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Over two thousand years ago, a woman—a prostitute—boldly disrupted a dinner attended by a roomful of religious men. Pressing past social and religious norms, ignoring the discomfort and shame, she stood behind a man, her Savior, and wept so greatly that she made His feet wet with her tears (Luke 7:36-38).

This was true emotion indeed.

This was true love indeed.

Rebels push back against outdated stigmas and social mores, but no rebellion arose here. This “woman of the city,” as Luke called her, was driven by a force she could no longer deny: the overwhelming love of the God she had not known. She had witnessed that love in action when Jesus ministered to the sick, the lame, and the blind. Perhaps she had watched in wonder as He forgave the woman taken in adultery. The Holy Spirit convinced her in those moments that the divine love she needed and longed for was resident in this Man. Nothing, including her own personal humiliation, would keep her away.

God’s love, once known, once experienced, is irresistible. It compels us to come to Him.

God’s Love for Those He Created

The Lord God Almighty created human beings in the image of Himself, a holy and perfect God, without evil, perversion, or betrayal. Not long after He did so, the people He created began to engage in the most heinous deeds imaginable. They hated, killed, raped, and burned alive those whom He had knitted together in their mothers’ wombs. They took advantage of the weak and vulnerable, crushing their necks under their feet. Soon, His human creations told Him they did not believe Him; some even proclaimed that He did not even exist. Others blasphemed His name, trampling it in the mud as if it were dung. Multitudes foolishly worshiped lifeless idols of metal, wood, and stone. What should this all-powerful God do? He regretted He even created them and subsequently punished them. Nevertheless, for millennia His own creations continued to ignore and rebel against Him. Eventually, He revealed His exquisite, incomprehensible solution: He Himself would die for their terrible sins and unbelief, absorbing the punishment He could have poured out upon them for the rejection of their Creator.

This He did in Jesus. All sins may be forgiven. The slate can be wiped clean. We may now know Him and fellowship with Him. Once unholy sinners, believers in Jesus Christ have been given His righteousness, the righteousness of God Himself.

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).1

However, that is not all. These horrible, debased ones—He adopts them. He brings them into His family. He makes these fallen creations, of all improbable things, His sons and daughters. He gives them a share in the inheritance He has for His only Son, the One who is holy and full of glory.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3–5).

What they deserved—punishment—He took into Himself. He was mocked. Whipped. Executed like a despised murderer, fastened to a cross with cruel iron spikes. Slaughtered like a helpless—lamb.

What His creations did not deserve—His nature, His holy righteousness, His possessions—He gave to them.

This is what the Almighty God did.

This is why we love Him.

This is why we serve Him.

This is why we obey Him.

 

1All Scripture quotations from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

 

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I grew up as a kid watching WWII movies, stories of heroism. The Great Escape. The Dirty Dozen. And when I watch films today where the U.S. military is involved, such as Captain Phillips, I am moved, often to tears. Perhaps having lived abroad as a missionary has made me very aware of the relief I would experience if I needed rescue as a foreigner in a distant land. It is difficult to experience the feeling of home I felt as I walked into U.S. embassies in other countries. It sounds weird, I suppose, because I wasn’t really home. I still resided in a foreign nation. Nevertheless, that is how I felt. I also came to understand the comforting nature of the “golden passport”—the support, the justice, and accompanying power that stands behind that document. Therefore, I am extremely grateful to be an American citizen.

As much as I am thankful for that security, I must not compromise myself as a Christian in order to maintain that wonderful sense of safety that I enjoy.

Not a problem, you say? Very well, but I maintain that we—I—have a problem, and we must talk about it. And to discuss it, we will look at the terrible error made by the people of Israel. We will discover what they did when their survival was in jeopardy and they were in need of a savior.

Tragically, they chose the wrong one.

The Lord was angry with Israel because they had turned away from Him. They were worshipping idols. They made political and military alliances with ungodly countries in order to save themselves. This what the Lord told them, through Isaiah:

“Because this people has refused the waters of Shiloah that flow gently, and rejoice over Rezin and the son of Remaliah, therefore, behold, the Lord is bringing up against them the waters of the River, mighty and many, the king of Assyria and all his glory. And it will rise over all its channels and go over all its banks, and it will sweep on into Judah, it will overflow and pass on, reaching even to the neck, and its outspread wings will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel” (Isaiah 8:6–8). 1

By rejecting the “waters of Shiloah,” which represents Jerusalem, Israel had rejected and not trusted in the Lord and His plan of salvation. The references to Rezin, a Syrian monarch, and “the son of Remaliah,” whose name was Pekah, are explained here:

“During this time Rezin seems to have helped Pekah in his successful coup to seize the throne of Israel. Immediately upon his accession to the throne, Pekah formed an anti-Assyrian coalition with Rezin. They soon realized that successful resistance against Assyria required a larger alliance. They invited King Ahaz of Judah to join their coalition, but Ahaz adamantly refused. With the intention of placing an Aramaean of Davidic lineage upon the throne of Judah in order to effect a broader Syrian-Israelite alliance, Rezin and Pekah joined in an attack on Judah.” 2

In other words, Israel participated with a non-Jewish nation in an attack on Judah in order to help insure its survival. That didn’t work. The Lord told them that the king of Assyria would come in like a flood and overwhelmingly defeat them, which he did.

Now, the Church is not physical Israel. It is obviously not a theocracy. But it is spiritual Israel. We are sons of Abraham (Galatians 3:7). Therefore, it is instructive to discover how the Lord expected His people to behave when their survival was threatened, and one of those ways was not to make unholy political alliances in order to save themselves.

A few verses later in this eighth chapter of Isaiah, the Lord said this:

“For the LORD spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: ‘Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken” (Isaiah 8:11–15).

Christians are not to fear what the world fears or what the unbelieving citizens of the United States fear. He told us that He is to be our fear, yes, even our dread.

But notice where the Lord goes next. He prophesies the coming of a “stone of offense,” a “rock of stumbling.”

This is clearly a prophesy of the coming of their Messiah, Jesus, our King and Savior. Christians are to trust ultimately in Him alone to save us, no matter how uncomfortable, how insecure, how fearful, how dreadful conditions may become in the United States. We must not trust in ungodly political alliances that will compromise us when situations become terrifying. And let me tell you, that is what is going to happen, sooner or later. Judgment is coming.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

2Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (p. 1857). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In the last post, we looked at why the purpose-drive life is a lie. It’s a lie because it advocates a life seeking success and achievement, which the Bible does not. The Bible advocates a life of sacrifice and dying to one’s self and one’s desires—even physical death, for Jesus and for others. Jesus is our prime example of such of life. His apostles and many others have followed this example and suffered and died as martyrs.

The purpose-driven life seems attractive at first glance. Live a life of meaning. Effectiveness for God.

Nowhere in Scripture are we encouraged, taught, or commanded to live a life filled with “purpose.” We are told we must have a vision for our lives, because, after all, “Without a vision, the people perish.” However, the ESV renders the verse this way: “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law” (Proverbs 29:18). 1

When one studies the word “vision” in the Bible, it has nothing whatsoever to do with “having a vision (or a dream) for your life.” Visions in Scripture were revelations from God, not a personal goal envisioned by someone. This kind of teaching is disingenuous and misleading. No, perhaps it is better to say it is deadly. Deadly because it misuses God’s truth.

Most importantly, however, the purpose-driven lie is deadly because it takes the focus, the center, from Jesus and onto another—our purpose. Oh, yes, Jesus is tossed into this teaching to make it sound legitimate. Here are some examples: The Lord will enable you to accomplish your purpose. The Lord will strengthen you even as the world and the devil try to keep you from your purpose. The world needs people with purpose, so we can do great things in God’s kingdom.

We will read about great people in the Old Testament to whom God gave a purpose. Moses. Joshua. Joseph. Daniel.

We will hear a host of out-of-context verses.

Here is one of my favorite out-of-context verses that such teachers may use: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

First of all, using this verse to tell people that they can accomplish whatever they put their minds to is misleading on its face. No, you cannot do everything through Jesus. You will never beat Usain Bolt in a sprint, unless you wait until he’s too old to run anymore. Very few of us will play on the same court as Stephen Curry or any NBA player, unless, again, you wait until they’re old and feeble. Most of us will never be able to hit a slider pitched by Felix Hernandez.

I think you get the point.

More importantly, however, is the context of the verse: “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11–13).

What were the “all things” Paul claimed he could do?

To be content, whether he was brought low or was abounding, whether he was hungry or full. He did not claim he could accomplish anything he put his mind to. That way of thinking is dreamland. It is living in a world populated by unicorns and gumdrop rainbows.

Let me finish with this. Jesus is your purpose. If you faithfully love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, you will have all you need to live the life He has purposed for you, whether it is serving in your church and/or family, abroad as a missionary, or laboring away in obscurity in a job that the world considers unimportant. The Lord’s desire is not that you become significant. His desire is that you know, love, and believe Him. Everything else in your life will flow from there. If that is not enough for you, then you should find a god whom you think will supply what you want. But that god will not be the God of Scripture; it will not be our Savior, Jesus.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Thanks to Ben Williams for the photo.

 

 

 

 

2009-02-25_1126_3_NextToDelhiOrphanSchool

Should a believer in Jesus Christ have a purpose-driven life?

The simple, one-word answer:

No.

The pushback I usually receive when I make this assertion is, “Well, that’s not true. God does have a purpose for your life. Your life does have purpose.”

Well, ok. And what would that purpose be? I can almost guarantee that those who advocate such things will not quote verses like these:

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10–12). 1

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:24–25).

“Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him” (2 Timothy 2:3–4).

“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:12–13).

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16–17).

“When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:21–22).

No, instead we are told that the Christian’s purpose is to be successful and fulfilled in ministry or business; in life.

No death. No suffering.

So, a quick question with an obvious answer: What was Jesus’ purpose in coming to the earth?

To die.

What is your purpose on this earth?

To suffer with Him. To be persecuted and thus blessed. To die, to lay down your life for Him and for others.

There. I guess you’re right. God does have a purpose for your life.

1All Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Thanks to Ben Williams for the photo.

 

2009-02-22_1153_Church

The Word of Faith thing is weird.

And it’s a lie. I don’t think most Christians who agree with it or make use of its teaching think about it very deeply.

Well, we must think about it deeply because it is a very dangerous way to believe. It’s an unbiblical way to believe. It’s a superstitious way to believe. It’s a death-dealing, legalistic way to believe.

It’s a pagan way to believe.

Why is it pagan? Well, all other religions, except Christianity, believe that a person must do something, some act, in order to gain their god’s favor so the deity(ies) will then act. These actions vary from the horrendous—like the sacrifice of one’s own children—to the relatively benign, like burning money or candles, or sprinkling water on certain objects or sites. Some pagan belief systems require the recitation of phrases or chants. The purpose of these acts is to bring about a positive result, a “blessing.” However, a negative aspect exists, as well. If I must do or say certain things do bring a “blessing,” not doing certain things may have the opposite result. In Hinduism, for example, one must pay a priest to assign an “auspicious date” for weddings, so the marriage will be “blessed.” However, what if the couple doesn’t hire a priest to perform this duty? Should the bride and groom risk the possibility that their marriage will be “cursed” or lack a “blessing”?

So, why is the Word of Faith a pagan religious system? Because built into it is the belief that one must act—say or do something positive, to be specific—in order for God to act. One must say positive things in order to achieve positive results. You must “sow” positive words to reap positive rewards. For instance, if I am sick, after I’ve been prayed for, I must confess that I am healed. The other side of the coin is that I must not say that I am sick. That’s a negative confession, and I will reap the reward of that negativity. That destructive confession may bring the sickness back or cause me to “lose my healing.” Do you see how easy that was? In a couple of short steps, Christians behave like they’re pagans. God’s healing has now become dependent upon what you say, not upon His gracious sovereign power and will.

This is a belief system based on fearful legalism. In one short step, I am in bondage to what I can and cannot say. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spoken the simple truth about someone’s illness and been told, “Don’t say that!”

It’s a belief system that places the power of my words above the very power of God, which makes us into….little gods.

This belief system is clearly not biblical. Would someone find a time in the New Testament when Jesus healed someone and then told them to make sure they must go about confessing their healing or that they would lose it if they didn’t? Or that they shouldn’t say, “I am sick” or they will lose their healing?

Wait. What’s that I hear?

Crickets.

Here’s the truth: Jesus healed people by the power of the Holy Spirit. Period. They didn’t have to say or do anything, unless Jesus told them to as an act of faith. Here is one example:

“Then he said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other” (Matthew 12:13–14). 1

This was an act of faith, a very small one. However, not everyone who was healed was required to do even that:

“And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, ‘Lord, shall we strike with the sword?’ And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, ‘No more of this!’ And he touched his ear and healed him” (Luke 22:49–51).

This was also true in the ministries of His disciples:

“Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, ‘Look at us.’ And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, ‘I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!’ And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God” (Acts 3:3–8).

“It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever and dysentery. And Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him healed him” (Acts 28:8).

When Word of Faith ministers tell people they must confess their healing or continue to confess it, they have jumped headlong into legalistic, fear-inducing paganism.

You do not need to do anything for the Lord to heal you, unless the Lord has told you to. He heals by His grace. God chooses whom to heal and when. He alone possesses the power to heal. Your words do not. Your words are not more powerful than the Lord God of the universe.

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Thanks to Ben Williams for the photo.

 

 

 

 

2009-02-22_1153_ChurchWhen my wife and I were very young Christians, a foul and perversely attractive wind of doctrine blew through our church.

And we fell for it.

Unfortunately, this evil wind is still wreaking its havoc in the Church.

It has been called by various names. Positive confession. Word of faith.

The foul storm blew through pretty quickly for us, because the best solution to Christian wackiness is reality.

In other words, the driver behind word of faith is that it “works.” That’s what, at first, makes it attractive. For people who are excited about Jesus, just throw in some Bible verses that seem like they make sense, and—this is about Jesus, after all, who can do anything and the Bible, which is the truth—surely it will “work.”

Well, thankfully, it doesn’t “work.”

Here’s the formula:

You’re sick. Well, the good news is that Isaiah 53:5 says that by His stripes you were healed!

“But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). 1

Here is what you may have heard or will hear, based on this verse: “You were healed by Jesus’ stripes, when He was whipped. Some translations say, ‘By his wounds you were healed.’ So, you’re already healed! It happened at Calvary. Just claim it! Stand on that promise! Declare it! Confess it! Just proclaim/declare/speak that you’re healed. Praise the Lord for the healing, because you’re already healed. That healing is going to come! Positive confession works! Praise works!”

Major problem. These verses do not promise that every believer will be healed. The healing the Lord spoke of here is the healing that comes through Jesus’ sacrifice, the saving of one’s entire life. It speaks of the wholeness that comes through salvation.

Now, do I believe the Lord heals people? Absolutely. I myself have been healed of a shoulder problem when my daughter, then a teen-ager, prayed for me and laid her hands, which were strangely warm, on me. My wife’s father was healed of a major back issue.

Jesus heals.

However, He doesn’t heal everybody, every time.

Reality quickly bears this out.

As does Scripture.

At the end of his second letter to Timothy, Paul wrote:

“Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus remained at Corinth, and I left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus” (2 Timothy 4:19–20).

Oh my. This is a problem. Paul said that Trophimus was ill. I guess Paul somehow failed in his positive confession. Or perhaps he didn’t have the gift of healing.

Oh, but he did.

“It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever and dysentery. And Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him healed him. And when this had taken place, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases also came and were cured” (Acts 28:8–9).

People on the island of Malta were healed. But not everyone that Paul encountered was healed. Trophimus wasn’t. Paul just simply wrote about the reality of the situation: Trophimus was sick.

However, there is more going on here than the twisting of Scripture by word of faith proclaimers.

We’ll take that up next time, and it isn’t pretty.

Hint: Think superstitious paganism with a lethal dose of legalism.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Thanks to Ben Williams for the photo.

2009-02-22_1157_Church

In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul told the Christians that he had asked the Lord to take away a “thorn in the flesh,” a “messenger of Satan” sent to “harass” him in order to keep him from becoming conceited because of the “surpassing greatness of the revelations” that had been given to him (2 Corinthians 12:1-8).

The Lord denied Paul’s request to remove this satanic messenger and said this interesting thing:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’” (2 Corinthians 12:9).1

What does God’s grace have to do with denying the removal of a satanic messenger? Doesn’t grace mean God’s unmerited favor? Really? It is God’s unmerited favor to allow this thorn from the devil to remain?

Was God thinking clearly?

Of course He was. We are the ones who do not think clearly.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8–9).

That’s quite a difference, the distance between the heavens and the earth.

So, a couple of questions. Why was it the Lord’s grace, his unmerited favor, that the thorn in Paul’s flesh, the messenger of Satan, not leave the great apostle? Wouldn’t it have been an act of God’s amazing grace, instead, to take the thorn away?

The Lord supplied the answer to this question in the last part of His word to Paul: “My power is made perfect in weakness.”

Thus, here is the difficult lesson all Christians must learn, just as Paul did. God’s grace is not bestowed simply to make you happy, strong, and content. His unmerited favor is not intended to make your ministry successful, as we tend to measure “success.” It is actually to weaken you. It is God’s grace toward you to weaken you because, as He said, “My power is made perfect in weakness.”

God must make us weak to show His power through us, but not so we can become powerful.

Paul, bless his heart, responded in a way that humbles me, and I hope that I will respond in similar fashion should a messenger of Satan be sent to harass me: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9–10).

God’s power is made perfect in our weakness.

Is this the kill shot to the way we view Christian strength?

Probably not.

But it is the truth, nonetheless.

One more thing. Many Christians, particularly those in the Pentecostal/Charismatic camp, would be ecstatic if they should be taken up into the third heaven as Paul was. They could write a book about it. It would enlarge their ministry. They would be asked to come and speak at meetings.

Well, ok.

However, my fellow brothers and sisters should be aware of the accompanying cost. They should be aware of the action the Lord would take to humble them.

Be careful what you ask for. You may think such an experience would be a kickstart to greatness, but the Lord God Almighty has very different ideas. His power is made perfect in your weakness.

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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To all of the folks who follow this blog and all those who are dropping by this Christmas season,

“The LORD bless you and keep you, the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24–26).1

Grace and peace be unto you, my Christian friends, my brothers and sisters in Jesus. May the Lord strengthen you and encourage you. May He give you all that you need to be His true disciples.

Merry Christmas. May Jesus be exalted as you worship Him this week.

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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In this series of articles, we have been looking at this question: How does a Christian pray for the Church, when the Bible is clear that it will become apostate before Jesus returns? The first answer we discovered came from Daniel’s prayer for God’s people in Daniel 9: We must pray for ourselves, not for “us” and them.” Yes, the sheep will one day be separated from the goats, but we do not know who among us is which. If we encounter a believer who has clearly gone astray, do we know what will happen in the believer’s spiritual life a week from now? A month? A year? We do not. Do we know their heart like the Lord does? No, we do not. Therefore, we find it an impossible task—and an unscriptural one, as well—to do this judging. In addition, let’s be honest. All Christians have sinned in shameful ways, and not one of us is able to walk blamelessly even in the very first commandment. Thus, we pray for “us,” as Daniel did. We have sinned. We repent. Lord, hold back Your hand of judgment, please. This is how the prophets prayed, even though the Lord had told them that Israel or Judah was going to be judged. They did not relent.

We took a brief look at one of the ways the evangelical church is in need of prayer, and that is that we have adopted—well, many believers have—a message that calls for Christians to discover the vision or dream that God has for their lives. This is simply a spinoff of the purpose-driven life error. Please allow me to make this clear. Jesus is your purpose. He is your dream, your destiny. Placing purpose/dream/vision at the center of your life sounds good to the ear, but it removes Jesus from the center. It is therefore very dangerous to hold to this position. If this is you, please repent. If you believe in and follow Jesus, please trust me: He will give you everything you need in regards to what you should be doing with Him in the earth. However, it may not be significant at all, in the way the world assesses significance.

And that should be okay. Why? Because God has clearly shown in Scripture that He chooses people who are insignificant. I refer you to the first chapter of First Corinthians to read about the kind of people He chooses.

However, there is another area about which we should pray, one that has been neglected in much of our teaching. That area is the judgment seat of Christ. Two judgments lay ahead. One is what is called the Great White Throne Judgment, where the previously mentioned sheep and goats judgment will transpire. Those who are clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ will escape that judgment, the wrath of God. It will be a terrible time, one that we should not wish on anyone.

“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:11–15).1

The other judgment, however, is for believers, where they will be judged, not on their righteous standing with God, but on what they have done in Him on the earth. Paul wrote this:

“So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:9–10).

Paul also wrote of it here:

“Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.’ So then each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:10–12).

The rewards believers will receive will not be based upon their accomplishments. It will not be based upon how big their church or ministry was. It will be based upon how they walked with the Lord on the earth. This is a deep study, and we will not enter into it here. However, the first and greatest clue to how Jesus will reward His followers is found in the first sentence He uttered in His Sermon on the Mount:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).

It matters how you, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, walk with God. No, it will not affect your salvation, but it will affect your rewards in eternity. Please pray with me that the Church will wake up to this eternal reality. We should desire that no one lose their reward. Pray the we will repent of our sins, our ignorance, our laziness in matters eternal.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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In this series of articles, we are looking at the issue of how to pray for a Church that will, according to Scripture, fall into apostasy. How is a Christian to pray? In order to help us, we have been studying Daniel’s prayer for his people, who had fallen away from God, in Daniel 9. So far, we have discovered that Daniel, although he was obviously not an idol worshiper or one who had turned away from God, included himself as a sinner with the rest of his people when he prayed. We can learn from Daniel’s humble example. As Christians, we must be honest with ourselves. Yes, the Church has behaved grievously and will continue to do so as it rebels against God in the days ahead; however, all of us have rebelled against God. I have ignored various truths of Scripture and probably still do to this day, in my ignorance. And have I loved God every day with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength? No, and neither have you.

Therefore, as we intercede for God’s people in these Last Days, we confess our sins, not just the sins of “those people” who we have denied, from our understanding, the very Lord who saved them. But our problem is that we don’t know their hearts as God does. What is the true state of those who claim to be followers of Jesus? We just don’t know.

When Daniel learned that the seventy years of captivity were ending as prophesied by Jeremiah, he interceded for His people and put on sackcloth and ashes. He was grieving. Why would he do this when Judah’s return—God’s word to Jeremiah—to the Promised Land was near at hand?

He knew that God’s people were totally unprepared to return and perhaps was wondering if the Lord might have changed His mind due to their persistent lack of repentance for their sins.

Let’s pause for a moment and think about the Lord’s Prayer where Jesus taught us to pray “Your kingdom come.” Now, we know His kingdom is coming, just as surely as Judah would return. Jesus promised He would return one day. On the day of His ascension, the angel reiterated it. The Book of Revelation proclaims the future establishing of His kingdom. So, why we should we pray “Your kingdom come”? It’s going to happen whether we pray or not. And why should we pray for the Church as we do so?

For the same reason Daniel prayed for God’s people centuries ago. They were sinners and unprepared for the event.

We must remember Jesus’ frightening question: “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8).1

                    This may include you, if you are alive and on the earth when He returns.

You. You may become faithless.

We must pray now that all of us will remain faithful. We must pray now that all of us know Him. I must tell you with much sadness that very many of our churches in West now bring messages that one could find in any self-help book. Very many of our churches tell us that we must have a dream for our lives, a vision, a purpose. The center of our churches have swung around from having Jesus as the center to people being the center. The Church has caved to the culture. We have become iChurch.

We are not to have a vision-driven life. We are not to have a dream-driven life. We are not to have a purpose-driven life.

We are to have a Jesus-driven life.

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

 

 

 

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