August 31, 2011
Sin is a repulsive thing, and we all can understand the truth of this when we see it in others. However, God wants us to see it in ourselves. He wants to bring conviction to us so that we can see the decay spreading within ourselves, and this, so that we might be cleansed and healed. Sadly, many go through their entire lives unaware of their own sins’ filth… stench… putrefaction… they carry around and how it affects many others’ lives and souls, while definitely affecting their own for the worse.
But what happens when, due to God’s intervention, some of these individuals have the scales dropped from their eyes? Often there is self-loathing –sometimes so much so that it becomes unbearable for them as they realize what they have done or become. This can be a bad place, for such a person may feel suicidal or, in their despair, turn to self-destructive behavior –such as binge drinking, fits of rage, reckless promiscuity, and/or carelessness toward keeping one’s job, friends, or family. When others see a person spiraling down like this, it’s unwise to lecture them further about the consequences of their depravity. They already know. What they need is kindness, tenderness, and love. Yes, likely some “tough love”, but love and mercy nonetheless.
Gal. 6:1 instructs us to restore with gentleness the person caught in sin. Gentleness is certainly easier to extend when a person is coming under conviction, for if he has not, and he continues in arrogant rebellion –especially while influencing others to do the same– sharp rebuke may be necessary. (Titus 1:10,13) But gentleness, kindness, and goodness is to be our first –and genuine– step. (Rom. 12:20,21)
So for the person who is beginning to come under conviction –even if they are acting worse because of it– what are we to do? We are to remain steady. Steady, strong, firm, and uncompromising, but always ready to show we believe their transformation and victory is possible. And to let them know that we will, as God will, forget the former things and not bring up the past. (Isa. 43:18) For as God promises, “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for My own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” (v. 25) Once we repent, God forgets our sin for His own sake. He doesn’t want to remember our sins because He wants to do new things and give us streams of blessings (v. 19) so that we will proclaim His praise. (v. 21)
Again God says, “I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.” (Isa. 44:22) God, through Christ, has redeemed / bought back / vindicated / ransomed / atoned for / paid “for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2) But we must go to Him in repentance, with the declaration of making Him Lord / Master / Boss / King of our life personally. He then makes a covenant with us –a covenant of love in His blood, whereas He promises to be our faithful God / Savior / Shepherd and we promise to follow Him in obedience. If we are genuine, then He enables us to die to Sin and Self (Rom. 6:6,7 & Gal. 2:20), He puts His Spirit into us, and we are born a new creation. (John 3:3-8 & 2 Cor. 5:17)
This is the Good News, and indeed it is to those who realize they are hopelessly caught in their own vile sin, thus lost and doomed. For coming to believe the Truth –that God, the Mighty King of the universe, the One who is holy and pure, is not only able, but eager to forgive them, save them from sin’s power and penalty, and make them His very own– is what truly does gloriously save a wretch. As John Newton’s beautiful hymn puts it: “Amazing grace! How sweet the sound — That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost but now am found, Was blind but now I see.”
We’ve all (hopefully) been there –at that place of realization– of how awful we’ve been… how hideous our rebellion… toward our Loving Creator as we crucified Him over and over (Heb. 6:6), trampled Him under our feet (10:29), “treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified” us (same verse), and “insulted the Spirit of grace”. (same verse) Each one of us have “struck Him in the face” (John 19:3) –that beautiful face… the face of our King, our Prince of Peace, the One who is Love personified. How tragic that we did this. Yet… how amazing that He should long to forgive each one of us, cast the wretchedness out of us forever, and make us His delight –even to sing over us with rejoicing. (Zeph. 3:17)
So when we see that someone has despaired over their sins, we who have come through our own despair, can we not grant tenderness and mercy to this soul? Can we not give him hope by reminding him of our gracious, compassionate God, and show him all the numerous Scriptures where this is taught? Yes. And one such place is Joel 2:12-14a: “‘Even now,’ declares the LORD, ‘return to Me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.’ Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and He relents from sending calamity. Who knows but that He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing.”
Yes, who knows? For the one who humbles himself in true and deep contrition, the one who trembles at God’s Word, the one who turns from his wicked ways to serve God alone… — “This is the one I esteem,” declares the LORD. (Isa. 66:2)
Forgiven. Cleansed. Healed. Restored. Esteemed. The transformation can certainly happen –even in the very worst of us.
August 30, 2011
What a wonderful thing it is to have God, the Most High, as our Comforter, Father, and Friend. He is the Creator, yet He condescends to each one of us –each one of us who turns willingly toward His love– and He makes us His very own. And one thing, besides the many things, He does for us is this: He shepherds us. This means He guides us, He provides for us, and He protects us. What blessing! What cause to be strengthened for boldness, love, and all He tells us to do! What reason to feel secure and unafraid!
For years I have cherished Isa. 41:13,14. Here God says, “For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. Do not be afraid, O worm Jacob, O little Israel, for I myself will help you,’ declares the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.” God Himself will help us. He tells us to thus not fear. He says He will take hold of our right (strongest) hand so that we can grip His tightly. He says He is our God.
Around the same time that I first marked these verses, I also marked Isa. 44:5. God says here, concerning those whom He pours His Spirit out on (v. 3): “One will say, ‘I belong to the LORD’; another will call himself by the name of Jacob; still another will write on his hand, ‘The Lord’s,’ and will take the name Israel.” Just between me and the Lord, I took the name “Israel” at that time (about 1995) and did write on my wrist in pen, “The Lord’s”. I was telling the Lord that I was making a declaration to Him –that I belonged solely to Him, for His use, and to be His servant. God has done beyond what I fathomed at that time. He definitely made me His servant, but He has also made me His friend. The beautiful news, though, is that anyone who wishes, anyone who is thirsty, may come to Him and drink (John 7:37 & Rev. 22:17) and receive His presence. For when we drink of Him, and eat of Him, we gain life –not just later in eternity, but now too (John 6:53,54), and the more we continue eating and drinking Him, the closer to Him we get. This is indeed true life!
Oh, and what does “Israel” mean? It means “he struggles with God.” (Gen. 32:28) When we do so in order to get the blessing, in order to be freed from bondage, in order to overcome, God will –sooner or later– grant us our desire. (v. 29) And even if we’re left with a limp (v. 31), or a deep scar in the heart, we will say, “I saw God face to face [spiritually] and yet my life was spared.” (v. 30)
After going through all this and attaining His blessing by becoming one of His cherished ones, should there be any reason left for us to fear? Certainly not. For as God’s Word says, “The LORD Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Dt. 31:8)
August 29, 2011
One gem of Truth to learn and solidify in our heart, and which is invaluable for achieving joy and peace in this fallen world, is this: We do not need the approval of anyone but God.
To seek approval from other sources is to set ourselves up for insecurity, rejection, a feeling of failure, and hopelessness. For even if we ride high for a while, what happens when fickle humans turn to admire, or listen to, or love, another? We fall. We fall into a feeling of devastation and all the emotions that linger in that pit. And to try to get out, we can be tempted to compromise our values and our obedience to God and Truth. How many people have turned aside to follow corrupt ways or false teachers because those paths promised them acceptance, honor, and praise from men? Many. Too many. And it is why many become blind to Truth even when they keep claiming they can see. They believe a lie –in spite of the clear revelation of Truth– because they do not want to be sneered at by their friends or fellow preachers. Just as many “still would not believe in Him [Jesus]” (John 12:37) in spite of clear evidence (same verse), and “would not confess their faith for fear of being put out of the synagogue” (v. 42), many deliberately reject what they know –deep within their consciences– to be true, “for they love praise from men more than praise from God.” (See v. 43)
But, for those of us “entrusted with the gospel” (1 Thes. 2:4), “we speak as men approved by God.” (same verse) Our goal is never to try to please men or look for their approval. (v. 4,6) If we get it, fine. But realizing it can be a distraction, and can become a pull away from solidly seeking to please God, we are to treat it indifferently. This may anger those who want us to bow to their flatteries or reciprocate their attentions (and we are to express gratefulness to those who are trying to genuinely encourage us), but we must never forget to keep our value resting on God’s approval alone.
Sadly, there are so many abuses going on that, truly, it is sometimes hard not to wish we could gain approval from some person. We get belittled at work, at home, at school… and long for someone who will affirm us about something –anything– that we are (at least a little bit) good at. However, the Lord wants us to come to a place of such maturity in our spiritual walk that we do not look for, need, or desire, anyone’s approval but His. Isn’t that which pleases people often the opposite of that which pleases God?
So what are we to do when we are treated abusively by someone –especially someone we have to deal with regularly and are responsible to assist or care for –or even love? Well, Ec. 10:4 says, “If a ruler’s anger rises against you, do not leave your post; calmness can lay great errors to rest.” So we are to stay calm when we are belittled or mistreated by others, especially anyone who has power over us. Our heart is to take refuge in God, doing so by immediately taking certain steps we’ve trained ourselves to do –such as to inwardly smile and say, “But God cherishes me and is pleased with me”, and then to start whispering Scripture promises and grateful praises to Him.
Always, we are to refrain from thinking about ourselves first. God is always thinking about us, He is always concerned about us, and He has promised to protect us and contend with those who contend against us. (Isa. 49:25) He will avenge us (Rom. 12:19), but our job is to be kind to our enemy (v. 20), overcome evil with good (v. 21), and pray that God will have mercy on our persecutors (Matt. 5:44,45) so that they may be saved. Therefore, all we need is the knowledge of God’s promises, the faith to believe them, and the assurance that our God is faithful –even when we see no change. These keep us riding on the heights so that we can look first to God’s approval and instruction, secondly to the interests of the contentious one, and then thirdly to our own needs.
God wants Christ-likeness from us. Now, what does our persecutor need? Does he need understanding, mercy, love, and Truth extended to him? Absolutely he does! We should see any abuser as a soul about to fall into Hell, and therefore determine –by the power we have through the Spirit– to love him. Is it not God’s kindness that leads people to repentance? (Rom. 2:4) We may be the only thread (of hope, love, kindness, and Christ’s power) that can snag a corrupt, crabby, cruel man from falling to his eternal doom. “Remember O my soul,” we tell ourselves. “I am only a clay vessel –to be used the way the Potter chooses. He chooses to have Christ live His life through me. (Gal. 2:20 & Rom. 6:6,7 & 2 Cor. 5:15) So… in this situation, what is He choosing for me to say or do?”
Situations vary. The Lord may lead us to follow Matt. 5:39: “Do not resist an evil person” but instead let him strike, sue, and demand more labor. (v. 39-42) Or the Lord may instead lead us to use Matt. 7:6: “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet and then turn and tear you to pieces.” We are thus to seek wisdom and God’s instruction in every matter. His way is perfect, and so is His timing. Let us leave the decision to Him as to how and when He delivers us from our bondage in “Egypt”. “For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” (2 Chron. 20:15) All who take refuge in the Lord are promised verse 20: “Have faith in the LORD your God and you will be upheld.” This includes through the darkest enemy-valleys, as Ps. 23:4,5 teach us. So we take courage and believe 2 Chron. 20:17: “You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you… Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.”
How do we take up our positions? How do we face the enemy (as well as the persecutor who works for the enemy)? We “take up the shield of faith” (Eph. 6:16) which we activate through praise to God, put on “the belt of truth” (v. 14), and take every thought captive to obey Christ. (2 Cor. 10:5) These will keep the lies out –thus shutting off the enemy’s best weapon against us. We put on the full armor of God (Eph. 6:11-17) including love, operating our spiritual weapons (2 Cor. 10:4) while praying “in the Spirit” (Eph. 6:18) and standing upon all of God’s Word, such as: “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians [the enemy] you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Ex. 14:13.,14) “Still” toward the enemy, but “move on” (v. 15) into God’s instructions. So again, we see that we must listen to the Spirit within God’s Word to know which verse He wants us to apply for various situations or moments. But the point is, is that if we are keeping our eyes on the Lord, calling out to Him, and being Christ-like the best way we know how, He will reveal to us what our next step is to be toward the deliverance He is bringing.
Once God arises and commands that the oppression be ended (as He did when He told Moses to tell Pharaoh, “Let My people go”), we are not to hold back and say to our persecutor, “Oh, I’m so sorry. I will stay here and help you if you want that.” No. We are to pick up and go. However, we are not to go prematurely, and we are not to go until the Lord Himself says “Go!” In the meantime, we are to expect ourselves to thrive in the dungeon, just as Joseph did (Gen. 39:20-23) until God arranged events so that he was released and made a top ruler. (Ch. 41) God works, we follow His orders.
Is it sometimes difficult to stay positive while in the dungeon? Yes and no. Yes –when we start to doubt God’s promises to us, His faithfulness, and His goodness. But no –it’s not hard if we keep the armor on and continue to take up our position. Then when the mean words hit us… when the belittling and anger pour toward us… when the cruelty causes us problems… our spirit, fully surrounded by our Shield (who is our God) does not take in to itself any effect of the persecution. It all runs off our spirit like water off a duck’s back. For our security, our sense of worth, our hope and our courage and our joy –throughout life, no matter what we face… –it’s all found in needing only one thing and knowing we have it: That we are approved by God.
There’s no greater joy or peace or rest or confidence than that.
August 28, 2011
My dad is in California today attending the funeral of a close relative, so what is said at funerals, and upon gravestones, is on my mind. Should we not sometimes think of such things in order to assess our lives and ponder how our existence on earth will be remembered in other people’s minds?
True, at funerals people try to remember the best about the deceased and try to bring up the good qualities concerning their personalities and lifestyles. But sometimes the speeches seem strained. I have attended many funerals, and when it is obvious that the dead person lived selfishly or cruelly, it is definitely a very sad thing. And sadder yet when no one can assure anyone else that the person knew and obeyed the Lord and is therefore at present with Him in Heaven. To realize this happens should make us want to distinguish ourselves clearly as having lived our lives devoted to loving and serving God and others.
What are some things that could be said about many a person lying in the casket? That he was a hard-working CEO who helped bring in much profit for the company, or that he was, for a time, mayor of his town? That she was a great cook, talented musician, or one whose artwork hung in museums across the globe? That he was a renown surgeon who had also found a cure for a certain kind of cancer? That she had won the beauty queen pageant, had achieved movie star status, or that her book had remained on the bestseller’s list longer than anyone else’s? That he had wit, charm, and a good sense of humor, or that he could drink the most beer without throwing up? So what? Does anyone really care about any of these things? Not for long, they don’t.
What people hope to see and remember about others is this: Did he love his family? Was he faithful to his wife? Was he kind to his children and grand-children, the neighbors, the poor, and the outcasts? Did he have integrity? Was he honest in business and generous with his time, money, and possessions? Was he humble? Was it obvious that he loved God and others? Did he, in everything, act like Christ would have? Did he speak like Christ –strong and firm, yet with kindness, tenderness, understanding, and mercy? Was he committed to furthering the Gospel of love and freedom?
Or… was he mean, deceitful, greedy, and unfaithful –committed to no one but himself, his own pleasures, and his own interests?
So, what would people, especially those who knew him best, like to put as the epitaph on his gravestone? “Here lies a selfish, bitter, deceitful grouch”? Or, “Here lies a holy, humble, and gracious man who served his Shepherd unreservedly”? We should evaluate ourselves now to determine which epitaph people would lean toward in describing us.
Here’s the one I decided on in 2007 and then wrote in the front leaf of my Bible: “Here lies one little lamb who adored her Shepherd-King.” It’s an epitaph I strive to live up to, for I believe that if I (and my name does mean “little lamb/sheep of God”) spend a lifetime adoring my God, then it should mean that I’ve conducted myself in a way that honored Him and pleased Him as I allowed Him to live His life of love toward others through me. It’s my goal.
I think about my goal often… every day.
I hope others think of their goals as well. And about what their family, friends, and co-workers (if they could write the truth) would inscribe across their tombstone.
August 27, 2011
“Look at what is in my hand.”
Most of us look toward the Speaker, though some actually turn away toward their checkers game and turn their ipod music up.
“What is it?” someone asks.
“Come and see.”
Several of us get up, dragging our chains, though some watch from their corners.
“It’s a key,” someone says. “And a map.”
“Yes,” says the Speaker. “It’s a key to unlock your chains. And a map to escape this kingdom and walk strong in another kingdom –a pure kingdom.”
“Ahhh!” several people guffaw. “We don’t need to escape!” These laugh and go back to their business.
“Yea,” say a few others. “It’d be nice to escape because these chains are heavy. But escape is not a reality.” These too, meander away.
One young girl looks directly at the Speaker. “I believe escape is possible,” she says, holding out her hand. “May I?”
The Speaker gives the map to the girl, then bends down and unlocks her chains. The chains drop from her ankles and she steps away from them. “Read the map,” the Speaker says. “And listen to me and follow me.” The girl nods and obeys.
Some others say they believe too, including me. The Speaker unlocks our chains and gives us each a copy of the same map. We all begin reading, but right away some get distracted and wander back to the places they came from, not seeming to care that they’ve stepped back into their chains.
“Follow me,” the Speaker commands.
We believers stop reading our maps and turn to follow the Speaker. But he’s gone!
For a few moments there’s some confusion and chatter; and some, too annoyed and frightened, decide to stay in the safety of the familiar.
“But he said, ‘Follow me’,” one believer ventures.
“But how?” I ask.
“Oh, the map!” someone says.
“Yes! Here it is!” the young girl exclaims. “The arrow points this way, so…” Everyone in the group looks toward the place she’s pointing. A door that hadn’t been there before, and now hanging there upon nothing, is wide open.
“That’s freaky,” says one person, and he hurries away in the opposite direction.
“I’m going in!” shouts one believer.
“So am I!” says another.
“I am too,” chimes in the girl.
I, and the rest, follow. I’m afraid, but I have the faith that past that door is freedom. The others apparently believe the same.
One by one we all, small group that we are, walk through the door.
“It’s too bright to see,” one person says, and we all agree. But once our eyes adjust to the light, there is the Speaker standing before us and he’s smiling. “Now follow me,” he says. “But study your maps continually, for though I’m not always visible, in the map you will hear my voice of instruction.”
I take a deep breath, and clutching my map tightly, follow the Speaker whole-heartedly.
Now, I ask: What brought about deliverance for these people? A key, a door, a map… –The Person. Okay. But how did they obtain these? Did they have to pay with money, run 50 laps, or crawl around until their knees bled? No. They did not have to earn their salvation. It was a gift. But the gift, though offered to everyone, was not forced on anyone. The gift had to be obtained –chosen and taken– by faith. Faith is not a working, a striving, an earning of a wage due; but it is an action of the heart as it is an acceptance of a gift. And once the gift is in hand, it is to be used, not tossed aside. Using this gift is called, “the obedience that comes from faith.” (Rom. 1:5) This is accomplished by following the Deliverer and His Map (within which are His instructions, guidance, and voice.)
We are all given the invitation to take the escape. We are all given the choice. It’s a choice to come out of the darkness, to walk in the freedom, and to follow the Savior continually.
It’s a choice taken by faith. Not God’s faith. —Our faith.
August 26, 2011
It is a beautiful, joyful, and exciting thing to serve the Lord daily. We can serve Him continuously if we ask Him to give us the strength, guidance, and opportunities to do so. It can happen even when we can’t serve Him in our regular ministries because it’s too hot to be witnessing on the streets, or because we’re out of town, or because we have to shop for groceries that day. For whatever the case –wherever we are– we can always minister unto the Lord by worshipping Him with adoring words or songs, listing for Him all the things we’re grateful for, meditating on the Word and listening to Him teach us, memorizing Scripture, or calling someone we know who is lonely or sad.
Today, on my way to buy groceries at Wal-Mart, I asked the Lord to give me opportunity to edify someone there. I smiled at a few people, but actually my request to the Lord had slipped from the forefront of my mind. However, when I got up to the check-out counter, I asked the pretty girl behind it for her opinion on the bracelet I was trying to decide if I should buy. We started chattering, and then the conversation went to how grateful we should be that all we need to buy is in one store –very different from most countries. She told me the story of a friend of hers who almost got stuck in a foreign country when she didn’t have proof of her U.S. citizenship handy, and how when she did get to U.S. soil, she kissed the ground.
Well, I’ve not kissed U.S. soil, but having lived overseas most of my first 18 years, I have remained very grateful for this country. Those who bash it should go and spend three years overseas somewhere, and they will likely find that America is not near as awful as they thought. Yea, America is getting more and more perverse, but other countries remain wicked as well, and a whole lot more cruel. Shouldn’t it be expected? (2 Tim. 3:1-5) Do we not live on a fallen planet –one that was usurped long ago by an evil demon? We should be grateful we have it as good as we do. God is still in control, He is always mighty and compassionate and faithful. He is concerned with every detail of our lives –ready to intervene when we call out to Him for help. The Holy Spirit is still available to each human who repents and asks to be in-dwelt by Him, after which we are given power, strength, comfort, love, guidance, wisdom, Truth, joy, peace, etc. from Him. These are causes for rejoicing –not anger, hate, and fear!
So, to the girl ringing up my groceries, I agreed with her about how grateful we’d also have felt upon arriving safely back in the U.S. after having been through a fright like her friend had gone through. Then when I told her that I’d lived overseas because my parents were Bible translators, we started talking about God’s Word. She said she believed but was having a crisis of faith, and told me why. I immediately took the opportunity to start sharing Scripture verses with her and reminding her how we fight anxiety and other attacks the evil realm throws our way. She was greatly encouraged.
And who else was encouraged? Me. Do we not edify ourselves when we find ourselves speaking faith-filled statements to uplift another? Definitely. Then why not do it more? Why not, when we’re down and hurting, frightened or living under prolonged uncertainty, go out and find others who want to hear the Truth, and then tell them just what we would expect a spiritual warrior to tell us? I will say that this is one of the best strategies I know for defeating the evil realm in one’s own life.
And why is this? It’s because, as we state to someone else what we know the Truth is, we bring that Truth into our own spirit afresh. We want them to believe it, don’t we? Yes. And so we say it as convincingly as we can. And the effect is that we too are strengthened in faith, in believing what we’re saying, in believing what God’s Word is promising. And then afterwards we think, “Oh, I could’ve said this or that. And I wanted to quote a certain verse, but I couldn’t remember it very well.” But where should this line of thinking lead us? It should encourage us to study God’s Word even more, to listen to the Lord’s voice even more intently. Why? So that we can get strong in the Truth, know the Truth, and have the Truth in our hearts and mouths to be used at a moment’s notice. And why? So that we can edify others who are hurting or needing encouragement or instruction –including ourselves when we start to stumble.
“It’s not about our own opinion,” I told this girl. “The authority, the instruction, the wisdom for decision-making… –if we know God’s Word– comes from the Lord Himself. This is the wonderful thing about knowing the Word of God.” She whole-heartedly agreed, her face beaming with hope and courage. “I will pray for you as I drive home,” I promised as we parted.
It wasn’t until I was pushing the cart out to my car, that I suddenly remembered the request I’d made to God on my way to Wal-Mart. “Oh Lord,” I whispered. “Once again You’ve answered.” And I thanked Him, my heart smiling.
August 25, 2011
Ps. 138:2 says, “I will bow down toward Your holy temple and will praise Your name for Your love and Your faithfulness, for You have exalted above all things Your name and Your word.”
This verse shows that we are to worship God by bowing down to Him as we praise Him for His wondrous attributes, including those of His love and faithfulness, for such is a sign of deep adoration and reverence. And because God has exalted above all things His name and His Word, we are to be exalting Him for these as well.
However, there seems to be many “Christians” who, though they extol from their lips the name of Jesus, and even God’s Word, dishonor both. By their deliberate or careless sinning, they do so, proving that their hearts (the place God looks as He judges everyone’s motives) are far from Him. (Mark 7:6) They use the name of Jesus for their own furtherance, and with polluted hearts, they sing His name only to get a gushy feeling. Then after church, having given God no real commitment to forsake sin, they go right back out to continue in their perversities, slander, apathies, selfishness, and corruption.
To these, Christ’s true followers, must exhort, then rebuke. (Titus 2:15) Tolerating sin in the camp does not please God. It does not exalt His name and Word, nor advance His Kingdom. Instead, it subjects Christ to public disgrace. (Heb. 6:6) Therefore, we are not to join in worship with these “Christian” sinners, remain in their company, or refuse to expose their hypocrisy.
Jesus drove out of the temple those who were using it as a place to further their own interests: “‘It is written’ He said to them, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a ‘den of robbers’.'” (Matt. 21:13) What is God’s temple to be? A house of prayer. We are God’s temple! Corporately –as the body of Christ– and individually. Are we each –before we come together in group– making ourselves houses in which prayer is taking place? We are to be praying “in the Spirit on all occasions…” (Eph. 6:18) We are to be “filled with the Spirit” (5:18) and “controlled… by the Spirit” (Rom. 8:9) so that we will “live by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16) and intercede in the Spirit. (Rom. 8:26,27) We are to be doing this continuously! (1 Thes. 5:17) Even when we’re busy, we should be “in prayer mode” –the Lord’s will on our mind during every given moment.
“Pfff! Impossible!” many sneer. “You speak piously… unrealistically.”
Really? Did I not just quote commands from Scripture? Ah, but here is where many “Christians” dishonor God’s Word. For often their responses to us when we quote it to them are: “You’re taking it out of context.” Or, “We’re not to hammer people with the Word of God or give them guilt trips.” And who, in trying to negate being convicted or taught by God’s Word, are those who use such lines the most? Those who use God’s Word themselves whenever they want –those who teach it, and preach it, and say they promote it.
What is our authority for life, for decision-making, for instruction concerning relationships, ethnics, morals, and doctrine? God’s Word. Therefore, our every opinion, belief, and belief system, and especially if we are promoting it to others, needs to have Scripture backing. And the more Scripture to back our reasons, the better. But, so many “Christians” hate this! And the more we quote God’s Word to expose their falsehoods, the angrier they get.
Well, this is when we know we have a false teacher in our midst. This is when we know we have a sinning “Christian” in the camp. This is when we know someone’s heart is not devoted to God. This is when we know that the mouth exalting the Lord’s name and Word is not genuine.
Jesus says that the Father seeks worshippers who will worship in spirit and in truth. (John 4:23,24) Truth must be present. The heart must be filled up with Truth, and the doctrine must be pure Truth. Then, and only then, will there be a clean flow of true adoration and exaltation from our spirit to God’s. And then –and only then– will God accept our reverent worship as we praise His glorious name and Word.
Otherwise, as Jesus says in Mark 7:7, “They worship Me in vain.”