September 30, 2015
I can’t believe how this month has sped by! Time to serve the Lord is moving quickly and we are all, hopefully, making the most of each minute. Serving the Lord is great and He often brings special and unique activities our way. This last Labor Day (9/7/15) my brother, a pastor for college and international students, had an outing for them to visit the Stockyards. My parents, my nephew, and I joined them and got to go around together. Here are some photos from our fun day there.
September 26, 2015
The Lord is a fortress. In fact, He is the Supreme Fortress, the Almighty Fortress. But is He this for everyone? He is not. For He guarantees this only for those who call out to Him and wait in patient trust for Him to act –to act in His timing and His way. And His ways are certainly not the same as man’s methods.
There is another thing which people need to have in order for God to be their fortress. It is “the fear of the Lord.”
Pr. 14:26 says, “He who fears the LORD has a secure fortress.” Yes, the Lord Himself is the Secure Fortress, but let’s look at the rest of the verse: “…and for his children it will be a refuge.” Children, being they are legitimately under the care of the parent who fears the Lord, will be included under God’s protection. But here I am emphasizing that it is “the fear of the Lord” itself that gives a person The Secure Fortress into which they may take refuge.
What, then, does this mean for those who say they love God but who lack “the fear of the Lord”? It means that they do not have any guarantee of being secure, not only from the evil realm, but also from God’s wrath against all that remains a part of the evil realm. This should be cause for all to desire to know what the “fear of the Lord” entails.
So what does it mean to possess “the fear of the Lord”? It means to respect Him, to be in awe of Him, and to honor Him passionately. It also means to be afraid of Him. True, if we are walking in continual obedience to the Lord, then His love surrounds us with protection and we should not fear but instead have confidence concerning the Day of Judgement. (1 John 2:5,6 & 4:17,18) This does not mean, though, that there is no realm of fear that exists right there outside of the realm of God’s love. Obedient servants walk in God’s love where fear has been excluded, but disobedient ones are spurning this sphere of blessing, and so they do have reason to fear!
Let’s view it like this: If we have an illness, but one that is completely curable through an antibiotic, then do we have reason to fear if we are taking the prescription faithfully? No. But what if we reject taking it, or take it haphazardly? Should we fear that we will likely not recover? We should fear! Only the foolish would not.
Let’s use this example: If we are the employer and we have a great employee who works hard, fulfills his obligations, and strives to maintain a considerate, helpful, respectful relationship with us and his coworkers, would that employee have reason for any fear? He shouldn’t and wouldn’t. But would he have reason to fear if he was slack and rude to us and others? He definitely would have reason to fear, and he would, if he did not quit his nonsense, be fired from the company.
We could use other examples, but the obvious is clear: Obedience to a leader and a good attitude toward him and others will be cause for confidence, not fear. But disobedience to a leader and a bad attitude toward him and others should and will be cause for fear, as well as cause for punishment.
Let’s go back to Pr. 14:26: “He who fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge.” We are being taught that when we fear the Lord, the fear of Him becomes for us (and for those children under our care) the “ticket” into the Secure Fortress and Refuge. If we are in a secure fortress, we have no reason to fear. Therefore, if we are abiding in Christ, we have no reason to fear. But should we walk out of that safe place –that place we remain in through the obedience that comes from fearing the Lord– then we are no longer safe, and we do have reason to fear. The reason to fear is that we ourselves have jeopardize our well-being, doing so by a lack of fearing the Lord.
What, exactly, does it mean to lack the fear of the Lord? It means we are committing sin. It means we are rejecting wisdom. It means we are rejecting righteousness. It means we are rejecting the commands and guidance of the Lord. It means we are engaging in treason against God, the Supreme Ruler. Can such a person abide in Christ’s love? He cannot, for it is only through obedience that a person remains in that safe position. (John 15:10 // 2 Peter 3:17)
The safe position, the secure refuge, is the Lord. But He is walking. Therefore, we must follow. If we do not follow (closely, obediently, and consistently), then we are not safe in His hand (His love) or safe eternally. (John 10:27,28 & 15:6,10) Turning back, lagging back, or standing still will keep us from remaining in the Secure Fortress, and we will instead be living, whether we realize it or not, in the abode of fear, which is under the wrath, not love, of God. (Rom. 14:23 // Heb. 10:38,39 // 1 John 4:18 // Rev. 21:8) As Jesus warns, “Remember Lot’s wife!” (Luke 17:32)
Lot’s wife, because she took God’s escape with reluctance, God’s judgement, which rained down on Sodom and Gomorrah, engulfed her as well. (Gen. 19:12-29) She started the escape, but she looked back to her sinful, pleasurable home with longing. She believed the escape was necessary, but she did not fear God enough to run. She lagged, she hesitated, and her heart was not fully devoted to escaping the wicked city. Her half-hearted obedience, revealing her lack of “the fear the Lord”, landed her under the judgement of raining sulfur. As Jesus continues after reminding everyone of her, “Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” (Luke 17:33)
If a person fears the Lord, he will stay away from sin, which will thereby allow him to walk in full confidence with the Lord. As Ex. 20:20 says, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” The man who fears God runs from sin and its temptations. He will never be ruled by sin but will be submitting faithfully to Christ’s rule, and will thus be walking in freedom from fear. By being willingly obedient, such a man continues to be one in spirit with Him who is Perfect Love and Eternal Security Himself. (John 15:9,10 // 1 Cor. 6:17 // 1 John 3:24 & 4:16-18 & 5:20)
Truly, the person who fears the Lord possesses, with assurance, the Secure Fortress and Refuge, and he does so because he is consistently obeying the Lord.
September 20, 2015
Someone asked to film my dad telling about the way God orchestrated a, statistically-speaking, nearly impossible event which lead a young couple to turn their lives over to the Lord and start a mission. Our family played a big part in it. Here is my dad relaying that beautiful God-story:
September 18, 2015
“To inherit Heaven, is it necessary to actually follow Jesus?” This is the question we should ask ourselves and those to whom we present the Gospel. Some people are saying, either directly or indirectly, that it is unnecessary and that all one must do in order to be eternally saved is to pray, in faith and contrition, the sinner’s prayer. Since God’s Word is our Authority, let’s see what it says concerning this.
In Luke 9:23-25 we see Jesus telling us what is involved in following Him. –That each person must deny themselves by taking up one’s cross daily, and, that doing this, or by not doing this, a person is choosing the salvation, or the forfeiture, of one’s life and soul.
Can this really be right? It is, for in that passage, as well as in Mt. 10:32-39 and 16:24-27 and Mark 8:34-38, we see Jesus definitely teaching this Truth when He speaks about those choices, affections, and actions that entail giving up all, including one’s life for His sake and the Gospel’s sake in order to gain salvation. We see Him speaking about acquiring eternal salvation versus the forfeiture of it due to what we do.
In John 12:25 Jesus says, “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” Certainly we should be able to see that Christ is teaching that Eternal Life is acquired by giving ourselves to Him 24/7. Indeed, Scripture repeatedly makes this requirement clear. (Rom. 6:6,7 // 2 Cor. 5:15,17 // Gal. 2:20 & 5:24 & 6:14,15 // etc.) Furthermore, in such verses as Mt. 19:17, Rom. 8:9, and 1 John 3:24 it is revealed that unless we live in obedience to the Lord’s Commands and Spirit, we do not possess Him nor belong to Him.
John 15:10 and 1 John 2:3-6 teach us the same thing. –That obedience to Christ is necessary for remaining in His Love and Truth and that this happens when we conduct ourselves as Christ did. And how did Jesus conduct Himself? He walked in perfect submission and obedience to the Father. (John 12:49,50 & 14:31) So must we. (Mt. 5:48 & 28:19,20)
Really? Is it absolutely necessary for salvation that we obey Jesus? We see that the answer is “Yes.” Would this, then, equate to serving Him? Of course it would. If we are in submission to Christ, He will give us tasks to do. He will not be pleased with those who sit around idle or who treat His commands with apathy. We are to serve in careful obedience. We are to do and say just what He commands of us. Otherwise we are in rebellion against our Leader, and all rebels, unless they genuinely and completely repent and begin obeying Christ, will be ousted from His Love and Presence forever. (Luke 13:3 // John 15:6,10 // 2 Thes. 1:8,9 // 1 John 2:5) Jesus has made it clear that He will accept or condemn people based on what they have loved, said, thought, and done. (Mt. 5:22,28-30 & 12:36,37,50 // John 5:29 // Rev. 22:12-16)
So if we must obey the Lord from the heart and serve Him eagerly, does this equate to following Him? Of course. Those who say they love Jesus, but who do not obey, serve, and follow Him, are deceiving themselves and are headed for eternal destruction. (Mt. 7:19-27) Without question, all who keep sinning will be thrown “into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (13:42; see also Heb. 10:26-31 and Rev. 20:11-15 & 21:7,8) Wrong, then, are those who pretend that following Jesus is not a requirement for walking the Road of Eternal Life. There is no other Way. (Mt. 7:13,14 & 19:17 // John 14:6)
Let’s go back to John 12:25 where Jesus says, “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” In the very next verse, verse 26, Jesus says, “Whoever serves Me must follow Me.” Should that not answer it for us? To love Jesus, we must obey His commands. (John 14:15) To obey Him, we must serve Him. To serve Him, we must follow Him. And what does Jesus say in the rest of John 12:26? He says, “…and where I am, My servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves Me.” Therefore, we see that loving, obeying, serving, and following Jesus is a must for being in His Presence. Moreover, the serving, which comes from the actions of following, are what inherit for a person honor and reward from God versus condemnation and punishment under His wrath. (v. 26 // Mt. ch. 25 // Mark 8:34-38 // Eph. 5:6)
Now we have just seen that Scripture teaches that in order to inherit Eternal Life a person must be loving Jesus and obeying His Word, Commands, and Spirit by following Him and serving Him. Would such a person be called “a disciple” of Christ? Of course. So is being a disciple of Christ necessary for eternal salvation? Absolutely.
Let’s look, then, at what Jesus says about the requirements of being one of His disciples. In Luke 14:33, He states that “any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be My disciple.” Jesus is clear about what this entails. –That it is to die to all which our own will, desires, and affections would choose to follow after, and that this does include giving up our family members (v. 25-27 & 9:57-62 // Mt. 10:34-39), though in light of Mt. 15:3-9, 1 Tim. 5:8, and the Scriptures as a whole, this would mean if they be a hindrance to our obedience to Christ.
Can a disciple turn back from following Jesus? Of course (1 Tim. 6:20,21 // 2 Tim. 2:12,17,18 // Heb. 3:6-19 & 4:11 & 6:4-12 & 12:14-17), for our freedom to choose does not end when we pledge ourselves to Christ. In John 6:66 we read that after Jesus’ hard-to-accept teaching (v. 60), “…many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.” We read in Luke 8:13,14 of those who receive the Word with joy and believe for while –until testing comes whereby they become stunted and fall away. Such plants, by not remaining in Christ, His words, and His commands, are unable to stay cleansed, and they thus become defiled and withered, and are thrown to the fire. (Luke 3:7-14 // John 6:53-63 & 15:1-10 // 1 Cor. 3:16,17 // 1 Peter 1:15,22,23 // 2 Peter 3:14,17 // 1 John 1:5-2:6) Just as that servant who, after pleading with the King, received pardon, but against whom the King later reinstated the debt and the punishment (Mt. 18:32-34), so a follower of Christ who turns back to rebellion will be worse off at the end than had he not shared in Christ at all. (Mt. 11:20-24 // Luke 12:47,48 // Heb. 10:26-31 // 2 Peter 2:20-22)
Many Bible teachers seem to like to talk about being eternal safe in Christ’s hand once someone has “accepted Jesus”. They say that such a person becomes His sheep and thereafter cannot be snatched out of Christ hand, nor ever perish. They often base this teaching of theirs on John 10:9,24-30. However, if we read Jesus’ plain words there, we see that He is saying that those who truly believe Him to be the Messiah (God in bodily form) and become His sheep, will listen to Him, will know Him (intimately), and will follow Him. (v. 27,28) It is precisely the continuous listening, knowing, and following which keep the sheep safely surrounded by Christ’s hand, His Love, His Presence, and on His Narrow Road! So, confirming what we have already learned above, those who listen to, know, and follow Jesus are the only sheep who truly love, obey, and serve the Lord and who are thus inheriting Eternal Life.
Whose doctrine should we believe and adhere to? Men who pretend to rightly interpret God’s Word for us? Or, should we read the Word for ourselves wherein we can see what Jesus and the writers have plainly stated?
Concerning the subject of following Jesus, it is a matter of choosing salvation.
Or of forfeiting it.
September 13, 2015
Many “Christians” seem to work hard at twisting the Scriptures so that they can feel safe in their continued sinfulness.
On Friday, while I was evangelizing downtown, a Calvinist approached me to interrogate me as to whether or not I was proclaiming the real Gospel. How insistent he was about “once-saved, always saved”, about not giving people “the wrong idea that we must work for our salvation”, and about that true believers do go through seasons of sinfulness.
I answered this guy’s questions and conversed with him at least fifteen minutes, but I was glad I was able to avoid the argument he apparently wanted to have with me. Over and over he kept trying to pin-point my exact beliefs to see if they lined up with his pet doctrines, but, I believe I wasn’t giving him the answers he expected. When he was disgruntled over my sign– “Christ’s cross doesn’t cover a continuation in sin. Heb. 10:26”, saying that I should instead preach the straight Gospel Message, I reminded him that Paul said in Rom. 1:5 that his Message was a call “to the obedience that comes from faith.” I told him that is my call as well, and that it is a much needed call being that most preachers are not correctly clarifying the necessity of obedience –obedience to Christ’s Word and Spirit.
This Calvinist guy said, “You do believe, don’t you, that we cannot earn our salvation through works but only through what Christ has done for us?” I replied, “James 2:24 says, ‘We know that a man is justified by what he does, and not by faith alone.'”
“Okay,” he said, but still plowed forward: “But we do not receive salvation through obedience; obedience is a result of our salvation.”
I answered, “Jesus says in Mt. 19:17, ‘If you want to enter Life, obey the commandments.’ And, in Acts 5:32 it says that God gives the Holy Spirit to those who obey Him.” I opened up my Bible and read to him 1 John 3:24 which says, “Those who keep God’s commands live in Him and He in them.”
I quoted Jesus’ words in John 10:27,28 because I know that most once-saved, always saved adherents love verse 28 about no one being able to snatch Christ’s sheep out of His hand. “But,” I said. “In verse 27 Jesus tells us what these sheep do: They listen to Jesus and they follow Him. In other words, they obey Him.” I walked a few steps and said it again: “Christ’s true sheep keep following. They don’t turn around or rebel or go back. If they did, how would they be following Christ? Verse 27 must be a reality for the promises in verse 28 to be so as well.”
I’m hopeful that the guy gained some progress into the Truth, for at that point he responded agreeably and quoted Gal. 5:25: “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.”
I quoted a lot of verses while responding to this guy, and when I quoted Rom. 8:9 to him, he seemed satisfied and said goodbye, adding that Calvinists evangelize too. I hadn’t said they don’t, but I did feel like saying, “Why should they if God has predestined everyone’s eternity already?” I didn’t say it though because I sure didn’t want to get into that debate with him!
Rom. 8:9 says that those who possess the Spirit of God and Christ will be controlled by the Spirit and not by the sinful nature. This verse, along with so many other verses in God’s Word reveal clearly that those who are controlled by the sinful nature do not possess the Spirit. Calvinists should ask themselves, “How long can a person claiming to belong to Christ go on in sinful behavior and still be considered to be controlled by the Spirit?” If the Calvinist must admit that the sinning person is not being controlled by the Spirit for a season, then should he not admit that Rom. 8:9 states that such a person does not possess the Spirit and does not therefore belong to Christ during that season? And if the season goes on for six months, or a year, or five years, or ten years, then was that person never truly saved to begin with? Or, was he saved, and therefore, no matter if he dies without any visible fruit of repentance, he remains an inheritor of Eternal Life? What maneuverers Calvinists must go through!
Well, Jesus warned that prostitutes and such will get into the Kingdom ahead of those who consider themselves to be “in the know” about God’s Word, but actually are deceiving themselves. (Mt. 21:31) Why? Because those who claim they possess the Truth but do not, remain guilty, not safe, before Christ. (John 9:41)
September 7, 2015
Let’s very soberly ask ourselves, “Has the ‘Law of the Spirit’ (Rom. 8:2) –that Law which we walk in by faith– negated God’s Moral Law (God’s Law of Morality / God’s Law of Love / God’s Law which requires us to love Him above all else and to love others as ourselves)?” I would hope that we would answer, “Absolutely not.”
Then let’s also ask ourselves, “While committing sin knowingly, can a person be in submission to the rulership of God?” Surely we would answer, “Of course not.”
Let’s include this question: “While being aware that we are engaging in a sin, can we consider ourselves to be under the control of the Holy Spirit, and if not, then can we legitimately consider ourselves to belong to Christ?”
This last question should be contemplated with Rom. 8:9 in mind, which says, “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature, but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.”
Let’s understand: God does not pardon sin. Because of His grace, He pardons people. But He only pardons repentant people. Repentant people are those who have renounced and rejected sin and who keep their pledge. Consequently, those “Christians” who continue to sin, while knowing it is sin which they are committing, are not receiving or inheriting God’s pardon (1 Cor. 3:17) –until (or unless) they genuinely repent by separating themselves from all sin.
Again: Everyone who neglects to do what they know is right is committing lawlessness against God’s Law of Morality (Mt. 19:17 // Ja. 2:10 & 4:17 // 1 John 3:4) and will thus not receive or inherit the Lord’s pardon –until (or unless) they truly repent. (1 John 2:4 // Luke 13:3 // Heb. 10:26,27)
Never does God’s Word excuse sin. God hates sin and cannot dwell with it; so He cannot live in a temple that contains sin. God, therefore, will not pardon anyone who lives sinfully. For God, having made a way to be freed from sin (Rom. 6:18 // Rev. 1:5), expects us to live in that which He has provided. To do anything otherwise, is to reject His Offer and His Life.
The Lord does not pardon a person who allows Self to continue ruling. He does not pardon those who, regardless of whether or not they speak loving words to or about Him, break His Law of Morality –unless they repent. But let’s solidify it in our minds: Repentant people are those who have renounced and rejected sin and and who keep their pledge by remaining separated from it.
There is no true faith in Christ, and no actual holiness before God, without obedience to God’s Word and Spirit. Those who teach that a sinning person possesses true faith and is viewed by God as holy, are deceived. Those who adhere to a falsehood so contrary to what the Word of God reveals are insulting the Lord (Heb. 10:29) and are walking the road of destruction. (v. 26-31)
God does abhor sin. And He will not grant eternal salvation to those who remain in it.
Let’s wake up to the Truth and abide in it consistently –before it’s too late. (Mt. 25:1-13)