Wednesday, 26 August 2015

A Much Needed Message for Today

Last night I listened to this awesome sermon. It starts out slowly. It is my impression (I may be wrong) that this topic is one that is very different from his usual topics. The first 10 minutes of the sermon, it seems to me, is given to prepare his congregation for this new message, in the attempt to shore up his listeners so they will not turn away from the severity of this subject. He wants his listeners to know that he has given this topic a lot of research, and tears, and devoted study of God's word, to learn the whole council of God on a matter that has caused much damage to many people, and caused many in the church to abandon what the Bible has to say about it. It is approximately an hour and twenty minutes long. I hope you will take the time to listen:

It's Evening in Sodom from Grace Chapel on Vimeo.


Have you noticed that not many pastors preach on the topic of repentance anymore? Repentance has gone out of fashion, true humility is out and pride is in. Did God approve of that idea?

Luke 3:2-9 ... the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.  And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;   As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.  Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth;  And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.  Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?   Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.  And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. (ESV)

Acts 17:30-31 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:  Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. (ESV)

Luke 15:4-10  "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.'  Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.  "Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it?  And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.'  Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

We've all heard or read the parable of the prodigal son. The son foolishly squandered everything his father gave to him, until realizing his foolishness, turned back to his father in humble submission asking for forgiveness, and everything was restored to him. But what about the other son, the one that "didn't need" repentance? He always remained with the father, did what he was told to do, was possibly happy that his good for nothing loser brother was gone and now all attention could go to himself. He got angry when his brother returned, rather than rejoice with his father. Let's take a look:

Luke 15:28-32  But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, 'Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!' And he said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'"

Pride is a terrible thing, hatred and anger is at the root of it, and Jesus said he who is angry with his brother is guilty of murder. Does that not require repentance? Does that not call for humility before a holy God who can cast people into outer darkness (no vision) and fire (feelings of torment) forever? None of us are perfect, we must all approach the Lord in humility asking forgiveness for the things we have done, for the sorrow we have caused him and our fellow men. 

Have you repented of your sins before the feet of Jesus? 

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Believing Jesus

(all scriptural texts in this post are from the King James Version)

Last post explored the first step, hearing the word, in the above list of steps of salvation. The second step according to the above is to believe Jesus.

John 8:24  I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins. 

Hebrews 11:6  But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. 

 A third passage is one that comes to mind in regards to this step:

Mark 9:23-24  Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.   And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.

We are dependent on the Lord for everything (even when we fail to realize it), for the air we breath, the sun bringing warmth to our planet, plants and animals for food, our very existence even depends on Jesus. When this world changed with the fall of Eve and Adam, a breach appeared in the relationship between God and man. Now God had to seek for Adam and Eve because they hid themselves from Him, something had changed. When God called out to him Adam answered God saying that he was afraid because of his nakedness. Fear is the opposite of faith and trust. God casts them out of the beautiful Garden of Eden into a life fraught with danger and pain and sorrow, but He also gives them hope, the hope of overcoming evil, the promise of crushing it's head, but evil will still bruise Eve's offspring's heel.

Jesus is that offspring.

We all have fears, fear of heights, fear of spiders, fear of the dark, fear of public speaking, fear of death....the things you fear might not be the same things that I fear however we all have fear of something. Fear stems from our broken relationship with our Creator. The Apostle John said "Perfect love casts out all fear"

 1 John 4:18  There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

Let's look at that passage:

1John 4:15-21  

Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. 
 And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us.
 God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.  
Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment:
 because as he is, so are we in this world.  
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: 
because fear hath torment. 
He that feareth is not made perfect in love.   
We love him, because he first loved us.  
 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: 
for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, 
how can he love God whom he hath not seen?  
And this commandment have we from him, 
That he who loveth God love his brother also.

To believe Jesus, we need to seek Him continually until we find Him, even asking Him to help our unbelief because without His help we are helpless. Jesus loves us. He loves us so much He laid His life down for us. He took the worst the devil could dish out to Him, bruising His heel for us. Our unbelief comes from our broken relationship with God. Only He can repair it, and He has! By the cross. He poured out His life for us. He threw Himself on the grenade that was meant to kill us, and took the punishment for us. His perfect love removes and heals our fear, replacing it with trust, a loving trust in Him seeing what He has done for us, and that love and trust then goes out from us to others, as He has forgiven us we can now forgive others, as He has laid down His life for us we also can lay down our lives for others.

I pray that you will find that rest, that perfect peace, that removal of the fears that beset you, in that perfect love that Jesus has for all who truly come to Him.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Back to Basics

(Bible passages in this post taken from the King James Version)

Sometimes we need to revisit the basics, especially when many pastors are, for the most part, not teaching it anymore.

 Today I'll touch on #1, hearing the word.

The passage that Romans 10:17 comes from is talking about reaching out to Israel, and the fact that other nations are actually being blessed by the fact that Israel rejected the Messiah, and that the Lord will use it to provoke Israel to jealousy.

 Romans 10:13-21  
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.  
How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?
 and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?
 and how shall they hear without a preacher?  
And how shall they preach, except they be sent? 
as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!   
But they have not all obeyed the gospel. 
For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?   
So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.  
But I say, Have they not heard? 
Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.  But I say, Did not Israel know? 
First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you.  
But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me.  
But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people. 

Although I agree with the above tidy little synopsis of what needs to happen in order to be saved, there is much, much more that is going on in the process that goes beyond human ability to perform. Not all who hear the truth receive it, and yet all who hear it receive it with gladness. It is  a paradox.

Act 28:26-28  Saying, Go unto this people, and say, 
Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; 
and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive:   
For the heart of this people is waxed gross,
 and their ears are dull of hearing, 
and their eyes have they closed; 
lest they should see with their eyes,
 and hear with their ears, 
and understand with their heart, 
and should be converted, 
and I should heal them.   
Be it known therefore unto you, 
that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, 
and that they will hear it.

There it is again, the emphasis of the truth spreading to other nations as a result of Israel's neglecting to receive it, having hardened their hearts to the act of hearing from the Lord. Something else that is given in this passage is the fact that there are two types of hearing: 1. hearing that hears and 2. hearing that doesn't hear. 

There is a supernatural element (and let me be clear when I use the word "supernatural" it isn't in a new age magical sense of the word) that involves a proper searching, a heart that is humbled before God receives from Him, whereas a haughty, self-righteous, self-promoting, self-centered heart hardens itself against what God says, and even though persons with hard hearts hear the words, those words do nothing to enrich those prideful, selfish, hardened persons hearing them. We have all been there haven't we? I know that I have been there. There have been several occasions that people reached out to me with God's word to me, and those words fell on my deaf ears that couldn't hear Him, couldn't penetrate my hard heart. But when the Lord did it, I wasn't even looking for Him at the time, yet He softened my heart to hear a family that reached out to me in love. He opened my deaf ears to hear for the first time the words that I in my worldly wisdom had scoffed at. Yes, it was supernatural, it was a miracle, but it was such a quiet one, one that had no magical, dazzling, spectacular special effects to bring everyone around to gasping in excited exclamations of wonder. It was a very quiet and humble miracle, just like all other miracles that humbly meet us every day, the ones we for the most part take for granted. 

With eyes to see and ears to hear, the commonplace, the every day things, take on special significance of the many wonderful blessings, miracles, that Jesus performs for us on a continual basis, by which He sustains our lives...until it is time to go to be with Him, or, for those who have not received, have continued to harden their hearts, have continued to insist they know better than the God of the Bible, those will be eternally without Him, only having their own tormenting thoughts to keep them company throughout eternity.   

We can go back and forth, and round and round, whether it ends up being God's fault that many never hear in the saving sense of the word, or whether it is man's fault (false teachers not getting the true word out and rebellious hearts rejecting the truth when it is correctly presented) and I have settled it in my own mind that God knows perfectly what He is doing and He doesn't make mistakes. Man does make mistakes, every day, anyone who does not agree with that fact is very deluded indeed. So in my humble estimation of who is at fault, I would never be so presumptuous as to say it is God who is to be blamed for people going to hell. 

Another factor that needs bringing up in the matter of hearing the truth is prayer. We need to pray for our unsaved loved ones, friends, family, and even strangers who cross our paths. Many pray for frivolous things, or even things that are  not frivolous such as the health and temporal well-being of others, which may or may not receive an answer to the petitioner's liking. Much better to pray for something of eternal significance; the salvation of the lost. That is something of eternal value, all the rest will eventually fade and die anyway. When our prayers for the lost together with the true word going out to them reach the lost via the Holy Spirit of God, a revival of God's quiet and humble miracle of salvation can ignite in the lives of the hearers, having their ears opened by the true and powerful living God, to whom all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).

Next time I'll tackle #2.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

It's All About Jesus

Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder.
Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility:
for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God,
that he may exalt you in due time:
Casting all your care upon him;
for he careth for you.

1 Peter 5:5-7 (KJV)

Humility is a funny thing,  the minute you think you have it you don't. My husband likes to quip "I'm humble, and I'm proud of it!".

I recently saw a post on Facebook by a gentleman who is a somewhat famous Christian performer, a singer/songwriter, who went on and on about how he isn't as wonderful as everyone keeps telling him that he is, about how terrible he is, how he's done things that caused him to lose friends, things he's embarrassed to talk about, loathsome even, and that he's wanted to commit suicide but hasn't because he's too much of a coward and doesn't want to face the Lord who would then chastise him for having cut short his life, a gift from God which only God has the right to begin and end. All the things he said were correct with what we ought to think about ourselves when our focus is on self.

These things, although true, ought to be (for the most part unless giving encouragement to someone who thinks they cannot be saved because of this or that sin in their life) a private condition that we have between ourselves and the Lord, and as we cast all of these cares on Him it is He who takes care of these things, and will exalt us in the proper way and the proper time. I read many of the comments this young man received in response to his posting. Predictably many  of them said "You are awesome" and "Amen" and some talked about the suicide of a loved one. The focus was still wrong, on self, not on Jesus.

Our walk with Jesus does cause us to reflect on our sinful nature, to realize the price He paid to save us, and thereby live a life that glows with the gratitude of receiving grace that is undeserved. When the focus is me, it pulls me down and back into thinking about the things the flesh wants, and all the trouble that it gets me, and when I get pulled down enough and feel more and more terrible (the "slough of despond" in the book  Pilgrim's Progress), the Lord reminds me that He saved me from all of that stuff.

I do appreciate the fact that this performer wants to confess his sin at a time when most want to pretend sin doesn't exist, or that it is all a state of mind and that we can choose whatever we want as long as we ourselves are happy, making that the only thing that matters. However let us instead keep the focus on Jesus and what He has done for us. He has forgiven our sin when we confessed it and are truly humbled by what we know to be true about ourselves.

It really doesn't matter what other people say and think about us and the social medias are full of people saying things that they may or may not mean. What matters is Jesus, and Him alone. As John the Baptist said: "He must increase and I must decrease".