Love flows out of our deep gratitude for His love for us, rather than out of our likes and dislikes. “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Our fear and love for God enable us to walk willingly in obedience to God’s law.
I love the story of Abraham. I mean everything from when he lied about who his wife was to protect his own hide, to the amazing promises God gave him. But there’s a story nestled in the Genesis account that paints a powerful picture – to miss it is to miss the core message of the Bible. You can find this story in Genesis Chapter 15, verses 1-21 (but I encourage you to read a few chapters before and after as well to get it in context). In a nutshell, God reiterated His promise to Abram (for the third time) then Abram asked for a sign. So God gave Him one. First God told Abram to cut some animals in half then He put Abram to sleep and talked to him about his future. Finally, God appeared as a smoking fire and passed between the pieces of the animals.
This section of Scripture describes a common practice in those days called ‘cutting a covenant.’ Basically, when two people wanted to make a pact, a deal, or a bargain with each other, they would cut some animals into pieces and lay them apart on the ground. A space was left between them forming a sort of aisle. Each party would then state their oath(s) aloud as they walked down the aisle. The meaning of the ritual was simple: ‘May I be cut into pieces like these animals if I don’t keep my promise(s) as I’ve stated in this agreement (covenant).’ Normally there were commitments made on both sides, but not in Genesis 15. Did you catch it?
THE COVENANT WAS BETWEEN GOD AND ABRAM (ABRAM’S DESCENDANTS ARE ALSO MENTIONED) BUT ONLY GOD MADE THE COMMITMENT OF DEATH IN CASE OF A BREACH OF CONTRACT.
The Old Testament is a collection of stories that teach spiritual truths. The writers of the Bible would often take a common practice in the Ancient world and turn it on its head in order to teach the God-followers of Israel something that set Him apart from the gods of the surrounding cultures. That’s why it can be so dangerous to take the Biblical texts and stories literally. That’s why we should not try to bring ancient practices into today’s world and live by them as if they were laws. The sole purpose of Scripture is to teach us what God is like.
The story of God walking through the torn carcasses of animals is a strange one no doubt. But it speaks one of the most beautiful truths in the Bible. God always keeps his promises. God didn’t need Abram to walk through the pieces or make a bargain with Him in order for God to keep His promise. Abram only needed to know that God always keeps his promises, period.
Let’s look more closely for a moment. In verses, 1-5 God restated His earlier promise to Abram that he was going to have a child. In verse 6 Abram simply took God at His word and God equated Abram’s faith with righteousness. It is good to operate on the light God has already given us – that is a big part of how we will be judged in terms of our actions in this life. So by all means, believe what God tells you. Belief a good thing. Our beliefs govern our actions. Now understand that Abram’s belief played absolutely no part in the covenant about to take place. In other words, nothing Abram did or believed in any way impacted the promise God made to him. This is important.
The land was a separate promise from the promise to give Abram children. The land represented God’s presence with the Israelites. But God’s promise in regards to the land extended way beyond establishing the Jews in Israel. Consider why God called Abraham in the first place:
I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants, all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” (emphasis mine)
GENESIS 18:18, 22:18, AND 26:4 COMPRISE GOD’S PROMISE TO ALL MANKIND: THE WORLD RENEWED.
In other words, the land – and by implication, intimacy with God in a loving relationship – was not for the Jews alone. Not by a long shot.
GOD’S END GAME HAS BEEN ALWAYS GLOBAL.
On the heels of the promises regarding the land, note that we are not told that Abram believed God, but instead that Abram asked a question: “How will I know that it will one day be mine?” What a great question! Sounds like Abram was looking for proof because this time he did not believe God. Little did Abram know he was asking the one question that concerns all of humanity. How do we know that God has a plan to bless us, to renew us, and to renew the world?
I KNOW BECAUSE SOME 4000 YEARS AGO GOD CUT A COVENANT WITH ME.
No, that’s not a typo. Shadows and types and representatives, oh my! The Bible is full of them. Abram was my – your, our – representative in this covenant. Just like Adam represented all of mankind in the Garden of Eden, and Jesus is named the second Adam in his obedient suffering, so Abram was mankind’s representative, cutting the covenant of grace.
Now it is time to consider the location of this story within the greater historical context. Abram was an ancestor of Moses through whom the Law came. As a reminder, we are not told that Abram did anything to earn God’s promise. The covenant was purely an act of God’s grace. So, before the Law came, the covenant of grace was established. Think about it. If the covenant of grace had come after the Law, we would have reason to believe that there is something we must do for God to keep His end of the bargain. This story puts it out there on display: there is nothing for us to do (not even believe). Why? you ask. Because if we have a part now in keeping this covenant then Abram would have believed and walked through the pieces as our representative back then.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BELIEVE IT TO BE A PART OF IT.
Genesis 15:10: As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram… God put Abram to sleep so that he would have no chance of walking through those pieces. Why? Because God knew something we must all understand:
None of us will ever be able to keep covenant with God (Romans 3). We can’t even keep covenant with each other or ourselves! If there was any covenant to be made with mankind, it had to be on God’s side only. Our works and beliefs have nothing to do with God’s love for His creation or His absolute and unwavering commitment to make all things new. God Almighty cut a covenant with Abram as my representative, and now there is nothing I can do that will ever make God love me more or less than He did in that moment when He walked through the pieces! But there was a little part in the story that for many years I somehow missed. I bet you who are reading this have already seen it because it is so obvious.
One day it hit me what the pieces of those animals really were:
THE BROKEN BODY OF JESUS.
When God walked through the pieces, He knew that we were going to make a sacrifice out of His Son! “This is My body, broken for you…” Who cut the animals up? Abram did – in my place. I did it, through Abram. We did it. We cut up the sacrifice – the Romans stood in for me, for you, for us, crucifying Jesus on a cross. His Son’s death at our hands was the price God paid – in grim, gory detail – to shout out to the cosmos that love trumps all, that there is nothing we can do – not even murder – that will ever stop His love for us.
I pray that you understand – really understand – that God has no expectations of you as regards relationship with Him. He initiated it, He accomplished it, He will finish it, in your life and mine – all for the love He feels for everything and everyone He has made. Now that is Amazing Grace.
There’s something you gotta see, journey with me
It’s approximately 30 A.D.
In the land of Israel- the city of Jerusalem
But on the outside, there’s screams and loud cries
Through faith, this scene can be seen without eyes
The mean shout lies and seems to sound wise
As we inch through the crowd, we need to be cautious
A Roman execution, men on three crosses
But all the focus is on the one in the center
The gate closes behind you- no one can enter
The sight you behold is so odd, you’re stunned
The man hanging on the cross is God the Son
12 noon, it’s pitch-black because the sunshine’s lacking
Your minds can’t fathom this divine transaction
As slowly the sound becomes mostly drowned
You realize that you’re standing on holy ground
So forever will I tell
In three hours, Christ suffered more than any sinner ever will in hell
It’s where we see Your holiness- at the cross
We see that You’re controlling this- at the cross
We see how You feel about sin- at the cross
Your unfathomable love for men- at the cross
It’s where we see Your sovereignty- at the cross
We see our idolatry- at the cross
We know that there’s a judgment day- from the cross
May we never take our eyes away- from the cross
We’re now in the realm of the sublime and profound
With God at the helm, it’s about to go down
The Father’s wrath precise will blast and slice
The priceless Master Christ as a sacrifice
Willingly, He’s under the curse
To be treated as if the Son was the worst scum of the earth
The scene is the craziest
Jesus being treated as if He is the shadiest atheist
How is it the Messiah is in the fiery pit
As if He was a wicked liar with twisted desires?
The One who’s sinless and just
Punished as if He was promiscuous and mischievous with vicious lust
The source of all godly pleasure
Tormented as if He was a foul investor or child molester
How could He be bruised like He was a goodie-two-shoes
who doesn’t think that she needs the good news?
He’s perfect in love and wisdom
But He’s suffering as if He constructed the corrupt justice system
We should mourn at the backdrop
Jesus torn like He’s on the corner with crack rock with porn on His laptop
What is this, kid? His gifts are infinite
But He’s hit with licks for religious hypocrites
He’s the Light, but being treated like
He’s the seedy type who likes to beat His wife
He’s treated like a rapist, treated like a slanderer
Treated like a racist or maybe a philanderer
Jesus being penalized like He had sin inside
Filled with inner pride while committing genocide
I could write for a billion years and still can’t name
All of the sins placed on the Lamb slain
But know this: the main thing the cross demonstrated
The glory and the holiness of God vindicate
Closing: When evangelist John Wesley was returning home from a service one night, he was robbed. The thief, however, found his victim to have only a little money and some Christian literature. As the bandit was leaving, Wesley called out, “Stop! I have something more to give you.” The surprised robber paused. “My friend,” said Wesley, “you may live to regret this sort of life. If you ever do, here’s something to remember: ‘The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin!'” The thief hurried away, and Wesley prayed that his words might bear fruit. Years later, Wesley was greeting people after a Sunday service when he was approached by a stranger. What a surprise to learn that this visitor, now a believer in Christ as a successful businessman, was the one who had robbed him years before! “I owe it all to you,” said the transformed man. “Oh no, my friend,” Wesley exclaimed, “not to me, but to the precious blood of Christ that cleanses us from all sin!”
Has the blood been applied to your life? Is your name written down in Heaven? Is your faith in Jesus and in Him alone?
This name is especially applicable to Israel because of the geographical position of their country. (Cf. Numbers 23:9, “The people shall dwell alone.”) They were away, off the beaten track of the nations, shut in, and, as it were, hidden, by the deserts on the east and south, the sea on the west, and the mountains on the north, from the rest of the world. But the expression in the text is applicable to all God’s people everywhere and always. They are his hidden ones. And we note concerning them –
I. THE FACT – THEY ARE HIDDEN.
1. Their physical life God often hides from those who would destroy it. Not always does he do this, but often, as Peter from Herod (Acts 12.; and cf. Obadiah’s hiding of the prophets, 1 Kings 18:4). And how often God has hidden his servants in wildernesses, glens, mountain heights, catacombs, etc.! The adversary would fain have destroyed them all, as the wolf the sheep; but they have not all been destroyed, the sheep yet outnumber the wolves.
2. Their spiritual life is ever a hidden one. For it resides not in themselves, but in another, as the life of the branches is in the vine (John 15.; Colossians 3:3). The principles that govern it are not known or understood or appreciated by the world. Its law of self-sacrifice, meekness, etc. Except by uncertain conjecture, the world knows nothing of its springs of action and its controlling motives. The practice of this life is also so different from the world’s life. It is meek, retiring, not loving notoriety; it pursues a lowly and unnoticed way; it has no eye for worldly pomp, no ear for worldly applause. It is not necessarily identified with any places, or seasons, or forms of worship, or order of men; but whilst generally using more or less of them, is independent of them all.
3. And this condition of God’s hidden ones is of their own choice. (Ruth 2:12; Psalm 91:1; Psalm 143:9.) They love to have it so. The hidden life is, in their esteem, the blessed, the secure, the eternal life.
4. It is God who hides them. (Cf. Psalm 31:20; John 10:28.) He does this by his providential care and by keeping them in his own love. And the majority of them he has hidden from men below in his own blessed presence in heaven. The Church on earth is a little flock indeed, not absolutely, but in comparison with the vast flock in the heavenly pastures, and there they are forever hidden from all the malice and might of men or of the devil.
II. WHAT THIS FACT IMPLIES.
1. Their preciousness in the sight of God. Things common and cheap we do not hide, or those for which we do not care. Jewels are hidden oftentimes, and God calls his hidden ones his jewels (Malachi 3:17). And how could they be other than precious, when we remember their cost! – “redeemed with the precious blood of Christ;” each one was bought with that price. And God deems them precious, also, for their own sakes. They can and will respond, ever more and more perfectly, to that love in the heart of God which, like all love, yearns for a response such as they only can give.
2. Their peril. God would not have hidden them as he has were they in no danger (see text). And how perpetually did our Lord bids us “watch and pray”! The world, the flesh, the devil, are ever bent on doing us harm. We are safe only as “our life is hidden with Christ in God”
3. Obscurity. The world knows us not, even as it knew him not. See how all but unbroken is the absolute silence of secular history as to the birth, life, death, and resurrection of our Lord, and as to the history of his Church, until its marvelous growth and supernatural power compelled its attention. And still, the fame, layout, and honor of the world are things which none of God’s hidden ones may seek (John 5:41, 44).
4. Safety. (Psalm 91., the whole psalm.)
5. The love of him whose hidden ones we are.
III. TO WHAT IT SHOULD LEAD.
1. To the deep love of God. Whatever God has given you, he has given and he can give nothing like this – numbering you among his hidden ones.
2. To stay where you are. Dwell in the secret place of the Most High.
3. To have done with forebodings, murmurings, and helpless grief. Should such as you be chargeable with such things?
4. To confession of God’s love to you before your fellow men.
5. To all holy endeavors to bring others where you are
Spirituality and Community Building
Being charitable towards others is a spiritual asset—one that can contribute to community building. Some might even maintain that it is impossible to build a sense of belonging and community without some form of charitable practice.
An illustration is the South African view of community referred to as “Ubuntu,” which is usually translated as, “I am because of who we are.” Retired Archbishop and social rights activist Desmond Tutu believes that Ubuntu is the very essence of what it is to be human:
“You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality—Ubuntu—you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.”
This value, or way of life—Ubuntu—suggests a way of thinking, seeing, and acting in the world that we live in now.
Tutu refers to being charitable as being someone with “generosity.” Whether you call it charity or generosity, each word translates to giving of one’s self for another, for the greater good of the community. This can be the giving of one’s time or finances, or something as simple as offering nonjudgmental and kind words.
Through charity or generosity of self, we create a deeper sense of community with each other. We begin to see ourselves as one—one community—connected with each other through Ubuntu. We begin to understand and to acknowledge, that we are interdependent in a respectful and supportive way.
As human beings, as a social clan, we have a need to live within supportive environments where we are nurtured and can thrive together, where there is a strong commitment to the well-being of the community as a whole. We are fundamentally designed to live this way. Being charitable towards one another is not just “a nice thing to do”; it is an imperative for our survival as humans, and for our well-being as a local and global community.
A WORKING DEFINITION OF “BEING CHARITABLE”
Based on your individual experiences, you may have your own meaning of the word charity or charitable behavior. The definition that we shall use for this post is that charitable behavior creates a feeling, which leads one to act voluntarily with kindness or goodwill towards another.
There are a number of synonyms or similar words to describe charity or charitable behavior that may be more comfortable for you; perhaps they resonate more with your values and beliefs. Here are a few based on Merriam-Webster dictionary definitions:
- Altruism: “unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of other’s feelings and behavior that show a desire to help other people and a lack of selfishness”
- Benevolence: “disposition to do good: (a): an act of kindness, (b): a generous gift”
- Compassion: “a feeling of wanting to help someone who is sick, hungry, in trouble, etc.; sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it”
- Generosity: “the quality of being kind, understanding, and not selfish: the quality of being generous; especially: willingness to give money and other valuable things to others”
That said, what words or phrases you use to define charity are not as important as taking some form of action to support those who are in need.
In your community, one person may volunteer six hours a month of his time to a homeless shelter, serving meals cheerfully and making everyone smile. Another person may donate money to the same shelter, yet never enter its doors. Another may offer her knowledge and skills by teaching a class on literacy once a month to the shelter’s clientele. All of these are examples of charity and of charitable behavior.
There are many ways one can be charitable to others. There is no one right way, only your way—the way that feels right for you.
Four Aspects of Charity
More specifically, some ways to be charitable include:
Time: Giving of one’s time, however long or short that may be. Giving time is not so much about quantity, as it is about quality—about being present with another to support them in a “hands on” way. This might mean serving meals in that shelter, helping out during disaster relief, volunteering to drive seniors to appointments, baking dinner for a sick neighbor, or any number of activities that help you get to know those you are serving.
Essence: Giving of one’s personal energy and vitality. You may have some personal qualities in abundance and want to share them with others – enthusiasm, hope, grace, gratitude, patience, love – or you may want to increase these qualities in your own life. Each of these qualities brings energy to the space you share with someone when you are truly present with them. Examples: Hearing an exhausted young mother laugh; listening patiently while a man struggles to share his story of being out of work; offering encouragement to someone who feels disheartened. Your own energy and vitality shifts to being more positive and optimistic when you share your authentic self with another.
Talent: Giving of one’s skills and knowledge, such as teaching, gardening, cooking, knitting, or singing; or sharing wisdom from life experience. Everyone has gifts and talents that they are passionate about. These talents come easily and give you joy when you have a chance to express and share them.
Money: Giving of one’s financial resources to provide aid, food, shelter, or clothing; or making a donation to a local or global cause. The sum of money given is not as important as the spirit of the gift. You could start off by giving what you can afford, knowing that even spare change is helpful, and then increase the amount when you are ready, willing, and able to do so.
You may want to take the time to think about these four aspects of being charitable and evaluate which ones have the most meaning for you and where to begin. You may also want to reflect on these questions:
- Do you have time, but limited funds to give; or do you have money, but limited time? What can do you for others with your time or money?
- Is taking a more personal approach, one where you would work side by side with others, more appealing to you; or do you prefer a more hands-off approach—where you give openhandedly, but don’t need or want to meet the recipients of your generosity?
There is no right or wrong answer—your answer is your personal choice. Once you determine what is most important to you, then you may want to begin by writing down some thoughts and ideas that come to mind on how you want to express your unique way of giving. Include names of people or organizations you may wish to support. Being charitable doesn’t need to be complicated; a simple gesture can be meaningful to the receiver. Now you may be more ready to share yourself with others.
THE IMPORTANCE AND BENEFITS OF BEING CHARITABLE
Being Charitable Enriches the Giver and the Receiver
There are rewards to being charitable, both for the giver and the receiver. Not only are you being helpful to those in need, you are developing positive character traits and behaviors in yourself. Charitable work allows you to see life from someone else’s perspective—their struggles and hardships, their triumphs and strengths. It is a privilege to be a witness to another’s life. And in being one, you gain appreciation and gratitude for your own life.
Martha is a manager whose young husband developed an aggressive, terminal cancer. She had her hands and heart full nursing him at home and caring for their two small children. Her co-workers organized themselves, and together they provided dinner every day, not for a month, but every day for six months. Martha’s co-workers were witness to her hardship and struggle, and they responded. They appreciated a need greater than their own. They were inspired to draw on the positive character traits and qualities that live within us all—caring, generosity, selflessness.
Martha’s story showcases how the act of charity in a workplace makes it a community. Because of her co-workers, Martha was able to concentrate on what was important during those precious few months before her husband’s passing.
Many nonprofit community organizations devote themselves to helping those who are suffering from hardship. They seek compassionate volunteers; they offer them the privilege of witnessing someone else’s life by lending a helping hand. By sharing what gifts they have to offer, volunteers receive a gift—they discover and nurture the best within themselves.
On its website, the U.S.-based nonprofit Share the Care states, “Whether you are a burned out caregiver or a novice caregiver, or a friend who wants to help, you can benefit from a system that lets everyone share responsibilities, creates a strong support network among the individual caregivers, and leads to making a profound difference in someone’s life.”
Similar to other website resources like CaringBridge and Lotsa Helping Hands, Share the Care’s mission is connecting caring citizens with citizens going through difficult times in their lives. They are creating small temporary communities of giving within the larger community.
When you give yourself the privilege of being a kind presence in someone else’s life, you will make a difference in theirs and learn a quiet appreciation and gratitude for your own.
Charitable Behavior and the Golden Rule
We all wish to be treated with respect and dignity, and to feel valued and listened to. In the spirit of charity, we would strive to do the same for others. One way to look at this principle is through the lens of reciprocity, known to many as the “Golden Rule,” which states, “Do to others as you wish done to you.” Here is an ethical code that instructs us to treat others the way we would want to be treated.
Although different cultures and faith traditions might have different words and language, all human cultures have a version of the Golden Rule. It advises us to treat our neighbors, families, and colleagues as we would wish to be treated and shows how we can all apply empathy, understanding, and right action as our moral guideposts.
Depending upon your age or upbringing, you might remember the Golden Rule (or something similar) being introduced into your school, as part of your family values, or as a faith-based principle. It is a universal ethic, with the power to cut across gender, culture, age, beliefs, and social-economic status.
Wisdom traditions, such as the Golden Rule, date far back in our collective history and are expressed in a multitude of societies – both as lay philosophies and as the vital cornerstone of the vast majority of faith traditions.
The Golden Rule in Different Faith Traditions
In alphabetical order, each reads:
- Baha’i Faith: “Lay not on any soul a load that you would not wish to be laid upon you, and desire not for anyone the things you would not desire for yourself.” Baha’u’llah Gleanings
- Buddhism: “Treat not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” The Buddha, Udana-Varga 5:18
- Christianity: “In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” Jesus, Matthew 7:12
- Confucianism:” One word which sums up the basis of all good conduct ~ loving kindness. Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself.” Confucius Analects 15:23
- Hinduism: “This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you.” Mahabharata 5:1517
- Islam: “Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others what you wish for yourself.” The Prophet Muhammad, Hadith
- Jainism: “One should treat all creatures in the world as one would like to be treated.” Mahavira, Sutrakritanga
- Judaism: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole Torah; all the rest in commentary.” Hillel, Talmud; Shabbat 31a
- Native Spirituality: “We are as much alive as we keep the earth alive.” Chief Dan George
- Sikhism: “I am a stranger to no one; and no one is a stranger to me. Indeed, I am a friend to all.” Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1299
- Taoism: “Regard your neighbor’s gain as our own gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.” Lao Tzu, T’ai Shang Kan Ying P’ien, 213-218
- Unitarianism: “We affirm and promote respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.” Unitarian principle
- Zoroastrianism: “Do not do unto others whatever is injurious to yourself.” Shayast-na-Shayast 13.29
“If it is not right do not do it; if it is not true do not say it.”
― Marcus Aurelius,
The early civilizations were well aware of the danger of pride and power and knew that this could destroy kings and empires if not held in check. And thus a philosophy was developed by the very wise Greco-Roman philosophers (lovers of truth) in order to help their rulers and themselves to be vigilant about their behavior, lest they destroy themselves by pride. And thus when any great general (be it an emperor-to-be, a war general, or any victor of a great battle) was honored by a great manifestation such as a triumphal entry into his city-state, a slave (a lowly of lowlies) would ride in the chariot with him and whisper in his ear that he should remember that he is not a god, but a mortal human being.
I think a better source than wiki might be a scholarly treatise aboutRoman triumphal marches by the historian Robert Payne in the book “Rome Triumphant: How the Empire Celebrated its Victories” Robert Payne, 1962, Barnes & Noble Books 1993. In the closing remarks of the book (pg 251), Payne remarks “…it was the anonymous slave standing behind the triumphator, whispering in his ear about the vanity of honours, who represents the greater triumph. The voice of the slave was the voice of humanity,never so desperate as when it passed unheard.– We do not know when the slave first rode in the triumphal chariot and held the golden crown over the conqueror’s head, or when he stepped down for the last time. We do not know whether the triumphator ever spoke to him in reply,or even glanced at him. He appears only briefly in the history of the triumph, and only once do we see him plain –on the Boscoreale cup,where he is depicted as a youth who seems to be filled with a sense of compassionate duty.”
You should be aware that this type of reminder of vigilance is still very meaningful and applied in many ways in modern life as a philosophical heir to the ancient traditition. The warning against pride and care to remember that life is a fleeting gift and should not be squandered on empty vanities that are really meaningless when considering the totality of life’s journey (the human actions of craving for power, riches, adulation, popularity) is just as important today as it was 2500 years ago. Instead of wasting time thinking that you are “God’s gift to humanity”, the reminder states, “try to live life as a good and simple, honest, kind and noble person (like the beautiful shaker hymn: “Tis a gift to be simple…”)
You might be aware of the yearly Christian tradition of Ash Wednesday in the beginning of the Lenten journey when people receive blessed ashes on their foreheads with the words “Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shall return”. This is done not to depress people, but to remind them that true happiness of this life is totally dependant upon our own human goodness to be fantastically good people instead of selfish jerks.
Whenever a bishop (or cardinal) is elected to be a pope (a really tremendous honor in the Catholic Church), before the pope steps out into the balcony of St. Peter’s basilica to greet the City and the World and to be hailed as the new pontiff (Viva el Papa !) something really cool is done that is centuries old. A simple poor franciscan friar stands before the pope with a broom-like staff made with a pile of dry straw. The straw is lit and for a few seconds a huge flame bursts out, but is gone in a mere minute (a straw fire means an empty fleeting fanfare). (This is done three times) Each time the friar utters the words to the pope “sic transit gloria mundi) meaning “and thus passes the glory of this world”. This is of course a reminder that the great Roman pontiff (like the Roman generals and emperors) should remember that he is nothing more than a lowly servant and all the glory and power and wealth of this world is meaningless when compared to the true meaning of life : just be a very very good and kind and honest person – at the end of your life this will be the only measure of true meaning of the nobility and richness of one’s life.
Is it not cool how all of this applies to our lives today ?
Is good enough, good enough? Consider, if you will, that if 99.9 percent were good enough then
- 2 million documents would be lost by the IRS this year.
- 22,000 checks will be deducted from the wrong bank account in the next 60 minutes.
- 1,314 telephone calls will be misdirected by telecommunications companies every minute.
- 2,488 books will be shipped with the wrong covers on them each day.
- Over 5.5 million cases of soft drinks in the next year will be flat.
- 20,000 incorrect drug prescriptions will be written each year.
- 12 babies will be given to the wrong parents each day.
Obviously, being good enough is not good enough for life in modern society. So why do we think that being good enough is good enough to get us into heaven? You’ve heard people ask, “If I try my best won’t God let me into heaven?” or “Doesn’t God just require me to be better than the average human?” or “Don’t I have to just live a good life to be a Christian?” or “How could a loving God send good people to hell?”
Martin Luther, the reformer, wrote, “The most damnable and pernicious heresy that has every plagued the mind of man is the idea that somehow he could make himself good enough to deserve to live with an all-holy God.” A Bible teacher used to say, “Man is incurably addicted to doing something for his own salvation.”
Let’s examine what the Bible has to say about being good enough.
I. God’s standard is perfection
In one sense, one can be good enough to get to heaven, but they would have to be perfect. God’s standard for entrance into heaven is perfection. On one occasion Jesus identified the two most outwardly religious groups of people in his day the Pharisees and the scribes and told his listening audience, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20). On another occasion Jesus said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).
God’s standard never falls short of complete righteousness and holiness. Anything less than perfection is sin. Think about heaven for a moment. Heaven is a place of the “no more’s” – no more tears, no more sadness, no more pain, no more sickness, no more death. All of those things are caused by sin. The “no more’s” don’t exist in heaven because sin does not exist in heaven. Heaven will be wonderful, not only because of what is present – God, but also because of what is absent – sin.
God’s standard of perfection is not arbitrary. God does not grade on the curve. He does not say, “Oh, you are close enough” or “You have tried really hard to live a good life.” God does not compare. “Well, Bill you are better than John so you are in and John is out, Betty, you are better than Sue, so come right on in.” That would be like trying to jump the Grand Canyon. So what if your jump thirty feet and set an Olympic record, you still splatter.
Now don’t get me wrong, for the most part we are all pretty good. I don’t suppose there are any rapists or murderers among us. If we were grading ourselves on goodness we would rank right up there pretty high on the scale. Let’s call ourselves Danny or Debbie Decent. From our perspective, we do everything right. We pay our taxes, pay our bills, pay attention to our family, and pay respect to our superiors. We are good people.
But God sees us differently. God sees what Danny and Debbie Decent choose to overlook. For as decent as we are walking through life, we make mistakes. For example, we stretch the truth. We might fudge, ever so slightly, on our expense report. We gossip about the new employee. From our perspective, these aren’t big deals. But our perspective does not matter. God’s does. And what God sees is a person wrapped in mistakes.
So let me ask you, is there any sin in your life? If so you are not perfect. You have not met God’s standard of perfection.
II. God’s solution is a pardon
Fortunately, there is good news. There is a solution, a remedy to our imperfection. God’s solution is a pardon found in Jesus Christ. Here’s how is works: “Christ made a single sacrifice for sins, and that was it! . . . It was a perfect sacrifice by a perfect person to perfect some imperfect people. . . . Our sins are taken care of for good” (Heb. 10:12-18 MSG). The apostle Paul described it this way: “He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). When Jesus Christ, God’s Son, went to the cross he took our sins, our mistakes, our evil, and our unrighteousness. He was the ultimate sacrifice.
R.G. Lee, former pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, TN, was visiting Gordon’s Calvary at Jerusalem, possibly the site where Jesus was crucified. Lee told the Arab guide he wanted to walk to the top of the hill. At first the guide tried to discourage him, but when he saw that Lee was determined to go, he went along. Once on the crest, Lee removed his hat and stood with bowed head, greatly moved. “Sir,” asked the guide, “have you been here before?”
“Yes,” replied Lee, “2,000 years ago.”
And so have we. We were there because our sins nailed Jesus to the cross. Now we must go there to find redemption, to find our pardon for our sin.
So, when it comes to salvation, when it comes to going to heaven, whether we are more like Hitler with our evil or more like Mother Teresa with our purity, our sins are no longer the issue. The issue is what we do about Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is God’s solution to our not measuring up to his standard. Jesus has already paid the price for our sin. Jesus is the perfect sacrifice by a perfect person to perfect some imperfect people. Jesus now offers us a pardon, a release from our sin.
Think about it this way: if a criminal was handed a pardon that would release him from prison, the issue is no longer the crime but rather what he will do about the pardon. If he refuses he will remain in prison. The questions, why he is in prison?, and why is he not out of prison? have two different answers. He is in prison because he is convicted criminal. He is not out of prison because he refuse the pardon. Likewise, the answer to the question, why will a person be in hell? Is because he is a sinner, but the answer to the question, why will he not be in heaven? Is because he did not accept the pardon offered in Christ.
Let me see if a story will not help clarify this issue. Many years ago a young boy shot and killed a man while gambling. In those days, murderers were sentenced to hang. But the townspeople were so concerned for the young lad that they gathered a petition asking the judge to pardon the boy. Finally, the judge agreed but only on one condition. The judge would wear a clergyman’s robe and collar and carry the pardon between the pages of the Bible.
As the judge approached the boy’s cell, he could hear the young man cursing and swearing at him. “Get out of here, preacher, I don’t want what you have to offer.”
“But, son,” the judge replied, “You don’t understand.”
“I understand fine,” said the boy. “I don’t want what you have to offer.”
The dejected judge left the jail. Later the guard told the boy that it was the judge who was dressed like a minister. Between the pages of the Bible was an authorized, sealed pardon for his release.
When the day of execution arrived, just before they put a black sack over the boy’s head, they asked if he had anything to say.
He replied, “I am not dying because I killed a man. I am dying because I rejected the pardon.”
You see the issue is not your sin. The issue is what you will do with Jesus Christ. Our fault before God is not necessarily our sin – He made a remedy for that. Our fault before God is rejecting the pardon.
“Yea, but,” I can hear some people say. And then the question: How could a loving God send good people to hell? The question itself reveals a couple of misconceptions. First, God does not send people to hell. He simply honors their choice, as when the judge honored the choice of the condemned boy who rejected the pardon. Hell is the ultimate expression of God’s highest regard for the dignity of man. He has never forced us to choose him, even when that means we would choose hell. As C. S. Lewis stated: “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in hell choose it.”
No, God does not “send” people to hell. Nor does he send “people” to hell any more than the judge sent the boy to be hung. That is the second misconception.
The word people is neutral, implying innocence. Nowhere does scripture teach that innocent people are condemned. People do not go to hell. Sinners do. The rebellious do. The self-centered do. The ones who reject God’s pardon do.
So how could a loving God send people to hell? He doesn’t. He simply honors the choice of sinners.
III. God’s salvation is through personal faith
So what must we do? We must, by faith, accept Jesus’ finished work on the cross as God’s only accepted way to enter heaven. God’s salvation is through personal faith in Jesus Christ. We must trust in what he has done for us.
Ten of the eleven world religions teach a salvation by good deeds. Christianity stands alone with its emphasis on faith rather than works for salvation. The Scriptures say, “For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift – not from works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). Salvation is a gift – we don’t work for it, we don’t deserve it, we don’t earn it. We simply trust God for what he has done through his son, Jesus Christ.
It is like a medicine. You can believe a certain medicine will help you, but until you trust it enough to take it, it won’t do anything for you. Faith is more than believing in God. It is trusting in him to the point of receiving Christ into your life.
Was there a time when you honestly realized that you were a sinner and admitted that to God? Do you truly understand that Christ took your place on the cross? Do you understand that the real issue is not your sin, but what you will do with Jesus Christ? Have you received Christ alone for your salvation?
Chances are you have a very well thought-through mission and vision.
And that’s fantastic.
But have you ever thoroughly thought through the culture of your organization?
Here’s why that matters:
Your mission and vision determine the what and the why of what you do.
Your culture determines how your organization feels and behaves.
And, in most cases, your culture trumps your mission and vision. Often without anyone saying a word or even realizing it, you can undo a great mission by having a terrible culture.
If you’ve ever struggled with why a compelling mission and vision haven’t taken you further, maybe it’s time to look at your culture.
The truth is simple: A bad organizational culture will kill a great organizational mission.
Yes, You’ve Left Great Missions Behind Because of a Bad Culture
You’ve already left great missions behind because of bad organizational cultures.
You went to a home design store that had the exact product you needed, but you left because the staff didn’t care or because the owner treated you poorly.
You avoid a certain location in a restaurant chain you otherwise love because the staff always get your order wrong and the restrooms are rarely clean.
You didn’t stay long at the company you first worked for after graduating, not because it wasn’t in your field (it was), but because you really didn’t like the people you worked with.
None of these problems are really mission or vision problems. At their heart, they’re cultural problems.
And if you think about it, you probably have a few places you visit regularly not because you even like the mission or vision, but because you like the culture?
Ever go to a coffee shop or favourite restaurant when you weren’t all that hungry, just to hang out? Miss your college days because you loved the people you were with? I sometimes go to my favourite bike store even when I’m not buying anything because I love the vibe and conversation (and even the smell). That’s culture.
Your problem often isn’t what you believe as an organization, it’s how you behave.
(By the way…because culture problems are often people problems and sin problems, the phenomenon is wider than just church. So even if you don’t work in church, some of these signs might seem uncomfortably familiar.)
Here are 5 signs your culture needs to change:
1. You judge the culture around you, rather than love the people in it
For some strange reason, most of us in the church today are known for our judgment more than our love. This is almost criminal, as Jesus said that the defining hallmark of his followers should be love.
It is impossible to judge someone and love someone at the same time. Certainly, you can discern that there are issues. But to judge is to put yourself above someone. (I would cite scripture here, but I think we all know the Bible couldn’t be clearer about not judging outsiders).
Somehow we’ve flipped it. We let people on the inside off the hook and judge people outside. And then we wonder why our church isn’t growing and why our church is serially unhealthy.
Many churches aren’t growing because people judge more than they love. It’s human nature to gravitate to people who accept us (this explains everything from gangs to clubs to friendships), and I believe the point of the cross is not judgment but salvation through Christ.
If you lead a Christian church, your mission is to reach people, not judge people.
Even if you love people, someones Christians have this weird habit of behaving in ways that are just…strange.
When there is a significant gap between how you talk to people in the grocery store and how you talk to people in church, it’s a sign you might have a cultural barrier that new people will find hard to surmount.
I realize people have traditions, but sometimes these traditions get in the way of the mission. If nobody can understand what you’re saying because you speak in Christianese or some kind of insider code, well, how do you expect people to feel a sense of belonging before they read your book of code (which by the way, nobody bothered to publish).
I don’t want to have to convert people to my culture. I’d rather see them converted to Jesus.
When you need to convert people to your culture before they convert to Christianity, your mission is at risk.
3. What you think is contemporary, isn’t
Of all the lies we tell, the lies we tell ourselves are the most subtle and deadly. Far too many churches make a lot of changes to how they behave and declare themselves ‘contemporary’, when the truth is they just sound traditional in a slightly different way to outsiders.
If you’re trying to be a contemporary church (and I realize not everyone is), get some outside feedback as to whether people who don’t go to church really connect with your culture and style. The fact that your ‘people’ like it simply creates a self-perpetuating community.
4. You handle conflict poorly and indirectly
Conflicted churches rarely grow. And, unresolved, sustained conflict will kill almost every organization’s mission in the long run.
Ironically, churches should be the best at resolving conflict. Often, we are the worst, despite some incredible biblical instruction on how to do it.
If your church has years (or decades) of continual infighting and never resolves conflict directly, just one question: why would anyone join you?
5. You have a justification for every bit of criticism you receive.
Sometimes people love their not-very-effective culture.
Churches that are great at never changing their defective culture often have a handy justification for every suggestion for improvement that comes their way.
In fact, often that justification comes with a bit of arrogance toward the dummies who ‘just don’t get us’.
Sadly, a closed and mildly arrogant attitude will often shrink a group until it becomes a closed minded ‘us against the world’ kind of attitude. That’s too bad. Because Jesus died for the world too many church leader resist.
The environment is promoted everywhere as the great ‘Save the World’ issue, BUT the is we have only been focusing on the symptoms of the devastation of our world and the disintegration of society that is happening everywhere we look, not the cause, which is us humans—our , competitive, selfish and aggressive behaviour. And the deeper truth is, to change that behaviour and, by so doing, truly save the world, we needed to find the reconciling, redeeming and thus rehabilitating biological explanation of our seemingly-highly-imperfect so-called HUMAN CONDITION! As the author Richard Neville so accurately summarised our species’ plight: ‘we humans are locked in a race between self destruction and self discovery’
MOST WONDERFULLY, however, biology is now, at last, able to provide this long dreamed-of, exonerating and thus psychologically rehabilitating and human-race-transforming understanding of ourselves that will actually save the world! Yes, at the absolute eleventh hour for our species, the arrival of ‘self discovery’ finally and thankfully gives us the real means to defeat the threat of ‘self destruction’ and save the world! (And it should be mentioned that this explanation of our species’ deeply psychologically troubled human condition is not the psychosis-avoiding, trivialising, dishonest account of it that the biologist E.O. Wilson has put forward in his theory of Eusociality, but the psychosis-addressing-and-solving, real explanation of it.)
The reality has been that until we found the reconciling, redeeming and thus healing truthful explanation of the we could hardly afford to admit that the issue even existed, let alone acknowledge that it is THE underlying, core, real question in all that we needed to solve if we were to save the world. Yes, are humans good or are we possibly the terrible mistake that all the evidence seems to unequivocally indicate we might be? While it’s undeniable that humans are capable of great love, we also have an unspeakable history of greed, environmental indifference, brutality, rape, torture, murder and war. Despite all our marvellous accomplishments, we humans have been the most ferocious and destructive force that has ever lived on Earth—and the eternal question that we needed to answer if we were to actually save the world has been ‘why?’ Even in our everyday behaviour, why have we humans been so competitive, selfish and aggressive when clearly the ideals of life are to be the complete opposite, namely cooperative, ? In fact, why are we so ruthlessly competitive, selfish and brutal that human life has become all but unbearable and we have nearly destroyed our own planet?!
Unable—until now—to truthfully answer this deepest and darkest of all questions of our seemingly-highly-imperfect, even ‘fallen’ or corrupted human condition, of are we humans fundamentally good or bad, we have used denial as our only means of coping with the whole depressing subject; so much so, in fact, that the human condition has been described as ‘the personal unspeakable’, and as ‘the black box inside of humans they can’t go near’. Indeed, the famous psychoanalyst Carl Jung was referring to this terrifying dilemma of the human condition when he wrote that ‘When it [our shadow] appears…it is quite within the bounds of possibility for a man to recognize the relative evil of his nature, but it is a rare and shattering experience for him to gaze into the face of absolute evil’.
Yes, the ‘face of absolute evil’ is the ‘shattering’ possibility—if we allowed our minds to think about it—that we humans might indeed be a terrible mistake!
So while the human condition has been the real, underlying issue we needed to solve if we were to exonerate and thus rehabilitate the human race and save the world, we have beenso fearful of the issue that instead of confronting it and trying to solve it we have beenpreoccupied denying and escaping it. The truth is, rather than an attempt to save the world, focusing on the environment was a way of avoiding the issue of ‘self’; it was a way of relieving ourselves of the real issue of our troubled human condition through finding a cause that made us feel good about ourselves—as the editor of Time magazine, Richard Stengel, recognised, ‘The environment became the last best cause, the ultimate guilt-free issue’ (Time mag. 31 Dec.1990).
Environmental problems are certainly real enough but the fact is, to save the world we had to resolve the issue of our less-than-ideally-behaved human condition that has been causing all the environmental issues and social problems that plague our world. Carl Jung was forever saying that ‘wholeness for humans depends on the ability to own their own shadow’because he recognised that only finding understanding of our dark side could end our underlying insecurity about our fundamental goodness and worth as humans and, in so doing, make us ‘whole’. The pre-eminent philosopher Sir Laurens van der Post was making the same point when he said, ‘True love is love of the difficult and unlovable’ (Journey Into Russia, 1964, p.145) and‘Only by understanding how we were all a part of the same contemporary pattern [of wars, cruelty, greed and indifference] could we defeat those dark forces with a true understanding of their nature and origin’
The fable details the life of a fox whose pursuits are to no ends and see the world in all its complexity. Yet, he is scattered, moving on many levels, never unifying his thinking into an overall concept or his entire vision.
Hedgehogs on the other hand are narrowly focused creatures. Regardless of the complexities of the world, the hedgehog reduces all challenges and dilemmas into simple ideas. This is where it gets interesting because anything that does not relate to the hedgehog idea holds no relevance — this is why when hedgehogs and foxes are pitted against one another, the hedgehog always wins!
On many levels, we can all be classified as either a hedgehog or a fox. Just like the hedgehog and the fox concept, I also like to think that there are two unique types of people in this world – people who own their passion and find a job or a business to monetize what they love. Then there are people who don’t have any
concept of thriving in a world with so much opportunity so they panic and instead try to “survive” by making a living any way necessary by doing things they don’t love.
Five Traits of Hedgehogs in Business:
- They know what they are deeply passionate about.
- They know what they can be the best in the world at.
- They know how to make money with their passion.
- They are disciplined.
- They are great leaders and/or know how to lead themselves.
Five Traits of Foxes in Business:
- They are scattered, going from one business idea to the next.
- They have very little discipline.
- They may be good leaders but their leadership style is egocentric and self-centered. They take credit for success while blaming others for failure.
- Their passions are not narrowly defined. They go any direction that opportunity leads.
- Instead of finding their passion, they find opportunity first, and then build passion second, which usually leads to feeling unfulfilled and dejected.
Did you know that less than 10% of the world’s population owns 90% of the wealth? These rare individuals could not have done it if they were foxes. Even if you’re not an Entrepreneur or someone who aspires to be an Entrepreneur someday – from self-employed to employee, they all fall into one of the two categories.
How to Discover Your Life Purpose in 5 Easy Steps:
- What do you enjoy doing the most? Make a list of 5-10 things that rock your world and bring a smile to your face.
- When you compile this list, search for jobs that are oriented around this topic. If instead of a job, you want to start a business, perhaps you can be an expert on the topic and teach others what you know and make money at the same time? (This is what I am doing now!)
- Ask yourself – am I really great at [whatever you chose]? If you’re not that great now, can you learn to be? If so, then you have a winner!
- Are there jobs related to your chosen path and does it pay well? If this is a business idea, have you got a plan to monetize it? Is there a market for your idea? The more people in the field of your interest, the better!
- What new skills must you learn in order to get this job or launch this business?
The Pitfalls to Avoid:
- If money is your biggest motivation, you will lead an unfulfilled life. However, if you can put your passion first, the money will come… Eventually.
- How are you increasing your tool chest? What skills are you learning that are tailored to your “chosen” profession? The more skills you have, the more valuable you’re.
- If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. After you work so hard finding your passions, create goals and a step-by-step action plan to achieve your desires.
Someone shared with me her observation about two bosses. One is loved but not feared by his subordinates. Because they love their boss but don’t respect his authority, they don’t follow his guidelines. The other boss is both feared and loved by those who serve under him, and their good behavior shows it.
The Lord desires that His people both fear and love Him too. Today’s Bible passage, Deuteronomy 10, says that keeping God’s guidelines involves both. In verse 12, we are told “to fear the Lord your God” and “to love Him.”
To “fear” the Lord God is to give Him the highest respect. For the believer, it is not a matter of feeling intimidated by Him or His character. But out of respect for His person and authority, we walk in all His ways and keep His commandments. Out of “love,” we serve Him with all our heart and with all our soul—rather than merely out of duty (v.12).
We are here most plainly directed in our duty to God, to our neighbor, and to ourselves.
1. We are here taught our duty to God, both in the dispositions and affections of our souls and in the actions of our lives, our principles and our practices. (1.) We must fear the Lord our God, v. 12, and again v. 20. We must adore his majesty, acknowledge his authority, stand in awe of his power, and dread his wrath. This is gospel duty, Rev. 14:6, 7. (2.) We must love him, be well pleased that he is, desire that he may be ours, and delight in the contemplation of him and in communion with him. Fear him as a great God, and our Lord, love him as a good God, and our Father and benefactor. (3.) We must walk in his ways, that is, the ways which he has appointed us to walk in. The whole course of our conversation must be conformable to his holy will. (4.) We must serve him (v. 20), serve him with all our heart and soul (v. 12), devote ourselves to his honour, put ourselves under his government, and lay out ourselves to advance all the interests of his kingdom among men. And we must be hearty and zealous in his service, engage and employ our inward man in his work, and what we do for him we must do cheerfully and with a good will. (5.) We must keep his commandments and his statutes, v. 13. Having given up ourselves to his service, we must make his revealed will our rule in every thing, perform all he prescribes, forbear all the forbids, firmly believing that all the statutes he commands us are for our good. Besides the reward of obedience, which will be our unspeakable gain, there are true honour and pleasure in obedience. It is really for our present good to be meek and humble, chaste and sober, just and charitable, patient and contented; these make us easy, and safe, and pleasant, and truly great. (6.) We must give honour to God, in swearing by his name (v. 20); so give him the honour of his omniscience, his sovereignty, his justice, as well as of his necessary existence. Swear by his name, and not by the name of any creature, or false god, whenever an oath for confirmation is called for. (7.) To him we must cleave, v. 20. Having chosen him for our God, we must faithfully and constantly abide with him and never forsake him. Cleave to him as one we love and delight in, trust and confide in, and from whom we have great expectations.
2. We are here taught our duty to our neighbour (v. 19): Love the stranger; and, if the stranger, much more our brethren, as ourselves. If the Israelites that were such a peculiar people, so particularly distinguished from all people, must be kind to strangers, much more must we, that are not enclosed in such a pale; we must have a tender concern for all that share with us in the human nature, and as we have opportunity; (that is, according to their necessities and our abilities) we must do good to all men. Two arguments are here urged to enforce this duty:—(1.) God’s common providence, which extends itself to all nations of men, they being all made of one blood. God loveth the stranger (v. 18), that is, he gives to all life, and breath, and all things, even to those that are Gentiles, and strangers to the commonwealth of Israel and to Israel’s God. He knows those perfectly whom we know nothing of. He gives food and raiment even to those to whom he has not shown his word and statutes. God’s common gifts to mankind oblige us to honour all men. Or the expression denotes the particular care which Providence takes of strangers in distress, which we ought to praise him for (Ps. 146:9, The Lord preserveth the strangers), and to imitate him, to serve him, and concur with him therein, being forward to make ourselves instruments in his hand of kindness to strangers. (2.) The afflicted condition which the Israelites themselves had been in, when they were strangers in Egypt. Those that have themselves been in distress, and have found mercy with God, should sympathize most feelingly with those that are in the like distress and be ready to show kindness to them. The people of the Jews, notwithstanding these repeated commands given them to be kind to strangers, conceived a rooted antipathy to the Gentiles, whom they looked upon with the utmost disdain, which made them envy the grace of God and the gospel of Christ, and this brought a final ruin upon themselves.
3. We are here taught our duty to ourselves (v. 16): Circumcise the foreskin of your hearts. that is, “Cast away from you all corrupt affections and inclinations, which hinder you from fearing and loving God. Mortify the flesh with the lusts of it. Away with all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, which obstruct the free course of the word of God to your hearts. Rest not in the circumcision of the body, which was only the sign, but be circumcised in heart, which is the thing signified.” See Rom. 2:29. The command of Christ goes further than this, and obliges us not only to cut off the foreskin of the heart, which may easily be spared, but to cut off the right hand and to pluck out the right eye that is an offence to us; the more spiritual the dispensation is the more spiritual we are obliged to be, and to go the closer in mortifying sin. And be no more stiff-necked, as they had been hitherto, ch. 9:24. “Be not any longer obstinate against divine commands and corrections, but ready to comply with the will of God in both.” The circumcision of the heart makes it ready to yield to God, and draw in his yoke.
II. We are here most pathetically persuaded to our duty. Let but reason rule us, and religion will.
1. Consider the greatness and glory of God, and therefore fear him, and from that principle serve and obey him. What is it that is thought to make a man great, but great honour, power, and possessions? Think then how great the Lord our God is, and greatly to be feared. (1.) He has great honour, a name above every name. He is God of gods, and Lord of lords, v. 17. Angels are called gods, so are magistrates, and the Gentiles had gods many, and lords many, the creatures of their own fancy; but God is infinitely above all these nominal deities. What an absurdity would it be for them to worship other gods when the God to whom they had sworn allegiance was the God of gods! (2.) He has great power. He is a mighty God and terrible (v. 17), who regardeth not persons. He has the power of a conqueror, and so he is terrible to those that resist him and rebel against him. He has the power of a judge, and so he is just to all those that appeal to him or appear before him. And it is as much the greatness and honour of a judge to be impartial in his justice, without respect to persons or bribes, as it is to a general to be terrible to the enemy. Our God is both. (3.) He has great possessions. Heaven and earth are his (v. 14), and all the hosts and stars of both. Therefore he is able to bear us out in his service, and to make up the losses we sustain in discharging our duty to him. And yet therefore he has no need of us, nor any thing we have or can do; we are undone without him, but he is happy without us, which makes the condescensions of his grace, in accepting us and our services, truly admirable. Heaven and earth are his possession, and yet the Lord’s portion is his people.
2. Consider the goodness and grace of God, and therefore love him, and from that principle serve and obey him. His goodness is his glory as much as his greatness. (1.) He is good to all. Whomsoever he finds miserable, to them he will be found merciful: He executes the judgment of the fatherless and widow, v. 18. It is his honour to help the helpless, and to succour those that most need relief and that men are apt to do injury to, or at least to put a light upon. See Ps. 68:4, 5; 146:7, 9. (2.) But truly God is good to Israel in a special obligations to him: “He is they praise, and he is thy God, v. 21. Therefore love him and serve him, because of the relation wherein he stands to thee. He is thy God, a God in covenant with thee, and as such he is thy praise,” that is [1.] “He puts honour upon thee; he is the God in whom, all the day long, thou mayest boast that thou knowest him, and art known of him. If he is thy God, he is thy glory.” [2.] “He expects honour from thee. He is thy praise,” that is “he is the God whom thou art bound to praise; if he has not praise from thee, whence may he expect it?” He inhabits the praises of Israel. Consider, First, The gracious choice he made of Israel, v. 15. “He had a delight in thy fathers, and therefore chose their seed.” Not that there was any thing in them to merit his favour, or to recommend them to it, but so it seemed good in his eyes. He would be kind to them, though he had no need of them. Secondly, The great things he had done for Israel, v. 21, 22. He reminds them not only of what they had heard with their ears, and which their fathers had told them of, but of what they had seen with their eyes, and which they must tell their children of, particularly that within a few generations seventy souls (for they were no more when Jacob went down into Egypt) increased to a great nation, as the stars of heaven for multitude. And the more they were in number the more praise and service God expected from them; yet it proved, as in the old world, that when they began to multiply they corrupted themselves.
The famous preacher Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in a sermon on Philippians, said, quote, “False doctrine makes joy in the Lord impossible.” How would you articulate this connection between orthodoxy and joy? How does false doctrine make joy in the Lord impossible?
The key in that phrase, I think, is “in the Lord,” “joy in the Lord.” False doctrine can make you very happy. If you don’t believe in hell you might feel happier. If you don’t believe that you have to not sleep around on the weekend and cheat on your wife and you might have some brief surges of pleasure. But when he says false doctrine makes joy in the Lord impossible, he is articulating something really important, namely that the only joy that glorifies God is joy that is based on a true view of God. If you have happiness because you see God a way he is not, you might have happiness based on your doctrine. But your doctrine will be false and therefore God would not be honored by your happiness. You are like a person who is just thrilled. He is watching his favorite football team and he just crossed the goal line. Yea. Yea. He is cheering his lungs out and he realizes he ran the wrong way. He crossed the wrong goal line. He didn’t make six points, he lost. So that cheering isn’t honoring to the team, it is making a fool out of the team. False doctrine presents God or his ways as they are not, and if we are happy by what God is not then he is not honored by our happiness. Right doctrine is a way of showing God as He is so that our joy can be in what is. Then our joy is an honor to God.
When I say that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him, it presumes that the God in whom we are satisfied is the true God, and that false views of God will prevent joy in the true God. I don’t know whether he had it in mind or whether you have it in mind when you asked the question, but clearly if you have a wrong view of salvation you lose your joy forever. That is what was happening in the book of Galatians. The Galatians and the Pharisees knew God, and Jesus says, “You are children of hell and you are going there because your view of how to relate to God is upside down. You think that God is impressed by your works for him and that you can put him in your debt.” And you can’t. That is a hellish doctrine and Paul says that those who bring a gospel like that are cursed.. So all happiness vanishes, and that is probably what ultimately Marty Lloyd-Jones meant.
So it seems that built into this is some level of distrust toward our own affections.
That is a very good point. I have been criticized sometimes for being a Christian hedonist because historic hedonism has often meant that pleasure becomes the criterion of what is right. That has never, ever been what I have meant by Hedonism. All I mean by Christian Hedonism is that you are living to maximize your pleasure forever. That is biblically why it is right to pursue your happiness. But, yes, we must be suspicious of making our pleasures the criteria of what is right, holy, good or true. Rather, it’s the other way around. The Bible decides what is true and then we labor to submit our heart to that so that we can find happiness in the truth, not determine what is true by what makes us happy.
Never has so much been crammed into one word. Depression feels terrifying. Your world is dark, heavy, and painful. Physical pain, you think, would be much better—at least the pain would be localized. Instead, depression seems to go to your very soul, affecting everything in its path.
Dead, but walking, is one way to describe it. You feel numb. Perhaps the worst part is that you remember when you actually felt something and the contrast between then and now makes the pain worse.
So many things about your life are difficult right now. Things you used to take for granted—a good night’s sleep, having goals, looking forward to the future—now seem beyond your reach. Your relationships are also affected. The people who love you are looking for some emotional response from you, but you do not have one to give.
Does it help to know that you are not alone? These days depression affects as much as 25 percent of the population. Although it has always been a human problem, no one really knows why. But what Christians do know is that God is not silent when we suffer. On every page of Scripture, God’s depressed children have been able to find hope and a reason to endure. For example, take 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (ESV):
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
Come to God with your suffering
You can start to experience the inward renewal that the apostle Paul experienced when you come to God with your suffering. God seems far away when we suffer. You believe that He exists, but it seems as if He is too busy with everything else, or He just doesn’t care. After all, God is powerful enough to end your suffering, but He hasn’t.
If you start there, you’ll reach a dead end pretty quickly. God hasn’t promised to explain everything about what He does and what He allows. Instead, He encourages us to start with Jesus. Jesus is God the Son, and He is certainly loved by his heavenly Father. Yet Jesus also went through more suffering than anyone who ever lived!
Here we see that love and suffering can co-exist. And when you start reading the Bible and encounter people like Job, Jeremiah, and the apostle Paul, you get a sense that suffering is actually the well-worn path for God’s favorites. This doesn’t answer the question, Why are you doing this to me? But it cushions the blow when you know that God understands. You aren’t alone. If we know anything about God, we know that He comes close to those who suffer, so keep your eyes open for Him.
God speaks to you in the Bible
Keep your heart open to the fact that the Bible has much to say to you when you are depressed. Here are a few suggestions of Bible passages you can read. Read one each day and let it fill your mind as you go about your life.
- Read about Jesus’ suffering in Isaiah 53 and Mark 14. How does it help you to know that Jesus is a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief?
- Use the Psalms to help you find words to talk to God about your heart. Make Psalm 88 and Psalm 86 your personal prayers to God.
- Be alert to spiritual warfare. Depressed people are very vulnerable to Satan’s claim that God is not good. Jesus’ death on the cross proves God’s love for you. It’s the only weapon powerful enough to stand against Satan’s lies. (Romans 5:6-8, 1 John 4:9,10)
- Don’t think your case is unique. Read Hebrews 11 and 12. Many have walked this path before you and they will tell you that God did not fail them.
- Remember your purpose for living. (Matthew 22:37-39, 1 Corinthians 6:20, 2 Corinthians 5:15, Galatians 5:6)
- Learn about persevering and enduring. (Romans 5:3, Hebrews 12:1, James 1:2-4).
- Try one step at a time Granted, it seems impossible. How can someone live without feelings? Without them you have no drive,nomotivation. Could you imagine walking without any feeling in your legs? It would be impossible.Or would it? Perhaps you could walk if you practiced in front of a large mirror and watched your legs moving. One step, wobble, another step. It would all be very mechanical, but it could be done.People have learned to walk in the midst of depression. It doesn’t seem natural, though other people won’t notice either the awkwardness or the heroism involved. The trek begins with one step, then another. Remember, you are not alone. Many people have taken this journey ahead of you.As you walk, you will find that it is necessary to remember to use every resource you have ever learned about persevering through hardship. It will involve lots of moment by moment choices: 1) take one minute at a time, 2) read one short Bible passage, 3) try to care about someone else, 4) ask someone how they are doing, and so on.You will need to do this with your relationships, too. When you have no feelings, how to love must be redefined. Love, for you, must become an active commitment to patience and kindness.
- Consider what accompanies your depressionAs you put one foot in front of the other, don’t forget that depression doesn’t exempt you from the other problems that plague human beings. Some depressed people have a hard time seeing the other things that creep in—things like anger, fear, and an unforgiving spirit. Look carefully to see if your depression is associated with things like these:
Do you have negative, critical, or complaining thoughts? These can point to anger. Are you holding something against another person?
Do you want to stay in bed all day? Are there parts of your life you want to avoid?
Do you find that things you once did easily now strike terror in your heart? What is at the root of your fear?
Do you feel like you have committed a sin that is beyond the scope of God’s forgiveness? Remember that the apostle Paul was a murderer. And remember: God is not like other people—He doesn’t give us the cold shoulder when we ask for forgiveness.
Do you struggle with shame? Shame is different from guilt. When you are guilty you feel dirty because of what you did; but with shame you feel dirty because of what somebody did to you. Forgiveness for your sins is not the answer here because you are not the one who was wrong. But the cross of Christ is still the answer. Jesus’ blood not only washes us clean from the guilt of our own sins, but also washes away the shame we experience when others sin against us.
Do you experience low self-worth? Low self-worth points in many directions. Instead of trying to raise your view of yourself, come at it from a completely different angle. Start with Christ and His love for you. Let that define you and then share that love with others.
Will it ever be over?
Will you always struggle with depression? That is like asking, “Will suffering ever be over?” Although we will have hardships in this world, depression rarely keeps a permanent grip on anyone. When we add to that the hope, purpose, power, and comfort we find in Christ, depressed people can usually anticipate a ray of hope or a lifting of their spirits.
Summary of Biblical Monotheism and the Trinity
Christian monotheistic belief is summarized by the following seven points:
1. The Father is God.
2. The Son is God.
3. The Holy Spirit is God.
4. The Father is not the Son.
5. The Son is not the Holy Spirit.
6. The Holy Spirit is not the Father.
7. There is only one God.
When Christians say: (1) The Father is God; (2) The Son is God; and (3) The Holy Spirit is God we are identifying Who God is.
When we say: (4) The Father is not the Son; (5) The Son is not the Holy Spirit; and (6) The Holy Spirit is not the Father we are distinguishing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The seventh and the final statement is the most challenging, “There is only one God”. The Greeks would say, “Zeus is god, “Apollos is god, and Dionysius is god” and there are three gods. Christianity says, the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God and there is only one God.
To help clarify the above seven points, please consider the following diagram:
The Christian Doctrine of the Trinity, and Belief in One God Involves Mystery
Now, the question boils down to this: Is this what the Bible teaches? Since the Bible teaches this but we can’t fully comprehend it – that is OK. We must leave room for mystery in our theology.
In church history Saint Augustine (354-430) probably thought more about the doctrine of the Trinity than any other uninspired writer, with the possible exception of John Calvin. There is a story about Augustine walking upon the ocean’s shore, greatly perplexed about the doctrine of the Trinity. As he meditated, he observed a little boy with a sea shell, running to the water, filling his shell, and then pouring it into a hole which he had made in the sand.
“What are you doing, my little man?” asked Augustine.
“Oh,” replied the boy, “I am trying to put the ocean in this hole.”
Augustine had learned his lesson, and as he passed on, exclaimed, “That is what I am trying to do; I see it now. Standing on the shores of time I am trying to get into this little finite mind things which are infinite.”
It should come as no surprise that the Christian belief in the Triune God involves mysteries that transcend the human mind.
Read: 1 Corinthians 2:6-16
No one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. —1 Corinthians 2:11
When we quote The Apostles’ Creed, we say, “I believe in the Holy Spirit.” Author J. B. Phillips said, “Every time we say [this] we mean that we believe that [the Spirit] is a living God able and willing to enter human personality and change it.”
Sometimes we forget that the Holy Spirit is not an impersonal force. The Bible describes Him as God. He possesses the attributes of God: He is present everywhere (Ps. 139:7-8), He knows all things (1 Cor. 2:10-11), and He has infinite power (Luke 1:35). He also does things that only God can do: create (Gen. 1:2) and give life (Rom. 8:2). He is equal in every way with the other Persons of the Trinity—the Father and the Son.
The Holy Spirit is a Person who engages in personal ways with us. He grieves when we sin (Eph. 4:30). He teaches us (1 Cor. 2:13), prays for us (Rom. 8:26), guides us (John 16:13), gives us spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:11), and assures us of salvation (Rom. 8:16).
The Holy Spirit indwells us if we have received forgiveness of sin through Jesus. He desires to transform us so that we become more and more like Jesus. Let’s cooperate with the Spirit by reading God’s Word and relying on His power to obey what we learn.
What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter (John 13:7).
We have only a partial view here of God’s dealings, His half-completed, half-developed plan; but all will stand out in fair and graceful proportions in the great finished Temple of Eternity!
Go, in the reign of Israel’s greatest king, to the heights of Lebanon. See that noble cedar, the pride of its compeers, an old wrestler with northern blasts! Summer loves to smile upon it, night spangles its feathery foliage with dewdrops, the birds nestle on its branches, the weary pilgrim or wandering shepherd reposes under its shadows from the midday heat or from the furious storm; but all at once it is marked out to fall; The aged denizen of the forest is doomed to succumb to the woodman’s stroke!
As we see the axe making its first gash on its gnarled trunk, then the noble limbs stripped of their branches, and at last the “Tree of God,” as was its distinctive epithet, coming with a crash to the ground, we exclaim against the wanton destruction, the demolition of this proud pillar in the temple of nature. We are tempted to cry with the prophet, as if inviting the sympathy of every lowlier stem–invoking inanimate things to resent the affront–“Howl, fir tree; for the cedar has fallen!”
But wait a little. Follow that gigantic trunk as the workmen of Hiram launch it down the mountain side; thence conveyed in rafts along the blue waters of the Mediterranean; and last of all, behold it set a glorious polished beam in the Temple of God. As you see its destination, placed in the very Holy of Holies, in the diadem of the Great King–say, can you grudge that “the crown of Lebanon” was despoiled, in order that this jewel might have so noble a setting? That cedar stood as a stately prop in Nature’s sanctuary, but “the glory of the latter house was greater than the glory of the former!”
How many of our souls are like these cedars of old! God’s axes of trial have stripped and bared them. We see no reason for dealings so dark and mysterious, but He has a noble end and object in view; to set them as everlasting pillars and rafters in His Heavenly Zion; to make them a “crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of our God.”
I do not ask my cross to understand,
My way to see–
Better in darkness just to feel Thy hand,
And follow Thee.
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations. —Jeremiah 1:5
When an NFL player, and every one of them is an amazing athlete, gets traded to a new team, he has to learn the playbook. He can’t bring in the playbook of the Dallas Cowboys when he’s been traded to the Chicago Bears. He doesn’t say, “I’m a professional athlete. I don’t need to learn another set of plays.” It’s because he’s such a great athlete that he can learn a new offense, a new defense, and so forth.
Every one of us has a non-Immanuel background. We’ve been traded from some other team. So as we come together and want to score touchdown after touchdown, we have to run the same plays together. What is our playbook? What are the understandings we all need to share together, and how do we “run those plays”? That’s what we’re going to define for several weeks now.
We begin today with this basic question. What is a Christian? Jeremiah 1 tells us something about being a Christian that writes our first play in our playbook. In this passage God says you are a person of destiny, and almost nothing in this world helps you to believe that. The political parties see you as a voting block. Businesses see you as a market niche. Therapists may tell you what a victim you are. But this world knows nothing of your dignity in Christ. You are a person of destiny. That’s what God says. Don’t let anyone but God define you. Receive his call on your life, and go for it. He promises to be with you as you dare to follow him.
You do not have to create your own significance. Many try to. Ernest Becker, in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Denial of Death, wrote, “We disguise our struggle by piling up figures in a bank book to reflect privately our sense of heroic worth. Or by having only a little better home in the neighborhood, a bigger car, brighter children. But underneath throbs the ache of cosmic specialness, no matter how we mask it in concerns of smaller scope.” Without a God-given sense of cosmic specialness, we sink into, as Becker puts it, “a blind drivenness that burns people up; in passionate people, a screaming for glory as uncritical and reflexive as the howling of a dog.” This is why Jesus said, “Come to me. My yoke is easy.” He has a call on your life, and it will not burn you up. It will cost you. But it will also fulfill you – like nothing else.
Let’s look at the greatness of the call of God upon us.
Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” —Jeremiah 1:4-5
The passages narrates Jeremiah’s call as a prophet. But it applies to all of God’s people. In the Old Testament God calls his people “my anointed ones, my prophets” (Psalm 105:15). In the New Testament the Holy Spirit is poured out on all of God’s people so that “they shall prophesy” (Acts 2:17-18). In 1 Corinthians 14 Paul says that, if all the members of that church will prophesy, they’ll make an impact (1 Corinthians 14:24-25).
What are we talking about? We’re not talking about being prophetic in the sense that I walk up to you and say, “God told me thus and so.” That’s a power play. When I hear that kind of thing, I’m not impressed. God speaks through the Bible. We are prophetic not through hunches but through truth. That’s what we see in the book of Acts during the greatest outpouring of the Holy Spirit in history: “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31). That’s being prophetic.
Here’s the wonderful thing we learn from these verses in Jeremiah 1. God personally handmade you and me for this task. We shouldn’t say, “But that isn’t my spiritual gift.” That’s what Jeremiah’s about to say. And it was a pretty good excuse. He really wasn’t the ideal candidate for a prophet. But God called Jeremiah. God called Jeremiah to transcend himself. God called Jeremiah to do hard things for him, things he was unprepared for. And God promised Jeremiah that he would be with him. God even built weakness into Jeremiah, because God’s power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). So here’s the truth. God doesn’t call the qualified; he qualifies the called. The call of God is all you need to be confident. His command comes with his promise. If you will obey, you will succeed, because his call upon your life is not just a future challenge; his call started a long time ago and got you to this moment right now. Before you existed in your mother’s womb, God loved you and set you apart to himself and defined your mission in life. He gave you a job to do. He appointed you a voice for the gospel to the whole world today. See yourself that way.
When you look at your life and say, “For this I was born” – what is it about your life that you’re looking at when your heart says that? Is there anything in your life that makes you say, “For this I was born”? God wants to fill in that blank for you with his true purpose: “I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Do not trivialize your life. God has a call of greatness for you. And Immanuel Church is here to serve you by helping you fulfill your destiny. But following God’s call is not easy for us. It wasn’t easy for Jeremiah. We see that in verses 6-8:
Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you you shall go, and whatever I command you you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord.” —Jeremiah 1:6-8
We can always come up with reasons to say No to God, because what he calls us to do is impossible. The will of God stretches us to the limit and beyond. But throughout the Bible we see people just like us who accomplish things they never dreamed possible. Why? Because when we step out to obey God, he goes with us: “I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord.”
Jeremiah’s excuse was “Lord, I’m young, I’m inexperienced, I’m untrained. There are some really smart people out there. I won’t know what to say.” That is not a profound objection. Isaiah at least had a profound objection. When God called him, he said, “I am a man of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5). He was saying, “I’m too sinful to speak for you” – a pretty good point. But God touched Isaiah’s mouth and said, “Your guilt is taken away; your sin is atoned for” (Isaiah 6:7). So, what’s your excuse? Our minds will always come up with reasons to put God off. Let’s not be shocked when we find ourselves screaming defeat even as we’re standing in victory. It’s how we sinners think, and it feels somehow logical.
What does God do about that? How does God respond to our inadequacy? God doesn’t say to Jeremiah, “No, Jeremiah, you really are impressive. You even make me feel complete. Jeremiah, I feel so much better with you on my side.” No, Jeremiah was right. He was inadequate. And Isaiah was sinful. But God is just changing the subject to himself and his grace. Look in this passage how God insists on a positive new God-focus in your life:
I formed you, I knew you, I consecrated you, I appointed you, I send you, I command you, I am with you to deliver you.
What does God tell Jeremiah to do? Just two things: “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth,'” and “Do not be afraid.” The whole tilt of the passage leans toward how much God does for Jeremiah and how little Jeremiah does for God. What does God want Jeremiah to do? “Stop telling me who you are. I know that already. What matters for you to fulfill your destiny, Jeremiah, is not who you are but who I am, not your ability but my purpose.” Let’s get our eyes off ourselves. Self-focus will paralyze a church. The whole point of the gospel is that we are no longer limited to ourselves. We are freed from our pettiness and smallness. We are now living in union with Christ in all his grandeur (1 Corinthians 1:30). The key to your becoming a prophetic voice for Christ is Christ – Christ before you, Christ over you, Christ in you, Christ with you. He is sending you. He is commanding you. If you will obey, you will succeed and your life will make an impact to the ends of the earth.
Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” —Jeremiah 1:9-10
What matters is not your mouth but whose word is in your mouth. Billy Graham might be a better evangelist than you, but his gospel is no better than yours. The gospel you have to share has all the same power of God to create a new human race. All you have to do is receive God’s words into your mouth, and then let them out of your mouth. I remember an old friend named Wilbur Smith telling me years ago about Billy Graham sitting down with the president of some foreign country and Graham’s first comment to this world leader, as they sat down for dinner, was not “What a lovely country you have” but “What do you think of Jesus Christ?” That is the all-important question we must ask everyone we can: What do you think of Jesus Christ? God orchestrated and launched and is supervising all of human history for this one reason: to display his glory in Christ. Therefore the central question for every life throughout the length of human history is not about politics or economics or race; the primary question is, What do you think of Jesus Christ? And God will use any believer, however timid, whose mouth will open up for his glory.
St. Francis of Assisi was famous for saying, “Preach the gospel at all times; if necessary, use words.” That is wrong. Sure, we want our lives to line up with what we say. But a life without words is not enough. What does God do here? God puts his words into Jeremiah’s mouth – not just his character into Jeremiah’s heart or his deeds into Jeremiah’s lifestyle but his words into Jeremiah’s mouth. It is gospel words that have the power to bring down strongholds of falsehood and establish new worlds of peace and joy and justice in people’s lives and families and neighborhoods. That’s why the devil wants to silence you. It’s okay with him if you live a “good Christian life,” if you’ll just keep your mouth shut. But when God puts his words into your mouth and you let them out of your mouth, you are prophetic. What did the Sanhedrin tell the apostles not to do? “They charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:18). And the apostles, who were shaken by that – can you imagine seeing your face on wanted posters all over town? – the apostles went back to the church and they had a prayer meeting. What did they ask God to do? Not to make all the wanted posters disappear. This is what they begged God for: “And now Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness” (Acts 4:29). God helped them, and their influence was unstoppable to the ends of the earth.
God can make a worldwide difference through you, beginning today: “See, I have set you this day over nations and kingdoms.” Jeremiah didn’t have to strive for influence; he only had to speak, and God do the rest. When you speak openly for Jesus, his Word redirects the course of human history, one person at a time. You start pushing over dominoes all around you, without even knowing it. And do you see these words of destruction (pluck up, break down, destroy, overthrow) followed by words of construction (build, plant)? What’s that about? Francis Schaeffer used to say, “If I had one hour with a modern person, I would spend the first fifty minutes interacting on the problems, on our lostness and emptiness and despair and bondage and guilt, and then the last ten minutes on the good news.”
Schaeffer understood that the gospel first plucks up and breaks down and destroys and overthrows the false hopes we dream of and the fraudulence of our culture, and then it builds and plants with the solid realities of Jesus. Billy Graham said, “The problem is not to get people saved; the problem is to get them lost.” Too many people “make a decision for Jesus” before they know why they need him, and people don’t change that way. They don’t love him. They don’t even want him, not really. They just accept him, to escape hell. Their inner world has never been deconstructed and then rebuilt in Christ. Their minds and hearts are still locked down with well-established structures of pride and fear and error. The gospel sets people free from that. Think of the structure of the book of Romans. Paul explains the gospel in chapters 1-5, in two steps. He starts out in 1:18-3:20 explaining the wrath of God, then in 3:21-5:21 he explains the grace of God. Why? Because the good news starts with bad news. The gospel has some hard things to say to us, harder than anything else we’ve ever heard. And it has sweet things to say to us, sweeter than anything else we’ve ever heard. God breaks down and he builds up. That’s how the gospel changes people – beginning with us.
Now, how should we respond to this passage? From verses 4-5 we can say to God, “Thank you for how you made me. I see that I am not fundamentally a problem to you; I am fundamentally a strategy from you. Thank you. I dedicate my life to doing your will.” From verses 6-8 we can say to God, “Father, I renounce my negative self-focus, and I receive your promise to be with me and deliver me as I speak for you.” And from verses 9-10 we can say, “Lord, I want to become more articulate in the gospel – removing objections, bringing down the obstacles, building and planting new thoughts, new feelings, new reverence in the hearts of my friends as we interact over the gospel.”
So here is the first play in our playbook. Every member of Immanuel Church is trained to be a voice for the gospel. Every member knows how to explain the gospel and is ready and available to explain the gospel with anyone. That’s the play. Let’s run it.
Let me ask you something. What are you doing every Sunday morning at 9:00 that’s more important than learning how to improve your fluency in the gospel? That’s what C. A. Stilwell is helping us to do here every Sunday morning at 9:00. Where are you during that hour? If you’re not here, if you’re somewhere else because you’re good at this already, we still need you here to help the rest of us. And if you’re not here because you need extra rest before work on Monday, is there anything preventing you from going to bed at 10:00 Saturday night, setting your alarm for 7:00 Sunday morning, turning out the lights and getting nine hours of sleep, so that you wake up Sunday morning feeling great, with two hours for a leisurely cup of coffee and newspaper time before you’re here at 9:00? What else do you have to do that’s more important than you fulfilling the call of God on your life?
God said to Jeremiah, “I have consecrated you.” That was good news. It meant that Jeremiah would not waste his life. And that is the call of God on you and me. But there’s better news. Jesus said, “I consecrate myself for their sake” (John 17:19). Your future is not limited to you; your future is opened up by him, because he is committed to you. Trust him. Obey him. He will be with you, you will be prophetic, and your life will count forever.
My wife and I started off in a small beginning. We almost destroyed one another just like we were used to devour those we sold drugs to and used drugs with. It wasn’t until five years had passed since our seeing one another that she took a small step of faith and reached out to me while I was serving my last year of a 5-year sentence in Corcoran State Prison and asked me to forgive her. That act of reconciliation has led to 23 years of friendship and 5 years of marriage. We have accomplished several small things that have turned into very significant events in our life and the lives of family and countless others.
Consider for a moment dreams or goals you’ve had which have been realized. Think back on those accomplishments or successful experiences which are most meaningful for you to remember. I’m willing to guess that more than one of them had a rather tentative, inglorious start.
When we look carefully at the path which led to a personal success, we often realize that it began with a modest step forward, that in time reaped a much greater harvest than we anticipated.
Such small first steps might include–
An awkward first visit to a church singles group, that led to meeting the person you married.
A hesitant phone call to ask someone out, or to inquire about a job opportunity, which received a much more positive response than you expected.
An application for a grant, written with a sense of futility, thinking you’d probably be better off spending your time doing something else. Yet to your astonishment, the grant was given, and significant doors have now opened through that one effort.
A business venture began with a paltry investment that succeeded far beyond your expectations.
A book picked up in a time of discouragement, that inspired you and gave you the perspective to pursue your dream.
A reconciled relationship, now going strong, which began with a simple request for forgiveness.
With the eyes of hindsight, we look back to such starting efforts with awe and gratitude. We realize there was greatness in that moment of small beginning that we didn’t begin to appreciate at the time. We may shudder, too, to think of how close we came to not taking that one initial step which opened such important doors.
A Reason for Optimism
Unfortunately, the benefit of the small beginning is often lost on us when we face the possibility of embarking on a new dream. The effort it would take to pursue it seems massive; we’re overwhelmed with the impossibility of it all. There seems to be little or nothing we can do to move forward.
To the eyes of faith, though, there is a world of difference between “little” and “nothing.” Often there is something we can do–some obvious first step we could take. This may be exactly what is needed to put the wheels of faith in motion.
For one thing, we shouldn’t underestimate the value that taking any initial step toward a goal has upon us psychologically. Suddenly our psyche is committed, and we become more alert to opportunities that will move us toward our dream. Others become more aware of our intentions as well and are more likely to try to help us.
Yet the spiritual aspect of taking the first step is even more important. The seemingly insignificant small beginning often gets much closer to the heart of the biblical idea of going forward in faith than we realize.
From Little Acorns . . .
We don’t usually think of it this way. The very notion of moving out in faith seems to imply taking a bold, extravagant step of some sort. We quickly think of the biblical prototypes: Moses parting the Red Sea, Joshua leading the Israelites to demolish the wall of Jericho with a shout, David marshaling his troops for battle, Gideon confronting the indomitable Midianite army with only three hundred soldiers, Esther going before King Ahasuerus knowing that her life hung in the balance, Peter preaching salvation to the large throng of Jews gathered on the day of Pentecost. It’s easy to conclude that if we’re not throwing caution to the wind, we’re not really taking a step of faith.
Yet Scripture also shows great respect for the small, subtle, unspectacular first step. Consider these examples–
In the parable of the talents, Jesus commended the two servants who invested their money and upbraided the one who failed to give his one coin to the bankers (Mt 25:14-30). Few first steps are less inspiring than putting money in the bank. No one notices, there are no neon lights, and there is no immediate reward for this act of discipline. In fact, the period you must wait for any significant benefit can seem interminable. Yet with time, the incremental gains grow larger and larger, and the eventual profit is considerable.
It’s striking that Jesus paid such respect to prudent financial investment. Clearly, too, he intended the parable of the talents to be an analogy to other areas of life where we take risks for his sake. It conveys an unmistakable lesson–that we shouldn’t neglect the benefit of a small beginning in any venture of faith.
Ruth’s marriage to Boaz–one of the most celebrated in Scripture–resulted from a small, ignoble step forward. The marriage became possible because of Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, moved from Moab to Bethlehem. The move, detailed in the book of Ruth, was anything but a triumphant one for these two women. Both went to Bethlehem as widows–Naomi returning grief-stricken to her homeland, and Ruth following along out of devotion to Naomi. The move was borne more of necessity than of vibrant vision for the future.
Yet at least they did something to break the inertia of their grief and make a fresh start. In time the move brought benefits that exceeded their wildest expectations. Ruth met Boaz and married him, then gave birth to a son who became an ancestor of David. Naomi also found new life in this family connection, and in the many friendships that opened for her in Bethlehem. An unglamorous step forward brought about a wellspring of life for Naomi, Ruth, Boaz, and countless others who enjoyed the family relationships that resulted in the generations which followed.
We tend to glamorize the healing incidents in the Gospels and assume that those who came to Jesus for help did so boldly, with a sublime confidence that they would be instantly cured. I’m certain, though, that many came in the same ambivalent, tentative spirit in which we often seek medical help today. The woman with the hemorrhage is a case in point (Mark 5:24-34). Terribly concerned that no one would notice her, and uncertain whether approaching Jesus was even appropriate, she decided merely to touch the hem of his garment. That one small gesture not only brought her healing but an effusive compliment from Jesus about her faith (v. 34).
As we see here, Scripture not only describes small first steps which brought results over time but those which reaped a surprising harvest immediately. Virtually all of the healing miracles mentioned in Scripture fit this pattern. The “miracles of expansion” do as well. These include incidents in the Old and New Testaments where large crowds were fed with a small provision of food (2 Kings 4:42-44; Mk 6:33-44, 8:1-9), and the miraculous provision of oil that saved the widow of Cain from financial ruin (2 Kings 4:1-7). While we cannot presume that our own small first steps will immediately produce such astonishing results, we can never know unless we try.
And in time the results of a meager first effort often do surprise us.
The Challenge of Small Beginnings
While taking the small first step can make all the difference, there are two factors which can keep us from appreciating an opportunity to move forward that we actually have. One is that because of its apparent insignificance, we may not even recognize the small beginning that’s available for us to make.
I remember a friend who left a well-paying nursing job to enter a doctoral program. Though Nancy had long wanted to pursue this goal, she assumed it was financially impossible, since she was a single parent in her forties. Finally, she faced up to the fact that there was a small beginning she could make, which was to apply for grants. She made six applications, assuming her prospects for success were minimal. To her astonishment, four of the six were granted. When Nancy shared this personal triumph with me, I couldn’t help but think of how many people there must be who need this same financial assistance–and would qualify for it–yet have concluded that it isn’t worth the trouble to apply. Nancy herself had overlooked this option for years.
Of course, writing a grant application means some uninspiring paperwork, and this suggests a second factor that can keep us from recognizing the chance to make a small beginning–the fact that we may look with contempt upon what we have to do.
Such was the near-fatal flaw of Naaman the leper in the Old Testament. Naaman sought healing for leprosy from Elisha, who told him to wash seven times in the Jordan river. Naaman’s response was one of anger: “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” (2 Kings 5:11-12 NIV). The text concludes, “he turned and went off in a rage.”
Naaman’s servants had the good sense to challenge him, saying, “if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” (v. 13). Naaman fortunately repented of his obstinacy and followed the prophet’s counsel. Yet his example warns us that no matter how greatly we want to reach a goal, our disdain for some of the details may keep us from moving forward. The initial steps that we must take are particularly likely to seem distasteful to us.
We need, in short, a greater esteem for the small beginnings of life. “Don’t despise the day of small beginnings,” as Pat Robertson is fond of paraphrasing Zechariah 4:10.
Do you have a personal dream which has not been realized? To the best of your knowledge, is your dream in line with God’s best intentions for your life? Yet does it seem that there is little or nothing you can do to move toward your goal-that your hands are tied?
Remember that a small beginning is sometimes the very step needed to open yourself to the provision of Christ. Pray earnestly and look honestly at what you actually can do to start moving toward your goal. Don’t look with contempt on the small beginning. Think of it as the launching point for a journey of faith.
And remember that God’s hand in your life is not shortened. Stands the reason we are stepping out with Second Chance Alliance, Click to review and pray our strength. Thanks in advance.
19 cOn the evening dof that day, the first day of the week, ethe doors being locked where the disciples were ffor fear of the Jews,3 Jesus came and stood among them and said to them,g“Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, hhe showed them his hands and his side. Then ithe disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As jthe Father has sent me, keven so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he lbreathed on them and said to them, m“Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 nIf you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
The Bible has two parts: Old Testament and New Testament. The New Testament has 27 books: four gospels to tell the life of Jesus, 21 letters to explain the meaning of Jesus for our lives, one history about the early church, and one prophecy. All 27 of those books deal with Jesus as alive, risen from the dead and the central, living reality in the universe today, he himself being very God and very man.
And what I want to do in this message is look with you at Jesus’ first appearance to all his frightened disciples after the resurrection. And what I want us to see is:How did the risen Jesus act? and What did the risen Jesus say? That first appearance to the disciples as a group happens in John 20:19–23.
Let’s look at the first part of John 20:19 to see how Jesus acts.
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them. . .
Three Facts and How Jesus Deals With Us
So this is the evening of the Sunday that he rose from the dead. That morning Jesus had appeared to Mary Magdalene (John 20:1–18). But now he appears to all the disciples (the eleven apostles) at once. Notice three things: the doors are locked; the disciples are frightened; and Jesus comes to them and stands in their midst. Those three facts tell us three things we can know about how the risen Christ deals with us today.
1. The doors were locked.
Jesus did not have to knock. He did not even have to open the door. He simply was there. And he wasn’t a ghost. Look at verse 20: “He showed them his hands and his side.” In another place he said, “Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke 24:39). So he has a physical body. But not exactly like ours: the same, yet different. He was simply there, in spite of the closed doors.
Which means that today in your life, Jesus can go where no one else can go. He can go where no counselor can go. He can go where no doctor can go. He can go where no lover can go. He can reach you, and reach into you, anywhere and any time. There is no place where you are, and no depths of personhood that you are which Jesus can’t penetrate. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead fits him to do what no one else can do. There is no one else like him in all the universe. He is alive, and he is the one and only God-Man. What he is capable of you cannot imagine. And it is a healing wonder to contemplate that all the complex layers of your life, which neither you nor anyone else can understand, are familiar territory to him.
2. They were afraid.
Verse 19: “The doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews . . .” Their leader had just been crucified as threat to Caesar. Their fear is totally understandable. And into that fear Jesus comes.
I suppose I want to draw your attention to this because this is the way I feel the need of risen, living Jesus most often. Fear. Fear that I won’t be prepared for what I’m expected to do. Fear that the church won’t prosper, or the conference won’t be attended, or the class won’t be helped. Fear that my children will make shipwreck of their faith. Fear that I won’t have the faith to die well. Fear that I might drift into worldliness and uselessness.
And what Jesus is saying in this action is: I come to my own when they are afraid. I don’t wait for them to get their act together. I don’t wait for them to have enough faith to overcome fear. I come to help them have enough faith to overcome fear. And I testify after fifty years of being a Christian, this is still true. The risen, living Jesus is still doing this. He comes when we cry out to him in our fear. He helps us. I have called to him a thousand times: “Jesus please help me.” And he has come near with the promise: “Fear not I am with, be not dismayed, I am your God, I will help you” (Isaiah 41:10). He will do this for you too, if you receive him into your life for who he really is.
3. Jesus comes to them and stands in their midst.
Verse 19: “. . . the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them.” The point here is that he came right into the middle of their meeting. He did not come to the edge and call out through the wall and deal with them as a distant deity. He wasn’t playing games with them. He wasn’t toying with their faith. He wanted them to see him and know him and believe in him and love him.
That’s what he wants for you today. And that’s what I want for you today. I want you to experience the living Jesus. To know him. To have him draw near into your life where no one else can go. To have him help you in your fear the way no one else can help you. And to have him come to you — close to you, not calling to you from a distance, but coming right into your midst. That’s what I pray happens after you read this post.
Three Gifts in What Jesus Says
So that’s the way he acts as the risen, living Christ. Now what does he say? And what we see is that in this first appearance to the disciples he says three things (or four, depending on how you count them). And these three things turn out to be three gifts to you: the gift of peace, the gift of power, and the gift of purpose. The opposite of peace is conflict. The opposite of power is weakness. The opposite of purpose is aimlessness.
Many, many lives are ruined by conflict, weakness, and aimlessness. Jesus did not come into the world and die and rise again to ruin your life. But to save it. And what we will see is that he saves us from ruining our lives by becoming himself our peace and our power and our purpose. I am praying that God will do this for you: Make Jesus your peace. And Jesus your power. And Jesus your purpose.
“Peace Be With You”
So what did he say?
Two times he said, “Peace be with you.”
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.”
Before Jesus says anything about power or purpose he wants to establish peace. The order here is really important. The peace that Jesus gives is before and underneath any of our empowered actions or any of our purposeful deeds. We don’t initiate peace with Jesus by our actions. He initiates peace with us.
The apostle Paul — who wrote 13 of those 21 New Testament letters — explains it like this: “He [Jesus] himself is our peace, who has made us both one [Jew and Gentile] . . . and reconciled us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility (Ephesians 2:14–18).
A Peace Accomplished
The peace that Jesus offers the disciples is peace that he accomplished when he died for them on the cross. That’s why in verse 20 he says, “When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.” I am the one who died. I am the one you abandoned. And I am the one who was “pierced for your transgressions” (Isaiah 53:5). And the reason I can offer you peace is because by my blood I have covered all your sins.
If you trust me they won’t be held against you. The wrath of God is turned away.That’s what Paul meant when he said, “Christ reconciled us both to God through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.” All the hostility between God and us was absorbed on the cross. Here, look at my side and my hands. I made peace with these. Justice was satisfied with these. Peace between you and God (and me) was established with these.
Where Peace Comes in Your Life
So there are five relationships where the crucified and risen Christ brings peace into your life:
- Peace between us and him. That’s the first and most obvious meaning: he is standing there among them offering them himself as a friend and helper, not a judge.
- Peace between us and God. That’s why God sent him — so that God’s justice and wrath could be satisfied another way besides eternal punishment. God makes peace with us by substituting his Son’s suffering for our penalty. Now he comes to us as a loving Father.
- Peace between us and others who are in Christ. To be reconciled to God is to be reconciled to all who are reconciled to God. No hostility vertically or horizontally. No racism. No ethnocentrism or classism or sexism. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
- Peace between us and our own souls. The New Testament letter to the Hebrews says, “The blood of Christ . . . will purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:14). O the precious peace of a clear conscience. How many people labor under the misery of a defiled, guilty conscience. I read on Thursday the testimony of a woman who had an abortion 8 years ago and who said, “I cannot forgive myself.” I wrote, “That’s what Good Friday is for!”Peace with yourself doesn’t mean that you start seeing past sins as desirable. Peace doesn’t mean that past sins cease to be painful. It means they cease to be paralyzing. The pain may not be taken away immediately, but the penalty is taken away immediately through Christ. And that makes it possible to heal. And to move on with hope-filled life while you do.
- Peace with the world. Yes, when Jesus died he did what needed to be done (Colossians 1:19–20) so that someday, in God’s time, all evil will be cast into outer darkness and the entire new creation will be full of peace and righteousness. “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end . . . with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore” (Isaiah 9:7).
Peace with Jesus. Peace with God the Father. Peace with others in Christ. Peace with ourselves. And peace with the world. It was an amazing achievement.
How Do You Receive This Peace?
And how do you receive this? Everybody doesn’t have it. It’s a gift of God. Wereceive it. Or we walk away from it. Or better to say: we receive him. Or walk away from him. He is our peace. If you have the risen, living Christ as your Savior, and Lord, and Treasure, and Friend, you have the peace that he gives — the peace that he is. “To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). “Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
Jesus offers you that. I offer that on his behalf. It is free. I hope you receive it.
I’ve spent most of our time on the gift of peace because it is foundational. If we don’t have peace with God we will take all his other gifts and use them to try to make peace. And it never works. Peace is first. And it is free. Everything else is the effect of peace, not the cause. It is fruit. Peace is the root.
So let me just point in closing to the power and the purpose Jesus gives. Both are mentioned in verses 21–22,
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” [the purpose] 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” [the power]
Power by the Spirit
Jesus was going to pour out the Holy Spirit when he ascended into heaven (Acts 2:33). That happens about seven weeks after his resurrection. We read about it in the first chapter of Acts. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8). The work of the Holy Spirit that Jesus gives is that he makes us able to do what we are simply not able to do on our own. He gives us power.
So here in John 20: 22 Jesus performs a kind of acted out parable. “He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” He didn’t say, Receive him at this very moment. He said in effect: realize that my breath, my life, my word will be in the Holy Spirit. We’ve seen this before in John 14. Jesus said, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18). The risen, living Jesus has come to us. He has sent us the Holy Spirit. His Spirit. He has breathed on us.
This person — this power — is our only hope for accomplishing the purpose he has for us. And he gives that purpose in verse 21b: “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” I want you to live in the world as my representatives. My ambassadors. I want you to take my peace and take my power, and glorify my Father the way I have (John 12 :27-28).
Our Central Purpose for Existence
Jesus comes to us and gives us his peace with God. Then he gives us power to do the kinds of things that mere humans can’t do — like defeating our own selfishness, and loving other people, and treasuring Christ above all. And then with that peace and that power he gives us our central purpose for existence: “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”
I’m sending you to extend my peace and my light and my truth and my life in the world. I am going to my Father. But I give you my Spirit. I am the power in you. So go and glorify me in this world. That’s our great purpose — in the peace of God, by the power of God, to do the will of God for the glory of God, and for the good of others.
And if you are puzzled by verse 23, here’s what I think it means. It’s a good way to end. Jesus says to the disciples: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
What he means is this: When you tell people about what I have done, speaking my word, about my work, in the power of my Spirit, I am the one speaking through you, so that if anyone believes your word, I forgive their sins. And if any does not believe your words, I don’t’ forgive them. And since you are my voice and my truth, I speak of you forgiving them, and you withholding forgiveness.
Which simply means that right now: what you make of this message from this fallible, sinful, human messenger will decide whether you are forgiven or not. As an ambassador of Christ, I urge you be reconciled to God: receive as a free gift his peace, his power, his purpose. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
A series of rare lunar eclipses occur between 2014 and 2014, with the first, with the first ‘blood moon‘ eclipse, which took place early Tuesday morning, April 15, 2014.
Stargazers were mesmerizd as they looked up to see the moon blushing, as the eclipse began at about 2 a.m. ET on the early hours of Tuesday and lasted about 3.5 hours. The eclipse was full by 3 a.m. ET
The next three lunar eclipses are expected to appear on Oct. 8, 2014, Apr. 8, 2015 and Sept. 28, 2015.
A lunar eclipse happens when Earth, the sun and the moon align in a way that makes Earth’s shadow falls on the moon, giving the moon a dark color. The moon will appear to look blood-red, which happens when earth deflects the sun’s light.
A small group of Christians see the lunar eclipse series as a sign of End Times and the second coming ofJesus Christ, an event described in biblical prophecy.
This belief is based on biblical prophecy. In Joel 2:31, the Bible says, “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD comes.”
Megachurch pastor, televangelist and author John Hagee is warning his congregation and the rest of mankind that there’s a “world-shaking event that will happen between April 2014 and October 2015.”
Hagee, who is founder of the Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, TX, believes the “four blood moons,” (four consecutive and complete lunar eclipses) also known as a lunar tetrad, is a significant event.
The televangelist and author had garnered vast amounts of attention as the date of the first blood moon drew near. Hagee believes the event will change world history, which he discusses in his book Four Blood Moons: Something is About to Change. He will be airing a TV special on GETV regarding this topic on Tuesday, April 15, the first night of the tetrad.
The ‘blood moons’ will also coincide with Jewish holidays. This year’s lunar eclipses on Apr. 15 and Oct. 8 concur with the Jewish Passover and feast of the Tabernacle. Lunar eclipses falling on Apr. 4 and Sept. 28, 2015 also concur with the same Jewish holidays.
NASA also believes the lunar tetrad – four successive blood moons – is also very unusual and that it will be a unique sight to behold,
This series of rare astronomical events only happened a handful of times in the last 2000 years.
The last three times have coincided with globally significant religious events.
The tetrad that took place in 1493, saw the Catholic Spanish Inquisition expel Jews. It was an event that changed western Europe dramatically.
The second tetrad took place at the same time the State of Israel was finally established in 1949, after years of struggle.
The last tetrad, which occurred in 1967 happened at the exact same time of the Six-Day Arab–Israeli War.
“Every time this has happened in the last 500 years, it has coincided with tragedy for the Jewish people followed by triumph. And once again, for Israel, the timing of this Tetrad is remarkable,” Pastor Hagee told Express News.
According to Earthsky.org, three out of four of the blood moons cannot be viewed from Israel.
Although Pastor Hagee believes that the upcoming tetrads are significant, Rev. Mark Hitchcock, a preacher and biblical prophecy expert in Edmond, Oklahoma says he doesn’t believe the eclipses are related to Bible prophecy.
Hitchcock pointed out that while rare astronomical occurrences can often be read about in the Bible, the upcoming lunar eclipses is not one of them.
In his recently released book, “Blood Moons Rising: Bible Prophecy, Israel and the Four Blood Moons,” Hitchcock, who serves as senior pastor of Faith Bible Church, explains his stance on the universe’s upcoming event.
The Oklahomian reports that Hitchcock began writing his book because many people were asking him whether the blood moons were linked to prophecy. His colleagues were also overwhelmed with questions about the ‘blood moon’ eclipses. Hitchcock shared that the growing interest resembled the fascination people placed in the Mayan calendar’s end of world prophecy on December 21, 2012.
“The difference in the Mayan calendar idea in 2012 was that it really was kind of outside the Christian world.” However, Hithcock stated, “This is a prediction being made by Christian pastors and Christian teachers.” The Oklahoma-based pastor explained that after examining historical and scriptural information, he believes that “the conclusions they draw on this blood moon prophecy of 2014 and 2015 are not valid.”
The eclipse on April 15 was observed from all around the world, from the central Atlantic westward to eastern Australia.
The significance of lunar eclipses is noted in “the Babylonian Talmud, written almost two thousand years ago, and it records in Jewish thinking that whenever the sun is in total eclipse, it is a bad omen for the nations” (p. 31).
However, if only looking at the world through the prism of a Western or Gregorian calendar, one misses the boat entirely: “If we are not on the biblical calendar, we lose all the significance of the totally incredible signs God is revealing to us” (p. 147). In Pastor Mark book Blood Moons: Decoding the Imminent Heavenly Signs, Pastor Mark explained things quite clearly. He alluded to our paying attention to this phenomenon as the “Super Bowl of human history.” While refreshingly making it clear that he doesn’t know what the sign means other than something big is coming, based on previous occurrences, he did cite the possibility of a prophetic war. He also observed, “In the context of the prophet Joel, it mentions twice the moon turning to blood in the context of God’s warning against the nations who divide His land. I believe these could be prophetic warnings not to divide the land of Israel.”
In his book, he asks, “Wouldn’t you want to know in advance of a major catastrophe that would impact your life? Wouldn’t you like to be told when a tornado was about to strike your house or when the stock market was about to tank? … God always warns before He brings judgment. In His mercy, He is sending big time warnings from his heavenly billboards. You can ignore them at your own peril, pooh-pooh them and try to ride out the storm, or you can come to the dress rehearsals and be prepared for what is coming” (p. 63).
Sometimes, as we struggle along through and endure these perilous last days, it can seem like the Devil is winning on every front. Oftentimes it truly does seem that every single hallmark of morality and righteousness in the world is not only under demonic attack but is in fact being relegated to the dustbins of society. Sometimes it may seem as though God has totally withdrawn, and that we are left to fend for ourselves. Truly, the chalepos snares of the forces of darkness abound today like no other time in history. The result of these perilous days will ultimately soon culminate in full-scale apostasy during the Tribulation of course. (as the Laodicean Church evolves into the Apostate church) But we members of the terminal generation era (alive at time for rapture) of the bride of Christ need always to ponder and reflect upon the fact that all these ominous signs of the times need not cause us to fear. Rather the prevalent perilous times present today should give us renewed hope and spiritual vigor as we labor onward in this ever darkening world.
Many people fail to understand or to grasp the unique spiritual blessing that is inferred by the phrase, “blessed hope.” The Greek term “makarios elpis,” is the rendered phrase that we as Christians know uniquely as the wondrous “blessed hope.” It is a term that is intended to convey to every Christian alive during the last days, a quiet but assuring message about an imminent gathering with the Lord before the climactic Day of Trouble.
(Day of the Lord) The term means that the last days Christian is “supremely fortunate and able to confidently anticipate” the Lord’s coming even as we witness the signs of the Last Days taking place all around us. And what a blessing it is too! Christians should never allow the Devil to rob them of this wonderfulmakarios elpis! The blessed hope and the glorious appearing of Jesus Christ (epiphaneia) are majestically and supernaturally interlocked in the providential plan of God. Otherwise, the Christian of today could not look out across today’s world landscape, and see a view that is overflowing with the ever-advancing forces of darkness, and still yet be filled with absolute confidence and an anticipatory sense of excitement. These perilous times indicate that the time for Jesus return is on the radar screen for Christians and that we, his ambassadors in this world will soon be recalled home. The great tribulation era is simply not on the radar screen for Christians!
Titus 2:13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ;
Some reasons to be encouraged even during the perilous times of the Last Days are the following:
- Jesus has promised his children that he will never leave us nor forsake us. Even in the most perilous of times, the Lord is our constant refuge and strength.
Hebrews 13:5-6 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.
Psalms 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalms 62:7-8; Psalms 118:4; II Corinthians 12:9)
- The providential plan of God does not call for his children to be subjected to the “Day of the wrath of the Lamb” (Revelation 6:16) when Jesus returns to this world as a Lion! (Revelation 5:5) Yes, God’s plan calls for our withdrawal and rescue!
1 Thessalonians 5:1-9 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.
- This world is not our home. Heaven holds our citizenship, and as citizens of Heaven, we are presently serving as the Lord’s ambassadors to this present world. We are literally spiritual aliens in this world, and this evil infested world hates us just as it hated Jesus. Our rewards, our crowns, our substance, and our inheritance are all in Heaven. There is an old song that says it plainly: (This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through, my treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue, the angels beckon me to heavens open door, and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore!) (Romans 8:17-21; Titus 2:12; Galations 1:4; Ephesians 2:12)
Revelation 22:12 And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
- Accountability to God is the great motivator for righteous living, and persisting in the faith even under the most trying of circumstances. In the end analysis, we will all (Christian or non-Christian) discover that real accountability rests solely with God. Accountability should always be a powerful reminder for us to live righteously and soberly in this present world. Every action, word, deed, and thought for every individual will be scrutinized and evaluated by God. No one shall escape God’s strong right arm of justice. Vengeance, mercy and justice belong to him alone, and all earthly kings, presidents, dictators, and all men, rich or poor, whether evil or good will one day be required to give an accounting to God. Anticipating the Lord’s words, “well done good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord,” are wonderful words that should encourage every Christian to endure to the end.
Romans 14:11-12 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. (Matthew12:36; Matthew 18:23; I Peter 4:4-5; Revelation 20:12-13)
- Jesus is absolutely 100% victorious and he is coming soon to claim his kingdom! Regardless of the perils that we are subjected to while we are in this world, we must never forget the fact that Jesus Christ has already won our salvation and we must also never forget the fact that he will soon return to this earth avenge his/our adversaries.
Jeremiah 46:10 For this is the day of the Lord God of hosts, a day of vengeance, that he may avenge him of his adversaries:
Luke 18:7-8 And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily.
Deuteronomy 32:43 Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people: for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people.
- The Church is and always will be triumphant! Although the Church will experience the onslaught of Hell, the forces of Hell will never prevail over Christ’s bride. It is true that the Church of these perilous last days will be enamored with the gods of this world and become amalgamated into the Apostate church of the Tribulation. But for us as Christians during these perilous last days, we can labor on for Christ with full confidence that the power that resides in us is more powerful than the anti-Christian powers that are presently peaking in this evil world.
Matthew 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Romans 8:33-39 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Even the great falling away (II Thessalonians 2:3) that is taking place within the church today is cause for spiritual exuberance and encouragement! Even as the modern church is undergoing a phenomenon of a deplorable luke-warmness that is coupled with an abandonment of sound doctrine, we can take comfort in the fact that the Lord foretold that this anemic spiritual condition would reach its climax within the church in the days just prior to his glorious return. The Bible has a name for this kind of enemy inside of the church. It is called apostasy, and involves the workings of the mystery of iniquity. (there is an ecclesiastical enemy inside the church today operating with amazing power) The Greek word from which we derive the word apostasy simply means “a falling away, or a rebellion or revolt.” To apostatize in biblical times meant to desert one’s station or post. (abandon the doctrinal faith) The Greek biographer Plutarch used the word to describe a political revolution. In apostasy, those who profess to be Christians actually pollute and compromise the clear teachings of the Scriptures, turning God’s word into a popular age of fables. The Scriptures also show that apostasy has existed from the church’s infancy and will continue with its highs and lows right up until the Lord returns. The grand apostate will be the Antichrist. The Church has experienced an ebb and flow throughout history, but the falling away will reach such an intensity that it will be allowed by God to result in the coming of the Antichrist and the establishment of a one-world apostate religion. Then and only then will Christ return and establish His kingdom. For this reason, even as I continue to observe the modern decay of the church and alhough it is a sad scene, I am also greatly encouraged. I am encouraged because I understand that God is preparing to separate the true believers from the pretending believers. The activated blessed hope of every Christian conveys to his spiritual instincts the fact that our stubborn resistance to the spiritual wiles of the antichrist movement is still obstructing his rise to power in this world. The mere fact of the present apostasy should awaken genuine believers to vigilance and readiness for the Second Coming of Christ. For those of us who are on the spiritual front lines of Christian fundamentalism and activism, there is every reason to be confident. Because whatever the finale, whether revival or rapture, the rise of apostasy indicates there is a very happy ending in the near future of all us who truly have faith in the Lord!
To the many, though dwindling stalwart Christian faithful out there still manning the Lighthouses around our world, let me encourage all of you with these resounding words; Press Onward Christian Soldiers, because Christ the royal master leads against the foe! Be encouraged, even in these perilous days!
1 Peter 1:3-8 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:
1 Peter 1:18-20 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,
1 Peter 4:12-16 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.
II Corinthians 1:3-5 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.
The Message (MSG)
22 God grabbed me by the shoulder and said, “Get up. Go out on the plain. I want to talk with you.”
Have you ever heard of anyone being greatly used by Christ who did not experience a special time of waiting, or a complete upset of his plans at first? From the apostle Paul’s being sent into the Arabian wilderness for three years-during which time he must have been overflowing with the Good News–down to the present day, it seems those who will be used have a time of waiting. Have you been looking forward to telling about trusting Jesus, but instead He is asking you to show what trust is by waiting?
My own experience is far less severe than Paul’s but reveals the same principle. Once when I thought the door was being thrown open for me to enter the literary field with a great opportunity, it was just as quickly shut. There have been recent accounts of periods of waiting for God’s direction that have left me baffled and anxious to move even though I hadn’t heard from God to do so. I was put on pew status, taken from the pulpit and left to sit and wonder what is taking place? There was another time when I couldn’t afford to live, but God met my immediate needs and nothing extra, not going to church on a regular bases due to gasoline and finances, not getting to engage with other believers as I felt I should be doing at all the men’s group functions and church ministry functions. I was put into a serious period of isolation with high aspirations of getting my first book written and Second Chance Alliance “Felon” business opened, but God had me still. I can see tonight the distinct wisdom of having to wait for His shade to manifest itself in my life.
God’s love is unchangeable, and He is just as loving even when we do not see or feel it. And His love and His sovereignty are equal and universal. Therefore He often withholds our enjoyment and awareness of our progress, because He knows best what will actually ripen and further His work in us.
I laid it down in silence,
This work of mine,
And took what had been sent me–
A resting time.
The Master’s voice had called me
To rest apart;
“Apart with Jesus only,”
Echoed my heart.
I took the rest and stillness
From His own hand,
And felt this present illness
Was what He planned.
How often we choose labor,
When he says “Rest”–
Our ways are blind and crooked;
His way is best.
Work He Himself has given,
He will complete.
There may be other errands
For tired feet;
There may be other duties
For tired hands,
The present, is obedience
To His commands.
There is a blessed resting
In lying still,
In letting His hand mold us,
Just as He will.
His work must be completed.
His lesson set;
He is the Master Workman:
Do not forget!
It is not only “working.”
We must be trained;
And Jesus “learned” obedience,
Through suffering gained.
For us, His yoke is easy,
His burden light.
His discipline most needful,
And all is right.
We are to be His servants;
We never choose
If this tool or if that one
Our hands will use.
In working or in waiting
May we fulfill
Not ours at all, but only
The master’s will!
I have found in my quest to be a serious committed and surrendered vessel that God provides resting places as well as working places, So rest and be thankful when He brings you, tired and weary, to streams along the way. When God gives me no special guidance, I stay where I am.
If Christians are to be the church God wants them to be, they must get over a basic misunderstanding of how the church is to function. It is the idea that the work of the church is to be done by the clergy and that role of laymen and laywomen is to do nothing or, at best, merely to follow where the ordained persons lead.
Actually, nothing could be farther from the biblical pattern in the New Testament; it is clear that the work of ministry is to be done by all Christians and that the job of the clergy is merely to equip other Christians for that task. This is the meaning of Ephesians 4:11-13. “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
False and True Models
In recent years, there has been a new readiness in many evangelical circles to see and welcome this truth, but this has not always been the case. Earlier ages of the church have often been characterized by false patterns of ministry rather than by biblical ones, though, of course, there have always been proper functioning churches and ministries.
In his excellent study of the church entitled One People, John Stott points out that three false answers to the question of the relationship of clergy to other Christians have been given. The first he calls clericalism, the idea that the work of the church is to be done by those paid to do it and that the role of the lay member is at best to support these endeavors financially. How did this false picture arise? Historically, it resulted from the development of the idea of the priesthood in the early Roman Catholic Church. In those days, the professional ministry of the church was patterned after the Old Testament priestly system with the mass taking the place of the Old Testament blood sacrifices. Only “priests” were authorized to perform the mass, and this meant that a false and debilitating distinction between clergy and laity was drawn. Those who favor this view of the church would say that it goes back to the days of the apostles. But his is demonstrably false. As reflected in the New Testament, the early church often used the word “minister” or “ministry” as referring to what all Christians are and must do. It never used the world hierus (“priest”) of the clergy.
There are historical reasons for the development of clericalism then. But these in themselves are not the whole or even the most significant thing. We see this when we ask: Why did such developments take place historically? Was it simply a matter of biblical interpretation? Or did other factors also enter in and perhaps even distort the interpretation?
The real causes of clericalism are found in the human constitution. On the one hand, there is a problem where the clergy themselves are concerned. It is their tendency to want to run the show, to dominate the normal people who attend church. Sometimes this leads to outright abuse or tyranny. If we need an example, we can find one in the New Testament in the person of Diotrephes who loved “to be first,” according to the apostle John who writes about him (3 John 9,10). A warning against such a pattern is found in 1 Peter in a passage conveying instruction to church elders: “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers, not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock” (5:2,3).
On the other hand, there is a problem with lay members. Their tendency is to sit back and “let the pastor do it.” Stott quotes a remark of Sir John Lawrence to this effect: “What does the layman really want? He wants a building which looks like a church, a clergy dressed in the way he approves, services of the kind he’s been used to, and to be left alone.” The second false answer to the relationship of clergy to lay members is, understandably enough, anticlericalism. For if the clergy despise the laity or think them dispensable, it is no surprise that the laity sometime return the compliment by wanting to get rid of the clergy.
This is not always bad. We can imagine situations in which the church has become so dominated by a corrupt or priestly clergy that a general housecleaning is called for and is, in fact, necessary in order to right the matter. Times like this have occurred historically. Again, we can think of areas of the church’s work that are best done by lay members, for which the clergy are not at all necessary. But these are not grounds for anticlericalism as the normal stance of Christian people. On the contrary, where the church wishes to be biblical, it must recognize not only that gifts of teaching and leadership are given to some within the church for the church’s well-being but also that there is ample biblical teaching about the need for such leadership. Judging from Acts and the various Pauline epistles, the apostle Paul’s regular practice was to appoint elders in every church he founded and entrust to them the responsibility for the training of the flock for ministry (Acts 14:23; 20:17). In the pastoral epistles, the appointment of such leaders is specifically commanded (Tit. 1:5) and the qualifications for such leadership are given (1 Tim. 3:1-3; Tit. 1:5-9).
The final false model of the relationship between the professional clergy and lay members in what Stott calls dualism. Dualism says that clergy and lay members are each to be given their sphere, and neither is to trespass on the territory of the other. This describes the traditional Roman Catholic system in which a “lay status” and a “clerical status” are very carefully delineated, but it is also true of certain forms of Protestantism. In such a system, the sense of all being part of one body and serving together in one work evaporates, the church is partitioned and rivalry enters in instead.
What is the proper pattern? Ephesians 4:11-13 describes it well, for in pointing out the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are to prepare God’s people for Christian work, it is saying that the proper relationship of clergy to lay persons is service. The clergy are to direct their energy to preparing Christians to be what they should be and to do the work entrusted to them. The laity are to serve the world and others within the church.
Pastors are to serve the Christian community so that the saints might be prepared for service—first, service in and to the world and, second, service within the Christian community. Stressing the first of these is important because the church is so often in danger of forgetting it. As is often the case with families, the church sometimes becomes entirely wrapped up in itself and forgets that it is in the world (and not translated immediately to heaven) for one reason only, that it might be of service to the world. It is to minister in and to the world as Christ did.
In his excellent discussion of this point in Body Life, Ray Stedman wisely turns to Christ’s own description of his ministry in the world on the occasion of his reading of the Scripture in the synagogue of Nazareth, early in his ministry. He read from Isaiah where it is written, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoner and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18, 19; cf. Isa. 61:1,2).
Some of these prophesied actions involve natural activities, some supernatural ones—in the case of Christ healing the blind, for example—but, as Stedman points out, there is a sense in which those who are Christ’s are nevertheless to do each one. There is a work of evangelism, described as preaching good news to the poor. There is a service ministry in which captives are freed and the blind healed. This may be literal; our equivalent would be work with prisoners and various forms of medical service. It may also be spiritual in the sense that those who are captive to sin are set free by the truth of God
(John 8:32) and those who are spiritually blind are made to see (cf. John 9). Third, there is a ministry of mercy to those who are oppressed, a ministry of liberation. Finally, there is the proclamation of hope to a world that has almost lost sight of hope. It is the assurance that this is the age of God’s grace, the age in which he is accepting those who turn from sin to the Savior.
Each of these forms of ministry involves the gospel and may be viewed spiritually. But we must not lose sight of the fact that they also involve true physical service in the world. We should not forget Jesus’ story of the sheep and the goats and the basis of their judgment. Christ’s point was that his disciples, the sheep, must feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and encourage those in prison. We must all someday meet the Lord for an accounting.
There are many spheres in which the Christian can perform these forms of ministry—in the home, on the job, through voluntary welfare agencies, even through church-directed public service projects. The important point is that Christians must perform them as one part of their calling.
Building Up the Body
The second end for which the saints are to be equipped is building up the body of Christ. The many verses that use the words “one another” or “each other” tell us what this responsibility implies.
1. We are to love one another. This demand is first on the list, for it is emphasized most and in a sense includes everything else that can be mentioned. We find it in John 13, where Jesus gives us his new commandment: “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. All men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another” (vv. 34, 35). It is repeated again twice just two chapters later. “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you” (15:12). “This is my command: Love each other” (15:17). Paul picks it up in Romans saying, “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law” (Rom. 13:8). He tells of his prayer on behalf of the Thessalonians: “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you” (1 Thess. 3:12). He writes, “You yourselves have been taught by God to love each other” (1 Thess. 4:09). In 1 John, the command to “love one another” occurs five times (3:11, 23; 4:7, 11, 12), and it appears again in the second letter (v.5).
This love is not to be mere sentiment, still less a profession in words only. It is to be “with actions and in truth,” as John says in his description of it (1 John 3:18). It is to be seen in such practical matters as giving money and other material goods to those of our fellowship who lack these necessities (v.17).
2. We are to serve one another. Paul speaks of this in Galatians showing that service is an outgrowth of love: “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love” (Gal. 5:13). Our example is Jesus himself, who, in the very chapter in which he instructs us to love one another, demonstrated the servant character of love by removing his robes, dressing himself in the garb of a servant and stooping before each of his disciples to wash his dusty feet. He then observed, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have
done for you” (John 13:15).
Does this mean that fellowship is to be expressed in feet-washing? In some cases, it could. But the obvious meaning of the Lord’s act was that we are to be servants generally, that is, in all ways. It is the specific task of deacons to lead us in such service. As small groups we may serve together in supporting a Christian work in the area of the city in which we meet, helping in special projects needed by the church, visiting the sick, taking a turn caring for the elderly, helping members of the church to move from one dwelling to another and scores of other such things. Without some such common concern
and service, Christian fellowship is maimed.
3. We are to carry one another’s burdens. This is Paul’s instruction inGalatians 6:2. “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.” It is an obvious outgrowth of the command to love one another, for this is what Paul is specifically referring to as the law of Christ. We love by helping shoulder the cares that are wearing down our fellow Christian.
Small groups are particularly important if we are to do this effectively. For how are we to carry another’s burdens unless we know what they are? And how are we to learn about them unless we have a context in which Christians can share with one another honestly? There are many problems at this point, one of which is our natural reluctance to let our hair down and confess what is really bothering us. If we have problems with our school work or at home with our children, we hesitate to say so because admitting to what may be a failure leaves us vulnerable. We worry about what others may think. Again, if we are having marital difficulties, we are afraid to admit that this is the case. We keep it in, and the problems build to the point where they sometimes prove unsolvable. How are Christians to learn to share their burdens in such areas? The easiest way is through a natural building of acceptance and confidence in the small group setting.
4. We are to forgive one another. Quite a few texts talk about the necessary element. The obvious reason is that we frequently wrong one another or are wronged and so need to forgive and be forgiven. Here are three texts on this matter from the apostle Paul. Ephesians 4:31, 32—”Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you.” Colossians 3:12, 13—”Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Ephesians 4:1-3—”As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
We learn from these verses that, although the early church had a high degree of true fellowship, at times it also had troubling moments in which bitterness and wrath erupted and the peace of the church was threatened. If peace was not destroyed, it was because Christians learned to be patient with one another and forgive the slights, whether real or imagined.
5. We are to confess our sins to one another. James says, “Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (5:16).
In opposition to the Catholic doctrine of confession, in which confession is made to a priest and absolution or remission of sins is received from him, Protestants have stressed that the proper biblical pattern is mutual confession in which one Christian may confess to another and be assured by him that God has pardoned the sin and has forgiven him through Christ. This is the Reformation doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, and it is a very important concept. We who are Protestants must admit, however, that confession of this type, while biblical, is nevertheless more common among us in
theory than in practice. And it is probably the case that many, perhaps most Protestants go through life without ever confessing anything to anybody. To judge from our speech, one would think that we do not sin and never have problems.
How destructive this is of true fellowship! How wonderfully helpful it would be if Christians would honestly admit their difficulties and draw upon the much needed prayers and counsel of others for their struggle. James obviously intends this result; in encouraging us to confess our sins to each other, he links the matter of confession to prayer and promises that such will be helpful: “the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (v.16).
6. We are to instruct one another. If we do not know the Word of God and do not walk closely with him, we cannot do this. We have no right to teach another. On the contrary, if we do know the Scriptures and are close to God, it should be true of us as Paul said it was of the Christians at Rome; “I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another” (Rom. 15:14).
7. Finally, we are to encourage one another. Paul speaks of this in writing to the Thessalonians, who had recently lost some of their number through death. In their case, this was accompanied by confusion about the doctrine of Christ’s second coming, and Paul wrote to them to explain what this would mean in regard both to themselves and to all those who would die while waiting for it. He explained that Christ would return and that those who had died in Christ would be the first to be raised in their new, Christ-like bodies. Moreover, there would be a reunion as the spirits of these, now clothed in their
resurrection bodies, would be united again with those other believers who would then still be living. After reviewing this theology, he concludes, “Therefore encourage each other with these words” (1 Thess. 4:18).
Mutual edification contributes to the health of the church, and this relates to the important first area of service in that an unhealthy church can hardly minister to the world properly. What is it that keeps the church from being the kind of godly influence Christ obviously intended it to be? Disunity is one thing. A church expending all its energies fighting within itself can hardly be of much use elsewhere. Ignorance is another cause of failure. If the church does not understand the issues of the day or the solutions provided by the gospel, it cannot help the world even though it is not divided internally and is
anxious to help. The church can also be hindered by immaturity. It can be weakened by sin. Each of these faults can ruin the church’s effectiveness, and that is why Paul speaks of “unity in the faith . . . knowledge of the Son of God . . .maturity [manhood] . . . the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
How are we to get to that point? The answer is that each Christian is to help others. Each! It is not the job of the minister alone. His job is to equip the saints to do the work of building up the body of the church and minister to the world.
Feed My Sheep
How are evangelists, pastors and teachers to equip the saints for this work? How long must the work of equipping be done? The answer to the second question is “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature,” that is, throughout the entire church age until Christ returns for us. The answer to the first question is clearly: by teaching, preaching and living the Word of God.
In biblical languages this is often described as “feeding the sheep,” for the work of pastor-teacher is similar to the work of a shepherd in caring for and especially feeding his sheep. The idea is present in the Old Testament (cf. Ps. 77:20), but it is far more important in New Testament usage, probably because it is based on Christ’s special words of instruction to Peter after the latter had denied Jesus three times just before his crucifixion. Jesus told Peter, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17).
We notice even before we look at the nature of the responsibility that the sheep are called Christ’s sheep. They are his in two ways. First, by creation; he made them. Second and even more importantly, by redemption. On an earlier occasion the Lord has said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). In speaking to the Ephesian elders just before his final departure to Jerusalem, Paul said, “Guard yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). If the flock were ours—whether as ministers, elders, or even as parents (thinking now of our children of whom we are overseers)—we could do with it as we wished or as we thought best. But if it is Christ’s, as it is, then we must do as he wishes, recognizing our responsibility to him.
The specifics of that responsibility are that those with the gift of being a pastor-teacher (clergymen, elders, Sunday school teachers, youth leaders) are to “feed” those sheep entrusted to their spiritual care. They are to do that by teaching, sharing and in any other way communicating the Word of God.
There is a sense in which this all applies quite broadly, for there are very few who do not have some degree of responsibility for someone. We are all usually undershepherds in some way. But it is a special word for preachers, because the task of teaching the Word of God is particularly their own. The normal preacher has many functions. He must administer, counsel, visit and do scores of other things. But just as the primary responsibility of a carpenter is to build and a painter to paint, so the primary responsibility of a pastor is to teach the Word of God. Indeed, if he does not, how can he expect the other
undershepherds of his flocks to fulfill their own share of this responsibility?
There is a decline in this area today, first in regard to teaching and then generally in preaching. There are several reasons for it. First, attention has been shifted from preaching to other needed aspects of the pastoral ministry, things like counseling, liturgies, small group dynamics and similar concerns. These things are important. They are part of a minister’s work. But they should not, indeed they must not, shift attention away from his primary responsibility, which is to teach the Word of God. Moreover, the two are not in opposition. For it is when the Word of God is best preached that these other concerns are best cared for. An example is the age of the Puritans. Preachers in this period were noted for their mature expository sermons. Their material was so weighty in some instances that few today are even up to reading it. Yet, this does not mean that other aspects of the ministry were neglected. On the contrary, worship services were characterized by a powerful sense of God’s presence, and those who did such preaching and led such services were intensely concerned with the problems, temptations and growth of those whom God had placed under their care.
A second possible reason for the decline in preaching is the contemporary distrust of oratory. People in our day are sensitive to being manipulated and dislike it. Since preaching is clearly directed to moving people (and not merely instructing them), this seems to be manipulation, and some turn from it. The trouble with these explanations is that, although they have an element of truth about them, they are both based on external matters or external situations and so miss the internal or fundamental cause of preaching’s decline. What is the answer in this area? The answer is that the current decline in the preaching and teaching of the Word of God is due to a prior decline in a belief in the Bible as the authoritative and inerrant Word of God on the part of the church’s theologians, seminary professors and those ministers who are trained by them. Quite simply, it is a loss of confidence in the existence of a sure word from God. Here the matters of inerrancy and authority go together. For it is not that those who abandon inerrancy as a premise on which to approach the Scriptures necessarily abandon a belief in their authority. On the contrary, they most often speak of the authority of the Bible most loudly precisely when they are abandoning the inerrancy position. It is rather that, lacking the conviction that the Bible is without error in the whole and in its parts, these scholars and preachers inevitably approach the Bible differently from inerrantists, whatever may be said verbally. In their work, the Bible is searched (to the degree that it is searched) for whatever light it may shed on the world and life as the minister sees them and not as that binding and overpowering revelation that tells us what to think about the world and life and even formulates the questions we should be asking of them.
Yet the work of equipping is to be done not only by speaking the Word of God but also by living it, as we have indicated. This is what Jesus was referring to when he used the image of shepherding of himself. For in describing his work he said, “When he [that is, himself] has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him” (John 10:4). He means that he does everything first. He sets the pattern which others are to follow. So should all those whose task it is to equip other Christians.
“I am a church” is my declaration. Mortar and clay isn’t the church I am, I see myself as the fingers and hands being used by God to proclaim the gospel. I hope we all become what God sees us as “His bridegroom” the living church.
When I was a kid growing up I would spend the summer with my grand parents in North Carolina on their farm, one of the annual jobs I always looked forward to was the “chicken harvest.” I guess I should apologize in advance for the somewhat graphic nature of this illustration; however, it best illustrates my point. Nonetheless, I looked forward to the chicken harvest. No, I wasn’t some deranged youngster, there was something I considered out of the ordinary that would always happen and it amazed me. Now, for those who have never experienced this, well, let me say it’s not for anyone with a weak stomach. You see, on our farm, the chicken harvest was woman’s work, but being a young boy, I was allowed to participate. The chickens would be caught early in the morning and brought to my grandmother. She would then methodically remove their heads. Here’s where the amazing part happened. With their heads gone, these chickens would run around the yard like crazy. I just couldn’t believe it. It just amazed me. Once, I asked why the chickens did this? The answer – “they don’t know they are dead yet!”
Laodicea was a very, very wealthy city, founded by Antiochus II and named after his wife Laodice. The city was strategically located where three highways converged, thus it was highly commercial. It was well known for its banking industry, its manufacture of black wool and a medical school that produced eye ointment. The wealth in the city had been used to build theaters, a huge stadium, lavish public baths and fabulous shopping centers. Sound familiar? Sounds like any typical American city. So wealthy was this city that when an earthquake almost entirely destroyed it in 60 AD, its wealthy citizens refused help from Rome in rebuilding the city. If you were a real estate agent at the time it wouldn’t be hard to sell Laodicea. It was a great place to live. The land of opportunity. Sound familiar? The only real negative about the place was its lack of an adequate water supply (we will deal with the details regarding this shortly).
The church here in Laodicea was most likely founded by Paul. He actually wrote a letter to them that was lost (cf. Col. 4:16). It will be quite apparent when we “get into” the text that the Christians here had become victims of their environment. Indeed, a valuable lesson for us all today! Vs. 14 To the angel of the church in Laodicea write…
For those of you who were not in our class, there is no commendation here! In writing to the other six churches, Jesus found something good to say, he recognized something positive about the congregation. Not here!
The Amen… says this – In the Greek, this phrase means firm, stable, sure, established and trustworthy. What point is Jesus trying to get across? He’s saying, “Don’t kid yourselves, what I’m about to say may shock you, but you can take it to the bank!”
The faithful and true Witness… says this – Who is on trial? This church! Who is the key witness? Jesus Christ. Thus, there can be no excuses, it’s time for an honest examination followed by honest repentance and a genuine desire for a change of life.
The Beginning of the creation of God, says this – Jesus is the origin, the cause, the Creator of all things (cf. Col 1:16-17). He is the Creator of this earth and the things in it. Unfortunately, the Christians at Laodicea had grown to love and put their faith in the “things” of world, not their creator!
Vs. 15: I know your deeds…
What a powerful and sobering truth! Jesus knows our deeds, both individually and as a church. Jesus knew all about the church at Laodicea, the details of which we will get to momentarily. What about us? Does Jesus know our deeds? This is not one of the key issues I want to focus upon in this lesson; however, when I ponder this truth… well, it stands as a sobering reminder for us all to examine ourselves from time-to-time. A couple of passages come to mind here: Mark 4:22: For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been secret, but that it should come to light. Col. 3:17: And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus…
Jesus, the true and faithful Witness, indeed, He knows our deeds! Now, back to the text before us. What were the deeds of the church at Laodicea? Look again at verse 15. Jesus says they are neither cold nor hot; I would that you were cold or hot. What is Jesus saying here? We all know the answer, He’s saying they are lukewarm!
This is perhaps the most familiar passage in the book of Revelation. Many, many lessons and sermons have been given from this text. Lukewarmness is a characteristic which is most despised among Christ’s churches, even today! So popular is this verse, we often fail to recognize that the Laodiceans were guilty of another serious sin which is often overshadowed by their lukewarmness. We will deal with that momentarily. But first, what is lukewarness? According to the dictionary, it means lacking warmth of feeling or enthusiasm. To a Christian, it describes a state of indifference, complacency, or apathy. Perhaps because they are self-satisfied, or feel self-sufficient. In reality, they are like a chicken with its head cut off – dead, but don’t know it yet!
How would you describe a lukewarm church today? If I were to take your definitions, what would be included? How about a church that just goes through the motions. They gather to worship and mindlessly go through the motions. There is no heart, no zeal, no focus in their worship. When they sing, it’s just blah! When they pray, study, and remember our Savior at the Lord’s Table, their minds simply wander. They don’t worry about spreading the gospel, visiting the sick, carrying for the those in need – they don’t do anything for Christ! Would that be a lukewarm church?
Wait a minute, let’s look at verse 15 again, Jesus knew their deeds, in particular they were lukewarm. But what about Jesus’ desire for them? He said, I would (I wish) that you were cold or hot. Now I understand His desire for them to be hot. Have you ever wondered why He would prefer them to be cold?
He is using a local, well known problem relating to their water supply to allegorize a spiritual meaning. I told you we would eventually get to this. This is a sort of parable, if you will!
Laodicea, as rich as it was, had a serious water problem. The city’s water was “piped in” from six miles out. It came to them along an aqueduct. By the time it arrived it was lukewarm. The city of Hierapolis, just seven miles north of Laodicea, was famous for its hot springs. Colosee, less than ten miles away, was known for its cool water. What was Jesus saying to them in His desire that they be cold or hot? He’s saying their spiritual condition is of no benefit. He would rather they be spiritually beneficial like a refreshing drink of cold water or like the soothing warmth of the hot springs! What’s the message? If we are simply going through the motions, if our heart is not in it, if we are not living and working for Christ everyday of our lives, we are of no benefit to Him! I don’t know about you, but that thought scares me!
How does this condition of lukewarmness really make Jesus feel? Let’s look at the next verse in our text. Vs. 16: … I will spit you out of My mouth.
Again, did my chicken harvest illustration make you sick at your stomach? If so, it accomplished the desired effect for a church’s lukewarmness makes Jesus sick at His stomach! Jesus says that because of their lukewarmness, because they are of no spiritual benefit, He will spit them out. The Greek word here means “to vomit.” John could have used another Greek phrase that means simply “to spit.” If a church of our Lord has become so passionless, so indifferent… if a church of Christ has become of no spiritual benefit, if we as individuals have become of no spiritual benefit, it makes Jesus so sick, that He wants to vomit! Folks, this should make us all examine our walk with Him. Jesus knows our deeds. There are no secrets. Where do we stand with Him today?
Lukewarmness, being of no spiritual benefit is a serious issue; however, as stated earlier, because we have given this topic so much attention, another serious sin at Laodicea is often overlooked. Let’s continue reading our text. Vs. 17: Because you say, “I am rich,
Here we find the second spiritual problem with the church at Laodicea. They had become infected with the love of material things. Perhaps the most dangerous point made here is the fact that they are so “caught-up” in their wealth, they were unaware of their sinful state – they were dead and didn’t know it!
We could approach this from many different angles. We as American’s are so blessed. Compared to most of the world, we are a modern day Laodicea. There is a very, very important lesson here for us today! Our time is running short and there are so many points one could make here. When I read and contemplate the message here as it relates to me, here’s what I consider:
Giving – I’ve often listed things that my family spend money on during any given week – we eat out, costing a family of four anywhere from $20 to $50; we go to the movies, another $20; we buy toys, toys, and more toys for the kids; we take vacations, we collect things… well, you get the point. I find myself comparing our discretionary spending (spending on things that I could do with out) to what we give the Lord each week.
Self-dependence – Can we get to the point in our lives that we have so much and are doing so well that we think we don’t need God?
Thanksgiving – Can we get to the point where we have so much and are doing so well that we fail to realize and be thankful for the source of all our blessings?
Priorities – Can we get to the point where we have so much and are doing so well that we become slaves to our things? Can our priorities change such that we put having things, doing things, more and more things in front of God?
Jesus knew the condition of the church at Laodicea. Not only were they wretched and miserable (dead and didn’t know it), notice again what Jesus says about their condition in the later part of verse 17: they are poor blind and naked.
Jesus, in pointing out their areas of misery, contrasts all the riches of the city.
Poor – there was plenty of money here, but they were spiritually poor.
Blind – known for it’s eye salve, yet all of the salve in the world wouldn’t cure their spiritual blindness.
Naked – known for the finest wool in the world, all of which couldn’t cloth their spiritual nakedness.
Is there a cure? Let’s continue to read our text.
Vs. 18: I advise you…
If Jesus were to give us advise today, do you think it prudent to follow it? The truth is, He is giving us advise today, we are all reading it together. What was His advise to them and any today who are “dead and don’t know it?” To buy from Him! Jesus provides the only true cure for spiritual sickness. It can’t be found in banks, goods, medicine or in any worldly treasure. A true cure can only be found in Christ! How do we do that? Let’s continue with our text.
Vs. 19-20: Those whom I love… repent.
Though blinded by their wealth, love of material things and lukewarmness, Jesus still loved them and provided an opportunity for repentance. The same is true for us today. He stands at the door and knocks. We have to make the next move, it’s our responsibility to open it!
The church today is anemic spiritually for many reasons, but one of the major reasons has to be the loss of biblical content in so much of contemporary preaching. Pop psychology substitutes for the Word of God. Feel-good messages on “Five Ways to Be Happy” and “Three Ways to Love Your Mother” have become the steady cotton candy diet fed to the average church. Today’s sermonic focus therefore is on application. But application, without textual warrant for such, does not “stick;” it needs the glue of textual meaning. Biblical content accordingly must precede application; how else can we possibly know what to apply? Thus, in the headlong rush to be relevant, People magazine and popular television shows have replaced Scripture as sermonic resources. There are other signs of this anemia: In some churches, the music portion of the worship service has lengthened while the sermon time has diminished. No wonder so many spiritual teeth are decaying in our churches.
Biblical preaching, especially when it is done in a creative way, will always meet the needs of people, felt or otherwise.
Eloquent nonsense abounds in many pulpits today; sometimes it is not even eloquent. The conjuring adroitness of many preachers who keep producing fat rabbit after fat rabbit out of an obviously empty hat is the marvel of much contemporary preaching. There is mounting evidence that people are beginning to grow weary of these trite pop-psychology sermons. Biblical preaching, especially when it is done in a creative way, will always meet the needs of people, felt or otherwise. Only biblical preaching can meet the ultimate spiritual needs of people.
Preach the Word … in a text-driven way!
As I prepare to look into the medicine cabinet of my bible I have this question, how is psychology and the gospel relevant? Many people are now interested in the relationship between religion and science, but links between Christian belief and psychology have been relatively neglected.
Psychology is sometimes rejected altogether by evangelical Christians on the basis that it is a flawed discipline. Evangelicals are threatened by what they might call spirituality hiding behind the veil of science. But psychology must be viewed properly, as must theology, in order to interpret and apply its claims correctly. The Bible may be considered revealed truth, but it is not the only truth God has revealed to humans. The Bible is God’s revelation to man in written form, and is reliable as long as it is interpreted and applied properly. God has also given man truth
which is outside of, and consistent with, His written revelation. This truth is discoverable through observing creation and through scientific experimentation. It is through this general revelation that the social sciences have discovered truths about man which have enabled man to better understand himself and his relationships with others
The nature of integration in science is to work together two fields. Both theology and psychology are sciences, and therefore must be treated as such. Just as hermeneutics is not God’s Word itself, neither is theology. They both fall under the scientific heading of the study of God’s Word. The sciences of theology and psychology can be integrated just as any other sciences can. The difference is that special consideration must be given to theology due to the subject it is treating. Any discussion of the integration of Biblical principles and the principles of psychology also necessitates a proper understanding of what is at stake. The issue is not just theology and just psychology. It comes down to philosophy and world view. The struggle of integration was already taking place in early church days, mostly through the work of Greek philosophers. The debate about where to draw the line is a long-standing one.
Classical Greek Dualism
In classical Greek dualism there is a physical realm and a spiritual realm, a separation of the body and the soul . Philosophers created only two categories for people to use in approaching humanity. This poses many problems. If this is the case, then in physical matters such as medicine, one does not have to bother himself with morality: “One of the attractions of the dualist view appeared to be the notion of the soul as a detachable spiritual entity, associated with the body but not identified with it” . The spiritual dimension was reserved for things other than the material and the mental. Social sciences such as psychology would be classified in the spiritual dimension.
This separation has crept imperceptibly into modem thought, and since psychology is made out to somehow be a part of the spiritual dimension, it is often critiqued by Christians as if it were. Psychology could never pass a test of doctrine, it could never hold up if it were passed off as inerrant and true. Christians, then, are apt to reject psychology altogether in favor of the higher thing in the spiritual dimension, the Bible itself. But psychology is not in the spiritual dimension. The two overlap, but are not the same.
Psychology is a separate discipline, not a subset of theology. If a man went into a church and claimed to know a great deal about group dynamics, he would not automatically be considered a theologian.
His findings might supplement the theologian, whose primary job it is to remind people that what God has said is right and what God has said is wrong. When religion adopts a dichotomous reasoning, polarizing itself from other disciplines in the same way Greek philosophy would polarize spirit and matter, it also breaks down relationships between God and the world. “Such a view of the sacred as completely separate from the mite world parallels the compartmentalized epistemology that sees religion as completely separate from science” . Certainly the divine has a special nature, but it is not cut off from the rest of life.
On the contrary, it should permeate the rest of life. Although psychology is not synonymous with theology, it also cannot be separated from it.
Written and Spoken Revelation
The Bible is primarily about two issues: one’s relationship with God and one’s relationship with people. But the Bible never claims to have all the truth of God when it comes to relationships with people. For example, there is no group theory there. Dr. Lawson in the counseling department at Liberty University called this the two book theory. He said God has a written revelation and a spoken revelation, the world. These two should never conflict, and if they do it is only in human understanding. “All truth is God’s truth,” whether found in the Bible or in nature. Whether a Christian discovered 2+2=4 or not, it is still true. Paul wrote on this subject to the church at Rome two thousand years ago. The King James translation of Romans 1 :20 says, “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.” God has revealed Himself to us, therefore making men accountable to Him for truth, whether they had a copy of the Bible or not. Everything that is true is from God, and gives glory to God.
Types of Spoken Revelation
In addition to the Bible, God also allows His truth to be revealed through science, and even psychology. The Bible does not claim to contain everything that we need to know about plumbing or about schizophrenia. Technical things about the brain and the hypothalamus are not in the Bible. In fact, Wallace Clift asserts that for religion to be able to “meet the needs of its day it must be in accord with, and understandable in the language of, the scientific knowledge of the time” .
We cannot assist the people living in our culture if we are not keeping up to date with their needs and how best to meet them. We have no excuse when the Lord has put psychology at our disposal. It is laziness to avoid it altogether simply because it takes work to evaluate what aspects of psychology are useful and what are not.
Bible never intended to contain all truth. The Bible does have a lot to say about counseling and how to speak with people. Psychology expounds on those things to develop how we can apply them to people in a counseling setting. Many of the foundational aspects of psychology are in the Bible. However, it does not, and God never intended it to, contain all the truth there is in the world. John 21 :25 even says that Jesus did more while He was on earth that was not recorded because books could not contain all of the information!
It is dangerous ground to walk upon when one is speaking of the Bible. It is true that ”the Bible stands alone as God’s only perfect guide to life and growth” . The Bible is absolutely complete and dependable. The fact that psychology can be helpful in counseling does not mean that the Bible is lacking in some way. It only means that psychological theories should not be thrown out altogether. They do hold value in the specific application of principles that are found in the Word of God.
We have established that truth can be found outside the Bible itself, and also that psychology provides years of experience and research that can be filtered through Scripture and applied in practice. What truth is found there at the end can and should be used. Theologians Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart (1982) say, “Wisdom is the discipline of applying truth to one’s life in the light of experience” . Applying psychological truth to the foundation of Biblical truth wisely meets the needs of man.
God’s Word is always accurate, but unfortunately, man’s interpretation of it can be inaccurate. For example, in our country’s early history pastors were saying that God condoned slavery. On the other hand, psychology can also be incorrect in its scientific interpretation of a matter. So when theology and psychology conflict, we must look at
everything, remembering of course that the answer could be that it is so complex we do not even have an answer.
Human error is not limited to interpretation, but also extends to application. In Romans 1: 18 Paul says that there are men that “hold the truth in unrighteousness.” He is talking to the Romans, who were highly intelligent people. He is saying that there is truth but people are suppressing it from them by explaining it incorrectly. These Romans are people that have only thus far had natural revelation, and Paul tells them they can know the truth and are without excuse. God judges people and He does it on the basis of natural revelation because that genuinely and sufficiently reveals Him.
On any given Sunday in today’s preaching pantheon, one can observe a diverse group of devotees, some paying homage to the chapel of “creativity,” others sitting at the feet of the “culturally relevant.” Some are transfixed at the nave marked “narrative,” while others have their hearts strangely warmed at the chasse of “pop-psychology.” There is never a shortage of worshipers at the “new homiletic” altar, and the “topical” shrine always receives its share of Sunday patrons. Fearful that some as of yet undiscovered homiletical “method” might be missed, the gatekeepers of the pantheon have installed an altar inscribed “to the unknown preaching method.” It is that method which I declare unto you. Actually, the method itself is not “unknown” at all, and like the true church on earth, it has always had its practitioners in every era of church history.In fact, it is the oldest method in the preaching pantheon, having been used by the earliest preachers as far back as the apostolic era of the church. It is called “expository preaching.
”Fearful that some as of yet undiscovered homiletical “method” might be missed, the gatekeepers of the pantheon have installed an altar inscribed “to the unknown preaching method.”
Salvation Is Not Cheap: σωτηρία, ας, ἡ … Cognate: 4991 sōtēría (from 4982 /sṓzō, “to save, rescue”) – salvation, i.e. God’s
We are all by nature, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, unclean and defiled in God’s sight. For before Him all our righteousness is as filthy rags (Isa. 64:6). Any and every man in his own name, and on the grounds of his own merits has no approach to God and no standing in the presence of God. He must find his cleansing and his moral fitness outside of himself if he desires “to ascend to the hill of the Lord and stand in His Holy place!”
First there must be a stripping of self (Phil. 3:7-9). A repentance from following the sinful way of man and then after this confession of his guilt and repentance, as with Adam and Eve, we must also be clothed by a garment which came by the blood sacrifice of another (Gen. 3:21). Then we will be cleansed and covered in the robe of righteousness (Isa. 61:1-4 – (10) 11 Revelation 7:9-13-17
SATAN REBUKED & MAN CLEANSED
The fourth vision deals with the problem of sin. Before the promised blessing of inhabiting God’s holy habitation can come about, there must be a spiritual transformation in Israel. God’s people, both then and now, have fallen into the mire of sin. Spiritual restoration must occur before God’s called out ones can fulfill their priestly ministry to the world. Both Israel then and God’s people by His new covenant have rebelled and experienced the ensuing filth and marring of sin because they have refused to heed the Word of the Lord.
Here Satan takes these sins of disobedience and prosecutes them before the Lord, making his case that they-we are neither worthy of salvation nor able to be servants to God. But here we have the glorious picture of the Angel of the LORD rebuking Satan and giving the representative of the people, and thus the people, full and final acceptance before God.
God’s people have been called to glory but because of their grievous sins and moral defilement, they must be cleansed or be excluded forever from the holy habitation of the Lord God. (Our text reveals the fact that the exceedingly great and precious promise has been given to the representative of His people, the great High Priest, when He returned from His redemptive mission for fallen man.) Let man understand that their salvation and restoration cannot rest on their own merits of worthiness but only upon the grace which cleanses and gives righteousness to His chosen people who let their great High Priest represent them.
This vision, using very graphic symbolism, is about the restoration of God’s people who having found inner deliverance from sin and its moral defilement will inherit salvation’s outward manifestation and all its attending blessings partially set forth in the first three visions.
THE LORD REBUKES SATAN, 1-2.
Verse one introduces the three main characters featured in the new vision. Then he showed me Joshua, the high priest, standing before the Angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.
Joshua was the high priest who returned with the governor Zerubbabel at the head of the first colony of 49,697 exiles from captivity some sixteen years before. The name means YHWH is salvation. Jesus is the Greek translation.
The Angel of the LORD’s divine character, which shines out in a most striking manner in this vision, can be none other than the pre-incarnate Christ, the second person of the holy trinity. (See Josh. 5:13-15; Judg. 6:20-22; 13:19-22).
The high priest Joshua is standing before the Angel of the LORD expressing that he is in attendance upon or ministering to the Lord before whom he stands. The high priest is the mediator of his people. He stands before the Lord representing the nation. This was understood in Israel where the high priest represented the entire nation before God on the Day of Atonement each year.
The scene may be imagined as the high priest engaged in his high priestly duty of interceding for mercy on behalf of the people he represents. The Angel of the LORD comes down to answer his plea. But Satan, the sworn enemy of the church of God, with jealous eyes, looks on preparing to interrupt by his accusations in this dramatic court room trial. The prosecuting attorney is Satan, the defense attorney is the Angel of the LORD, the judge is the LORD, and the accused is the high priest. The decision; what to do with the sinful people whom the high priest represents.
Satan’ means ‘an adversary’ or ‘accuser’. Here he is specifically identified as ‘the adversary.’ Why God allows Satan to stand before Him as the accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:10) is not answered in Scripture. But we do perceive a part of Satan’s character here. First, he lies and lures mankind into sin(s) and then when the seduction is accomplished, he turns around and becomes man’s accuser.
That is a solemn truth which should never be forgotten. A Christian’s sins do accuse him before the bar of God. They are all made visible there. But it is not mere malice against Israel or us which brings the deceiver there as our accuser, it is Satan’s hatred of God and his desire to frustrate God’s plans to show His love toward us.
In verse 2 the Angel of the LORD steps in and defends His people against their accuser. And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, Satan! Indeed, the Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebukes you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?”
Blessed be the Sovereign LORD! Our adversary may accuse us but it is not in his power to condemn us. Only the Judge has the power to condemn and also to acquit.
Read 1 John 2:1-2. Even though guilty we need not fear the accusations or the fury of Satan. For we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and He is our representative. Satan may roar but we, who can and do appeal to our High Priest who is also our judge, will never be devoured. All we must do is submit our wills to Christ and stand in the strength of Christ against Satan and God will send him fleeing (Romans 8:33-39).
The LORD rebuke you Satan! When God rebukes it involves a withering of power and suppression in the rebuke. When the LORD rebuked the Red Sea, it dried up (Ps. 106:9; Mk. 4:39). Notice that we don’t rebuke Satan, God does. Jude 8-11
The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem–What continually keeps us attached to God is not our strength to hold on to Him but His choice of us. If our position as God’s redeemed people depended on our faithfulness, then we would have all lost our salvation long ago; but our hope rests safely on the unchangeable character of God who has a hold of us. God acquits not because Satan’s accusations are false but because of God’s love for His people.
Here the choice of Jerusalem is used to signify the final working out of God’s purpose on earth which culminates with Jerusalem becoming the reigning earthly city despite all the enemies roaring and devouring.
Satan was seeking to thwart God’s purpose, or to suggest that in some way the divine choice of Jerusalem (1 Kgs. 11:13, 32; Ps. 132:13-16) was wrong. The LORD’S rebuke is not merely an expression of displeasure or disapproval at the sentiments expressed by Satan. It is accompanied by divine power to give effect to the rebuke.
Is this not a brand plucked from the fire? The Angel of YHWH bases His answer to Satan’s unrecorded accusations on the grounds that what His people had already suffered was punishment enough for their sins. Fire, of course, is a symbol of punishment.
And in a terrible sense, sin lights its own punishment fires. Israel had just been plucked from captivity, the Land of Babylon, where they were paying the penalty for their disobedience. God removed them from the utter destruction of the flame.
[PICKED FROM THE FIRE] John Wesley never forgot a terrible night of his childhood. He was only six years old at the time, and he had awakened in the family’s old rectory to find it ablaze from top to bottom. Everyone else had been dragged from the building, but by some extraordinary oversight he had been forgotten. At the very last moment, just before the roof fell in with a crash, a neighbor climbed on another’s shoulders and pulled the terrified child from a window. Later that scene was drawn for Wesley, and he kept the picture until the day of his death. He wrote under it this verse in the third chapter of Zechariah: “Is not this a brand plucked from the burning?”
Wesley’s experience in being literally saved from fire was unusual, but all of God’s people experience it in a far more important sense. Jesus Christ has rescued us from the fires of hell. We too are encouraged to do so for others. Jude 23 reads, “save others snatching them out of the fire.”
[Christians too are in a testing fire. And the time we spend on this earth is the only hell we will ever know.]
CLEANSING AND CLOTHING, 3-5.
A further description of Joshua’s condition is given in verse 3 to help clarify the situation. Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and standing before the angel.
The reason for Satan’s accusations is Israel’s impurity. The word for filth here Tsoyim is the strongest expression in the Hebrew language for filth of the most loathsome kind. Excrement would be a mild translation for it. And so the garments of the peoples’ representative are sickly defiled. This loathsome, smelly filth are the sins of the people as viewed by the Holy One. Only a forgiving God can love a people so deeply who are so defiled.
[LUTHER’S INK STAIN] Some of you may know someone who has visited the WARTBURG CASTLE in Eisenach, German. The tour guide regularly points out to the black spot on one of the walls of the room which Luther occupied during his benevolently intended imprisonment. Let me share the legend connected with it is this spot. One night during this mournful solitude, when suffering from great depression, because, as he himself expresses it in a letter to Melanchthon, dated May 24, 1521, “I do see myself insensible and hardened, a slave to sloth, rarely, alas! praying–unable even to utter a groan for the Church, while my untamed flesh burns with devouring flame”–the great Reformer dreamed that Satan appeared to him with a long scroll, in which were carefully written the many sins and transgressions of which he was guilty from his birth, and which the evil one proceeded to read, mocking all the time that such a sinner as he should ever think of being called to do service for God, or even of escaping himself from hell. As the long list was being read, Luther’s terrors grew, and his agonies of soul increased. At last, however, rousing himself, he jumped up and exclaimed: “It is all true, Satan, and many more sins which I have committed in my life which are known to God only; but write at the bottom of your list, ‘The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin.'” Then grasping the inkstand on his table he threw it at the devil, who fled. The memorial of the event being left in the ink-splash on the wall.
No picture can be painted too black of God’s peoples’ disobedience, backslidings, and apostasies. No human lips can sufficiently describe the heinousness of God’s peoples’ sins and transgressions. But when all the long and lengthy indictments have been read, write at the bottom of the list, the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin (Jer. 31:37; Lev. 26:44).
In verse 4 the Angel takes action that neither Joshua nor mankind can take for themselves. “And He spoke and said to those who were standing before Him saying, “remove the filthy garments from him.” And again He said to him, “See, I have taken your iniquity away from you and will clothe you with festal robes.”
In the first three visions reveal God’s grace toward His people in the judgment of her enemies and in the restoration of them and their land. How can an infinitely holy God have such plans with a sinful people? How can the wondrous manifestation of divine mercy to them be consistent with God’s righteousness (Ezek. 36:16-32)?
God has given us the answer prophesied long before the actual event occurred. When the great High Priest took our defiling filth upon Himself and gave Himself as sacrifice for it and us. If by faith we have united our self with the High Priest, Jesus Christ, then He represents us before the Judge. Therefore, there ensues a wondrous transference of character. Our sins become His and His righteousness becomes ours. He takes our sin away and imputes to the sinner who receives His offered grace is His own righteousness. Praise the name of Jesus!
The act envisioned here is performed by the attendants in strict adherence to the Lord’s command and is symbolic of what happens to the individual sinner be he Jew or Gentile who trusts Christ. God never alters the Robe of Righteousness to fit the man, but He alters the man to fit the robe.
Two elements occur in this transaction: First, the taking off–the removal of the filthy garments from him is emblematic of the taking away of sin (Romans 3:25, Eph. 1:7). This action is the result of forgiveness for sin.
Second, the putting on–the clothing in festive robes portraying the imputation, clothing of the righteousness of God through Christ accounted to the believing sinner (Romans 1:16-17). The symbolic transaction of the old character being removed and the new character of purity, joy and glory being given as its replacement.
Note the striking contrast from the filthy, smelly excretement stained garment to the splendid, costly, pure robe (Romans 3:22-26). God not only forgives, He clothes us in the costly robe of Christ’s righteousness.
First He cleansed, then He clothed and now He crowns in verse 5. Then I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments, while the Angel of the LORD was standing by.
A glistening turban completes the attire. This is not such as might be worn by anybody but is the type of headdress worn by princes and kings. The high priest wore a turban that had written upon it (Ex. 39:30-31) godesh layahawah; Holy to the Lord. Every person who received the Christ in this life will one day be made completely holy to the Lord.
Here we see the LORD standing by approving and directing Joshua’s cleansing, clothing, and crowning because of the fact that God’s mercy and righteousness were bestowed on the basis of the messianic servant’s substitutionary atonement.
I am guilty of participating in this deception across the board. In finding a quite place to reflect tonight I found it necessary to study this scripture to be fully enlightened. I always knew that the enemy used music as he does but I just couldn’t fight the good fight to make myself obey until I got the conviction to put a real focus on strengthening my armor.
Dan. 3:1 King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, ninety feet high and nine feet wide, and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. 2 He then summoned the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials to come to the dedication of the image he had set up. 3So the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials assembled for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up, and they stood before it. 4Then the herald loudly proclaimed, “This is what you are commanded to do, O peoples, nations and men of every language: 5As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.” 7 Therefore, as soon as they heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp and all kinds of music, all the peoples, nations and men of every language fell down and worshiped the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 8At this time some astrologers came forward and denounced the Jews. 9They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! 10You have issued a decree, O king, that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music must fall down and worship the image of gold, 11and that whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown into a blazing furnace.
Isa. 5:1 I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. 2He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit. . . . 11Woe to those who rise early in the morning to run after their drinks, who stay up late at night till they are inflamed with wine. 12They have harps and lyres at their banquets, tambourines and flutes and wine, but they have no regard for the deeds of the LORD, no respect for the work of his hands. 13Therefore my people will go into exile for lack of understanding; their men of rank will die of hunger and their masses will be parched with thirst.
Isa. 24:1 See, the LORD is going to lay waste the earth and devastate it; he will ruin its face and scatter its inhabitants– . . . 8The gaiety of the tambourines is stilled, the noise of the revelers has stopped, the joyful harp is silent. 9No longer do they drink wine with a song; the beer is bitter to its drinkers. 10The ruined city lies desolate; the entrance to every house is barred. 11In the streets they cry out for wine; all joy turns to gloom, all gaiety is banished from the earth. 12The city is left in ruins, its gate is battered to pieces. 13So will it be on the earth and among the nations, as when an olive tree is beaten, or as when gleanings are left after the grape harvest. 14They raise their voices, they shout for joy; from the west they acclaim the LORD’s majesty. 15Therefore in the east give glory to the LORD; exalt the name of the LORD, the God of Israel, in the islands of the sea. 16From the ends of the earth we hear singing: “Glory to the Righteous One.” But I said, “I waste away, I waste away! Woe to me! The treacherous betray! With treachery the treacherous betray!”
Micah 2:3 Therefore, the LORD says: “I am planning disaster against this people, from which you cannot save yourselves. You will no longer walk proudly, for it will be a time of calamity. 4In that day men will ridicule you; they will taunt you with this mournful song: `We are utterly ruined; my people’s possession is divided up. He takes it from me! He assigns our fields to traitors.’” Jonah 2:8 “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.
Jonah 2:9: 9But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the LORD.” 10And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
Hab. 3:17 Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 18yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. 19The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights. For the director of music. On my stringed instruments.
Isa. 14:5 The LORD has broken the rod of the wicked, the scepter of the rulers, 6which in anger struck down peoples with unceasing blows, and in fury subdued nations with relentless aggression. 7All the lands are at rest and at peace; they break into singing. 8Even the pine trees and the cedars of Lebanon exult over you and say, “Now that you have been laid low, no woodsman comes to cut us down.” . . . 11All your pomp has been brought down to the grave, along with the noise of your harps; maggots are spread out beneath you and worms cover you.
Isa. 38:18 For the grave cannot praise you, death cannot sing your praise; those who go down to the pit cannot hope for your faithfulness.
Amos 5:22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. 23Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. 24But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!
Amos 6:4 You lie on beds inlaid with ivory and lounge on your couches. You dine on choice lambs and fattened calves. 5You strum away on your harps like David and improvise on musical instruments. 6You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions, but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph.
Amos 8:1 This is what the Sovereign LORD showed me: a basket of ripe fruit. 2″What do you see, Amos?” he asked. “A basket of ripe fruit,” I answered. Then the LORD said to me, “The time is ripe for my people Israel; I will spare them no longer. 3″In that day,” declares the Sovereign LORD, “the songs in the temple will turn to wailing. Many, many bodies –flung everywhere! Silence!” . . . 9″In that day,” declares the Sovereign LORD, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight. 10I will turn your religious feasts into mourning and all your singing into weeping. I will make all of you wear sackcloth and shave your heads. I will make that time like mourning for an only son and the end of it like a bitter day.
1Cor. 14:6 Now, brothers, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction? 7Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the flute or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? 8Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? 9So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. 10Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. 11If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me. 12So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church. 13For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says. 14For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. 15So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind. 16If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying? 17You may be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified. 18I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue. 20Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.
1Cor. 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
The Illuminati Also Owns The Mainstream Music Industry. In Fact, It Is The Illuminati That Is Responsible For Creating It Just Like With The Illuminati’s Hollywood Movie Industry. The Illuminati Music Industry Has Been Corrupted To The Core By Satan, And Satan Is Now Using It As A Weapon In His Arsenal Against God And God’s Children. Here Is A Video That Proves Beyond The Shadow Of A Doubt At Least For Us That The Illuminati Controlled Music Industry Is Now Fully Under The Control Of Lucifer The Devil Himself! There are more informative videos within the one above that can illustrate the tools and devices being used to deceive us all.
If You Watch All Of Them, You Should Be Able To Understand How They Clearly Show That The Devil Is Now In Charge Of The Illuminati’s Music Industry And How He Is Using It To Attempt To Corrupt The Souls Of Every Man, Woman, And Child Who Listens To The Music That The Illuminati Produces. It Also Exposes The Illuminati Music Industry For What It Really Is, A Tool In Satan’s Army To Suck People Into A Spider Web Of Deceit, And One Of His Weapons To Turn people Away From God And From Christ And From The Holy Spirit And Towards Lust, Greed, Envy, And Just About Every Other Form Of Sin There Is. We Hope You Enjoy These Videos As Much As We Did, And We Hope That Afterwards You Will Seriously Consider What Kinds Of Music You Let Your Family Listen To From This Day Forward.