Monday, April 30, 2012

Ancient Times

"I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times." (Psalm 77:5)

The Bible provides for us a fascinating perspective on the passage of time. Three thousand years ago, the psalmist was reflecting on God's ways in even earlier times and was seeking to understand God's ways in his time. Each new generation seems to think that it is the "new wave," leading the world out of its past darkness into a new age of enlightenment.
There is need for scientific research, of course (in fact, this is implied in the "dominion mandate" of Genesis 1:26-28), but we need to keep in mind that true science is really "thinking God's thoughts after Him." The results of our scientific "discoveries" should always be to glorify the Creator and to draw men closer to Him, not lead them away from Him.
The same is true of history. We are merely the children of ancient patriarchs, and our moral natures are the same as theirs, all contaminated by inherent sinfulness and the need for divine salvation. God dealt with them as He does with us, so that every later generation needs to study and learn from the generations of ancient times and from God's inspired histories of them in the earliest books of the Bible--especially Genesis, as well as Exodus, Job, and other ancient books. "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope" (Romans 15:4).
God is the same today as He was in Eden, on Mount Ararat, in Babel, and Canaan, and Sinai, and Calvary. "Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God" (Psalm 90:1-2). HMM

Saturday, April 28, 2012

How to Confront the Culture

By John MacArthur

Confronting the CultureAs a pastor in Southern California, I have the blessed privilege of mining the truth from God's Word every week of my life. Doing that in Los Angeles only makes it more interesting, if for no other reason than the tremendous diversity of people, culture, and language here. When we take the gospel to our city, it's amazing to watch God's Word transcend the culture--and every false religion--to change lives. The message of salvation in Christ truly knows no hindrance.
If you think evangelism is a somewhat arduous task in that environment, you're right. We face a culture that has rejected absolute truth and now considers it stylish to openly embrace and encourage degrading passions. The ecumenical, syncretistic spirit of the age recoils in horror at the exclusive claims of Christ. And popular, evangelical seeker-sensitive churches only make the task more difficult by refusing to confront sin in an effort to make the "unchurched" sinner comfortable.
Preaching today is clearly out of season (2 Tim. 4:2) and evangelism is difficult, but that's nothing new. Paul faced worse challenges in his day. He faced an increasingly anti-Christian culture--there was no spirit of tolerance to shield believers from hostility. Still, he preached the gospel of Jesus Christ-a hard, uncompromising message of repentance. That is best illustrated in Acts 17:16-34 where Paul faced one of the most intellectually erudite and morally corrupt audiences ever--the philosophers on Mars Hill.

The Situation (Acts 17:16-21): Paul came to Athens after being forced to flee Thessalonica and Berea (Acts 17:1-15). Athens was the heart of Greek culture and thought, renowned for its art and philosophy and some of the most famous philosophers. The founders of two dominant philosophies, Epicurus (Epicureanism) and Zeno (Stoicism), had taught in Athens.
Athens was also the home of almost every man-made god in existence. The pagan writer Petronius once said it was easier to find a god in Athens than a man. In fact it was Athenian idolatry that drove Paul to preach the gospel in Athens--such idolatry offended him to the core (v. 16). In customary fashion, he marched directly to the local synagogue and was reasoning from the Scriptures (cf. v. 2) "with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present" (v. 17).
Some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers heard Paul's message in the market place and brought him to the Areopagus on Mars Hill before some of the most astute philosophers in Athens. They had no interest in the gospel; Paul was simply a novelty to them. They set him in their midst as a specimen that would amuse their interest in "telling or hearing something new" (v. 21). That's the setting for Paul's message and method for confronting a godless culture.

The Method (Acts 17:22-34): Paul spoke his message to an indifferent and arrogant audience, like many to whom you and I speak today. As we look at how Paul preached to the philosophers, you'll see three essential elements of an effective message to confront our post-Christian culture with the truth.

First, tell them that God is (vv. 22-23). Here's Paul's first point: "You are ignorant and I'm going to give you the truth." Try recommending that opening line at an evangelism conference. Some people think Paul commended their religiosity when he mentioned their many objects of worship. He wasn't commending them at all--their idols infuriated him (v. 16). Rather, he started with a given: all men are innately religious. All men are created to be worshipers--they either worship God or something else, but everyone worships something. The Athenians were no different.
Externally, God has given witness about Himself through what He created: "The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands" (Ps. 19:1). Internally, according to Romans 1:19: "that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them." They have an innate sense of the true God of the Bible, His standards are written on their hearts, and their consciences hold them accountable (Rom. 2:14-15). But because of sin, they "suppress the truth in unrighteousness" (Rom. 1:18). They willfully reject what they know to be true and choose instead to worship in ignorance.

Second, tell them who God is (vv. 24-29).This is Paul's lesson to the ignorant about the unknown God. This is Theology 101. It's ironic that Paul was teaching the ABCs of theology to those who were known worldwide as supreme intellectuals. It proves the truth of 1 Corinthians 1:25: "The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." Here are five things ignorant, rebellious men need to know about the "Unknown God."
God is the Creator. Verse 24a: He "made the world and all things in it." In Paul's day and ours, the truth makes no room for men's opinions regarding origins.Confronting the Culture
God is the Ruler. Verse 24b: "He is Lord of heaven and earth [and] does not dwell in temples made with hands." It logically follows that if God is the Creator, He is also the rightful Ruler of what He created. And if He is Creator and Ruler, He doesn't live in what His creatures have made.
God is the Giver. Verse 25: "He [is not] served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things." Far from needing anything from men, the Creator "causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous" (Matt. 5:45).
God is the Controller. Verse 26: "He made from one man every nation of mankind ... having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation." That statement was a blow to the national pride of the Greeks, who scornfully referred to non-Greeks as "barbarians." Nonetheless, God controls the affairs and destinies of men and nations.
God is the Revealer. Verses 27-29: Men should "seek God...He is not far from each one of us...Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like [anything] formed by the art and thought of man." God, by creating, ruling, giving, and controlling all things, has clearly revealed Himself in what He has made--men are truly without excuse (Rom. 1:20).

Third, tell them what God says (vv. 30-31). Paul's evangelism method ends with a simple, powerful point: tell them to repent or be judged. In the past, God was patient. But a day is coming when He will judge the world through Jesus Christ. God gave sufficient proof of the truth of His Word in the resurrection of His Son--He holds all men accountable to that evidence. His grace in the past and His wrath in the future require repentance in the present. As Paul said elsewhere, "Now is 'the acceptable time,' behold, now is 'the day of salvation'" (2 Cor. 6:2). That message isn't popular today, but then again, it has never been popular. "Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to Paul went out of their midst" (v. 32-33).
I mentioned earlier that Paul's method was effective, and it is. Look at verse 34: "But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris, and others with them." It was effective to save those whom God chose to save. Paul was faithful to proclaim the truth. He left the results to God.
From Athens to Los Angeles, first century to twenty-first century and everywhere in between, repentance may not be popular, but it's still the gospel. Teach this post-Christian culture about God and then command repentance. That's the only message we have; without it, no one would be saved. 

Gospel in One Minute

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

2012: The end of the world?


The 2012 hysteria has produced a doom boom that has been fueled by a series of television programs and the recent Hollywood blockbuster film.
It all relates to a calendar developed by the ancient Mayan civilization that was centered in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Their society flourished from about 250 to 900 AD, when it experienced a sudden, unexplained collapse.
The Mayas developed an advanced society that featured large cities built around stepped pyramids that also served as temples. They excelled in mathematics and astronomy. Combining the two, they produced a series of 20 different types of calendars. It would not be an overstatement to say that the Mayas were calendar-obsessed.
2012 PosterTheir calculations were incredibly accurate. Without the help of calculators, computers, or telescopes, they were able to determine the length of a lunar month to be 29.53020 days. The actual length is 29.53059 days.1 Their solar year was calculated to be 365.2450 days minus an error of .002. Modern calculations put it at 365.2425 plus an error of .0003.2
The Mayas had three main calendars.3 One was a solar calendar that was based on 20 day months. The second was a ceremonial calendar that was related to the 260 day cycle of Venus. It was their third measure of time, the Long Count Calendar, that was related to the year 2012.
The Long Count Calendar was a measure of "world age cycles" that repeat over and over again. This calendar was divided into five units or cycles that started with the mythical date for the creation of the Mayas — August 11, 3114 BC. The fifth cycle was supposed to end on a date that corresponds to December 21, 2012 on the Gregorian Calendar that is used in the Western World. Since the calendar ends on that date, some modern day interpreters have jumped to the conclusion that it marks the date for the end of the world.
A Mayan CalendarThe man who put 2012 on the map as a pivotal date for world history was José Arguelles, a Mexican-American, who authored a mystical book in 1987 titled The Mayan Factor.4 He was also instrumental that year in organizing a worldwide event called the Harmonic Convergence.5 During two days in August, people were urged to gather at sacred sites to awaken the "energy grid" of the world and thus initiate a 25-year era of spiritual growth that would culminate in 2012.
Since that time, a man by the name of Christian John Meoli has been organizing and conducting 2012 conferences that have the flavor of a Star Trek convention. He plans to hold the final conference on December 21, 2012 at the Mayan pyramids in Mexico. He describes 2012 as "the shift," and the slogan for his conferences is "Shift Happens."6
Meanwhile, the History Channel on television has promoted the 2012 craze with a zeal, broadcasting a whole series of programs focused on the date: "Mayan Doomsday Prophecy" (2006), "Last Days on Earth" (2006), "Doomsday 2012: The End of Days" (2007), "Seven Signs of the Apocalypse" (2009), and "Nostradamus 2012" (2009).


Other Apocalyptic Factors Related to 2012

There are other factors that are fueling the 2012 hype. One is the fact that the same date, December 21, 2012, allegedly marks the first time in thousands of years that the galactic alignment of the sun and earth with the center of the Milky Way will occur.7 Some have theorized that this cosmic event will cause the earth's poles to reverse, resulting in major catastrophes.8
Also causing concern is the prediction by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) that 2012 will be a peak year for the sun's cycle, resulting in a very dramatic increase in solar flares.9 Estimates are that the next sunspot cycle will be 30% to 50% stronger than the previous one in 2000. If correct, the years ahead could produce a burst of solar activity second only to the historic Solar Max of 1958.
To no one's surprise, the Nostradamus fans have also jumped on the 2012 band wagon. In 1994, Italian journalist Enza Massa was at the Italian National Library in Rome when she stumbled upon an unusual find. It was a manuscript dating to 1629, titled: Nostradamus Vatinicia Code. Michel de Notredame, the author's name, was on the inside in indelible ink. This manuscript, never published by Nostradamus, was handed down to the seer's son and later donated by him to Pope Urban VIII.10
The book is full of bizarre images and mystical quatrains. Its contents have not yet been completely revealed to the public, but there are rumors all over the Internet that it contains predictions of the end of the world in 2012.
And then there is the Bible Code. Michael Drosnin, the author of the book that popularized the code, states that the words, "earth annihilated" appear in correspondence with the year 2012.11
Finally, there is the Web Bot Project that was started in 1997. It was originally created to predict stock market trends. But it has expanded in recent years into a program that claims to be able to predict future events by tracking keywords entered on the Internet.12 When the date, December 21, 2012, is entered into Web Bot, the prediction emerges that there will be "a cataclysmic pole shift in 2012."13


The Counter Arguments

There is not a single academic Mayan scholar who has endorsed the idea that the conclusion of the fifth cycle of the Mayan Long Calendar will signal the end of the world. In fact, they have mocked the idea as nothing more than an Internet urban legend.
Dr. Sandra Noble, the director of the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, has pointed out that there is no declaration in Mayan literature that the end of the world will occur when the Long Calendar ends its fifth cycle. On the contrary, she says its conclusion would most likely have marked a time of celebration for the Mayas and the launching of another five cycles of the calendar.14
Mayan Pyramid
Keep in mind too that the Long Calendar has been interpreted in various ways by the scholars. Some have deciphered its ending date to be anywhere between December 21 to December 27 in 2012. But others have calculated the end date to be either in 1957 or 2050.15
Establishing a specific date and linking it to an end-of-the world scenario appears to be the work of sensationalist hucksters and New Age mystics mystics who have used the world's greatest rumor mill — the Internet — to create unjustified hysteria.
Regarding galactic alignment, again it appears that all the predictions of cataclysmic events are based on junk science. Academic astronomers have pointed out that the alignment will span a period of 36 years. That period began in 1998 with a convergence that was even more precise than what it will be in 2012, yet there have been no dire consequences.16
In contrast, the prediction of increased solar flare activity in 2012 is based upon solid science. Every 11 years the sun goes through what is called a solar cycle. During the peak time of this cycle, the sun's magnetic poles switch. This produces, in turn, solar flares which are pieces of the sun which are discharged into space, carrying with them radiation and strong electrical currents. They usually fall back on the surface of the sun. But sometimes a very strong flare, called a Coronal Mass Ejection, will shoot into space like a bullet. These flares can cause major power blackouts when they hit power grids.17
The prediction by the National Center for Atmospheric Research that solar flare activity could increase 30% to 50% over previous years is a legitimate cause for concern. It could result in large scale blackouts, and it could affect such things as satellite communication and cell phones.18
But even the scientists who have issued the warnings have not predicted cataclysmic results. And they have not proposed any specific date. In fact, one of the lead scientists for the National Space Science & Technology Center (NSSTC) argues that the maximum sun flare activity is more likely to occur in either 2010 or 2011.19
The Nostradamus "prophecies" are hardly worth mentioning. This man was a demon possessed practitioner of witchcraft. His so-called prophecies are poetic quatrains that are so obtuse as to be unintelligible. They have therefore never been used to prophesy any event before it happens. Instead, the Nostradamus groupies apply a quatrain to an event after it happens, and even these applications require a vivid imagination. In fact, the writings of Nostradamus are often doctored to make them more applicable as "prophecies." There is nothing in any of his published writings that has reference to the year 2012.20
With regard to the Bible Code, I believe there is no doubt that there are mathematical wonders coded in the Bible that point to its supernatural origin,21 but I do not believe there are secretly coded prophecies that are hidden beneath the surface of the text. The prophecies God has revealed in His Word are clearly stated in the surface words. Serious Bible code researchers have distanced themselves from those like Michael Drosnin who try to use the codes like a crystal ball to predict future events.
Drosnin's Bible Code prediction about the earth being annihilated in 2012 must be considered in reference to the fact that when he published his book in 1997 he claimed that the codes predicted a nuclear war in 2000 or 2006 and a comet strike on the earth in 2006.22 These events failed to take place.
That leaves us with the Web Bot Project, which is the silliest bit of evidence that could possibly be presented. All this system does is catalogue the consensus Internet opinion on any given topic. It amounts to prophecy by majority opinion, and that opinion is derived from the Internet rumor mill!


Are We Near the End?

I think it is clear that all the 2012 hysteria is unfounded. But would it be accurate to say that even if the 2012 date is wrong, we could very well be near the end of the world?
Well, that all depends on what is meant by "the end of the world." The only reliable source of information about the future is the Bible. We know it is reliable because it contains hundreds of very specific prophecies about persons, cities, and nations that have already been fulfilled in history. It also contains 109 specific prophecies about the Messiah that were fulfilled in the life of Jesus of Nazareth.23
The Bible prophesies the end of the current age, the end of the current world system, and the end of the natural world as we know it today. But it never prophesies the end of the world in the sense that the universe will cease to exist. In fact, it clearly states that planet earth will exist forever. Let's consider each of these in order.


The End of the Current Age

The Bible teaches that Mankind entered a whole new age on the Day of Pentecost in approximately 30 AD.24 On that day the Holy Spirit fell upon the Apostles and they were empowered to preach the Gospel (Acts 2:1-4). Peter preached the first Gospel sermon, and the Church was established when three thousand people responded and accepted Jesus as their Messiah (Acts 2:14-41). We have been living in the Church Age ever since.
The Age of the Last Days also began on the Day of Pentecost. The prophet Joel had prophesied that in the "last days" God would pour out His Spirit upon all mankind (Joel 2:28 and Acts 2:17). When the three thousand responded to Peter's sermon, they were filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), and all believers have received that gift since that time. The writer of Hebrews referred to his day and time in the First Century as "the last days" (Hebrews 1:2). The Apostle Peter did the same thing in his writings (1 Peter 1:5 & 20). And the Apostle John called his day the "last hour" (1 John 2:18).
Before Jesus died and the Church Age began, He referred to His day as "the times of the Gentiles" (Luke 21:24). He was referring to the period of time when the Jewish people would live under Gentile domination without a king anointed by God. That period began in 586 BC when Israel was conquered by Babylon, the Davidic monarchy was ended, and the Jewish people were carried away into captivity. This period continues to this day simultaneously with the Church Age because the Jews still suffer from Gentile domination, and their God-anointed monarchy has not been restored.
The Church Age will conclude when the Church is taken out of this world on the day of the Rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:13- 18). The Second Coming of Jesus, approximately seven years later,25 will mark the end of the Age of the Last Days. It will also mark the end of the Times of the Gentiles.


The End of the Current World System

At the end of the Tribulation, when the Second Coming occurs, the current world system will also come to an end. When I refer to the "world system," I am talking about the way human society has operated since Adam and Eve were ejected from the Garden of Eden.
All the societies of the world, despite their particular forms of government and their types of economies have revolved around the ego of Man. They have thus been characterized by unrighteousness and injustice and war. Greed has ruled supreme. Power has always corrupted. The dispossessed have been exploited. Winston Churchill perhaps summed it up best when he observed, "Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."
Since the beginning of human history, people have yearned for a world of peace, righteousness and justice. Time and time again they have placed their hopes in politicians who have promised them the moon, and time and time again their hopes have been dashed. But the good news of God's Prophetic Word is that the current world system is doomed.
Jesus is returning to institute a radically new world system. It will be a theocracy characterized by the rule of the rod of iron (Psalm 2:7-9 and Revelation 2:27). He will reign as King of kings and Lord of lords from Mount Zion in Jerusalem (Revelation 19:16). His Word will be the law of all nations, and it will be enforced worldwide by those of us who will be reigning with Him in glorified bodies (Isaiah 2:2-4 and Daniel 7:13-14, 18, & 27).
There will be no political parties, pressure groups or legislatures. Greed will be replaced with decisions based on fairness and equity (Isaiah 11:4-5). Vulgarity will give way to holiness (Zechariah 14:20-21). Poverty will be swallowed up in abundance (Micah 4:4). Righteousness and justice will be fulfilled (Isaiah 11:3b-5). Peace will flood the world as the waters cover the seas (Micah 4:3).


The End of the Current Natural World

Many Christians believe that at the end of the Lord's millennial reign the cosmos will be consumed with fire and cease to exist. A corollary of this is a belief that since the material universe will cease to exist, the Redeemed will live eternally in a non-material, ethereal spirit world called Heaven.
These beliefs are derived from a passage in 2 Peter 3 that says, "The day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up" (2 Peter 3:10). If that's all the Bible had to say about the matter, then we could rightfully conclude that the material universe will one day come to an end.
But a few verses later the same passage states that according to the promise of God (Isaiah 66:22), we can live "looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells" (2 Peter 3:13). Further, the same passage refers to the original earth as having been "destroyed" by water (2 Peter 3:5-6). This does not mean that it ceased to exist. What it means is that the original earth was radically changed by the Noahic Flood. In like manner, the current earth will be destroyed by fire, meaning it will be radically changed, not that it will cease to exist.
This interpretation is sustained by the fact that the Bible teaches that the current earth is eternal: "Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever" (Ecclesiastes 1:4; see also Psalm 78:69 and Psalm 148:6).
Chapter 21 of Revelation affirms that the Redeemed will live forever on a new earth in the presence of God. As verse 3 puts it, "the tabernacle of God" will be "among men." In other words, Heaven will come to earth — to the new, renovated and perfected earth that has been cleansed of all the pollution of Satan's last revolt at the end of the Millennium.


A Series of Earths

Most people are surprised to learn that the Bible reveals that we are currently living on earth number three and that there are two earths yet to come.
Earths Diagram
Earth 1
The first earth was the one created in the beginning (Genesis 1:1). It was perfect in every respect (Genesis 1:31). But because of Man's sin, God placed a curse upon the earth (Genesis 3: 17-19).
Have you ever stopped to think what a "perfect" earth must have been like? There certainly were no meat-eating animals or poisonous animals or poisonous plants. All of nature was at peace with itself and with Man. Adam and Eve did not have to strive against nature in order to produce their food. And there were no natural cataclysms like tornados, hurricanes, tsunamis, and earthquakes.
The Bible indicates that the curse radically altered the nature of God's original creation. Instead of Man exercising dominion over nature, as originally planned (Genesis 1:26, 28), nature rose up in conflict with Man, as poisonous plants, carnivorous animals and climatic cataclysms suddenly appeared.
Earth 2
The curse radically altered the original earth, but the second earth was still quite different from the one we live on today. There is much biblical evidence in both Genesis and Job that the second earth had a thick vapor canopy which shielded life from the ultraviolet radiation of the sun, contributing to the long life spans recorded in Genesis (see Genesis 2:5-6 and Job 38:8-11).
The whole earth was like a greenhouse with thick vegetation growing everywhere, even at the poles. There was also probably only one large land mass.
Once again the sinful rebellion of Mankind motivated God to change the nature of the earth (Genesis 6:11-13). The change agent this time was water. It appears that God caused the vapor canopy to collapse (Genesis 7:11). He also caused "fountains of the great deep" to break forth upon the surface of the earth (Genesis 7:11).
Earth 3
Like the curse, the flood radically altered the nature of the earth. It produced the third earth, the earth we live on now.
The earth tilted on its axis, forming the polar caps. The unified land mass was split apart, forming the continents as we now know them (which is why they fit together like a jigsaw puzzle — see Genesis 10:25). And the vapor canopy was so completely depleted that ultraviolet radiation began to reach the earth in unprecedented levels, resulting in greatly reduced life spans, first to 120 years and then to 70 years.
The Bible reveals that the current earth will be radically changed again at the Second Advent of Jesus. The change agents will be earthquakes on the earth and supernatural phenomena in the heavens.
The changes produced will so totally alter the earth and its atmosphere that Isaiah refers to "the new heavens and the new earth" which will exist during the reign of the Lord (Isaiah 65:17).
Earth 4
The fourth earth — the millennial earth — will be very different from the present earth. The earthquakes that will produce it will be the most severe in history.
Every valley will be lifted, every mountain will be lowered, and every island will be moved (Revelation 6:12-14 and 16:17-21). Jerusalem will be lifted up, and Mt. Zion will become the highest of all the mountains (Zechariah 14:10 and Micah 4:1).
The vapor canopy will likely be restored because life spans will be expanded to what they were at the beginning of time (Isaiah 65:20, 22).
Further evidence that the vapor canopy will be restored is to be found in the fact that all the earth will become abundant once again with lush vegetation (Isaiah 30:23-26 and Amos 9:13-14). The Dead Sea will also become alive (Ezekiel 47:1-9).
Most important, the curse will be partially lifted, making it possible for Man to be reconciled to nature and for nature to be reconciled to itself. The wolf will dwell with the lamb because the wolf will no longer be carnivorous. The nursing child will play with the cobra because the cobra will no longer be poisonous (Isaiah 11:8).
Earth 5
But Satan's last revolt at the end of the Millennium will leave the earth polluted and devastated (Revelation 20:7-9). Thus, at the end of the Lord's reign, God will take the Redeemed off the earth, place them in the New Jerusalem, and then cleanse the earth with fire (2 Peter 3:10-13).
In other words, God will superheat this earth in a fiery inferno and then reshape it like a hot ball of wax. The result will be the "new heavens and new earth" prophesied in Isaiah 66 and Revelation 21.
This will be the fifth earth, the perfected, eternal earth where the Redeemed will spend eternity in the New Jerusalem in the presence of God (Revelation 21:1-4). The curse will be completely lifted from this earth (Revelation 22:3).


There is no reason for you to fear the "end of the world" if you are a born-again child of God. You have the promise of living eternally with God on this earth after it has been redeemed and perfected.
But if you have never accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you have every reason to fear the future. The signs of the times given in the Bible indicate beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus is about to return to take His believers out of this world in preparation for the pouring out of God's wrath during a period of seven years that the Bible refers to as the Tribulation.26 It will be a time of unparalleled horror on this earth, so terrible, in fact, that one-half of humanity will die during the first three and a half years!27
God does not wish that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9). That's why He has provided us with signs to watch for that will indicate the season of His Son's return. We are in the midst of that season. We are living on borrowed time. Don't delay. Give your heart to Jesus today (John 3:16 and Romans 10:9-11).

Who's Sitting in the Pews?

By Vince and Lori Williams

"My fellow pastors, could it be that many of our hearers each week aren't saved, even many of our members?" This was one of the questions that Pastor Mark Dever asked to about 8000 ministers at 2012's Together For the Gospel conference, according to The Christian Post. He went on to say that the problem isn't just the "occasional hypocrite lost in unrepentant sin," but, "systems that seem to produce false converts – not just one man, but whole congregations." 

Pastor Dever is dead on. So many churches today are experiencing a seismic pandemic – and yes, we mean a pandemic, and one that's only beginning. The goats are a majority and favored, while the sheep are the minority and are being flogged.

It's because of "pastors" who think that their silly antics, self-help series sets, and "funny" stories/jokes about themselves will win people for Christ that people are being falsely confirmed into the Kingdom of God. Rick Warren and Bill Hybels adopted their purpose driven and seeker-driven strategies that started a tsunami of a movement years ago that has escalated to a point of no return. While he and other "leaders" are busy teaching masses of pastors in America and around the world how to train their churches to be purpose/seeker-driven, masses of regular church-goers are being lied to. They are being told that they need to find their purpose in life through Jesus plus everything else they tell you to do. False conversions are the result.

On the other side of America, Steven Furtick has just begun his seventh year of seeker-friendly madness, and now a mix of word-of-faith gospel, in the Carolinas, teaching his followers that they must pray "audacious" prayers in order to please God. All this and more, with Scripture being twisted every which way. (see the video of Steven on our blog posted at the end of this article for further details) The result once again? False conversions.

Then right in between Dallas and Ft. Worth, TX, at Fellowship Self-Help Center, we have Ed Young Jr. who is rapidly gaining popularity with his creative self-help baggage of "sermons" focusing on marriage, sex, sharks, Twilight, Rev Run, and more, along with Scriptures being taken out of context, and inappropriate jokes. Therefore, false conversions are the norm.

It's no wonder this is pandemic.  People aren't hearing the gospel or any part of the Word in context, and even if they are hearing the Gospel, it's maybe once a year at Christmas or Resurrection Sunday when pastors decide they should mention it for the sake of that time of year.

The sheep are starving. They are being left behind by a stampede of people running for their spiritual poison given to them by men who only want fame and fortune and care nothing about anyone but themselves. A great many men, calling themselves pastors/teachers, are claiming they are called of God to preach/teach, but are not proclaiming the Word of God (Titus 1:10, 2 John 1:7). Instead, they ramble on about themselves and their great accomplishments so they can be popular, have big churches, and make lots of money. SHAME ON THEM! True teachers of the Word preach the Word when it's popular AND when it's not popular (2 Tim 4:1-2). They rebuke sin and false teaching. They reprove when needed. They exhort. They do this with patience and instruction.

Vince talks about some of these things in Chapter 10 of their book FALSIFIED: The Danger of False Conversion. Also, in 2 Tim. 4:1, Paul says to Timothy "I solemnly charge you....." (emphasis ours).Paul is serious. The word "solemnly" expresses a dead seriousness, like when one vows, or makes an oath. This is not to be taken lightly. This is not a game. This is not about popularity. This is not about jokes, entertainment, or money (Titus 1:7, 11; I Peter 5:2). This is about the Word of God. This is about Truth. This is about shepherding the flock of God (1 Peter 5:2). This is about eternity. Lives are at stake.

"He made Him Who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God." (1 Cor 5:21)
"Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus." (Rom 3:24)
This is the Christian good news. Jesus died for sinners. We are all sinners. God requires perfection (Matt 5:48), and we cannot be perfect. All our good works are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6) apart from faith in Jesus Christ. Those who do not flee to Him will spend a conscious eternity in Hell. You must throw yourself at the mercy of Jesus and ask Him to save you, and because of His grace He will grant you repentance, faith to believe, and eternal life in His presence.

For you pastors out there, whether in a very small church, or in a larger church, who are faithfully proclaiming God's Word to us, His flock, His sheep.......thank you. We realize that you are under attack from all sides with pressure to go WITH the flow, instead of against the flow. Stay faithful. We encourage you with our brother Paul to "Stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is NOT in vain." (emphasis ours, I Cor 15:58).

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

God's Pharmacy

Grapes resemble blood cells
It's been said that God first separated the salt water from the fresh, made dry land, planted a garden, made animals and fish... all before making a human. God made and provided what we'd need before we were born. These foods are best and more powerful when eaten raw. God left us a great clue as to what foods help what part of our body!

Check it out:

Monday, April 23, 2012

Should We Focus on Evangelism or Discipleship in Youth Ministry?

 Evangelism is often looked at as the red headed step child (apologies to any reading this right now) of the youth ministry world. We deal with it because we are legally required to in the by-laws of the Bible but, down deep in our hearts, we are more passionate about discipleship than evangelism.
But this is where our thinking is wrong. Evangelism and discipleship are like Nitrogen and Gylcerin, they must be blended for maximum effect. Teens who are growing in Christ will share their faith and teens who are sharing their faith in the power of the Spirit will grow in Christ.

Read entire article:

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Power of God’s Design

I can see how it might be possible for a man to look down upon the earth and be an atheist, but I cannot conceive how he could look up into the Heaven and say there is no God.   — Abraham Lincoln

Many people believe there is no God because they are convinced that science has fully explained how our universe came to be. If there is a natural explanation of our origins, they think, who needs a supernatural one? Perhaps, like many, you see a contest between science and religion, and believe that science has been declared the winner hands down.

But does science alone explain this incredibly beautiful and complex creation in which we live? Doesn’t its magnificence make you wonder?

How does the sun provide just the right amount of energy to light and heat our planet? What makes everything in our orderly world work so well together? How is it that we can predict the precise day of a full moon or an eclipse, or determine whether to expect a violent thunderstorm or a fresh snowfall?
Where does lightning come from, or a brilliant rainbow? When we see the startling colors of a sunset, we often wonder how such a spectacular display is created. We marvel at the grandeur of mountains and the beauty of beaches.

As I saw the Grand Canyon for the first time, my jaw dropped. The canyon’s vastness was awe-inspiring and its colors were truly amazing. Where did that canyon come from?
Why is it that when we look at Mount Rushmore, we don’t say, “Wow, erosion is an amazing thing! Look how it formed the heads of four presidents of the United States”? We realize that would be a foolish statement. Whenever we see creation, design, art, or order, it’s obvious that there was some intelligent force behind it to make it happen.

I speak in many venues around the country, so I fly a lot. Once, on the drive from the airport, I saw a beautiful sunset—one of those amazing Technicolor displays that keeps changing like a kaleidoscope. I began to pray that someone would see that beautiful sunset and wonder who painted it in the sky.
The following night was Halloween. I was staying with some friends who had a very large house set back from the road quite a distance. No one had come to the house for candy that night— until there was a ring at the door at around 9:30. As the lady of the house went to answer it, I stuck my head around the corner to take a peek. At the door were two young ladies, their faces painted like cats. They looked a bit too old to be trick-or-treating, so I asked them their ages. They said they were 20 and 21. I asked them what they were doing trick-or-treating and, of course, they said they wanted some candy!
After chatting a few minutes, I brought up a question about eternity. One girl responded, “You’re wasting your time talking to us about God. We’re atheists.”

So I asked them what evidence they had found to prove that there is no God. They didn’t have any evidence at all, which I found very interesting. Like many people, they were probably thinking that reason was on their side. Yet without any evidence to support their belief, what they actually had was blind faith—and they were using that as the basis for their eternal destiny.

Some people think it takes blind faith to believe in God. But we use calculated faith for most decisions in life, and we should do the same for our decisions about eternity. I asked them what would be enough evidence to prove to them that God exists. They didn’t have an answer for that either. So I told them I would give them something to think about, and I explained the concept that the universe displays creation, design, art, and order. I asked them, “If everything else has a creator, designer, artist, or orderer behind it, why would you think that there is not a Creator, Designer, Artist, and Orderer behind this universe?”

Suddenly their eyes grew wide. One of the young ladies said, “Yesterday, I walked outside at dusk and saw a gorgeous sunset. And I was wondering to myself, “Who painted that in the sky?”
Within twenty-four hours of my prayer, I got to meet someone with whom God had answered that prayer!

Both young ladies were students at a local art college. As artists, they knew that for every beautiful painting, there must be a painter who created that artwork. And logically, the same would have to hold true for all that is in this incredible universe.

I was talking with a man one day in downtown Atlanta and I asked him a question about spiritual matters. He replied that he was an atheist and that there was no way to prove there is a God. We were standing among tall buildings so I pointed to one of the skyscrapers and said, “Prove to me that there was a builder for that building.” He answered, “That’s easy. The building itself is proof that there is a builder.”

He was 100 percent correct. We know that you don’t just gather some concrete, pipes, windows, paint, wires, etc., then turn around and look back to suddenly find a building. A building requires a builder.
I said, “Exactly. The building is proof that there is a builder.” I then added, “The sun, the moon, the stars, the oceans, the sand, each unique snowflake, the three billion pieces of your DNA that are different from mine, are absolute proof that there had to be a Creator of this universe.”

He looked at me. I could see the light bulb flash on behind his eyes, and then he glanced away. As he thought about that statement, he realized he had provided his own proof.

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse. —Romans:1:20
Mark Cahill will be a featured speaker at TBC's 2012 Summer Bible Conference in Bend, Oregon, August 10-11.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Illustrations of Salvation: Freedom

Metaphor:  Freedom- Jesus has promised us to make us free from all bondage (John 8:36).

Positive: Deliverance-

To free us to:

  • New Life: "We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." (Romans 6:4)
  • Freedom to serve: "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery," "You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love." (Galatians 5:1, 13)
  • Eternal life: "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand." (John 10:28)

Negative: Slavery-
To free us from:

  • Sin: "You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness." (Romans 6:18)
  • The curse of the law: "So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship."  ( Galatians 4:3-5)         
  • The fear of death:"Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death." (Hebrews 2:14-15)
  • Many things bind us: self-interest, addictions, broken relationships, anger and bitterness, destructive pasts, and debts. Sin captures our minds and hearts. Only a miracle can break those bonds.
  • Jesus breaks these bonds and gives us new life. This new life gives us the freedom to serve God, to become the people God wants us to be.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Failing the gospel quiz

I spent a few years teaching at a Christian high school down the street from Grace Church. I taught Bible to juniors and seniors, and found myself constantly reminded of the supernatural nature of the gospel.
I would start every year by giving a hand out to all of my students, asking them to explain in a few paragraphs what the gospel message is. I really wish I would have kept some of those forms, because they were generally either tragic, sad, or comical, depending on my disposition. I received everything from "The gospel is a lie, the way the powerful keep down the oppressed," to one of my personal favorites: "the gospel is the 10 commandments, and breaking them."One was the opposite of liberation theology, the other the opposite of The Way of the Master, but both were the opposite of the gospel.
I also had a question on the sheet asking what church they students went to. This school had open enrollment, so probably only about half of the students actually went to any church. There were a handful from Grace, and a few liberal churches, charismatic churches, and so on. Pretty much every kind of church imaginable had students in one of my classes.

  Each semester I had 6 classes, so over the course of a year I would be exposed to about 350 students from every possible religious background. And yet at the beginning of each semester, I bet on average only 20 or so students could give anything remotely close to a passing answer to the gospel question. By my fourth semester, I had given up looking for faith, repentance, virgin birth, deity, or the resurrection. I started searching for the word "for" surrounded by death and sin-or even a first person pronoun. As in "Jesus died for sinners," or "Jesus died for me."
As I read those forms, I kept one eye on the church name. I tried hard to find a correlation between the clarity of the gospel and the health of the church the student attended. I think my quest was in vain. It seemed like all the students could not explain the gospel. Apparently every high school youth group has unbelievers in it.
But then would come the humiliating part of this test. I would teach my guts out for a semester. I would see those students for about 4 hours a week, for 16 weeks. I gave devotionals. We did Scripture reading. I did cross/bridge/canyon diagrams on the board. Journal assignments. Memory verses. I even played them Mark Dever's reading of Edward's sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. Then I would give them the same question at the end of the semester: explain the gospel in a few paragraphs. And again, disappointment.
One semester I even gave them an exam where they had to explain the gospel "in their own words." I also gave them a study guide telling them what those words should be. Strangely enough, when a grade was attached, they were all able to memorize and regurgitate what I had given them. But even that short-term memory was not helpful on a handout with no grade attached at the end of the semester.
Where had I gone wrong? This is the lesson I took from the experiment: high school students, for the most part, don't know the gospel because they are not saved. The gospel is supernatural truth, and it takes regeneration to understand it. If students at a mega church are not familiar with gospel terms, it is probably more of a reflection on their hearts than it is on what they have been taught. If the Spirit of God does not give light, then the darkened mind will never be able to understand what is meant by the gospel.
God becoming man? Dying FOR sinners? Paying the penalty for sin? Being vindicated by the resurrection? That is just gibberish to a mind enslaved by sin.
But to those of us who are being saved, the gospel is more than way to pass a test: it is truth given to us by the Spirit of God.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

If You Come to Church…We Will Give!

Well it appears the latest bait and switch program in the mega church world is attendance matters, and it matters so much, we will even attach a $1.00 to your presence.

That is exactly what one mega-church in Ohio did. CedarCreek, a non-denominational church, has selected certain Sundays where they will give $1.00 for each person that comes to church. In turn that money will be given to a charity and helping the community.

Senior pastor Lee Powell told The Christian Post, ""We gave away about $21,000 already this week. We had 18,400 in attendance physically and then we had another two thousand online on our Internet campus."

CedarCreek isn't the only one jumping on this "show up and we give" mentality. There are several others that have been on this giving spree for a while now.

Is it just us, or are we missing something here? What next, a free t-shirt to show that you actually came to church to prove your attendance and stance for the Lord? Is this a good idea and a great partnering to get people into church because your presence will help give a $1.00 to a great charity? Or is this just another attempt at the social gospel? To help make people's lives better, but not sharing the true gospel of Jesus Christ. What good is it if we are just enriching the lives here on earth of people but all the while their souls are hell bound?

The idea seems attractive to the seeker friendly church model and the droves of people that flock there. It will ultimately make anyone who criticizes this idea look as though they don't care about helping people and that they are heartless. However, it's the contrary…. the first point being:

·        Is this church presenting a true Gospel weekly to their members? Thus shepherding them to know that church attendance isn't something you have to do, but rather its something you should want to do because you desire to be with other believers. We obviously know the trend of the seeker church-make it relevant, make it fresh, water down the Gospel, make it comfortable for the unsaved.

·        The second point would be:
Is this money given apart from the offerings of the givers and is the church completely debt free? It very well may be. We do not know the state of the church's financial records, but it would be a very valid question to ask. It would be hard to believe they are giving away money for each person present, "thus resulting in giving away over half a million dollars by 2013", Powell said, if they are not a debt free church.

·        The final point and the one that is most important, there is nothing wrong with giving, who are you giving to and what is the motive? Are you giving them the most important thing…The Gospel. Or are you just giving so you will feel better about yourself because you met a monetary need for someone today?

So it begs the question, are these people showing up on the announced charity give-a-way Sunday because they want some child to have a new coat, or are they doing it for the edification of their souls? Why do some churches, particularly in the seeker driven/seeker sensitive model feel that they have to continually do a bait and switch tactic to get people in the doors and then do something grandiose with the masses that show up? Again, there is nothing wrong with giving to charities and helping people in need, we as Christians should be helping the lost. But as we state in our book, Falsified: The Danger of False Conversion, what good does it do if you never tell them about their sin, never tell them about what their eternity looks like, what life without Christ will mean for their souls but you put a meal in their belly and a check in their hands? We have got to have a balance for the lost, we can't just be about the business of bringing in the droves of people slapping a number on them, attaching a dollar sign to their seat, and then counting their attendance as a reward to give to further the social gospel. We have to be about our Father's business.  These churches need to start preaching and teaching biblical truths so that they then get out there on their own accord, love the lost, share the Gospel, and then help them to attain what they are lacking monetarily.

It will mean nothing if that high-schooler gets an A in geometry if you simply gave their mentoring charity a check and let that student go to hell but they have a great looking report card.

No, we are missing the point friends. We must get this twisted mentality turned back around.  Go to a biblical church, be involved because you want to be there and want to hear God's word taught, give to your church, then you go out and witness to the world. Don't you see what is going on here? They are selling "church" to goats so they can come hear a "sermonette for a Christianette" as Dr John MacArthur calls it, and they are missing it. They are banking their good works on the fact that God will do something. God's Word is what does something. Jesus's blood on the cross is what did something and it is your obedience to share that message as the Lord commands us to do in Mark 16:15. 

Let's make sure we have our priorities right before we go out and save the world via social means. Moderation, balance, perspective, priority…. all of these things need to be in place if you are going to do a seeker hook tactic like this Ohio church is doing. Preach the Gospel. You won't have to bait the public to come into your doors, they will run to get into them if they are being told the word of God, because those people that keep coming back for that…they are the sheep. They are both the hearers of the word and not just the doers. When they are continually hearing the need for a Savior and they themselves get saved, you won't have to bait them, they will come willingly and they will be doing the work of the Great Commission in both word and deed because they have a regenerated heart.

By: Vince and Lori Williams

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Salvation is More than Being Saved!

Dr. Jack Hyle'

John 16:12, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now."  Romans 8:32, "He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?"  Psalm 51:12, "Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation; and uphold me with Thy free spirit."

Someone said to me recently, "Oh, if these young Christians could just keep their joy!"

I said, "They can."

The other person replied, "Then why don't they?"

Of course, there is a reason for this loss of joy.  When we receive Christ, we accept salvation and rejoice that we are saved.  Yet somehow we think that we will rejoice the same way forever, and we should do so.  A Christian should rejoice in his salvation as much 30 years after he accepted it as he did the first moment he was saved.  Yet God knows the way we are made.  He knows that it is difficult for man to respond to the same stimulus for long seasons of time.  So He puts all that He has into salvation that we may discover its jewels one at a time in order to continue in our joy.  He freely gives us all things at salvation.  Notice again Romans 8:32, "He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?"  However, those "all things" are not discovered all at one time.

Several years ago I had a bad cold.  Somebody gave me some Contac capsules that were called timed-release capsules.  In the capsule were many little balls of Contac, but these were wrapped in various degrees of thickness so that one would be dissolved and do its work.  By the time that one had lost its effectiveness, another one was ready to go to work.  This process was continued so that the medication would periodically be putting itself into my system.  Salvation is a great deal like that.  At salvation God gives us all things in His great gift.  However, He allows us to discover them one at a time in order that we may continually have joy.

Once someone gave me a beautiful, gift-wrapped package.  I opened it.  Inside there was another beautiful, gift-wrapped package.  I opened it only to find another beautiful, gift-wrapped package in it.  I kept on opening until I had to open seven packages to get to the gift.  Salvation is given to us all in one beautiful package.  We open it and receive one of its benefits.  This causes us to rejoice.  However, since the same stimulus often wears thin, God gives us another one to open where we find another aspect of salvation.  Then when our joy diminishes, another is available, then later another and another and another.

When a person is first saved, he may be enraptured with the fact that he is going to Heaven and will not go to Hell.  Later God says, "Let Me give you another gift," and the Christian becomes aware of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.  He rejoices about this.  Then God gives him another gift, whereupon he learns of answered prayer.  Again his rejoicing is great.  Oh, there are so many different parts of salvation, each wrapped as a part of a beautiful, timed-release capsule in order that salvation may grow dearer to us all the time so that we can retain its joy.

Years ago I went to an amusement park that had many rides.  I paid for my ticket and entered into the park.  Shortly thereafter I came to a ride that I wanted to enjoy.  I walked up and asked the attendant how much it cost.  He said, "Mister, when you bought your ticket, every ride in the amusement park came with it.  It is all a part of the deal."

My fiftieth birthday was on a Monday.  My daughters who were still at home, Cindy and Linda, were afraid I wouldn't have a good birthday because I would be flying to a preaching engagement in a distant state.  So they conceived an idea.  Before I left for the airport they gave me a big sack.  In that sack were many gifts.  I had instructions to open one gift each hour on the hour throughout the day.  Now all these gifts were in one package.  They felt that they could keep me happy all day on my birthday and prevent discouragement if I could have a gift to open every hour throughout the day.

Several years ago I was on an airplane.  An old gentleman was sitting in front of me who obviously had had a stroke or heart attack.  He appeared to be so feeble and unable to cope with the situation.  Shortly after our takeoff the stewardess came by and asked him if he wanted lunch.  He said that he did not.  She came back awhile later and said, "Are you sure you don't want to eat lunch?"

'Me old man looked up and said, "How much does it cost?"

She said, "Sir, the lunch is a part of the ticket and so is the coffee and tea."  A big smile came across the face of the old gentleman and he said, "Then I'll gladly take it."  As the stewardess walked away he was still rejoicing with his wife that more than the trip to his destination came with the ticket.

These are just a few illustrations to explain Romans 8:32, "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?"  God has planned blessings every hour for the rest of our lives.  All of salvation comes with the ticket.  Salvation is more than just a ride to Heaven.  It is a marvelous, wonderful, unspeakably happy journey and so many blessed things come with the ticket.  No wonder Jeremiah said of the Lord's mercies, "They are new every morning."  No wonder someone wrote, "I'm pressing on the upward way, new heights I'm gaining every day."  So, Christian, start opening your packages!  Eat the meal!  Enjoy the trip!  Ride the rides!  Salvation is more than just being saved; it is all that God has wrapped in one big package which gives us new mercies and new joys 'and new thrills all along the journey to the Gloryland.

Psychologists tell us that there is more depression on Christmas night and the day after Christmas than at any other time of the year.  Some have even gone so far as to say that suicides increase at that time.  I told my people that I could help them eliminate the after-Christmas blahs when they sit at a Christmas tree surrounded by wrappings and boxes and realize that the festivities are over.  This is the plan I gave them.  I suggested they not open all their presents on Christmas morning.  Save one for Christmas afternoon and another for Christmas night and another for the morning after Christmas and another for the afternoon after Christmas and another for the next day and another for the next day, etc.  This wonderful thing called salvation has a never-ending joy because God's mercies are new every morning.  So much comes with the ticket.  Ride all the rides you want to ride.  Eat your meal.  Keep opening boxes.  You are saved. You have eternal life, and with that eternal life come so many wonderful things that the Holy Spirit chooses to reveal to us from time to time so that our joy may continue and even intensify!

(Chapter 8 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, Salvation is More than Being Saved)


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Living with an Eternal Perspective

Are you in love with the world?



What is your attitude toward this world? There's a gospel song by Albert Brumley that always challenges me to examine my attitude toward the world. The first verse goes as follows:
"This world is not my home,
I'm just a passing through.
My treasures are laid up
Somewhere beyond the blue.
The angels beckon me
From heaven's open door,
And I can't feel at home
In this world anymore."
Do those words express your feeling about this world? What words would you use? Enthusiastic or uncomfortable? Enamored or alienated? Do you feel at home or do you feel like a stranger?

A Personal View

Let me ask your indulgence for a moment as I share my personal feeling about this world. The word I would use is "hate." Yes, I hate this world. I hate it with a passion so strong and so intense that I find it difficult to express in words.
Now, let me hasten to clarify my feeling by stating that I do not hate God's beautiful and marvelous creation.
I have been privileged to marvel over the majesty of the Alps. I have been awed by the rugged beauty of Alaska. I never cease to be amazed by the creative wonders of God in the great American Southwest. I have been blessed to see the incredible beauty of Cape Town, South Africa. And I have been overwhelmed time and time again by the stark and almost mystical bareness of the Judean wilderness in Israel.
When I say that I "hate" this world, I'm not speaking of God's creation. I'm speaking, instead, of the evil world system that we live in.
Let me give you some examples of what I'm talking about:
  • I hate a world where thousands of babies are murdered every day in their mother's wombs.
  • I hate a world where young people in the prime of life have their lives destroyed by illicit drugs.
  • I hate a world that coddles criminals and makes a mockery of justice.
  • I hate a world that glorifies crime in its movies and television programs.
  • I hate a world that applauds indecent and vulgar performers like Madonna.
  • I hate a world where government tries to convert gambling from a vice to a virtue.
  • I hate a world in which professional athletes are paid over a million dollars a year while hundreds of thousands sleep homeless in the streets every night.
  • I hate a world where people judge and condemn one another on the basis of skin color.
  • I hate a world that calls evil good by demanding that homosexuality be recognized as a legitimate, alternative lifestyle.
  • I hate a world in which mothers are forced to work while their children grow up in impersonal day care centers.
  • I hate a world in which people die agonizing deaths from diseases like cancer and AIDS.
  • I hate a world where families are torn apart by alcohol abuse.
  • I hate a world where every night I see reports on the television news of child abuse, muggings, kidnappings, murders, terrorism, wars, and rumors of wars.
  • I hate a world that uses the name of my God, Jesus, as a curse word.
I hope you understand now what I mean when I say, "I hate this world!"


Jesus' Viewpoint

But how I personally feel about this world is not important. The crucial point for you to consider is the biblical view. Let's look at it, and as we do so, compare the biblical view with your own.
Let's begin with the viewpoint that Jesus told us we should have. It is recorded in John 12:25"He who loves his life loses it; and he who hates his life in this world shall keep it to life eternal."
Those are strong words. They are the kind that cause us to wince and think, "Surely He didn't mean what He said." But the context indicates that Jesus meant exactly what He said. So, what about it? Do you hate your life in this world or do you love it?


The Viewpoint of the Apostles

The apostle Paul gave a very strong warning about getting comfortable with the world. In Romans 12:2 he wrote: "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." How do you measure up to this exhortation?
Are you conformed to the world? Have you adopted the world's way of dress? What about the world's way of speech or the world's love of money? Are your goals the goals of the world — power, success, fame, and riches?
The brother of Jesus expressed the matter in very pointed language. He said, "Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4).
Are you a friend of the world? Are you comfortable with what the world has to offer in music, movies, television programs and best selling books? Friendship with the world is hostility toward God!
In fact, James puts it even stronger than that, for at the beginning of the passage I previously quoted (James 4:4), he says that those who are friendly with the world are spiritual adulterers.
The apostle John makes the same point just as strongly in 1 John 2:15-16: "Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world."
There is no way to escape the sobering reality of these words. Do you love the world? If so, the love of the Father is not in you!


The Focus of Your Mind

Paul tells us how to guard against becoming comfortable with the world. In Colossians 3:2 he says, "Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth." In Philippians 4:8 he expresses the same admonition in these words: "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let you mind dwell on these things."
As these verses indicate, one of the keys to living a triumphant life in Christ — to living a joyous and victorious life in the midst of a world wallowing in despair — is to live with a conscious eternal perspective.
I have personally found this to be so important that I carry a reminder of it in my shirt pocket at all times. It is a small card that was sent to me in 1988 by the great prophetic preacher, Leonard Ravenhill. The card says, "Lord, keep me eternity conscious."
What does that mean? In the words of Peter, that means living as "aliens and strangers" in this world (1 Peter 2:11). Similarly, in the words of the writer of Hebrews, it means living as "strangers and exiles" on this earth (Hebrews 11: 13). Paul put it this way: "Do not set your minds on earthly things, for our citizenship is in heaven" (Philippians 3:19-20).
The great Christian writer, C.S. Lewis, explained that to live with an eternal perspective means "living as commandos operating behind the enemy lines, preparing the way for the coming of the Commander-in-Chief."


What is Your Attitude?

Are you focused on this world? Are you attached to it, or do you have a sense of the fact that you are only passing through, heading for an eternal home?
This life is transitory. This life is only a prelude to eternity. The song writer, Tillit S. Teddlie put it all in perspective when he wrote:
"Earth holds no treasures
But perish with using,
However precious they be;
Yet there's a country
To which I am going:
Heaven holds all to me.
Why should I long
For the world with its sorrows,
When in that home o'er the sea,
Millions are singing
The wonderful story?
Heaven holds all to me.
Heaven holds all to me,
Brighter its glory will be;
Joy without measure
Will be my treasure:
Heaven holds all to me."