The Church of the Future

2 Thessalonians 2:3, Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion (apostasy) comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction (ESV).

1 Timothy 4:1-2, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared (ESV).”

The apostle Paul provided us an insight into what the future would hold for the church. His warnings were not written because he had nothing better to do than to try and scare the believers of the 1st century. The church was in its infancy, yet the problems were already present. Just about every book revealed another aspect of what they faced, and the issues were real.

For example, in Romans, he reveals a great deal of doctrine, but he also pointed out the reality that sin in the life of the believer was real. It would not be eradicated in this life but we could be thankful that we, as believers, would not be found to be under any condemnation. Nothing would separate us from the love of God, who had adopted us into His everlasting family.

Could anything have prepared the early church for the events that transpired in Corinth? Despite the debauchery that was a part of the Roman Empire being found in the presence of brothers and sisters in Christ, Paul had to remind these precious believers that although many had participated in various sins, they were now clean. They had been washed in the blood of the Lamb and justified. Their accounts had been settled and they were no longer enslaved to the slimepits of the world in which they once loved to wallow.

The problems that were addressed were game-changers. As each scroll must have been unrolled, read, and shared, each local body of believers had to have rejoiced that their names were truly written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Paul picked up his quill though and continued to warn each group.

persecution-1stcentury

To the believers in Thessalonica, he lovingly encourages them by pointing out that the Lord had not yet returned. In fact, one of his greatest joys was the testimony that this local assembly had before the inhabitants of the city, and yes, even beyond the region in which they lived. This was a group that did not allow their testimony to wane. Were they perfect? Were they super pious? Did they live on some spiritual plateau where they had become free from the ensnarements of sin? No, no, and no! The Thessalonians were real people facing real threats from an empire that hated the God of the Bible first.

However, Paul then gets another parchment and writes to a young pastor named Timothy. This letter is different. He gives pastoral counsel and godly wisdom for how this young man can shepherd the flock of God carefully, biblically, prayerfully, and lovingly.

In the middle of this epistle though, Paul uses a phrase to show the importance of what he is about to share. “The Spirit expressly says…” We understand the inspiration of the entire Word of God, yet, under that inspiration, his words point out a solemn truth that was meant to be a word of warning to Timothy.

When I began teaching in a ministry capacity over 25 years ago, you would not have been able to convince me that the blood-bought church would be where it is at today. Were there cults to deal with? Yes, of course. Were books being written based on, at best, shady theology? Again, we affirm that there were such books.

However, had you told me that so many churches and even entire denominations would depart from the faith in such record numbers, I would have struggled to believe such a thing to be possible.

To have been told that the proliferation of local assemblies would involve being willing for many ministers to become a Judas and sell-out their testimony and the Word of God for the purposes of entertainment or for profit, I would have told you that you were crazy.

Believers have gone from a hunger for the Word of God to having itching ears. They want to hear nice platitudes that make them feel good about themselves. Churches no longer want to hear about sin, righteousness, and the coming judgment. Padded pews keep people comfortable while they learn how to have a higher level of self-esteem. We are now so full of ourselves in many churches today that there seems to be a self-imposed moratorium on the Holy Spirit’s working in our midst.

Today, an overwhelming number of pastors and churches are more interested in hearing “Judge not!” from each other than they are interested in hearing God say, “You have been weighed in the balances and found wanting. Judgment is coming!”

Above all else, we have smoothed sin over to the point where churches are looking for ways to embrace it, instead of calling sinners to repentance. Step on board a blogsite, Facebook post, Twitter feed, or whatever medium you choose and dare to speak out and proclaim the truth of God’s Word. It won’t take more than 4 or 5 minutes before people who have never spoken to you before arise from the dark mists of the internet to shout you down. “How dare you judge?” “Who do you think you are? God?” “We are called to just LURVE everybody without question!” Et cetera, et cetera, ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

And the words of the Spirit to the church at Ephesus rings out saying, “You have left your first love. You no longer hold Christ preeminent over all others and to the exclusion of all others.”

Sadly, the clarion call to repentance has mostly fallen on deaf ears and now we have truly become closer to the model of the Laodicean church, “You are neither cold, nor hot, but you are lukewarm. I will vomit you out of my mouth.” There is not one good word that is ever said about the church at Laodicea. They had passed the point where there was no turning back. The writing was on the wall.

21stcentury

Today, I look at the 21st century church and realize that the 1st century church would not recognize us today. They would probably wail with despair realizing that we are not prepared for persecution. From the pulpit to the pew has capitulated to the world so much that some may well be willing to sit in the arena looking down on those being sacrificed to the lions.

It is heart-breaking to realize that if and when persecution comes the words of warning will fall on mostly deaf ears. Brother will turn against brother, children against parents, parents against children, and so-called believers against true believers as they ignore the reality of the dangers that were there all along.

Dear believers, if you are not willing to stand for something, then you will fall for anything. We must seek forgiveness from our Lord and with humility dust off our armor. We need to prepare for the fight of our lives and become like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress when he was willing to face the dangers of Vanity Fair.

The world mocks our “standards” when they look just like the standards to which the world adheres. Why should they want what we claim to have that makes us special if we look the same on Sunday as we did while partying with the world on the Saturday before? If our music, words, actions, and attitudes look no different week after week, month after month, and year after years, then we cannot claim to worship and adore the only One Who has the power to make us a NEW creation in Christ.

God does not save us to leave us wallowing in our sins. That simply means that the world can change to accept all the wickedness it wants. Even, the so-called church can accept all the evils of the world and call evil to be good or good to be evil. However, the day will never come when it is acceptable to God.

To conclude, the 21st century church of the future is failing as the church for the present, and they are a far cry from the church of the past. Are there any who will mourn when our children reject biblical Christianity because of the hypocrisy they see from parents? Will any be willing to weep as did Nehemiah over the sin that surrounded him? Will those who are true believers recognize that while Paul recognized the sin within his own life that grace abounds so that we no longer have to live as slaves to sin anymore than he did?

My prayer remains that God will begin a work of revival within my own life and heart so that I will be conformed to the image of His Son Jesus Christ. Then, I want to see the Holy Spirit move in a way that helps other true believers realize that there are still 7,000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal. The end result is that when those who come after us look back, I want them to say with full confidence that the church of the past left a testimony for the true Church of the Future!

If No Commission Was Given

If No Commission Was Given

Imagine if Jesus never commanded us to make disciples of all nations. Imagine if no explicit declaration was given. If no “go” was uttered and no commission was discharged. Would it change the necessity of the message to be preached? Would it alter, in any way, the reality that it must be preached?

There is something called implication and presupposition which is part of the internal structure of language. They influence the way we view and interpret one another’s speech. If the gospel is a message that says that all men are sinful, and that through faith in Christ are we justified. And that if we do not trust in Him we remain guilty because we have sinned against God and His wrath abides upon us. My question is, “How could anyone keep that to themselves?” A more positive side to this is, if the message contains the truth that eternal life is free, and that Jesus Christ bore God’s wrath on our behalf as a subsitutionary payment to appease God’s wrath and to satisfy the demands of justice concerning the crimes we committed against Him, and by His grace we receive acquittal for our crimes, and that He rose from the dead – defeating death, sin, and hell. Once again, “Why would anyone want keep that to themselves?”

It’s preposterous to think that a person who was pushed out of the way of a bus that was about to hit them would just walk away indifferently, chaining up the story concerning what happened, meanwhile not warning others of the same danger. It would be absolutely insulting to think that a man who was resuscitated from the dead would not be thankful toward the person who accomplished the work, and not publicly praise and declare to others of this person. Then why would some, professingly believing the gospel, not share it with others, seeing that we too were dead in our trespasses and sins and in danger of God’s wrath, and since Jesus revived us and took the punishment in our place? Here’s one idea. Those people never really experienced God’s grace in the first place.

Within the gospel is the commission to go preach. The message in and of itself implies and presupposes our responsibility to be a faithful witness. Even if Jesus never uttered a single command to be a witness to the nations, part of the inner workings of the message is that we automatically make disciples of others. Of course, the Great Commission in Matthew and Luke goes into particular details concerning how disciples are made. But nevertheless, if those details were never presented, the lack of effort and motivation that most have to even tell someone the good news is completely contrary to the message they profess to believe. 

But I already hear one rebuttal. If the gospel implies the commission, then why would Jesus command us nevertheless in Matthew? Answer: Because it was His sovereign will to do so! Also, consider how even when Christ told people to keep their mouths shut concerning His miracles (Mark 7:36), that they still proclaimed it even more! I wonder why they felt compelled to do such a thing? Was it a sin to have disobeyed our Lord at that time? Some say yes. But, once again, how could you keep the good news to yourself? Isn’t regeneration one of the greatest miracles that God does to man’s heart?

Let’s compound this a little more by adding one of the reasons the Holy Spirit was given in the first place. The Scripture teaches that it was in order for us to be witnesses (Acts 1:8). In essence, so that we would have the spiritual power to preach the gospel. If no command to preach the gospel was ever given by Jesus, and the message implies the commission, and indeed, the Holy Spirit dwells within us to empower us to be witnesses, then one on hand, if no command was ever given, we would still have all the motivation we need. On the other hand, since the command has been given, if you are sluggish to behave accordingly, you are either sinning, or you’re not born again.

Whether you are behaving apocitically or not, this one thing is sure. We have the gospel entrusted to us as believers, and we have been made ambassadors in this world. How much more do you need than what you’ve already been given to be a faithful preacher of the good news of Jesus Christ? Why does it require so much energy for you to make disciples in the world? If not you, then your fellow believer in your local assembly? Or your pastor? If you’re a pastor, then why your congregant? I’m not being nasty. I am heart broken. Why? If this is such good news, then why? If Jesus really rose from the dead, then why? If you’ve truly been taken from darkness into light, why? If the Holy Spirit has saved you and dwells within you, then why? Why cast aside the most comprehensible of God’s commands?

It is my prayer that we all grasp the urgency of what we profess and diligently seek to make disciples through gospel proclamation in our local areas.

-Until we go home

Fruit of the Spirit 6: Goodness

I am sorry it has taken so long to continue my series. Life has been really hectic lately but I continue to think about what exactly it means to walk in the Spirit.

This particular fruit is interesting to me. Romans 3:12 tells us, “There is none that does good; no not one.” Jesus said the same thing in Mark 10:18 and yet “goodness” is one of the fruits that we are to have if we are full of the Spirit. So what does it mean to be good?

goodness

In our humanity, we are vile, sinful, selfish creatures. It is only with God’s help that we have any goodness in us. When we come to know God, He teaches us to love others. As we learn to love others, we become more selfless. That is when the goodness of God begins to show through.

I realize that there are “good” people who do not know the Lord but without His Spirit, your goodness avails nothing. Only with God’s Spirit will we exhibit the goodness that leads to life and Godliness.

The Fallacy of Pope Francis

Big Bang Theory true according to Pope Francis

Once again, the world has the distinction of hearing “Thus says the man in the white robe” instead of “thus says the Lord.” If we question the veracity of God’s Word and the foundations which He has established, then it will be easy to cut out further parts of Scripture. Here are a few things to consider as to whether pope Francis is right or wrong.

There are several problems with Christians accepting the Big Bang Theory and the theory of evolution.

1.  It questions the validity and work of the Trinity. Genesis states that each member of the Triune Godhead was involved in creation.

A.  God the Father is attributed with the work of creation throughout the Old Testament. If creation is not true, then we must exclude every writer who spoke and wrote falsely giving credit to the holy God. This means that Job, Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah, the five books of Moses, and others must be taken out of the Bible.

B.  God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, speaks of the creation during His earthly ministry, especially when He addresses the matter of marriage being between one man and one woman.  If Jesus was wrong about creation and the beginning of the world, then He cannot be God for He spoke at least one lie.

C.  God the Holy Spirit is attributed with the inspiration of the Scriptures. 2 Peter 1:21 says, “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Thus, if the words written are attributed to the moving of the Holy Spirit, then we can only come to one of two conclusions. 1) Either the prophets wrote contrary to the leading of the Holy Spirit, or 2) there is no Holy Spirit that guides into all truths.  Therefore, the Holy Spirit made a mistake in the work of inspiration which makes Him no longer God, or the Bible is not inerrant and we have nothing which we can believe.

2.  If these theories are correct, then there is no hope for mankind.

A.  There would be no reason to accept any absolutes.

B.  There would be no morals on which to base our lives. If survival of the fittest is truly an underlying principle of evolution, then logic MUST dictate that what Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler, Nero, Genghis Khan and others did is acceptable. They weeded out those who added nothing to the gene pool.

C.  There would be no such thing as sin. Any “wrongdoings” are only based on one’s upbringing, culture, and societal mores. What would be unacceptable in one culture must be acceptable in another. Therefore, as one example, if evolution is correct, then what ISIS is doing cannot be considered as wrong. If evolution is correct, then we have no right to correct the actions of another culture or society that has “evolved” in a different manner than we have.

D.  Fighting against the inevitable will be a horrific exercise in futility if evolution is correct. Therefore, those who have some deformities, or the wrong skin color, or mental imbalances are doomed to eventual extinction for they add nothing to society and the future of a greater man.

E.  If evolution is true, then there is no sin to die for. There would be no reason for Jesus Christ to have died for a sub-species of animal that has simply evolved from a primordial soup. If evolution is true, then Christ died in vain as a good person, and not as the God-Man.

Now, here is a further thought about the article I have linked to at the top in which pope Francis endorses these false theories. Many in so-called evangelical circles have decided that the Roman Catholic church is also Christian and that their teachings are compatible in many ways with evangelicalism or fundamentalism. There is little that could be further from the truth than this thinking. The Roman Catholic religion is not based on Scripture but on the traditions of man.

Many want to claim that Roman Catholics are going to heaven, but the ONLY way to heaven is by grace through faith alone in Christ alone. The RCC does NOT teach this, and has NEVER taught these truths. To the pope and the teachings of the RCC, all who believe that salvation is only through Christ are to be considered anathema and accursed to the deepest regions of hell.

Before somebody accuses me of hating those who do not believe like me, this is not about me. This is about what the Bible teaches. Either God is true or He is not. If He is not true, then He cannot be God and we are yet in our sins. My prayer is that people will come to Christ alone and realize the joy that comes by believing by faith in the work of creation and the finished work of Calvary.

These theories of the big bang and evolution are NOT based on the truth of Scripture. Any time, science comes up with a new theory designed solely to undermine intelligent design and the truth of a Creator, then the Bible trumps the scientist. The Bible does not ever discredit true science but endorses the truths of what we find in the scientific world.

To conclude, my response to the false teaching of the pope, the heresies of the Roman Catholic church, the false theories of science, and the falsely held positions of a growing number of people in evangelical circles is based on the words of Martin Luther when he was being held to account by the religious establishment —

My belief is based on God and His infallible, inerrant Word. Here I stand, I can do no other. So help me, God.

 

 

A Call to Repentance and Surrender

After Bible Study the other night, we were sitting around talking, and someone mentioned that, before he knew the Lord, he wouldn’t attend church because he knew he wasn’t living right. Thankfully, he finally hit a place where he surrendered to the Lord, changed the things he knew needed to change, and surrendered his life to Christ.

I understand why churches stress the importance of coming to Jesus as you are instead of waiting to be cleaned up but it also seems like way too many stay as they are, even after making a profession of faith. Isaiah 1:18 says, “‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ said the LORD: ‘though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.'” This doesn’t mean your sins become white but that your life of sin disappears as you begin to serve God.

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In Romans 6:1, Paul asks, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” In verse 2, he answers his own question, “God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?”

In Galatians 2:20, Paul says, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” We know Christ knew no sin so, if He lives in me, I won’t live a life of sin either.

Many times in Scripture, people were told to repent. That call still goes out today. If you are one who looks nice on the outside but inside, you are full of uncleanness, repent. If you are nice to the people at church but mean to your family, repent. If you are living a life that you know is not honoring to God, it is never too late to turn from your sinful ways and surrender those areas to the One who loves you more than you will ever be able to comprehend. The answer isn’t to stop going to church; the answer is to understand your need and turn to Him today.

Pretend that you are about to take communion. Think about the horrendous death that Jesus suffered because of your sins and mine. As you begin to bring the bread and cup to your lips, does your heart well up with gratitude for what Christ has done for you or do you find yourself squirming because you know that you are not able to take communion worthily but you know that others have no idea what your life is really like? Worse yet, do you not feel that sense of guilt about the life you are living?

Hebrews 12:6 says, “For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and whips every son whom He receives.” If you are able to sin and not be disciplined by the Lord, you should really search your heart to know if you are truly His.

Let me also say here that there is a difference between conviction and condemnation. Condemnation feels like there is no hope. Conviction is the mercy of the Holy Spirit tapping you on the shoulder and showing you what you are doing wrong so that you can change. That is what I want you to feel today: the conviction that only God can bring. I don’t know your life. I don’t know what you’re going through. But I do know that God loves you, and He can change you today, whether you have gone to church for a day, a month, a year, 5 years, 65 years, or not at all. His arm is not too short, and He desires you to spend eternity with Him. Won’t you surrender today?

The Holy Spirit and Reformed Theology

Some books are a chore to read – because of content and/or style and/or the author’s competence as an author. Some books are a joy to read – the content is excellent, the style is engaging and the book is well written and Holy Spiritorganized. This book is such a book – joy unspeakable! Yet about this book, I will speak.

I received this book from a friend who manages a library at a Christian Seminary and wanted someone to read and review it. He got first peek at the review, ya’ll get it as a close “second”.

The Holy Spirit and Reformed Theology

edited by Joel Beeke and Derek Thomas

One area many reformed theologians tend to ignore is the person and work of the Holy Spirit. There is a legitimate concern by most preachers about exalting the Lord Jesus and being faithful to His gospel, but no preaching or evangelism or Bible study would be worthwhile if the Spirit of the living God did not faithfully attend each of these. This book – a compilation of articles on various works of the Holy Spirit, written by 9 Baptists and 9 Paedobaptists – is a wonderful examination of the biblical doctrine of the Holy Spirit. It was written in tribute to the work He has done in the life Geoff Thomas, a faithful gospel minister who has served half a century in the local church our Lord called him to. I have personally benefited greatly from Geoff Thomas’ commentary on Daniel and was most eager to read this book.

The Holy Spirit and Reformed Theology is divided into four sections – Geoff Thomas: Faithful Instrument of the Spirit in part I; Salvation and the Spirit of Christ in part II; Growth and the Spirit of Holiness in part III; and Ministry and the Spirit of Counsel and Might in part IV. As you can see from the section titles, the authors recognize and highlight myriad functions and characteristics of the Holy Spirit. The reader will come away from this book with a heightened sense of the power and majesty of the third person of the Holy Trinity.

I will highlight one chapter to give you a taste of the quality and penetrating theology the authors provide. Fred Malone’s chapter, #6, is titled The Holy Spirit and Human Responsibility – a topic I think many Christians fail to properly comprehend. Malone opens with an observation from Geoff Thomas’ book, The Holy Spirit: Man is fully responsible for his behavior and God is fully sovereign in His work to conform man to the image of His dear Son. In stark contrast to the “higher life” movements which advocate a theology of “let go and let God” and the self-improvement psychology, a biblical view of sanctification acknowledges the tension Thomas proclaimed.

Infamously promoted by the Roman Catholic Church is the conflation of justification and sanctification, leading to confusion about both doctrines. Justification is completely monergistic – by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Sanctification involves man’s effort, so it is not the monergistic work of God alone – yet neither is it rightly called synergistic. This term conveys a process which depends on both elements – in the case of sanctification those are God and man. The truth of biblical sanctification is this: man cannot sanctify himself apart from the indwelling work and power of the Spirit of God; but the Holy Spirit can and does sanctify man without the man’s cooperation, though this should not be our aim. Our responsibility before God is to work with the Holy Spirit, not grieve Him.

In outlining this concept, Malone tells us, “Man does not regenerate himself; God does not repent and believe for man.” Sinners are made able and willing to repent and believe by the Spirit’s work of regeneration. Our nature is changed and we then “choose Christ” – because He first chose us. Our author points to Philippians 2:12-13, saying it “presents the earthly pursuit of Christlikeness as one hundred percent a sovereign work of God the Holy Spirit who works with us and also one hundred percent the work of man with his new God-given ability. If this two hundred percent sum sounds illogical, then we must bow to God’s Word, not man’s logic.” Let all the saints say, Amen!

Malone gives the reader a couple of wonderful paragraphs on the individual’s role in sanctification, with many Scripture passages (pages 76 and 77) and follows up with a short warning: “We cannot blame God for our lack of conformity to Christ.” He explains, “Every step we take forward in Christlikeness brings one hundred percent glory to God alone. However, if we are lacking in that conformity, we must take one hundred percent of the responsibility for that failure and press on by faith.” If this exhortation does not convict as it encourages us to trust all the more in the Lord, then “let a man examine himself to see if he be in the faith.”

This chapter ends by proclaiming the critical nature God’s Word plays in the justification and sanctification of God’s saints. As is pointed out elsewhere in this book, the Holy Spirit inspired the Scripture, equipped the men who put the Word into print, accompanies the reading and preaching of the Word to do His unique work in each predestined child who awaits (unknowingly) his redemption. “So Christians must give full attention to learning the Word of God to grow thereby (1 Peter 2:1-2).” Christian, do you value the Word of God? By this, I ask, do you read it with a humble heart seeking to meet with your maker and judge and Savior? I leave you with one more quote from Malone – “to the degree we live believing the indicatives of grace revealed in the Word – the love of God for us in Christ’s salvation, the unfailing faithfulness of God to His promises to work in us – so we grow in obeying the imperatives of the Word unto further sanctification and Christlikeness.”

Dear reader, the Holy Spirit is God and He works in and through His Word, to raise spiritually dead men to new life, to give them a new nature that loves rather than hates God, to cause us to want what is good and hate what is evil. This book provides a most valuable look at the depth and breadth of His work, highlighting what He does mostly in secret because His role is to bring honor and glory to the Father and the Son. Praise Him!

Questions of the World to Men – Ravenhill

This message by Leonard Ravenhill really hits home and brings conviction. Do we really believe the Holy Spirit has come with power from on high, or do we think in our foolishness that we can lock Him in a box and pull Him out only when the desire hits us? We need to be people who not only know our Bibles, but more importantly, we need to be people who know our God!