THE SUPERFICIALITY OF THE WESTERN GOSPEL

Then he said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23).

The pathway to real discipleship goes through Luke 9:23. You cannot follow in the footsteps of the Master without the application of these words that flowed from the lips of Him who subjected Himself to the Heavenly Father in the same way.

In His earth walk Jesus presented Himself as a daily offering to the Father. This was the pattern He set. This was the key that unlocked the door to the room of fellowship Jesus experienced and enjoyed with the Father each and every day. And Jesus has called each of His followers up and into that room. Luke 9:23 is the door!

The cost to access the same room of fellowship Jesus accessed each day of His life is nothing short of full ownership. “And He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (2 Cor 5:15). It’s perfectly fine to love life (2 Pet 3:10) as long as it’s not your own life (John 12:25). There is a place of death and life where Christ reigns in the body.

What a lovely place to be in! From an earthly perspective and to the carnal mind this may seem like a grievous thing to deny yourself and take up your daily cross, but this is only because you have not fully understood the measure of hindrance your flesh has imposed upon the life of Christ within you. If you have only tasted the old wine you will not really know how much better the new wine is. Luke 9:23 is the doorway into the new wine of fellowship with the Trinity. Once you get in and you lose your life you will gain another. You will move from the natural into an amazing grace. The Spirit will begin to work a meekness of the Lamb of God into your soul.

If you want what is on the other side of the cross you’ve got to go through Luke 9:23. When you do, then love will transform you. The Spirit of God will begin to purge you of the things of the flesh and the blood of the Lamb will cleanse you. You will be more one with the Lord. This is the way to come into agreement with the perfect will of God. Anything less than this crucified walk will produce an unsanctified mixture of the flesh and worldliness in your soul that is not conducive to life in the Spirit.

The beginning of our transformation comes only when we come to the end of our own self-sufficiency. It is that ministry of death that leads to life. You, through the Spirit, must put the flesh to death daily for the flesh can never please God. Even Jesus had to spend nights alone with the Father to stay in that blessed place of submission. You can be a disappointment to the Lord if you become lukewarm and complacent and stay in a place where sin and the flesh have the ascendancy in your life. Be ever so watchful and careful of coming under the influence of a self-pleasing spirit where you draw back from a whole-hearted and complete devotion to Jesus.

You cannot bypass the cross. There are no shortcuts. There has been a general superficiality of the gospel in our culture that deceives us into believing that we can attain to great spiritual heights without going the route of Luke 9:23. If you believe this you are putting yourself above the Master (Mat 10:24-25).

Was it not Jesus who said that He could do nothing of Himself (John 5:19)? Was it not Jesus who said that He came not to do His own will, but the will of the Father (John 6:38)? Was it not Jesus who learned obedience even through the things which He suffered (Heb 5:8), becoming obedient even to the death of the cross (Phil 2:8)? Are we more than the Master? Are we better than He was in His earth walk? Are we not called to live as He lived and to follow in His steps (1 John 2:6, 1 Pet 2:21)?

Where are the signs of this cross-walk in the body of Christ? And where is the message of the cross in our gospel? Recently I heard of a major Christian media consultant who said that the reason for the lack of substance and weighty messages on Christian television today is because the average viewer doesn’t have an appetite for it. Most only have an appetite to hear how wonderful they are, and how rich and blessed they can become. If the cross were preached, viewers and funds would be lost. What are these money-minded ministries building? Telling people what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear is wood, hay, and stubble. This should fill our hearts with great sorrow as it does Jesus.

When a well-known minister was allowed by Jesus through a prophetic vision to speak to the apostle Paul, Paul said there were two things that the Church attained to in his time that they quickly lost and must be recovered today. “You must recover the ministry and the message.” Here is his explanation of that statement.

“Except for a few small places in the world where there is great persecution or difficulties now, we can hardly recognize either the ministry or the message that is being preached today. Therefore the Church is now but a phantom of what it was even in our time, and we were far from what we were called to be. When we served, being in the ministry was the greatest sacrifice that one could make, and this reflected the message of the greatest sacrifice that was made—the cross. The cross is the power of God, and it is the center of all that we are called to live by. You have so little power to transform the minds and hearts of the disciples now because you do not live, and do not preach the cross. Therefore, we have great difficulty seeing much difference between the disciples and the heathen. This is not the gospel or the salvation with which we were entrusted. You must return to the cross.” (Joyner, The Final Quest)

How relevant is this word of wisdom from the Lord for the hour we live in today! The Church needs to awaken and respond to such a word.

For more information on similar themes please see The Real Gospel, The Real Spirit of Revival, and The Journal of a Journey. http://www.amazon.com/Bert-M.-Farias/e/B001KDRLRG

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LOVE AND HATE

I am seeing a disturbing trend among many Christians today who are choosing to remain silent concerning the very important moral and cultural issues of our time, such as the war on traditional marriage. You’ve heard the saying, “all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing,” or something to that effect. In surveying these Christians, I have found that their refusal to be engaged in this cultural war, and to provide a clear witness of scripture and the gospel, boils down to one thing. They fear rejection and persecution. They fear being classified as hateful, bigoted, homophobic, or just plain nasty evangelical idiots.

There is no question we must demonstrate love in standing up for righteousness and truth and presenting the true gospel, especially when we confront the sins of our culture, but my concern is in how we’ve misinterpreted the expressions of love and hate. In order to truly love something you must hate something else. I love righteousness; therefore, I hate wickedness. I love life; therefore, I hate death. I love health and healing; therefore, I hate sickness and disease. I love Jesus Christ; therefore, I hate Satan. I love traditional marriage as God designed it; therefore, I hate gay/same-sex marriage.

I heard someone say so succinctly that this false concept of love as a sentiment of total acceptance, free of the ability to hate, is one of the most popular rationales for which many believers are abandoning the truth and authority of the Scriptures. The Bible tells us that the love of many believers will actually grow cold, not only because they are personally offended, but because of their desire not to offend others, and wanting to be accepted by all (Mat 24:12). Loving people is certainly a godly virtue, but not at the expense of hating truth and righteousness. The focus of what many call love today is based on accommodating people’s ungodly and sinful lifestyles, and even abominable behavior.

We are in the midst of a huge cultural war and a moral crisis, with homosexuality and gay rights at the center of it, but I believe the greater threat to society and the Church could be this false concept of love. There is such a militant aggression in our society today that is demanding people love and accept others. This new sentiment is shaping public policy and being used as a standard of morality in evaluating people’s behavior. Even many Christians are falling for it.

Recently I was reading the reviews of one of Dr. Dobson’s books on rearing children in the ways of the Lord. I was shocked at how many so called Christians were highly critical of his conservative stance on homosexuality and other issues of our times. Here is a small sample of these reviews:

“These extremists have no respect from me and I refuse to be a part of their hate based on some preacher’s interpretation of the Bible. I will only attend inclusive churches from now on. I’m taking a stand for equality and love. I’ll choose that over hate and bullying any day.”

“There are lots of words I’d use to describe this book and its author, but ‘practical’ is not one of them. Some words I would use would include: ‘bigoted,’ ‘homophobic,’ ‘insane,’ ‘illogical,’ ‘silly,’ ‘sexist,’ ‘Nazi-ish,’ and ‘stupid.’”

“This book is so offensive and filled with such hate….”

After reading many such reviews I realized that most of these readers were particularly offended by one chapter opposing homosexuality, which was based on the scriptures. And these critics were not gay! They were family people, in traditional marriages, and interested in receiving good instruction to raise their children the right way. Thus, the reason they purchased Dr. Dobson’s books.

We are living in a day of which the prophet Isaiah spoke of, “So truth fails, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey” (Isa 59:14).

One definition of prey is a person or thing that becomes the victim of a hostile person, or an influence, etc. True Christians will be increasingly victimized by a humanistic culture that deifies man and opposes God’s righteousness and truth. One who stands for God’s righteousness and truth in this hour will be persecuted, hated, and some may even be killed right here in America. Don’t worry, or be fearful, because we are in great company.

“You have loved righteousness and hated iniquity; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions” (Heb 1:9).

Jesus Christ loved righteousness and hated iniquity or evil. We must understand that it is impossible to love God’s righteousness without hating wickedness. A love for God and His righteousness is the foundation of true love. True love can never tolerate wickedness. To act indifferent toward evil and wickedness is proof of an absence of a love for righteousness in a person’s life. To say it another way, he who fails to hate wickedness has never known righteousness.

This godless philosophy that claims a love, respect, and tolerance for everyone without the ability to hate anything is paralyzing the bold witness of many professing Christians. People have become so objective that they can’t even be stirred to anger against the gross evils that have permeated our society. These are characteristics of a people whom the Bible speaks of as, “Professing to be wise they became fools” (Rom 1:22); and are “ever learning but never coming to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim 3:7).

Hating people is sin, but hate by itself is not sin. Hating righteousness is sin, but hating wickedness is a godly virtue. Hating God is sin, but hating the devil is not sin. It all depends on the object of your hatred.

Human love, which is sympathy, if not balanced with a hatred for evil and a true love for righteousness, disqualifies the Christian for battle in this cultural war. The perfect balance of love and hate can only function in Christ, and in those who truly belong to Him, and are a part of His kingdom. God’s love is capable of loving sinners without condoning their sin. Even wise parents know that to love their children requires them also to hate the evils that could damage them.

This is the reason I am not ashamed to say that I hate murder, lying, stealing, rape, adultery, fornication, pornography, abortion, and homosexuality – because they are evil.

Do not be afraid or intimidated by the word hate. In order to truly love we must truly hate. Be both a lover and a hater.

 

THE INVISIBLE JOURNEY OF JESUS

Many Christians who celebrate Passover and the death of Christ have no idea or understanding of the depths of what they are celebrating. Some only see the events surrounding Christ’s death, burial, resurrection, and ascension through a historical perspective. To them, these aspects are only a creed, a dogma, and a story whose realities are dimmed by a lack of revelation.

There are some awe-inspiring truths surrounding the death of Jesus Christ. In a real sense Jesus went through the same awful experience that a sinner must go through who dies without God. He became sin and was forsaken by God. When He died He did not ascend to heaven into the presence of the Father, but He descended into hades.

On the cross He told one of the criminals who was crucified beside Him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Lk 23:43). In Old Testament times paradise was known as Abraham’s bosom, which was situated in the heart of the earth. It was below, not above. Every Old Testament partriach, prophet, and king testified to this. “For I shall go down into the grave (hades) to my son in mourning”(Gen 37:35). It was only after the resurrection and the establishment of the New Covenant in Christ’s blood that Paradise was transferred or translocated to the third heaven. “And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows – how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter” (2 Cor 12:3-4).

When Jesus died, His spirit left His body and descended into the heart of the earth. The Bible says He also preached to the spirits in prison, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prisonwho formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waitedin the days of Noah…” (1 Pet 3:18-20). So first, Jesus told the criminal on the cross that he would be with him in paradise, and then here, it says that Jesus preached to the disobedient spirits in prison. In other words, it is pretty clear that Jesus Christ appeared and ministered in both compartments of hades.

If you will recall the account Jesus told in Luke 16 of the rich man and Lazarus, He spoke of those two compartments that were separated by a great gulf. Jesus was the first human being who was able to cross over into both of them. While there He seized the keys of hades and death. Oh glory to God!

“I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death” (Rev 1:18).

This verse is the reason Christ was able to go from one compartment of hades to the other. He could commune with the righteous where Abraham, Lazarus, and the Old Tesmament saints were, and He could cross over to the other compartment where the rich man and the disobedient spirits were. He overcame Satan and stripped him of his authority and took back the keys of hades and death. This is why I shout!

After three days when Jesus Christ finally ascended He led captivity captive. In other words, He didn’t ascend alone. He took the captives who were in the righteous compartment of hades and ascended up with them into the presence of God in the third heaven where paradise now was.

Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men. (Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)” (Eph 4:8-10).

But before ascending into the immediate presence of God He made a stop on the earth and displayed His marvelous wisdom and grace. He not only announced His resurrection and ascension to Mary (John 20:17), commissioning her to go and tell His other disciples the great and joyful news, but many other Old Testament saints also arose with Him and came out of their graves. Then they went into Jerusalem and appeared to many. Hallelujah!!!

“Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many” (Mat 27:51-53).

This is spectacular!!! The whole story must be told. Now at death all believers ascend immediately into the presence of God. Hell and death have been defeated! We are free!!!

In the light of Christ’s invisible journey, perhaps now these words of Paul will have deeper meaning:

“So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting?O Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 15:54-55).

As we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, let us remember the reality of these events. And that is why I don’t look for the Easter bunny and hunt for Easter eggs.

Christ has risen!!!

   

 

THE MINISTRY OF DIVINE AUTHORITY (Part 2)

I believe that much of what the Lord is doing today is completely counter to Christian pop culture and the flow that we are seeing in the Western Church. It is typical in such times that there will be a counterfeit that runs parallel to the real. There will be an echo arise right alongside the authentic voice. Some of these echos are very deceptive and hidden from the casual hearer, while others are rather obvious and easy to discern. For instance, there’s a false teaching out there that says we don’t need to repent – that God has forgiven all your past, present, and future sins. Yet there’s never been a greater need for repentance than today.

In a recent poll done by ChristianMingle.com, single Christians between the ages of 18-59 were asked, if given the opportunity, would they have sex before marriage. A whopping 63% stated that they would. How does that happen? It’s simple. They’ve never repented of their sins and experienced true conversion. A majority of them belong to a church culture that is perhaps trendy and popular, but has no interest in fulfilling the demands of Christ. Many of them serve an American Jesus  who lets them live as they please, and of course will never judge them. Amidst all of the frentic religious activity going on today we need the ability to recognize the real Jesus, the Lamb of God.

In John 3, John the Baptist who was filled with the spirit and power of Elijah, and who ministered with Divine authority, declared, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” Then he declared again, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” John’s ministry was for the purpose of exalting the Lamb of God and preparing a people for Him, a bride for the bridegroom.

“He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice.” (John 3:29)

Those who are true friends of the Bridegroom hear His voice, not an echo. The voice of His messengers, who are filled with the spirit and power of Elijah, will point people to the Lamb of God, not to their own ministries and agendas. John the Baptist was a voice crying in the wilderness. The entirety of his ministry was focused on the Lamb and His bride.

If a ministry is not pointing people to the One who was, and is, and is to come it will be judged harshly in this hour. Those who are exalting the Lamb of God have no interest in being seen or heard. They are not looking for a platform to promote themselves. The things that denote ministerial success in our day, such as large buildings, large followings, and popularity are of no interest to the true messengers of the Lamb. Actually, the Lord is leading ministers right now to do the opposite of what it takes to build a large ministry. He is stripping away human wisdom and all we’ve utilized in our own efforts to build things.

The Ephesians 4:11 gifts are to equip the saints for service and to prepare a bride for the Bridegroom, or a wife for the Lamb. There is a ministry of Divine authority whose mission and purpose is to turn hearts back to the Lord. A people are being made ready.

One of the great emphases of the Lord in this hour is on the preparation of His bride. There must be a distinction made between the church and the bride of Christ. This is more than a salvation issue. It is more about the Lord possessing our vessels for His eternal purposes. This is the spirit and power of Elijah that was upon John the Baptist, and would also be a characteristic of those who would minister before His second coming (Mal 4:5-6). God’s invitation is to everyone, but that invitation demands a a dedication and a consecration. Counting the cost and paying the price are no longer terms we hear today in the marketplace of Western Christianity, but this language is found everywhere in the Scriptures.

It is time to wake up the sleeping church! She can be awakened kindly with a kiss or be shaken with the Lord’s severity. It’s our choice. If we put it off to the future it will demand His shakings, which often come in the form of tests and trials, or a crisis that will expose our pride and crooked ways. Whole-heartedness is what the Lord is after.

I find the Scriptural reference to Jesus as the Lamb of God very rare until we get to the book of Revelation. There the Lamb is referenced 27 times. That is more than the entire New Testament combined. It was the revelation of the Lamb that ushered in His first coming, and it is that same revelation that will usher in the end of the age. Let’s get ready!

“Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” (Rev 19:7)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE MINISTRY OF DIVINE AUTHORITY

(BITTERSWEET TIMES ARE AHEAD)

Joseph prepared for 7 years of famine during the 7 years of prosperity. And so there is a time of preparation we’ve been in now for some time. The divine delay of the disciplinary judgments of the Lord is being lifted on our nation as the ministry of Divine authority begins.

What is this ministry of Divine authority? In the times of Elijah we see this ministry in manifestation in the spirit and power of Elijah as he stood on Mount Carmel and contested with the false prophets of Baal. The fire fell and consumed the sacrifice along with the wood, stones, dust, and even the water. This mighty manifestation caused the people to fall on their faces and declare the Lord as God.

“Now when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, ‘The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!” (1 Kings 18:39)

We see this ministry of Divine authority exercised in the days of Moses as he stretched forth his rod and the Red Sea swallowed up and drowned the Egyptian armies. The results of this ministry of Divine authority are noted in Exodus 14:31:

“Thus Israel saw the great work which the Lord had done in Egypt; so the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord and His servant Moses.”

This ministry of Divine authority administered in the spirit and power of Elijah will be seen again. Its purpose is always redemptive – to bring forth true repentance and cause the hearts of the people to turn to the Lord.

We are in the infantile stages of the release of the spirit and power of Elijah in the ministry of Divine authority. This will include a worldwide company of men and women who have been summoned by the Lord to be His messengers.

In the times of Moses and Elijah great severity was necessary to turn the hearts of the people back to the Lord. Often people quote the scripture in Romans 2:4, properly stating that it is the goodness or kindness of the Lord that leads to repentance. But when the Lord’s goodness does not lead to repentance then He is forced to move us into the realm of Divine severity.

Too many people have taken the Lord’s goodness to further their pleasurable, worldly, and even sinful lifestyles. Therefore, for the sake of their salvation and perseverance of their souls the Lord has to administer His severity.

And so we will see both the manifestation of the goodness and severity of God side by side in the days ahead. Bittersweet times are upon us. We will choose our own medicine. These things will come with great cost and great loss to many as well as great glory and victory to others.

How do we recognize this ministry of Divine authority? And how do we prepare?

Stay tuned for Part 2 in our next blog.