Are You Ready to Die For Jesus?

I took a few minutes last night to read a news article on ISIS and the suffering some have been through at their hands. I didn’t really want to take the time or put it in my mind but I feel like too many American Christians live in blissful oblivion, not realizing how incredibly blessed we are.

We can sleep without having to worry about interrogators knocking on our door in the middle of the night. We can walk down the street without fear of being surrounded, arrested, and tortured. We are not forced to watch as our children are murdered. Understanding what people go through in other countries should make us cease our complaints and praise God for His over-abundant goodness.

I am praying for God’s people in those countries. The only reason some are being treated badly is because they worship the true God. Here in America, it is so easy to be a “Christian.” The word means different things to different people but most people can handle knowing that you are a person of faith.

We may not always have this freedom, however. There may come a time when we will be asked, while facing the barrel of a gun or the blade of a machete, “Are you a Christian?” What would I say then? Would I be able to unflinchingly look my assailant in the eye and say, “Yes, I am”? I hope that, if that day comes, I will do just that but I will not have that boldness if I do not begin now to surrender to Him until it is no longer I that lives but Christ who lives in me. I cannot make provision for the flesh now and think I will stand for Christ then.

Sobering thoughts I know, but we need to think about these things from time to time. We need to evaluate our lives in light of God’s Word and know that we are not becoming complacent or lukewarm. God desires us to be lights in a dark world. He wants people who will praise Him in all circumstances. He needs an army who will not bow the knee to the Baals of our time. Are you that person? Am I that person? I think of the song that says, “I’m not what I wanna be. I’m not what I’m gonna be but thank God I’m not what I was.”

Father, help me to surrender every bit of my flesh to you. Continue the work you have begun to rid me of myself and fill me with You. Increase my love for You and for others that I may be the light You have called me to be. Make me willing to die for you daily so that I will have the strength to die for you in reality if you call me to do so.

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Why I’m Thankful for ISIS

The title is tongue-in-cheek. I do not condone the actions of ISIS, but I do want to reveal the effect they have had on American culture in recent weeks. While many have shuttered all over the world of the terrorism of ISIS, below are some observations of why I am glad ISIS has gained media attention.

1. No more religion of peace. Think about this: How many times have you slightly regurgitated in your mouth whenever someone brings up how they believe Islam is peaceful, whether in a witnessing encounter or on the news? Now we have the ammunition needed that reveals otherwise! And even if someone does have the audacity to insist that Islam is a religion of peace, or tries to differentiate between ISIS and what Islam “actually” teaches, it now takes almost nothing to prove them wrong. After all, what motivates these men other than the Quran?

2. The real enemy is now obvious. I have open air preached in many places, and one of the worst rebuttals I receive concerning Christianity is that it is a dangerous religion. This, of course, is due to our evolutionary/humanistic professors that hate anything to do with Christ. But now, since the appearance of ISIS, a genuine enemy is now in the forefront of the media, making Christianity seem as menacing as a 3rd grade class at recess. And guess what? Humanists are terrified! Even atheists on social media are now confessing the tragic mistake they have made at making Christianity “dangerous” (although not all).

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Civil Disobedience and the Christian

The concept of civil disobedience is not new. Neither is the question of how far a government imagescan go before the Christian is permitted to disobey. This concept of civil disobedience is/ought to be an escalation from the peaceful petition that ought to be the Christian’s first response to objectionable laws. Was Rosa Parks right in her act of civil disobedience? How do we answer such questions?

We must be informed by the Word of God – not our personal preferences and presuppositions.

World Magazine recently published an article focused on this question, you can read it here. Here’s a small excerpt:

Does submitting to civil authorities mean obeying laws that are immoral? We are commanded by God to share the gospel. What if a law barred us from doing so, even privately? We see that obeying government authorities isn’t absolute. It should be clear to Christians that unless there is legal recourse against obeying a law that compels us to sin, we are justified in disobeying it. Is it a sin to offer employees “mini-abortion drugs”?

It is clear from Scripture that Christians are able (obligated, I contend) to disobey the governing authorities if proclamation of the Gospel is outlawed – see Acts chapter 4. Is that the right standard to compare other issues to, as if they become justifiable since Gospel proclamation is?

This question of submitting to political authority has been addressed here at Def Con in the past – see this post as brother Conrad Mbewe examines part of 1 Peter.

The question of disobedience to the governing authorities must be anchored in Scripture – as with anything of import. If God has given us instructions, we who claim to be His must submit to what He was revealed to us! Do you have a pet issue (perhaps home schooling) that would cause you to reflexively rebel against the governing authorities without seeking wisdom from God in humility?  We must be on guard against these issues that are close to us – for it in these that we are most vulnerable to slip into disobedience to God, thinking we are merely exercising our rights – forgetting that we are aliens in this present age, with our citizenship and home in a city whose builder is God.

Since I mentioned home schooling, let me briefly comment on that. In the US of A, it is not now and never has been against the law to home school your own children. Read that carefully. It is not now and never has been against the law to home school your own children. It has been and still is in many places in this country against the law to home school your children in lieu of sending them off the approved institution, but never illegal to home school in addition to the approved educational process. The Bible clearly holds parents responsible for training (educating) their children in the things of God. Rightly done, this covers all academic areas. But the Bible also records for us humble servants of YHWH who submit to pagan education and work diligently to prosper their pagan rulers (Joseph and Daniel come to mind). We must seek wisdom from God’s Word before we decide to go against the governing authorities – for there is no governing authority except those that have been established by God.

So – is it right and honorable to refuse to provide medical insurance that covers abortion? Certainly! The law is set up to allow people to pay for non-compliance. It is a very high price tag for businesses that might cause them to completely change their business model (contractors or part time employees) or liquidation. But think on this: the Bible does not reveal God’s will for man-made institutions. He has created government, family, and the church. Those institutions have responsibility before God as does each individual. A Christian who owns a company has a responsibility before God and he has the same obligation to seek wisdom from God’s Word on this as with personal issues. (Not being addressed in this article are those hell-bound folk who will also answer to God and have no grace to cover them on Judgment Day.)

The Christian that wants to participate in civil disobedience ought to step back and think. Rebellion is as witchcraft. Failure to rightly submit to the governing authorities is rebellion, is as witchcraft. Is that something we want to play games with? 1 Peter 2 gives a “Reader’s Digest” version of God’s commandment:

    Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

Let’s wrap up with the obvious text, Romans 13, which includes this nugget: “whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.” Read the whole chapter, with a humble attitude. I know it’s easy to despise a government that does not rule the way I want it to. I like my elected officials to have an affection for and submission to the Constitution (at the national level) just like I like my church elders to have an affection for and submission to the Scriptures. But civil governments are mostly occupied by folks not reconciled to God, while church leaders ought to be – and therefore, subject to stricter standards. Most of the things that cause me to consider civil disobedience do not meet the biblical test – they reflect my fleshly desires or my innate sense of self-righteousness. How do you see yourself?

Okay. Your assignment. Voddie Baucham preaching on Romans 13 in two sermons. Listen to part one and part two before commenting. It wouldn’t hurt to listen to Conrad Mbewe’s message from 1 Peter (at the link early in this article). Then let’s discuss like mature, humble blood-bought children of the Creator God and Ruler of the universe.

Stay the Course and Never Compromise!

In light of some of the recent posts and comments, I would like to share a few thoughts from my heart, but I want to do so by beginning with a story.

Over five years ago, an unknown blogger started an unknown blog that would eventually become very well known with thousands of readers. The unknown blogger was The Pilgrim and he began a blog that was then called Reformation Nation. Five years later, the site has been visited almost 3 million times, has over 25,000 published comments, spams innumerable, and people who are either still with us or have left angry, mad, or upset.

In late 2007, I was pastoring a small mission work and the Pilgrim, along with his family, wandered in on a Wednesday evening and listened to an exposition from Psalm 1. That night began what has become a very close friendship that climaxed, in my estimation, with one of the best memories of my life. He decided to join my wife and I on a mission trip to Liberia, West Africa. This was not easy for him as he had never been outside the USA, much less having been on an airplane.

The blog quickly became Defending Contending and I was invited to be the first of several contributors that would join in the fight. The Pilgrim and his family became a very important part of our ministry and in various ways they became a huge encouragement to us and still are to this day. Those times as a mission pastor were not easy, and there were times that I wanted to quit. I wondered whether it was worth the fight. Yet through it all, the Pilgrim was one of the few who always sought to give encouragement no matter how he was feeling, and no matter what he and his family were going through.

One of his catchphrases was and still is, “Stay the course, Never Compromise!”

NoCompromiseThis little phrase encouraged me, as it has others, not to give up when the going was tough. It encouraged me when my health had declined to the point that I wondered whether I would make it back to the US. It encouraged me when we wrote blogs that seemed like they only garnered bad comments, or when we were concerned that the fight should be left to others, or when the thought that giving up was more than passing jumble of words. Yes, there were times when we both wondered if we were going overboard. In our minds, we thought at times that maybe it would be easier to follow the sage advice, “If you can’t beat ‘em, then join ‘em!”

But then, I would remember the phrase again, “Stay the course, Never Compromise!” Either the Pilgrim would have to remind me, or I would seek to remind him.

Was it necessary? Was it worth the fight? Have we stayed the course? Have we sought to compromise?

I believe the answer is and remains that it was necessary, it has been worth the fight, we have sought to stay the course, and to the best of our knowledge we have tried not to compromise.

The purpose of this post and the lengthy introduction and story is to talk about the Pilgrim’s little phrase that has meant so much to me and to others.

First, what does it mean to stay the course and what course are we meant to be taking? After all, there are many blogs out there. There are many paths that can be taken. Some would make us popular and the blog could probably have become very famous had we made some different decisions. So, what course are we to stay?

The apostle Paul never set out to be popular, and it was clear from his writings that he never had a mega-church. He never saw his letters become best-sellers. He never owned his own personal Learjet and was never chauffeured around in bullet-proof vehicles. His final days did not live up to the vague, empty promises made by the health, wealth, and prosperity proponents of the 21st century. In fact, his final days were not spent in luxury but in the damp, dank interior of the Mamertine Prison in Rome. Then for the sake of the Master for whom he was nothing but a slave, he became a martyr and was beheaded at the command of Nero.

Yet, he stayed the course. Listen to what he had to say in Acts 20:24, “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” Notice that his course was not to enjoy life. It was not to have his best life now. It was not to be fulfilled or to build his self-esteem so he could feel better about himself.

Paul was a servant. Actually, he was more than a servant; he was a bondslave. He was a doulos of Jesus Christ and of such had no control over what he could say or do or even how he could live. He recognized his position and rejoiced that he was even called upon to suffer just as the disciples of Christ had done when they were beaten for giving forth the precious words of life.

He actually notes about himself in 2 Cor. 10:10, “For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.” It would appear that Paul never read the great Roman philosopher Dalius Carnegius scroll entitled, “How to Win Friends and Influence Senators!” If he did, it certainly did not make an impression on him.

History also reveals that he somehow overlooked another popular speaker’s scroll entitled, “The Power of Positive Thinking.” Listen to another passage from Paul’s writing from 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching [was] not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”

Paul made it clear what the course was. It was to know NOTHING BUT Jesus Christ and him CRUCIFIED! That was definitely not a popular subject matter. Nobody liked crucifixion. I am sure that everybody did not want to be reminded that the Christian walk was not a bed of roses. There may have been some that thought that following Christ was easy as long as they could first go and bury their dead. Or, maybe it was necessary to first throw a party or to sell off the family business?

After the events of Acts 5 and the account of Ananias and Sapphira, there was no doubt that staying the course meant that people FEARED to join themselves unto the number of those who claimed to be followers of The Way. They were afraid to claim something that they were not just as Ananias and Sapphira had done. It cost that couple their lives when they lied to the Holy Spirit. God knew they were phonies and their lives did not match up what they claimed. There was no desire for forgiveness ever recorded, but the church remained pure and continued to grow.

Those who joined themselves to the church were not looking for fame or fortune. They didn’t come for the lattes, mochas, or cool, hip, relevant messages preached by a guy wearing a “Jesus is my homeboy” t-shirt. To join the early New Testament church meant you knew you might leave home for a church service and that you could be lion food that same night. They also knew what it meant to “stay the course.”

not-persecuted Staying the course meant being willing to take a stand when it is not popular. Staying the course means that you will gain the strength necessary to stare evil in the face, even if it means you must give your life for the testimony of Jesus Christ. When you stay the course, it means that you DO NOT QUIT doing what is right. A saying I heard all growing up is worth repeating, “Two wrongs NEVER make a right.”

Paul had only one desire and that was to finish the course. He did not start out well being a religious leader and putting believers to death. Although he did not start well, he wanted to finish well and with that in mind, he concludes his ministry with 2 Tim. 4:7, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”

Notice that he tells young Timothy that he “kept the faith.” This is where the rest of the Pilgrim’s favorite phrase comes in – “NEVER COMPROMISE!”

Today, as a blogger, it would be easy for us to stop telling the truth. It would be easy for us to join with others and seek to hold hands with all denominations and religions all for the sake of unity, but done at the expense of doctrinal purity.

But, it would be compromise!

At DefCon, we could openly embrace all those who claim to know Jesus simply because they know what His name is, yet have no evidence of fruit.

But, it would be compromise!

We could change from being a blog that takes a stand for truth and only give nice fluffy messages about how our readers could live their best lives now.

But, it would be compromise!

We could tell our readers how much God loves you that He has a wonderful plan for their lives that includes no hardships. That would be to join the mainstream of what passes for evangelical Christianity.

And, it would be compromise!

We could refrain from Paul’s admonition to warn others of the wolves that are desirous of eating the flock.

But, it would be compromise!

Yes, there are many things we could do differently that would please many of our former readers. There are areas of doctrine that could be ignored and whole passages of Scripture completely obliterated from our Bibles all for the sake of unity. We could refrain from warning others of the coming wrath of God. We could refrain from shedding tears at the apostasy that is so prevalent in modern churches. We could keep from warning others that it is only going to get worse.

But, it would be compromise!

To compromise is to give up on God! It is to give up on the Scriptures! It is to say to the world that the world is more important than the truth of God’s Holy infallible and inerrant words. To compromise means that we would have to stop telling people of the dangers of the cults and religions that are taking their people down to hell. To compromise does not necessarily mean huge changes overnight. Compromise takes shape just one small step at a time, but the end result is still the same! DESTRUCTION!

Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the Word of God is quick (alive) and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword. It pierces down to the very core of our being. To compromise means that we would no longer believe in the regenerating power of God to break the dead heart of stone and make a new creation in Christ. You see to compromise means that we would be admitting that God is NOT the same yesterday, today or forever. It would mean that we believe that the message has to be different because of the changing times.

To compromise means that we will not have stayed the course. We must learn and pray that God will give us the grace, the strength, the humility AND the boldness to stand alongside the Martin Luther’s of the world who have come and gone. We must learn to re-echo those famous words with the same fervor and passion of those who were willing to DIE for their faith.

NoCompromise To compromise means that we do not count as dear that great cloud of witnesses who laid down their lives for the sake of the gospel. It means that we do not stand with our fellow brothers and sisters around the world who suffer today for their faith. It also means that we show to the world that our faith is only for when it is an easy walk, not a path wrought with difficulties, trials, and tribulations.

Listen again to the words of a man, who like Paul, refused to compromise.

“Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. Here I stand for I can do no other. May God help me. Amen.”

To my fellow contributors, nobody said it would ever be easy. There are far too many who have given up already, and I for one do not want to be just another web statistic. I do not want people to say, “DefCon used to stand for the truth, but they gave up. They quit! They compromised for the sake of getting more readers!”

With God as our helper, we will stay the course and we will never compromise. I would hope that if we ever veer from our path that somebody else would be granted the strength to call us on the carpet. If we ever cease to use the Word of God as our mainstay, then I hope that somebody will seek to remind us of our duty and our call to be obedient servants. Our goal should be not to gain or hear the praise of man but to hear those wonderful words one day in eternity, “Well done, you were a good and faithful servant!”

Soldiers have no recourse to change their orders like so many are doing today. 2 Timothy 2 tells us that we are called to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ. No soldier that goes to war entangles himself with the affairs of this world. Our Commander in Chief has not authorized easy deployments, nor has He changed the battle plan!

To conclude, we at Defending Contending make no apologies for our stand for truth. Our conscience is captive to the Word of God. Our prayer is that we will continue to walk the paths that have been walked before us. Our prayer is that our words will give strength and courage to those who follow us, and that they too will heed the words of our dear friend and brother, The Pilgrim,

“STAY THE COURSE, AND NEVER COMPROMISE!”

How to stagnate the church: A dictator’s manual.

Dear atheistic, communistic dictator: Having trouble with that dastardly underground church spreading like wild fire?

No matter how much you seize, imprison, torture, and execute those Christians, the church still keeps flourishing?

Christians getting in the way of your nation’s “progressive” progress?

Looking for a way to stamp out the spread of Christianity in your Orwellian utopia?

Well look no further than this blog post. That’s right. In this post I will show you in just two easy steps how to limit the spread of the church in your country in one generation so you can continue to build your effervescent dystopian society unhindered.

But, dear dictator, it is essential that you first understand two things before we proceed: 

Firstly, up to this point you’ve been doing it all wrong.  The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church and history has proven that persecution only grows the church. 

Secondly, God’s ultimate sovereign will and His predetermined plans will never be thwarted by any man, including you . . . with all due respect of course, dearest comrade.

If you can resign yourself to the fact that your current approach has been ineffective, and that you will never completely stamp out Christianity, then you’re ready to follow the two easy steps outlined below to begin stagnating the spread of the church in your country.

Let’s begin.

STEP ONE:

You must legalize freedom of religion. I know, I know, this sounds counter intuitive, but trust me on this.

Combined with step two, legalizing freedom of religion will ensure that the tares will greatly increase among the wheat since there’s no longer a sacrifice associated with “becoming a Christian.” Once the tares begin to outnumber the wheat, you will know that success (achieved without a single shot fired) is just around the corner.

STEP TWO:

In conjunction with step one, open up Christian bookstores in every city and flood the market with two waves of books. In the first wave push books by the likes of Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, Robert Schuller, Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer, and Beth Moore to skew their concept of what Christianity is. Simultaneously make available to them such television channels as TBN to tell them that God’s greatest desire for them is to be healthy and wealthy and that anything less means they are lacking in faith.

After the masses have consumed and adapted to a positive, self-help version of the gospel, then hit them with the second wave of book by the likes of Rob Bell, Dallas Willard, Doug Pagitt, Jay Bakker, and similar Emergents to encourage them to doubt everything the Bible says (or at least doubt what the Bible says about the sins they like to continue engaging in).

Allow Christian radio stations to function uninhibited. Encourage stations to fill the airwaves with their sugary, Jesus-is-my-boyfriend, contemporary, Christian pop music along with all the “positive and encouraging” Bible verses to boot (avoiding verses like Psalm 5:5, Psalm 11:5, Matthew 7:21-23, and Hebrews 10:31), offering contests to win theme park tickets, movie theater tickets, concert tickets, backstage passes, autographed CDs, day spa visits, and cruises, cruises, cruises.

All of this will drive these Christians to seek after increased comfort and greater self-preservation over and above everything else. This “laying down of one’s cross” to seek after comfort, security, and prosperity, of course, is the very opposite of what the Christian should be doing and is the antithesis of a “revolutionary.” A revolutionary, need I remind you, is one who would be willing to sacrifice everything to overthrow an oppressive government such as yours. The less revolutionaries there are, the greater your chance of retaining your power becomes.

Remember, your goal is not to make these people irreligious, because that simply doesn’t work (which is, after all, why you’re reading this). No, your goal is to inoculate them to the true gospel of Jesus Christ, the only religious faith that truly poses an ideological threat to your fragile utopia.

If you properly followed the above steps, then your subjects will not only have moved from the true gospel to a false one, but they’ll even reject the true gospel and not even be able to recognize it when it’s presented to them. This biblical ignorance will certainly spread like a cancer and be passed on to the next generation, ensuring your safety and security from an uprising or revolution for many years to come. 

Left to human nature, men will inevitably take the path of least resistance. No dying to self and carrying a cross for them, only happiness, security, prosperity, and ease. And once on the hook, they will then follow whoever promises to continue to provide those comforts, even if they follow that leader to the gallows he has prepared for them.

Do you still doubt that my two-step plan will work? Do you still desire proof of its effectiveness? Then I need only to direct you to where this two-step process has been implemented already as proof that this works every time it’s tried: Look no further than the churches in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

Martial law and Romans 13.

How far is Romans 13:1-3 meant to be taken?

There’s no denying that the government’s reach and control grows larger every day, individual  rights continue to erode, and the framework for the persecution of the church is being laid. So, does Romans 13 mean Christians are to unquestionably collude and cooperate with their coming persecutors?

Here is a brief news clip to spur the conversation (debate). I look forward to reading the discussion.

Romans 13:1-3

“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same;”