have a supernatural call on my life!”

However, suddenly one day you found yourself being pursued by the enemy. David started off by running a race that he was convinced would bring glory to God. When he ran into the valley to face Goliath with only a sling and five stones, it was as if he was saying in his heart, “The name of God must be honored!” And so it is hard to fathom that David eventually began running in the opposite direction. He started in the supernatural, but he came to a point when he turned to his natural reasoning. “David said in his heart, ‘Now I shall perish someday by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape to the land of the Philistines’” (1 Samuel 27:1). This, of course, was only false reasoning. The promise of God that he was going to be the next ruler of Israel still stood.

Sadly, many people in our generation are doing a similar thing. They start out running for God with an inner desire to bring glory to His name— only to eventually find themselves facing opposition that they cannot understand. You see, the grievous error that many Christians tend to make is somehow assuming that they are going to go through this life unopposed. As a result, they end up crafting an alternate plan and running an alternate race, venturing into a place other than where God called them to go.

You and I cannot afford to do this in this hour. It is imperative that we recognize the significance of the moment in which we live. Take a moment to consider the fact that after more than two thousand years of Christian history, it has come down to you and me! We have had all the teaching, all the stories, all the biographies; everything we have been through has been meant to prepare us for this very moment in history. You and I are now called to run behind all those who have gone before us to fulfill this great calling of God on each of our lives.

I feel almost as if we are a football team, and I am your coach for this moment, giving you a pep talk in the locker room: “We are going to go out onto the field, and we are going to be opposed. Yet, remember that we are a superior team with a superior strategy. We have been well trained, and the weapons of our warfare are not like theirs; our weapons are not carnal but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds. We have been given power over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt us. We are going out on the field, and we are going to be victorious! There will surely be a shout of glory at the end of this match!”

Can you picture the typical scene right before the beginning of a football game? The team comes out of the locker room, full of excitement. They walk down a long corridor with cement walls on either side, and at the end of the corridor is a paper wall. Now at the beginning of NFL and college games, the team has to break through the paper wall. They cannot even see the field until they do so. How incredible it would be if an NFL team were to burst out of the locker room, run with confidence down the corridor, and then stop at the paper wall! Imagine if they were to just stand there staring at it, not believing that it could be breached. Instead, they somehow have it in their minds, “We can’t get through this.” Oh, how foolish that would look! We would be crying from the stands, “Go forward! Go forward! It is only paper!”

In a similar way, our opening Scripture in Hebrews tells us of a great crowd of witnesses who surround us. I can just hear these saints calling out to us—not only the ones from before Christ, but those who have come after. They have all gone through the flood and through the fire; they have known the triumph of God. Now they see the full picture of who God is and what He is able to do. I don’t know if they can actually see planet Earth, but if they could, they would be up in the stands, shouting, “Run! Don’t give up. You have a great call of God on your life! Don’t give in to the lies of the enemy or the threats of darkness.

Don’t be silent in a time when God has given you the power of speaking His words. Don’t cower under the darkness of this world which is soon to pass away.” These witnesses know that before we even begin, the victory is ours. Whatever the devil sets before us is only paper, and it cannot stop us! The only thing that can stop us is unbelief. Think about the children of Israel who came out of bondage in Egypt. They personally witnessed the miracles that God did to release them from the hand of Pharaoh. They experienced the parting of the Red Sea and they were sovereignly led by God’s cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. Yet they suddenly stopped at the very border of the Promised Land—hindered by what was only a paper wall! Filled with fear and unbelief, they concluded, “We are not able to go in! There are giants in the land who are so much stronger than us; we are grasshoppers in our own sight and in theirs, as well!” (see Numbers 13:33). If you and I could shout to them down through history, we would say, “Go, it’s yours for the taking! The defenses have departed from the enemy. Yes, they may oppose you, but they will not overcome you!” Yet the children of Israel ultimately succumbed to the lie of the enemy and refused to go in. They forfeited the race and instead lived in the wilderness for the rest of their lives.

When you do not go into the plan of God for your life, you will live in the wilderness all of your days. Heaven may be your home at the end of your journey, but you will not know the miraculous power of God. You will never know the satisfaction of walking with Him through places that only He could carry you. You will go from church to church; you will blame the preachers and the people. But the reality is that you simply would not go through your own paper wall. You refused to walk in the place of the miraculous that God had set before you.

And so the question that God put on my heart for you today is: What has the devil written on your paper wall? “You are not strong enough. You are not smart enough. You are a loser. You have always been a loser, and you will never be anything other than what your father or your mother was.” On some people’s walls, the enemy just draws bricks and makes it look impenetrable. Nevertheless, it is still only paper. You and I must lay hold of the fact that there is nothing the devil can put before us that can stop us from being what God has called us to be. The only thing he can do is write these things on our wall and try to get us to agree with him.

All the while, there is a shout coming from the upper tiers of heaven’s stadium—from those who have faced the same taunts of the enemy throughout history but have found them to be false and powerless. They are telling you and me, “Go through that paper wall. Go through whatever you have to go through. Don’t stop at this place of unbelief. No matter what the devil writes on your wall, he is a liar!” I say that we have been in the locker room long enough.

It is time for all of us to put on the armor of God, head down that corridor, and breach that paper wall. The devil may write whatever he wants, but he is not keeping us out of this end-time game. Not only are we going in, but we are going to fight, and we are going in to win! We are going in, believing every word God has spoken to us and empowered to do everything He has trained us to do.

Whatever the devil is insisting is stronger than the power of the Holy Spirit within you; whatever he has written on your paper wall that has kept you from wholeheartedly entering this battle for the souls of men—I encourage you to run right through it today! Don’t let these things hinder you any longer. Don’t let all your training end up being in vain. Make the choice to believe God. Even if your own heart condemns you, remember the Bible tells us that God is greater than our hearts.

He is going to give us the strength we need to be a part of this end-time battle for the souls of men. You and I are going in, knowing even before we start the battle that our victory is certain. We are more than conquerors through Christ, and we will see Him glorified once again in our generation!

Carter Conlon ©2015 Times Square Church

Courtesy of http://www.tscnyc.org/sermons/25809_sermon-newsletter-201506-running-through-the-paper-wall.pdf

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Is the Word of God Growing in Your Heart?

six seedlings growing from soil

As you will see in the Scripture God the Father places an extremely high value on the pursuit of knowledge – especially spiritual knowledge. He says that gaining knowledge is greater than all the silver, gold and material things of this world. The Bible tells us we have to grow in the knowledge of God.

Proverbs 2:1-15 My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,

2 turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding—
3 indeed, if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
4 and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
5 then you will understand the fear of the LORD
and find the knowledge of God.
6 For the LORD gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

7 He holds success in store for the upright,
he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,
8 for he guards the course of the just
and protects the way of his faithful ones.

9 Then you will understand what is right and just
and fair—every good path.
10 For wisdom will enter your heart,
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
11 Discretion will protect you,
and understanding will guard you.

12 Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men,
from men whose words are perverse,
13 who have left the straight paths
to walk in dark ways,
14 who delight in doing wrong
and rejoice in the perverseness of evil,
15 whose paths are crooked
and who are devious in their ways.

I Timothy 2:4 (NIV): who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. In many churches we teach Christ crucified and that He died for our sins which is a wonderful truth but we fail to go deeper in the things of God and come into a full knowledge of the truth.

Hosea 4:6a (ESV): My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; Jesus Christ destroyed the works of the Devil with a “It is written” mentality. He always used the sword of the spirit, the Word of God, in spiritual warfare.

Proverbs 4:4-6 (NIV): 4 Then he taught me, and he said to me,
Take hold of my words with all your heart;
keep my commands, and you will live
.
5 Get wisdom, get understanding;
do not forget my words or turn away from them.
6 Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you;
love her, and she will watch over you.

Psalm 1:1-4 (NIV):1 Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the LORD,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.  4 Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff that the wind blows away.

Delight (hapes, chapes) pictures that which is bent toward and thus is a beautiful figure of the godly man or woman who is ever leaning toward the law of Jehovah, not referring to the “ten commandments” but to the law as representative of God’s Word.

Pritchard writes…

The word “delight” means to take great pleasure in. It has the idea of a consuming passion that controls your life. Everyone “delights” in something. Some people delight in food. Others delight in a job or a hobby or a career. Some delight in a particular friendship. Many people delight in money or the things money can buy. And many delight in evil pleasures and wrong desires. Mark this well. Your “delight” determines your direction. What do you delight in? What gets your motor running? What gets you excited in the morning and keeps you awake at night? What do you daydream about?

Tell me the answers to those questions and I’ll tell you something crucial about who you are. To delight is to be so excited about something that you just can’t wait. Watch a young couple in love and you’ll know what “delight” means. Or take a young man who has fallen in love for the first time. Ask his friends and they’ll say, “He’s not the same guy he used to be.” They mean he has radically changed. He doesn’t want to hang around with them anymore. All he does is talk about “that girl.” Just look at him. He’s got this goofy grin on his face. He’s in love. Now apply that principle to the Word of God. We are to delight in God’s Word as a lover delights in a letter from his beloved.

In the great Psalm 119 (virtually every verse of which deals with some aspect of God’s Word) the psalmist gives us a beautiful picture of what it means to delight writing…

Psalm 119:131 I opened my mouth wide and panted, (Why did he “pant”?) for I longed for Thy commandments.

The Bible is God’s love letter to you. You’re reading the counsel of a loving, all-wise Heavenly Father as to how you should live. His commandments are for your blessing and good.

Do you delight in God’s Word? William Heslop writes that…

He is blessed because his delight is in the law of the Lord.

– He not only reads the Bible, he delights in it.
– He not only studies the holy word, he enjoys it.
– He not only reviews truth, he relishes and revels in it.

When you truly delight in the Word, you will have a desire to spend time in it and to meditate on it.

In the following verses from Psalm 119, observe the association between delight and meditation.

15 I will meditate on Thy precepts, and regard Thy ways.
16 I shall delight in Thy statutes; I shall not forget Thy word.

23 Even though princes sit and talk against me, Thy servant meditates on Thy statutes.
24 Thy testimonies also are my delight; They are my counselors.

47 And I shall delight in Thy commandments, Which I love.
48 And I shall lift up my hands to Thy commandments, Which I love; And I will meditate on Thy statutes.

77 May Thy compassion come to me that I may live, For Thy law is my delight.
78 May the arrogant be ashamed, for they subvert me with a lie; but I shall meditate on Thy precepts.

J. I. Packer says that meditation is the practice of turning each truth we learn about God into matter for reflection before God, leading to prayer and praise to God.

Meditation is the activity of calling to mind, and thinking over, and dwelling on, and applying to oneself, the various things that one knows about the works and ways and purposes and promises of God…It is an activity of holy thought, consciously performed in the presence of God, under the eye of God, by the help of God, as a means of communion with God. (Packer, J I: Knowing God)

A W Tozer had this to say about the value of meditating on God’s Word…

Read it much, read it often, brood over it, think over it, meditate over it—meditate on the Word of God day and night. When you are awake at night, think of a helpful verse. When you get up in the morning, no matter how you feel, think of a verse and make the Word of God the important element in your day. The Holy Ghost wrote the Word, and if you make much of the Word, He will make much of you. It is through the Word that He reveals Himself. Between those covers is a living Book. God wrote it and it is still vital and effective and alive. God is in this Book…and if you want to find Him, go into this Book.

John Piper writes that…

Meditation in Hebrew means basically to speak or to mutter. When this is done in the heart it is called musing or meditation. Here is where I plead with you to get involved in the Fighter Verse memory program or some other pattern of Bible memorization. Unless you memorize Scripture you will not meditate on it day and night. But O the benefits and delights of knowing communion with God hour by hour in his Word. If you have ever wondered, What is hour-by-hour walking in fellowship with the living God? the answer is: it is his speaking to you by his Word through your memory and meditation and illumination and application and your speaking to him words of thanks and praise and admiration and desire and seeking for help and guidance and understanding. The Word is the basis for your hearing him and for his hearing you. The depth and solidity and certainty of your walk with God and your communion with God will rise and fall with whether God’s own written Word is the warp and woof of the fabric of your fellowship…So I urge you to memorize Scripture, and meditate on it day and night. It will change your life in many good ways. (Meditate on the Word of the Lord Day and Night)

Faith feeds on the Word of God. Romans 10:17: (Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God). Without a steady diet of the Word, faith gets weaker and weaker. If you are dissatisfied with your Christian courage, faith and joy and purity of heart, check the way you are feeding your faith.

Compare the way you eat. Suppose that you start the day with a glass of orange juice. It’s good, and good for you. It takes you maybe five minutes to drink it if you read the newspaper at the same time. Then you go off to work or school. You don’t eat anything else until the next morning. And you have another glass of juice. And so you go on drinking one glass of juice a day until you drop.

That’s the way a lot of Christians try to survive as believers. They feed their faith with five minutes of food in the morning, or evening, and then don’t eat again until twenty-four hours later. Some even skip one or two mornings and don’t give their faith anything to eat for days.

Now the effect of starving your faith is that faith starves. Not hard to understand. And when faith is starving, it is getting weaker and not able to do much. It has a hard time trusting God and worshiping and rejoicing and resisting sin. It gasps and stumbles.

The Word of God must grow in the heart and develop into a fruitful harvest. To have fruit means the Word of God has accomplished the promise in your life. It comes to completion and full maturity. It brings about the promised result. Is the Word of God growing in your heart?

The pattern of growth is first you do not sit, walk or stand in the ways of the world where your thought life and heart is conformed and entangled with the atmosphere and culture of this age. Instead you delight in the Word, you seek the Word with great enthusiasm, you read and study the Word and then you reflect and mediate on it with your heavenly Father. You absorb the Word into your thinking, your words, your actions and your heart. This allows a fertile ground for growth of the Word into a mighty harvest.

I Peter 2:2 (NKJV)

As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.

Peter exhorts his readers to intensely crave for pure milk! “Desire” is the Greek word epipotheo and paints the picture of being an absolute hungering and thirsting after the Word. If a believer is to grow, it is absolutely essential that he hunger and thirst after the milk of the Word. Spiritual growth is always marked by a craving for and a delight in God’s Word with the intensity with which a baby craves milk. Epipotheo describes an intense yearning for something. It is to long for or intensely crave something with the implication that the one longing recognizes the lack or the need. Epipotheo is in the aorist imperative which calls for a decisive action (attitude change in this case) on the reader’s part. The idea is — Do it! Do it now! Don’t delay! It is a command and not an option. In other words, longing in one’s heart for Truth is not an option if we desire to grow in grace and the knowledge of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. Since we have been born again by the Word of God, Peter is saying “Now make up your mind once and for all to intensely crave the word of God!”

Grow-(auxano) means to cause to grow or cause to become greater in extent, size, state, or quality.

Jeremiah 15:16 (NKJV): Your words were found, and I ate them,
And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart;
For I am called by Your name,
O LORD God of hosts.

Matthew 4:4: But He answered and said, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’[

Excerpt from my new book I am currently writing on the heart: The words of the Lord must be placed deep in the womb of the heart where they become a part of the very fiber of our heart. In the deep chambers of our heart, the words of the Lord are to be the center of our thoughts, meditations, motives, desires, and deeds. We must not let the words of the Lord fade or leave our hearts where we forget the live-giving words from the mouth of God and harden our hearts to His voice. God’s Word must become the living and breathing essence and functioning fuel of the heart that defines its purposes, movement, its direction, and growth. The words of the Lord are to be the foundation, the building blocks and the very structure and composition of the heart. The words of the Lord are just as important to the spiritual condition and health of our heart as physical food is important to the health and condition of our physical heart. Remember the words of Jesus that “man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” The heart cannot be spiritually alive and in tune with God without the words of God being the source of food and nutrition for the heart. An inadequate spiritual diet leads to spiritual heart disease and seriously weakens the strength, vitality and protection of our heart. We must eat and feed upon the words of God contained in the Bible just as frequently as we eat physical food. Our heart must feed on the Scriptures if we are to protect it from the onslaught of the wicked one… These words of God are to be engrafted and impressed into the heart through diligent repetition, prayerful reflection and focused meditation. The Word of God is rooted in our hearts when we read it, study it, meditate upon it, confess it, believe it and think about it on a daily basis. Deuteronomy expounds on this truth.

Deuteronomy 6:6,7 (Amplified):

And these words which I am commanding

you this day shall be first in your own minds

and hearts; then

You shall whet and sharpen them so as to

make them penetrate, and teach and impress

them diligently upon the minds and hearts of

your children, and shall talk of them when

you sit in your house and when you walk by

the way, and when you lie down and when

you rise up.

The Hebrew word for whet, sharpen, penetrate, teach and impress is “shanan” and means “to inoculate, to impress upon the heart by frequent repetition and frequent urging, to pierce through, to teach incisively and to impress into like words cut into a stone tablet.” The words of God must be impressed and carved into the heart where they become the legacy, the foundation and the voice of the heart. We must write the Word of God on the tablet of our hearts.

James 1:21 Amplified: So get rid of all uncleanness and the rampant outgrowth of wickedness, and in a humble (gentle, modest) spirit receive and welcome the Word which implanted and rooted [in your hearts] contains the power to save your souls.

To save  (sozo) has the basic meaning of rescuing one from great peril. Additional nuances include to protect, keep alive, preserve life, deliver, heal, be made whole. In short, to save, means to make a person whole and complete in every respect. And this is what the Word of Truth is able to do, delivering believers from the destructive consequences of sin. Why do we so often forsake the well of the Word and its living water and make for ourselves broken cisterns that can hold no water? (Jeremiah 2:13)

Colossians 1:10 so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord to please Him in all respects  bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;  (NASB)

As A W Tozer put it…

Whatever keeps me from my Bible is my enemy, however harmless it may appear to me.

The parable of the Sower and the Seed is critical in understanding the growth of the Word of God in our hearts to where it produces fruit. It is amazing to think that in every heart the Word of God is sown according to this parable that three out of four times it never produces any fruit. If any of the first three conditions  exist in our hearts, then Word of God will produce no fruit in our lives.

Condition Number One of No Fruit:

Matthew 13:4,19: Hears the word of the kingdom; not understand it; the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. Mark 4:4,15: word is sown; when they heard word, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts. Luke 8:5,12: the word trodden down and fowls of the air devoured it; they hear the word and the devil comes and takes the word out of their hearts so they may not believe and be saved.

Condition Number Two of No Fruit:

Matthew 13:5,20,21: Seed (word) fell on stony places where not much earth, they sprang up but not have deepness of earth and when sun was up, they were scorched and because had no root, they withered away; receives word immediately with joy but when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word they are offended. Mark 4:5,16.17: they hear the word and immediately receive it with gladness and have no root in themselves and after when affliction or persecution arises for the word’s sake immediately they are offended. Luke 8:6,13: Fell on rock; as soon as sprung up it withered away because it lacked moisture; receive the word with joy; have no root; believe for awhile and in time of temptation fall away.

Tribulation (thlipsis from thlibo = to crush, press together, squash, hem in, compress, squeeze in turn derived from thláo = to break) originally expressed sheer, physical pressure on a man. Thlipsis  is a strong term which does not refer to minor inconveniences, but to real hardships.

Medically thlipsis was used of the pulse (pressure). It is a pressing together as of grapes. It conveys the idea of being squeezed or placed under pressure or crushed beneath a weight. When, according to the ancient law of England, those who willfully refused to plead guilty, had heavy weights placed on their breasts, and were pressed and crushed to death, this was literally thlipsis.

Figuratively thlipsis pictures one being “crushed” by intense pressure, difficult circumstances, suffering or trouble pressing upon them from without. Thus persecution, affliction, distress, opposition or tribulation, all press hard on one’s soul. Thlipsis does not refer to mild discomfort but to great difficulty. In Scripture the thlipsis is most often used of outward difficulties, but it is also used of emotional stress and sorrows which “weighs down” a man’s spirit like the sorrows and burden his heart. Thlipsis then includes the disappointments which can “crush the life” out of the one who is afflicted.

Persecution (diogmos from dioko = to pursue) means to put to flight or to pursue with repeated acts of enmity. Some hatred comes your way from the world, family, friends, other “believers” because of your stand for Christ because the world is at enmity with Christ then you are offended and the word withers away.

Offended: (skandalizo from a root meaning jump up, snap shut) was originally the piece of wood that kept open a trap for animals. Thus skandalon was literally, that movable part of a trap on which the bait was laid, and when touched caused the trap to close on its prey. Skandalon thus came to mean any entanglement of the foot. Figuratively, as used most often in Scripture, skandalon refers to any person or thing by which one is drawn into error or sin. Also means: to cause a person to begin to distrust and desert one whom he ought to trust and obey.1) to cause to fall away 2) to be offended in one, i.e. to see in another what I disapprove of and what hinders me from acknowledging his authority.

Stony ground, having little or no soil, has insufficient nourishment for seeds to root and grow into a healthy plant. Initially, they appear to grow quicker because, with less soil to establish a root system, they expend their energy in producing the stem and leaves. When the sun grows hot (representing the light of God’s truth exposing them, or trials and persecution testing them), however, the sprouts wither away, the result of inadequate root systems.

Condition Number Three of No Fruit:

Matthew 13:7,22: hears the word but sown among thorns and anxious cares of this age and the deceitfulness of riches chokes the word and it becomes unfruitful. Mark 4:7,18,19: sown among thorns that grow up and choke the word and yields NO FRUIT; cares (anxieties and worries) of this world, the deceitfulness of riches and the lusts of other things entering in choke the word and there is no fruit. Luke 8:7,14: as go forth choked with anxious cares, riches and pleasures of this life (bios) and bring no fruit to perfection.

The thorny ground represents those who are consumed by the cares and anxieties of this physical life and the deceitful enticements of wealth. The constant pressures of ordinary life—providing for our needs, education, employment, social duties, etc.—can be distracting, causing us to ignore God and Christian growth. Are you too busy for God?

The desire for wealth magnifies this distraction. Wealth is enticing but never yields the expected rewards; it promises to make us happy but, when gained, does not. Further, in pursuing wealth, we are tempted to be dishonest, cheat, oppress, and take advantage of others.

Among the parallel accounts in Matthew, Mark and Luke, weeds are defined as: 1) The cares of this world, which one commentator calls “anxious, unrelaxing attention to the business of this life.” 2) The deceitfulness of riches—not wealth in itself, but its drawing power, its allure. Abraham, Joseph, Solomon, Job and others of God’s people show that He has blessed many with wealth. But it takes tremendous diligence and character to handle riches. 3) The pleasures of this life. The delights which worldly prosperity allows us to enjoy, in themselves, may be innocent. But do they draw off so much of our attention, so much of our time, that little remains for spiritual things?

When the sower threw the seed among thorns, he did not throw it on poor soil. In fact, it was just as moist and fertile as the good soil! Notice that the “thorns sprang up” after the seed was cast; the weeds were not significant beforehand. But when they “sprang up,” they were not cleared away and growth was choked!

Thorns are nothing more than prickly weeds. In the Bible, seventeen different Hebrew and Greek words are used to describe weeds, though they are often translated as “thorns,” “thistles,” “briers,” and the like.

What do weeds do? They choke, entangle and steal. They hinder fruit from maturing. They may not necessarily stop growth, but they can slow it down to the point that fruit never ripens. The spiritual parallels are evident.

Christ explains in Matthew 13:22 that the seed that fell among thorns was the Christian who heard the truth, but the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choked the Word, rendering him unfruitful. These things are weeds!

Weeds have a few common characteristics. They are aggressive, often quicker than useful plants at reproducing and spreading. They steal, robbing the moisture and nutrients from the more desirable plants. Since they are typically fast growing, they eventually steal the sunlight, too, by towering over the good plants. Then they crowd out the tender young shoots, stealing their space.

In agricultural situations, especially tropical regions, weeds can cause up to a fifty percent reduction in yields. So why not just get rid of them? Easier said than done. A single plant of common ragweed can produce over 3000 seeds. A single pigweed plant produces over 120,000 seeds! And if conditions are not right, some weed seeds can lie dormant for decades, waiting for the right amount of moisture, light and heat before germinating. Studies have shown seeds from several varieties of weeds still able to germinate after ninety years! Add to this that botanists have classified 1,775 species of weeds in America alone, and what do we have? Weeds are a problem that will not go away.

The good ground corresponds to those whose hearts and minds are softened by God’s calling and receive it genuinely. It is a rich and fine soil—a mind that submits itself to the full influence of God’s truth. They not only accept God’s Word—the message of Jesus Christ, as rich soil accepts a seed for growth—they also live by it and bear fruit.

In agricultural circles, it is commonly thought that three-fifths of the seed sown does not grow to harvest. According to Jesus’ parable, three-fourths of the audience received seed but produced no fruit. Realistically, how much increase of spiritual fruit are we producing? Are we returning thirty-fold, a reasonable return; sixty-fold, a more productive return; or a hundredfold, an outstanding, God-honoring return?

Fourth Condition is One that Brings Forth Bringing an Abundance of Fruit

Matthew 13:8,23: Seed sown on good soil and the person hears the word and understands it produces a harvest yielding 100 to 60 to 30 times what was sown. Mark 4:8,20: Seed sown on good soil and they heard the word and receive it and it produces a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown.

Luke 8:8,15: Seed falls on good ground and bears fruit a hundredfold; word sown in an honest and good heart, hear the word and retain it and bring forth fruit with patience.

As Christians, it is vitally important to our walk with God and our effective witness for Christ with power and compassion that the Word of grows in our hearts and produces a fruitful harvest of amazing results. How much of the Word of God is growing in our hearts? We have so much of the present culture in the music, the television shows, the movies, the ideas and heartbeat of this age growing in our hearts but how much of the Word is actually growing and producing a result? In order for the Word of God to grow in our hearts it must be planted in the right soil and then carefully cultivated with prayer, meditation, memorization and reflection. This Word of God then will produce results that will absolutely astound you as it is allowed to grow and transform our lives into the image of our Lord. The Bible must live in our hearts if we are ever to accomplish the destiny and calling of God in our lives.

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Weapons of our Warfare

COG-Spiritual-WarfareEach of you must have asked yourself at some time, “What can I do about these problems that are so widespread and serious these days?” And, “How helpful can I really expect to be as an individual?”

The Scriptures have an answer to these questions. We might expect that they would, for they are designed to perfect the man of God, that he may be perfect, completely furnished unto every good work 2 Timothy 3:17). So we should expect that there would be ample guidance given in the Scriptures to enable us to handle the problems and questions which pursue us on every side.

The passage we are to center our thoughts upon these next few weeks is Second Corinthians, Chapter 10, the first six verses. Here is another of those pockets of condensed wisdom which you find frequently throughout the pages of the Scriptures, both in the Old Testament and New alike, and which it is very unwise to hasten through. This kind of a passage must be gone through slowly and thoughtfully, and, therefore, I propose that we take ample time. I want to make these messages as practical and as helpful to as many as possible.

The introduction to this section of Second Corinthians is found in Verses 1 through 4. The Apostle Paul, writing to his friends in Corinth, probably from the city of Ephesus, says.

I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ — I who am humble when face to face with you but bold to you when I am away! — I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of acting in worldly fashion. For though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds. (2 Corinthians 10:1-4 RSV)

In these verses we have brought before us the primary theme of this section. The background of it is a challenge to the authority of the Apostle Paul by the Corinthians. There were some among them who were seeking to undermine the effect of Paul’s words, both in his letters and in his preaching to them. That is not surprising for it is still going on today. There are many today who object strenuously to what he teaches. In certain circles we are told that the Apostle Paul actually changed the teachings of the Lord Jesus, and thus changed Christianity from a simple, easily understood message to a highly complicated theological treatise, difficult to understand and completely different in intent and content from that which was preached by Jesus.

Something of that had already started in the early church. When these Corinthians had received letters from Paul, some were angered by them and resisted strongly what he had said. Specifically, as this passage reveals, certain Christians in Corinth were saying that Paul was, essentially, no different than anyone else. His apostleship really gave him no more right to speak with authority than anyone else had, and his motivations were essentially the same as anyone’s; i.e., he is out to get what he wants by whatever policy will work. Paul was quoting them when he writes, “I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold to you when I am away.”

They were saying this was his procedure, his maneuver, to try to get us to do what he wants. In other words, they were saying, he is simply another religious figure who is playing the old game of “power politics,” so we do not need to pay any more attention to him than we would to anyone else who came in and tried to take advantage of us for his own purposes.

This the apostle promptly and powerfully repudiates. He says, in effect,

“This is not the case. You Corinthians are quite wrong. You have failed to recognize the fundamental change which occurs in a Christian. When a man becomes a Christian, something fundamental, something absolutely radical, occurs in him so that he cannot see things as he once did. Furthermore, you do not understand the radical difference with which an apostle (who is, by virtue of his office, a model Christian, a pattern for others) must face life. If you think that I act like other people, that my motives, purposes, and goals are no different than ordinary men and women, then you have fundamentally misunderstood the whole matter.”

“For,” he goes on to say in Verses 3 and 4, “though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds.”

In the literal Greek the Apostle Paul does not say quite what is said here. The phrase,For though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war, is actually, “For though we walk (or live) in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.” The revisers here have substituted the word world, for flesh. Yet this is not exactly wrong. They are recognizing the close affiliation between what the Bible calls “the flesh,” and “society” or “the world.” These two are closely combined and associated.

What is the flesh? You who have been studying the New Testament for years know that the flesh is essentially inherited selfishness. It is what is basically wrong with human nature. It is the monkey wrench which was inserted into the machinery of humanity at the very beginning and which we all inherit from our ancestors. It is responsible for the fact that all of us began life with a taint, a twist in our mechanism. It is not very long before it is quite apparent that we are fundamentally selfish. You do not have to teach a baby to be selfish. You do not have to send him to a private school to learn how to be naughty, to resist his parents, or to be inherently selfish. This taint crops up in any individual no matter what kind of a background, exposure, or environment he is subjected to; it is in the bloodstream of humanity. This is the unpleasant fact which society constantly resists, which man does not want to face, but which the Word of God bluntly and clearly states.

If that is the flesh, that tendency to evil in every individual, then if you put all these flesh-centered, flesh-governed people together into a society, you have what the Bible calls “the world.” It is society governed by the flesh; society, with all the power structures with which we are so familiar in this day, all built upon self-interest. This, any observer of human life can see, pervades the world of our day; self-interest is back of everything.

That is why the revisers have substituted the word “world” here. In a sense, they are right. This is clearly the idea the apostle has in mind. He says, “We are not acting like other people. We do not operate from the same motives; there is something quite different about us. If you try to judge us on the same basis you judge others you are going to be very far off — you will miss the point entirely.”

He is declaring also the fundamental tension in which a Christian lives. He says, “We live in the flesh, in the world of normal society, but we do not fight on those terms. We are not carrying on a worldly war.” Perhaps it might be helpful in this connection to review the rendering of certain other versions. J. B. Philips puts it this way:

The truth is that, although of course we lead normal human lives, the battle we are fighting is on the spiritual level. (2 Corinthians 10:3 J. B. Philips)

The New English Bible puts it:

Weak men we may be; but it is not as such that we fight our battles. (2 Corinthians 10:3 NEB)

Perhaps the most helpful is the Living Letters translation, which says,

It is true that I am an ordinary weak human being, but I don’t use human plans and methods to win my battles. (2 Corinthians 10:3 Living Letters)

Notice the exquisite balance and sanity of that. The Apostle Paul is speaking not only for himself, but for all Christians. Remember that an apostle is a pattern Christian. He is what all Christians are supposed to be. And he says, first, we live in the world. We don’t run away from it. Monastic life has appealed to many through the centuries. History is full of men and women who have retreated to quiet places and tried to shut away all the mundane prattle and care of life. Count Tolstoi, of Russia; Rousseau, of France; Gauguin, the painter — all tried to run away from life. There are many who seek to do so yet today. What astonishes me is the number of Christians who have this attitude. There has grown up in our time what I call the “Bible-city syndrome,” which attempts to create a Christian hothouse, an atmosphere which is thoroughly Christian from the womb to the tomb, and permits no invasion of secular ideas or forces. It seeks to insulate and isolate as much as possible the Christian from the world.

This is basically unbiblical and sub-Christian because it is contrary to this clear word of the apostle, who says, “We Christians live right in the midst of the world.” That is where we are supposed to be. The Lord Jesus himself put it this way: “Behold I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves,” (Matthew 10:16 KJV). It must be a crazy sheepherder who would do a thing like that! Yet that is how radical is the difference between true Christianity and the false version so evident in many places today. This “Bible-city syndrome” is producing thousands of Christian dropouts today. I understand there is a group in this very area that is suggesting something of this nature in the mountains near here. I do not know the whole story and therefore I am not trying to judge it, but I would certainly be against a Christian isolation ward if that is what they have in view. It is thoroughly unbiblical. “No,” says the apostle, “we live in the flesh: we live in the world.” That is where we are intended to live. It is well expressed in the old hymn,

Where cross the crowded ways of life.
Where sound the cries of race and clan.
Above the noise of selfish strife.
We hear thy voice,
O Son of Man.

“Yet,” says Paul, “though we live in the world and do not run away from society, still we do not use human plans and methods to win our battles.” It is important that we understand that, because here is where all the problems has come. Many have recognized that Christians are to live in the world, but they go on to assume that a Christian living in the world must be like the world, that he must think like the world, that he must depend upon the thoughts, philosophies, ideas, and writers of the world, and draw all his arguments and his solutions to problem from these sources. “No,” says Paul, “you are quite wrong there. If you judge me as doing this then you have not understood the Christian position at all. We do not use human plans and methods to win our battles.”

Here, in my judgment, is the fundamental error of those who seek to make social concern the primary task of the church today. They are opposing the right enemy but with the wrong weapons. They are seeking to employ the weapons of the world, which Paul renounces; he repudiates them entirely. He says, “we do not war a worldly warfare, we do not use human plans and methods to win our battles.”

What are these weapons of the world, these human plans and methods to win battles? Well, you can hardly escape them today. They are on every side, in every newspaper, every magazine you pick up. These are full of approaches to the solution of human problems. They are all perfectly sincere, often characterized by tremendous dedication and zeal and commendable in the extreme; but they are worldly. They are of the flesh; they are limited. These weapons are power politics, action blocs, organized programs, demonstrations, boycotts, picketing; even violence and arson.

Let us face some facts plainly. These are clearly worldly weapons, are they not? They are what would be suggested by any non-Christian who is confronted by these problems and is trying to find a solution, men like Saul Alinsky or Stokely Carmichael. These men openly, clearly, and unequivocally propose these kind of solutions, and you cannot blame them. That is all they can see; that is all they know to do; that is all they have confidence in. They cannot see beyond the material, the visible, the physical situation.

Anyone who reads the New Testament sees that this is always the way of the world. Its solutions are fundamentally shallow and superficial, because they are essentially one-dimensional. I was interested recently to learn that there is a new book out, written by a secular writer, called, The One-dimensional Man. It is an attempt (I gathered ) to come to grips with some of the social issues today. But even worldlings can see that their approach lacks something — it is one-dimensional.

Yet this is not what you have in the New Testament. This is not how a Christian should approach these problems. As the Apostle Paul put it in this very letter, just a few chapters back, “We look not at the things which are seen, but also at the unseen; we look not only to the temporal, but also to the eternal,” 2 Corinthians 4:18). There is a new dimension that must come in here. The Christian approach to any basic problem, whether of society or in an individual life, must be different than that of a worldling if he expects to win any battles.

The wonderful thing about the Scriptures is that life is constantly confirming them. Life is a kind of laboratory in which all these scriptural principles are being tested, worked out for us. We can then see for ourselves, if we observe enough of life over a long enough span, which is right and which is wrong — the worldly solution, or the scriptural solution. History confirms the fact that the world’s weapons do not win battles.

On my recent trip around the world I had to spend long hours on a plane, sometimes eight, ten, or eleven hours at a time. I tried to take advantage of this flight time by carrying with me a very weighty volume (in fact, I was on the verge of having to pay overweight charges on it several times!). It was a volume of Will Durant’s tremendous study, The History of Civilization. I took the volume, “Caesar and Christ,” and, though I did not get through it entirely, I only had to read part of it to be aware that the ancient world struggled with exactly the same problems that we struggle with today. There were the same intrigues, the same political maneuvers, the same plots, the same programs, the same solutions to problems. It was remarkable to see that long before Christ people were struggling with exactly the same problems that oppress us today. There are no secular solutions that work; at best they only temporarily rearrange the symptoms of the problem. That is the most we can hope for from worldly approaches.

“No,” says Paul, “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, they are not fleshly, they are not worldly. But they are mighty! They have divine power, unto the pulling down of strongholds. They work. They win. They destroy strongholds, they overthrow entrenched evil, they strike off shackles, they set men free. That is what they are for. If they do not do that they are worthless, they are no better than any other program. But these work. They may not be evident, but they are effective.” Well, what are these weapons? That is the major issue I want to face with you now. What are these weapons? If they are not normal human plans, what are they? If they do not include these approaches that are so common today, then what are they?

I wonder what you are answering in your own minds to that question? How many Christians can answer this question? What are the weapons with which we are to encounter the problems, the battles of life? The interesting thing is that Paul so takes it for granted that his readers would know that he does not even list them. We must read them into the text from other places. He takes it for granted that they would know what his weapons are.

All of us face problems, normal, common problems — depression, discouragement, ill health, lack of money, social pressures, family troubles, in-laws, greed, guilt, shame. As a society, we face problems together — race tensions, war, poverty, air and water pollution, inflation, death, taxes, all these common problems.

These are the battles of life, are they not? Very few of us will have to fight on the battlefields of Vietnam, some will, but not all. Here are the battles of life. These are what Paul calls in this passage, strongholds. We shall look at that word more closely next week, but these are the strongholds he mentions, situations where evil is entrenched and powerful.

Yet he has adequate weapons for these. That is the thing I wish to convey to you now. The Christian is not inadequate to deal with these things: He is the only one who is adequate to deal with them! Therefore, let us not waste our time with things that have proved their inadequacy long ago. We have adequate weapons. I can only briefly list them in this message. I shall have to develop them more as we go on in this passage, but it is important to have them before us at this moment. They come not from any one specific passage but from the general thrust of Scripture, supported by many, many passages. I shall list for you four weapons of the Christian by which we can face the battles of life, and which, if he faces them with these weapons, will win. Not only will he win in his individual life, but he will be a tremendously powerful factor to solve them on the level of society as well.

First, we must place truth: Truth is the chief weapon of the Christian. I do not mean education. Education is usually seized upon by those attacking the problems of society as the most effective way of solving them. That very fact indicates that people see that knowledge of reality is a very important thing in solving problems, it is a powerful weapon. The only difficulty is that worldlings in general (and many Christians as well) equate education with knowledge of reality. But we must not do so. Secular education is a compound of truth and falsehood, both equally powerfully taught. Error is often conveyed as powerfully as truth, therefore education oftentimes serves only to enhance the problem. It does not always separate between the chaff and wheat; it is not always true.

But I am talking now about truth. The glory of Christianity is that it introduces truth into any situation. It reveals reality. Jesus Christ came, in the words of this present generation, to “tell it as it is” — and he did so. Invariably, always, he told it as it is. He let people know the facts about life, and about man. He unveiled reality, he tore away the illusions and delusions under which men labor. He ripped off veils. You can watch him exposing the faulty thinking of the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and all the other groups with which he came in contact, including his own disciples. Here, in the Word of God, in the truth as it is in Jesus, we have a powerful weapon, the greatest one there is in many respects, telling things the way they are.

One of the reasons why the group of laymen from this area who have been traveling to college campuses have found such an effective ministry is that they do not try to impress the students with displays of erudition and worldly wisdom. They simply talk about life as the Scriptures reveal it. It is surprising how this grasps, moves, and captures the minds and thoughts of this present generation.

Truth is the stock in trade of a Christian, that is, if he accepts the Word of God as the truth about life, and if he proclaims it, and demonstrates it in his own life, he himself is a mighty weapon for setting men free and for solving the ills of society. Not only truth proclaimed, but truth demonstrated: The weakness of the church is that it has often been too content to simply proclaim a portion of the truth and never give itself to the demonstration of it. But a Christian, above all others, ought to be characterized by openness and honesty. Let me quote to you a paragraph or two from an article in Eternity magazine entitled: The Slickest Gimmick of All:

There is a potency and wholesomeness in living life transparently rather than endlessly erecting poses and postures and fraudulent pieties.

That is a descriptive word for much of Christianity, isn’t it? Fraudulent pieties!

This modern world of ours is generously supplied with pitchmen and con artists and those who have axes to grind. These are enthusiastically and persistently using the big lie on us. Hence, it is an arresting and refreshing experience to meet a person or a group that is authentic and transparently open.

That is what every Christian ought to be, and every Christian group. I was distressed this week to learn of an evangelical church that is teaching its people that they have the right to privacy in their lives. No Christian has the right to a private life. Our lives are to be lived openly before all men, transparent, a spectacle unto all the world. We have no private lives and we must not expect to have. This is basically and fundamentally wrong. Christians are to be demonstrations of the truth. This article goes on,

The church where Jesus Christ is openly and honestly confessed is a potent commodity particularly needed in our disillusioned, jaded civilization. Many weary people want to find a place where God’s Word is revered, taught, and translated into daily life. At least that’s the kind of church I want for my family. Not a church posing this week as a circus, next week as a sociological supermarket, next month as a pietistic political polarization within the ecclesiastical community; but a church which purports in its proclamation to be what it is — the body of Christ — a fellowship where Christ’s people come together for renewal, for instruction in God’s word, and for sharing in the spread of the gospel.

Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32 NIV)

The second weapon is love. I know this is the most overworked word in our vocabulary today, but let’s be specific: I am not talking about the Hollywood slush that passes for love, nor of the bleeding heart tolerance of anything that comes along, I am talking about biblical love, the kind that requires no return from the individual loved. That is love, the kind that is described in First Corinthians 13, the kind that loves for Christ’s sake. If you cannot love that way then you are not a Christian, no matter what kind of a creed you subscribe to. If you can, then you must begin to show acceptance, courtesy, and concern without partiality or merit, without regard to the background or the color of skin or anything else about an individual, except that he or she is a man or woman loved by God for whom Christ died. Your love must go out to them, not your momentary interest until you gain their adherence to your creed; but your genuine love, demanding nothing in return.

That is love, and that is a mighty weapon. That is the way the early church won their way against councils and governors, kings and edicts, and everything else. They won it by the demonstration of a warmth of acceptance that made their meetings such glorious occasions of fellowship that the whole world hung around, drooling, wanting to get in.

The third weapon is righteousness. Fundamentally, that means obedience to both truth and love. It is what we call integrity. It is the refusal to yield to expediency. As Paul writes to the Ephesians, “You must no longer live as the Gentiles do,” (Ephesians 4:17b). You cannot go on excusing your weaknesses. There are no excuses left to you; you have all that it takes to be all that is needed. You cannot go on justifying your failures. You have no reason for failure. You must stop your lying, your stealing, your cursing, your immorality, and your harshness toward one another, your unforgiveness, your jealousy and your petulance. But in its place, because righteousness is never just negative, you must show tenderheartedness, acceptance and forgiveness for Christ’s sake — the warmth of love. It is true that if all you can hold up on behalf of your righteous standing is that you don’t smoke, drink, gamble or go to movies, etc., you are a pitiful spectacle of a Christian. If you are a Christian there must be about your life a quality that cannot be explained in terms of your personality — a positive glow, a warmth, and a radiance which cannot be explained except by the fact that God is at work in you.

The fourth weapon is a compound one. I shall put it this way: Faith-prayer. I put the two together because they are almost indistinguishable. Faith is reliance on the direct activity of God in human life. Prayer is the request for that activity; faith is the expectation that God will do it. These two things link together. If you do not think they are powerful, I suggest you read through Hebrews 11. There is a list of the achievements of faith in society, in terms of government, warfare, social ills, and battles of every kind. Faith is the expectation that God has not dismissed society, nor does he exist remote from it, but he is involved in it, and is active in it. He is moving; he does things; he changes; he arrests; he thwarts; he overthrows; he builds up and exalts; and he does all this in answer and through the medium of prayer. I do not know how to put it any stronger, but in the coming messages on this I want to outline more fully to you what prayer is, and how it works. What a mighty weapon is put in our hands in these days through this means!

There they are: truth, love, righteousness, and faith-prayer. These are the weapons of our warfare. They are not carnal, they are not of the flesh, they are not of the world; but they are mighty. They have divine power to the eliminating of strongholds, pulling down high things that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God, bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. They all work together. You can hardly isolate the one from the other; they are all necessary. And when the church begins to major on these weapons she will once again become a mighty power in society, a tremendously potent force, a ferment let loose which will rapidly change the outward circumstances, the face of things as they are. Then the church will once again be what God designed it to be — in those glowing words in the Song of Solomon, an army “Bright as the moon, glorious as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners,” Song 6:10)

Ray Steadman

Courtesy of http://www.raystedman.org/thematic-studies/spiritual-warfare/the-weapons-of-our-warfare

Prayer

Our gracious Father, what a challenge you set before us in these words! How much they call us to review of our own lives in the light of these thundering declarations! Grant to us, our Father, that we may see the challenge of the hour in which we live, and realize that we have been uniquely called to do the only thing that counts in this day and age. Help us to give ourselves to it through Jesus Christ our Lord, for we pray in his mighty, triumphant name, Amen.

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