Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Backsliding: Christian Cliches?




By Cameron Buettel
My early months as a Christian were a joyous feast of fellowship. There was nothing I loved more than to be with my new brothers and sisters in Christ. Every believer I knew seemed so sanctified and intimate with the Savior. I actually felt intimidated by lives that were seemingly lived on another plane of righteousness to my own sinful struggles. But it didn’t take long before I discovered a sub-culture my Christian peers described as “backsliders.”
Few things can match the shock we experience when brought face to face with those who abandon the Christian faith. And there was nothing that could have prepared me for the grief of seeing hands once raised in worship, now deployed in satanic vices—backslidden from their former Christian faith.
I could not fathom why anyone would abandon eternal rewards for a short season of wicked pleasure. My Arminian pastor assured me that backsliding was the only possible explanation, and that our job was to “persuade these backsliders to come back to church and restore the salvation they’ve lost.”
Indeed some people were quite effective at retrieving backsliders and over the years I saw an endless stream of people who would gain their salvation, lose it, and re-gain it only to lose it again—rinse and repeat. My eyes were slowly opening to the reality that my church was actually a spiritual transit lounge for people in my city who periodically ventured into the kingdom of God. I could smell the problem but was unable to pinpoint the source. Did the Bible have an explanation?
“Backsliding” is an Old Testament term found in the prophetic books and used within the context of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God. John MacArthur describes it as “a word that the prophets used of apostate unbelievers.” [1] He concedes that Christians can backslide only in the sense that they “regress into a period of spiritual dullness or disobedience.” But he adds that such cases always incur God’s discipline (Hebrews 12:6–11) and produce repentance. [2]
That idea captures what most Calvinists mean if they use the term “backslider.” There is much that could be said about what constitutes a spiritual lapse, or how far you can go before you go too far. But the important principle to grasp is that the backsliding of a believer is always temporary and always involves God’s chastening which in turn produces repentance. It never means that their salvation was temporarily lost. (For further reading on this subject I would recommend two of John’s articles: Does Scripture Leave Room for Carnal Christians? and How Far Can Christians Go in Sinning?
John argues that “backsliding” can never refer to a person who professes faith in Christ but lives in a “perpetual state of willful rebellion or ungodly indifference.” [3] Such people are not backsliding believers but rather false Christians who were never accepted by Christ in the first place (Matthew 7:21–23; 1 John 3:4–10).
The backsliding doctrine I had been taught was actually the result of false shepherds preaching a false gospel that demanded no repentance. The result was providing false pronouncements of salvation on false converts who were more than happy to march out the door and back into the arms of the world they still loved more than Christ. The apostle John nailed the issue when he said: “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19). As Ray Comfort summarized; “It's those we erroneously call backsliders, who fall away, because they have never slid forward in the first place”. [4]
Backsliding has become a theologically tragic Christian cliché—tragic because of the ways it impugns God’s character. It implicitly denies God’s sovereign power in regenerating sinners (Ezekiel 36:25–27), resurrecting them from being dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1) to a new and living creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). The idea that a Christian can backslide and lose his salvation also impugns Christ’s promise to eternally preserve the people He saves:

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. (John 10:27–29)
I’ll never forget John MacArthur’s simple and yet profound argument for the security of Christian salvation based on God’s power to keep His people—“If I could lose my salvation, I would.” [5] The very idea of keeping our salvation on the basis of our own efforts is as preposterous as the idea of attaining our salvation in the first place because of something we did.
The modern “backslider” cannot be persuaded back into a kingdom he never entered in the first place. He needs to be evangelized and called to repentance—like all unbelievers do. And if he repents, it should not be treated as a re-commitment to his salvation but rather as an outward sign of God’s inner saving work.

Source: http://www.gty.org/Blog/B160127

Saturday, January 16, 2016

How to live in a Pagan Culture



By Jeremiah Johnson
As believers, we know we’re called to be salt and light in the world (Matthew 5:13-16). But are you ever discouraged or underwhelmed by what little difference your life seems to make? Are you concerned that your influence as salt and light might not reach very far or go very deep?
In a society obsessed with global impact and political change, it may seem like the life of one believer does not make much of a dent. But our success is not measured in this life. Moreover, it’s not our success to begin with, but God’s, as He works through us to reach His people according to His sovereign timing.
We have not been called to lead sweeping political changes and massive moral reforms, or to turn the world into a theocracy. That’s simply not how the Lord intends us to make a difference in this sinful world. In his book Why Government Can’t Save You, John MacArthur reminds us that the church’s influence is not broadly political, but personal.
The church will really change society for the better only when individual believers make their chief concern their own spiritual maturity, which means living in a way that honors God’s commands and glorifies His name. Such a concern inherently includes a firm grasp on Scripture and an understanding that its primary mandate to us is to know Christ and proclaim His gospel. A godly attitude coupled with godly living makes the saving message of the gospel credible to the unsaved. If we claim to be saved but still convey proud, unloving attitudes toward the lost, our preaching and teaching—no matter how doctrinally orthodox or politically savvy and persuasive—will be ignored or rejected. [1]
Those words echo Paul’s instructions for godly living in his letter to Titus (Titus 3:1-8). The final chapter of Why Government Can’t Save You is devoted to that passage, and Paul’s vital reminders for living as salt and light in the world.
Remember Your Christian Duties
Paul begins by reminding us of our place in the world—that we are not called to be rebellious revolutionaries, but that we must be humble, meek, and submissive to the authority God has placed over us, and that we need to reflect the character of Christ to the watching world. He writes, “Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men” (Titus 3:1-2).
As John MacArthur explains, such behavior stands out to the world and adorns the gospel:
Consistently demonstrating willing obedience for human authority shows unbelievers that, even though the things of this life are not our primary focus, we still have respect for government and loving concern for other citizens. As Christians, our true citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20), and our main focus must be on holy living and on reaching the lost, because our Lord Himself came “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). When we do live as God wants us to in an unbelieving culture, that in itself can make the attitude of the lost more receptive to God (1 Peter 2:12). [2]
As we’ve already discussed in this series, the Lord has not saved us for the purpose of temporal political change. The first key to living holy lives in a pagan culture is to focus on the work of God’s kingdom, and not attempting to build our own.
Remember Your Unsaved Condition
There’s a second mindset believers need to cultivate if they’re going to be salt and light in the world. Rather than giving in to spiritual elitism and looking down on lost and depraved sinners, we need to remember that we were no better than them—and would still be no better—apart from the intervening and transforming work of Christ.
Paul describes our prior spiritual condition in stark detail: “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another” (Titus 3:3).
As John MacArthur explains, our sinful past ought to make us sympathetic to the spiritual needs around us, and patient with the depravity of sinners who don’t know any better:
The preceding sins, along with other iniquities, have made unbelievers spiritually insensitive to what God demands of them and what He desires in a righteous society. Hence, non-Christians have produced the kind of culture we have today. And although we detest the sinful, unbiblical aspects of society, we must remember that the same ungodly characteristics once defined our lives. Such awareness will keep us humble and prevent us from putting down sinners simply because they rub us the wrong way by their values and lifestyles. Our unbelieving neighbors don’t need merely to be set straight about their political and moral choices; they need soul-transforming salvation through Jesus Christ, just as you and I once did. [3]
Remembering what you’ve been saved from helps protect you from spiritual pride, and motivates you to reach out to others with the only true source of lasting hope and salvation. It injects your evangelism with much-needed humility.
Remember Your Salvation
Along those same lines, Paul also wants us to remember the saving and transforming work the Lord has already accomplished in us.
But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7)
Whereas reflecting on our past sinfulness makes us sympathetic to a lost world in need of salvation, reflecting on our new state in Christ and His transforming work in us reminds us to live as citizens of heaven, and not wallow in the wretchedness that surrounds us. As John MacArthur explains,
Being saved is the most precious and important reality that Christians can know and appreciate. Salvation has delivered us from the predicament of being spiritually dead, enslaved to the penalty of sin, living under God’s wrath, and on our way to hell (see John 3:16-17, along with verse 36). As a result, it has also granted us the privilege of being made “alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:5), of being “conveyed . . . into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Colossians 1:13), of being able “to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4), and of attaining “hope of eternal life” (Titus 1:2). [4]
But those glorious truths aren’t just for our own edification—they ought to prompt us to reach out to others with the same truth that has transformed us. As John says, “Our position as people who are saved by the sovereign grace of God provides us with a great hope for the future that ought to daily motivate us and keep us focused on our real priorities.” [5]
Put simply, we can’t be salt and light in the world if we don’t remember how the Lord rescued us from the due penalty of our sin. We can’t hope to accurately testify to God’s work in us if we perpetually ignore it.
Remember Your Mission
Finally, Paul wants us to remember our primary means of preserving and influencing the world. He writes, “This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men” (Titus 3:8).
The reality is that preaching fire and brimstone might catch the attention of some people, but it will turn off just as many—if not more—to the glorious good news of the gospel. We need to faithfully preach the truth, but we also need to live lives that make our message believable and attractive. As John MacArthur explains, that starts with a life of good works:
How can we live in a pagan society in a God-honoring manner, in such a way that we do not alienate the very people God wants us to reach with the gospel? We must remember to be engaged in good works, which Scripture says will result from our salvation. [6]
Living as salt and light in the world is not just about confronting the deadness and darkness of society. It’s about living lives that adorn the gospel—that testify to God’s transforming work, and exemplify integrity, humility, and self-sacrifice. Not only do we need to preach Christ, we need to reflect His character to the world.
That, as John MacArthur writes, is how you and I make an impact in this ruined world:
If all that is true of you, you will recognize that it is not your primary calling to change your culture, to reform the outward moral behavior and professed political convictions of those around you, or to remake society superficially, according to some kind of “evangelical Christian blueprint.” Instead, you will constantly remember that the Lord has called you to be His witness before the lost and condemned world in which you now live. [7]

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Finding a good Church


Question: We can’t seem to find a church in our area that has godly leadership and biblical preaching. We feel so alone and now just read the Bible and pray at home. What should we do? And how do we find a “good” church?

Response: It is a sad commentary on the state of the church that we receive many such queries.

What marks a “healthy” church? Crucial to the answer isMatthew:18:20: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst....” Christ himself must be the central focus—not a pastor, gripping sermons, a strong missionary emphasis, exciting youth programs, compatible fellow members, or even agreeable doctrines, important as all these factors are. A fervent love for Christ and a heartfelt corporate worship of HisPerson must be the primary mark of a healthy church.

The early church was thus characterized. It met regularly on the first day of the week in remembrance of His death. That weekly outpouring of praise, worship and thanksgiving had one purpose—to give God His due portion. It isn’t primarily a matter of my need, my edification, my enjoyment, or my spiritual satisfaction, but of His worth in my eyes and the eyes of the church.

As I see it, our secondary focus should be our opportunity for servanthood with a corporate body of believers. I give myself to a needy, imperfect people for whom I can pray, for whose needs I can concern myself in practical ways, to whom I can be an encourager and a minister of the Word, and among whom I can demonstrate and work out Christ’s desire that His own “might be one.” This fellowship is commanded: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” (Hebrews:10:25). Is it our joy to gather with God’s people in intercessory prayer and study of the Word, or is Sunday-morning-only quite enough? A healthy church will not only gather unto Him, but with each other.

Lastly, I need to assess my own spiritual needs. The shepherds must provide the spiritual food that will nurture the flock, that it might be “thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy:3:17). That’s a big order and requires, of course, a teachable flock that loves the Word and is in willing subjection to it. The shepherds must also guard the flock of God by keeping out false and dangerous doctrines contrary to the truth. They must adhere to the pure Word of God as the only authority for faith and morals.

You say, “Wonderful! Lead me to such a church.” Remember, however, the order of priority: worship (do you worship sincerely, wholeheartedly, and in a manner satisfying to the object of that worship?); servanthood (do you serve, even as Christ gave us an example, with humility and with joy?); personal needs (are you growing, maturing, taking on Christ’s character?).

The final decision as to your church affiliation must be, prayerfully, yours. Is your personal worship of the Savior so joyful and satisfying a thing both to you and to Him that it supersedes there considerations? Do your opportunities for service render your fellowship sufficiently meaningful and significant? Or do doctrinal concerns or lack of biblical preaching and teaching cancel out the other two? You must seek the Lord for His answer. God’s comforting assurance remains: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
Source: https://www.thebereancall.org

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Seven Churches of Revelation


(Who They Represent in This Day and Age)
By Christine Peters
(Source: RaptureReady.com) 



The book of Revelation opens with the letters from Jesus to seven churches in Christendom. In these letters He acknowledges what these churches are doing right, where they are going astray and He counsels them as to how to get back on track.  
Jesus additionally addresses the individual believers in each church, commending them for seeing through the fog of doctrinal teachings to the core message of the gospel, challenging them to withstand and overcome. The believers, however, are not the intended audience of the letters.
The Lord’s purpose is to focus on the leadership of these churches, admonishing them to take a gut check on what they are teaching their flocks and where His core message of salvation may be getting lost in their mix of doctrinal interpretations.  
These seven churches have historical roots as actual churches that existed in the Roman province of Asia. The churches are addressed by the city that they were located in.  
There are also prophetic applications of these letters. One application is that the seven churches represent different ages in church history and that they are progressive. This interpretation holds that at the end of days, two main traits will remain - that Christendom is either going to be very alive or very dead (apostate) in their teachings - a very black and white approach to the Lord’s warnings.  The progressive interpretation is not wrong, merely incomplete.
This article is written as a study on a different prophetic application of these writings, the interpretation holding that each of these seven church characteristics are alive and well today.  The intent is to look past the black and white interpretation of right and wrong and delve into the Lord’s warnings about all of the shades of grey in the middle.
The Lord cautions over and over in the Bible about false prophets and false teachers. The purpose of these letters is to address the churches with the Lord’s specific concerns as to the unsound doctrines and practices that have invaded them, putting their flocks at risk. Given the following warnings from the Lord about false teachers in the end days, I would think that people would look beyond their comfort zone and compare their approach to the core teachings of scripture.
Matthew 7:22-23: “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

2Timothy 4:3-4: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away [their] ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”
There are four elements to each of the letters in Scripture, and they are as follows:
       Praise - What the Lord is pleased with.
       Condemnation - What the Lord is upset about.
       Advice - to the leaders of the group as to how to get back on track.
       Challenge - to the true believers within the group, to hold fast and overcome.
The fifth element in this summation is the application of the letters and is subjective based on the characteristics and symptoms presented in the Scripture.      
The Lord’s purpose in writing these letters was not for people like me to sit around and point fingers and I intend no offense with my conclusions here.  His purpose was for all to take a good hard look at the focus of their doctrinal stances and teachings.  
The Lord tells us that He has sent us out as sheep amongst the wolves, that we are to be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16).  Additionally, He counsels that we will know false teachers by their fruits (Matthew 7:20), that we are to study the Scriptures to show ourselves approved (2 Timothy 2:15) and that we are to try every teaching to see if it is from God (1 John 4:1).
Where I have mentioned specific denominations in my applications, my motive is not to condemn - I am merely comparing their doctrines and/or teachings to the Lord’s warnings and adding their stated positions as real life examples to the characteristics mentioned. An individual church is only as solid as its local leadership.
Don’t take what I have to say about this as the gospel truth - use these letters how the Lord intended: as a measuring stick.

1. Church of Ephesus - Revelation 2:1-7
Praise: I know that you do good deeds, and work hard. You are patient and cannot stand evil. You condemn those who do wrong and hold false teachings to the fire.

Condemnation: You have left your first love - the core of the gospel.

Advice to leaders: Remember where it is that you have fallen from, repent and go back to the original teachings.

Challenge to believers: To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

Application: Men intent on abandoning the word of God (their first love) for their own doctrinal interpretations.

The inference here is the addition of doctrines into the church placing more importance on them than on the Word of God. This refers to legalistic churches that institute man-imposed salvation requirements, such as specific baptism rituals or organization membership, and teach that there is no salvation unless these requirements are met. They focus more on dos and don’ts and on who does and doesn’t do, than on the core message of Scripture and thus they deny salvation by grace through faith. The easiest way to spot a church of Ephesus is their claim of being the only true remnant church of Christ and their insistence that there is no salvation outside of their organization and without their rituals.  
Denominations known for this practice include the International Church of Christ, Seventh Day Adventists and the United Pentecostals (UPC - Oneness Pentecostals).

2. Church of Smyrna -- Revelation 2:8-11

Praise: I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich).

Condemnation: None!

Advice to leaders: Don’t fear your suffering - Satan will torment you and you will be tried. Be faithful unto death and you will have the crown of life..

Challenge to believers: He that overcometh shall not be hurt by the second death (and will have eternal life).

Application:  Throughout the world, Christians are being persecuted in places like China, Russia, the Philippines and the Islamic nation states. Witnessing is illegal in many of these places and sadly, it is all too common to hear of Christians being jailed, tortured and even beheaded for the crime of attempting to spread the gospel and the testimony of Jesus. 

3. Church of Pergamum - Revelation 2:12-17
Praise: You live where Satan lives, yet you never renounced me.

Condemnation: But I have a few things against you, your teachings pollute your people both spiritually and socially with unacceptable pagan practices.

Advice to leaders: Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth!

Challenge to believers: To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth [it].

Application: Those teaching false doctrines, causing people to sin because they think it is “okay” based on the interpretations of their leadership. What these leaders are doing is teaching that the Word of God is to be treated as a cafeteria plan where you can pick and choose what you want to believe and disregard that which you don’t. Pergamum is not lukewarm to the gospel, they have just chosen to believe that certain things in it don't apply to them. 

The first group that comes to mind here is the MCC - The Metropolitan Community Church  (gay Christians.) This is a huge denomination that teaches that it is okay to be gay and Christian, maintaining that God created them gay (so it must be all right) rather than acknowledging that their homosexuality is merely a manifestation of the sin nature that we are all born with.

4. Church of Thyatira - Revelation 2:18-29
Praise: I know your deeds, your love, your charity, faith and service. You are doing more of these things than you ever have!

Condemnation: While on the outside, you appear as a model church, you are rife with corruption and corrupt teachings, from deep within. You have committed adultery against me with your idol worship.

Advice to leaders: Repent now or I will spew you into the Tribulation.

Challenge to believers: To those who are faithful within, rejecting the false doctrines, hold fast till I come.

Application:  The Lord references Jezebel in his condemnation to this church - referring to the woman who lured people away from Him with idolatry by focusing them on things other than Him. 
Traits seen today include viewing Mary as the mediatrix between Man and God, the veneration of statues and images,  grace being administered through humanly prescribed sacraments, church tradition held as equivalent in authority to the Bible, and the doctrine of confessing to priests as a means of maintaining one's salvation. The prime example of this is the Roman Catholic Church.

5. Church of Sardis  - Revelation 3:1-6
Praise: I know your deeds - your name carries much recognition among men.

Condemnation: But now you are dead.

Advice to leaders: Remember your beginnings, return to them and repent. You are not paying attention to my Word and you need to wake up!

Challenge to believers: He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.

Application: This is referring specifically to name brand denominations with long, well known histories that have fallen from truth and are seeking ecumenical unity without regard to the gospel. The suggestion the Lord is giving here is that these are the Reform churches—once very alive but now dead in their doctrines, filled with Sunday country club pew warmers. 
Denominations that have embraced this ecumenical neutrality include the Methodists, Lutherans and Presbyterians. I am speaking to the global stances here—again, a particular church is only as alive or dead as its local leadership. 

6. Church of Philadelphia - Revelation 3:7-13

Praise: You may not be the biggest group, but I know your works and your teachings. Even without strength or power, you have kept My Word and not compromised My name.

Condemnation: None!

Advice to leaders: I am coming quickly. Hold onto what you have.

Challenge to believers: Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, [which is] new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and [I will write upon him] my new name.

Application:  This is written to those who are on fire for the Lord’s return that have kept the winds of false doctrines out of their midst and maintained solid teachings.  While everyone wants to think that they are in the church of Philadelphia - it is important to note, that there are true believers in each of the 7 churches. The Lord is merely commending the leadership of Philadelphia for their adherence to sound doctrine. 
Ironically, the letter to the church of Philadelphia is used/abused by many churches to justify their exclusivity (no salvation outside of their organization) under what they perceive to be the “end times remnant church clause.”  For this reason, these churches are in reality the churches of Ephesus, discussed above.

7. Church of Laodicea - Revelation 3:14-22
Praise: None!

Condemnation: You are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold. I wish you were one or the other but because you have no redeeming qualities whatsoever, I will spit you out of my mouth into the tribulation.  You say that you are wealthy and in need of nothing, but what you don't realize is that you are truly wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked.

Advice to leaders: You need to start concerning yourself with eternal riches and not earthly ones, humble yourself about  your sins and open your eyes to My truth before it’s too late.

Challenge to believers: To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne

Application:  Unlike the other churches that have let doctrinal interpretations cloud the message of salvation, this group is neither hot nor cold to it - they simply avoid it all together. They teach of wealth and healing but not of salvation and repentance. Rather than instruct people on how to humble themselves to the Lord's will, they teach that He is to conform to our will.  
Jesus said in John 18:36 that His kingdom is not of this world. In Matthew 6:19-20, He explains that we are to store up our riches in heaven and not on earth.  All of this is seemingly lost on the church of Laodicea, whose complete focus is on the here and now. They flaunt their opulent lifestyles as proof of the Lord’s earthly blessings. 
They teach that the first step to health and wealth is to give “seed donations” to their ministries and then have the faith that the Lord will bless this gift and multiply it in return. This becomes a vicious cycle when those who are not healed or showered with wealth are told that it is because they lack the faith to give enough to these ministries, thus soliciting even more donations - all the while, using the Lord's name to increase their personal wealth.
Not only are these teachings alive and well in Christendom today, they are the predominate focus in more ministries than I can count. They are the hallmark of the Word of Faith/Revival/Latter Rain movements who have taken the world by storm under the guise of “Fifth Wave” evangelism with such leaders as Benny Hinn, Paul Cain, Rick Joyner, Marilyn Hickey, Kenneth Copeland, Paul and Jan Crouch, Jesse Duplantis and Fred Price—the list is endless.
Bottom Line to the Seven Churches
Doctrines are nothing but man's interpretation of God’s Word. They in themselves do not save, but they can and do cloud the issue of salvation. The Lord cautions over and over in scripture about false teachers in the end days, leading His flock astray. Sadly, His message is getting lost in a sea of pick-and-choose scriptural teachings and rituals.
Now is the time for self-examination.
Are you leading someone away from the message of salvation with extraneous teachings rather than to it with the core of the gospel?

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Are You Ready?


   More than ever before, my inner groans for Christ's return for his bride have been growing stronger and stronger: "Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.  For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance." (Romans 8:23-25)
  Even when things are going particularly well in life, I'm always left with the feeling that this life is a vapor and all is vanity: "I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind." (Ecc. 1:14)  
  At times I'm left praying and shouting out to God to come soon, even so Come Quickly! With all I'm seeing in the news and listening to through Bible commentators and talk shows, I get a greater and greater sense that our "catching away" is not 20 years away, but most likely 5 years or less! Now no man knows the day or the hour, but for those who are watching and waiting for that blessed Hope: "But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.  You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness.  Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober." (1Thess. 5:4-6)
 Believers who are alert and watching are fully aware of the times and able to discern when the birth pangs are getting closer and closer together! When you see the world stage being set for things that will take place in the 7 year Tribulation period, you know the rapture is near! 
 I believe "God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him." (1 Thess. 5:9). The Bride will not go through what is about to wake this world out of its slumber! The Bride will be taken to heaven to be with the Lord until we come with Him in the clouds after the judgements have fallen upon this earth! 
 My question to you is: Are You Ready? If you are a Christian....are you busy doing the Lord's work until He comes for us? If you are not a Christian, why are you waiting to get right with God? Behold today is the day of salvation! You are not promised tomorrow or 80 years to live!! Jesus Christ came and died and rose again for you and to take your sins!!! Why would you choose this world and it's fleeting pleasures over an eternity spent with God himself? Don't get ripped off by the evil one! Repent of your sin and embrace Jesus Christ as your savior today!!!


 

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Leading Of The Spirit


"As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God.' -- Romans 8:14, 16
It is the very same Spirit that leads us as children who also assures us that we are children. Without His leading there can be no assurance of our filiation. True full assurance of faith is enjoyed by him who surrenders himself entirely to the leading of the Spirit.
In what does this leading consist?  Chiefly in this, that our whole hidden inner life is guided by Him to what it ought to be. This we must firmly believe. Our growth and increase, our development and progress, is not our work but His: we are to trust Him for this. As a tree or animal grows and becomes large by the spirit of life which God has given to it, so also does the Christian by the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. (Hosea 14:6, 7; Matthew 6:28; Mark 4:26, 28; Luke 2:40; Romans 8:2) We have to cherish the joyful assurance that the Spirit whom the Father gives to us does with divine wisdom and power guide our hidden life, and bring it where God will have it.
Then there are also special directions of this leading. 'He will lead you into all the truth,'  When we read the word of God, we are to wait upon Him, to make us experience the truth, the essential power of what God says. He makes the word living and powerful. He leads us into a life corresponding to the word. (John 6:63, 14:26; John 16:13; 1 Cor. 2:10, 11; 1 Thes. 2:13)
When you pray, you can reckon upon His leading: 'The Spirit helpeth our infirmities.'  He leads us to what we must desire. He leads us into the way in which we are to pray, trustfully, persistently, mightily. (Zech 12:10; Romans 8:26, 27; Jude 12, 20)
In the way of sanctification it is He that will lead: He leads us in the path of righteousness. He leads us into all the will of God. (1 Cor. 6:19, 20; 1 Peter 1:2, 15)
In our speaking and working for the Lord, He will lead. Every child has the Spirit: every child has need of Him to know and to do the work of the Father. Without Him no child can please or serve the Father. The leading of the Spirit is the blessed privilege, the sure token, the only power of a child of God. (Matthew 10:20; Acts 1:8; Romans 8:9, 13; Galatians 4:6; Ephes. 1:13)
And how then can you fully enjoy this leading?  The first thing that is necessary for this is faith. You must take time, young Christian, to have your heart filled with the deep and living consciousness that the Spirit is in you. Read all the glorious declarations of your Father in His word concerning what the Spirit is in you and for you, until the conviction wholly fills you that you are really a temple of the Spirit. Ignorance or unbelief on this point makes it impossible for the Spirit to speak in you and to lead you. Cherish an ever-abiding assurance that the Spirit of God dwells in you. (Acts. 19:2; Romans 5:5; 1 Cor. 3:16; 2 Cor. 5:5  Galatians 3:5, 14)
Then the second thing that is necessary is this: you are to hold yourself still, to attend to the voice of the Spirit. As the Lord Jesus acts, so does the Spirit. As the Lord Jesus acts, so does also the Spirit: 'He shall not cry nor lift up His voice.'  He whispers gently and quietly: only the soul that sets itself very silently towards God can perceive His voice and guidance. When we become to a needless extent engrossed with the world, with its business, its cares, its enjoyments, its literature, its politics, the Spirit cannot lead us. When our service of God is a bustling and working in our own wisdom and strength, the Spirit cannot be heard in us. It is the weak, the simple, who are willing to have themselves taught in humility, that receive the leading of the Spirit. Sit down every morning, sit down often in the day, to say: Lord Jesus, I know nothing, I will be silent: let the Spirit lead me. (1 Chron. 19:12; Psalm 62; Psalm 2, 6; Psalm 131:2; Isaiah 43:2; Habakkuk 2:20; Zech. 4:6 Acts 1:4)
And then: be obedient. Listen to the inner voice, and do what it says to you. Fill your heart every day with the word, and when the Spirit puts you in mind of what the word says, betake yourself to the doing of it. So you become capable of further teaching: it is to the obedient that the full blessing of the Spirit is promised. (John 14:15, 16; Acts 5:32)
Young Christian, know that you are a temple of the Spirit, and that it is only through the daily leading of the Spirit that you can walk as a child of God, with the witness that you are pleasing the Father.

Precious Saviour, imprint this lesson deeply on my mind. The Holy Spirit is in me. His leading is every day and everywhere indispensable for me. I cannot hear His voice in the word when I do not wait silently upon Him. Lord, let a holy circumspectness keep watch over me, that I may always walk as a pupil of the Spirit. Amen.

  1. It is often asked: How do I know that I shall continue standing, that I shall be kept, that I shall increase?  The question dishonours the Holy Spirit -- is the token that you do not know Him or do not trust Him. The question indicates that you are seeking the secret of strength for perseverance in yourself, and not in the Holy Spirit, your heavenly Guide.
  2. As God sees to it, that every moment there is air for me to breathe, so shall the Holy Spirit unceasingly maintain life in the hidden depths of my soul. He will not break off his own work.
  3. From the time that we receive the Holy Spirit, we have nothing to do but to honour his work: to keep our hands off from it, and to trust Him, and to let Him work.
  4. The beginning and the end of the work of the Spirit is to reveal Jesus to me, and to cause me to abide in Him. As soon as I would fain look after the work of the Spirit in me, I hinder Him: He cannot work when I am not willing to look upon Jesus.
  5. The voice of the Father, the voice of the good Shepherd, the voice of the Holy Spirit is very gentle. We must learn to become deaf to other voices, to the world and its news of friends and their thoughts, to our own Ego and its desires: then shall we distinguish the voice of the Spirit. Let us often set ourselves silent in prayer, entirely silent, to offer up our will and our thoughts, and, with our eye upon Jesus, to keep ear and heart open for the voice of the Spirit.
—New Life, The (Andrew Murray)

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Sorcery: Ushering in a “Blissful” Christless Eternity


july_nl_720.png A few years ago I had the wonderful privilege of ministering to a very elderly lady who was about to be operated on for a cancer issue. It was not a life-or-death-related surgery, but at her advanced age there were some definite concerns. As we awaited the gurney to transport her to surgery, I asked her a question that had been pressing on my heart. I was aware that she may not have known the Lord beyond her social Christian upbringing. She knew a number of things about Jesus, but I wasn’t confident that she was born again. So I asked her simply, “What’s next?” I could tell that she was apprehensive about the pending surgery, and my question startled her. She asked what I meant. Trying to be as sensitive to the situation as I could, I nevertheless told her that I felt compelled to ask her if she thought about what was next for her should she not survive the surgery.
That may seem like the wrong thing to ask. There are those who would have me say things that would build up her confidence regarding the outcome of the operation. Many believe that a positive attitude increases one’s chances of survival when the body goes through a physically traumatic event. There is little doubt that one’s attitude can influence a person’s condition for wellness or harm, and a good attitude certainly wins out over a bad attitude ( see Proverbs:15:13, 15; 17:22), but it’s no guarantee regarding the hoped-for outcome.
I wanted her to be both encouraged and to have a guarantee as she faced surgery. I interrupted her perplexed look by straightforwardly asking if she wanted to spend eternity with Jesus.
I knew that she had enjoyed “listening in” on conversations when my wife and I and our children talked about Jesus and our love for Him. None of that involved “preaching at her.” It had primarily consisted of family members talking about the One we each loved above all and what He was doing in our lives, such as answering our prayers, helping us to grow in our biblical faith and enabling us to share the gospel and do the things that pleased Him.
She never hesitated in her “yes” response. Hers was not a fear-of-the-surgery reply. It was obvious at that moment that the Lord had given her peace and His perfect love had cast out her fear. I then repeated the simple gospel (which she had heard in our home numerous times) and asked her if she believed in her heart that Jesus had paid the full penalty for her sins and if she was willing to accept His offer of the gift of eternal life. Again, there was no hesitation in her affirmation. It seemed to me that the Holy Spirit was bringing to her mind the things we had previously talked about related to the gospel. She survived the surgery, but it was not too long afterward that she received that for which she had asked. She went to be with her Savior, who had promised that she would spend her eternity with Him.
There is no greater promise given in the Scriptures and, therefore, no greater encouragement: “[Christ] in whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest [guarantee] of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory” (Ephesians:1:13-14).
As I mentioned, the lady was elderly. She lived until her mid-90s. The children she had birthed were a part of the “baby boomer” generation (those born right after World War II and into the early ’60s). It is the largest generation thus far in US history, peaking at nearly 79 million at the end of the 20th century. The first of the baby boomers (1944-’46) are now entering their 70s, and most are suffering the plight of old age with its accompanying illnesses.
The baby boomers introduced the subculture of the hippies, a youth movement that began in the US and rejected the establishment with its traditional social customs. They protested war and violence and instead promoted peace and love. Much of the movement was fueled by mind-altering drugs that were greatly encouraged by influential men such as Harvard professor Timothy Leary (“Turn on, tune in, drop out.”), a major advocate of LSD. The use of psychedelics grew exponentially during the 1960s. Drug companies and psychiatric researchers tested them “on alcoholics, people struggling with obsessive-compulsive disorder, depressives, autistic children, schizophrenics, terminal cancer patients, and convicts, as well as on perfectly healthy artists and scientists (to study creativity), and divinity students (to study spirituality).”  The 1970 Controlled Substances Act, however, put the experimentation and use of LSD and other psychedelics practically out of business—but only for a time.
Today, those of the psychedelics-prone hippie generation are now part of the establishment. They may have “turned on” and “tuned in,” but many did not “drop out.” In fact, some are running our largest and most prestigious institutions, from medical institutions to research organizations to universities. In a rather stunning article published in the New Yorker magazine titled “The Trip Treatment,” subheading: “Research into psychedelics, shut down for decades, is now yielding exciting results,” author Michael Pollan documents the surprising return of medical experiments featuring hallucinogenics. Psilocybin, a.k.a. the sacred or magic mushroom, is the lead experimental drug. That’s primarily because it doesn’t carry some of the “political and cultural baggage” of LSD, which is “stronger and longer-lasting in its effects and is considered more likely to produce adverse reactions.” The research is taking place in respected institutions such as Johns Hopkins, UCLA Medical Center (Harbor), New York University, the University of New Mexico, London’s Imperial College, the University of Zurich, and many other universities. Pollan notes that “Researchers are using or planning to use psilocybin not only to treat anxiety, addiction (to smoking and alcohol), and depression but also to study the neurobiology of mystical experience, which the drug, at high doses, can reliably occasion.”
The New Yorker article cites the case of a man whose cancer had spread throughout his body and was given no hope of recovery by his doctors. Facing death drove him to seek options to relieve his extreme anxiety. Quoting researchers, Pollan writes, “Cancer patients receiving just a single dose of psilocybin experienced immediate and dramatic reductions in anxiety and depression, improvements that were sustained for at least six months…. People who had been palpably scared of death—they lost their fear.” Novelist and drug proponent Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) is often quoted for support regarding using psychedelics with terminal patients “in the hope that it would make dying a more spiritual, less strictly physiological process.” Huxley, a humanist and anti-Christian, was injected with LSD at his deathbed. His “spiritual” process (read hallucination ) may have given him temporal relief, but his ecstasy, according to the Scriptures, eased him into an eternal separation from his Creator in a place where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth in darkness forever (Matthew:22:13). The Word of God would have us think about death and what follows as life’s most critical consideration .
Huxley’s so-called spiritual process has been an important subject of many of the researchers. Pollan writes, “Perhaps the most influential and rigorous of these early studies was the Good Friday experiment, conducted in 1962 by Walter Pahnke, a psychiatrist and minister working on a Ph.D. dissertation under [Timothy] Leary at Harvard. In a double-blind experiment, twenty divinity students received a capsule of white powder right before a Good Friday service at Marsh Chapel, on the Boston University campus; ten contained psilocybin, ten an active placebo (nicotinic acid). Eight of the ten students receiving psilocybin reported a mystical experience, while only one in the control group experienced a feeling of ‘sacredness’ and a ‘sense of peace.’ (Telling the subjects apart was not difficult, rendering the double-blind a somewhat hollow conceit: those on the placebo sat sedately in their pews while the others lay down or wandered around the chapel, muttering things like ‘God is everywhere’ and ‘Oh, the glory!’).” Further evaluation of the experiment noted that some of the subjects had to be given antipsychotic drugs in order to counter the side effects of psilocybin. For some of the early researchers “it was difficult not to conclude that they were suddenly in possession of news with the power to change the world—a psychedelic gospel.”
What then of this “gospel” from a biblical perspective? It contributes to a fulfillment of what the Scriptures indicate will be an end-times deception. It is referred to as sorcery . The term in Revelation:9:21 and 18:23 in the Greek is pharmakeia , which Vine’s Expository Dictionary defines as “the use or the administering of drugs.” Galatians:5:20 translates the term pharmakeia (from which we get our word pharmacy) as witchcraft . It should be apparent from those scriptures that drugs will play a major part in the “strong delusion” of the Last Days (2 Thessalonians:2:11). Revelation:18:23 declares that “thy merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived.” Furthermore, the commitment to the use of drugs will be so strong that even after God pours out His wrath upon the earth during the Great Tribulation none will repent of their sorceries (Revelation:9:20-21).
Satan’s devices often come progressively like ocean waves that arrive in sets. When a wave crests and crashes on a beach, it deposits its debris and then retreats. That wave is followed by another wave, which deposits more debris. This analogy fits the use of hallucinogenic drugs by the baby-boomer generation followed by a new wave, which is taking place today. This is not intended to condemn the use of all drugs, some of which, notwithstanding their abuses, have been helpful to mankind. Hallucinogenic drugs, however, have a long history in many cultures as key ingredients in religious rituals. The drug-induced altered state of consciousness transcends euphoric experiences and becomes a means of contacting spirit entities. That has been the mainstay of shamanism throughout the world by people groups and cultures that have had no contact with one another. The shaman or witchdoctor, by ingesting or inhaling a hallucinogenic substance, is enabled to commune with the spirit world. He is thus “equipped” to mediate between the spirit beings and his tribe or village. The Bible censures the practice as a form of divination that results in communication with demons (which explains the uniformity of shamanism throughout the world).
Although there is a great deal of research to document the harmful effects of psychedelic drugs, even so, many participants in the psychedelic experiments are convinced of the value. Pollan reports that support for the use of hallucinogenics is gaining ground. The prestigious Psychopharmacology journal published a supportive landmark article titled “Psilocybin Can Occasion Mystical-Type Experiences Having Substantial and Sustained Personal Meaning and Spiritual Significance.” One might judiciously wonder exactly what pharmacologists were taught about the mystical and spiritual realm.
At the beginning of this article, I mentioned having asked my friend: “What’s next?” This is a question that must be answered by everyone who faces death, because our eternal destiny depends upon it. Scripture is unambiguous: “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews:9:27). It is an extraordinarily deceptive scheme of the Adversary to deny a dying person what may be the final opportunity for salvation by wrapping one’s last days of physical life in a cloak of psychedelic bliss. Heartbreakingly, this drug wave will certainly increase in the days ahead, as Pollan points out: “Many of the researchers and therapists I interviewed are confident that psychedelic therapy will eventually become routine. Katherine MacLean hopes someday to establish a ‘psychedelic hospice,’ a retreat center where the dying and their loved ones can use psychedelics to help them all let go.” The former hippies will likely help with its formation: “Many of the people in charge of our institutions today have personal experience with psychedelics and so feel less threatened by them.”
Fifty years of the ever-increasing influence of Eastern mysticism, however, through its homogenized and westernized form known as the New Age Movement, has corroded away the last chains of opposition. The gurus rushed to the West, trumpeted in by the Beatles under the guidance of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Eastern meditation took its practitioners to a higher level of altered states of consciousness than the banned hallucinogenic drugs. (See America, the Sorcerer’s New Apprentice: the Rise of New Age Shamanism by Dave Hunt and T. A. McMahon for a detailed account of sorcery’s surprising impact on the West.)
Maharishi’s Spiritual Regeneration Movement, which was barred from US schools because of its blatant teaching of Hinduism and Eastern mysticism, has come back even stronger as the fraudulent science of Transcendental Meditation (TM).
Popular TV medical doctor and Sufi Muslim, Dr. Oz is the national spokesperson for Transcendental Meditation’s mystical mind-altering Hindu practice. Yoga, which is the heart of Hinduism, rivals Starbucks in popularity and can be found everywhere throughout the country, including in Christian churches. Its meditation is a more direct vehicle to a mystical altered state of consciousness. The legal use of marijuana (the psychedelic drug cannabis) began under the belief (some would say “ploy”) that it has significant value for medicinal purposes. It has recently been ushered into the realm of a recreational substance in a few states. It’s hardly a wild guess that the rest of the country will follow.
The astounding and pervasive use of drugs (which, again, the Bible terms sorcery ) in our day is one more proof of the prophetic accuracy of Scripture. Certainly the world is falling prey to the deceptive scheme instigated by the father of lies, Satan himself, and, tragically, so are many who profess to follow Christ. The Israelites heard from the Prophet Jeremiah God’s words of correction and His pleading with them to return to Him, yet they refused to repent of their spiritual adulteries. Christendom today is on that same path.
Pray that the Holy Spirit will convict the hearts of believers who, knowingly or unknowingly, have succumbed to sorcery, that they would repent and obey His Word.   TBC