MY PERSONAL TESTIMONY OF HOW I CAME TO KNOW JESUS AND THE REAL MEANING OF CHRISTMAS

In the summer of 1979, while sharing a rented house with several of my college fraternity brothers in Bangor, Maine I came under the conviction of the Holy Ghost.

I was living in an old room adjacent to a garage and sleeping with just a mattress on the floor. While lying on that mattress one night after a drinking binge I turned on the television to see and hear a fiery preacher boldly proclaiming the gospel.

Immediately my senses were arrested, and I sobered up. My conscience was smitten. I knew I was not living right. I knew the things I was doing were sinful in God’s eyes.

As the gospel program came to an end, the preacher extended an offer for the viewer to write him if they had made a decision for Christ. If my recollection is accurate, I was held back by a thought. How can I stop sinning? So I wrote a letter to the television preacher asking him that very question. I never received a response so I continued to live a sinful lifestyle.

At this time the college mail room clerk who was a stalwart Christian had taken an interest in me and was a gospel witness in my life. This man was just a few years older than I and shone with the peace and presence of God. My curiosity was aroused by his disposition. One day, I saw his Bible open on his desk and knew instantly the secret of his bright countenance. I was intrigued by that.

Over a process of time, he shared many things with me, always answering all of my religious questions with, “the Bible says.” One day, in a moment of exacerbation, I asked him if he could not think for himself and give me his own opinion instead of quoting the Bible all the time. His response: “The Bible says that the carnal mind is enmity or hostility against God.” Aarrgh!

I saw that this man really believed the Bible to be the unadulterated Word of God, and he lived by it. That impressed me. As a devout Roman Catholic, I had never met anyone like him.

Gradually we became good friends, and he led me to Christ and taught me to observe the things He commanded from His Word. Immediately, he baptized me in water. The desire to drink, smoke weed and live a party lifestyle departed from me as I read His Word. I quickly proved my repentance by getting rid of my rock-n-roll albums that promoted sex, drugs and evil. I also made restitution by paying for some pornographic magazines I had stolen from a convenience store.

I spoke to the store manager and offered an explanation as I handed him the money and a letter with my testimony—quite different from many so-called conversions today when a prayer is made, a preacher’s hand is shaken, but no change is forthcoming.

I thank God for my humble beginnings and for a faithful witness who taught me what it meant to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Isn’t this what we should all be doing for those who are still lost?

This week, as I celebrate yet another Christmas—my 38th in Christ, I am reminded that just as Christ was birthed and formed in the womb of the virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, so has He been birthed and formed in each of us who are His disciples. In a real way, His incarnation 2,000 years ago repeatedly reproduces itself in human flesh every time someone is truly born of the Spirit and follows Jesus.

Although I strongly despise the many pagan rituals and commercialism that surround the Christmas season, I still celebrate our Savior’s birth with great joy and cheer. What I grossly detest is the perversion of the message the angels brought to the shepherds concerning His birth.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, and good will toward men!” (Luke 2:13-14).

The message the angels announced was not man having peace and goodwill towards one another, but it was a communication from the heavenly Father to mankind: “The armies of the heavenly host have not come to destroy you but to bring you a message of peace and good will. The Father has sent His Son as a Lamb (that is why He was born in a stable) and a peace offering to all of mankind.”

How sad that the peace and goodwill the Father offers to all of mankind in His Son has been reduced to, “All human beings be nice to each other and give each other gifts.”

His birth and incarnation—God becoming man—should remind us all of God’s ultimate purpose to be embodied in mankind, and for each of us to represent Him and His attributes.

“Christ in [us], the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27b). This is the real Jesus and the real meaning of Christmas.

Merry Christmas to you all.

THE REAL JESUS

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THE MODIFICATION OF THE GOSPEL GREATLY WEAKENING THE CHURCH (PART II)

Here is the mind-set of those who modify the message of the gospel:

“If people are living in sin let’s just teach them how to cope. Let’s tell them how good God is and how much He loves them no matter how they live or what they’ve done. If they have an affinity for sinful pleasures then let’s not offend them by making mention of that. If they abhor self-denial then let’s not talk about that either. Let’s just love them without putting any demands or requirements on them. If people want to be entertained then let’s entertain them. Then our message will be even more appealing to them. Let’s meet everyone where they’re at. We’ll use short, non-confronting sermons and humorous skits and dramas in a friendly way to spark their interest. Gradually they will come around, and God’s love will change them.”

This “new” mind-set has spawned a “new” gospel that is flourishing. Mega churches are being grown from this gospel in virtually every major city in America and other nations as well. Pastors are the CEO’s of these churches that are being managed like corporations. Deceitful workers are transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ who glory in their flesh, their growth, their numbers, and their influence, while deceiving so many others. These men boast of their new gospel and methods of reaching people while daring to criticize the old-fashioned gospel as being out of date and out of style and not meeting today’s needs.

The new preachers of this new gospel preach love, but it’s a love that never rebukes, corrects, or trains. They mention the name of Jesus, but it’s another Jesus that they have formed in their own image according to the godless pop culture around them. They talk about a loving heavenly Father, but know nothing of God being an All Consuming Fire. While emphasizing the goodness of God they completely avoid warnings of His severity (Rom 11:22).

If a man is ambitious, has strong leadership skills, a warming charismatic personality, and he knows how to employ the right formula and new methods, he can grow a church almost overnight, especially by preaching a non-confronting, non-convicting gospel and giving people what their itching ears want to hear. At the core of these new preachers’ ambition, however, is an insatiable desire for an honored reputation and an unsanctified drive for quick growth and quick results that would give them greater power and influence.

Men find great fulfillment in significance so any hook with the bait of power and success dangling from it is an easy temptation. Yet we must realize that some of the greatest failures by human standards are God’s greatest successes. God’s measuring gauge and standard of success is so different than man’s.

SUCCESS IN MAN’S EYES OR GOD’S EYES?

Noah would be the classic example of a great failure today. His message and ministry spanned 120 years, but produced no converts outside of his own family. He was an excellent carpenter and ship builder, but as a preacher he failed and didn’t get the job done. No numbers, no following, and no influence. The gospel he preached and the methods he used produced nothing. But the Bible speaks of him in lofty terms calling him a preacher of righteousness (2 Pet 2:5), obedient (Gen 6:22, 7:5), and perfect (blameless, having integrity).

“This is the genealogy of Noah. Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God.” (Gen 6:9)

“Then the Lord said to Noah, “Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation.” (Gen 7:1)

What would you rather have written on your tombstone – the accolades of men that were lies, or the testimony of God that remains forever true? What do you want your epitaph to say? Do you want to be honored by earth or by heaven? How do you want to be remembered?

Where did we get the idea that if the size of churches and ministries are not numerically large, do not grow fast, or do not grow at all, and do not meet man’s approval they are automatically counted as failures? From whence comes this persuasion?

By using the right formula and Madison Avenue tactics almost anyone can draw a crowd and build a church today. Add to that, an entertainment, socially-adapted, fun-based “gospel” message and people will come. Then word will spread and more people will come.

Here’s an example I heard the late David Wilkerson share years ago: During one Sunday night gathering in a seeker-friendly church where thousands attended, the pastor got up and said: “This is a fun night, a David Letterman night.” Then the youth pastor came out and did a monologue as David Letterman. He showed 10 of the most boring things teenagers do during preaching. Three of the ten were throwing spitballs, yawning, and picking their noses. The people in attendance went wild with laughter and great applause. As the church service was closing the pastor shamelessly announced, “We’re not here to offend anyone, but to make church comfortable for everybody.”

How many people do you think would remain in that church if the pastor changed his philosophy and suddenly began preaching a strong anti-sin, anti-worldliness, cross-bearing, Jesus exalting repentance message? I’ll tell you exactly what would happen. It would cause a church split. Some would be offended and leave. Others would be convicted and repent. But what would we rather have: 1000 false converts or 100 true ones?

The way you win people is the way you keep them. If you win them with entertainment you’re going to have to entertain them to keep them. If you win them with a soft gospel you’re going to have to continue to feed them a soft gospel to keep them. Falsehood, half-truths, and compromise will beget more of the same. A defective gospel produces defective converts.

I heard a television preacher say that in one mega church he spoke at he discovered that 60 couples were living together out of wedlock. Not one of them was legally married. The reason given: None of them thought it was wrong. How shocking! Here’s the question I have: What kind of message were the pastors of that church preaching? Obviously a very defective one. The fruit of a false gospel is false converts. Faith without works is always dead.

The Church today is full of false converts who have never been searched out and convicted of their sins. They come to church meetings, they sing church songs, they talk the church language, and hear church sermons, but they live like the world. Their lifestyles are in contradiction to the Word of God. One man said, “I know I shouldn’t be shacking up with my girlfriend, but I believe in Jesus and He knows my heart.” The Bible says that the demons also believe and tremble (Jam 2:19). In other words, the demons believe and fear God more than those like this man who say they believe, but have no works or corresponding lifestyle to prove their faith (that is the context of Jam 2:14-18).

When you leave certain components of the cross out of the gospel you open a large door for the sinner and the half-hearted seeker to feel comfortable in their sins and in their worldly lifestyle. And when that becomes the norm or status quo in a church, deception spreads like a cancer. A false or an incomplete gospel establishes an atmosphere of deception. People are being errantly taught that all you need to do to be saved is to acknowledge your belief in Jesus, pray a little prayer, and you’re in. Nothing is ever said before or after salvation about true heart-repentance, surrendering your life – losing it to gain it, following Jesus in whole-hearted obedience, and loving Him above all others.

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