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Knock-off Love

Psalm 51:16 – “Surely you desire truth in the inner parts.”  

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It seems like every name-brand product out there has a knock-off version that tries to look like it and perform like it.  Some can come very close to looking like the real deal and if we’re not very familiar with the original, they can sometimes fool us.  Knock-offs have the appearance of the original item and offer the promise of being or doing the same thing but never quite live up to the standard of the original.  The saying “the devil is in the details” couldn’t be any truer when it comes to recognizing knock-offs.  This is especially true when it comes to recognizing a knock-off of God’s love.  Without a doubt God is love, he’s the real deal, but is all love God’s love?  Many today seem to think so, but have unfortunately been fooled by a knock-off version; one in which the details don’t quite measure up to the real deal.

John Bevere (Drawing Near) touches on a very relevant issue in the church today when he asks, “Have we created a knock-off Jesus?”  The Apostle Paul was concerned about this very thing in his letter to the Corinthian church in saying, “If someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.”  The Corinthian believers were in danger of settling for a knock-off version of Jesus and were easily putting up with it – many today are as well.  Bevere wisely points out that the body of believers was easily misled, not by a false god or religion that denied Jesus’s existence, but by their belief in a different Jesus.  The same holds true concerning God’s love today.  People aren’t denying that God is love, but are accepting a different love than God’s love.

All knock-offs have something about them that gives them away; so does a knock-off of God’s love.  A product must be in complete keeping with the original design for it to be authentic.  John Bevere (A Heart Ablaze) writes, “Kindness, sympathy, tenderness, and patience can all have the appearance of being godly love, but if these virtues are outside of the truth, it is a counterfeit love.”  The absence of truth is what gives knock-off love away.  Whenever love is not balanced with the truth of God’s word, it creates a knock-off love.  As a knock-off love void of truth is increasing today the true love of God, demonstrated by walking in the truth of his word, is decreasing.   When meeting opposition of the truth by the Galatian believers Paul asked, “Have I therefore become your enemy by telling you the truth?”  The answer to that question unfortunately is yes.  Speaking the truth will make you an enemy of those who reject it.  Oswald Chambers (My Utmost For His Highest) writes, “The preaching of the gospel awakens an intense resentment because it is designed to reveal unholiness.”  Jesus said of his disciples, “I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world.”  In being “not of the world” we will always face opposition and risk creating resentment when speaking the truth of God’s word, but that should never keep us from speaking it.  As Paul said, “Do I now persuade men or God?”  Or do I seek to please men?  For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.”

Christian speaker Tod White gets straight to the heart of what leads to a person rejecting the truth and creating a knock-off version of God’s love.  He states, “When you start disobeying your convictions more than you obey them the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit will get quieter and the enemy’s voice will get louder …. Then you’ll start justifying your behavior and call it grace.”  Which in turn will lead you to justify ungodly behavior and call it God’s love.  Any love that enables or encourages someone to remain in bondage to sin is not God’s love, it’s a knock-off love.  Oswald Chambers wisely cautions, “Never tolerate, because of sympathy for yourself or for others, any practice that is not in keeping with a holy God.”  James 5:19-20 tells us, “If anyone wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.”  Love is not only evidenced in kindness, sympathy, tenderness or patience, but in truth spoken in love.  And truth must be spoken in love, because if love is not in it, God is not in it.

We can fulfill the description of love by being kind, patient, sympathetic and tender, but if we leave out truth we are leaving out a very important feature of God’s love.  Those who value the quality of the authentic product know the real deal when they see it and won’t settle for a knock-off version.  Most authentic products are going to cost us more than the knock-off version.  God’s word tells us all who would live godly in Christ will suffer persecution.  That’s the price of possessing the authentic love of God.  It’s going to cost you more than the knock-off version but as I’ve come to learn, the real deal will always prove to be superior to the cheap knock-off brand.   There are a lot of knock-offs out there today that will fool us if we’re not careful.  Don’t let God’s love be one of them.  We need to intimately know every detail of the authentic product if we don’t want to get fooled by the knock-off.  The devil really is in the details.

(Malachi 2:17 – Ye have wearied the Lord with your words.  Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him?  When ye say, everyone that doth evil is good in the sight of the Lord and he delighted in them; or where is the God of judgment?). 

SWEET-TOOTH
I went to the store one day to buy my favorite treat
unfortunately they were all out  but I wanted something sweet
I saw another product that looked to be the same
and so I settled for it hoping my sweet tooth to tame
I anxiously looked forward to taking my first bite
But right away I knew that something wasn’t right
And then I read the ingredients of the two to compare
But there was one essential ingredient that simply was not there
The absence of this one ingredient completely changed the taste
Making the whole product a disappointing waste
And then I heard the Lord quietly to me say,
The devil is in the details child of how the product is made
You will never satisfy your sweet tooth with an inferior substitute
nor can you have my love if you leave out the truth

Leaving the Table

table-791167_1920(Psalm 34:8 – Taste and see that the Lord is good.). 

 

 

Have you ever sat at a table that wasn’t serving anything you wanted to eat?  What was being served there just wasn’t to your taste and what tasted good to everyone else didn’t taste so good to you.  I recently read a quote that brought strong conviction to my heart about this.  The quote read, “You must find the courage to leave the table if respect is not being served there.” (Tene Edwards).   I couldn’t help but relate this to the many tables we sit at today where respect isn’t being served for the One who is deserving of all honor and respect.  Jesus said, “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters abroad.”  In light of that, I had to ask myself, “How can I be with Jesus if I am sitting at a table that is serving that which is against him?  How can I respect and honor him if I am sitting before things that do not?  There is no getting around the Lord’s instruction to “Come ye out from among them, be separate and touch not their unclean things.”  The NIV Life Application Study Bible reminds, “The gospel is not only what we believe but also what we must live.”  Living the gospel requires separation of ourselves unto the gospel.  While most of us would agree that we desire for the evil in this world to be overcome by good, we fail to realize that the overcoming of evil begins with us.  It begins with our choice to leave the table of the world if respect for Jesus isn’t being served there.

There are many types of tables of disrespect from which we can choose to sit down and eat, but I think perhaps the table of entertainment seats more than all of them.  Every table we sit down to in life belongs to someone.  One sure way to recognize whose table you’re sitting at is to take a look at what’s being served there.  One look at the menu will tell you if you’re sitting at God’s table or the devil’s.  Seldom will you find respect for Jesus being served at the table of entertainment and once you sit down at it, finding the courage and conviction to leave the table can be challenging.  Eating certain foods sometimes requires an acquired taste. We can develop an acquired taste for the things of this world as well, and before we know it something that once left a bad taste in our mouth can begin to taste better over time.  Our taste buds can become dull to what once offended them.  The longer we sit at the tables of entertainment, the less offended we are by what’s being served on them.  We’ve all sat down at these tables, hoping they will serve us something good to eat, but they rarely do.  Let’s face it, you can’t hope to get good food at a bad restaurant.  The difference is if we get bad food at a restaurant, we at least have the good sense to eventually stop eating at their tables!

Sometimes we just go ahead and eat the food set before us at a table, even though it may not be all that good.  We can do this in regard to the entertainment that’s set before us as well.  Even though we don’t particularly approve of the content of a movie we’re watching or a book we’re reading, we continue to reluctantly eat what’s set before us, even though it may leave a bad taste in our mouth.  I have come to realize that there are really only two choices – remain at the table and reluctantly eat of the disrespect for Jesus that is being served there, or leave the table.  In II Corinthians 6:14, Paul asks, “For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common?  Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?  What harmony is there between Christ and Belial?  That’s a good question; one I need to ask myself the next time I pull up a chair at the table of entertainment.  I’m  pretty sure I will never find Jesus and the devil sitting in harmony at a table together, so if I know I wouldn’t find Jesus sitting there, I probably shouldn’t be sitting there either.

In his word, God invites us to eat at his table.  He has “prepared a table before us in the presence of our enemies,” and he invites us to pull up a chair and join him there.  Almost like a mother trying to encourage her child to taste something they’ve never eaten, our Heavenly Father encourages us to “taste and see that the Lord is good” and “promises that he “satisfies thy mouth with good things.”  There’s no chance of getting a bad meal at His table!  I don’t know about everyone else, but that’s the table I want to have a lifelong reserved seat at.  As for all the other tables out there, I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask to be excused.  Why continue sitting at a table if it’s serving food that’s not to your taste?

ENTERTAINED
The flesh appeased our hearts deceived
to be entertained our greatest need
at the table of the world we take our seat
hoping to receive something good to eat
between the world and our risen Lord
we choose the world for we are bored
Come ye out” we hear him say
“choose whom ye will serve this day”
to whom will you bow your knee
the God of Life or your T. V.
search your heart that you might know
to whom you cling to whom let go
and before you take your seat
remember you are what you eat!

(Psalm 101:3 – I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.   I will set nothing wicked before my eyes to see.) 

The Narrow Road

(Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” – Matthew 7:13)

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I recently watched the nail-biting high wire act of the Flying Wallendas as they perilously walked a narrow 1300-foot long tightrope 25 stories above New York’s iconic Times Square.   As I observed the intense level of focus given to each step taken by them along the narrow tightrope, I was reminded of the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:13 when he said, “Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”  Seeing all the people below on Times Square gave perspective to just how narrow the tightrope was in comparison.   Looking at the world around us from the elevated view of God’s word, gives us a good perspective of the narrow road God calls us to walk as well.  Like the Wallendas, we too are called to walk a narrow path that requires us to be careful of the steps we take – also much like the Wallendas, Jesus tells us “only a few” will attempt to walk it.

We have but to look at the world we live in today to see just how broad the road that leads to destruction is becoming, and that there are many who are entering through its gates.  Sadly, there are many who profess to be of the Christian faith that can be found walking that broad, open road today as well.  Many have traded the truth of God’s word to walk with the changing culture of the world, but just like Lajana Wallenda’s tragic misstep two years prior that resulted in a serious fall, it will prove to be a costly misstep.  The wisdom of Proverbs 17:15 serves to remind, “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord.”  As Oswald Chambers (My Utmost For His Highest) so wisely observes, “There is no heaven that has a little corner of hell in it,” and there is no room on the narrow road for the things of the flesh and the world.

Many assume that the finished work of Jesus immediately and automatically perfects them in the sight of God, regardless of whether or not Jesus’s life is being formed in them, and regardless of the fact that just about all of New Testament scripture teaches to the contrary.  The Apostle Paul exhorted believers to “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.”  If we are automatically perfected in the sight of God, without bearing any evidence of His life being formed in us, what purpose would Paul have in exhorting us to work out our salvation, and why should we do so with fear and trembling?  Hebrews 4:11 reminds, “Since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have (fallen) short of it.” Just like the Wallendas after taking the first step onto the wire, the walk across the tightrope remains to be completed and each step thereafter must be carefully taken if we want to safely reach the other side.

In Revelation chapters 2-3, Jesus reprimands His seven churches, telling them, “I have not found your works perfect before God.”  He warns them individually saying, “hold fast and repent” …. “I could wish you were cold or hot, so then because you are lukewarm, neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of my mouth” ….  “You say ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing, and do you not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked.”  That doesn’t sound like perfected people to me!  Although Jesus was addressing the seven churches, he was reprimanding people, not denominations.  The people of each church were cautioned by Jesus to “overcome” in some area where they had “fallen short.”   Ephesus was told, “You have forsaken your first love.”  It had lost its zeal for God and had become complacent.  Smyrna feared suffering persecution for the sake of Christ.  Pergamum had fallen victim to false teaching through its open-mindedness and compromise with the ways of the world – some in the church were tolerating those who taught or practiced what Christ opposed.  Thyatira, “by her teaching,” was “misleading others into sexual immorality” and many were “unwilling to repent.”  Sardis was infested with sin – its deeds were evil and its clothes soiled – there were no words of commendation for this church – it looked good on the outside but was corrupt on the inside – had a “reputation for being alive but was dead”- was warned to “Wake up!”  Philadelphia was praised for having kept God’s word and not denying his name,” but they needed to  “hold on” and “persevere” – to overcome the temptation to turn back.  Laodicea was lukewarm and indifferent – was “neither cold nor hot” – didn’t take a stand for anything – was material minded – focused more on material possessions than possessing Christ – chose the temporary over the eternal – thought themselves to be rich and “had need of nothing.”  Jesus warned that all the believers in these individual churches were in danger of “falling away” due to the missteps they were taking.

In Matthew 7:21, Jesus warns, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘Depart from me, I never knew you.'”  Jason Henderson (Not I, But Christ) writes, “Those who think to dismiss themselves from His yoke and burden, His cross and example, and secure themselves by praising Christ for His having done all for them (while He has wrought little or nothing in them, nor have they parted with anything for the love of Him) will finally awake in a dreadful surprise, at the sound  of the last trumpet, and this sad and irrevocable sentence, “Depart from Me you workers of iniquity, I do not know you.”  As Christ makes unmistakably clear in the Book of Revelation, it is not he who is overcome, but he who overcomes that shall not be hurt by the second death.

Due to Lajana Wallenda’s serious fall in a previous act two years ago, the Wallendas chose to use a safety harness this time around – a smart choice, although the lesson was learned the hard way.  Thankfully, we too have a safety harness to protect us as we endeavor to walk the narrow path of life.  Jude 24 assures us that Jesus is “able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy.”  Just as the Wallendas executed their walk without fault and ended it with great joy, Jesus wants us to as well, but it took careful discipline and  intense focus on their part for them to do so.  If we stumble along the way, our safety harness will be there to catch us if we fall and enable us to get back up and keep on walking, but if we deliberately choose to step off walking the narrow road in order to join those who are walking on the broad one, the destination of that broad road will become ours as well.

(Proverbs 4:14-15 – Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil.  Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn away from it and pass on.).

Wise Counsel

Kings 22:14 – “As surely as the Lord lives, I can tell him only what the Lord tells me.”

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Uncompromising counsel is a rare thing to find in the world we live in today.  You can find a lot of people who will tell you what you want to hear, but very few who will tell you what you need to hear.  In I Timothy 4:2, the Apostle Paul warned that the time would come when men would not put up with sound doctrine, but instead, to suit their own desires, they would gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears wanted to hear.  Those who desire to be the arbiter their own morality will always reject truth.   You can attempt to counsel people apart from telling them the truth, but you must be willing to lie to them to do so, because to encourage someone in any behavior that is not in line with the principles of God’s word, is to encourage them in a lie.  Jason Henderson (Not I, But Christ), writes, “It is a lie to comfort someone apart from the truth; to present someone with a solution that is separate from the truth, to encourage someone in anything that has no place in Christ.”  T. Austin Sparks wisely observes, “You can’t blunt the sharp edge of the truth of God’s word.”  Only counsel that agrees with the principle of God’s word is wise and reliable counsel. Everything else is just a tickling of the ears.

The Word of God encourages us to speak the truth in love in all things that we might grow up into him who is the head, even Christ. (Ephesians 4:15).   To sympathize with the nature of Adam and aid in its existence is to oppose the new nature of Christ being formed in us.   A person’s soul cannot be filled with the light of Christ’s life if they continue to walk in darkness.   That is the harm of not speaking the truth in love.   Proverbs 10:17 warns, “Whoever ignores instruction leads others astray.”  To counsel others in anything that is in opposition to the instruction of God’s word, is to lead them astray.  Contrary to popular belief, we can’t just “love people into the kingdom.”  That might sound nice, but it isn’t very realistic.  We can love people straight into judgment if we are not careful.  A. W. Tozer writes, “It is altogether possible to practice deceit upon our own souls and go deceived into judgment.”  That is why the Apostle Paul encouraged the church not only to love, but to speak the truth in love.  Granted, it is much easier talking to people about the forgiveness of sin than it is talking to them about the forsaking of sin.  Counseling with both conviction and compassion takes a lot of courage, but giving in to fear when speaking the truth only leads to accommodation; never transformation.  God didn’t send Jesus just to have our backs, he sent him to have our hearts.   Just like truth and love, forgiveness of sin and forsaking of sin go together.   Proverbs 20:5 says, “Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out.”  A wise counselor, one of understanding, will not excuse your behavior but will dive into the depths of your heart to help you draw out the truth of it.

In I Kings 22, God’s word records that King Ahab, who was said to have been more wicked than any other king of Israel, asked King Jehosphaphat to join him in battle against Remoth Gilead.  Jehosphaphat’s reply was, “First seek the counsel of the Lord.”  King Jehosphaphat gave Ahab the best advice one person can give to another.  King Ahab, however, consistently chose to follow the majority opinion of the false prophets who surrounded him.  He “listened only to the prophets that gave good news and surrounded himself with people who encouraged him to do whatever he wanted.”   (NIV Life Application Study Bible).  Jehosphaphat knew the difference between these pagan prophets and God’s prophet, so he asked if a prophet of the Lord was available.  A prophet named Micaiah was the only prophet who remained true to the Lord at that time, but King Ahab said of him, “But I hate him, because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad.”  King Ahab didn’t want to hear the truth, he wanted his ears tickled.  The messenger who was sent to summon Micaiah tried to influence him to compromise speaking the truth, saying, “Look, as one man the other prophets are predicting success for the king.  Let your word agree with theirs, and speak favorably.”  To Micaiah’s credit he replied, “As surely as the Lord lives, I can tell him only what the Lord tells me.”

We can follow the lead of the false prophets who counseled Ahab and speak favorably to people, letting our words agree with the majority opinion, or we can follow the wisdom of Micaiah and tell others only what the Lord’s word says.  Those who counsel in the name of the Lord would be wise to follow Micaiah’s lead, however.  In the end, the false prophets that Ahab followed ended up being instrumental in leading him to his ruin, as well as their own.  Seeking counsel from those who will tell us “only what we want to hear” will end up being instrumental in ours as well.    Jason Henderson writes, “The great false gospel in the days of the prophets was:  “‘Peace, peace”‘, when there was no peace.  It is the great false gospel today as well.  It is a gospel that tries to make peace with the wrong man, instead of experiencing Christ’s crucifixion and killing of that man, so that true peace is found in the absence of him and the soul’s freedom from sin that is contrary to God.”  That’s wise words and good counsel!  Those who are in Christ are not called to make peace with the nature of Adam that still tries to influence their behavior.  True peace can only be found in the absence of the adamic nature ruling in us, and walking in the freedom from that nature which is contrary to God.  Any counsel that suggests otherwise is unwise counsel.   T. Austin Sparks righty observes, “We must present Christ in totality, not just Christ in love, but Christ in purity, Christ in holiness, Christ in truth.”  As surely as the Lord lives, I can only tell you what the Lord tells me.

ARBITERS OF MORALITY

I once sought out counsel because my conscience was bothering me
I heard it loud and clear but didn’t want it’s voice to heed
I spoke to many counselors and their words rang in my ears
Until at last I found the one who said what I wanted to hear
Someone who would be sympathetic to what I had to say
Someone who would compromise and let me have my way
I knew all along the words I wanted to hear
I just needed to find someone to scratch my itching ears
I knew that what I wanted was the right thing for me
but from a guilty conscience I needed to be free
So I just needed to find someone who would agree with me
And now I am at peace with who I am within
Even though I know I have traded truth for sin
But I can live with that so long as I am free
To be the arbiter of my own morality

(Proverbs15:12 – A mocker resents correction; he will not consult the wise.)

 

 

But Wait! There’s More!

Galatians 2:20 – I have been crucified with Christ, dead and yet I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me.”cross-2713353_1920

I have always gotten a kick out of infomercials trying to sell their one-of-a-kind, must-have, best-offer-ever, products on television.  After demonstrating what a great product they are selling, at such an incredible one-time, low-cost, you-must-act now offer, they always, without fail, wrap up their sales pitch by saying, “But wait! There’s more!”  Ironically enough, this got me thinking about God’s grace and how we understand it and present it to others.  If God’s grace was being pitched through an infomercial, receiving pardon for sin and escaping God’s judgment would probably be the featured selling points, and then it would be wrapped up with the special one-time, you-must-act now,  low-cost offer of free!  But at the end of the pitch, I can just hear God saying, “But wait!  There’s more!”  There is so much more to grace than just pardon from sin and escaping God’s judgment, as wonderful as those things are.  God’s grace wasn’t just meant to give us a justified status before God, it was meant to give us much more.  It was meant to give us the very Life of the justified Son, and that’s a whole lot more!

What we desire out of God’s grace and what God desires is not necessarily the same.  Because of our adamic nature, our desires are always toward ourselves.  The moment Adam sinned, he became self-focused and hid from God, desiring to escape God’s judgment.   Adam’s focus shifted from honoring God to saving his own hide, so-to-speak.   And God did save his hide, but it cost the hide of another – it still does.   We tend to focus more upon judgment that needs to be escaped and sins that need to be forgiven, which are toward self, but the focus of God was, and still is, upon the man of sin that needed to be destroyed, and the life of the Son that needed to be established.  We simply want the man of sin to escape from judgment, be forgiven, and continue living, while God wants him dead!  Adam is not repairable.  You cannot “put new wine into old wine skins.”  God’s grace is our death in Christ, so that He can fill us with the new wine, the “better wine” of his Son’s life.  He has “saved the better wine for last.”  The purpose of God’s grace was not merely to pardon us from sin, in order that we may continue living in the natural man, and receive forgiveness when we sin.  God didn’t just pardon our sins through Christ’s sacrifice; he did much, much more.  He nailed the man of sin to the cross in the body of the Lamb and crucified him there, then he gave the resurrected life of His son to all who, by faith, would receive him.   It is finished!  In that one sacrifice, Gods judgment of the man of sin was satisfied and is forever complete.  Our judgment was born by the Lamb, in order that the risen Lamb could be our life, not just our means of escaping judgment.  Jesus brought us into his death, so he could be our life.  This is the full purpose of grace.  This is what Paul meant when he said, “I have been crucified with Christ, dead and yet I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me.”  Christ’s indwelling life is the “But wait!  There’s more!” of God’s grace.

God had only one purpose in mind when he planted the incorruptible seed of his Son’s life in us – the increase of that seed.  The purpose of the body we now have, is to serve the body we now are.  All those in Christ, are now the body of Christ.  1Corinthians 12:27 tells us, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”  Paul said, “The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  We are of the mindset that “we” still live and are forgiven, but that mindset is wrong!  We are dead, and the life we now live, we live by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave Himself for us.  Romans 6:3 tells us, “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  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 should walk in newness of life.”  The phrase “newness of life” doesn’t mean the new and improved life of the natural man. It means newness of life as opposed to being “dead in trespasses and sin.”  It means possessing something that we had never known before – Life!  The adamic man was born “dead in trespasses and sin” so there is no life in him to improve upon.  Spiritually speaking, death is the  the lack of God’s spirit residing in the soul.  When Adam transgressed, he most surely did die because God’s spirit no longer resided in his soul.  Try as you might, you can’t save Adam, but by God’s grace, you can “reckon yourself dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”   Ephesians 2:1 tells us, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins” – “but because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.”  Jason Henderson (Not I, But Christ), writes, “You are not a sinner because you sin.  You sin because you’re a sinner.”  We were born sinners.  Sin is not something that we do, it is something that we are.  If we are to walk in the “newness of Life” that we have been given, we must come to realize that it is Christ in us who is our life.  Without Jesus’ life in us, we are still “dead in trespasses and sin.”  No Jesus, no life.  Know Jesus, know life.

In the world and even in the church, it seems that God’s grace is increasingly coming to mean leniency to sin, in order to indulge the flesh.   Someone wisely observed, “Many modern Christians believe in a Christ who died so that we may be freed to sin, rather than freed from sin. A difference of only one word, but the gap between them is as wide and impassable as the gap between heaven and hell.”  If we only desire for God’s grace to be a means for us to have security and blessing in the desires of our flesh, then we will miss out on the “more” of God’s grace.  The grace of God was never intended to give us the freedom to live our lives unto our flesh; merely using it to pardon our sins and escape the judgment of God.  The grace of God is the freedom to lose our life and gain the life of His son.  The grace of God is to exchange death for life.  God’s word tells us we were “by nature, children of wrath.”  By nature, we are the thing that resists Christ’s rule in us.  If we continue to live our lives unto the sinful nature, we become slaves to that nature, “for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.”  As Christians, we must come to understand that Christ lives in us, and he lives in us in order to conform us to his image, not just to pardon our sins and deliver us from judgment.  Not knowing the full purpose and intent of God’s grace to us is  like ordering the infomercial product before hearing the “But wait!  There’s more!” offer.  It will cause you to miss out on the best part of the deal.  And the best part of the deal is that we are not just people who will one day inherit a resurrected body; we are the body of His resurrection here on earth today and that’s a very, very good deal.  As we celebrate Easter we must focus on the desire of God’s heart in His grace, and God’s desire was, “Christ in us, the hope of glory.”  God offers us the opportunity to be redeemed from the curse of sin through the sacrifice of his own Holy Lamb, and then gives us the resurrected life of his Son to live in us.   We are dead and yet we live, yet not us, but Christ in us.  I don’t know about everyone else, but I’m sold on that offer.  It truly is a one-of-a-kind, must-have, best-offer-ever deal.  Don’t miss out on it.  Act now!

THE SONG OF THE REDEEMED

O What a glorious thing
The song of the redeemed
How precious the flow washed us whiter than snow
The wonder of which angels sing
Dare we not lightly esteem
The power of that holy stream
That flowed down the face of God’s lamb of grace
That we might be redeemed
For it was the blood of no ordinary man
Forced Satan to open his hand
And upon bended knee relinquish death’s key
It was the blood of God’s own holy Lamb
Spoiling all powers and principalities
Making a show of them all openly
Death’s gates opened wide as Satan swallowed his pride
neath the blood of Calvary
The song of the redeemed
Blessed be the name
That paid the price in sacrifice
This song that we might sing

(Gal. 3:13 – Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us.)

 

 

 

 

And Then What?

(Proverbs 27:1 – “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.”)

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 We are all familiar with the expression “life comes at you fast,” meaning the circumstances in our lives can change quickly.  While this is true of life, our greater concern should be that death comes at us fast.  Circumstances will change throughout our lives and sometimes they can change fast, but life goes on and we eventually adjust ourselves to the change.  Death, however, leaves no place for change.  It is fast and it is permanent.  In the face of impending death, even those who live long lives are known to say, “Life seemed to go by way too fast.”  Time is always taking things from us in this life.  All we possess is only possessed by us for a time.  Time eventually leaves us with only the memories of times gone by, until it finally leaves us with no more time at all.  Everyone knows death is inevitable, and yet we sometimes live our lives almost as if it were not.  In James 4:13 we are cautioned about boasting in tomorrow.  James says, “Now listen, you who say, “Tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”  We all assume we will have more time and that tomorrow will be there for us, but tomorrow sometimes proves us wrong.  And then what?

We can become so caught up in chasing after the things that we believe will fulfill our lives, that we don’t stop to ask ourselves “And then what?”  We are going to die one day, and then what?  It could be sooner than we think or it could be later, but we are going to want to know the answer to that question in advance of that day, because death comes at you fast.  Being prepared for death should be the number one priority of our life.  I think that was what Jesus was trying to tell us when he said, “What profit a man, if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?  In asking this, Jesus was saying, “So what if you gain fortune, or fame, or success, or whatever it is you are chasing in life; and then what?”  What will it profit you if you gain all theses things and lose your own soul?   II Corinthians 5:9 gives us the answer to the question “and then what?”  And then, “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body whether good or bad.”  That is the “and then what” that follows death.  Jesus warns, “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.  But I will show you whom you should fear:  Fear him who, after killing of the body, has the power to throw you into hell.  Yes, I tell you, fear him.”  But to all those who believe in his name, he promises, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes in him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”  We are all going to cross over to one side or the other one day.  The biggest concern of our lives should be which side we are going to cross over to.  Eternity is a never-ending existence that we will spend in one place or the other.   You don’t want to wait too late to ask “And then what?”

In writing this, I feel in myself the same urgency as the apostle Paul when he wrote, “Since we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men.”  If it seems that I am tying to persuade you by putting a little fear into your hearts, I won’t deny it; I am.  After reading Jesus’s words, I think maybe he was too:  “Fear  him who, after killing of the body, has the power to throw you into hell.  Yes, I tell you, fear him.”  In this age of “God is love and that is all,” we don’t like to think of God in this way, but Jesus made it very clear that we need to.  The gospel of the grace of God to us in Jesus is indeed good news, but it is very bad news for those who choose to reject or just put off receiving the mercy of his grace.  God’s word tells us, “Today is the day of salvation” because we aren’t promised tomorrow.   There is a reason for the urgency of heart that I am feeling today.   A couple of days ago, I received an early morning phone call from my daughter, crying and distraught after having witnessed the tragic death of a young man she knew, who was confined to a wheelchair and suffered from cerebral palsy.   The suddenness of death became a harsh reality right before her eyes that morning as this precious soul was hit by a dump truck, while simply trying to cross the street.  Death indeed comes at us fast, and is obviously no respecter of persons.  The first concern of my heart upon hearing of this young man’s death was, “Lord, I hope he had received your grace.”  I am so thankful to have found out that he had.  I later found out that he was a Christian and that his life was dedicated to servanthood.   One of his friends wrote a beautiful tribute to this young man that I think worthy of repeating.  His friend said they knew that he was up there running with God in a new, amazing body that wasn’t restrained by two wheels, and that they could picture that smiling face “running with the One he knew was worth chasing.”  Those are words of wisdom to all of us.  Whatever you are pursuing in life, make sure you are chasing the One who is worth chasing.  There is not a doubt in my mind that this young man knew the answer to the question, “And then what?”  Death may have come at him fast, but it didn’t come at him unprepared.  In the busyness of our lives, as we are running to and fro chasing the things of life that can only be possessed for a time, let’s slow down a minute and be sure we are running after the One who is worth chasing.  Let’s make sure we know the answer to “And then what?”

AND THEN WHAT?

Life is never finished
There is always something new
Just when you think you’re finished
There’s one more thing to do
We hustle and we bustle
Trying to make our dreams come true
Hoping to find contentment
In the things that we pursue
We say we’re going to stop
When we get this last thing done
But life is never finished
And that time never comes
Because life is never finished
Just when you think you’re through
Another something comes along
You’re sure you need to do
But then one day it happens
And you run out of time
With so much left to do
You leave it all behind
Because life is never finished
This much I know is true
Life is never finished
Until it finishes with you
And then you will remember
That which you forgot
And wish you had taken the time 
to ask . . . .
And then what?

(Hebrews 3:15 – Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.)

 

 

 

 

Shake It Up

“There is none that stirreth himself up to take hold of thee.” (Isaiah 64:7)

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I love snow globes!  A snow globe can evoke such a sense of wonder in us that the minute the snow stops falling, we shake it once more just to see it all over again.   The only problem with the snow globe is that it’s somewhat unremarkable unless it’s shaken up.   Snow globes need to be shaken if they’re going to serve the purpose they were created to serve.  So do we.  Children seem to get the most pleasure out of snow globes because they haven’t yet lost the ability to feel and express child-like wonder toward a thing.  Perhaps that’s why Jesus said, “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise.”  We tend to lose the child-like wonder of God over time.  The snow of God’s glory settles in us and we lose the awe of the Lord that we once had.  Time has a way of taking the luster off things.  Given that the word luster means, “brightness,” “radiance,” “splendor,” and “shining by reflected light,” that can aptly apply to Christ as well.  We are vessels that are meant to reflect the radiance and splendor of the light of Christ shining in us.  If we lose the luster of Christ in us, we lose the ability to reflect the brightness of his light to others.  Once the snow has settled in a snow globe, if you don’t shake it up, it loses its ability to evoke wonder in people.  Such is the snow globe of our lives when we cease to stir up the gift of God in us.  A snow globe in which the snow doesn’t fall serves no purpose.  Neither do we when our life doesn’t show forth the glory of God in us.

The prophet Isaiah laments, “There is none that stirreth himself up to take hold of thee.”  God has filled us with the glory of Himself in the life of his Son.  We dare not let him settle to the bottom of our lives by failing to stir ourselves up to take hold of him.  In II Timothy 1:6, Paul reminds Timothy to “stir up the gift of God” that is in him.  I think that is a good reminder to us all.   The true gift of God in us is the life of his Son.  It is an indescribable gift!  We are not meant to merely contain the gift, but to display it to the world we live in.  Jason Henderson (Not I, But Christ), writes, “Humans naturally live whatever life is most real to them.”  The question is, “What life do we know as our own?”  “What life is most real to us?”  There are only two choices; the life of Adam or the life of Christ.  To the degree that we yield determines the nature that will dominate our lives.”   If we are not careful, getting caught up in the distractions of life can cause us to become complacent in our hearts toward the glory of God in us.  We can let it settle down within our hearts like snow in the bottom of a snow globe, just waiting to be stirred up.  We can crowd our lives so full of the cares of the world that we crowd God right out of them.  Jesus warned, “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”  Love of the world can steal our love for God right out from under us, or right out from in us, as the case may be.  Day by day, as we become caught up in the cares of life, we can crowd God out of our lives and out of our hearts before we even realize it.  We need to be mindful that whatever we place above Christ in our hearts and lives, displaces Christ in our hearts and lives.

We live in a wicked world and because of our adamic nature we can easily become desensitized to the sin that is a part of it.  We can forget that “friendship with the world is enmity with God.”  The word desensitized means “to lessen in sensitivity.”  Jesus, in Matthew 24:12 warns, “Because of the increase of wickedness the love of many will grow cold.”  Jesus was speaking of his followers’ love for God when he said this.  Cold is often used as a desensitizing agent.  The word cold means, “seasonal (comes and goes), lacking warmth; indifferent.”  All these descriptions indicate a lessening in sensitivity; a coldness of heart.  It’s a good word to measure ourselves by as we go about the busyness of life.  Another good word to measure ourselves by is “lukewarm.”  Jesus, in Revelation 3:15 warns, “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot:  I would thou were cold or hot.  So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”  We can all relate to that.  We all know the bad taste a lukewarm cup of coffee leaves in the mouth.   Some like their coffee hot and some like their coffee cold, but no one likes their coffee lukewarm.  There is an old story told about a man who sat on a fence that divided God’s kingdom from Satan’s kingdom.  One day God asked him to make up his mind which side of the fence he wanted to be on.  The man, thinking himself to be clever, said,  “I choose to remain on the fence.  That way I don’t have to choose a side.”   To which Satan replied, “You are wrong my friend.  The fence is mine.”  The fence is the choice.  Not to choose is to choose.  We are either all in or we are all out.  Jesus said, “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters abroad.”

I Timothy 5:20 instructs, “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.”  We tend to be more concerned today about offending others in speaking the truth, than we are with speaking the truth.  A. W. Tozer writes, “When pleasing men means displeasing God it is an unqualified evil and should have no place in the Christian’s heart.  To be right with God has often meant to be in trouble with men.”  If you’re not in a little trouble in this world we live in today, you’re probably not speaking the truth.   The great Apostle Paul himself said, “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God?  Or am I trying to please men?  If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”  Jason Henderson somewhat jokingly makes the observation that sometimes we attempt to qualify things so much that we rob them of their God-given offense.   This is funny but so true!  This happens when we compromise the integrity of God’s word in order to appeal to everyone and offend no one.  This happens when we become lukewarm in our hearts toward the things of God and try to straddle the fence between the world and the kingdom of God.   This happens when we let our hearts grow cold and become desensitized to the wickedness in the world we live in.  This happens when we fail to shake ourselves up and allow the snow of God’s glory to fall within the snow globe of our lives.  Like the snow globe without the snow falling in it, our lives are somewhat unremarkable.  We need to shake up the Gift that is in us, and watch his glory fall!

ASTRIDE THE FENCE

There is a long and sturdy fence that many sit astride
Hoping to put off until tomorrow the choosing of one side
Thinking the middle of the fence the safest place to be
They straddle there upon the fence most uncomfortably
Caught between the day and night content to linger there
One foot in and one foot out attempting both to share
But soon the day will come that puts an end to their plight
And will forever separate the darkness from the light
And when that time shall come they sadly will discover
That not to choose the one was to choose the other
And they will hear the devil say, as he laughs with glee
“In choosing the fence you made your choice”
“For the fence belongs to me”

(Joshua 24:15 – But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose you this day
whom you will serve.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The God of Me

“Thou thoughtest,” saith the Lord, “that I was altogether such an one as thyself.  But I will rebuke you and accuse you to your face.”  (Psalm 50:21)

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There are roughly forty-five words in the dictionary that are derived from the word self, indicating that we are a very self-aware people.  The word self is often put before a word to describe the character of a person.  A person can be self-centered, self-conscious, self-absorbed, self-confident, self anything.  But the one word most wouldn’t believe to be a description of themselves, is self-idolizing.  When we think of a person who idolizes themselves, we usually think of someone who “thinks much higher of themselves than they ought” and worships the ground they, themselves, walk on.  Making an idol of self actually runs much deeper than that.  A. W. Tozer (The Knowledge of the Holy) observes, “Idolatry is when a man assumes that God is other than He is, and substitutes for the true God one made after his own likeness.  This god will always conform to the image of the one who created it, according to the moral state of the mind from which it emerges.”  In essence, idolatry is creating an image of God to serve the desires, wants or needs of self, and then bowing down to the image of the god we have created to serve us.  Our own thoughts and opinions of what God is like, what he feels and thinks, create an idol within us of our own making that distorts the true image of God, causing us to worship the false idol of self.  “Thou thoughtest,” saith the Lord, “that I was altogether such an one as thyself.”

From the beginning of time man has preferred to worship a god of his own imagination, rather than to worship the image of the one true God.  The first mention of the word imagination can be found in Genesis 6:5 and reads, “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”  Man elevated his thoughts above God’s thoughts and the consequence was “evil imaginations continually” in the heart of man.  When speaking of idols, God said, “They have mouths, but they cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see, ears, but they cannot hear, and those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.”  Jesus, in similar fashion, when describing those who were not receptive to truth, said, “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.  You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”  That kind of sounds like God’s description of an idol to me, only this idol is not made of wood, but of flesh and blood.  This idol is the idol of self.  Worshipping the idol of self will make a person unable to clearly perceive the truth.  Jason Henderson (Not I, But Christ), writes, “You are an expression of whatever view of truth is working in your soul.”  This is so true.  God said of idols, “Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.”   Those who make an idol in the image of themselves will become like the idol they make.  They will be an expression of whatever view of truth is working in their soul, and all those who trust in them, will be like them.  The answer as to why those worshipping the idol of self will “hear and not understand” and “see but not perceive” lies in God’s words to Isaiah – “A deluded heart misleads them.”  What a man conceives God to be like in his heart, creates the image of the god he worships.

Our concept of God must be based upon the true nature of God, and not upon our own lowly opinions influenced by what we desire him to be.  Tozer writes, “Worship is pure or base as the worshipper entertains high or low thoughts of God.”  Our worship of God becomes base when we reduce God to being on the same level as ourselves.  Paul wrote, “When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.”  They knew God’s nature, but rather than glorify him as he was, they became vain in their imaginations of him.  They imagined him to be other than he was.  They imagined him to be such an one as themselves.  Our imaginations of God come from our own foolish and darkened hearts.  In Isaiah 44 God reminds us – “Remember these things, O Jacob, for you are my servant, O Israel.  I have made you, you are my servant.”  It is he who has made us, not we who have made him.  We must be conformed to his image, rather than he being conformed to ours.  To cast God into the mold of an image of our own making, is to forge a god of self and worship at its feet.   Tozer cautions, “To believe that God is different than what he actually is, is heresy of the most insidious and deadly kind.”

To worship the idol of self, is to imagine things about God out of our own needs and wants, and then act as if they were true.   Entertaining wrong ideas about God is both idolatrous and dangerous.   It is dangerous because when the true image of God is distorted in the heart of man, the moral standards of man decline along with it.  We have but to look around our world today to see the evidence of that truth.  There is only one way to be sure we are not forging an idol of self.  Jesus said,”No man knows the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.”  We must come to know God as the Son reveals him, through the Spirit, and not as our imagination wants him to be, led by our flesh.  And here is where the dilemma lies, and idols rise; the light of truth cannot penetrate the heart of a person who chooses to continue walking in darkness.  Jesus said, “If any man will to do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God.”  We can know whether or not something is of God by reading the word of God.  The word of God is the truth of God, but before we can know the truth of the doctrine, before we can see it with our eyes, hear it with our ears, perceive it with our hearts, we must first will to do his will concerning it.

Every idol that man casts has self at its very core.  As Tozer observes, “An inward principle of self lies at the source of human conduct, turning everything men do into evil.  Self is a usurper who sits on a stolen throne.”  The throne of man’s heart belongs to God, but self always seeks to displace his rightful reign there.   The Apostle Paul charges that we, “cast down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”  A “high thing” is an idol.  The idol of self exalts the imagination of man above the true knowledge of God.  The only way to cast down the idol of self-imagination is to bring every thought, every opinion that comes from within ourselves, captive to the obedience of Christ.  The word of God reveals the nature of God.  Having and accepting thoughts or opinions about God that are contrary to God’s word, form the makings of an idol in our heart.  An idol of self has many manifestations, but its essence is one – “a moral being, created to worship before the throne of God, sits on the throne of his own self-hood and from that elevated position declares, I AM.”  (Tozer).  In the words of the Apostle John, “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.”

THE GOD OF ME

I once had an idol that I carried everywhere
I even took him with me upon my knees in prayer
We would bow down together there on bended knee
As I lifted up my prayers to the God of Me
I knew my god would accept me and I could stay the same
Even if  it meant that sin in me could remain
I knew he would forgive me and that he would forget
Each and every sin I would willfully commit
I knew in many ways that he was much like myself
And that he was said to be a god of infinite wealth
So I knew he wanted to bless me with great prosperity
And that made it okay for me to keep more than I need
I knew he would understand because he knew my heart
If I followed the ways of the world and did not come apart
For he knew that though I wanted to be pleasing in his sight
Sometimes I preferred the darkness rather than the light
I knew that his desire was his image in me to see
And that he be everything my heart could ever conceive
So in order that he be all that I imagined him to be
I transformed his image that it might look more like me
I knew it wasn’t God’s true image but I put that one on a shelf
Because I very much preferred this god I forged of self
So I became an idol with eyes that could not see
Ears that could not hear, and a heart that could not perceive
I became an idol and worshipped the god of Me

 

 

 

No Lie Is Of The Truth

We shall not adjust our Bible to the age; but before we have done with it, by God’s grace, we shall adjust the age to the Bible.”  Charles Spurgeon

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Have you ever caught yourself saying, “I might have lied about that just a little bit?”  We’ve all said it and we’ve all done it.  The implication is that most of what we said was the truth, but a small portion of it was not.  Unfortunately, that small portion tarnished the whole truth of what we said, because it is impossible for a lie to be a part of the truth.  I recently watched a teaching series in which a well-known pastor attempted to do just that.  He spoke just enough of the truth to keep you interested, with just a little bit of untruth skillfully mixed in.  The central concern of the message was that due to the changing culture of our day, young people are leaving the faith, “opting out for a different world-view” and looking for a “different narrative through which to make sense of the world.”  He believes many to be leaving the church because they no longer believe in the inerrancy of the Old Testament scriptures anymore, their life experiences are irreconcilable with their faith, and they are tired of getting faith based answers to fact based questions.  In order to bring them back into the fold this pastor feels that we must “rethink our approach” in reaching them.  His approach being that maybe, just possibly, we might concede just a little bit, for the benefit of the greater good, that everything in the Old Testament scriptures might not be completely true and accurate.  Just to be clear on his stance, I directly quote, “Christianity does not rise and fall upon the integrity or the verifiability of the entire Bible.”  He asserts that “the issue has never been “is the Bible true?” and believes the central issue to be “was Jesus who he said he was?”  The half truth is that people don’t need to believe in the whole word of God, specifically the Old Testament, in order to believe in Jesus.  The assertion being it is okay to question the accuracy of the of the Old Testament scriptures, but you can’t deny the eye-witness facts as presented in the New Testament gospels.  One major problem with his assertion, is that even Jesus’s own teaching is centered on the historical events of Scripture and he himself declares that “the Scriptures cannot be broken.” (John 10:35).  If Old Testament scripture is not reliable and can be broken, then neither can Jesus’s own words be reliable.   Jesus’s prayer to his Father when he was about to leave this world was, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”  He didn’t say most of your word is truth.  I might not be able to explain or prove everything in the Bible, but if Jesus said “your word is truth,” I’ll take him at his word.

I get where this pastor is coming from, I just don’t like where he’s going.  For the record, I think his motives were good but his method is flawed.  I also found it a bit ironic that at the same time this pastor suggests we concede that the Bible might not be accurate about a few things, once challenged on his compromise of the inerrancy of God’s word, he insists that he, himself, believes wholeheartedly that the Bible is the inspired and infallible word of God.  I’m sorry but you just can’t have it both ways.   As James 1:8 says, “A double minded man is unstable in all he does.”  I agree, we need to try our best to bring those who have walked away from their faith back again, but I don’t think the church needs to coddle, compromise and accommodate the wants and needs of the natural man in order to do so.  What people really need is less “puffed-up-with knowledge,” man-focused sermons and more preaching of the word, because solving all the complicated issues in the culture of our day rests entirely upon the preaching of the entirety of this one.  My momma would say to this pastor, “If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it” and the preaching of the gospel ain’t broke!  Paul, in II Timothy 3:1-4 makes it very simple for ministers as to how to preach the word, even in this day and time.  He charges Timothy, “Preach the word; be instant in season and out of season; reprove, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.”  In other words, just preach the whole word of God and be consistent in doing so.  Paul goes on to say, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.”  That time has arrived, hence the departing of so many from the faith.  It is the conclusion of this verse, however, that should be of most concern to us in relation to this pastor’s message.  “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 to fables (falsehoods).”  Hope you caught the “turn away their ears from the truth” part.  The NIV Nelson Study Bible commentary observes, “A preacher or teacher who gives God’s true message will never contradict, dismiss, explain away, or do away with anything that is found in God’s word.”  That’s sound advice.

The Apostle Paul warns that there will be people who will seek out pastors willing to support their beliefs and agendas and that there will be a great number of teachers willing to accommodate them and steer them away from “sound doctrine.”  People who have “itching ears” decide for themselves what is right or wrong and seek out others to scratch their itch, so-to-speak, and support their beliefs.  Itching ears is a figure of speech that refers to what people desire, want, or feel themselves to need.  Having itching ears is to desire messages that please rather than preach, and offer accommodation in place of transformation.  Messages that tickle ears might fill a lot of churches but won’t save any souls.  St. Augustine of Hippo wisely said of these people, “If you believe in the gospel what you want to believe, and reject what you don’t want to believe, it is not the gospel you believe in, but yourself.”  I John 2:21 tells us, “No lie is of the truth.”  This is how we recognize truth from error.  You can’t mix a little bit of a lie in with the truth.  Whatever approach someone uses in reaching others, it should never compromise the truth of what God’s entire word says, in order to tickle the ears of what people want to hear.  Paul said in II Corinthians 4:2, “We do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God.  On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”  If a pastor, or anyone else for that matter, distorts the word of God by not setting forth the truth plainly, you can be pretty sure they are scratching itching ears, even if they think they are doing it for the greater good.

When considering those who question the inerrancy of God’s word and “opt out for a different world-view,”  I was reminded of the exchange between God and Job recorded in the Old Testament scriptures.  After listening to all the back and forth between Job and his friends speculating on why God allowed Job’s sickness, God decided to have his say.  He begins with saying, “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you and you shall answer me.  Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?”  That certainly puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?  God then reprimands Job’s friends saying, “Who is this who darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?”  In other words, Job’s friends spoke a lot of words, but they didn’t know what they were talking about.   They spoke out of the resources of their own knowledge and reasoning and not God’s.  Perhaps rather than looking for a different world-view, maybe people just need to look at things from God’s point of view.  Job 38-39 gives a sobering account of God’s point of view toward man’s questioning of Him, and serves as a reminder that it is we who answer to him, not he who answers to us.  I highly recommend reading it to all those who would compromise or question the inerrancy of God’s word.  After enumerating in detail all the wonders that exist in the world by the creation of his own hand, God ends with asking, “Would you condemn me to justify yourself?  I believe this to be the central issue and the question of the day for those who would leave the faith.   Would you condemn God to justify what you want?  Would you condemn God to justify your needs?  Would you blame and judge God to be at fault, to justify yourself as innocent?  All those who would do so very much need to know this God of the Old Testament, because he remains the same in both his love and his wrath.   In Romans 11:22 Paul warns, “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God:  on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness:  otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.”

While we, with all our different approaches, try to bring people back to the faith, perhaps we might first try the old approach the writers of the God-inspired New Testament used.  Just warn them!  There are several warnings to choose from.  Hebrews 3:12-14 gives us a good one:  “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.  For we are made partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end.”  We need to heed the “if” in that warning.  Though the world may have changed somewhat, the core problem with it has remained the same and remains the true reason why people walk away from God.  People still desire to “do what is right in their own eyes.”  People still want to be arbiters of their own morality.  Looking for a different “narrative” or way to present the Bible by which to make sense of the world we live in won’t change that, especially if “different” means compromising the truth of the original narrative.  Opting out for a “different world-view” will only serve to put you back in a sinking ship, because the world’s view of  things is never going to be God’s view.  I guess my “approach” to those who would choose to walk away from their faith is a little different from the pastor I have referenced.  I think maybe we just need to remind people of what they are drawing back to.  Hebrews 10:38 tells us, “But we are not of those who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.”  It seems to me the simple question to be asking those who would draw back is:  “Which of these two categories do you want to be in; the saving of the soul category or the perdition one? ”  (Perdition/Definition: “The loss of the soul, same as hell.”)

NO LIE IS OF THE TRUTH

When I was a child, I lied every now and then
I told the truth in part but would mix a little lie in
I didn’t see the harm telling a little lie would do
After all everybody else tells a little lie or two
But when my mom would catch me she would always say,
“You will have to lie tomorrow for the lie you tell today”
Because once a lie is spoken it never goes away
It buries itself within the heart and in the heart it stays
And truth spoken in part can never the truth remain
Because the truth and a lie can never be the same
And truth will always offer this undeniable absolute
That the fact of the matter is “No lie is of the truth.”

(Psalm 34:13 – Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies.”)

 

The Mirror Don’t Lie

II Corinthians 3:18 – But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.)

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All of us are familiar with the expression, “The mirror don’t lie!”  I recently made the mistake of going to a different hairdresser and upon looking in the mirror experienced that expression firsthand.  It was not a good cut and the mirror didn’t lie!  After the cut, I kept going back to the mirror, hoping it might somehow magically reflect a different image, but the mirror continued to reflect otherwise.  Day after day I continued to work on the image I saw in the mirror as best I could until lo and behold, one day when looking into that mirror, I noticed my hair had begun to grow a little.  O happy day!  From day-to-day, however, the mirror still reflected the remains of a bad cut.  Some days it didn’t look so bad, but some days it didn’t look so good either!  I finally realized there was nothing I could do about it but just thank God that he causes hair to grow, and to accept the fact that it’s going to go through some unattractive stages while doing so.  God’s word tells us that we, as in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image of Christ, and that it is the Lord who causes us to grow into that image.  Some days we aren’t going to look so bad, but some days we aren’t going to look so good either.  Like me with my hair, we got a bad cut in life thanks to Adam and our image has reflected it ever since.  We, too, are going to go through some unattractive stages while God, in his grace, causes us to grow out of that image.  The important thing is not to give up.  Keep looking in that mirror and keep working on that hair, until it reflects the image you desire to see.  And don’t worry, we have the best “hairdresser” in the world.  He is a master stylist!  As my hairstylist so graciously said to me when I told her what I’d done, God says to us also, “I’ll get ya fixed up!”

God created man to reflect the inner image of himself.  Genesis 1:17 tells us, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”  God created man and woman with a specific identity unto themselves and a distinct personality unto themselves, but one with him in the inner image of himself.  God has always intended for the inner identity of man to reflect his image.  A mirror reflects the likeness of a person.  The reflection in the mirror is not that person themselves, it is merely a reflection of the image of that person.  Jason Henderson (Not I, But Christ) explains, “We don’t become Christ, but we become vessels of his nature, character and life.”  Interestingly enough, the definition of mirror is:  “Surface capable of reflecting light.”  We, as a mirror, were created to be capable of reflecting the light of God within.  Scripture tells us that “God is light and in Him is no darkness.”  When Adam chose to disobey God, the light of God’s presence in man went out, and the mirror of man’s heart was no longer capable of reflecting God.  A mirror must have light to reflect an image.  In speaking of those who did not see with eyes of the Spirit, Jesus said, “If the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness.”  Because man no longer possessed the light of God, his understanding became darkened.  He could only see by the darkness of his own blind soul.  Scripture says of the natural man, “They grope in darkness with no light.”  This is the light that those who have not been born of the Spirit still see by today.  Jesus said of them, “Can a blind man lead a blind man?  Will they not both fall into a pit?”  We must be careful who we are following today.  Many are not being led of the Spirit, but by the darkness of their own blind soul.  In contrast, Jesus said if you see with eyes of the Spirit, “your whole body will be full of light.”  When a man is born of the Spirit, it’s like turning a light on in a dark room.  The whole room is filled with light.

“Man came into the nature of Adam through birth, and the cross offered the way out through death.”  (Henderson).  In Adam, we got a bad cut.  The only way for man to once again reflect the image of God was for man to die and be born again into the nature and identity of a new man, one that was capable of reflecting God’s image; one full of light.  Jesus was that man.  Scripture tells us, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” and “in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.”  The “exact representation” of God resided in Jesus as a man.  When we are born again, we are “made alive with him” and become “partakers of the divine nature.”  In Christ our identity changes from one born of Adam (flesh) to one born of Spirit (Jesus.). Isaiah 64:8 acknowledges, “We are the clay, you are the potter, we are all the work of your hand.”  God’s word begins with “In the beginning God created.”  Try as he might, man cannot recreate what God has created.  Ecclesiastes 6:10 tells us, “Whatever a man is, God has made him to be, and a man cannot contend with He who made him.”  Nicodemus wisely pointed out, “Surely a man cannot enter into his mother’s womb to be born again!”  Nicodemus was right, a man cannot change his God-given identity in the natural man.  Jesus told Nicodemus, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to Spirit.  You must be born again.”  Only in Christ can a man be born again into a new identity.  John 1:11 tells us, “to all who believe in his name, he gives the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”  The only way for a person to be a new creation is through Christ.  “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come!”

The definition of the word identity is:  “Exact or essential sameness.  The condition of being the same as a person or thing.  The condition or fact of being a specific thing.”  The identity of a thing requires exact or essential sameness to that thing.  In Christ, we have been given the exact or essential sameness of Christ’s nature, and it is “as Christ is put on and Adam is put off, that we become living manifestations of Jesus indwelling life and nature in us.”  (Henderson).  It is only as we submit to the new nature of Christ and resist the old nature of Adam, that we once again become mirrors that reflect the inner image of God.  If you don’t want to walk in darkness, you have to turn on the light.  The only way to embrace the new man is to forsake the old one.  To reflect the identity of one, you must forsake the other.  As Jason Henderson points out, “Christ did not die so that Adam could continue living.”   And as T. Austin Sparks so rightly says, “It is shameful and wrong to use the cloak of God’s grace as an excuse for continuing in the nature Christ came to destroy.”  God gave Adam the right to choose to submit his will to him and Adam chose to follow his own will instead.  In contrast, Jesus said, “I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.”  In Jesus, God provided the man who would do what Adam would not do; the man who would, “do only what my Father tells me to do.”  That is the nature Jesus came to restore in man.  Those who would “choose to do what is right in their own eyes” are still giving place to the nature of Adam.

The identity of a thing requires exact or essential sameness to that thing.  Essential sameness means a person or thing must possess that which is essential to being that person or thing.  Everything God created was created to be and to do a specific thing and given that which was essential to fulfilling their created purpose.  Male and female were created to “be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.”  That is still their created purpose today.  God also created man to reflect his image, and that is still their created purpose today as well.  Being born of the Spirit is essential to fulfilling God’s original purpose for man.  Only in Christ can the Adamic man die and a new spiritual man be born in order to fulfill that purpose.  In Christ every race, every gender and every class of people share in the same identity and are given the exact and essential sameness of Christ through the Spirit.  Colossians 3:11 tells us, “In this new creation all distinctions vanish – but Christ is all in all – everything and everywhere, to all men, without distinction of person.”  (Amplified Bible).

I realize there are many people in the world today who feel themselves to be of an identity they were not born with.  I cannot in all honesty understand or explain that, nor do I stand in judgment of those who struggle with it.  God’s word tells us, “We all stumble in many ways.”  We all struggle with the old sin nature of Adam and it often makes us stumble in many ways.  I think Paul, in Romans 9:21 perhaps gives the best advice concerning the issue of a person’s identity in asking, “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, “Why did you make me like this?”  In other words, Paul was reinforcing the wisdom of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 6:10 that, “a man cannot contend with He who made him.”  I admit I don’t have answers for all of the complicated issues in this life.  In the end, I think it all goes back to that one bad cut that we all need to grow out of, and I do know a little bit about bad cuts!  I know that everyone’s hair grows at a different pace, and it is God who causes it to grow.  Scripture tells us Christ’s body, “grows as God causes it to grow” also.  It reminds me of an old song I used to sing in church when I was a little girl.  “He’s still working on me, to make me what I ought to be.  It took him just a week to make the moon and the stars, the sun and the Earth and Jupiter and Mars.  How loving and patient He must be, ’cause He’s still working on me.”  All those who are in Christ are still growing and God’s still working on that bad cut.  He promises in his word that he will, “finish the good work that he has begun in you.”  In Zechariah 4:6-7 we have a picture of God’s faithfulness to finish the work he has begun in us in Christ.  Zerubbabel was given the responsibility of rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem.  God told him the temple would be built, “not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty.”  The word of the Lord came to Zerubbabel saying, “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands will also complete it.”  Jesus is God’s Zerubbabel and we are the temple of God.  He has laid the foundation of God’s grace in us and he, by his Spirit, will complete it.

Oswald Chambers writes, “God wants to bring us into union with Himself, but until we are willing to give up our right to ourselves He cannot.”   Jesus said, “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”  Giving up our right to ourselves, giving up our identity, is the only way to enter into the new identity that God offers us in Jesus.  It seems to me that in a world where so many people are trying to find themselves and their true identity, we’re missing the point.  What a person identifies as isn’t nearly as important as Who he identifies with.  Only God’s grace offers you an end to who you were born into being and a chance to have a new identity; a “new do” if you will.  Only God can give you a new cut and help you grow out of that bad one.  At the end of life’s long day, whatever your identity might be in the natural man, the only identity acceptable to God, is the  life of his son.  As Jason Henderson so wisely observes, “Both condemnation and salvation are determined by the man in whom we are found.  The work of the cross declared only one man alive to God and all others “dead in trespasses and sins.”  All that matters now is which man are you in?”  And if you want to be sure, take a good look in that mirror, ’cause the mirror don’t lie!

THE MIRROR DON’T LIE
One day I went to the hairdresser to get myself a new do
The hairdresser said, “I know just the cut that will really look good on you!”
And so with scissors in hand she began snipping at my hair
And I began to realize it was getting rather short back there!
But before I could say a word the damage had been done
And the image in the mirror was not an attractive one
Every time I looked in the mirror the image was the same
And every time I walked away I hung my head in shame
Then one day I noticed that my hair was beginning to grow
Although as progress goes it was growing very slow
And so I asked the Lord if he would bless the hair upon my head
And to my surprise, this is what he said,
“The problem is not your hair my child, your hair looks just fine
The problem is you are looking at your image, instead of looking for mine
And it doesn’t matter about the cut because I can cause your hair to grow
But it is my image child that you are meant to show
So stop fretting about your hair, your hair will be just fine
Just keep working to make sure that your image is looking more like mine
Till one day when you look in the mirror and take a long hard stare
The reflection that you see will be my own reflection there
And I can find no fault in the image that I see
’cause the mirror don’t lie about what’s looking back at me.”

(I Corin. 13:12 – Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.”)

 

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