The Greatest Christmas Gift of All

jesus-the-true-gift-of-christmas-1024x782Jesus Christ is the fulcrum, the pivotal point of all history. He will eventually intersect with every life upon the earth. We may think we can avoid him, ignore him, overlook him or reject him, but all of us one day will stand before him. He will be the rise or fall of our life. He is the judge of the living and the dead. His name is above all names upon the earth. He is God’s plan of restoration, redemption, salvation and healing. He will one day sit as the greatest king to ever rule over the earth and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Every knee one day will bow to that name.

Philippians 2:9-10: So God raised Him up to the highest place and gave Him the name above all.10 So when His name is called, every knee will bow, in heaven, on earth, and below. 11 And every tongue will confess “Jesus, the Anointed One, is Lord,” to the glory of God our Father!

The question that Jesus posed to his close followers, “Who do you say I am?” is the most important question that every man and woman will ever answer. Who do you believe Jesus to be? Precious Rock of Ages or a Rock of Offense? Son of God or just a man.

Matthew 16:13-17
(13) When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
(14) They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
(15) “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

“But what about you?” was Jesus’ question to his disciples, because it doesn’t really matter how others answer the question. What matters is, “Who do you say I am?” Finding the answer to this question is not like struggling with some complex formulas in an advanced mathematics course. This is an “open-book” exam with the answer clearly laid out now in the pages of Scripture.

Unlike those who walked with him who had trouble seeing the “picture,” today we get the benefit of hindsight. This allows us to piece together the colorful mosaic and see the details of the Masterpiece. The most important question for every person alive today is still the same one Jesus asked two thousand years ago, “Who do you say I am?”

We all see things differently because of our varied backgrounds, callings, gifts, and needs. Jesus is gracious enough to meet us where we are.

The proper answer to his question, “Who do you say I am?” is what the Bible says, which is The Lord of Lords, and King of Kings; he is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the Firstborn from among the dead, the Firstfruits, and the Savior of all mankind. He is the Anointed one, the Chosen one of God, and the Messiah of all mankind. He is the Mediator between God and man, and he is the Way to everlasting Life!

Mankind has a massive problem that the religions of the world ignore and have no solution. Something has gone wrong within the human race. It doesn’t take a theologian or a psychologist to tell you that. Read a newspaper…Most of the misery we suffer on this planet is the fruit of the human heart gone bad. This glorious treasure has been stained, marred, infected. Sin enters the story and spreads like a computer virus…Any honest person knows this. We know we are not what we were meant to be…Something has gone wrong. We know that much. Whatever else we know, whatever else our convictions may be, we know that something has gone terribly wrong with the world, with us, with Life. It is at the center of every wrong, every crime, every evil, and every injustice is sin. It is our inheritance spiritually.

 

The Sin Problem

Ephesians 2:1-3: And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Spiritually dead, trapped in the course of this world, slaves of the prince of the power of the air, who is the god of this age, governed by our lustful passions with no hope for eternity. Not a pretty picture.

Romans 5:12: Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—

It is the condemnation, the curse and the malady that hangs over the human race like a dark could. Sin is like a deadly virus passed on to us by our parents. It is in the blood which is the life of the flesh and it is passed to every child at birth. No one can escape it.

Romans 3:9-12: For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

We are all under the weight and penalty of sin and every single member of the human race is useless or worthless without God. The word “worthless” is an enlightening word as to the nature of man without God. In the Greek, it means: to be worthless; to be useless; to be unprofitable; to render unserviceable, and to be unfit for any useful purpose. The Hebrew word used in the same verse in Psalm 14:3 means: to go bad and to become sour like milk.

God vividly says that a person without God under the power and influence of the sin nature is like a carton of sour milk. Sour milk is worthless for any good use and cannot be used for its intended purpose. The highest and best the human race has to offer in society, government, academics, arts, and every other category amounts to nothing more than sour milk without God. Every life, every purpose, every idea, and every goal lived apart from the truth of God and His Word is wasted and worthless.

We are sinners by nature, by birth and it is our habit and first tendency to sin. It came from Adam, pulsating thru our bloodstream. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, sin poured into their nature, causing them to miss the purpose and goal that God had designed for their lives. Their entire relationship with God was defiled and disturbed as bitterness, hostility, separation, and enmity against God flowed into their nature like raw sewage or muddy contaminated waters. We have an instinctive unwillingness to acknowledge the truth of our condition without Christ as God Himself sees and states it. Worse yet, we seem to prefer our own assessment rather than His. Sin is deceptive and it blinds us as to its nature and its workings. The judgment of God upon sin reveals its nature and presence. There is a day of God’s wrath and reckoning coming when all mankind whether Jew, Muslim, Republican, Democrat, atheist, scientist and lawyer, intellectuals, white, black and every race will stand before Him and receive the consequences and just penalty for sin. Jesus Christ will be the judge: Acts 17:30b,31: “But now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” Sin is a cruel master and there is a day coming, a day of reckoning, where the price for sin must be paid. Who will pay the price for your sin? Buddha? Mohammed? Your good works? Your political affiliation? Your job resume? Your social pedigree?

The essence of sin is to be against God. It makes us enemies of God and rebels against Him. Sin is always evil and it is an act of rebellion against God. Sin has the power to convince us to act using our own frame of reference rather than God’s. It has the power to convince us that we are the final arbiters of right or wrong, that we are the final determiners of truth, that we are the final judges. Sin succeeds in convincing us that we are gods of our own little world. Sin makes us neglect and be indifferent towards God. It convinces us that we do not need Him. It is setting our will above God’s. If God offers heaven, sin despises it. If He threatens hell, sin disregards it. Sin blinds us to the truth of God revealed in the Bible. What are we compared to the great Yahweh? Sin discredits God and brings reproach to His great name. God is infinitely worthy of all of our love, honor and obedience. The grievous error of sin is loving sin more than you love an infinitely glorious God of delighting in the things of this world and our own lusts more than God.

Who can break this power of sin whose wages is death? Who has the keys and power to crush sin in our lives? Who can pay the wicked penalty of sin? Justice demands the price of sin be paid. The whole world lies helpless under the power and enslavement of sin desperately in need of the Savior. Nothing other than Christ can deliver us from the devastating consequences and penalty of sin. He is the ransom, the payment, the substitute and the conqueror of sin. No one else. No philosophy, political ideology, religion or person can deliver us from the crushing oppression of sin.

Isaiah 44:22: (New International Reader’s Version): I will sweep your sins away as if they were a cloud. I will blow them away as if they were the morning mist. Return to me. Then I will set you free.

Only Jesus can set us free from sin, wash us as white as snow and pay the price for our every sin.

Revelation 1:6-8, 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 bloodand 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[b] 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.” 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.

Jesus Christ holds the keys to death, hades and eternal life. No one else. He is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last. He is the coming one who will astonish the world with his majesty and glory. Are you ready?

I John 5:9ff: If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. 11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.

There is no eternal life without the Son. Do you believe it or do you make God out to be a liar by not believing it?

This is the gospel message of Christianity in these following verses. This is the true joy of Christmas. What love, mercy and grace of God is shown in the gift of Christ.

Ephesians 2:4-10: But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

From the depths of sin to eternal salvation and a seat in the heavens next to Christ. From dead in sins to God’s ultimate masterpiece in Christ with the true power to help others.

Romans 5:6-11: For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

God could have left us as rebels, enemies and sinners but His love is so great He sent us His Son to pay the price of sin with his blood so we might be fully justified and reconciled to God.

I Timothy 2:3-6a: This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all,

Acts 4:12: And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

The Bible makes it clear there is no other way to salvation and no other mediator between God and man. Only one paid the ransom with his life, Jesus.

All the other gods of this earth bring chaos, confusion and ultimately cause us to self-destruct. There is no other way out of sin and to wholeness, healing, restoration and salvation than Christ.

True verse of Christmas and Wheeler Mission; John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

From God’s cry of “where art thou?” in the Garden after the fall His plan was to bring men and woman back into a full relationship with Him through the giving of His Son. This is embodied in the first promise of Christ in Genesis 3:15: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Bruise means to crush, overwhelm and break all the plans and purposes of the Devil. The word “enmity” in the Hebrew means: hatred and hostility with a desire to injure. There is no truce in this battle. There is no peace agreement. As long as Satan’s kingdom operates upon the earth, it will be opposed vigorously by Christ. God revealed His ultimate plan of grace with the Seed of the woman, the second Adam, Jesus Christ, who by His death and resurrection made available the free gift of righteousness leading to acquittal from the penalty of sin and right standing again with God.  The court of God legally pronounces the declaration of acquittal when a man or woman confesses Jesus Christ as their Lord and believes God raised Jesus from the dead. Sin and death reign in this world because of Adam’s one act of disobedience, but now through the obedience of one man, Jesus Christ, and his sacrifice, we can reign as kings in this life and the one to come.

Christ gave deliverance from the power of darkness and gave us citizenship into His kingdom. Colossians 1:14;

Colossians 2:13ff: You, who were spiritually dead because of your sins and your uncircumcision (i.e. the fact that you were outside the Law), God has now made to share in the very life of Christ! He has forgiven you all your sins: Christ has utterly wiped out the damning evidence of broken laws and commandments which always hung over our heads, and has completely annulled it by nailing it over his own head on the cross. And then having drawn the sting of all the powers ranged against us, he exposed them, shattered, empty and defeated, in his final glorious triumphant act!

At Calvary, Jesus Christ stripped and disarmed the power and authority of the devil’s kingdom for every born-again believer. No devil spirit in the devil’s kingdom, no matter what its rank, can defeat you when you stand in the strength of the Lord’s redemptive work for you at the cross. The picture Paul is painting is of a triumphant general who has routed the enemy and leads the captive foes and spoils of his victory behind his chariot in a grand public procession through the city.

In the Roman world, this was the highest honor that could be bestowed upon a victorious Roman general. It was called “the triumph.” There must have been at least 5,000 enemy soldiers killed, and there must have been a gain of Roman territory in the conquest. It was an awesome display of the power, strength, and might of the Roman Empire. It was a spectacle that few would forget its images, as the triumph declared to the world that the enemy had been overwhelmed and crushed, now to be publicly humiliated through the streets of the city.

How much greater is the triumph of Christ as the captain of our salvation?  What a triumph on the cross! What a victory against the forces of darkness! What a crushing blow to Satan’s kingdom! What a public display of victory to all those who have eyes to see and ears to hear! You become identified and in vital union with this triumph on the cross and all its far-reaching glorious effects when you become a new creation in Christ at the new birth. You are marching right beside Jesus Christ in this magnificent victory march with every wretched captive in chains under your feet. With great freedom, the power of the old sin nature has been stripped off and crippled, and the power of Christ in you flows and energizes every cell of your human body. You are a super conqueror who always triumphs in Christ. Jesus Christ cut away Satan’s firm grip on us and smashed the kingdom of darkness’s authority, control, and rule over our lives. No longer must we be a slave to sin or the bondage of this world. Jesus Christ victoriously led captivity captive for every Christian, according to the book of Ephesians, as he crushed and defeated every form of mental, physical, or spiritual bondage. What a triumph on the cross! What a victory in Christ!

He rescued us from the power of darkness and gave us full legal rights as a son or daughter of God. The word “power” in Colossians means: the exercised power to do something; liberty of action to do as one pleases; the delegated authority and power to act, and the right to exercise power. The Devil and his kingdom no longer have the liberty or power to do what they please in your life when you stand upon the triumph of the cross. The Devil  no longer has the right to act freely with authority and power over you. We have been set free. He must flee when we stand against him. God has given us the full armor of God to stand firm against the onslaughts of the Evil One.

Christ shattered the kingdom of darkness. We no longer need to be enslaved by it. He can break the power of any sin, any addiction, any weakness and any affliction.

The goodness of God has its ultimate triumph in the Lord Jesus Christ. Evil has its sentence of doom and ultimate destruction in the Lord Jesus Christ. What Jesus Christ accomplished at Calvary is so magnificent, so awesome and so astounding, that it permanently crippled Satan’s kingdom and one day will obliterate every remnant of it from off the face of the earth. The Lord Jesus Christ broke the curse of sin and death that hangs over the world like a dark cloud. He regained everything that Adam and Eve had lost on that tragic day in the Garden of Eden and so much more. He paid the price for the complete redemption and salvation of the soul of every person who comes to Him. Through Jesus Christ, righteousness is restored to a person so that they can stand in the presence of God without any sense of fear, shortcoming, guilt, or unworthiness. The ability to have deep fellowship and communion with the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ has been recovered and given as a gift to all those who confess Jesus as their Lord and Savior. The Court of God has wiped our slate clean; we are as white as snow, as our redeemer has paid the ransom and penalty for our sin. We no longer have to live in bondage to sin, fear, worry, sickness, disease, poverty, misery, hatred, selfishness, and ignorance, for we reign as kings in life through the Lord Jesus Christ. You are a super-conqueror; you are a new creation; you are a glorious son or daughter of God with all the dignity that comes with God’s calling through Jesus Christ.

In Christ all depression ceases. In Christ all fear and worry melt away. In Christ all oppression is crushed. In Christ all addictions are shattered. In Christ all the chains of bondage are loosed. In Christ all condemnation is obliterated. In Christ we are made free from all the forces of darkness that plague mankind. No religion, idol, and god whether Islam. Buddhism, Wicca or Hinduism can set a person free from the exercised kingdom of darkness and the clutches of sin and death. Only in Jesus Christ is our redemption, salvation and liberation finished.

Only Jesus can heal the brokenhearted (broken in pieces, tread down and crushed, to shatter, to suffer extreme sorrow), set at liberty those who are oppressed (broken by calamity) and bring deliverance to the captives (the prisoners of sin) and give sight to the blind.

What a season to celebrate Christ: The hope for all ages.

Today there is a gateway of hope. God is the original and ultimate rescuer. And for all who want to be rescued, He is able. There is no sin too great, God cannot forgive it. There is no loss, He cannot restore. There is no scar, He cannot heal. There is no distance you can go, His grace cannot reach. There is nothing—absolutely nothing—to stop His love and mercy for you. If there is breath in your being, there is hope. There is hope.

The thief on the cross confessed that he failed miserably and admitted he deserved the horrible death he was dying. It was all over for him—hell waited, its mouth open to devour him. At least that was what he believed. Yet because of his confession and the marvelous grace of God, he will make it into paradise  with the Son of God (Luke 23:43).

It is never too late. God is not mad at you. He is, in fact, for you. Don’t give up. Mighty to save and faithful to love is He (Zephaniah 3:17–19). It is to the very ones who know the pain of personal failure that He comes and extends hope: He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, . . . to comfort all who mourn,. . . to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor (Isaiah 61:1–3).

Ecclesiastes 3:1-3:

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

Tis the season: We have all been thru rough seasons in life; now it can be a new season, a new beginning, a new dawn. Are you all in for God. He can turn our ashes in beauty, our mourning into gladness, and our weakness into strength. Are you ready for Jesus?

Verse 11:

11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart,14 I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him.

Think about eternity, a life that never ends. Where do you want to spend eternity? Do you want eternal life or in your pride do you reject it?

I Samuel 12:16: Now therefore stand still and see this great thing that the Lord will do before your eyes.

The world has yet seen what God will do with and for and through and in a man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him. Nothing is impossible with God no matter what your past, no matter where you came from or no matter where you are. He can save to the uttermost.

What or who compares to God? What compares to the inheritance awaiting you in Christ? There is nothing on earth greater.

Our past seasons: A season to forget.

When I called, you did not answer; when I spoke, you did not listen, but you did what was evil in my eyes and chose what I did not delight in. Isaiah 65:12b.

But God is ready for the new season, are you?

I am ready to be sought by those who not ask for me. I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, “Here I am, Here I am..I spread out my hands all day to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices.  Isaiah 65:1

 

There is a promise of a new life in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17,18a: Therefore, if anyone is united with the Anointed One, that person is a new creation. The old life is gone—and see—a new life has begun! 18 All of this is a gift from our Creator God, who has pursued us and brought us into a restored and healthy relationship with Him through the Anointed.

Today this Christmas can bring us to a new season, a new life. The old is gone. The new begins with Christ and the promise of the Father. It is

Christ in you, the Great Mystery revealed, which God planned for all ages. If Satan would have known this truth, he would never have crucified Christ (I Corinthians 2:8,9). This is how big the Christmas message is. A Savior has come, His name is Wonderful, the Rock of all Ages, the Liberator and the Deliverer. We need to look nowhere else.

Ephesians 1:19ff: The God of our Lord Jesus the Anointed, Father of Glory: I call out to You on behalf of Your people. Give them minds ready to receive wisdom and revelation so they will truly know You. 18 Open the eyes of their hearts, and let the light of Your truth flood in. Shine Your light on the hope You are calling them to embrace. Reveal to them the glorious riches You are preparing as their inheritance. 19 Let them see the full extent of Your power that is at work in those of us who believe, and may it be done according to Your might and power.

Friends, it is this same might and resurrection power that 20 He used in the Anointed One to raise Him from the dead and to position Him at His right hand in heaven. There is nothing over Him. 21 He’s above all rule, authority, power, and dominion; over every name invoked, over every title bestowed in this age and the next. 22 God has placed all things beneath His feet and anointed Him as the head over all things for His church. 23 This church is His body, the fullness of the One who fills all in all.

Is our life full of God’s purposes or our own? Who is writing the story of your life? In Christ, it is a new life, old things passed away. We become a new person, a new creation. The new season has begun. Are you tired of calling the shots in life; A new season begins with this question: “Lord what do you want me to do with my life?” Are we following Jesus or are we inviting Jesus to follow us? At its core sinfulness is selfishness. Its enthroning yourself-your needs, your desires, your plans-above all else. We may seek God, but we don’t seek Him first. He comes in third or fourth in our division. This is the season to go all in. The season to do all for the glory of God. The season to let Jesus be our Lord, our Captain and our Anchor.

Are we missing the time of our visitation? Are we ignoring the tug of God on our heart? Are we turning a deaf ear? Do we see the light?

Luke 19:41ff: And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

Are we missing the greatest invitation ever given to us? Is now the time of your visitation?

Luke 14:16ff 16 But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. 17 And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant[c] to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ 20 And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23 And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’”

What are our excuses not to go all in? What excuses do we have to decline the invitation for a new life, for salvation and for restoration? Why won’t we sit at His banquet table?

 

It begins with the invitation from Jesus Christ-the invitation for a new life, a new power, a new joy, a new hope, and a new direction. In the midst of our turbulent times, He is still the only hope for mankind.

Who is this Red Thread of the Bible?

Who is the Red Thread? Jesus Christ is the Red Thread of the Bible – the thread that binds the Word of God together…You find him everywhere in the Bible, the Word of God! In Genesis, he is the promised seed of the woman. In Exodus, he is the Passover Lamb. In Leviticus, he is the high priest. In Numbers he is the star to rise out of Jacob. In Deuteronomy, he is the two laws-love God and love your neighbor. In Joshua, he is the captain of the lord of hosts. In Judges, he is the covenant angel named Wonderful. In Ruth, he is the kinsman redeemer. In Samuel, he is the root and offspring of David. In Kings, he is the greater than the Temple. In Chronicles, he is the king’s son. In Ezra and Nehemiah, he is the rebuilder. In Esther, he is the savior of God’s people. In Job, he is the daysman. In Psalms, he is the song. In Proverbs, he is the wisdom of God. In Ecclesiastes, he is the one among a thousand. In Song of Solomon, he is the bridegroom of the bride. In Isaiah, he is Jacob’s branch. In Jeremiah, he is our righteousness. In Lamentations, he is the unbelievers’ judgment. In Ezekiel, he is the true shepherd. In Daniel, he is the stone that became the head of the corner. In Hosea, he is the latter rain. In Joel, he is God’s dwelling in Zion. In Amos, he is the raiser of David’s tabernacle. In Obadiah, he is the deliverer on Mount Zion. In Jonah, he is our salvation. In Micah, he is the lord of kings. In Nahum, he is the stronghold in the time of trouble. In Habakkuk, he is our joy and confidence. In Zephaniah, he is our mighty lord. In Haggai, he is the desire of the nations. In Zechariah, he is our servant-the branch. In Malachi, he is the son of righteousness.

In Matthew, he is Jehovah’s Messiah. In Mark, he is Jehovah’s servant. In Luke, he is Jehovah’s man. In John, he is Jehovah’s Son. In Acts, he is the gift of holy spirit. In Romans, he is the believer’s justification. In Corinthians, he is the believer’s sanctification. In Galatians, he is the believer’s righteousness. In Ephesians, he is the believer’s heavenly standing. In Philippians, he is the believer’s self-adequacy. In Colossians, he is the believer’s completeness. In Thessalonians, he is the believer’s soon glorification. In Timothy, he is the faithful men. In Titus, he is the fellow-laborer. In Philemon, he is the love of a believer. In Hebrews, he is the high priest for sin. In James, he is the royal law. In Peter, he is the pastor. In John, he is as we are. In Jude, he is the beloved. In Revelations, he is the king of kings and lord of lords.

He is the doom of the adversary as promised in Genesis 3:15 and accomplished in Revelation 20:10. He is the “no night” of Revelation 22:5, of which Genesis 1:1 is night. He is the light of Revelation 21:13, of which Genesis 1:16 and 17 is the sun and moon. He is the “no more death, neither sorrow nor crying” of Revelation 21:4, of which Genesis 3:16 and 17 is sorrow, suffering, and death. He is the “no more curse” of Revelation 22:3, of which Genesis 3:17 is the curse. He is the welcome home to paradise of Revelation 22:2, of which Genesis 3:22 to 24 is the banishment from paradise.

Who is this Jesus Christ?

He is Abel’s sacrifice, Abraham’s ram, Isaac’s well, Jacob’s ladder. He is Judah’s scepter, Moses’ rod, Joshua’s rams’ horn, Samuel’s horn of oil, David’s slingshot, Hezekiah’s sundial, Elijah’s mantle and Elisha’s staff. He is Job’s prayer, Isaiah’s fig tree, Ezekiel’s wheel, Daniel’s Jerusalem window, Jonah’s sea monster and Malachi’s storehouse. He is Peter’s shadow, Paul’s handkerchiefs and aprons. He is the lily of the valley and the rose of Sharon in life’s desserts. He is the pearl of great price. He is the rock for pilgrims in a weary land. He is the believer’s justification. He is the believer’s righteousness. He is the believer’s sanctification. He is the believer’s redemption. He is the believer’s knowledge. He is the believer’s wisdom. He is the believer’s all-in-all in all. He is the believer’s completely complete completeness. He is the bright and morning star, and he’s my Lord and my Savior.

He is knocking at the door of your heart right now. He is inviting you this Christmas to open the door and let him into your heart. Confess him as Lord and believe that He is alive because God raised him from the dead. Repent and turn to him and receive the power of the gift of Holy Spirit and receive the new birth. This is the greatest Christmas gift of all.

Tim Rowe

 

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Idolatry: The Principal Crime of the Human Race, Part 4, Golden Calf Disease

calfWe Become What We Worship

God wants us to get our identity from Him alone. He has uniquely designed each one of us to bear His glorious image to this lost and dying world. We cannot gain our true identity from any other image. We model our life after the prevailing images in our hearts. We begin to believe that the image gives us value and worth. We begin to worship our images and we reflect in our character the images of our worship. The heart bears the image of its god and is a mirror that reflects either the image of the true God or the image of its idol.

G.K. Beale in We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry says:

People become one with, and thus identified with, that to which they fully devote themselves…Idolatry is not a mere matter of external worship, but of internal commitment by the heart. It is apparently the presence of the spiritually empty idol in one’s heart that changes the being of the idolatry into a spiritually empty creature…Idolatry enforces the notion that what we are committed to we are joined to and shared in its nature in some significant way. This accounts for why people who are committed to the living God reflect his living image and why people committed to the world’s dead idols reflect the lifeless nature of these idols.[i]

The Lesson of the Golden Calf

There is no greater example of this truth in Scripture than the golden calf in the wilderness. The Bible reveals the immense seduction of idolatry and the power of the images associated with it. The children of Israel had seen the ten plagues in Egypt, the deliverance of the Passover, the pillar of fire by night and the cloud of glory by day, the parting of the Red Sea, and the destruction of the most powerful army in the world. They saw the raining of bread from heaven to feed them in the wilderness, water coming forth from the rock of Horeb, and God speaking from the thick cloud of Mount Sinai. Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and seventy of the elders of Israel actually saw the God of Israel with the stunning work of sapphire stone under his feet. What an awesome manifestation of the glory and wondrous works of God! They were witnesses of some of the most amazing and spectacular things that human eyes have ever seen. They witnessed God Almighty moving in such a breathtaking way. Yet unbelievably this was not enough, and they yearned for an image, and another god to worship and lead them.

Exodus 32:1-6 (ESV):

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”

So Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.”

So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron.

And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!”

When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.”

And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.

The golden calf is a sober lesson to all of God’s children. This record has such significance that it is mentioned in Deuteronomy, Psalms, Nehemiah, Ezekiel, Acts and I Corinthians. It sets a pattern for Israel’s subsequent idolatry, and it reaches its height in the sin of Jeroboam, who made golden calves to be worshiped in the northern kingdom of Israel at Dan and Bethel. God calls it “chataahgedolah” 3 times in Exodus 32, which is a sin of the highest magnitude. The ramifications of golden calf worship reverberated throughout all of Jewish history. Even today this sin is often rampant in the camp of believers.

Three thousand people died because of this heinous sin against God in the wilderness. Countless others have been robbed of the blessings of life by falling into the snare of a golden calf.  The golden calf incident is so important in God’s eyes that He says in Deuteronomy 9:7 to remember what happened in Exodus and never forget it. When God tells us to never forget something, and always remember it, we would be wise to take heed to His admonition.

Epidemic of Golden Calf Disease in Christianity

The lesson of the golden calf is of immense importance to the heart. God wants to enlighten our eyes to its dangers, and make us aware that a golden calf is always crouching at the gate of our heart. God warns us in I Corinthians that this record is written for our instruction. If we think we are standing for God and immune from idolatry, “Watch out!” that we do not fall. We must never allow a golden calf to gain a foothold in our heart for it will corrupt our walk and intimacy with God. We must not become obsessed with the thousands of golden calves of the world that cause us to thrust God Almighty to back of the line.

We must be vigilant in guarding our heart, that we do not worship an image, like a golden calf, proclaiming, “This is our god!” We must be watchful in examining the attachments, emotions and devotions of our heart. What is your driving passion? What moves you? What gets you off the couch? You must look with spiritual eyes at the motives of your heart. Examine the images your eyes are beholding. Do you conform your heart to the images of this world that are at enmity with your Heavenly Father? Are you making an image the lord of your life? Is there a golden calf that is molding your heart into its image? Have you sold out to a golden calf, running wild after it, rejoicing and loving it as your savior?

Don’t think this just happened in the Old Testament by the foolish Israelites. Golden calves are being worshiped by many Christians, including pastors. We have an epidemic of golden calf disease in Christianity that has seized the hearts of God’s people, destroying Christian lives around the globe. We have become victims of the ultimate spiritual scam as we have rejected God by trading him for a counterfeit image. We have been robbed of living our life in Christ. Psalms describes this terrible rip-off.

Psalm 106:19-22 (NET):

They made an image of a calf at Horeb, and worshiped a metal idol.

They traded their majestic God for the image of an ox that eats grass.

They rejected the God who delivered them, the one who performed great deeds in Egypt, amazing feats in the land of Ham, mighty acts by the Red Sea.

Let us examine in more depth Aaron, the children of Israel and the golden calf to gain some important insight into the battle against idolatry. The first truth that leaps out from the pages of the Bible is how quickly their hearts turned from God to blatant idolatry. For forty days Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the law and instructions of the covenant of God.. The people could see the glory of the Lord like a devouring fire on the top of Mount Sinai as Moses communed with God, but this did not stop them from setting up idols in their hearts.

God told Moses that the people had corrupted themselves and turned from the way of God’s commandments to idol worshiping with frenzied delight. The Hebrew word “corrupted” means to destroy, ruin, spoil, and lay waste. It also means to be marred, rotted and putrid. It is the same word used when Lucifer destroyed his perfect wisdom and beauty by his rebellious mutiny in heaven. It is the same word used when the generation of Noah corrupted God’s way upon the earth by their great wickedness revealed in the imaginations and thoughts of their hearts.

Both Lucifer and the generation of Noah let the wicked images treasured in their hearts ruin and corrupt them. Idolatry arose like a mighty warrior from these evil images that they harbored in their hearts. They became spoiled like rotting fruit from their making of an image and exalting it above God.  Likewise, the children of Israel in their impatience and refusal to wait on God, embraced the image of the golden calf, causing the putridness of idolatry to fill their hearts.

How quickly they had forgotten God’s mighty acts and His glorious commands. They demanded Aaron rise up and make a physical representation of god, an image, a god with a face, like all the images of the gods they had seen in Egypt. They wanted an image they could see with their eyes and touch with their hands. They wanted to be the creator of their own gods. They chose to reject God for their new image which brought them temporary delight. They displayed far more enthusiasm for their golden calf then they ever did for the God of Abraham. Their hearts did not respect God or honor Him. No matter what God did, they were not thankful, but were stiff-necked and hardhearted, constantly complaining about everything. They lost their passion for God. They lost their desire for God. They lost their confidence in God. They refused to seek God with their whole hearts. These attitudes made the soils of their hearts fertile breeding ground for idolatry.

This was God’s own chosen people, the apple of His eye, His special covenant children, His holy nation, and His most beloved possession. Exodus 19:4 declares Israel was to be “a kingdom of priests” where every person had the priestly function of serving God by showcasing His magnificence to the world. They were to shine as the image of God’s glory and majesty to the world. When they obeyed God’s commands and walked before with a pure heart, the entire world marveled at the acts of God through them. God says in Isaiah 49:3 that He would display His splendor through His servant Israel.

How could Israel turn their backs on this great mission? How could they forsake such a privileged calling? How could they be so blind? How could they be so foolish? How could they be so deceived? Yet they chose to commit spiritual treason by declaring in their impatience that God was not good enough. They lusted after the gods of Egypt. They wanted a god that would indulge their flesh as they let loose their lustful passions. They had in a manner of days grown weary with God and wanted a replacement for Him.

Does this speak loudly to our generation? Have we grown tired of God? Do we believe God needs to be replaced for something better? Do we think God needs a makeover to fit in with our lives? Do we think God needs a new image? How quickly have we forgotten God’s love, mercy, grace and compassion? How often have we lost our thankfulness and failed to see God’s blessing? We have allowed our hearts to be full of complaining, bitterness and resentment? How often have we reveled in delight with our golden calf and forsaken God’s commandments and holy instructions? How easily the heart can be fooled into worshiping an image!

This message cannot be forgotten. There are hundreds of golden calves that capture the hearts of every generation. Our eyes, ears and thoughts are bombarded daily with images demanding our attention and asking for our hearts. The prince of the power of the air knows it is an inherent characteristic of our sin nature to lust after a golden calf. We must not spoil our commission as the lights of the world, the salt of earth and the preachers of the gospel by turning toward a golden calf. We make the choice of our heart’s devotion: God or a golden calf? Unfortunately, among God’s people throughout the ages, God has come in second in this election of the heart.

How Quickly God’s Leaders Can Fall into the Snare of Idolatry

Another valuable truth from this record is how easily God’s man, leader, priest and shepherd fell into the snare of idolatry. How could Aaron, that stood by Moses and witnessed firsthand some of the most amazing manifestations of the power of God, be so easily persuaded to fashion a false god for the children of Israel? How did the seduction of idolatry capture his heart so effortlessly after he heard the Ten Commandments spoken from the mouth of God? He told the people to bring him the rings of gold so he could fashion a golden calf. This was the leader of God’s people’s idea! Aaron devised the scheme of the golden calf! He took an engraving tool and labored with his own hands to make a god. He imagined what it should look like. He had an image in His mind, not of Yahweh, but of a golden calf, and he worked tirelessly to make a physical representation of his imagined god. Aaron even built an altar to the golden calf and cried out, “This is your Elohim, O Israel!” He delighted in the work of his hands and said, “This image I created delivered you and brought you out of the bondage of Egypt!”

These statements are mind-boggling. How could God’s chosen high priest utter such blasphemous words? Aaron knew who delivered the children of Israel from the slavery of Egypt. He saw the plagues that devastated Egypt that neither Pharaoh nor the gods of Egypt could stop. He saw the Red Sea part and the children of Israel walk through its midst while the powerful Egyptian army was completely destroyed. He saw the manna from heaven and water gush forth from a rock. He knew who have delivered Israel more than anyone. How could he give the name of God to an idol? How could he flagrantly break God’s commandments?

The pressure of his congregation caused Aaron to betray God in an unspeakable fashion. He encouraged them to make sacrifices and offerings to this false god. He ran with them on the treacherous path of idolatry. He watched as the people engaged in the most vile sexual practices and wild lusts all in the celebration of their newly fashioned god. Aaron could have stopped this debauchery in its tracks, but he chose not to do so. He exposed God’s people to grave danger and led them into great sin.

The great responsibility of every clergy, priest, pastor, prophet, and teacher is to lead the people to God and keep them from idols. Aaron failed this test miserably. Aaron even tried to justify his actions by mixing idolatry with the worship of the true God by proclaiming that “tomorrow will be a feast to the Lord!” This never works as God declares in Isaiah 42:8 “I am Yahweh, that is my name, I will not give my glory to another, nor my praise to a graven image.”

You can never serve two masters. You cannot truly worship God and worship your idols. You cannot justify your idols by giving God token praise so you feel better. Do you sit down and eat and drink from the Lord’s table on Sunday and rise up to play with your fleshly idols the rest of the week? You cannot have it both ways. Idolatry is never acceptable in the eyes of God no matter how you sugar coat it. God expects His leadership to take a bold stand against idolatry. The shepherds of God’s people can never let the ravenous wolves of idolatry enter through the gate, scattering and devouring the sheep.

So many times God’s leaders have allowed idolatry to remain in the church by dressing it up and surrounding it with the things of God, encouraging people to praise their golden calves and God at the same time. The tragic history of the church has illustrated that idolatry is often brought into the body of the church through its clergy. Idolatry has too often galloped into the church through the words and actions of its own ministers.

This was the great sin of the spiritual leadership that Aaron committed in the sight of all Israel. Moses told Aaron that he had introduced this sin of idolatry into the camp of Israel. He turned the people loose to indulge in it. Throughout the history of this battle between God’s kingdom and the devil’s, Satan has always made it a key strategy of war to go after God’s leaders and seduce them into the trap of idolatry. He has ruined many ministries, callings and churches by deceiving God’s leaders into replacing God with an image they have devised in their own wicked imaginations. O let us pray to God that every pastor in the pulpit never allows this to happen. God’s leadership needs to rise up again and shatter the idols, tear down the altars, and worship the Lord God only with all of their hearts. They must be vigilant watchman standing at the doors of their congregation, clothed in the full armor of God, wielding the sword of the Spirit, and refusing to allow one idol entrance.

Addicted to the Idols of Egypt

The golden calf also illustrates the children of Israel’s addiction to the idols of Egypt. Time and time again in the wilderness, they had the overwhelming desire to return to Egypt, the house of bondage, the land of slavery, and everything it represented. They tossed God aside like an old rag and “their hearts turned back to Egypt” (Acts 7:39). In their 400 years of captivity, they developed a love of Egyptian gods and had not completely let go of them. Their eyes feasted on the idols of Egypt and they treasured them with delight. God told them to cast them away from their hearts, but they stubbornly refused. Their heart cry is revealed in Jeremiah 2:25 when they said “It is no use! I love foreign gods, and I must go after them!”

Ezekiel describes their addiction to the idols of Egypt:

Ezekiel 20:7,8 (ESV):

And I said to them, Cast away the detestable things your eyes feast on, every one of you, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.

But they rebelled against me and were not willing to listen to me. None of them castaway the detestable things their eyes feasted on, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt.

Israel would not forsake the idols of Egypt and chose to keep them on the throne of their hearts. The Hebrew word for “forsake” means to depart from, to leave behind, to let alone, to desert and abandon. It was used when one let go a beast from its bonds, and when a slave was loosed and set free. They did not want to leave their idols behind.

God called Egypt the house of bondage for a reason. Israel was not only physical slaves of Egypt, but they were spiritual slaves held captive by the gods of Egypt. Joshua, who witnessed firsthand the golden calf incident, exhorted Israel to throw away the gods of Egypt that their fathers had served and worshipped during their captivity (Joshua 24).

In dramatic fashion God not only showed Pharaoh, but the children of Israel, by the ten plagues, that he was infinitely more powerful than any of the gods of Egypt. Each plague was specifically directed at one of the treasured Egyptian gods so there could be no doubt that Yahweh was the one and only true God and worthy of their trust, love and obedience. Yet they refused to be loosed from the spiritual slavery of their idolatry. They loved the idols of Egypt! Even as they left Egypt, they carried the idols of Egypt in their hearts. Now in the pressure of the wilderness, the true desires of their heart began to be revealed.

Mike Wilkerson in Redemption: Freed by Jesus from the Idols We Worship and the Wounds We Carry explains:

Despite all of God’s wooing, deliverance, provision and care for them, their hearts longed for what they left behind in Egypt…The deep allegiance of their hearts was to Egypt and its ways. We have already seen hints of this turning back to Egypt in the Israelites’ longing looks over their shoulder for security, food and water that began almost the day they left Egypt. But what they truly wanted was much more than food: they wanted to go home…The Israelites loved Egypt and its ways…Idolatry isn’t just about bad behavior; it’s about what you love…It whispers lies. “The idol takes care of you; God doesn’t. The idol gives you what you want, what you crave; it relieves your pain; it liberates you. Fight for your idol. Serve and defend it.” To believe those lies is to declare your allegiance to the Enemy. [ii]

The Israelites were more at home with the idols of Egypt than God Almighty. They craved to worship their gods again. The golden calf was one of their favorite idols and they delighted to make a physical representation of an Egyptian god they adored.

Allan Langer in The Golden Calf and Ra says:

Who was the god depicted as the Golden Calf? Was it not a god they had known and worshipped in Egypt? …In Ancient Egypt, the most important object of worship was the bull. Both gods and kings were called “bull” as a title. The bull was considered not only the abode of god but its active and objective manifestation. The people of Egypt saw heaven as an immense and friendly cow standing over them. The Apis bull of Memphis came to be associated with the solar deity Ra, the oldest as well as the father of all Egyptian gods. The worship of Ra was both ancient and universal…Ra was often thought to have been a golden calf, born in the morning from a heavenly cow, and growing into a bull by day…A calf as a young bull at the height of its vigor was associated with fertility. Amongst pagans, fertility rights were marked by untamed and unbridled revelry…It was not the Golden Calf as such, but Ra, who was being hailed as the one who brought them out of Egypt. For Ra was also a universal god. The God of Israel was being replaced by the pagan deity Ra. Moses, reared in the royal court of Egypt, was undoubtedly familiar with the worship of Ra. What he witnessed was not a celebration of God, but the affirmation of a pagan deity…In Exodus 32…two verses stand out as likely allusions to Ra. In verse 17 when Joshua heard the noise of the people…Joshua heard not simply noise but “b’raah” an affirmation of Ra. Another likely allusion to Ra can be discerned in Aaron’s response to Moses ‘Thou knowest the people are set (b’ra) on evil’ (v. 22). Here the reference could also be to Ra, and Aaron was saying to Moses: “Thou knowest the people are still set on Ra.” Israel may have left Egypt, but the worship of the chief Egyptian god Ra had still not left Israel.[iii]

Ra was worshipped in Egypt as the sun god, the father of all creation, and the king of the gods. The mighty Yahweh had obliterated this false god of light with the ninth plague of darkness over all of Egypt for three days. God also destroyed this golden calf image as having any power or authority with the fifth plague where the livestock of Egypt was destroyed. Yet the children of Israel were deceived and the counterfeit god of Ra still captured the hearts of God’s chosen. Even in the wilderness they still loved and treasured this worthless Egyptian god.

This golden calf idol became so rooted in the hearts of God’s people that even hundreds of years later, King Jeroboam fashioned two golden calves for the people to worship in Dan and Bethel.  Jeroboam cried out to the Israelites the same idolatrous words as Aaron: “Behold O Israel, your Elohim, that brought you out of Egypt!” As long as the northern kingdom of Israel lasted, the golden calf continued to be worshipped. This great sin of Jeroboam is mentioned twenty-one times in Scripture as a sober warning to the children of God that if they want to walk in the blessing of God, all golden calves must be eradicated from the heart.

Hosea 8:5, 6 (NLT):

“O Samaria, I reject this calf—this idol you have made. My fury burns against you. How long will you be incapable of innocence?

This calf you worship, O Israel, was crafted by your own hands! It is not God! Therefore, it must be smashed to bits.

These idols we worship are not God! This should be a wake-up call to our hearts. How could we bow to such worthless things? How could we give our heart to such foolishness?  How could we even think the idols of our heart as our Elohim, savior and deliverer? Have we forsaken the idols of our Egypt, the former things of the flesh that enslaved us, or do we continue to feast our eyes upon them as we desperately won’t let go? Why would we ever want to return to the things of the world and lusts of our flesh that once held us in bondage?

Are You Being Robbed by A Golden Calf?

Are our golden calves robbing us of intimate fellowship with God and sustained growth as a Christian? We should open our eyes and see the worthless nature of every idol that stands against God being exalted as the king of our hearts. It is time for all idols to be obliterated once and for all in the glorious power of Christ. We can no longer wallow in the darkness of idolatry.

Can’t we hear His gentle voice whispering “Arise my beloved and beautiful one, and put away all your idols and come away with me!” We would smash every idol, image and false god if we really knew how much God loves us. Not one idol would remain if we grasped one iota of His fathomless, everlasting love for us. The fire of God’s love melts every idol of the heart.

Listen to the invaluable words of truth of the Apostle Paul:

Acts 14:15 (NIV):

Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them.

Acts 17:29,30 (NIV):

Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man.

What Fault Do You Find in Me?

God continues to cry out to this generation “Why are you doing this?” His heart-felt plea is “I have singled you out, called you by name, and you don’t even know me! I am God, the one and only! Besides me there are no real gods. I have no rival gods. So turn to me and I will help you wherever you are. I promise I will deliver and rescue you from your house of bondage, your Egypt and set you free. I am the faithful one and I never take back what I say!”

In anguish God cries:  “What fault did you find in me that you strayed so far from me? My people have exchanged their glorious God for worthless idols!” (Jeremiah 2, NIV). Yet our hearts run after idols. We have been blinded to God’s burning love for us. Day after day we chase after the worthless, lifeless and valueless. We rebel against His love. We close our eyes to His goodness. God weeps over our wasted lives and how we freely give our hearts to other gods.

Men and women have formed thousands of images in their imaginations in a vain attempt to make a god that would compare to the living God who created the heavens and the earth. It cannot be done. It is utter foolishness. It is an exercise in futility and is highly destructive to the heart. Time and time again in the Bible we see God’s men tearing down the altars, obliterating the idols and destroying the high places of idolatry. God’s command concerning these worthless idols of the heart is always the same: “Smash them into pieces and get rid of every single remnant of these idols from your hearts!”

Deuteronomy 12:3 (NLT):

Break down their altars and smash their sacred pillars. Burn their Asherah poles and cut down their carved idols. Completely erase the names of their gods!

The Hebrew word for “smash” is one of the most destructive words in the Hebrew language. It means to break into pieces, to shatter, crush and destroy. In no uncertain terms, God is telling you to shatter every false god and image from every corner of your heart. Nothing must remain. It must never be rebuilt or put back together again.

Israel and Judah’s problem was they had a long history of rebuilding their smashed idols, which led to their oppression and destruction. It is too dangerous to leave even one piece of any idol in the temple of our hearts. Idols allow sin to reign in our bodies, thoughts, words, and actions. Idols of the heart cause us to be slaves to sin and under the power of this cruel taskmaster. Jesus Christ freed us from the captivity of every idol that has ever plagued our hearts as he crushed their power on the cross and in His resurrection. We must count them dead, and declare them powerless to enslave us again. We cannot allow any idol to remain as lord of our hearts. No idol has any claim to one inch of our hearts. We should never utter the name of any other god, but Yahweh.

Your heart cannot be the sacred home of any idol. You cannot let the seeds of even one idol remain in the soil of our heart. Every idol’s altar must be torn down and Jesus must be allowed to be Lord of everything in your life. Whatever we do in word, deed or thought can never be done in the name of another god. We do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving continual thanks to our Heavenly Father through Him.

Tim Rowe

Excerpt from “The Heart: The Key to Everything in the Christian Life”

[i] G. K. Beale, We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2008), 238,239.

[ii] Mike Wilkerson, Redemption: Freed by Jesus from the Idols We Worship and the Wounds We Carry (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011), 125,126.

[iii] Allan Langer, The Golden Calf and Ra (Jerusalem: Jewish Bible Quarterly, Vol. 31, No.1, 2003).

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Do You Have Eternal Life? The Amazing Truth of the New Birth

new-birth-1024x9271There is a sad truth today in Christianity that has permeated the hearts and minds of Christians around the globe and that is a majority of Christians do not know beyond a shadow of a doubt whether they are saved and have eternal life. Much of this is caused by teachers and preachers that have a lack of understanding of salvation and inject into the church doctrines that cause confusion and doubt about whether one is truly saved. You have the reformed theology with its Calvinist leanings that has crept into so much of Christianity where one wonders if he or she has been selected by God for salvation or whether they have lost the election and condemned to hell with no way to reverse the “divine decision.”  You have those who say you can lose your salvation and if you do not live a life worthy of the gospel God will revoke your status as saved, undo the blood of Jesus Christ and the payment on the cross for your sins, denounce you as no longer His child and give you a ticket to hell. It is grace with a caveat as the gospel of grace becomes the gospel of works. Even some have come up with the word “hyper-grace” to describe a warped view that you must not have too much grace for salvation as if the fullness of God’s grace can be measured or limited. The grace of God is put in shackles because it is just too hard to believe that God can save me without any help from me. In some way, shape or form, we want to be at the center of our salvation. You have others who cast the seeds of doubt into salvation for an entire lifetime as they teach if your works do not reflect Christ than maybe you will never saved in the first place.  So Christians live each day in fear whether they are truly saved and remained confused as they wonder if they have the proper fruit to get into heaven’s door. Some take sections of Scripture that were written to Israel and try to apply them to the Christian church that causes deep misunderstanding of salvation as we think Jesus may curse us in the day of judgment and say “Depart from me I never knew you!”

I could go on and on about these winds of doctrine that have caused Christians to be blown about in doubt and fear about their own salvation. It is amazing how many main stream popular Christian authors and pastors believe that salvation is not permanent and can be lost. This plays right into the Devil’s schemes because he does not want you to be certain about your salvation. He wants you to doubt whether you have eternal life. He wants you confused about your eternal destiny. He wants you to believe in a theology that the grace of God is not good enough and must be helped along by our own works. If you doubt your own salvation, you are not going to go very far in your walk with God. Your faith will be weak, your love tepid and the gospel message will be water-downed and powerless. This is why it is so fundamental that we know as Christians we have eternal life, we are saved and no power in hell or earth can change this wonderful truth. The Bible declares that God does not want us ignorant concerning spiritual matters (I Corinthians 12:1).

I John 5:11-13:  And This is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. 

God does not want us to question or doubt whether we have eternal life. He does not want us to wait until we die to find out. God wants us to know right now with certainty and confidence that you have eternal life. He wants us to know and experience as a vital living reality that we have eternal life. So many professed Christians do not know if they have eternal life. So many teachings have infiltrated the church that at their root they get us to doubt whether we are truly saved.

Romans 8:38,39: For I am convinced [and continue to be convinced—beyond any doubt] that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present and threatening, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the [unlimited] love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Are you convinced that nothing can separate you from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord? No theology, no doctrine, no teaching, no power on heaven or earth and not even ourselves can pull God away from us. We are attached like super glue throughout all eternity. Do you see why the Devil is constantly attempting to attack and erode this truth! To know that you have eternal life is a game-changer.

John 10:28,29: And I give them eternal life, and they will never, ever [by any means] perish; and no one will ever snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater and mightier than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 

The word “perish” in the Greek means “to destroy, to put out of the way entirely, to put an end to, to ruin, to be lost, to be killed, to be rendered useless, to give over to eternal misery in hell, and to incur the loss of eternal life.” God has given us eternal life as a gift through the finished work of Jesus Christ and we have the promise we never ever perish, be lost, sentenced to hell or be put out of the way. No one has the power to snatch or seize us from God’s hand.

John 6:37,39: All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.39 And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.

All forms of the teaching that you can lose your salvation are ultimately rooted in the idea that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is not enough and we have to do something to earn our salvation and eternal life. The grace of God is not sufficient for these teachers. Is is so hard for the human mind to understand grace and that they have nothing to do with earning, qualifying or being worth of the gift of eternal life.  Christianity does not begin with the word “do” but the word “done.”

Romans 5:1-5;8-11,15,17: Since then it is by faith that we are justified, let us grasp the fact that we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have confidently entered into this new relationship of grace, and here we take our stand, in happy certainty of the glorious things he has for us in the future.3-5 This doesn’t mean, of course, that we have only a hope of future joys—we can be full of joy here and now even in our trials and troubles. Taken in the right spirit these very things will give us patient endurance; this in turn will develop a mature character, and a character of this sort produces a steady hope, a hope that will never disappoint us. While we were still helpless [powerless to provide for our salvation], at the right time Christ died [as a substitute] for the ungodly. Now it is an extraordinary thing for one to willingly give his life even for an upright man, though perhaps for a good man [one who is noble and selfless and worthy] someone might even dare to die. But God clearly shows and proves His own love for us, by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Therefore, since we have now been justified [declared free of the guilt of sin] by His blood, [how much more certain is it that] we will be saved from the [b]wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, it is much more certain, having been reconciled, that we will be saved [from the consequences of sin] by His life [that is, we will be saved because Christ lives today]. 11 Not only that, but we also rejoice in God [rejoicing in His love and perfection] through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received and enjoy our reconciliation [with God]. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

We have nothing to do with the free gift of righteousness and eternal life. It is by the death and resurrection of one man Jesus Christ. It is a free gift of abundant grace. God is not give us a gift and yank it back. God’s gift of grace in permanent because it is the form of a divine, new birth. A birth cannot be reversed; it cannot be undone and it cannot be erased. We have all heard the terms “born again” and “new birth” but do we understand what they mean. Any Christian who believes you can lose your salvation does not understand the new birth. The new birth emphasizes the wonderful truth that salvation is permanent.

Even as fundamental to the Christian faith as the new birth is, it is still misunderstood by a vast majority of Christians. What is the new birth and what does it mean? Why does God use the word “birth” to describe salvation? Just recently I heard in a sermon the pastor say that it is the new birth is a metaphor. This means it is a figure of speech of comparison and not a literal truth. A metaphor suggests a strong resemblance, but it is not literally applicable.  In a metaphor, a word or phrase that properly describes one thing is used to describe another. “Computer memory” is a metaphor. Whatever storage devices computers have, we know they are not a true memory. “Computer memory” borrows language that properly applies to humans. Is God comparing salvation to birth merely as a figure of speech of resemblance when literally there is no birth? Or is a there actually a new birth as a definitive literal truth? The new birth is not a metaphor. The new birth is not a figure of speech. It is a birth. Being “born again” does not just borrow the language of birth; it truly is a birth, as the synonym “new birth” implies. I would estimate that most of Christianity thinks the term “new birth” is a metaphor in Scripture and this robs them of knowing this glorious truth of the gospel that we are talking about a literal spiritual birth just as real as the physical birth.

You must understand there is a physical birth and there is a spiritual birth. The spiritual birth is only available through Christ. There is no new birth in Islam. There is no new birth in Buddhism. There is no new birth in secular humanism. There is no new birth with the Dali Lama. There is no new birth in Scientology. There is no new birth in politics or liberalism or conservatism. There is only new birth available in Christ.

John 3:3-7: Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again (from above), he cannot see the kingdom of God.Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

There is a birth of the flesh when we first came into this world. There is also a birth by the Spirit. The first birth of the flesh, the physical birth, to be born of a woman, is to be born of water. When a mother is in labor and about ready to give birth, the baby in her womb is surrounded by amniotic fluid. Amniotic fluid is a biological liquid similar to dilute sea water. The baby develops and grows completely submerged in amniotic water. Even the child’s lungs are filled with water until it is born and takes its first breath of air. But before it can do so the sac must rupture or be cut open in a caesarean operation. What do doctors and midwives call the natural rupture of the amniotic sac at the time of birth? They call it the “bursting of waters.”  Every human comes into this world born of water, floating in the amniotic sac where it has grown in it mother’s womb knitted together by God Almighty.

What is even more amazing than the physical birth is the spiritual birth. It is just as real as the physical birth. It is to be born of the Spirit or to be born from above.

 

Three different Greek words are used in the Church epistles to describe this new birth: Anagennao from the Greek prefix ana, “again” or “up,” and gennao, “to give birth.” It means to be given birth to again, or to be born again, and it occurs in 1 Peter 1:3, 23. Paliggenesia from palin, “again” and genesis, “genesis” or “origin.” It means to have an origin again, a new genesis, and it occurs in Titus 3:5. Apokueo from the Greek prefix apo, “away from,” and kueo, “to be pregnant.” It means “to give birth to,” and it occurs in James 1:18.

God gave birth to us in Christ. We have a new origin, a new genesis in the new birth and God was pregnant and give birth to us. How awesome is this?

1 Peter 1:23:
For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 

KJV:  Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.

Phillips: For you are the sons of God now; the live, permanent Word of the living God has given you his own indestructible heredity.

The first time you were born was because of a seed that is planted in you at the time of your fleshly birth. You have the seed of your earthly father planted in your mother and it became you. The seed remains in you your entire life until death. It cannot be removed or changed. You are always your mother and father’s son or daughter because of seed. This cannot be undone and it cannot be erased. Because of Adam’s sin, it was a “corruptible” seed, that is, the life it generated will not last forever—it will eventually die. But when one is born again, he is born of incorruptible seed. It is indestructible heredity and will never perish. We cannot lose seed and that is why you cannot lose your salvation. You become a son or daughter of God at the time of the new birth and you then always God’s son or daughter because of seed. Seed cannot be lost, erased, wiped out or removed.

God’s use of “birth” to communicate what happens in Christian salvation is amazingly clear. The very second God puts His imperishable, spiritual seed in a person, he is born again. God calls the seed He puts inside Christians “imperishable,” because it does not die or go away. It stays in us forever, so its effect, our salvation, is “imperishable” too. When a person acts on Romans 10:9, and confesses that Jesus is Lord and believes that God raised him from the dead, God our Father puts a spiritual seed into that individual. That “seed,” like any seed contributed by a father, grows into a baby, which is then birthed. As every parent knows, the predominant truth about a birth is the presence of a baby, who is “permanent.” The birth cannot be undone. Surely God would not use three different words for “birth” if there were not an actual birth, or if we could not apply the concepts of birth, such as permanence, to what happens when a Christian is “born again.” “Birth” is permanent, both in the flesh and in the spirit. In birth, the nature of the parent is passed down to the offspring, and so in the new birth the nature of God is passed to believers. It is a new divine nature created in you at the time of the new birth.

2 Peter 1:3,4: His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to[c] his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

In the new birth we are partakers of the divine nature. The word “partakers” in the Greek means “to fully share.” The word “nature” means growth by natural production (lineal descent, hereditary seed), a genus, and origin by birth. The word “divine” is Theios which refers to the one true God. When we are born again, we fully share in God’s divine nature. We are God’s children by birth, His genus, His divine seed, and His sons and daughter by a miraculous act of creation. The Bible uses the word “create” to describe the new birth and create means to bring something into existence that did not exist before. We are a new creation in Christ.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 2 Corinthians 5:17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  

E.W. Kenyon powerfully states:

We are linked with God. He is now our

own very Father. We are utterly one with

Him. He is in us. We are in Him. He is

part of us. We are part of Him. We are

His children by nature. We are born of

Heaven. We are begotten of the Holy

Spirit. The Word has given us life. “Of

His own will He brought us forth.” The

union with the Master and with the

Father is beyond human intelligence.

The natural mind cannot not grasp it.

We stand in the presence of it, beggared

of the ability to fathom it, yet it is ours…

We are partakers of His nature. We are

born of His Spirit.

E.W. Bullinger, in his article “A New Creation” expounds on this new creation:

What is it to create? Not to change, not to

renovate, not to reform, not to improve,

not the old nature adorned and beautified,

not the flesh with its corruptions and lust

trimmed and trained; but it is the new and

Divine nature imparted, with all its spiritual

blessings and holy privileges. It is not the

old Adam made clean or religious, clothed

and adorned. No! It is something altogether

NEW. Therefore, in Christ Jesus, I am a partaker

of the Divine nature; I am a partaker of His

Resurrection-life, according to the Father’s

promise…A new Divine nature is not a mere

influence, is not a mere passing religious

feeling induced by ravishing music or pathetic

story, but a real existence in living union with

a crucified, risen, exalted, glorified, coming

Lord. What a glorious union!

How amazing is this new birth where we spiritually become a new creation and share fully in God’s divine nature that is birthed in us as His incorruptible seed!

Many people say that simply being born of earthly parents means you are a child of God. Unfortunately, this is not true, as every person born in this world inherits the nature of Adam and is dead spiritually and in bondage to their inherent sin nature (Ephesians 2:1). People need a savior, a mediator, a redeemer who can pay the price for Adam’s fall and all its consequences. A man or woman needs a new nature-a spiritual birth, whereby God creates His spiritual life and nature into a person, reconciles them to Himself, and gives them the full legal standing as a son or daughter.

In one of the greatest revelations to the church, the book of Ephesians, the word “create” is used again to describe the new birth:

Ephesians 2:8-10: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

What a wonderful summary of this teaching. Although we mouth it, when will the church believe deep in its heart that we are not saved by works, not even one? When will we believe that not one iota of salvation is of our own doing? When will we truly believe salvation and eternal life is a gift and not a wage?  We are God’s masterpiece, His workmanship and we have been created in Christ Jesus. Then God has given us the power and ability for Him to energize the good works within us. The new birth is to be created in Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 4:24:  And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

The new birth is referred to as the new man created within us.

The “seed” of God is His nature. God is “holy” and God is “spirit,” and we are sealed with the gift of holy spirit at the time of the new birth.

Ephesians 1:13
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,

ESV: In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.

This verse contains a number of significant truths. First, we received holy spirit at the time we believed. Acts 2:38: “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” There is a general misconception today that one can be born again without receiving the gift of holy spirit. This is impossible as the new birth is God creating the divine nature in a person which is the gift of holy spirit. This is a whole teaching by itself and there is often a confusion between receiving (dechomai) the spirit and receiving (lambano) it into manifestation. There are nine manifestations of the gift of holy spirit set forth in I Corinthians 12 that each born again believer can operate. The new birth is to be born again of God’s spirit and to be sealed with the holy spirit.  Each believer is “sealed” with holy spirit. This is new! No one in the Old Testament, Gospels, or Revelation is said to be “sealed.” Quite the opposite! God took His holy spirit from King Saul when he sinned (1 Sam. 16:14). Psalm 51:11 records that after committing adultery with Bathsheba and having Uriah killed, King David asked God not to take holy spirit from him. The word “sealed” indicates that we are permanently sealed with holy spirit. Someone might say, “Well, if you sin, God breaks the seal and takes holy spirit away.” If that were the case, why say we are “sealed” at all? Why not just continue the terminology of the Old Testament and Gospels and say that holy spirit is “upon” us? Logic demands that if God uses a totally different vocabulary that is unique to the Administration of Grace, He must be letting us know that something is new and different. The holy spirit we receive is the “promised” holy spirit. It was promised in the Old Testament for the Millennial Kingdom, the 1000-year reign of Christ, but given to us now as a surprise by God’s grace. The very fact that it was promised in the Old Testament and Gospels means that the people of those times did not yet have it. If we have spiritual seed, holy spirit, are born again, and have been sealed by God, then our salvation is guaranteed. Scripture says exactly that. No one can unseal what God has sealed especially not ourselves.

 2 Corinthians 1:22
[God via Christ] set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit [spirit] in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

2 Corinthians 5:5
Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit [spirit] as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Ephesians 1:14
who [the holy spirit, which] is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

Those three verses say that our future is guaranteed. There are versions of the Bible that do not translate the Greek word arrhabon as “guarantee,” but instead use “earnest,” “pledge,” “deposit,” or something similar. The Greek word arrhabon means a deposit in advance that guarantees the full payment to come. For Christians, that means we are guaranteed being Raptured into heaven and given new, immortal, bodies. Once a person is born again of God’s holy spirit, his salvation is guaranteed, that is, he is not in danger of the “Second Death,” which is when everyone who is not allowed into God’s Eternal Kingdom will be thrown into the Lake of Fire and burned up (Rev. 20:12-15).

Because the Christian is uniquely born again of God’s imperishable spiritual seed, sealed with holy spirit, and therefore guaranteed salvation, the very presence of holy spirit permanently born in us gives us a divine nature as 2 Peter 1:4 states.

In 1 Peter 1:23, we see that one’s new, spiritual birth comes via hearing and believing the Word of God. 2 Peter 1:2 and 3 speak of the “knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” as the means by which we learn how to become partakers of the divine nature. It is in God’s Word that one finds the knowledge of how to get born again. Where is this in the Word?

Romans 10:8-10
(8) But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming:
(9) That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
(10) For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

The “word of faith” is that Word of God one must believe in his heart if he wants to be saved. Saved from what? Death. What saves you from death? Life. How do you get life? Birth. Thus we see that to be “saved” is the same as to be born again. Simple, huh? Let’s allow another section of Scripture to clarify just what it means to be “saved.” Note the “liquid” terminology.

Titus 3:5-7:
He saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but because of His own pity and mercy, by [the] cleansing (bath) of the new birth (regeneration) and renewing of the holy spirit [no article “the,” read “of holy spirit”].Which He poured out [so] richly upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior.

so that we would be justified [made free of the guilt of sin] by His [compassionate, undeserved] grace, and that we would be [acknowledged as acceptable to Him and] made heirs of eternal life [actually experiencing it] according to our hope (His guarantee).

In these verses, we can clearly see that to be “saved” (from death) is to be born again and simultaneously receive new life in the gift of holy spirit. In the words “cleansing bath” and “poured out,” we see the liquid analogy—the reason why we call God’s divine deposit within us a “liquid asset.” The word “richly” indicates that God did not hold back anything when He gave us the gift of holy spirit. We are justified, freed from the penalty of sin by His undeserved grace and made heirs of eternal life. It is guaranteed.

Three great statements of the Lord Jesus Christ’s goodness follow the formula for salvation in Romans 10:9 and 10.

Romans 10:11-13
(11) As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.
(12) For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile— the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him,
(13) for, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will (absolutely) be saved.”

If you needed financial help, would you ask a poor man or a rich man? A poor man might desire to help you, but he would lack the means. A rich man has the means to help, if he wills to do so. The Lord Jesus became poor by giving his life for us, and God raised him from the dead to the riches of a limitless inheritance (Heb. 1:4). That is why he is rich unto all who call on him. He gives a gift to each one. This gift is the holy spirit that Jesus received from God, and gives to each person who believes in him as Lord. The first time that the exalted Lord Jesus did this was on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:33). This gift of holy spirit is the “earnest” (Eph. 1:14—KJV), or guarantee, that your “earthen vessel” will, at his appearing, be replaced by a perfect body like the Lord’s.

Other scriptures talk about the miracle of the new birth and further enlighten our understanding.

I Peter 1:3,4: Blessed [gratefully praised and adored] be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant and boundless mercy has caused us to be born again [that is, to be reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, and set apart for His purpose] to an ever-living hope and confident assurance through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, [born anew] into an inheritance which is imperishable [beyond the reach of change] and undefiled and unfading, reserved in heaven for you, who are being protected and shielded by the power of God through your faith for salvation that is ready to be revealed [for you] in the last time.

We are reborn from above because of God’s abundant and boundless mercy. We have an inheritance awaiting us in heaven. It is imperishable, undefiled and unfading and specially reserved for you. God does not want you to doubt this. He does not want unbelief to fill your heart when it comes to eternity. You have a reservation in heaven for Christ’s second coming to enjoy your full inheritance as a son or daughter of God. It will never perish, fade, or be revoked. You have a permanent reservation with your name on it that became yours with your new birth in Christ. You cannot be scratched off the list; you cannot be bumped, and it is the ultimate VIP reservation that God has ordained for you. Nobody can take that away from you, because it is in God’s loving care and He is keeping it just for you. The good hope includes this incorruptible and undefiled inheritance that is legally yours in Christ because of the grace of God. The Bible tells us some great things about this inheritance, but you will just have to wait until the return of Christ to see how immense and wonderful it truly is. You never have to doubt your home in heaven for with the new birth in Christ your entrance into heaven is guaranteed. Rejoice in this good and blessed hope every day, as Romans 12:12 declares, and let the good hope become a sure and steadfast anchor of your soul.

I John 5:1, 4: Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.  For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

We have the inherent power in the new birth that when energized with our faith can overcome the world and all its fears, circumstances and problems it throws at us.

Galatians 4:4-7: 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 (one word in Greek and more accurately translated “sonship”). 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.

We are literally sons or daughters of God by this new birth. It is not a figure of speech because we bear His divine seed within us. The Aramaic word “abba” is an intimate family expression that denotes the tender address of a child to its father. It could be translated “dear father”, or “father, father” and in today’s modern vocabulary would mean “daddy” or “papa.” “Abba” signifies the deepest bond of love and affection and the intimate, close relationship of a father and child.  The Greek word “cry” means: a loud cry expressing deep emotion and confidence. God sent His Son to purchase our freedom and bring us into a deep intimate relationship with the Father as His cherished son or daughter.

James 1:17,18: Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above; it comes down from the Father of lights [the Creator and Sustainer of the heavens], in whom there is no variation [no rising or setting] or shadow cast by His turning [for He is perfect and never changes]. 18 It was of His own will that He gave us birth [as His children] by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits of His creatures [a prime example of what He created to be set apart to Himself—sanctified, made holy for His divine purposes].

Salvation is a good perfect gift from God above and it was his will and purpose to give us birth as His children when we believed. Reflect on this great truth-you are a child of God! How much worth do you have to the Heavenly Father?

Why is there so much confusion on eternal life and salvation? One main reason is not understanding the different administrations in the Bible and “to whom” a scripture is addressed. All of Scripture we can learn from, but we cannot confuse sections of Scripture written to Israel or the Gentiles in a different administration and try to apply them to the Body of Christ. It is imperative to understand that Scripture makes it clear that only in the Church Age, the Administration of Grace, is salvation guaranteed. One of the greatest truths of Scripture is that God has dealt with people differently at various times through history. For the accomplishment of His purposes and the benefit of His people, God has periodically changed the “rules” by which He wants people to live. Theologians call the time-period governed by a specific set of rules an “administration” or “dispensation.” The systematic theology that recognizes these different administrations or dispensations is referred to as “Dispensationalism.” There are seven distinct administrations throughout the Bible and I do not have time to get into the details of each one in this article. The administration we are living in now is call the age or administration of grace. There is no New Birth outside the Administration of Grace. It began on the Day of Pentecost, and will end with the Rapture of the Church. It is only for the Age of Grace.

Also the Bible says clearly that each born again believer is a part of the body of Christ. This also illustrates the permanency of salvation as God is not going to chop off a part of the body if we do something wrong. I Corinthians 12:12-. 12 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[d] 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. We have a permanent place, part and function in His body which was chosen by God and cannot be reversed or forfeited.

I John 3:1,2: Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

The word “children” in the Greek means: true offspring or genuine children by birth, and posterity. The word “beloved” in the Greek is from the word agape, which we have previously studied, which emphasizes the preciousness of the object loved. It is to love with wonder and admiration, prizing the worth of the person loved. It means to cherish with reverence and to have an internal feeling of satisfaction, kindness, and regard for the beloved person of His affection. God cherishes you; God prizes you; God values you; God admires you; God treasures you; God counts you worthy to be called His son or daughter.  We are God’s beloved, esteemed, unique, dear, favorite, true and genuine offspring and birthed children in Christ.

By the grace of God, we received a new divine nature of Christ within us when we were born again that is now a part of who we are and what we can become. We can make a deliberate decision to manifest the character of Christ one work, one thought, and one word at a time. However, this is not a solo task, but we have the help of our Heavenly Father every step of the way. God is working mightily within us to fashion us in the image of Christ as we live, move, and breathe in His presence resting upon the foundation of His Word.

To be birthed by God with a new divine nature and filled with the gift of holy spirit is also referred to as having Christ in you.

Colossians 1:25-27: Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God;26 Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

What an awesome truth that Christ in is you and you are part of His body. You have been filled with all the fullness of Christ from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet. He is in every cell of our body and he permeates every part of our being.  When you go to work, it’s Christ in you; when you go to school it’s Christ in you; when you go to the grocery, it’s Christ in you; when you go shopping at the mall, it’s Christ in you; when you drive in your car, it’s Christ in you; when you wake up in the morning, it’s Christ in you, and when you go to bed at night, it’s Christ in you. He is our new life, and all the power, riches, glory, and honor of Christ the risen Savior dwells and lives in you. Christ in you is your new divine nature that God has freely given to you by His loving grace. Christ in you does not fade; Christ in you does not dissolve or disappear; Christ is in you each and every second you draw breath, from this very moment in time throughout all eternity. You are not worthless; you are not downtrodden; you are not second-rate. You have tremendous value, worth, and honor because you have Christ in you, the hope of glory. He is a part of us and we are a part of Him. He is the eyes behind our eyes, ears behind our ears, mouth behind our mouth and heart behind our heart. Christ permeates every cell, every hair, every molecule, and every fiber of our beings. It is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Christ does not dwell in some fancy mansion on Rodeo Drive in Heaven, but he lives and dwells in you. Christ’s home is in you. Christ is alive and living in you.

A.W. Tozer, in God’s Pursuit of Man, says, “He does not distribute Himself that each may have a part, but to each one He gives all of Himself as fully as if there were no others.” All of Christ’s love, all of Christ’s heart, all of Christ’s strength, all of Christ’s compassion, all of Christ’s ability, all of Christ’s peace, all of Christ’s humility, and all of Christ’s power are a part of the poetic masterpiece of the new nature that God has created within us. He has given Himself fully and without measure to each one of us in the Body of Christ. No one has been left out. No one is lacking. This is almost too much for the mind to comprehend or the heart to grasp. We are full of the nature of Christ, and nothing is lacking or missing in this new nature. This is an unlimited resource of sufficiency, no matter what is happening on the world stage. There can be wars, recessions, violence, and evil of every kind imaginable that fills the earth, but we are still complete in Christ.

Think about this wonderful truth! The fullness of Christ dwells in you! We are not filled with an idea or a philosophy or an influence or a sensation or an experience, but we are filled with the living, breathing Christ. Christ is at the center of our spiritual new nature. His magnificent fullness flows into every nook and cranny of lives. When we let him be Lord of our lives, it overflows like a mighty river out of our lives into the valleys of human need in our communities. This mighty river never runs dry as its source is the unlimited fullness that we have in Christ.

God no longer dwells in a physical location, but He dwells in you, because of the mighty work of Christ in the new birth. From the moment you are born again, you have a divine union with God, and God in Christ dwells in every part of your being. You have a new spiritual divine nature born within you and have access to your Heavenly Father every second of the day. You are a son or daughter of God by birth.  You are filled with all the fullness of Christ. You are filled with all the fullness of God. We know God is for us, and we know God is with us, but now God is in us. We must become God-inside minded.

God new this wonderful plan of the new birth before the foundation of the world. Out of the heart of God’s intense love for you came a strong desire and delight to bring you into the family of God by the new birth as a precious son or daughter. God took great pleasure and satisfaction in planning before the ages this good design and blueprint for your life so that He could make you His honored child. Nothing gave Him more joy than preparing to bring you into His heavenly household and to bestow on you all the glorious rights and privileges of sonship. God longed for ages to wrap his loving arms around you and say, “Welcome home my child; I have waited for this moment before all time.” This is the most awesome plan of all the ages that originates out of the intense, everlasting longing of God to call you His very own beloved child.  This plan did not originate in our good works or accomplishments. It is what God wants, it is what God desires, and it is what God longs for. Above all else, He desires to have children and to have a family that He can adore, love, nurture, protect, cherish, and fellowship with as a loving Heavenly Father.                                                                                                                                                                                            God is the ultimate designer, and there is no more prestigious mark in the universe than to be marked out as God’s very own and allow Him to stamp your life with His design. People pay thousands of dollars to wear and display the mark of Gucci, Prada, Dolce Gabbana, or Versace. God is much more of an awesome designer than any earthly label, and how much more should we be proud to display His mark of sonship, declaring to the world that we are His son or daughter? You cannot get any cooler; you cannot get any better; you cannot get anymore distinguished then to be declared own God’s child.

When we were born again, we received the greatest source of power ever given to a person-the gift of holy spirit (Acts 1:8). This spirit of God birthed within us is the very energy and power of God Almighty. We are filled with all the fullness of God.  We have been made fully alive in Him. What a power source! What an incredible amount of energy! Do you realize how much power is living within you as a Christian? This is not the power to destroy, hate, condemn, judge, or ridicule. This is the power to live like Jesus Christ did upon the earth and touch the hearts of people with the love and compassion of God.

This new nature in Christ is God’s ability living within us and gives us the inherent capacity and ability to do His good works upon the earth. As Christians, we decide to make this stored powerhouse of God’s energy within us kinetic energy, when we move out into the world trusting God, having faith in His Word, walking by the spirit, living love, and renewing our minds to the Scriptures. Great power is released from the manifestation of the spirit of God in our lives, and miracles, wonders, healings, changes, deliverances, and transformations take place in the lives of all those we touch with the power of God.

The movement of God’s spiritual energy given to us in Christ produces works of goodness that break the power of Satan in a person’s life and bring great wholeness and deliverance. This energy source of God that lives within us will never diminish, never short-circuit, never be subject to shortages of power, and as a great fire of God can burn away every chaff, every bondage, every depression, every prison, every oppression, every misery, and every fear. This great source of holy spiritual power cannot accomplish the good work of the Lord unless this spiritual energy becomes kinetic and moves out from our lives into the valley of human need.   We must move by touching people with His love, healing people with His Word, delivering people by His power, helping people with His abundance, and bringing the goodness of this gospel of power and salvation to all the world. These are the good works that can be produced by the awesome energy and power of God after our new birth.

Perhaps no verse in Scripture sets forth the truth of this awesome ability and power of God that lives within us, and what it can accomplish, better than this verse in Ephesians:

Ephesians 3:20 (Amplified):      Now unto him who, by (in consequence of) the action of His power that is at work within us, is able to carry out His purpose and do superabundantly, far over and above all that we dare ask or think {infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes or dreams. New Living Translation: Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

This is a wonderful benefit of the new birth, that God can be at work within us with unlimited power above to do infinitely more than we ask or think.

What a glorious privilege it is to be a son or daughter of God through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! You have full legal standing as a son or daughter with absolute heavenly legal rights declared by the court of heaven, and no earthly or satanic power can diminish, take away, or extinguish. You cannot forfeit these legal rights; they are innate, given to you as a born again child of God. These rights are part of your inheritance as a child of God, which God has decreed with all the authority of His inalterable Word as they are firmly rooted in God’s love, pleasure, purpose, and declaration for you.

What are some of these legal rights and privileges of sonship? You have a legal right to eternal life and a home in heaven. You have a legal right to victory over the devil and his authority on the earth. You have a legal right to freedom from the bondage of sin and all its consequences. You have a legal right of deliverance from fear, worry, anxiety, and doubt. You have a legal right to the Father’s protection and care. You have a legal right to use the name of Jesus Christ in prayer, invoking its authority and power. You have a legal right to be more than a conqueror in any situation. You have a legal right to overflowing joy in all of life’s circumstances. You have a legal right to the peace of God ruling in your heart, no matter how intense the problem or trouble. You have a legal right to the wisdom of God. You have a legal right to confidence and boldness. You have the legal right to have all of your needs met according to God’s riches in glory by Christ Jesus. You have a legal right to do all things and be ready and equal to anything through Christ who strengthens you. You have a legal right to salvation and wholeness in every area of your life. You have a legal right to perfect health and deliverance from all forms of sickness and disease. You have a legal right to prosperity and overflowing abundance in your life. You have a legal right to be completely free from every form of depression, condemnation, guilt, misery, despair, and any other type of mental bondage. You have a legal right to live and walk in the revolutionary and life changing love of God that proceeds from the heart of God. You have a legal right to be changed at the return of Christ and receive a new body unlimited in scope and dimension. You have a legal right to all the blessings of your inheritance in the family of God. You have a legal right to the goodness of God abounding in every area of your life. You must know your legal rights in Christ and boldly and fearlessly walk in them all the days of your Christian life.

Do you see why the Devil does not want us to know we have eternal life? Do you see why the Devil does not want us to know the great truths of the new birth and our divine nature in Christ? He wants you to doubt your salvation for it is hard to get past square one if you do not know these truths of your salvation as a vital living reality in your heart. May we never doubt our God and His eternal purpose and plan of salvation. May we know with great confidence that we have eternal life and walk in a manner worthy of that calling.

Tim Rowe

Goodness of God Ministries

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The Eyes: The First Gateway to the Heart

shutterstock_128857243The organ we call the human heart pumps 1,900 gallons of blood through it every day. The heart is continually receiving blood through the veins into the two upper chambers of the heart, the right and left atria. The three veins that carry blood to the heart are the superior vena cava, which carries oxygen-depleted blood from the head and arms; the inferior vena cava, which carries deoxygenated blood from the lower parts of the body; and the pulmonary vein, which delivers freshly oxygenated blood from the lungs. A vein is simply a vessel, a hollow tube, which is designed to carry blood from one place to another.

I remember as a child being excited when we drove through long tunnels in the Alleghany Mountains of Pennsylvania. Later, when I lived in San Francisco, I would take the BART subway system that ran underwater tunnel from San Francisco to Berkeley. These tunnels were pathways that took me from one place to another.

Sometimes called the eighth wonder of the world, the mighty Thames Barrier in London is made up of ten gateways that regulate the flow of water to prevent catastrophic flooding from storm surges or high tides. These massive rotating gates act as powerful and effective protection for the city of London, which was long prone to flooding.

A portal, in a historical sense, was an impressive entrance, a gateway to what was usually a magnificent structure. Many castles and cathedrals were constructed with beautiful, ornate portals. Westminster Abbey in England and Notre Dame de Paris are examples of cathedrals with grand portals of entrance.

In the modern computing world, a portal is a website that acts as a gateway to other sites. In other words, it’s an anchor or starting point that makes all types of information available to users who pass through the portal. Search engines like Yahoo! and Google are considered portals because they connect users to information from all around the world. The world’s knowledge is now at the fingertips of ordinary persons like me.

In a similar manner, the heart you’ve been called to guard has vessels/ gateways/tunnels/portals that allow outside influences and information to enter the heart. Information, ideas, images pour through these gateways, shaping and molding the heart and affecting its composition, character, and health. The heart then reflects the nature of what has been allowed to enter through these portals.

If you are to properly guard your heart, you must watch over these gateways and deny entry to that which is ungodly and corrupt. You must act as a security guard or sentry, carefully checking the identity of everything and everyone that seeks to gain entrance. God’s Word sets down in no uncertain terms the truth concerning these portals, making it clear that Christians are to be discerning about what comes through them. To be lax concerning what is allowed through these passages is to court spiritual disaster and put your heart at risk of being corrupted by fear, unbelief, and the unholy. The heart can easily succumb to contaminants flowing through these portals, causing it to become hardened, unresponsive, numb, and indifferent to the things of God.

Spiritual heart disease can be directly traced back to the information, images, and ideas that are allowed to enter these gateways. These portals were designed to be gateways to a fuller communion and fellowship with the Lord, but so many of God’s children have become so careless, allowing so much of this world’s pollution to flow into their hearts. We cannot let just anything pass through the gates and into our hearts and still expect to grow and mature in Christ.

So what are these portals where you must stand guard with all vigilance? In Scripture we discover three important gateways to the heart: our eyes, our ears, and our thoughts. The issues of life that proceed from the hearts always begin with what has been allowed entry through these gateways. Each of these gateways must be deeply understood if we are to truly allow God to change, purify, and cleanse our hearts daily. The eyes, ears, and thoughts are the main portals to the heart, and we must guard these first or the task of guarding our hearts is a hopeless one.

The Eyes: The First Gateway to the Heart

The eye is the second most complex organ in the human body, next to the brain. Our eyes use more brainpower than any part of our body and can process 36,000 bits of information an hour. Our human eye can distinguish up to one million color surfaces, and our eyes take in more information than the largest telescope known to man. In fact, your brain will rewire itself, changing its own structure, function, and behavior in order to better process the images and influences entering the brain through your eyes.

Visual stimulation is therefore an important part of both the development of your brain and the composition of your heart. In The Brain Changes That Changes Itself, Canadian psychiatrist Norman Doidge writes, “Our brains our modified by the cultural activities we do—be they reading, studying music, or learning new languages. We all have what might be called a culturally-modified brain.”[i] Neuroscientist Michael Merzenich says, “Our brains are massively remodeled by [exposure to the Internet] but so, too, by reading, by television, by video games, by modern electronics, by contemporary music.”[ii]he eye is the second most complex organ in the human body, next to the brain. Our eyes use more brainpower than any part of our body and can process 36,000 bits of information an hour. Our human eye can distinguish up to one million color surfaces, and our eyes take in more information than the largest telescope known to man. In fact, your brain will rewire itself, changing its own structure, function, and behavior in order to better process the images and influences entering the brain through your eyes.

It’s staggering to think how much visual stimulation our brains receive from our televisions, computers, and other visual media and how all this information entering through the gateway of the eye dramatically affects our spiritual health. The brain and, ultimately, the heart are like plastic, easily molded and shaped by the visual information and images flowing through the portal of the eye. When you recognize that a massive remodeling project is occurring in our hearts and brains every day via this bombardment of information, you can begin to see what an enormous weapon of destruction the devil wields as the master and controller of this visual stimulation.

In a Boston Globe article titled “Silence that Idiot Box,” Jeff Jacoby writes:

For turning brains into mush, you can’t do better than television….TV isn’t called the idiot box for nothing. Even at its best it replaces engaged and active thought with passive and sedentary spectating, while at its worse destroys children’s innocence, inuring them to violence, mockery, and crude sexualization. Television is by definition a visual medium; it appeals not to the brain but to the eye. You don’t have to study hypnosis to understand how easily the eye can be exploited to undermine alertness, focus, and good judgment. Just look at the gazed and vacant expression on the face of a youngster watching TV. Most parents would be calling 911 if their child drank something that caused such a reaction. Why doesn’t the zoned-out oblivion induced by TV cause parents to panic?[iii]

Bigger, louder, and bolder than their younger cousin TV, movies remain one of the most popular forms of visual media around the world. Even in communist China, millions flock to theaters every year to be dazzled by an impressive light show of the marvels of the modern filmmaker. Given the power of this medium, it’s unfortunate that so many movies overflow with vivid illustrations of so many characteristics of the kingdom of darkness. They often sugarcoat and glorify the worse traits of our sin nature as they barrage the heart with images that disturb, agitate, or allure the heart into a state where it is numbed and deadened to the things of God.

Oliver Stone, the well-known filmmaker, has said, “Film is a powerful medium, film is a drug, film is a potential hallucinogen—it goes into your eye, it goes into your brain, it stimulates, and it’s a dangerous thing—it can be a very subversive thing.”[iv] Does it surprise you to know that the director of Scarface and Natural Born Killers admits that movies can have a powerful drug-like effect on hearts and minds and can present a dangerous threat to our spiritual health through their mesmerizing visual stimulation?

Add to this mix that other modern monster of visual stimulation, the Internet, and we see that the ear is under an all-out assault through the gateway of the eye. Although much good can come through the Internet, numerous people, including many Christians, have allowed the Internet to consume them and poison their heart for God. This is most vividly seen with the growing problem of pornography. The statistics are staggering. A 2006 study (these numbers have likely increased dramatically) showed there were 4.2 million pornographic websites on the Internet, with 420 million pages of pornographic images and material. Revenues for these sites have been estimated at $97 billion, more than the revenue of all professional football, baseball, and basketball franchises combined. Forty million U.S. adults regularly visit pornographic sites, as this is fast becoming the number one addiction not only in America, but also around the world.

Pornography is like a cancer in the Christian church and has destroyed many lives, marriages, and ministries. More than half of Christian men have admitted to struggles with pornography, and it has become a growing problem among church pastors and leadership.

Becky Tirabassi, in her book Sacred Obsession, expounds on this sad truth:

Sexual addiction is a serious problem for students from every part of the country, those who are ministers of the gospel, single adults, and married couples of all ages….I am no longer shocked by the number of men and women who share how their lives have been negatively impacted by pornography. It is becoming the norm rather than the exception.[v]

Viewing sexually explicit websites is consuming and possessing the young and old, the married and single, the unbeliever and the believer. Pornography has no respect for age, occupation, or marital status. What often starts as an innocent curiosity within a very short time becomes a compulsion, a dark secret, and an addiction of incredible proportion in a person’s life.

Do you see the absolute importance and magnitude of diligently watching over and protecting the gateway of the eye? Visual media can quickly corrupt and contaminate our hearts, quickly consuming us and turning our hearts away from God.

The Great Battle for the Eye 

We see the great battle of human history that rages on today depicted in the first few chapters of Genesis, namely those scenes in which the devil vies for the heart of man through the portal of the eye. Satan understood early on the huge impact and influence he could have on the heart through the knowledge that enters through the physical eye.

Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:8–9, NIV)

Can you imagine the breathtaking beauty of the Garden of Eden? God planted this marvelous garden as a paradise on earth to be the home of His masterpieces, man and woman, a place where they would delight in God’s presence. He wanted Adam and Eve to take great pleasure and inspiration in the beauty of His creation, designing everything on earth to be a constant reminder to His children of God’s constant love.

He made people’s eyes to behold this awe-inspiring and breathtaking beauty and desire to know their Creator in deep, intimate fellowship and communion. They were meant to behold His magnificent works and thrill to the glorious nature and unique wonders of God. Through the eye, God was to become precious and beloved to people’s hearts and the singular object of their devotion and worship.

One of Scripture’s first great truths concerning the heart’s connection to the eye is that there’s a vital link between the desires and passions of the heart and what is seen by the physical eye. So often what the heart delights in and yearns for initially enters the heart through the portal of the eye. The devil understood this truth and used it to his advantage in the temptation and seduction of Eve. She was deceived by the serpent because she failed to guard her eyes and thus her heart:

Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:4–6, NKJV, emphasis mine)

The devil’s main objective in bombarding a person with visual stimulation is to turn the heart away from God’s Word and destroy the heart’s desire and devotion for God. When the heart is deadened to the things of God, Satan can bamboozle us with the illusion that we must exalt and glorify our own self-interests above all else in order to be happy. He promulgates this great lie that we can be like God and accomplish anything we want through self-promotion. The devil promises enlightenment, pleasure, success, insight, and power without the presence, help, or demands of God. He makes these hollow promises using carefully crafted images designed to suffocate and choke the life out of the human heart and bring it into bondage to him.

It’s the same visual deception found in this description of idolatry in Romans 1:23 (NKJV), that “[they] changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man.” This is the pattern of every image, picture, and figure the devil manipulates to appeal to the human eye: God is never glorified, God is never experienced, and God is never praised. Rather, the image, picture, or figure depicts the darkness of sin that abounds in man’s fallen nature. Eve fell into this trap, as she was fascinated by the serpent’s words and promises, and allowed her eye to be taken captive by its manipulation. She took her eye off all the marvelous works and goodness of her Creator, and she forgot who God is and all His promises and love for her. She allowed her eyes to blind her heart, and she followed the lie rather than the truth.

We can see this so vividly illustrated by the meaning of some of the Hebrew words in this passage. The Hebrew word rendered as “saw” in Genesis 3:6 has the same root as the word translated “turn their eyes” in Isaiah 17:7, which means to perceive, consider, inspect, and behold with intention and purpose. Eve intently focused her eyes on the fruit of the forbidden tree, and her heart became delighted and pleased with it. She failed to guard her eye but, rather, beheld with admiration and desire the fruit that God had told her to avoid at all costs.

The Hebrew word translated “pleasant” in this same verse means attractive and delightful to the eyes, creating strong affection and the longings and cravings of a person’s heart. Through the gateway of her eyes, Eve allowed images that had been defined and framed by the words of the devil to enter her heart to the point that she craved evil. The fruit became her delight, her passion, and her earnest desire. Her heart became indifferent to God and turned away from Him. Thus she altered her reality and changed human history.

The fall of the human race in the garden was greatly assisted by the subtle manipulation of the gateway of the eye. The devil knows if he can frame and control the images that a person intently gazes upon, he can control and dominate the heart. Satan knows all too well that the heart can be led by the eyes (Job 31:7), and he has incorporated this principle into his schemes of darkness.

As the great preacher Charles Spurgeon declared, “What fascinates the eye is very apt to gain admission into the heart.”[vi]

“I Will Set No Worthless Thing Before My Eyes”

David, a man after God’s own heart, set down an important truth in the Psalms that we must abide by if we ever want to enjoy great intimacy with our heavenly Father while on earth:

I will set no worthless thing before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; It shall not fasten its grip on me. (Psalm 101:3, NASB)

The Hebrew word translate here as “worthless” is Belial, which means without value and good for nothing. This word always has a strong connotation of wickedness, lawlessness, and evil associated with it. In the Old Testament, it’s used primarily as a name for wicked and ungodly people who have sold out to the enemy and personify every form of imaginable evil, spreading through the earth like wildfire. The aim of such men and women is to hinder and obstruct the pursuit of God by diverting human passions toward idols. They twist, bend and lead the heart away from the God’s light and His Word, thus engulfing the heart in darkness and plunging it into the service of other gods.

People of Belial are constantly sowing seeds of all kinds of evil into unguarded hearts, and if left unchecked, these seeds will grow into ugly weeds and thistles. Even more disturbing is how these wicked people infiltrate the very house of God and corrupt His children’s worship and fellowship by sowing discord, strife, envy, and confusion among those who profess devotion to God and love of the brethren. They are the epitome of wolves in sheep’s clothing, subtly leading astray the people of God. We must watch and be on guard against the ways, words, and works of these worthless ones if we are to effectively guard the gateways to our heart.

These people of Belial are given many descriptive character traits in Scripture that reveal their intentions and their works. They know do not the Lord (1 Samuel 2:12). Their lips burn like fire to spread wickedness and distortion (Proverbs 16:27). They are wicked counselors (Nahum 1:11). They lead the Lord’s people to sin (1 Samuel 2:24). They worship idols and recruit others into their idolatrous practices (Deuteronomy 13:13). They lie and accuse those who stand for God’s truth, often using religious-sounding words to hurt and deceive (1 Kings 21:13).

They truly are the devil’s henchmen upon the earth, captivating the hearts of men, women, and children and enslaving them to corrupt ideas, images, and works of darkness. The first usage of the word “Belial” in the Bible sets forth the pattern and foundation for everything they do.

Certain men, the children of Belial, are gone out from among you, and have withdrawn the inhabitants of their city, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which ye have not known. (Deuteronomy 13:13, KJV)

“Scoundrels among you are leading their fellow citizens astray by saying, ‘Let us go worship other gods’—gods you have not known before.” (Deuteronomy 13:13, NLT)

These people are at war with the Most High God and everything He represents. They are “worthless” because they have dismissed God as having not any value or worth in their lives and have thrown off the yoke of God, refusing to be subject to Him or His laws. These men and women of Belial are always on the move, advancing, designing, plotting, preparing, and fabricating worthless things to turn hearts and minds against the divine purposes and love of God.

Their main strategy for extinguishing the light of God from the hearts of people is through the use of images and ideas conveyed to the heart through the gateway of the eye. This is why God admonishes us in Psalm 101:3 to not set these worthless things before our eyes, where they can mesmerize and fascinate and gain access into our hearts.

The Amplified Bible reads “I will set no base or wicked thing before my eyes.” The Hebrew word translated “thing” in this verse is dabar, which means a word, a message, a saying, and a communication. In Hebrew, dabar was regarded as an extension of one’s personality and a revelation of the very heart of that individual. It not only reveals the heart of the speaker, but the communication or message is meant to captivate the heart and be absorbed into the depths of the heart. It is a message or communication spoken directly to the heart and on a personal level as an encounter, an interaction and experience meant to bring two hearts together. There is a bonding that takes place where hearts are intertwined and tuned to the same pitch of the image, word, or message. This was truly an event where the power of the communication was released into the heart.

We often downplay the effect of a word, picture, or image we see. We say, “It’s just a movie” or “It’s just a book” or “It’s just a video” without realizing how powerful and life-altering these images or words can be. These worthless and wicked things come from the very heart of the men and women of Belial and are designed to have a profound spiritual impact on those who fix their gaze upon them. Can you imagine what havoc occurs in people’s lives when their desires, passions, and feelings are reshaped and manipulated by such worthless messages? A person’s heart is chained in bondage through this transformation and becomes a reflection of the selfishness and evil of this age. Love, compassion, and purity are pushed out of the heart by the aggressive nature of these worthless things, leaving behind a wasteland of spiritual darkness, a heart numb and apathetic to the things of God.

If we allow our attention, focus and sight to be mesmerized and captivated by these worthless communications, they will begin to fasten and cleave to the heart. God clearly illustrates this truth by the usage of the word “fasten” in Psalms 101:3 which, in the Hebrew, means to cleave, cling, join together, pursue closely and overtake, to be glued together, and to be attached to. These worthless things are like the strongest glue on earth. They are specifically designed by the devil to fasten firmly to the heart and turn it away from God. The Scripture teaches that there is a powerful cleaving nature to these worthless things, and they will grip, overtake and dominate the heart if we do not guard the gateway of the eye. These worthless things form an adhesive bond that fastens to the very fiber of the heart and most often cannot be separated from the heart without the help and power of God Almighty.

Can you see why David chose not to set his eye in an admiring gaze on any image, message, or communication coming from the men and women of Belial? He refused to allow any worthless thing to fasten itself or cleave to his heart. David had learned the lesson all too well about the careless gaze of the eye when he saw Bathsheba bathing and became infatuated with her beauty to the point he committed adultery and murder. His great sin before God all began with the gaze of the eye.

David later wrote in Psalm 141:8–9, “But my eyes are fixed on you, Sovereign Lord.…Keep me safe from the traps set by the evildoers, from the snares they have laid for me.” When your eyes are fixed on God, then He will protect your from the snares and traps set by these men and women of Belial who throw out worthless things as bait to capture the heart. The focus of your eye must always be directed first and foremost on our loving Lord if your heart is to remain spiritually healthy and vibrant. Isaiah 40:26 declares, “Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens,” because nothing on earth compares to the greatness of God. It is only when your gaze is cast down upon the worthless things of this world that your heart can be drawn toward evil.

The Allure of Vanity

The phrase “word (dabar) of the Lord” appears 242 times in the Old Testament. The words of the Lord are power (2 Peter 3:5), light (Psalm 119:105), and life (John 6:63). We need to fix our eyes daily on the pages of the Bible and meditate on the life-changing words of God. We need to fasten them to our hearts like superglue, for these words reveal the heart of God, and our own hearts should always be tuned to the pitch of His words. This is an absolute requirement if we are to effectively guard the gateway of our eyes.

God’s Word helps us turn our eyes from the deceptive pleasures of this world and direct our focus back on the majesty of all that God is and everything He does for His people.

Turn away my eyes from beholding vanity (idols and idolatry); and restore me to vigorous life and health in Your ways. (Psalm 119:37, AMP)

David knew he could not guard the gateway of his eyes in his own strength. He needed God’s help, guidance, and wisdom to turn his gaze away from the fascination of vanity. The Hebrew word translated “vanity” in this passage means emptiness, nothingness, futility, uselessness, ruinous, false, and deception. There is an alluring deception in the pleasures of the world that can overwhelm us for a moment, but it ultimately fades into the night like a mist of vapor. Vanity is fleeting, yet the eyes can be spellbound by the bombardment of its images, ideas, and promises. The sad truth is that it’s all a lie, a cruel hoax, a journey into nothingness because God has no part in it.

Ecclesiastes 1:8 tells us, “The eye is never satisfied with seeing,” while 1 John 2:16 speaks of “the lust of the eyes.” But no matter how appealing earthly delights are to the eye, it can never satisfy the heart. When the eye is turned to vanity, we will always desire more, but nothing can quench this thirst or satisfy our lust. Vanity always disappoints the hope that is set upon it. Vanity ultimately mocks our foolishness for pursuing it above all else as it our life wastes away. Vanity is a stealer of destiny, purpose, and calling. It’s is a destroyer of virtue and an enemy of spiritual growth and intimacy with God.

The first biblical usage of the Hebrew root for “vanity” appears in the Third Commandment: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” (Exodus 20:7, esv). The base cause of vanity is a false report, or false witness, in the heart of a person regarding the nature, character, and name of the Lord God Almighty. Vanity is rooted in confusion as to who God is, and it exhibits a total lack of understanding of His majesty, goodness, and grandeur. A vain person does not know God on a personal level and does not experience Him in a close, living relationship. Without this knowledge, the vain person exalts himself to be god on the throne of his heart and worships the works, thoughts, and ideas of his own hands. Such people fall in love with their own image rather than the magnificent glory of God.

The path of vanity always ends in misery, for it rests on the great lie of the devil that “you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). This lie led to the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden. Even today, vanity is the great seducer of the human race, calling us to play God, be God, reject God, and usurp His authority. Vanity is the grand masquerader and seductively beckons for all to look upon her, fall in love with her, and become consumed by her. She has deceived generation after generation of people foolish enough to follow her and devote their lives to the pursuit of her.

Unfortunately, vanity is not the exclusive domain of the unbeliever but resides as a fixture in the lives of far too many Christians and churches across the world. But as Job 35:13 says, God will not hear vanity or pay it any attention. Vanity shuts down the active and vibrant presence of God in the heart and blocks effective prayer. Vanity throws us out of fellowship and intimacy with God and turns the focus of our lives inward toward selfishness and pride. Vanity is a driving force behind the worship of idols and religious systems that claim to represent the words and will of God Almighty but are in fact empty of truth and lead the heart away from God.

Vanity is the deception of a life without God—a life where God is not wanted or needed, a life in which a person’s goals, desires, and morals are built on a foundation of sand. The Bible clearly describes this pursuit as empty, useless, and futile. Without God, our every pursuit leads to a dead end. Without God, the heart is hopelessly sick, condemned to wander aimlessly in darkness, lacking vitality and real joy. If God is absent from your desires, motivations, and goals, then you are utterly wasting your life:

Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves. (Psalm 127:1–2, NIV)

Let’s return for a moment to Psalm 119:37, in which David prayed, “Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity, and revive me in Your ways” (NASB). The word “revive” in the Hebrew means to be alive, to restore to life, to flourish, and to cause to grow. The word “ways” here comes from the Hebrew word meaning to walk or tread. Hence, David is speaking in terms of a journey that someone takes or a path that one has traveled. He is describing the pattern, habits, and course of one’s life. God will make alive His path in our hearts if we will look away from vanity and turn our focus and gaze on Him.

God has prepared the journey of all journeys for your life—an exhilarating adventure of passion, audacity, and earth-shattering power. God wants to imprint His map on your heart and be the sole programmer of your life’s GPS. Your heart will flourish with the vibrant life of God when His ways become your ways and His path becomes your path.

However, vanity rejects this God-ordained journey and instead re-routes the heart for a journey that ultimately leads to nothing but disappointment, misery, and destruction. William Cowper, the great English poet and hymnist, once said, “By the eyes, oftentimes, as by windows, death enters into the heart.”[vii] Vanity hinders, suppresses, and suffocates the ways of God in our hearts. Therefore true revival will never become a reality in the church (or a Christian’s life) as long as our eyes are fixated on vain things.

Does not [God] see my ways and count all my steps? If I have walked with falsehood or vanity, or if my foot has hastened to deceit—oh, let me be weighed in a just balance and let Him weigh me, that God may know my integrity! If my step has turned out of [God’s] way, and my heart has gone the way of my eyes [covetously] invited, and if any spot has stained my hands with guilt, then let me sow and let another eat; yes, let the produce of my field or my offspring be rooted out. (Job 31:4-8, AMP)

The heart will always go the way of the eye. Job knew this to be true. Focusing the eyes on vanity and worthless things will invariably cause us to turn from God’s way. Aren’t you tired of all the dead ends you encounter when you try to forge your own path?

Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. (Proverbs 4:25, NIV)

Give me your heart, my son, and let your eyes delight in my ways. (Proverbs 23:26, NASB)

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4: 18, NIV)

If you are ever to fully give God your heart, then your eyes must delight in His ways. Your eyes should sparkle with the light of His presence and remain ever fixed on the majesty, goodness and greatness of God. He gave you two marvelous, wondrous eyes so that you could behold His awesome works and never forget His faithfulness. However, if you fail to fix your eyes upon the Lord above all else, then your heart will soon forget His ways. His light will begin to fade and your heart wither until He is pushed out altogether and another ascends to the heart’s throne.

The remembrance of Christ vanishes from the heart as it now cleaves to something new, following an image or likeness that has captivated you. The Second Commandment declares, “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them” (Exodus 20:4–5). One of the great weaknesses of the human heart is that it gravitates toward an image and begins to worship and build its life around it. Our eyes are bombarded daily with a thousand substitutes for God, as the devil hopes that one or more of these images will gain access to the heart as an object of worship, ultimately dominating and controlling the issues of life that flow from it. This is the modern-day golden calf that the devil wants to place in your heart through the gaze of your eyes, so that you turn away from God and give your devotion to another.

Yet when you cling to the Lord for life, you can defeat a thousand enemies attempting to infiltrate and corrupt your heart. You need only fix your eyes on the eternal and the magnificence of His kingdom. For how can an image or any likeness ever compare to our glorious God?

Make a Covenant with Your Eyes

So we must make a solemn covenant with our eyes that we will not look lustfully on any person, thing, possession, or ambition that usurp the place of God in our lives. This covenant is a sacred promise to God Almighty that we will guard the gateway of our eyes. This is the highest form of a pledge or contract. God will honor our covenant and help us guard our eyes when we trust and seek Him with all our heart.

There is perhaps no greater example in the Bible of the destructive consequences of a wandering gaze than the story of Achan from the book of Joshua. The day had come when the walls of Jericho would fall and the city delivered into the hands of the children of Israel. But the Lord had given Joshua explicit instructions concerning the contents of the city. So Joshua warned the Israelites:

“Jericho and everything in it must be completely destroyed as an offering to the Lord….Do not take any of the things set apart for destruction, or you yourselves will be completely destroyed, and you will bring trouble on the camp of Israel. Everything made from silver, gold, bronze, or iron is sacred to the Lord and must be brought into his treasury.” (Joshua 6:17–19, NLT)

But Achan, of the tribe of Judah, could not control himself. He fixed his eyes on vain and worthless things—a cloak, some silver, and some gold (Joshua 7:20–21). His heart earnestly craved and desired these things at enormous cost to himself, his family, and his nation.

Achan failed to guard the gateway of his eyes, and as a result, the people of Israel could no longer stand against their enemies. The army of Israel was routed by the men of Ai, thirty-six of Israel’s best fighting men were killed, and the hearts of the people melted in great fear and discouragement. God’s help had departed from Israel. The covenant of the Lord had been transgressed, and so Achan lost his possessions, his family, and his life, dying in disgrace in front of all the children of Israel.

Achan’s devastating sin began with the wandering gaze of the eye. When we fail to guard the gateway of our eyes, the same tragic consequences can befall our lives, our families, and our communities.

“The lamp of the body is the eye. If your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is evil, your whole body will be full of darkness. If all the light you have is darkness, it is dark indeed!” (Matthew 6:22–23, PHILLIPS)

When either light or darkness enters the heart, it’s directly related to the focus of our eyes. If the gaze of the eye is pure, the heart will be pure. If we focus on that which is healthy, the heart will be healthy. But if the gaze of the eye is directed toward evil and worthless things, then the heart will be filled with darkness. If we focus on that which is impure and wicked, then the heart becomes diseased and unhealthy.

Nothing else is more worthy of our gaze than God Almighty. We should never allow any earthly image to turn our eyes away from His face. We need to see as our Lord Jesus Christ sees, to lift up our eyes to the eternal where we behold the wondrous things of God—His creation, His mighty acts, His living Word, and His awe-inspiring nature. We must see through the eyes of faith, trusting in God’s faithfulness and His unfailing love. Let us not grieve God by recklessly turning our eyes away from Him to gaze on another. For if we habitually fix our eyes in adoration on worthless things and earthbound images, our hearts are surely lost.

Tim Rowe

This is an excerpt from my new book “The Heart: The Key to Everything in the Christian Life.” Order now at: https://www.amazon.com/Heart-Key-Everything-Christian-Life/dp/1483447928/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1476275467&sr=8-1&keywords=the+heart+the+key+to+everything

 [i] Norman Doidge, The Brain that Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science (New York: Penguin Books, 2007).

[ii] Michael Merzenich, Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change your Life (San Francisco: Parnassus Publishers, LLC 2005).

[iii] Jeff Jacoby, Silence that Idiot Box, The Boston Globe, September 27, 2009.

[iv] Oliver Stone-quoted in Dworkin 1996.

[v] Becky Tirabassi, Sacred Obsession (Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, 2006), 28.

[vi] Charles H. Spurgeon, Treasury of David: Charles Spurgeon Commentary on Psalms (Easton: Niche House Publishing, 2011), Kindle, 52461.

[vii] Charles Spurgeon, Treasury of David: Volume 6, Study of the Psalms, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1976), 106.

 

 

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Idolatry: The Principal Crime of the Human Race, Part 3

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Jeremiah’s Indictment against Idolatry among God’s Chosen

Listen to the heart-rending words of God to His people.

This is what the Lord says: “What fault did your ancestors find in me, that they strayed so far from me? They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves. Cross over to the coasts of Cyprus and look, send to Kedar and observe closely; see if there has ever been anything like this: Has a nation ever changed its gods? (Yet they are not gods at all.) But my people have exchanged their glorious God for worthless idols. “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water. “Long ago you broke off your yoke and tore off your bonds; you said, ‘I will not serve you!’ Indeed, on every high hill and under every spreading tree you lay down as a prostitute. I had planted you like a choice vine of sound and reliable stock. How then did you turn against me into a corrupt, wild vine? Do not run until your feet are bare and your throat is dry. But you said, ‘It’s no use! I love foreign gods, and I must go after them.’ “As a thief is disgraced when he is caught, so the people of Israel are disgraced—they, their kings and their officials, their priests and their prophets. They say to wood, ‘You are my father,’ and to stone, ‘You gave me birth.’ They have turned their backs to me and not their faces; yet when they are in trouble, they say, ‘Come and save us!’ Where then are the gods you made for yourselves? Let them come if they can save you when you are in trouble! For you, Judah, have as many gods as you have towns. “Why do you bring charges against me? You have all rebelled against me,” declares the Lord. “You of this generation, consider the word of the Lord: “Have I been a desert to Israel or a land of great darkness? Why do my people say, ‘We are free to roam; we will come to you no more’? (Jeremiah 2:5, 10-11, 20-21, 25-29, 31, NIV)

These verses in Jeremiah are one of the greatest indictments against idolatry ever written to the house of God. All churches, pastors, teachers and Christians of this generation would do well to heed these fiery words of truth. What fault do we find in God that we must stray from Him? Why must we exchange our glorious God at the bank of this world for worthless idols that cannot heal, help or save us? Why must we love our idols so much and refuse to give up our foreign gods, consulting with them as if they were our spiritual father? Why do we so often turn our backs toward God and declare, “I will not serve you! I will not obey you! I will not take heed to your Word!” Why do we make gods and worship their images, disgracing God by thinking these idols give our life meaning and purpose? Why do our hearts roam the earth, searching for something to satisfy our inner thirst and hunger instead of simply coming to God and surrendering all to Him? Why do we forsake God who is the fountain of living waters and hew out for ourselves old, broken cisterns that can hold no water? Why do we feel the need to run wild with the world and prostitute our hearts to another god?

The Wounding of God’s Heart

All of our idols are worthless! All of our idols are broken! All of our idols are rubbish! Why is our heart an idol factory when we are children of the most spectacular and amazing God the world has ever seen? Why do we desert our God, forget Him days without number? What does an idol possess that God does not? Yet Ezekiel declares that Israel, God’s beloved, had deserted Him! They crushed and broke God’s heart! Are we continuing in this same heart-breaking pattern today by deserting our God for our precious idols? Has the church become a house of idols and thrust God from its presence? Is God grieving and shedding tears daily because of the idolatrous condition of your heart? Nothing breaks God’s heart more than the idolatry of His children.

In the nations where they have been taken as exiles, those who have been spared will remember Me—how I have been wounded by their promiscuous hearts that turned away from Me, how I have been hurt by their wandering eyes that desired lifeless idols. They will hate themselves for the evil they have done and for their detestable actions. (Ezekiel 6:9, VOICE)

They will realize how I was crushed by their unfaithful heart which turned from me and by their eyes which lusted after their idols. (NEB)

They’ll realize how devastated I was by their betrayals, by their voracious lust for gratifying themselves in their idolatries. (MSG)

I have been broken over their whoring heart that has departed from me and over their eyes that go whoring after their idols. (ESV)

God has deep emotion and love for His children. He wants to be loved; He wants to be wanted; He wants to be adored. God’s heart is crushed when we are unfaithful to Him by giving our love and affection to an idol. God’s heart is broken and deeply hurt when we betray Him for other gods. He weeps over our hearts that turn away from Him and go whoring after idols. The intensity and depth of God’s broken heart is revealed in the Hebrew word “broken” which means to break into pieces, to be shattered, to be crushed, to be torn to pieces by a wild beast, and to be ruptured. We shatter God’s heart to pieces and wound Him when we choose to forsake Him by giving our hearts to worthless idols.

Idolatry Takes Away the Heart

Hosea 4 tells us that idolatry takes away the heart. God is devastated when He loses our hearts for He has lost our love, devotion, and worship. We choose whom we love. We choose whom our eyes adore. We choose the object of our thoughts, time and passion. We all have a first love. Is it Jesus or something else? Are we letting the spirit of Judas enter into our hearts where we depart into the night from the presence of Jesus to betray him?

Pause a moment and think who your heart is following? What has captured its passion? Who is your first love? Have I betrayed my Lord for an idol? God cries out like he did in Micah 6:3: “O my people, what have I done to you? What have I done to make you tired of me? Answer me!”

Jesus weeps over our hearts because he sees the plans our Heavenly Father has for our lives. He sees our calling, he sees our potential, he sees the impact we could make for his kingdom. He sees what could have been if we had not wasted our lives being seduced by an idol. Given the amazing things that God has done for us to prove His love, does He deserve such treatment? Have we become so molded by our culture that we have become tired of God? Are we tired of His commandments and calling? Are we tired of the sacrifice that He demands in following Him? Has the flame for God in our hearts been extinguished? Would we rather enjoy the things of the world than the things of heaven? Are we weary of the demands of discipleship that the Lord Jesus requires? Have we lost our heart for God and opened the door wide for idols to enter?

But God has not given up on our hearts. He cries out like in Malachi 1:2; “I have always loved you!” He wants to recapture our hearts. He wants us to turn back to Him where He waits with open arms. He is watching at the window like the father of the prodigal son, hoping to catch a glimpse of us coming back home. The words of the prophet Hosea ring true of God’s beautiful heart and His tender care of us. He can’t let us go of us or forsake us, but will always fight to regain our hearts from the clutches of idolatry.

“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and I called my son out of Egypt. But the more I called to him, the farther he moved from me, offering sacrifices to the images of Baal and burning incense to idols. I myself taught Israel how to walk, leading him along by the hand. But he doesn’t know or even care that it was I who took care of him. I led Israel along with my ropes of kindness and love. I lifted the yoke from his neck, and I myself stooped to feed him. For my people are determined to desert me. They call me the Most High, but they don’t truly honor me. “Oh, how can I give you up, Israel? How can I let you go? How can I destroy you like Admah or demolish you like Zeboiim? My heart is torn within me and my compassion overflows. (Hosea 11:1-4, 7-8, NLT)

God’s love for us is so great and vast that it is immeasurable. He treasures us and has given us abundant grace and goodness from our first breath. God has taken care of us with kindness and love, holding us by the hand, and teaching and guiding us. He has stooped down to wipe the tears from our face and to clean and mend our wounds. He is what every parent should be and a thousand times more. He has never failed us, never abandoned us and never forgot us.

Yet the tragic thread throughout the history of God’s people is they are woefully inadequate in knowing their God. They honor Him with their lips, but their hearts are far from Him. They become deaf to God’s calling not hearing His pleas to come and enjoy Him, and give Him their hearts. They fail to see God’s loving hand in their lives, and He loses importance as they sacrifice their ambitions, goals, and dreams on the altar of another god. They desert God and His way of life days without number, and are determined to live life according to their own wishes. They run after the paths of other gods and crave what these gods promise. They become empty and oppressed by their own foolishness in ignoring God’s calling and invitation to turn from their wicked ways and come back to Him.

At the Heart of Every Sin is Idolatry

Just as in the Old Testament with Israel and Judah, the same is true today in the Christian church: Idolatry has consumed the heart of God’s people. Our true desire, love, and passion so often lie with another. Jesus continues to plead with our hearts like he did with Peter asking if we love him more than all the things of this world. As Christians our hearts are full of idols, and we do not even know it. At the heart of every sin against God is idolatry, and the desire for something other than God. Sin is the taking of our heart and aiming it in another direction away from God. What do you thirst for in life? What do you crave for daily? What do you hunger for in life? What is the driving force behind everything you do? Where is your appetite? The answers to these questions reveal the idols that are controlling your heart.

The Greatest Commandment

God’s loving heart is torn by our divided loyalties. He is hurt, grieves, and mourns, but His compassion still overflows towards us like a mighty river. He has laid out in the Bible for all to see what He desires, what He wants, what He craves and what He commands above all other things. At the center of His Word, Almighty God sets forth the greatest commandment and instruction for life ever given in the history of the world. This commandment is written with the very finger of God, and should be the cornerstone of our thoughts, desires, motivations and deeds. To break this commandment is to brand our heart an idolater. To violate this instruction is to break the very heart of God. To willfully turn our back on this holy decree is to label us a rebel and traitor against God’s kingdom. This commandment must be the foundation of our heart. It is the critical key to determine the condition of your heart.

Then God gave the people all these instructions: “I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery. “You must not have any other god but me. “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands. (Exodus 20:1-5, NLT)

Then one of the scribes came up and listened to them disputing with one another, and, noticing that Jesus answered them fitly and admirably, he asked Him, Which commandment is first and most important of all [in its nature]? Jesus answered, The first and principal one of all commands is: Hear, O Israel, The Lord our God is one Lord; And you shall love the Lord your God out of and with your whole heart and out of and with all your soul (your life) and out of and with all your mind (with your faculty of thought and your moral understanding) and out of and with all your strength. This is the first and principal commandment. (Mark 12:28-30, AMP)

The human heart is to have one governor, king, lord, master, and God. God will share your heart with no other. This is the principal rule of the heart that God must have all of its love, devotion and worship. There is no territory for any rival god. There is no peace treaty that allows other gods to co-exist and occupy the heart. God and idols cannot live together in the same place. Nothing else can be a god in our lives. God owns the exclusive rights to every inch of our hearts. When we violate this fundamental truth, we set the entire order of God’s kingdom upside down and disrupt the essence of His creation.

The greatest thing you can ever do is to love God with every ounce of your soul, with every part of your mind, with every bit of your strength and with every fiber of our heart. Everything we are and everything we ever hope to be must be focused on loving God. He is our first love. He alone is worthy of the heart’s praise, adoration and worship. In the beginning was God and God alone. He is from everlasting to everlasting. He created the heavens and earth with the power of His Word without the help of any lifeless idol or imaginary god. In Him is life that he breathed out into every living thing throughout the earth. By Him every atom in all creation is held together. He is the light that shines in the darkness, and nothing can overpower or extinguish it. He alone is the Lord God and there is none other. All other gods are counterfeits and worthless imitations of the one true God. All other gods are imposters and charlatans who attempt to deceive their way into our hearts.

Oh that the Lord God may open our eyes and give us spiritual wisdom and insight to see the endless list of gods attempting to gain access into our hearts. This commandment must be engraved in our hearts, and we must discipline ourselves to obey it without reservation. If we disobey it, then we allow the deadliest disease ever known to mankind to infiltrate and corrupt our hearts. This commandment from the heart of God should have a big red warning sign beside it, because to ignore these holy words is to sign a death warrant for our own spiritual, mental and physical destruction. So when Satan comes knocking at the door of our heart with the temptations of idolatry we can cry out like Jesus “The prince of the world is coming and he has nothing in me; he has no claim on me; he has no hold over me; he has no power over me; and he has no part in me!” John 14:30.

In this first commandment, the Hebrew word for “before me” is al paniym, and means before or in front of my face. It literally says: “Don’t ever let any other god get between your face and my face!” God wants the intimacy, closeness, and tenderness of a face-to-face relationship with His children. God wants us to look on our face, and make His face shine upon us, without the interference of an idol being stuck between our faces. No idol should ever block or hide the face of God in our lives. We deeply insult God to His face when we are more in love with an idol than we are with Him. He lovingly whispers to our heart, “Here I am! Here I am! Look to me! Gaze on my face! Come to me and let us fellowship together and enjoy each other in the intimate embrace of love!” The Lord is ready to respond to your heart in a second for you are His most beloved. God’s arms are wide open to receive you! Why are you letting an idol block your path to the heart of God? Why are you letting an idol cast its shadow on your face and prevent your eyes from gazing on the glory and majesty of God Almighty?

The Lord says, “I was ready to respond, but no one asked for help. I was ready to be found, but no one was looking for me. I said, ‘Here I am, here I am!’ to a nation that did not call on my name. All day long I opened my arms to a rebellious people. But they follow their own evil paths and their own crooked schemes. All day long they insult me to my face by worshiping idols in their sacred gardens. They burn incense on pagan altars. (Isaiah 65:1-3, NLT)

The Two Faces of Genesis

The first usage of paniym in the book of Genesis sets forth a foundational truth about the face and the daily choice that confronts the heart.

Now the earth had become waste and wild and darkness was on the face (paniym) of the roaring deep but the Spirit of God was brooding on the face (paniym) of the waters. (Genesis 1:2, EBR)

When the archangel Lucifer, God’s second in command, revolted against God and was cast out from God’s presence to the earth with one third of the angels, it had a cataclysmic effect on the earth. The entire earth was engulfed in darkness and became a wasteland of chaotic ruin. Imagine raging, violent waves of troubled waters that had consumed all the earth. God describes the face of this roaring deep as darkness. This is the first face in Scripture, the face of darkness, and it was caused by Lucifer’s pride, rebellion and rejection of the one true God. This face was borne out of war with God and tasted crushing defeat. This is the face of emptiness, the face of ruin, the face of destruction and the face of nothingness. This is the true face of idolatry.

The second face is the face of the Spirit of God that was moving in the chaos to bring glorious restoration to the earth. No matter how fierce the waves or how turbulent the waters, the Spirit of God was the face of light, the face of life, the face of hope and the face of deliverance. The Spirit of God is brooding in deep thought over the ruins of the earth, ready to spring into action to bring to pass His magnificent plans in the midst of chaos. The Spirit of God is about to renew the face of the entire earth and bring life, light and order back to creation. The Spirit of God breathes life into every living thing and dispels the darkness with one word from His lips.

The Spirit of God is the living, true God in action, bringing God’s will to pass in intricate detail in His creation. God chose to restore the earth so it could be the birthplace and garden of delight for His beloved children. Our faces should always be turned to the mighty God who is Spirit, life, light, peace, and perfect in His order, purposes and will. There is no confusion, darkness, chaos, and ruin to those whose face reflects the glory, life and light of the Spirit of God. Will our faces be darkened by idolatry or be radiant by the Spirit of God? When we face the turbulent waters of troubles and challenges in life, will we turn our faces to an idol that brings darkness and ruin, or to the Spirit of God that brings deliverance, hope and restoration?

Confusion of Faces

In the book of Daniel, God describes a malady in His people, which he calls “confusion of faces.”

O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, through all the countries whither thou hast driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against thee. O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against thee. To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against him; Neither have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. (Daniel 9:7-10, KJV)

The ‘confusion of faces’ is a term that describes the dilemma of a people who cannot rightly discern what way of life to pursue. They are confronted with the faces of a thousand different idols that are in competition with the face of God Almighty. Their faces are covered in confusion. The faces of their many idols have caused them shame, grief and disappointment. They do not know where to turn. They are weary of oppression and do not know where to go. Every idol has a face that is calling out to them. They are groping for the truth, but too spiritually blind to find it. Their sin and rebellion against God has caused them to seek thousands of faces in the darkness of idolatry, which has plunged their hearts into confusion. Their shameful idols leave them desolate and bewildered in times of trouble. They have lost hope. They are in despair. Their lives are crumbling and falling apart in front of their eyes.

This condition is not unique to Bible times. Don’t we live today in the age of confusion of faces? Our idols have betrayed us, causing us great confusion and shame. Our countenance reflects fear, anxiety and uncertainty. We are hopelessly confused on the meaning of life and grasp at anything that will entertain us and numb the pain. The world is becoming more violent, evil and vicious yet we do not seek God’s face. God has been thrust behind our backs for the fleeting pleasures of idolatry. Chaos reigns in the inner chambers of our hearts as we follow our idols of shame.

History has confirmed this truth that idolatry always brings confusion, shame and moral deterioration to a people and nation because their spiritual life is in shambles. The life and light of God has departed from their eyes, ears and thoughts, which is a sure recipe for disaster. Shame is an intense emotion of the heart that is accompanied with feelings of guilt, dishonor, disappointment, and disgrace. Unfortunately for many, the shame will not become apparent until they stand at the judgment seat of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. His face will be like the sun in all its brilliance, and his eyes will be like flames of fire. He is the first and the last, and holds the keys to death and hell. On that mighty and notable day of the Lord, the true folly and shame of every idol will be fully revealed.

God makes a remarkable promise in Romans 10:11: “The Scripture says, No man who believes in Him, who adheres to, relies on, and trusts in Him, will ever be put to shame or be disappointed.” When we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and have no other gods beside Him, our hearts will never be confused, shamed or disappointed. Confusion of faces does not exist for the child of God who faithfully obeys this great first commandment.

The Worship of the Image

The second commandment also contains important truths regarding idolatry.

You shall not make yourself any graven image [to worship it] or any likeness of anything that is in the heavens above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; (Exodus 20:4, AMP)

Who is such a fool as to fashion a god or cast a graven image that is profitable for nothing? (Isaiah 44:10, AMP)

I am the Lord: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images. (Isaiah 42:8, KJV)

“Of what value is an idol carved by a craftsman? Or an image that teaches lies? For the one who makes it trusts in his own creation; he makes idols that cannot speak. (Habakkuk 2:18, NIV)

Blessed be the man who hath not made an image, or a figure, or similitude which the Lord hateth and which is an abomination before him. (Deuteronomy 27:15a, JTE)

The Bible clearly sets forth this truth that we must never fashion or make an image or figure into an idol and worship it. The wandering heart is so desperate for a god that it fashions a god into an image that it has conceived in its own mind so it can be seen, felt, touched and experienced with the five senses. This pattern of image-making arises out of unbelief and a lack of trust in the Everlasting God. Images seduce the heart and bring it into the camp of idolatry. Images drive motivation, ignite desires and fuel passions. We trust our images to take the place of God. Some of the most dominant obsessions of our culture, sex, money, beauty and fame, have the most powerful images associated with them. The world puts enormous pressure on the human heart to conform to its images.

The Devil is the master originator of images in every culture and nation designed to ignite rebellion and disobedience against God. The use of images is a primary tool of the Devil in setting up a command post and communication center within our hearts. Satan uses images to awaken and feed our sin nature. Images bring pollution, impurity and spiritual disease into the heart and clear the path for idols. Images prepare the way for idolatry.

An image is a representation of idol that introduces the heart in a powerful visual way to a false god. These images are often made into physical objects that become idols. These images can become a dominant thought pattern of the heart, a mental image that becomes an idol, fueling our thoughts, words and actions. These images brand themselves into the depths of the heart and mold it to become a reflection of the images it worships.

G.K. Beale in We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry explains:

God has made humans to reflect him. But if they do not commit themselves to him, they will not reflect him but something else in creation. At the core of our beings we are imaging creatures. It is not possible to be neutral on this issue: we either reflect the Creator or something in creation.[i]

We are both imaging and worshipping people in the core of our hearts. These two inherent characteristics in our genetic makeup are the foundation of all idolatry. When sin poured into our nature like a deadly virus from the fall of Adam, it corrupted these core desires. Our hearts ran wild and began to create images out of fear, lust, pride and unbelief and made them into idols, bowing down before them. The Devil deceptively uses these core cravings of the heart to turn us into idolaters. He knows that deep in the heart of man there is a fervent desire to worship and to be passionately committed to something. We were made to worship as God designed every cell of our bodies and every part of our souls to be intimately and deeply in love with Him.

There are No Atheists: Every Person Worships Something

However, if the heart is not committed to God Almighty, by its very nature, it will fashion an image into a god to worship. We cannot remain on the sidelines when it comes to imaging and worshipping. The heart is never spiritually neutral in these areas. The heart does not exist in a spiritual vacuum with nothing to worship and no image to reflect. We yearn for something to give life meaning. We crave for something to pursue and chase after, and something to become the driving passion in our lives. Every single heart on planet earth has a god. There are no atheists. Every heart on planet earth worships. There are no exceptions.

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

Everyone is going to worship a god. We were created to be worshippers, as birds were created to fly and rivers were created to flow. It’s what we do. The question for you is who or what will be the object of our worship … If that person is a member of the human race and comes fully equipped with mind and body and emotions, then it follows that the individual is, in face, a worshiper. It’s factory installed, standard equipment-not a buyer’s option … whether you realize it or not, you are worshipping. That what human beings do, right alongside breathing and eating and thinking … We each make the choice to worship, and then at some point we discover that the choice makes us. The object of your worship will determine your future and define your life. It is the one choice all other choices are motivated by.[ii]

The heart is an idol maker and must have a god to worship. The first ingredient in the recipe of idolatry is to find an image that can become an object of worship. The heart is creative in its images and loves to share them with others. Soon there is a community of people worshipping the same images. Man-made religions are borne out of an image that is forged into a god that holds powerful sway and control over people. The heart is a rabid image maker. The heart is fanatical about its images. In the chaos of this world, people desire to hold onto something that brings security, comfort and safety. The heart is looking for a savior, an image it can turn to as an object of trust, to save it from all of life’s perils.

Image: The Desire to Control Chaos

The picture for the Hebrew word “image,” tselem vividly illustrates this point. Hebrew is a pictographic language as each letter represents a picture. When the root letters of a Hebrew word are analyzed, they paint a picture illuminating the meaning of the word. God designed the Hebrew language to communicate a message to both the ears and the eyes.

The pictograph of tselem are the letters tsadelamedmem meaning “desire (need)—control (authority)—chaos.” An image arises out of the desire to control chaos. We look to an image to give us hope in the midst of troubling circumstances, and an anchor in the midst of the craziness of this chaotic world. We accept an image of the world into our hearts, turning it into a counterfeit savior that we hope can deliver us from our fears and give us peace. We are driven to images because we must control the chaos, and out of this obsession flows the birth of idolatry.

The human race has become masters at making images to worship. The world promotes a culture that is driven by its images. Images excite, stimulate, fascinate, mesmerize, and captivate. Images are designed to draw the heart into their alluring snare where they kindle the cravings of our sin nature. Behind every image is a false hope and an attractive ideal that is designed to turn the heart away from God. These images promise pleasure, satisfaction, success, self-fulfillment and self-worth. But God’s Word says in Habakkuk 2:18 that these images are teacher of lies. At the very center of every image is a cleverly disguised lie. Images cannot deliver the promise. Images cannot fulfill the dream. Images are built on deception. Images will always disappoint and ultimately bring sorrow and disillusionment to the heart. Images are designed by the god of this world to take the heart out of God’s camp and make it a prisoner of war.

The Devil is on every street corner pedaling his wares, as he wants us to enter into a deal with him. He tells us of his offer that is guaranteed to thrill our hearts and bring us all the things we so passionately desire. We can exchange the majestic image of God for any of the thousands of images in his warehouse. These images look so beautiful, cool, sexy and alluring. Our heart reasons: “If only I could look like that!” Our imaginations run wild as we crave for a new image. We want to go on a shopping spree in the Devil’s mall of images so we can make an exchange that our foolish hearts think will be more exciting and adventurous. We dream about our new images as spiritual blindness sets in. We forget about the glory and excellence of the immortal God whose image we bear, and decide it’s time for a makeover. We want to look like that beautiful model in the magazine. We want to dress like that sexy actor or actress on TV. We want to be like the rock star with all their fame, money and popularity. We want to be like that super sports athlete that is idolized by fans and elevated to kingship status in our culture. We want our lives to be full of the new cars, houses, and playthings of the rich and famous. We are in love with the images broadcast on television and the Internet, and we are deluded into thinking that these images are more important than God.

The Terrible Exchange

Romans sets forth the sad truth of this great exchange that occurs in the hearts of millions of people every day.

For ever since the creation of the world His invisible nature and attributes, that is, His eternal power and divinity, have been made intelligible and clearly discernible in and through the things that have been made (His handiworks). So men are without excuse [altogether without any defense or justification], Because when they knew and recognized Him as God, they did not honor and glorify Him as God or give Him thanks. But instead they became futile and godless in their thinking with vain imaginings, foolish reasoning, and stupid speculations and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools [professing to be smart, they made simpletons of themselves]. And by them the glory and majesty and excellence of the immortal God were exchanged for and represented by images, resembling mortal man and birds and beasts and reptiles. (Romans 1:20-23, AMP)

God is so magnificent that there is no excuse for exchanging Him for an image that arises out of our vain imaginings, foolish reasoning and stupid speculations. That is a horrible transaction no matter how you look at it. We are getting a raw deal because the image is a cheap, worthless imitation of God. It is a defective, dangerous product that will cause immense harm to the heart.

We were formed, made and created to be image-bearers of God’s glory. God’s glory is the manifestation of everything He is: His majesty, power, strength, holiness, greatness, goodness, and righteousness. The glory of God is the total sum of all God’s attributes. God’s glory is eternal, infinite, and boundless. The glory of God transforms the heart into a brilliant reflection of Himself. When we look in the mirror we should see a reflection of the glory of the Lord, not the image of the world. As 2 Corinthians 4:18 says: “Now all of us, with our faces unveiled, reflect the glory of the Lord as if we are mirrors; and so we are being transformed into His same image from one radiance of glory to another, just as the Spirit of the Lord accomplishes it.” What an awesome privilege to radiate the image of the glory of the Lord as we become more and more like Him. What image can be compared to the majesty and glory of the Lord? All the riches, fame, and beauty of the world fade into nothing when compared to the glory of the Lord. It is like comparing a grain of sand to the entire universe.

Do you see why this exchange of images is the worst spiritual trade a person could make because it costs you your heart? The Greek word for “exchange” means to cause one thing to cease and another to take its place. In the Septuagint it was often used to describe the changing of clothes. In this exchange, we choose to not reflect the glory of God, but the glory of another image. We throw God out, like we toss off our clothes, and pridefully clothe ourselves with another image.

This has been the great sin of the human race since the beginning. For the majority of mankind has not honored God, not loved God, not glorified God, and not sought after God. Instead they have rejected God, trampling on His glory, casting aside every remnant of God from their hearts. They went after the counterfeit, and opened their hearts to worldly images they treasured and adored. These images represent their new precious gods and beloved idols. The glory of God was not welcome and the Bible says their hearts become darkened as they lived their lives in the spiritual dregs of idolatry. The sin of idolatry is a sin against the glory of God. The glory of God is the environment that the heart was meant to thrive in.

Yet every generation mindlessly runs with frenzied abandon after its images. People by nature try to limit God to the confines of physical objects or man-made characteristics that they can control. So people fabricate images to aid them in worshipping a god they have created by their own vain imaginations. These images become representations of the gods they worship, and give them control over who their god is, what their god is like, how their god acts and what their god demands of them. People create their own religions from the dominant images in their hearts. They have made countless images of humans, animals, inanimate objects and even ideas. A man-made object can never come close to truthfully representing the Eternal God in all His holiness, glory and majesty.

To whom can you compare God? What image can you find to resemble him? (Isaiah 40:18, NLT).

This is an excerpt from The Heart: The Key to Everything in the Christian Life. Purchase at http://www.lulu.com/shop/tim-rowe/the-heart-the-key-to-everything-in-the-christian-life/paperback/product-22601300.html

[i] G. K. Beale, We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2008), 16.

[ii] Kyle Idelman, Gods at War: Defeating the Idols that Battle for Your Heart (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013), 57, 58.

Posted in Bible Teachings, Inspirational Messages | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Amazing Truth of Our New Life in Christ

newlife-1In Christ defines every saint’s eternal, permanent, spiritual location, the spiritual “address” and the “spiritual atmosphere” as it were in which we now live and breathe and have our being.

Theodore Epp adds that every believer’s…

new life is life “in Christ.” The word “in” does not in this connection speak of location, such as “in an automobile,” but carries the idea of union. On the resurrection side of this experience we have His life. He has come to live in us. It is this that marks the real difference between the old life prior to our salvation and the new life now that we are saved. It is necessary before the believer can enjoy victory in Christ for the power of the old life to be broken. This is accomplished through union with Christ in His crucifixion. This is not an experience that wemust struggle to enter into now. It was accomplished for us in the past. The King James Version is not clear on this point. The American Standard Version of 1901 will help us here. The expression “I am crucified with Christ” is translated in the ASV: “I have been crucified with Christ.” God got rid of the old self-life by crucifying it. We were separated from the old self-life when we died with Christ. (Back to the Bible)

In Christ describes every believer’s new position and new sphere of existence. Before we were born again into the Kingdom of God (Jn 3:3,5), our existence was in Adam (1Co 15:22, Ro 5:12note = spiritually dead and under the dominion [supreme authority, power, jurisdiction, sway, control, absolute ownership] of the Sin “virus” we inherited from Adam – see Adam in the NT), in the flesh (under the dominion of the flesh – note, believers can “act fleshly” but strictly speaking are no longer “in the flesh” – see Ro 8:9note, 2Co10:3note Gal 2:20note use “in the flesh” to refer to the human body not the “anti-God” influence), in (under the influence of) the world, and in the kingdom of the Devil (under his dominion – Acts 26:18, Col 1:13note). In the Upper Room Discourse just prior to His crucifixion Jesus alluded to the idea of in Christ when He declared…

In that day you shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. (Jn 14:20).

Paul expounded on the idea of a believer’s new identity, using the phrase in Christ or its synonyms (over 160 times in some form – in Him, in the Beloved, in Christ, in Christ Jesus, in the Lord – study the references below). In Christ summarizes the profound truth that believers are now and forever in spiritual union with the Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, considering the prevalence of in Christ and its synonyms in Paul’s writings, this mysterious spiritual truth is one of the most significant teachings in the New Testament.

Charles Ryrie in fact comments that…

Probably the most important doctrinal fact underpinning the spiritual life is the believer’s union with Christ. It is foundational to the truth of co-crucifixion of the Christian with Christ (Ro 6:6note, Gal 2:20note), which in turn is the basis for freedom from the power of sin (Ed: Read Ro 6:11note, Ro 6:14note, Ro 6:17, 18note, Ro 6:22note Lk 4:18, Jn 8:36 – Remember that freedom in Christ [note the sphere or “atmosphere” in which one is free indeed!] is not the rightto do as one pleases but the power to please God by doing what is right!). Unfortunately, this concept is little understood, unbalanced in its presentation, and unused in its application….What does this concept mean? My own definition is simply this:

To be in Christ is the redeemed man’s new environment in the sphere of resurrection life. (Ed: Note [esp in Ep 1:20] the source of the “surpassing greatness of His power” that allows us to live our new life in Christ – Read Ep 1:18, 19note, Ep 1:20, 21note)

The key word is environment, for being in Christ is not a barren state or an almost unreal positional truth (as it is often presented), but a vital, pulsating, functioning involvement. The chief characteristic of this environment is resurrection life, the life of Christ Himself. (cp Col 3:4note, Jn 14:6; 19, 20:31, Ro 6:4note, 2Co 4:10, 11; 1Jn 4:9, 5:11, 12)

Another writer speaking of this same position of the believer describes it this way:

“He has been transplanted into a new soil and a new climate, and both soil and climate are Christ.”

(Ryrie goes on to explain that) In relation to sanctification (Ed: See noun hagiasmos = sanctification and verb hagiazo = to sanctify)  or the Christian life…being in Christ frees us from the bondage of sin (Ed: Ro 6:11note, Ro 6:14note, Ro 6:17, 18note, Ro 6:22note Jn 8:36) and enables us to live righteously before God. (Ryrie, C. C.. Balancing the Christian Life. Chicago: Moody Publishers) (Bolding added)

When we believed in Christ Jesus as our Substitutionary and fully atoning Sacrifice, God transferred us from the kingdom of darkness “in Adam” (cp 1Co 15:22) into the kingdom of light, of His dear Son, so that now all believers are seen by the Father as in Christ. This transfer was the outworking of the New Covenant in His blood, which is an important truth to remember when trying to understand the concept (truth) of “in Christ”. Covenant is a solemn, binding agreement between two parties (see Covenant – Solemn and Binding) in which there is a co-mingling of lives and identities (See Covenant – The Oneness of Covenant). The two become one just as a husband and wife become one new person and just as the mystical church becomes one with Christ, the church as His body of which He is the Head (Ep 1:22, 23note, Ep 4:15note, Ep 5:23note, Col 1:18note). And so we see the vital nature of the inseparable union pictured in the phrase “in Christ“.  It is no longer the believer who lives but Christ Who lives in the believer (Gal 2:20note) and we live in such a way that His life not only enables us, but also shows through us (2Co 4:10). It is no longer our life, but it is Christ our life (Col 3:4note). We are no longer separate “branches” but attached to the Vine (Christ Jesus – John 15:4, 5 – “Abide in Me” is synonymous with the concept of “in Christ”) deriving our life and our purpose from Him, for now Christ is our all in all, the very source of and supply for our existence, now and forever. When others see us, they should see Him (cp2Co2:13,15, 16, 4:11) (Watch and listen to the Youtube video of the song – In Christ Alone;  In Christ Alone – another version)

James Montgomery Boice writes that…

The phrases in Christ, in Him…occur 164 times in all Paul’s writings. The phrases mean more than just believing on Christ or being saved by His atonement. They mean being joined to Christ in one spiritual body so that what is true of Him is also true for us…This is a difficult concept, and the Bible uses numerous images to teach it to us: the union of a man and woman in marriage (see notes Eph 5:22-33), the union of the vine and the branches (Jn 15:1-17), the wholeness of a spiritual temple in which Christ is the foundation and we the individual stones (Ep 2:20note; Ep 2:21, 22note), the union of the head and other members of the body in one organism (1Co 12:12-27). But whether we understand it or not, union with Christ is in one sense the very essence of salvation….Apart from Christ our condition is absolutely hopeless. In Him our condition is glorious to the extreme. (Boice, J. M.: Ephesians: An Expositional Commentary) (Bolding added)

Wuest comments on our position in Christ noting that…

Here again we have separation, for that which surrounds the believer, namely, Christ in Whom he is ensphered, separates him from all else. (Ibid)

MacArthur adds that 

A Buddhist does not speak of himself as in Buddha, nor does a Muslim speak of himself as in Mohammed. A Christian Scientist is not in Mary Baker Eddy or a Mormon in Joseph Smith or Brigham Young. They may faithfully follow the teaching and example of those religious leaders, but they are not in them. Only Christians can claim to be in their Lord, because they have been made spiritually one with Him (cf. Ro 6:1–11). (MacArthur, J. Philippians. Chicago: Moody Press or Logos)

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“I am this dark world’s light;
Look unto Me, thy morn shall rise,
And all thy day be bright.”

I looked to Jesus, and I found
In Him my Star, my Sun;
And in that light of life I will walk,
Till trav’ling days are done.
—Horatius Bonar

In Christ expresses intimacy of a believer’s union with Christ. The preposition “in” is locative of sphere meaning that the believer’s sainthood was (is) in the sphere of Christ, not because someone named them “saints” and not in the sphere of some worshipper of a pagan deity as the term was commonly used in the so-called “mystery” religions of Paul’s day. Christ is the sphere in which the believer has his new life or as Paul phrases it in chapter 3, “Christ — our life” (Col 3:4note).

Study the following passages and make a list of what “In Christ”, “In Him”, etc – To check the context click link. Then after you’ve made your own observations and list click on the commentary notes of verses where notes are available.

In Christ (33x) – Ro 9:1note Ro 12:5note Ro 16:7note Ro 16:9note, 16:10-note, 1Co 3:14:10 4:17 15:18 15:19 15:2 2Co 1:21 2:14 2:17 3:14 5:17 5:19 12:2 12:19 Gal 1:22 2:17 1:101:12 1:20 4:32 Php 2:1note Php 3:9note Col 1:2note Col 1:28note Col 2:5note 1Th 4:16note Philemon 1:8 1:20

In the Lord (45x) – Ro 14:14note; Ro 16:2note, Ro 16:8note, Ro 16:11, 12, 13note, Ro 16:22note; 1Cor 1:31; 4:17; 7:22, 39; 9:1, 2; 11:11; 15:58; 16:19; 2Cor 2:12; 10:17; Gal 5:10;Ep 1:15note; Ep 2:21note; Ep 5:8note; Ep 6:1note, Ep 6:10note, Ep 6:21note; Phil 1:14note; Phil 2:19note, Phil 2:24note, Phil 2:29note; Phil 3:1note; Phil 4:1note, 2, Phil 4:4note,Phil 4:10note; Col 3:18note; Col 4:7note, Col 4:17note; 1Th 3:8note; 1Th 4:1note; 1Th 5:12note; 2Th 3:4, 12; Philemon 1:16, 20

In Christ Jesus (50x) – Ro 3:24note; Ro 6:11note, Ro 6:23note; Ro 8:1note, Ro 8:2note,Ro 8:39note; Ro 15:17note; Ro 16:3note; 1Cor 1:2, 4, 30; 4:15; 15:31; 16:24; Gal 2:4, 16;3:14, 26, 28; 5:6; Eph 1:1note; Eph 2:6note, Eph 2:7note, Eph 2:10note, Eph 2:13note; Eph 3:6note, Eph 3:11note, Eph 3:21note; Phil 1:1note, Phil 1:26note; Phil 2:5note; Phil 3:3note, Phil 3:14note; Phil 4:7note, Phil 4:19note, Phil 4:21note; Col 1:4note; 1Th 2:14note;1Th 5:18note; 1Ti 1:14; 3:13; 2Ti 1:1note, 2Ti 1:9note, 2Ti 1:13note; 2Ti 2:1note, 2Ti 2:10note; 2Ti 3:12note, 2Ti 3:15note; Philemon 1:23

In Him (31x) – Ro 4:5note, Ro 4:24note; Ro 9:33note; Ro 10:11note, Ro 10:14note; Ro 15:12note; 1Cor 1:5; 2:11; 2Cor 1:19, 20; 5:21; 13:4; Eph 1:4note, Eph 1:7note, Eph 1:9note, Eph 1:10note, Eph 1:13note; Eph 3:12note; Eph 4:21note; Phil 1:29note; Phil 3:9note; Col 1:17note, Col 1:19note; Col 2:6note, Col 2:7note, Col 2:9note, Col 2:10note, Col 2:11note; 2Th 1:12; 1Ti 1:16

Contrast “in the flesh” (Ro 7:5note Ro 8:8note Ro 8:9note Phil 3:3, 4note) As noted above, there are other Pauline uses of this phrase but they all refer to the physical flesh, not the evil disposition inherited from Adam and manifest as continual anti-God attitudes and actions. Flesh is a confusing word because it can have so many meanings in Scripture. If you are confused take some time to study the flesh. And remember that the definition of the common NT word flesh(147x in 126v in the NT) is always determined by checking the context.

David Garland comments that…

in Christ can mean several things that are not mutually exclusive: that one belongs to Christ, that one lives in the sphere of Christ’s power, that one is united with Christ, or that one is part of the body of Christ, the believing community. Paul’s assumption is that being in Christ should bring about a radical change in a person’s life. (New American Commentary – Volume 29: 2 Corinthians. B & H Publishers)

Philip Hughes explains that…

The expression in Christ sums up as briefly and as profoundly as possible the inexhaustible significance of man’s redemption. It speaks of security in Him who has Himself borne in his own body the judgment of God against our sin; it speaks of acceptance in Him with whom alone God is well pleased; it speaks of assurance for the future in Him who is the Resurrection and the Life; it speaks of the inheritance of glory in Him who, as the only-begotten Son, is the sole heir of God; it speaks of participation in the divine nature in Him who is the everlasting Word; it speaks of knowing the truth, and being free in that truth, in Him who Himself is the Truth. All this, and very much more than can ever be expressed in human language, is meant by being in Christ. (Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians: The English Text with Introduction, Exposition and Notes) – Named as one of the 850 Books for Biblical Expositors by the Master’s Seminary. Cyril Barber writes this “May well be regarded as the finest conservative exposition of this epistle“)

William MacDonald observes that

In Christ speaks of their spiritual position. When they were saved, God placed them in Christ, “accepted in the beloved.” (Ep 1:6note) Henceforth, they had His life and nature (2Pe 1:4note). Henceforth, they would no longer be seen God as children of Adam (1Co 15:22) or as unregenerate men, but He would now see them in all the acceptability of His own Son. The expression in Christ conveys more of intimacy, acceptance, and security than any human mind can understand. (MacDonald, W & Farstad, A. Believer’s Bible Commentary: Thomas Nelson or Logos)

William Barclay adds

that when Paul spoke of the Christian being in Christ, he meant that the Christian lives inChrist as a bird in the air, a fish in the water, the roots of a tree in the soil. What makes the Christian different is that he is always and everywhere conscious of the encircling presence of Jesus Christ.  (Barclay, W: The Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press)

Barclay goes on to explain that

A Christian always moves in two spheres. He is in a certain place in this world; but he is also in Christ. He lives in two dimensions. He lives in this world whose duties he does not treat lightly; but above and beyond that he lives in Christ. In this world he may move from place to place; but wherever he is, he is in Christ. That is why outward circumstances make little difference to the Christian; his peace and his joy are not dependent on them. That is why he will do any job with all his heart. It may be menial, unpleasant, painful, it may be far less distinguished than he might expect to have; its rewards may be small and its praise non-existent; nevertheless the Christian will do it diligently, uncomplainingly and cheerfully, for he is in Christ and does all things as to the Lord. We are all in our own Colosse, but we are all in Christ, and it is Christ who sets the tone of our living.” Barclay describes an ideal state writing that “There is the life that is dominated by the Spirit of God. As a man lives in the air, he lives in Christ, never separated from him. As he breathes in the air and the air fills him, so Christ fills him. He has no mind of his own; Christ is his mind. He has no desires of his own; the will of Christ is his only law. He is Spirit-controlled, Christ-controlled, God-focused. (Barclay, W: The Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press)

Ray Stedman commenting on Paul’s repeated use of this phrase in Christ in the letter to the Ephesians writes that every spiritual blessing in the believer’s life (Eph 1:3)…

is in Christ. All this comes to us in Christ, in the Person and the work of the Lord Jesus Himself. This fact is going to be stressed again and again in this letter (Ephesians). No two words appear in it more frequently than “in Christ,” or “in him.” Over and over it is emphasized that everything comes to us through Him.  We must learn not to listen to those who claim to have God’s blessing in their lives, and yet to whose thinking Christ is not central. They are deceived, and they are deceiving us if we accept what they say. The only spiritual blessing that can ever come to you from God must always come in Christ. There is no other way that it can come. So if you are involved with some group which sets aside the Lord Jesus Christ and tries to go “directly to God,” and thus claim some of the great spiritual promises of the New Testament, you are involved in a group which is leading you into fakery and fraud. It is completely spurious! For God accomplishes spiritual blessing only in Christ. Physical blessings are available “to the just and the unjust alike,” but the inner spirit of man can be healed and cured only in Christ, and there is no other way. (Read full message Ephesians 1:1-14: God At Work)  (Copyright 1972 Discovery Publishing, a ministry of Peninsula Bible Church.) (Bolding added)

Spurgeon comments that…

One of the first doctrines of our holy faith is that of the union of all believing souls with Christ. We are blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ. Apart from Christ we are nothing (cpJn 15:5); in Christ we have “all spiritual blessings” We are rich as Christ is rich, when we are united to him by the living bond of faith.

Simon J. Kistemaker notes that…

To be in Christ connotes being part of Christ’s body (I Cor. 12:27), and Christ brings about a radical transformation in the believer’s life. Instead of serving the ego, the Christian follows Christ and responds to the law of love for God and the neighbor. (Baker New Testament Commentary – Exposition of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians)

John Piper reminds us that…

And the work of Christ in Whom we have our righteousness is a complete and perfect work. It does not get better with time. And we are united to Christ at once, through our first faith, not progressively. No one is half in and half out. And if we are in Christ, all that He is He is for us – from the very first instant of faith. This is wonderful news for sinners who face a long haul in becoming in life what we are in Christ. (The Purpose and Perseverance of Faith) (Bolding Added)

Zodhiates says that…

When you are in Christ, you are not merely professors of His name, learners of His doctrine, followers of His example, or sharers of His gifts. You are not merely men and women ransomed by His death or destined for His glory. These external connections exemplify how your individual life relates to Christ’s in the same way that one man’s life may relate to another’s by the effect of what he teaches, gives, or does. Paul says to the Corinthians and to all born-again believers, In your case, your life is not merely external, that is, “just like” His life, parallel to His. You are actually in Christ, and He is in you. This is something unique that Christ does for those who accept Him. (Zodhiates Corinthians Commentary Series)

James Denney

This is the first passage in 2 Corinthians in which this Pauline formula for a Christian — a man in Christ — is used. It denotes the most intimate possible union, a union in which the believer’s faith identifies him with Jesus in His death and resurrection, so that he can say, “I live no longer, but Christ lives in me.” (Expositor’s Bible – 2Corinthians  5:16, 17 The New World)

Albert Barnes

The phrase, to “be in Christ,” evidently means to be united to Christ by faith; or to be in Him as the branch is in the Vine–that is, so united to the Vine, or so in it, as to derive all its nourishment and support from it, and to be sustained entirely by it. John 15:2, “Every branch in me;” John 15:4, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.” See also John 15:5, 6, 7. To be “in Christ” denotes a more tender and close union; and implies that all our support is from Him. All our strength is derived from Him; and denotes further that we shall partake of His fulness, and share in His felicity and glory, as the branch partakes of the strength and rigor of the parent vine.

Guy King in his exposition of Philippians comments on the phrase in Christ writing that…

Herein lay

(a) Their (referring to the saints at Philippi but applicable to saints of all places and ages!)protection from evil life. The moral condition of a heathen city would be a constant peril to any new converts, especially as they themselves had but just recently come out of that very heathenism. Philippi may not have been so utterly debased as Corinth, or Rome, but its atmosphere must have been a subversive influence threatening any who would live pure and true. Yet, they could be kept safe. Christians must, of course, remain in such hostile surroundings, for CHRIST must have there, as Mt 5:13, 14 (note v13; v14) teaches, the salt, the light, and the testimony.

So He Himself prays “not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil”, John 17:15.

That keeping, that protection, is ministered to us in the fact of our being, not only “in the world”, but more closely, in Christ.

A shipwrecked man writes a message, and throws it into the sea, in the hope that it may reach some shore. But will not the water damage and destroy it? No; for, while it is cast into the sea, it is first sealed in a bottle – and so it arrives. Yes; in Philippi, with all its destructive influences, but in Christ – so they are secure, and so, in spite of all antagonistic forces, they arrive at “the haven where they would be.” Herein lay also

(b) Their possibility of holy life. We are called not only to a negative but to a positive life – “eschew (abstain from) evil, and do good”, as 1Pe 3:11 (note) says. But how can a holy life be lived in such unholy surroundings?

Mark that little water-spider going down to the bottom of that pond. It doesn’t really belong there, even as we believers are: “in the world” …but not of it, John 17:11, 16. The little creature has the queer, and amazing, ability of weaving a bubble of air around itself, and hidden in that it is able to pursue its way even amid such inimical conditions – in the water, but in the bubble!

So we come back to our glorious truth – in Philippi, but in Christ; then even in the midst of the most uncongenial surroundings, the Christ-life can be lived.  (King, Guy: Joy Way: An Exposition of the Epistle of Paul to the Philippians, 1952, Christian Literature Crusade – Pdf) (Bolding added)

Guy King in his commentary on Colossians comments on their earthly and supernatural positions explaining…

Oh yes, I know they were at Colossae – breathing the fetid atmosphere of this typically pagan city. How could the fair flowers of fidelity and holiness flourish in such a place? Only because they enjoyed the nearer, purer air of being in Christ.

The clever little water beetle is able to live in the muddy bed of the pond because it has the gift of weaving around itself a bubble of air. Thus it takes its own atmosphere down with it. I often invert a “let’s pretend” story of a man shipwrecked on a desert island, who, happening to have his fountain pen still in his pocket, decides to write a message on a large island leaf to send to his people. Having thrown it into the sea, he could then only wait, and hope for the best. But, silly man, the leaf will soon be pulped and the message obliterated by the ocean. Oh, I forgot to mention that on his island he happened to find a bottle with a sealing top. So his SOS reached home, and led to his rescue, because though it was in the sea, it was in the bottle. Yes, although these Christians were in that Colossian sea of iniquity, they were kept safe and saintly because they were “in Christ”.

It is one of Paul’s chief inspired conceptions, so often reiterated through all his correspondence, that we are “in Him”, “in the Lord”, “in Christ”. What amazing privilege and prediction is here! “Christ in you, the hope of glory”, he says in Colossians 1:27 (note); and now it is the other side of the blessed truth: you in CHRIST, the hope of safety. (Colossians 1:1-2 His Tactful Approach – Pdf)

Excerpts from Wayne Barber’s notes on Ephesians (Ephesians 1:1-3 Sermon Notes) as he discusses the concept of “in Christ”

(“In” is the Greek preposition “en” which) means we remain (abide, dwell, live) “in“…Christ Jesus…Any ability we have in the Christian life to be faithful before God (Ep 1:1note“saints…faithful in Christ Jesus”)…is not of us. It’s because we are in Christ Jesus. And as a result of us being in Him, He in turn is in us. That is the only way any man can be faithful or dependable. It’s only as he is willing to submit and cooperate with that which is in the person that is in him. Look at John 14:18, 19, 20…We see evidence of Christ doing what He said He would do in His faithfulness by how the Ephesian believers were able…

If you ever see anything good in me, you know…It didn’t come from me. It came from He Who is in me and Whose I am (and Who I am in). It came from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. It’s the same with you…When you see something in me that is good, remember it is not me, it must be Christ in me…The ability to be faithful as well as any other ability concerning our responsibilities to Christ is an ability that comes from our being in Him and Him being in us.

(Wayne gives a practical illustration of in Christ asking) What does it mean to be faithful inChrist Jesus? (Ep 1:1note)  Well, watch those little things in your life. Sometimes faithfulness is not seen before the failure. Sometimes faithfulness is more clearly seen after the failure, when you have messed up. What do you do when you have messed up? Do you go around talking about other believers? Do you criticize them as if you were the standard? Do you repeat things when you don’t even have the information yourself? Do you second guess others? Are you busy with this kind of lifestyle? How can you call yourself faithful in Christ Jesus? You are not. You may be a saint. But you’re not a “saintly saint”! You are not living as God wants you to live. In Ephesians 4-6 Paul has to instruct, exhort and encourage the Ephesian believers. Why did he have to encourage them if they were already perfect? Faithfulness does not mean perfection. It is a measure of a person’s character. It is a love for the love of the Lord Jesus Christ (cp His constraining love – 2Co 5:14note). So it points to the character of one who is a believer who is faithful in Christ Jesus.

(Speaking of all “spiritual blessings” in Ep 1:3 Wayne reminds us that) Everything you have isin a Person, and His name is Jesus. And if you’ll come to Him and bow down to Him, you will begin experience inwardly what you’ve been looking for all along. The key is a repentant heart. When you are ready to bow, at that very moment, you attain access to the things that are yoursin Christ Jesus because they’re all available in Christ. The problem with most of us is, we look for these things (“spiritual blessings”) in everywhere except where they are found…And if we don’t have our needs met spiritually in Christ, they’ll never be met anywhere else. That’s the key. (Ephesians 1:1-3; see also Wayne’s notes on Ep 1:4 Chosen in Christ )

F B Meyer in his “Devotional Commentary of Ephesians” explains “in Him” writing that…

THE sponge, as it expands in its native seas, is in the clear warm water; and the water is in it. Thus there is a double In-ness between the Lord and the soul that loves Him. He is in the believer, as the sap is in the vine, and the spirit of energetic life in the body. But, in a very deep and blessed sense, the believer is in Christ. Of each of these sides of this marvellous truth there are many illustrations in this Epistle, so specially devoted to the study of the preposition in. We are dealing now with those passages only that assure us, as believers, of being in the Beloved.

WE ARE IN CHRIST, IN THE FATHER’S THOUGHT (Ep 1:3, 4, 9, 11-see notes Ep 1:3; Ep 1:4, Ep 1:9, Ep 1:11) The disclosures made to the apostle Paul of God’s hidden things, hidden from ages and generations, are perfectly overwhelming. He tells us that our connection with Christ, in the thought of God, is not a matter of yesterday, nor of the day before, but of eternity.

The foundations of the earth were not laid in a day. But, ere the aeons of creation began to revolve in their vast cycles, before the earth or the world was formed, God chose us in Christ. He chose Christ, and all those who, down the far vista of time, should answer to the attraction of his Spirit and become one with Him in a living faith.

How startling it would be if, according to a suggestion made by another, the geologist, mining deeply into the earth, should suddenly find, amid the footprints of animals long extinct, the initials of his own name cut in the primeval rock! How came those initials there? They must have been graven by the finger of the Creator! Ah, what a rush of awe would fill the breast! But a greater marvel than this awaits us here. For we learn that our names were engraven on the breastplate of the great High Priest before the amethyst or jacinth was wrought in the laboratory of Nature, among her oldest and rarest treasures.

Is there a doubt that we shall be ultimately holy and without blemish, when the stream that is to bear us thither started in eternal ages from the Father’s heart? Let us at least get comfort from the thought that He who foreordained works all things after the counsel of his will…

IN CHRIST THE BLESSINGS OF REDEMPTION ARE STORED. (Ep 1:3, 6, 7, 14-see notesEp 1:3, 1:6, 1:7, 1:13) All conceivable spiritual blessings needed by us for living a holy and useful life are stored in Jesus. We must therefore be in Him by a living faith to partake of them; as a child must be in the home, to participate in the provisions of the father’s care. It is only they who know the meaning of the life hidden with Christ in God, and who abide in Christ, to whom God gives the key of his granary, and says, “Go in, and take what you will.”

How can mortal man exhaust the wonderful gifts of our Father’s grace? But they are all freely bestowed in the Beloved, in whom we also stand accepted. Who can estimate the meaning of redemption, which begins with the forgiveness of our trespasses, and ends in the rapture of the sapphire throne? But it is to be found only in Him and through his blood. What do we not owe to the sealing of the Spirit, by which our softened hearts get the impress of the Saviour’s beloved face, and are kept safe until He comes to claim us? But the sealing is only possible to those who are in Him. All things are ours, but only when we are in Christ.

WE ARE IN CHRIST AS THE SPHERE OF DAILY LIFE AND EXPERIENCE (Ep 1:1, 3:17-seenotes Ep 1:1, 3:17) It is the intention of God that we who believe should ever live in Christ Jesus, as the very element and atmosphere of our life; never travelling beyond the golden limits established by his Love, or Life, or Light: in Him as the root in the soil, or as the foundation in the rock. Always in his love, because never permitting in speech or act what is inconsistent with it. Always in his life, because ordering our activities by the laws of his being. Always in his light, because saturated by his bright purity, and illumined by his gentle wisdom. Oh to be always one of the faithful in Christ Jesus, and to be able to say with the Psalmist, “I have no good beyond Thee”! (Psalm 16:2)…

IN CHRIST AS THE CENTRE OF UNITY (Ep 1:10note) It is the evident purpose of God to finish as He began. He began by choosing us in Christ. He will end by summing up all things in Him, both the things in the heavens and the things upon the earth. All the landscape focuses in the eye; all creation finds its apex in man; and all the story of the ages shall be consummated in our Lord, the Divine Man. (For Meyer’s full discussion of “In Him” click Chapter 3 – “In Him”)

Courtesy of Precept Austin at http://www.preceptaustin.org/2corinthians_517_commentary.htm#in

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Idolatry: The Principle Crime of the Human Race, Part 2,

no-other-gods

An Idol is Not El or Elohim

It is interesting that the word eliyl is close to the name for God “El” or “Elohim.” Some Hebrew scholars believe eliyl is a contemptuous diminutive word, and combined with al “not” literally mean “Not EL,” or “Not ELOHIM.” It is a heavenly designed contrast showing that the idol is worthless as a person’s El and Elohim.

God is given a number of sacred names in the Bible that beautifully describe His nature and heart in action. The Hebrew word El is a name for God meaning the strong one and expresses the strength and power of God. It is often combined with another Hebrew word in the Bible giving us 37 deeper names for God with each title distinguishing Him in a unique and special way from false gods. Each one of these beautiful titles has a distinctive characteristic of God that illustrates what He is and what the idol is not. Put a “NOT!” in front of each of these glorious titles, and we will have a good description of the worthless value of an idol epitomized by the word eliyl.

For example, God is El Hanne’eman, the Faithful God, who keeps His promises and steadfast love to a thousand generations (Deuteronomy 7:9). An idol is the unfaithful god that never delivers what it promises.

God is El Echad, the One God, who is the first and only true God, like no other (Malachi 2:10). An idol is the false one that deceives people into thinking they have found the one thing they need to give their lives value.

God is El-Shaddai, the ever-present, all-sufficient, bountiful God who supplies every need of His children and pours out His provision, protection and blessings on them. (Genesis 17:1). An idol is the shadow god who disappears when you need it, and the empty god who can never provide, protect or bless those who worship it.

God is El Olam, the everlasting, unchangeable God, eternal, without beginning or end, the God of all ages and time (Genesis 21:33). An idol is the vapor god that vanishes quickly, here today and gone tomorrow, with no lasting purpose, and doomed for destruction.

God is El Roi, the God who sees, who looks upon our distresses, our tears, and our sufferings and is always there to tenderly care for us (Genesis 16:13). El Roi sees us in our place of quiet desperation, and pursues us with unfailing love, reaching out to help us, drying every tear and mending every wound of our tattered souls. An idol is the blind god that cannot see our sorrows, difficulties, and problems and is blind to the true needs of the heart. It can never find us in our hour of need for it cannot see.

God is El Emet, the God of truth, who revives, frees, instructs and guides the heart. (Psalm 31:5). An idol is the god of lies, the token of propaganda that deceives the heart to believe and worship a lie.

God is El Gibbor, the mighty and heroic God, who powerfully bears His arm for His people, performing miraculous deeds of deliverance; the supreme champion of the heavens and earth for whom nothing is impossible (Jeremiah 32:17-18). An idol is the weak and cowardly god, powerless to accomplish one good thing in our lives, and is like the spineless soldier who runs away from the fight, and deserts us in time of battle.

God is El Rachum, the God of compassion and tender mercies, who will never fail, forsake, or forget you, and has compassion for you like a mother with her newborn child. An idol is the cruel and indifferent god, hard-hearted, brutal and ruthless with the destruction it brings to your life, imprisoning the heart with a heavy load of oppressions and burdens. An idol always fails, forsakes, and leaves you naked and alone, forgetting you in the day of suffering (Deuteronomy 4:31).

God is El Yeshuati, the God of our salvation, our Deliverer, Redeemer, Liberator, and Savior, who rescued us from the power of darkness and gives us citizenship as sons or daughters of God in His kingdom. He blessed us with every conceivable spiritual blessing in Him and washes us clean from our sin with the blood of His Son, who has broken every yoke at Calvary and set us free to worship and love Him for all eternity (Psalm 68:19-20). An idol is the god of corruption and slavery, that brings death to all those who devote their lives to it, burying you in sin, and suffocating you in the stale air of this world. An idol cannot deliver, save, liberate, rescue and redeem. An idol’s promised salvation is of no value to the soul.

God is El Hannora, the awesome, magnificent and awe-inspiring God, the God of wonders, breathtaking in His glorious works. Nothing in the heavens and earth compares to Him (Nehemiah 9:32). An idol is the god of disappointment, dissatisfaction, disillusionment and discontent; there is nothing of value, nothing magnificent, and nothing awe-inspiring that ever comes from idols.

God is El Chaiyim, the living God of our lives, who has breathed into us the breath of life and is intimately involved in every detail of our lives. God is alive and in Him is abundant, flowing life that awakens, transforms, changes, and blossoms, giving life to every living thing upon the earth. An idol is the dead god, who cannot speak, hear, see or bring life to anything. An idol is the carrier of death as it slaughters our relationship with God, murders the plans God has for our lives, and slays our spiritual growth in Christ. An idol is a deadly virus that destroys the life and health of the heart.

God is also Elohim, God the Creator, who created the heavens and earth, who created us for His glory, who created every star and galaxy in the universe, and every living organism and animal, every mountain, river and ocean, and who holds together every atom in the universe by His powerful word. An idol is the god of chaos that cannot create one grain of sand or one solitary thing in the entire heavens and earth, but simply brings chaotic disorder, confusion and disarray to those who reach out to give it their heart.

Can we see the picture of the Hebrew word eliyl describing an idol as completely worthless and having no value as anyone’s El or Elohim? It brings to life the truth spoken by the prophet Isaiah:

With whom, then, will you compare God? To what image will you liken him? “To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One. (Isaiah 40:18, 25, NIV)

Is there truly any comparison between God and an idol? What idol could ever be God’s equal? What idol could ever be likened to El or Elohim? God wanted to make it absolutely clear to His rebellious people that no idol can ever come close to taking the place of El or Elohim in their lives.

We need to open our eyes and examine our hearts to see if we have an eliyl, an imposter El or Elohim that is stealing our devotion, time and allegiance. We must ask ourselves in all humility—who is our El and Elohim? Has a foolish and dangerous substitution taken place in our hearts? When God opens the eyes of our understanding, and we see the magnificent nature of our God revealed in His names El with all its compounds and Elohim, we will gladly face all the idols (eliyl) in our hearts and boldly declare “You are not my El! You are not my Elohim!” We will allow God His rightful place as the only El and Elohim of our hearts.

Tragically this did not happen for these elders in Ezekiel’s day, as they refused to listen to the prophet and made these idols the El and Elohim of their hearts. Ezekiel says these elders put these idols, which he calls “wicked stumbling blocks,” right before their faces. An idol is always a stumbling block in our lives, and causes us to fall into sin and rebellion against God. These were stumbling blocks of iniquity that brought ruin, destruction, and devastation to their relationship with God. Yet the elders literally put these idols in front of their faces to be their spiritual advisors. They never wanted to forget them, so they placed them right in front of their faces so they could always see and adore their counterfeit gods. They did not want to miss a moment with their idols.

They rejected God’s authority over their lives and arrogantly declared that they would live life THEIR way with the gods of THEIR choice. These elders had a complete indifference toward God, an unwillingness to obey Him, and did not think God was important when it came to matters of the heart. How they had strayed from the heritage of King David who was a man after God’s own heart! Even with their hearts sold out to idolatry, they tried to give God token honor by inquiring of His prophet. But God had searched their hearts and found no love for Him there. Their hearts were dead toward God as they tried to wind God up for a few minutes of attention like He was some fortuneteller. Their hearts had no room for God for they were full of idols.

The Old Testament word “put” in the phrase “put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces” is used in the Bible to describe planting, constructing a nest or habitation, setting up a king or prince with authority, and begetting children. The word is also used in Deuteronomy 12:5 where God says He would put His name in the temple and make it His dwelling place. By putting idols in front of their faces, the elders were planting them in the soil of their hearts to grow and flourish. They were constructing a nest or habitation for them in their hearts. They were setting up these idols as the rulers of their hearts with full authority to control their thoughts and actions. They were engraving the names of these idols in the chambers of their hearts, and the idols made it their sacred temple and dwelling place. God’s name was thrust from their hearts and this abominable substitution took place. These idols were comfortably at home in their hearts, and set their roots deep. These idols exercised such control over them that their hearts bore their names and begat their children in word, deed and action. These elders became replicas in character of the idols they worshiped. Oh what a stumbling block they had become!

Idolatry Begins with the Gaze of the Eye

To set up an idol in your heart, you must first turn your eyes away from the Lord and face the object of your adoration. Your eyes guide your heart as all idolatry begins with the gaze of the eye. Our eyes reveal what we are facing, and in the Hebrew to be face-to-face implied intimacy, friendship, affection and closeness.

God commanded the elders in Ezekiel, “Get rid of the vile images and idols you have set your eyes upon!” Where you lift up your eyes to look reflects the heart’s affections and disposition. There is anticipation, hope, and expectation toward the object that has captured our gaze. We desire what we fix our eyes upon. We want intimacy with the object we lift our eyes toward. The gaze of the eye determines where we go in life both physically and spiritually. Whether our heart is full of darkness or light is determined by what we are looking at.

Wisdom demands our eyes do not depart from the words of God, or our way will be like the wicked which is full of darkness. Wasn’t it the eyes that first got Eve in trouble as she gazed in admiration at the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil instead of the Lord God? Wasn’t one of the Devil’s first lies that her eyes would be opened and she would be like god? The Devil deceived Eve into lifting up her eyes to something other than God and His Word and she fell into idolatry.

There are serious consequences associated with the gaze of the eye. We will never be able to keep idolatry from creeping into our hearts if we do not control our eyes. We live in a visually overstimulated age where everything is vying for the gaze of the eye. But the eyes of our hearts need to look upward and heed the cry of God to “look unto me and be saved, whole, and set free!” Our confession needs to be like Psalm 123:1-2: “To Thee I lift up my eyes, O Thou enthroned in the heavens … our eyes look to the Lord our God.” This was not the cry of the elders in Ezekiel. Their eyes looked elsewhere. Look at what these elders turned their faces toward in the very inner court of the house of the Lord.

And he brought me into the inner court of the house of the Lord. And behold, at the entrance of the temple of the Lord, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men, with their backs to the temple of the Lord, and their faces toward the east, worshiping the sun toward the east. (Ezekiel 8:16, ESV)

Can you imagine this act of supreme desecration was in the Temple of the Lord, the dwelling place of God, where He was to meet His people, and that was built for the name of the Lord. Solomon declared in 2 Chronicles 2:4-5: “Now I am about to build a temple for the Name of the Lord my God and to dedicate it to him … the temple I am going to build will be great, because our God is greater than all other gods.” In God’s very home and in the midst of His presence, these twenty-five men turned their back to God’s holy sanctuary and turned their eyes to the east to worship the sun. These men set their faces like flint to gaze in adoration to their sun god in the inner court of the Temple, right beside the large Altar of Burnt-Offering and within feet of the Holy of Holies. This expressed gross contempt for God in His own house, and publicly displayed that they had disowned the God of Abraham, Jacob and Moses. They desecrated the Temple of God, thumbed their noses at God, and blatantly disobeyed His commandment, “And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them” Deuteronomy 4:19a. They had forgotten that God created the sun not as an idol, but as a blessing to give light and life to the entire earth.

Blowing Kisses to Their Idols

The Hebrew word for “worship” means to bow down and prostrate oneself. In the Septuagint it literally means to throw a kiss as a token of respect and love, and to fall upon the knees, touching the ground with the forehead, as an expression of profound reverence and adoration. The verb is in the present tense expressing continual action, as this was the elders’ habitual practice in the Temple. These men were blowing kisses to the sun god and bowing down in adoration to their idol in the inner court of God’s temple. This demonstrates the power of idolatry in turning the heart against God. These men openly committed their idolatry in the holiest place in Jerusalem, and fell on their knees and kissed their god right under God’s nose.

When the heart is wholly given to idols, love for the true God waxes cold, and He does not matter anymore. Idolatry is a defiant declaration that God is not enough, and is not who He says He is, and cannot do what He says He can do. Idolatry expresses a supreme dissatisfaction with God and causes the eyes to wander and the heart to stray as it falls in love with another.

The idolatrous heart refuses to fix its eyes upon the Lord only and obey Him. These elders wanted the best of both worlds by worshiping both Yahweh and their idols. Jesus warned that we cannot love and serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). Often the master would signal the servant with a quick body movement of the head, hands or eyes, and if the servant did not have his eyes focused on the master, he could not see it. You cannot keep your eyes fixed on two gods. You cannot have your face turned to God and an idol at the same time. Where the gaze of our eyes is fixed, determines what we worship. The eyes are the windows of our hearts, and indicate what we love and desire because they bring us face to face with our god.

Let me ask a serious question for all Christians, What is going on in the inner court of your heart? In the temple of your heart, are you blowing kisses and bowing down to another god? Have we allowed our affections to burn like the rising sun for one of the thousands gods that our culture throws at us daily? Has our heart become impure, and our inner temple desecrated because the eyes of our heart have wandered away from Jesus, to lovingly gaze upon the parade of idols that the world embraces? Don’t we know as Christians that our precious heart is the temple of the Lord and the new Holy of Holies and no idol is worthy to enter into its inner chambers? Our heart is to be overflowing with the presence and glory of God, where His love, grace, mercy and peace abound. From our heart should sound out to the world a wonderful song of praise, worship and devotion to the Almighty God who holds our precious life in His hands. The spirit of the Holy God has been born within our heart, and it was never meant to have an idol as a roommate. No idol has any legal or moral right to occupy one square inch of our hearts.

We cannot mess around with idols if we ever expect to spiritually grow up as Christians. We cannot love God and love our idols at the same time. We cannot play it both ways. Our heart was never meant to be a chaotic yo-yo bouncing back and forth between Jesus and our beloved idols. Whom is our heart running to for comfort and satisfaction? Has our heart strayed away from God to follow a worthless idol? God is calling us to return to Him, and to come back from the cliff of idolatry to His loving embrace. No idol can love you like He does. No idol can provide for you like He does. No idol can deliver you from your fears like He does. No idol will treasure you like He does. No idol will wipe away all the tears from your eyes like He does. Oh why won’t your heart return to Him and forsake your idols?

This is an excerpt from The Heart: The Key to Everything in the Christian Life. Purchase at http://www.lulu.com/shop/tim-rowe/the-heart-the-key-to-everything-in-the-christian-life/paperback/product-22601300.html

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