June 30, 2011
Thank you so much for your encouraging comment.
I have observed that the desire to feel needed, significant, and important is so strong in most people that it causes them to go to great and strange lengths to have this desire met, even if it be through ways that keep others bound. It is what I believe to be at the core of systems and gospels, including Celebrate Recovery, that entice people to rely heavily on one another rather than on Christ. Counsel and instruction, comfort and encouragement… these things are great benefits we give one to another, but when motives are skewed, or when demands start to arise, or when one person tries to control another person, or when God’s Word is being set aside to make room for man’s philosophies, then those involved have stepped off Truth’s path.
Truth (God’s Word –John 17:17, that is, Jesus –John 14:6, for they are one and the same –John 1:1,14) tells us, as you say, that if we’ve come to abide in Christ, then we are set free from the old man. (2 Cor. 5:17) This has been made abundantly clear in Scripture. Just a few: “We died to sin… For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless that we should no longer be slaves to sin –because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.” (Rom. 6:2,6,7) So… we’ve died. –Died to sin, died to the world, and died to law. (Col. 3:3 & Gal. 2:20 & 6:14 & Rom. 7:4) We’ve also died to family, friends, possessions, and our own selves. (Luke 14:26,27,33 & Jam. 4:4) This does not mean we don’t love others and take care of others, especially those we are responsible for, but it means our affection for them never comes between us and God. If they ask us to submit to them or join with them in anything that the Word and the in-dwelling Spirit tells us is not in the will of the Father, then we take our stand and “die” to them.
Rom. 6:18 continues, “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” How can the Lord make this any clearer?! If someone is not teaching that Christ sets us free from sin the minute we genuinely repent, then they teach a falsehood and are an example of those in 2 Peter 2:18,19 who arrogantly chatter on about their empty way of freedom while continuing to be slaves of depravity themselves. “They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.” (1 Tim. 1:7)
Rom. 6:22 goes on: “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.” This is abundantly clear also. If we have turned the 180 degree turn-around (from sin to Christ) and are now following Him (which is the exact opposite direction of following the slave-master named Sin), then we are of course –free from sin! Being on this road means then, that we are walking IN Christ and are therefore walking in holiness. This is the only road that leads to eternal life. The road, the path, the way, is Jesus Himself. (Matt. 7:13,14 & John 10:4,9 & 14:6)
Yes, Celebrate Recovery is a foolish road, a counterfeit gospel. It’s just another path of bondage like every other false path. It’s just another system to enable people to have that desire met (of feeling needed, significant, and important) by giving them opportunity to exercise authority over others –even though Jesus tells us in Matt. 20:25,26 that this is not to be the case amongst His followers. I realize that some of these systems may be started and promoted by people who are genuinely trying to help others, but the fact remains that such people are simply being arrogant by thinking their plan is better than that given in God’s Word. It’s true that some people may receive some help from a false remedy, but that is to be expected of deceptive ways for being healed and set free. For no one is going to be enticed away from Truth by something that looks dangerous, but instead by that which looks sweet and kind and helpful. Of course. But in the end it proves empty. If after several years someone does swear it helped them, we can be assured that they were only getting help in spite of the false path, not because of it. For truly, God is mighty and merciful, and He is perfectly capable of turning evil into good. (Rom. 8:28 & Gen. 50:20) But… any wrong path, any false refuge… is just that –evil. And it will not save.
Thank you again, and may the Lord bless your ministry and give you wisdom and fortitude as you contend against false gospels through your website and books.
June 29, 2011
Please read “God Sees Your Sin” at: http://israeliteindeed.wordpress.com
There are three parts to that excellent message and warning; and then the one after that about “Legalism” is also a very important and clear explanation concerning the incorrect and harmful ways God’s law is twisted in order to form false doctrines and demands upon the sheep.
Doctrine is absolutely important. If someone moves out from Truth (whether it be forward, backward, or to the sides), they are no longer in the Truth, are they? If a person is not “in the Truth”, then they have turned aside “to a different gospel –which is really no gospel at all” (Gal. 1:6,7), and they are therefore heading down one of the numerous paths that lead to eternal condemnation. (v. 7-9) Should this surprise us, or should we think we are not at risk of being deceived? –Even when God’s Word, and Jesus Himself, warns us repeatedly to be careful, on guard, and alert? Do we take seriously the warning in 1 Tim. 4:1? It cautions us, “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” To be deceived means to be outwitted, tricked, and misled. If we do not intimately know God through Christ and do not thoroughly know His Word, we will absolutely be deceived (short of a miracle) and be led off the Path of Truth. (See Matt. 24:24 & Acts 20:29-31)
How foolish is the man who seeks after wealth, fame, admiration, pleasure, and all that glitters! Such a man runs after that which will soon turn to ashes, for it is a mist –here today, gone tomorrow. In so doing, he negates all that could have been pleasant and good and precious and eternal. He let himself be led astray by his lust for the temporal, forgetting that Truth and Wisdom was what he should have sought. “At the end of his life he will groan, when his flesh and body are spent. He will say, ‘How I hated discipline! How my heart spurned correction! I would not obey my teachers or listen to my instructors. I have come to the brink of utter ruin.'” (See Prov. 5:11-14)
Indeed, instead of seeking Wisdom and Truth (the Lord), many people seek to know worldly information –like who made the most home runs in a given year, or who won on American Idol (or Wall Street), or what latest movie their favorite actor played in. What?! Will that last? Will that bring peace?! But for those who listen to wise advice and spend their time studying what is true and holy, that which is full of power and full of words of life, then that which is good will be awarded them –here and in the life to come.
As Prov. 3:13-18 promises, “Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who embrace her; those who lay hold of her will be blessed.”
I ask that those last verses be read again… slowly… meditating on each word. For if we believe these words as we say we do, then we will act accordingly. We will travel over rocks and thorns and through the valley of suffering, we will sell all we have and give up all worldly treasures and friends and indulgences… we will lay down our life, crucify it daily, and with eager willingness pick up the will of the Father every day… if we can but find and take hold of the True Treasure (Matt. 13:44) –He who is the Way, the Truth, the Life. (John 14:6)
Therefore, may we continuously seek Wisdom. For it guides us along the Path of Truth and keeps us abiding in Christ –He who is our Eternal Life. (1 John 5:11,20)
June 28, 2011
At the end of yesterday’s post I asked, “Now, what one main thing is it that would make a man give up the peace and unity and joy of a godly marriage and continue to resort to cruelty toward his wife?”
I believe the answer is that thing which invades the heart and takes it over, setting in decay until the whole heart is hopelessly rotting with self-centeredness. This thing, I’ve concluded, is greed.
Yes, all sorts of people can have the disease of greed, but I am discussing husbands right now, and besides this, husbands are the ones, before God, who are responsible to lead everyone else in their families. So if other members of their family are filled with greed, it is very likely that they’ve learned it from the “head of the home”.
To allow greed into one’s heart means that a man has decided that he wants more than he has. He is discontent and is thinking up ways to get what he wants –and more of it. He begins to demand these desires, and if the wife does not fall in line perfectly by catering to his wishes, he begins to seethe with anger, the anger often bursting out at the most inappropriate times. The husband realizes his behavior is wrong, but instead of taking measures to repent, he rationalizes that it is his wife who is in the wrong for not catering to what he deserves. This can be in all areas –what he wants as far as toys and hobbies (like boats, cars, club memberships, pleasure trips, the latest tech gadgets, etc.), any academic or business pursuits he desires, what kind of career he wants his wife to have, what he wants sexually, what he wants for dinner, how he wants the house kept, when he wants his time with his buddies, and on it goes…
If a husband is being led by the Spirit of God, then he will be a Christ-like man. Under such a man’s headship, a godly wife will have no problem submitting to her husband’s leadership. The problem is, is that most men have the false notion that God does not expect them to be Spirit-controlled at all times –and therefore they aren’t. They instead often think that such a thing is reserved for the minute they walk into church (or up to the pulpit) or when they have to pray for someone who comes forward.
What happens when a wife remains quietly understanding and patient, doing her best to accommodate her husband’s greedy desires –or even looks the other way as if they are legitimate? What happens is that she will still be mistreated for the simple fact that her husband has found an easy whipping post, a person who will spoil him no matter how he acts. What happens if she tries to lovingly point out that all one wants is not all one needs, nor is it necessarily good for the health of the family? Well, a man who has been indulging his greed habit will not be cured by someone trying to reason with him. Such a man is already an addict. Even if he sees the devastation he’s causing, and the peace, unity, and joy he’s renouncing, the rush of having his greed-need met is too exhilarating to give up. And just like the druggie, he knowingly forfeits the larger good for the short thrill, the temporary satisfaction.
What happens when a wife tries to curb her husband’s greed problem by taking a firm stand for what is right? She will definitely be mistreated by the man. He will begin to despise her reasonableness and righteousness as being a threat and block to his ability to get what he wants, and he will find excuses to argue and fight with her. He does this so that he can point out to her that she is hard to get along with, that she is not a submissive wife (and is thus an ungodly wife), and that he now has reason to dislike her. This is the excuse he’s been waiting for in order to fulfill his greed-need to “legitimately” lust after numerous women, and since the easiest place to do that is the internet, he starts to indulge himself with porn.
Well, once pornography is tampered with, this man has not only climbed onto the highway to Hell, but he’s opened the doorway to his home and family for all sorts of demonic activity. Peace, unity, joy, and righteousness are hurled out the window.
But does the husband repent, even while he sees his wife crying, the children frightened and becoming rebellious, friends starting to suspect trouble and distance themselves? No, the guy is too self-centered to care and only gets more angry about not getting what he wants, taking out his anger on the one closest to him –his wife– mistreating her with the type of abuse of his choice. And what is that thing in his heart which has crowded out all godly, even natural, kindness and affection for those he should be caring about? It’s greed. The need to have more for himself –more of everything his diseased heart wants.
This overwhelming desire to have everything, is what has made many a man forfeit a beautiful, godly marriage. Sadly, though, such a man will eventually end up with nothing.
June 27, 2011
Mistreatment… injustice… cruelty… It is going on everywhere. We tend to think of such things happening overseas, in some far away place, or at least confined within the prisons, the sex trade, or the nursing homes. We may realize that it does happen somewhere even in our own neighborhoods, but we make ourselves believe that it is amongst those who already seem abnormal, weird, or creepy. For abuse to be going on within middle- to upper-class families, or especially from those who promote God’s Word in some way, is usually a concept we’ve only vaguely heard about, not something we would believe is a rampant reality. However, I believe it is.
There are many targets of abuse. The targets are those who are vulnerable in some way, those who are caught in the situation due to some handicap holding them there, whether that handicap be a physical ailment, an economic situation, peer pressure, a fear of displeasing God should one leave, or a belief that disloyalty is a worse sin than strife or lying to cover up.
Heb. 13:3 tells us to remember “those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” We cannot do this if we refuse to first acknowledge that mistreatment is going on, and then seek out those who are being oppressed at the hands of another. We cannot uphold this command if we continue to look the other way. This does not mean we should take the situation into our own hands, blowing the whistle ourselves, but it does mean that we help the victim just the way we would want to be helped (Matt. 7:12), relying solely upon the wisdom of the Spirit, not upon our own reasoning or what society would advise. For worldly solutions merely compound the problem, and years later, it is apparent that pain and chaos still rule.
Now, what is the most prevalent type of abuse that is not being discussed, even while the risks of other types have begun to be closely monitored by society? I believe it is wife-abuse. Yes, there are many other types of mistreatment –parent to child, doctor to patient, pastor to church member, teacher to student, coach to athlete, boss to secretary, nurse aid to elderly, human to animal, etc., (and some of these, vice versa), but these often get found out and interventions and precautions set up. Even for a parent to abuse a child is very difficult now, for any little bruise is held suspect and any weird behavior is thought to be a sign.
The abuse that is left most unnoticed and therefore allowed to fester in our society at will, is wife-abuse. There is some husband abuse going around, yes, but most men feel much more free to leave the whole situation, if they find it necessary. Most men’s psyches, though they likely love their children, can departmentalize their feelings and lives, and thus separate themselves from home, while still feeling responsible if they call, visit, or send money. An average mother would never settle for that. So besides the “handicap” of not wanting to leave the children, yet not feeling she can support them alone, an average wife’s psyche, especially a god-fearing wife, has been programmed to believe that by being there for her family, and by submitting to and pleasing her husband, her head (Eph. 5:23), she is submitting to and pleasing God. (v. 24)
The average man has definitely not been programmed to prioritize the pleasing of his wife, so tolerating prolonged abuse is not going to be near as likely for men. On top of all this, a wife cannot cause a husband fear to the extent that a husband can to a wife, for the simple reason that men are normally much stronger than women physically. Therefore, the man does not have the added stress of being controlled by the threat of physical abuse should he anger his wife, while the wife has no such privilege.
This being said, and because I am weary of hearing about the cruelties men inflict upon their wives –the very ones to whom they promised before God to cherish and protect and provide for– I am now addressing this issue in hopes that we will all come out from any lies we may believe about wife abuse being the fault of the woman, or that it doesn’t exist.
God created the woman to be the help-mate to her husband (Gen. 2:18), but He has also given specific commands for how the husband is to love his wife. Eph. 5:25-33 is absolutely clear about it: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church.” And how did Christ show that He loved the church? The verse continues, “and gave Himself up for her.” In other words, He laid down His glory and His life for her sake. (Phil. 2:6-8 & 1 Tim. 2:6) For what reason did He do this? He did it in order to present her to Himself holy, blameless, and radiant. (Eph. 5:26,27) No abused wife is going to become radiant, that’s for sure, nor does cruel domination or force cause one to become spotless.
Verse 28 commands men, “In this same way…” –What same way? –The same way Christ treats the church. “In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.” This is not a suggestion. It is a command, and any man who is not abiding by this command is a rebel against God. Verse 28 continues, “He who loves his wife loves himself.” And verse 33 commands again that “each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself.” If a man does not love and treat his wife as Christ does the church, then such a man has just exhibited the abnormal, and even demonic, personality disorder of being self-destructive –that is, of actually hating himself. Oh, he may appear to think very highly of himself, but pride, I am convinced, actually originates from one’s sinful reactions against feelings of inferiority.
Verse 29 says, “After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church…” It is instinctive for all of us to treat our own bodies with care and respect, giving it what it needs. If someone does not do this, he sins against his own body, against Christ’s body (v. 30), and against God who gave him his body. Verse 31 confirms God’s intention that marriage be a unity, a two becoming “one flesh” in which no other human is to separate. As Jesus says in Mark 10:8,9, “So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” But does man, “because of the hardness of hearts” (see v. 5) and because of sin that brought defilement to God’s pure creation (see v. 6), indeed separate the unity, breaking this command “let man not separate”? Yes, all the time! True, no other person can command a legitimate separation of this bond, this unity of spirit, this covenant; but… by choice, by free will, one of the spouses themselves, can. In fact, it happens often, yet because of shame, fear, pride, or other reasons, the two often continue to drag through life with a broken unity, a defiled covenant, pretending it’s still intact.
So, what is the main cause of a fractured marriage covenant? It’s mistreatment. Constant mistreatment, malnourishment, and abuse to one’s body –that body which is two-but-made-one… –that God-ordained covenant called marriage.
And what is the main cause of mistreatment to one’s spouse, specifically the mistreatment of the husband against his wife? It’s rebellion against God. It’s husbands refusing to submit to Christ and obey such commands from God’s Word as this: “Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.” (Col. 3:19) It’s the deliberate refusal to learn what “harsh” means, to repent of it, and to walk in humble servanthood toward the one they are called to tenderly cherish. It’s the twisting of the Word of God by quoting such verses as Eph. 5:22 & Col. 3:18, “Wives, submit to your husbands” without finishing the verses, “as to the Lord” and “as is fitting in the Lord.” The “in everything” in Eph. 5:24 means, in interpreting Scripture with Scripture, “in everything as is fitting in the Lord” –which definitely eliminates much of what an un-Christ-like husband demands.
Now, what one main thing is it that would make a man give up the peace and unity and joy of a godly marriage and continue to resort to cruelty toward his wife? Well, since this has become lengthy, I’ll address it in tomorrow’s post.
June 26, 2011
There is a very important question we should ask ourselves. It is this: “Do I know God?” It is not enough to ask ourselves if we believe in God –or His Word and Gospel– for even the demons believe and shudder. (James 2:19) It is not enough to ask ourselves if we are trying to please God, serve Him, or further His Kingdom. It is not enough to know about God’s Word, ways, and attributes. It is not enough to preach about these, proclaim the Good News, or promote Bible study. What the deciding factor is of whether or not we are in-dwelt by the Spirit of God and on the road to eternal life is that we know God.
To know God is to know Christ and to be in intimate fellowship with the Spirit (for the Lord is one –Dt. 6:4). We must be continually living in submission to His voice, being comforted, led, and controlled by Him (John 10:4 & 14:17 & Rom. 8:9), be abiding in Christ, and be the dwelling place of His Spirit (John 15:4 & 1 Cor. 3:16), accomplishing this, first and foremost, by meditating on the Word of God. If these things are not true concerning us, then we are still of the world and remain under the condemnation that awaits it. (John 3:18,36 & 1 John 2:15-17)
Jesus says in John 17:3, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.”
“Do I know God?” It is the question we must be able to answer a whole-hearted, joyful “Yes!” to, for the above verse is the Gospel in a nutshell. And as 1 Cor. 15:2 warns, “By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise you have believed in vain.” The word (the message) Paul preached is put right there into Scripture (2 Peter 3:16) along with the words of Jesus, and it is Christ’s words Paul confirms as the Gospel that saves.
How do we know that we know God? We know because we are serving Him, reading His Word, hearing from Him, obeying His Word and voice, and producing “the fruit of the Spirit.” (See Gal. 5:22,23) But here is another tell-tale sign: We will be in love. We will be in love with our God. We will adore Him and fervently desire to spend time with Him. We will be excited to spend “alone-time” with Him –in His Word, in worship, in prayer, and in quiet listening. We will grow ever closer to Him so that Ps. 73:25 becomes absolutely true as we say with Asaph, “Lord, being with You, I desire nothing on earth.” Nothing? That’s right –nothing. Nothing compared. We appreciate God’s gracious gifts and blessings, and family and friends He’s given us, but in comparison to having Him, we care nothing about having any other. For just like an adoring bride toward her gentle and wonderful husband, we are enthralled with our majestic Lord –He who is our Savior, Comforter, Counselor, Protector, and Best Friend.
Now, although desire for all others is not even comparable to our desire for Him, this does not mean we won’t love others. We will! And more so than is natural, for our love will be from an overflow of love for Him, as well as His love flowing out of us. If this is the case, what will be the practical evidence of it? Here it is: In everything, we will do to others what we’d want them to do to us. (Matt. 7:12)
Indeed, making decisions and judgements become much simpler if we’d but think of this verse more often, for it teaches us to consider this: “If this person I must speak to, relate to, rebuke, discipline, teach, encourage, comfort, work with, live with, etc. was Jesus, and I was not me, but instead this other person, how would I expect Jesus to treat me in this situation? Oh, the answer to this means that I must then treat this person exactly the way Jesus would.” If, for all our relating with one another, we would make such thinking our habit, and then carry it out in the power of the in-dwelling Spirit, we would certainly have peaceful, joy-filled lives!
Furthermore, in having been conformed to Christ-likeness, we would have that wonderful assurance –the assurance that we truly had come to know God and eternal life.
As 1 John 5:20 says, “We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him who is true. And we are in Him who is true –even in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.”
Do we know this true God and eternal life? –Really know Him? –Know Him well? If so, we will, in every situation, think and behave just like Him. (1 Cor. 3:16 & 1 John 2:6)
June 25, 2011
Isa. 11:3b & 4a say, “He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.” This refers to Jesus (v. 1), but it also can refer to all who have the Spirit of the LORD resting on them. (v. 2) For the Spirit who came to rest on (and remain on) Jesus at His baptism (Luke 3:21,22 & John 1:33) is the same Spirit who indwells all those who are “born from above.” (John 3:3-8) And furthermore, we are told to live just as Jesus did. (1 John 2:6)
Therefore, we are not to judge, or make judgements or decisions, by appearances. Indeed, as 2 Cor. 5:7 says, “We live by faith, not by sight.” True faith in Jesus brings righteousness, so it is with this that we discern and act accordingly. We do so for the poor and needy –not merely those lacking possessions, but those lacking love, abilities, and counsel.
When we make these judgements, these decisions, what are we, by the Spirit, to be judging? We judge the heart. (1 Sam. 16:7) We discern the motives behind the actions, not what is seen or being said. As Jesus says in John 7:24, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgement.” Some appearances are fruit we can judge (Luke 6:43-45), but because appearances are often deceiving (2 Cor. 11:13,14), we can only render correct judgements by the wisdom given us by the Spirit.
Does such discernment come automatically? No. We must be in the Word, be in close communion with the Lord, and be walking in the Spirit in order to render decisions that are the ones Christ would render. However, when we do these things, then the Lord, through us, does advance His Kingdom of righteousness and justice throughout the earth.
June 24, 2011
Another blogger emailed me this morning a reminder that the Lord is our great reward, so I responded that Gen. 15:1 has been one of my favorite verses for several years now. I quote it like this: “Do not be afraid, Rachel. I am your shield, your very great reward.”
What an awesome thing! What blessing we have! God, the Most High Creator, is our huge reward? Yes! –And our shield, which means our protector. We need these promises and are definitely grateful for them, trusting Him who gives them to us in His Word. Like Isa. 52:12b: “For the LORD will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard.” In front of us, behind us, He is there, protecting, delivering, slaying the enemy as we press forward (Dt. 9:3) –physically as well as spiritually. He in fact surrounds us, which means on all sides, “with songs of deliverance.” (Ps. 32:7) God singing over and around us –to shield and protect us! (Zeph. 3:17) How great is that?! And as we keep ourselves refuged under the shelter of His wings, the disaster passes us by. (Ps. 57:1) For truly, those who make the Most High their dwelling and refuge, will rest (Ps. 91:1), and will be kept safe from all harm. (v. 9,10)
This is the privilege of those who follow the Lord and are careful to obey all He says, reverencing His name and His Sabbath (Jesus, our Sabbath rest –Heb. 4:1,7-9). Moreover, He will, for His people, “grant peace” (Dt. 26:6) and will look upon us with favor and prosperity. (v. 9) And even better than this, God promises, “I will keep My covenant with you… I will put My dwelling place among you… I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be My people. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt [bondage to sin, fear, and oppression] so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians [to the dark kingdom]; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high.” (v. 9-13)
To walk through life without shame, without guilt, without fear of the enemy… this is an exceedingly wondrous and abundant life! (John 10:10) A clean flow of communion between us and our Creator-Shepherd-Friend is more blessing than anyone can fully comprehend! It is rest from the enemy, and it is peace with God and others (–even them that are at enmity with us –Prov. 16:7), and peace within our own soul. It is the life of dwelling in God and He in us, each of us being His very own temple. (John 14:20,23 & 1 Cor. 3:16,17 & 6:19)
Oh, yes! –the invitation to have God as our shield and very great reward is definitely something to write about, talk about, share, and proclaim everywhere!