A NATION SAVING WORD: PERHAPS THE MOST IMPORTANT ARTICLE I’VE WRITTEN IN 2017

The future of America is an uncertain one. That old crafty serpent, the devil, has slithered his way into the core of our culture and is busy eroding the moral values that once made our nation great. America is no longer great because she is no longer good.

A nation that outlaws the mention of God in the public square, celebrates the killing of its own children and destroys the most basic unit of society, the family, cannot survive much longer. I’m afraid that unless there is major heartfelt repentance and the glory of God is restored to the church, she will have to go underground, and our children and grandchildren will be living in a very different America than our ancestors knew.

A recent Barna poll divides Americans into four religious categories, measuring their percentages of the American population:

Evangelical Christians (6 percent)

Non-evangelical born-again Christians (25 percent)

Notional or Mythical Christians (42 percent)

Adherents of non-Christian faiths (6 percent)

Religious skeptics (23 percent)

A most shocking belief system has been uncovered in the significant number of non-evangelical “born-again” Christians, which represents one quarter of the American population, or approximately 81 million people. This group claims to have made “a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today, and believe that when they die they will go to heaven because they’ve confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior.”

Sounds right, doesn’t it? They differ, however, from the 6-percent evangelicals in these areas:

They do not believe all Scripture is inspired of God.
They do not believe in the existence of Satan as a real being.
They do not believe that Jesus lived a sinless life and that salvation is only through Him, but that other religions also lead to God.
They do not believe it is their personal responsibility to share their faith.

These are people who claim to be born again! If Barna’s research is accurate this is quite shocking. Those in this category are a great liability in the church and in our nation. They are like a sore in the eye. They are a virus in our immune system. They are a bacterial infection in the bloodstream of Christianity. They are imaginary, delusional, cosmic “Christians” who live in a make-believe spiritual world.

We can understand the other religious categories of people whose belief systems are grossly skewed. We certainly don’t expect the skeptics, and those from other religions—even the substantial number of notional Christians, many of them from very liberal mainline denominational churches, to be any kind of asset to the true church of Jesus Christ. But the 25 percent who lay claim to a born-again experience but do not adhere to the basic and elementary tenets of the Christian faith are like a cancer in the church. A significant change in them would mean a significant change in our nation.

How do we explain the existence of this substantially large group, four times larger than the evangelical group, who believe they’ve obtained salvation and the hope of heaven, all without a spiritually and biblically sound belief system? Their denial of the most foundational Christian concepts of the faith such as the inspiration and authority of Scripture calls into question the very basis of their salvation.

WANT TO GO TO HEAVEN BUT CLOSER TO HELL

Are they really born again? Are they really going to heaven? What is their basis for going to heaven? If you asked them, they would probably say one of two things:

  1. I’m a good person. I don’t hurt anyone. I support many charities and humanitarian projects. I help old ladies cross the street, and I’ve never killed anyone (I’m sure in eternity the angels and the greatest of saints will praise them for exercising such kindness and self-restraint). Fine and well and dandy they claim to do these things, but many atheists and agnostics do the same.
  2.  I believe in God. But even the demons believe (James 2:19). These people’s belief is a passive acknowledgement of God with no fruit or life change. To them, heaven is a reward for their intellectual assent of God’s existence, but there’s no fruit of real heart change in their lives.

This 25 percent categorical group reassures themselves that they believe in God and are good people. They believe heaven is guaranteed and never even consider the possibility that they are closer to hell. What evidence is there in their nature that they even want to go to heaven? A general mental belief and acknowledgement of God without a love for Him is empty and useless.

Frankly, this group is further from heaven than an atheist, who at least are true to their godless belief system. Conversely, these people mentally acknowledge God, but don’t love Jesus, His Son. They don’t do what He says, which is proof they don’t love Him (Luke 6:46; John 14:15). To this category of people, heaven is like some kind of token or plaything little children receive as a prize for good behavior in kindergarten.

HEAVEN IS FOR THOSE WHO ARE ENJOYING JESUS RIGHT NOW

Heaven is for those who are enjoying Jesus right now, not for those who treat Him as only an incidental part of their existence and who relegate Him to an insignificant role in their lives. If Christ is not even close to being the primary pursuit and chief joy of your life here on the earth, how can you be ready to go to a place where He is the only joy throughout all eternity?

This 25 percent professing “born-again” group imagine heaven to be some sort of vacation resort of self-centered pleasure—a place where they watch the latest Netflix or Hallmark movies, play sports in the holy city where all the saints can admire their talents and eat the most mouth-watering, sumptuous food served by angels. It’s a fantasy paradise which draws its beliefs from shallow earthly concepts that falsely tell us that heaven is a self-indulgent kind of place that caters to our own happiness. What a narcissistic concept that includes no love and burning longing for Jesus!

If in your earthly life you don’t love Jesus, you don’t love to pray, share your faith, read the Bible with the intent to obey it, and go to a church that teaches it, what makes you think you are ready for heaven? If you find pleasure in sin and carnal pursuits now and wander to places where evil passions reign, and you detest preaching and conversations of Jesus, and are only stimulated by what is selfish and secular—do you really expect to enjoy heaven, where Jesus is the beauty and fascination of our existence forever?

BIGGEST PROBLEM IN AMERICA

Here’s what I believe is the biggest problem in our nation: The curse of our nation is the presentation of the “free gift” dimension of the gospel without the Lordship factor and the surrender and submission component. It’s the gospel on our own terms. This contemporary gospel is a huge factor in the moral erosion of our culture, especially as it relates to social issues. Among the number of non-evangelical professing “born-again” Christians, only slightly more than 50 percent identify as social conservatives, and even that number is suspect, based on recent elections. Additionally, on the abortion issue, 37 percent are not pro-life, and 27 percent advocate gay rights. Remember, these are the people who claim to be born again and who say they are good people and never hurt anyone. The absence of a true moral compass in their lives is glaring. The salt has lost its savor. The light they claim to have is great darkness.

Although there is a godly, committed remnant that is alive and well in our nation, imagine if just this 25 percent group presented and practiced a gospel that included a solid commitment to Christ and biblical values, how much more faith would be interjected into the American culture? Visualize how different of a nation America would be.

TOO MANY EQUATE REPENTANCE WITH UNHAPPINESS

There is a destructive mindset in professing carnal Christians today that is at the root of this great deception and keeps them from going “all in” for Jesus.

They believe that there can be no real enjoyment in life if they stop sinning and pursuing happiness and carnal pleasures. They honestly believe that life would be a killjoy if they repented. These people do not seem to realize that the person who has truly repented has no desire to sin, and that the grace of God changes a person’s desires and empowers him to live for Christ. It is an inward transformation. That’s the miracle of salvation.

I dare to say that if the desire to sin is still in the heart of a professing Christian then he has not yet tasted of the real salvation. New life has not yet begun. Regeneration has not taken place.

Listen to the voice of one of the great revivalists of the past:

“Christianity does not make the believer unhappy by keeping him away from the sinful things he loved because the believer has changed his opinion on those things.” —Charles G. Finney

Finney defined repentance as a change of the ultimate preference or choice of the soul and of action. He taught that repentance is a change of will, feeling and of life in respect toward God. Finney believed that true repentance involves more of the person’s will and conscience than his natural feelings. Feelings are involuntary and have no moral character except what they derive from the action and the will. He would admonish sinners to submit and commit their entire being to God at once, obey their conscience and the feelings would soon follow (for more on this theme refer to the following books: The Real Gospel, The Real Salvation and The Real Jesus).

The spirit of repentance is the missing ingredient in much of the American church and in our society that will save us and restore the glory of the Lord in our lives, our churches, and in our land.

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A WORD TO PREACHERS: YOU BETTER START BUILDING FOR THE STORM

A storm is coming. The torrential rains shall fall. The waters shall rise. The floods shall sweep away all wood, hay, and stubble. The violent winds will blow away all that was built irresponsibly.

Are you building your house on the rock or on the sand?

Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall” (Mt. 7:24-27).

“What sayings of Mine” is Jesus specifically referring to in these passages? Reading in context, Jesus began a lengthy teaching from Mt. 5-7  and the central theme of it seems to be the character of the heart of man – from the beatitudes, to loving our enemies, to having the right motives in giving, praying, and fasting. Then He goes on to teach them about the Father’s care for them and not worrying but seeking first the kingdom of God. Finally, Jesus comes to the end of that teaching and speaks about hypocrisy and righteous judgment and reverting back to heart matters followed by a warning of false prophets and those who call Him Lord but don’t do His will. This entire teaching is traditionally  known as the Sermon on the Mount, and it ends with the parable of the wise and foolish builders.

This was one of Jesus’ first and most foundational teachings. It set the tone for His public ministry. As ministers that is important for us to know. We must emphasize what Jesus emphasized. These sayings prepared the people and His disciples for what was to come. Herein we find the standard of Jesus’ life and ministry for all He did and taught. The heart must be right or nothing else will be right. If the heart is not right people won’t do what He says. We must build our lives on Jesus’ words, especially these first words of the first lengthy sermon He preached.

STORMS TEST THE STRENGTH OF THE FOUNDATION

Jesus was the Master Builder. When it comes to building people He is our primary example and pattern. The apostle Paul refers to God’s people as God’s field and God’s building (1 Cor. 3:9), and he calls all ministers his fellow laborers who plant and water the field, and who are to build on the foundation of Jesus Christ.

The image of the people as a building under construction is very interesting because it highlights the responsibility of ministers to be faithful in how they build. Ministers are like building contractors who are only permitted to build on the prescribed foundation (see 1 Cor. 3:12-15). There are both wise builders and foolish builders (Mt. 7:24-27). To build on the foundation a building of durable material (gold, silver, and precious stones) means not only to teach sound doctrine but even more importantly, to be a godly example and live a sanctified life of fidelity to the truth, thus helping to mature the saints. Ministers and especially pastors/shepherds, because they live with the people, teach more by their life example perhaps than anything else.

On the other hand, to build with perishable material (wood, hay, and stubble) is to provide inadequate or unsound teaching or to compromise the truth by living a lifestyle that contradicts or falls short of modeling it. It is the quality of every builder’s work and not the quantity, as seems to be much of the focus today, that shall be tested by fire, for which every builder shall give account to the Lord.

In Jesus’ parable (Mt. 7:24-27) He uses a storm, signifying the pressures, hardships, and trials of life, as well as the persecutions we will suffer for the gospel, as a measuring gauge for how solid our foundation is. And what is our foundation based upon? Jesus taught us that it is based upon doing His sayings. Obedience is the issue. “For not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father (v. 21).” Obedience is what God requires, not lip service.

Have you ever thought about what gives us the strength and fuel to obey God? Why are some people obedient and some are not? Why are some doers of the Word and some are not? Why do some people stay faithful to God and remain true while others do not? Why do some start this Christian race but never finish? What is it that causes us to endure to the end (Mt. 24:13)?

It is the fear of the Lord.  Obedience to the Lord is not only proof of your love for Him (Jn. 14:21), but also of your fear of Him. There’s been an emphasis on love, although we’ve fallen short of the full counsel of God in that area, too, but there has not been nearly as much of an emphasis on the fear of the Lord. It takes both of them to produce a strong constitution in your Christian life. Notice in the following two different translations how the love of obedience in Jesus was rooted in the fear of the Lord. They are identical. Or a better way to say it would be that the manifestation of the fear of the Lord is obedience to His Word and His sayings/commandments.

“His delight is in the fear of the Lord…” (Is. 11:3 – NKJ).

“He will delight in obeying the Lord…” (Is. 11:3 – NLT).

I love this verse of Scripture. It feeds and fuels the fear of the Lord in me and the delight to obey Him. This is our sure foundation. Since our obedience is the manifestation of the fear of the Lord in our lives, and since that is the difference between building your house on the rock or on the sand, we then could say that the fear of the Lord is what builds a strong foundation for our houses, which represent our lives. The fear of the Lord produces durable materials in our lives that will strengthen us to stand even in the midst of the storms. Can you see that?

A house is built by wisdom, and the fear of the Lord is the beginning or the foundation of wisdom/knowledge. Once again, a house represents our lives, homes, families.

“Through [skillful and godly] wisdom a house [a life, a home, a family] is built, and by understanding it is established [on a sound and good foundation]” (Pr. 24:3 – Amp.).

“Wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord…” (Pr. 1:7 -CEB).

“Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge…” (Pr. 1:7 – NLT).

If we build our lives and homes on the true wisdom and knowledge of God that comes from the foundation of the fear of the Lord then we need not fear the storm because we will stand.

PAUL’S GREAT DESIRE

One of the apostle Paul’s greatest burdens was this very thing, that the people He ministered to would stand firm in their faith and remain obedient to God even in the midst of the troubles and persecutions of his day. Other New Testament writers shared the same burden.

Paul’s great desire was that the people he taught would not falter under pressure lest his work be useless or his labor be in vain. Notice his great concern for the Thessalonian saints (1 Thes. 3:1-9). He had warned them of the troubles that would soon come. In his farewell speech to the Ephesian elders he warned them of the same troubles (Acts 20:25-31). To the Galatians and the Hebrews he did the same, warning them not to turn back to the Law. He was preparing them for the storm and the persecution they would receive from preaching the cross and paying the price to follow Jesus. Warnings are such a large part of the Scriptural admonition that Paul and the other New Testament writers gave to the churches. Today there is a glaring absence of these warnings in our preaching.

WARNINGS

Here are many I found in the New Testament:

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves” (Mt. 7:15).

“But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues” (Mt. 10:17).

“Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name saying, ‘I am the Christ’, and will deceive many” (Mt. 24:4-5).

“Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many, and because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved” (Mt. 24:11-13).

“For false Christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive if possible, even the elect” (Mt. 24:24).

Then He said to them in His teaching, “Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation” (Mk. 12:38-40).

“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (Lk. 12:1).

“Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Lk. 12:15).

“For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears” (Acts 20:29-31).

“Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor. 6:9).

“Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).

“But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (1 Cor. 11:3).

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap” (Gal. 6:7).

“Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 5:6).

“Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation” (Phil. 3:2).

“For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ” (Phil. 3:18).

“Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man…” (Col. 1:28).

“Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Col. 2:8).

“Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1 Tim. 4:16).

“Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the law and every act of disobedience was punished. So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation… (Heb. 2:1-3).

“Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it” (Heb. 4:1).

“Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure” (2 Pet. 1:10).

“You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked” (2 Pet. 3:17).

Fellow minister and preacher, how well are you preparing yourself and your people for the storm? Are you teaching them the whole counsel of God or catering to itching ears? Are you including the warnings in your preaching? Are you preaching on only the goodness and mercy of God or do you also preach on His severity, wrath, and judgments? Are you only preaching on the love of God or do you place emphasis on His holiness, too? Do you ever preach on sin and repentance? Are your concepts of the love of God and the grace of God accurate and in accordance with Scripture?

If not, then you may be guilty of the blood of men.

I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God… Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears(Acts 20:26-27, 31).

Make sure you are preparing yourselves and those whom God has entrusted to you for the storm. Oh, how much stronger our churches would be if we included these things in our preaching and teaching and living them out before the people!

To be continued…

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HAVE YOU EVER HEARD THE CRY OF THE LORD?

My last few blogs have been birthed from a dream I recently had about Jesus not just being a Savior but a Judge also. It is a word from the Lord on God’s judgments, and this is my purpose in sharing it:

“Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others. God knows we are sincere, and I hope you know this, too” (2 Cor. 5:11 – NLT).

As a minister of the gospel I have a fearful responsibility not only to live out my own calling and walk worthy of it, but to share the whole counsel of God with people in order to persuade them to also submit their entire being to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. A great preacher from the last century spoke these words from his deathbed: “I’ve taken a good look into eternity and if I could preach again, how differently I would preach!”

I don’t want to fall short of preaching the reality of eternal things. When you receive revelation from the Lord it can seem like you’ve been to heaven or hell and returned to tell about it.

Much of what Christians hear today is devoid of the whole concept of Judgment because they think God will just wipe away our petty foolishness and overlook our sin and disobedience, when the truth is that many professing Christians today are in direct rebellion with God’s Word. When we look the other way as churches and preachers embrace dangerous doctrines and worldly lifestyles over the Word, we are guilty of losing our saltiness and allowing the darkness to spread without shining the light of God on it.

TRUE AND FALSE JUDGMENT

As one example, how can professing Christians continue to vote for immoral leaders in our government because they seem nice, while at the same time rejecting the upright because they are faithful and true to the Word? How could the people of Alabama in this past week’s election choose a radical abortionist and aggressive same sex marriage proponent over one of the finest constitutionalists and Bible believers that has run for office in the last 50 years? And to add insult to irresponsibility, call him an idiot and a child molester! — believing the reports of the ungodly media and their scandalous propaganda and smear campaign over God’s Word and their own conscience.

When professing Christians do this they show forth no judgment and no discernment. The same thing happened with the Obama presidency. How could so many  professing Christians have voted for the most anti-Biblical, anti-Israel, anti-morality president our nation has ever had? How could so many vote party over principle? Race over righteousnesss? Money over morality? Something is terribly wrong with their judgment. The lack of the holy fear of the Lord and a respect for God’s Word has left them void of true judgment and darkened their discernment.

We need to understand something about God’s judgments. His judgments are not meant to either condemn or justify. They are meant to bring us into agreement with God through His truth and righteousness. God is raising up judges (ministers who preach the whole counsel of God) in this hour to bring the people of God into true union with Him. Our nation is under judgment for this very reason. But judgment begins in the house of God with teachers and all ministers receiving the stricter end of it (Jam. 3:1).

Read Romans 1. See what happens to a people who suppress the truth in unrighteousness (v. 18). God eventually gives them over to uncleanness, vile passions, and a debased mind (v. 24, 26, and 28). You might object and say, “these verses are speaking of homosexuality! But notice v. 32.

“who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.” 

When you vote for public officials who approve of same sex marriage you are operating with no judgment out of a debased mind.

The Church is in a mess today because she does not know Jesus as the Lord and Judge. “Lord” is a word we say, but it does not mean Supreme Ruler over our lives. “Judge” is a word we avoid because we think it’s not love, and we defend it with our “thou-shalt-not-judge” mantra. But Jesus is the righteous Judge, and the Father has committed all judgment to Him.

“For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son” (Jn. 5:22).

You cannot come into agreement with God unless you know His ways and His heart – both His goodness and severity, His love and holiness, His mercy and judgment. There is a present level of deception today mostly because we are not familiar with His judgments.

BLINDED SO WE CAN SEE

We must be blinded to our own reasonings, concepts, and traditions before we can see as the Lord sees. Saul of Tarsus had to be blinded by that bright light on the road to Damascus and remain so for three days before He finally could see (both naturally, but mainly spiritually) (Acts 9). As it was initially with Saul, so it will be with us. His own reasonings and religious traditions led him into direct conflict with the Lord’s plans and purposes. What Saul hated, persecuted, and opposed he would now learn to love and cherish.

“Who are You, Lord and what do You want me to do?” was Saul’s first response to the Light. His falsehood and opposition to Jesus Christ were totally exposed, before he surrendered to His Lordship. He had to be blinded to his own reasonings before he could see. In His light we see light (Ps, 36:9). I believe that walking in the light of God’s Word and His judgments is the greatest present need in the body of Christ in this hour.

WALKING BEFORE THE JUDGMENT SEAT IS A BIG PART OF WALKING IN THE LIGHT

When you walk on this earth before the Judgment Seat of Christ you will walk in complete transparency and exposure. This is the beginning of true holiness without which no man can see the Lord (Heb. 12:14). It’s a sure safeguard against deception. Knowing that every one of your thoughts, words, motives, and deeds will be revealed at the Judgment Seat of Christ will give you freedom to live on the earth as you would in heaven. It is only when you hide from the Lord and His judgments that places a veil over your eyes, to hide Him and His truth and righteousness from you. Full transparency and exposure is required to maintain an intimate walk with Him and operate in His righteous judgments.

The first and greatest commandment will purge you of all false motives and keep your heart pure.

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. (Mt. 22:37-40)

“Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets (Mt. 7:12).

Love is the greatest expression and value of the kingdom of God. But notice the expression “the Law and the Prophets”. The Law judges you by your deeds. The Prophets judge you by  your heart’s motives. The greatest function of the prophet’s ministry is to turn people’s hearts and their motives toward the Lord. All God’s judgments are based on your motives first. If it’s not true love then it won’t pass His judgments. Nothing is hidden from Him to whom we must give account.

THE FEAR OF THE LORD

“And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Heb. 4:13).

Notice the expression, “To whom we must give account”. That is the attitude by which we must live that keeps us seeing and walking in the light of His judgments.

We can’t compare our devotion to others but must ever keep the Word as our personal mirror and standard. What should matter to you is not what others think, for that will keep you walking in the fear of man, which will cloud your judgment. What should matter to you is what Jesus thinks and sees when your eyes will finally meet His at the Judgment Seat. Personally, I fear regret more than anything else. My aim is not to disappoint the Lord but to please Him. This is what is known as the fear of the Lord. Read the following verses real slowly:

Therefore, whether we are at home [on earth] or away from home [and with Him], it is our [constant] ambition to be pleasing to Him. For we [believers will be called to account and] must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be repaid for what has been done in the body, whether good or bad [that is, each will be held responsible for his actions, purposes, goals, motives—the use or misuse of his time, opportunities and abilities]. Therefore, since we know the fear of the Lord [and understand the importance of obedience and worship], we persuade people [to be reconciled to Him]” (1 Cor. 5:9-11 – Amp.)

What an incredible verse of Scripture! The fear of the Lord will be known fully at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Therefore, you could say that the Judgment Seat is the fear of the Lord. It’s the same thing. The beginning of true wisdom on the earth is to walk in this holy fear (Pr. 1:7).

To know the fear of the Lord is God’s passionate desire for man even as far back as the Old Testament.

“Oh, that they would always have hearts like this, that they might fear me and obey all my commands! If they did, they and their descendants would prosper forever” (Dt. 5:29).

Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord (Ps. 34:11).

The fear of the Lord should also be our passionate desire.

“Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name (Ps. 86:11).

THE CRY OF THE LORD

Here is my narrative of what is happening now and the time of awakening that we are in:

The Groom is running desperately through the streets looking for His Bride, but most do not recognize Him or know Him. The Groom weeps as He did over Jerusalem long ago because they missed the time of their visitation (Lk. 19:41-44). It was shortly after this that Jesus went into the temple and cleansed it (v.45-46). This is what the Lord is doing now in preparation for His glory and His coming. That is the cry I am hearing that is greater than any cry because much of His Church is not ready for Him and do not recognize Him. And why don’t those who confess His Name recognize Him? Why aren’t they ready for Him?

It is because His prophets and priests have lulled His Bride to sleep by teaching them these false concepts of love and grace that allows them to do what they want and live how they want. Islam and Isis and the liberal humanists are rising in a warrior-like spirit while much of the church sleeps. Jesus is returning for a glorious Bride that is adorned with holiness with neither spot or wrinkle or any other blemish – blameless and without fault (Eph. 5:27). He is returning for a Bride who has zero tolerance for sin. He’s returning for a Bride with such a burning love for Him that she will take her heel and slam it into the serpent’s head and crush it.

I see Jesus riding on a horse with His sword wherein is written “truth and righteousness”. He will take the lampstands from the prophets and priests lest they repent of failing to teach His Bride the full counsel of God and sincere obedience, which is the essence of true worship and the fruit of the fear of the Lord.

Time is running out. Repent and renounce all sin and disobedience. Make Jesus your Lord now and walk in the light of His Word and judgments. Therein is the prosperity of all of God’s true servants and their descendants now and forever.

ABSENCE OF FEAR OF GOD CAUSING MANY TO DRIFT

I remember as a child learning to float on my back in the water at a beach we frequented in the summertime. After floating for a few minutes I’d look around and realize that I had drifted quite a distance from where I first started. The gentle motion of the ocean waves had caused me to drift.

I find this concept to be true in the Christian life as well. There is a spiritual drifting that occurs when we don’t maintain a strong and close communion with the Lord and feed on the full counsel of His Word.  You will begin accepting what popular elevated teachers in the Christian marketplace teach you instead of what the Bible actually says. It will become easier for you to swallow erroneous teachings – fables, fads, and popular trends in Christendom. And worse of all, you’ll slip into sin, worldliness,  and compromise a little at a time, and before you know it, you’ll be flirting with darkness and activities that you never thought you would engage in again.

The writer of Hebrews exhorts us:

So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it” (Heb. 2:1). 

The exhortation here is to listen very carefully to the truth and not to turn our ears away from it like many are doing today. What is the warning that is attached to this exhortation? It is the  prospect of eternal punishment for our disobedience.

“For the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the law and every act of disobedience was punished. So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak?” (Heb. 2:2-3)

Now the issue with the Hebrew Christians was the danger of reverting back to Judaism and the Law, so Paul appeals to them in that light. Apostasy was the big issue. Drifting away from the things we’ve heard is drifting toward apostasy, and we definitely don’t want any part of what the Bible states will happen in these last days.

BACK TO MY DREAM AND WHAT THE LORD TOLD ME

In a recent blog I shared the dream I just had where I was speaking passionately to someone about Jesus, and of Him not just being a Savior, but a Judge also. And then in the dream I heard myself say these words: “There’s not enough judges in the Church”. I woke up knowing I’d heard a word from the Lord He wanted me to speak and write on.

The apostle Paul acted as a judge in the early Church when he stated: “For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present…”(1 Cor. 5:3). A man was cohabitating with his father’s wife (his stepmother), and Paul was disappointed that the Church had not judged the matter.

“For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? (v. 12)”

What was lacking in Corinth? Why did they fail to judge this matter? In a word, they did not have a healthy fear of the Lord operating in that community of believers and its elders. They did not know Jesus as the Judge. They did not consider the Lord’s judgments or the eternal punishment the offender might receive. So what did Paul command the Church to do? He told them to turn him over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh so that he might repent before he drifts too far and receives the just penalty of eternal punishment. The purpose was not vindictive but redemptive, so his soul could be saved (v. 4-5). They judged the matter, and later this man did repent and return to the Lord.

ETERNAL JUDGMENT IS A DOCTRINE OF CHRIST AND HOLINESS IS A MAJOR THEME

I have found that having this foundation of His judgments in your life is what cultivates the true fear of the Lord. Believers think it’s deep when you speak about the Lord’s judgments, but it’s actually  one of the principle doctrines of Christ (Heb. 6:1-2). The Word calls it milk (Heb. 5:12-13). It’s one of the first things new believers are supposed to learn. Yet it’s a missing theme in most of the Church. Why? Because we have substituted our own contemporary gospel for the the gospel that Jesus and the apostles preached. As a result, the Church is full of false converts. We avoid such themes as God’s eternal judgments, holiness, repentance, and the like. Those things are too negative and they minister death and condemnation, not life. That is what many Christians actually believe and will tell you. But the Bible is full of warnings and exhortations such as the aforementioned that need to be emphasized, especially in this day of such moral degradation that is nearing collapse.

Years ago the Lord dealt with me about writing and speaking more on what He called ‘lost themes’, or discarded and understated important truths in the body of Christ (several books I’ve written since then major on this word). As one example, the Lord said there was a diabolical silence on true holiness that is causing many to fall back into sin and compromise and a lackadaisical walk with God. Well, what is it that works holiness into your life? It’s the fear of the Lord! That is another understated theme that runs throughout the Bible.

“Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Cor. 7:1).

The fear of the Lord is not a mere fear of His punishment for our disobedience, although that is a part of it,  but a holy reverence and wholesome dread of displeasing Him. It is to be the controlling motive of the true Christian’s life. It is the key component that perfects holiness in us. Holiness is an apostolic theme that runs through the entire New Testament and letters to the churches. How have we missed that?

And what is it that nurtures the fear of the Lord in your life? It’s the judgments of God or what is known as one of the 6 principles doctrines of Christ – eternal judgment. Repentance from dead works is another one of the doctrines of Christ. How do we not emphasize that? Today repentance is somehow a dirty word, but it is a foundational doctrine.

Did you know that the judgment Seat of Christ is also called the fear of the Lord?

We will continue on this theme next time…stay tuned.

DO YOU SERVE THE REAL JESUS OR THE AMERICANIZED JESUS?

That’s quite a compelling question, isn’t it? It’s kind of like asking how much of Christ is in your Christianity. Take Christmas, as an example. I think many of us would agree that Christmas has become so commercialized that Christ is hardly noticed, much less celebrated and revered. Easter would be in the same category. How in the world a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ could’ve ever evolved into an affinity with Easter bunnies and Easter eggs I’ll never know. Such is the tenuous nature of idolatry.

Is it possible for Jesus Christ to be lost in Christianity, the very religion whose name it bears and professes? We know that without a relationship with Christ, just another religion is all that remains. We also know from scripture that someone can profess to know Christ but in works actually deny Him (Titus 1:16). But isn’t it also true that in works many may profess to know Him, but in authentic heart knowledge they do not?

Here’s a quick contrast:

The Biblical Jesus warns us of sin, judgment, and hell, but the Americanized Jesus never says anything negative.

The Biblical Jesus gives you salvation, hope, peace, and joy, but the Americanized Jesus gives you happiness, wealth, and sentimental feelings.

The Biblical Jesus brings division when necessary, but the Americanized Jesus promotes unity and tolerance at all costs.

Would you agree that Jesus was perfect in all ways? Yet His perfect love made some people angry. It brought a strange kind of trauma into their lives. His words disturbed and unsettled many and even caused riots. That’s because His love was a holy love. And holiness always repels the carnal mind and makes people hostile. Jesus was perfect in love and yet they killed Him for it. Such is the spirit that’s in the world and in the religious church. Holiness always provokes hatred and makes proud people mad, while ministering resurrection life and a fragrance to the humble.

THE AROMA OF CHRIST

I’ve been around persecuted Christians and have received much from their spirit. When you are around someone who suffers, there is an aroma of Christ that pervades the very atmosphere. The Western Church must cultivate this holy quality, but it can’t be done until we understand meekness, brokenness, and suffering – all qualities of the real Jesus, the Lamb of God. Sentimental love, so common in Western nations, rooted in the fear of man, will never possess those qualities. Listen to the words of Watchmen Nee describe the breaking of the alabaster box by the woman who anointed Jesus for burial (Jn. 12:1-8):

“The breaking of the alabaster box and the anointing of the Lord filled the house with the sweetest odor. Everyone could smell it. Whenever you meet someone who has really suffered – been limited, gone through things for the Lord, been imprisoned, and is satisfied with the Lord and nothing else – immediately you sense the fragrance. There is the savor of the Lord. Something has been crushed. Something has been broken. And there is a resulting odor of sweetness.”

JESUS, THE EXPRESS IMAGE OF GOD AND THE BRIGHTNESS OF THE FATHER’S GLORY

So many people only know God as a Creator and a Judge. Others have a crooked perspective of Him and see Him as a sort of policeman or traffic cop who only springs into action when they are caught in a wrongdoing. Without the Lord Jesus coming into our world as God Incarnate, living among us, and revealing the deepest profundity of the fatherly heart of God, this is the conclusion many mere humans will formulate of Him. This perception of God does not draw me close. It does not pull on my heart strings. It does not stir up any desire to know Him. This demeaning view of God is not enough. Unless we come to know Him as a loving Father we will have a crippling walk with God and be at a grave disadvantage in relation to Him. We will never function aright until we see Him aright.

This is the God Jesus reflected. This is the loving Father He came to reveal to us. This is the real Jesus.

These are some highlights and key points from my latest book published earlier this year, called The Real Jesus.

Would you like a FREE copy of this book? I will gift it to you for Christmas in appreciation of your readership, but first you must agree to one condition. Would you, in your honor and integrity, post an honest review?

If still interested, here’s the link: Story Cartel

 Available also in kindle. This offer expires in three weeks. 

 

JUDGING YOURSELF KEEPS YOU IN THE LORD’S MERCY

Two of the main reasons people associate with a church is to be a success in life or to be a success in ministry. Both of these reasons are diluting the true heart of the Lord for His people.

The number one priority in the lives of believers should be to conform to the image of Christ. Period. Everything else will flow from there.

Jeremiah Johnson said this:

“If I had 100 students enrolled in a 4 year school of ministry, I would spend the entire first year delivering them from their need to be in ministry.

“That’s right, if you are called to the “ministry”, step one is getting delivered of your need to be in ministry.”

He also recommended this ministry training philosophy:

1. I would take ministry students hungry to preach and teach them how to pray.

2. I would take ministry students hungry for the applause of man and send them on a wilderness camping trip for three months to spend solitude with God. No social media and no cell phones.

3. I would take ministry students who like the sound of their own voice and have them clean the toilets and pick up trash for a year.

4. I would take ministry students who are enamored by their gifting and talent and have them do hospital visitation and nursing home visits for six months. Then I would have them sit with sexual abuse victims for six more.

5. I would take ministry students who want to be lazy and not work hard in “ministry” and have them work alongside congregants who actually hate their jobs and still go anyways because they have a family and bills to pay.

So long as this generation of “ministry students” continues to find their worth, value, and significance from being “in ministry”, which for them is to be on a stage somewhere at the center of attention and not in the hidden places learning how to be servants of all, we are in serious trouble!

IT”S ABOUT THE HEART’S MOTIVES

As someone who went to a ministry school and has had the opportunity to teach and train thousands of young students and ministers over the last 30 years, I have come to this same aforementioned conclusion. The scourge of ministry today is wanting to be seen and heard. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. Corrupt motives corrupt the entire work of building up Christ’s Church.

We need to adopt the wise words of an aged minister, who made it his life’s quest to live this out:

“I could care less if God used me. I wish He’d take me off the platform. I’d be perfectly happy in a prayer room never being seen or heard. If you want to be seen or heard you shouldn’t be on any platform. The people don’t need to see and hear you, but Jesus anyway.” – Kenneth E. Hagin

And some people still think this man is a false prophet. Really? That’s the problem in Christendom today; we can’t discern from the true and false minister because corrupted motives cannot discern between the holy and profane.

LIFELONG PROCESS

For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.  But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb. 5:13-14). 

Here’s the process those who are taught of the Lord will usually go through over time:

Like Carolyn and me, if you’ve lived long enough you will have seen nearly every fad, trend, doctrinal heresy, and every spiritual imbalance to come down the pike. We’ve seen the fluff and the stuff that masquerades itself as “spiritual” or “the new thing God is doing”, but really has nothing to do with God. At my age and present season in life, my greatest desire is to be a man of prayer and a man of love – to know Christ deeply and walk with Him consistently, and love others as myself. Nothing else satisfies me and fulfills me.

The way you get there is by continually judging yourself and having your senses exercised to know the difference between good and evil, flesh and spirit, and the one that takes the most time – what is of man and what is of God. The process is one of continually coming to the light and weighing your motives in the light of eternity and allowing the Holy Spirit to expose areas of your life and heart so you don’t slip back into sin and darkness.

And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God” (Jn. 3:19-21).

When you move toward the light you are moving toward being continually judged by His words. This means you deal with your issues and the things the Spirit of God brings up from within you. This is a lifelong process of growing and being filled with the fruits of righteousness (Phil 1:11). Learn from the error of your ways and your disobediences and missteps and move on. Do not stay in condemnation and wallow in self pity, but keep moving toward the light. If you do this, you will grow spiritually, and you will become more stable and mature. If you don’t, you will remain at a stunted level of spiritual growth and won’t mature and bear much fruit.

The highest aim and priority of every Christian is to be conformed to the image of Christ. Every decision and action you take in life should be with His will in mind. Every thought, feeling, and emotion should be in accordance with His Word.

Weigh it all in the light of eternity and before the judgment Seat of Christ. Judging yourself is how you keep yourself under the Lord’s mercy.

“But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 Jn. 1:7).

For more on this vital theme, refer to Purity Of Heart.