Saturday, February 25, 2006

Why you HAVE to go to Church - A Must Read!!!

Check out the links at the end of this post for much, much more...

We previously discussed the fact that God helps those who know they are weak. While we are all indeed weak, it does not mean that we don’t act. While we must be giving thanks to God for all things, and we must cling to the promises of God, we must also realize our part in the promises. As we have seen in our discussions about the compatibility between the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man, we have seen the need to act in accordance with God’s decrees, in salvation and in sanctification.

We have talked extensively about giving thanks in all things, and the last two meetings we spoke of giving thanks to God through Jesus Christ in our sanctification, and also in our suffering. Now we turn to a matter and manner of giving thanks that is near and dear to this pastor’s heart. That is the idea of giving thanks to God though Jesus Christ in our solidarity.

Solidarity is defined as common interest and active loyalty within a group. They go together: not just doing activity, and not just being within. Not on the outside and not stationary, inside and involved. Not simply showing up once in a while and perhaps participating when we want to, but staying within the group and in an active way. To both be present and to participate regularly.

The promises of God are yea and amen, and God wants us to possess them all in abundance. Now, while some promises are things God will bring to pass no matter what, others are like a garment waiting to be worn; they are for those who meet the conditions of them. When we meet those conditions, and we continue to pray, to give thanks, and believe in God the possibilities turn into probabilities as we put on the promises of God like prophecy.

There are promises of God that have been given to the Church, but many in these last days have come to believe that these promises are simply for individuals in the Church, which to them means simply saved individuals. This is not so, however; these promises are for the universal Church, yes, but they are appropriated by the individuals who are resident and active within the universal, invisible Church’s visible expression, which is the local church. If you are missing from the local church, you will be missing some of the blessings.

Let’s ask a question that is asked, every day, in many ways.

Do you have to go to church to be a Christian?

The answer to this is simple, but the reality of what this question is trying to point out isn’t as simple as it may seem, because many are not focusing on what is really meant by this question.

To simply answer the question, then, do you have to go to church to be a Christian?

The answer is no.

However, lets now propose a different, more pointed question that actually gets to the heart of the matter.

Do you have to go to church when you are a Christian?

The answer is yes.

Lets state them together, so that you may think about this, and begin to realize where we are going next.

Do you have to go to church to BE a Christian? No.

Do you have to go to church WHEN you’re a Christian? Yes.

Now people can get all up in arms about this statement, but what they are doing, not me, what they are doing is focusing on the legal aspect of it, not the spiritual aspect of it, and they fail to recognize that their spiritual lives will indeed suffer if they are not in church. Period. God knows it, everyone else knows it, and you know it.

What many people fail to realize is the benefit of just being there. It is very much like when I counsel couples; I always get them to commit to praying together at night before they go to bed. I am sure many of them wonder why this is so important. They probably feel like this exercise, as they might call it, has little chance of actually helping them.

However, what they are doing in their fleshly minds is trying to reason out why this is valuable inherently, and come to believe that the prayers won’t solve anything. They are looking at the prayers as some sort of vehicle that will magically deliver a message or some innate power that will get them to the next level. The answer isn’t always in the prayer by itself, it is that we honor God by doing it, and then He begins to line up the events and situations that will help us overcome the obstacles.

People are looking at the prayer itself, and wondering, what can that possibly do, I need money right now, or I need this or that to stop happening, or I need a job. It isn’t that He will give you a message right then and there, that this and this is what you should do, though He may, it is that this and this will start happening, all in response to your obedience to worship God and honor Him with prayer. You are leaving it on Him, in a way. You are coming in to His presence, as a couple, and the mere fact that you do this, becoming more intimately involved with God together, is why God becomes more intimately involved in your situation.

Church is the same way. The message may not have all that jazz for you in your mind, and the music may not move you as much as what is in your CD player right now, but that is only part of the plan God has for church. If you will just submit to God and commit, really now, to the local church, God will commit to your local lives. When you miss church you are not simply missing the message, you are missing the method.

The leading God gives is not only through the probing eye of the pastor, and not only through the community of believers assembled there, it is also just by attending yourself, in that God will then attend to your wants as you have attended to what He wants. Participating in church precipitates the providence and provision of God. When you open the doors of your will, then God will open the doors of your opportunity.

Saying that you can be a believer without going to church is like saying you can be a tennis player without stepping on the court. People say that they have a problem, that is why they couldn’t make it to church, but in truth they couldn’t make it church, and that is why they have a problem. God knows your heart, and God knows if you are looking for an excuse. If that problem weren’t there, would you have gone then? Then why didn’t you come that one particular week you didn’t have to work, or when you didn’t have that problem? You had better go when you can or God will make sure you can’t. Instead of looking for one reason not to go to church we should be looking for one reason to go to church. It is just like what we were studying in Jeremiah 44 (Arrow of Deception teaching).

The Church is a community, which is supposed to reflect the fact that God, in His tri-unity, is also a community. He is one, yet is three distinct persons. We are one in Christ through the Spirit, but we are also distinct persons.

Jesus put it this way when He was praying to God for His disciples: The glory which you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as we are one; I in them, and you in me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that you sent me, and loved them, even as you have loved me (John 17:22-23).

Notice here that Jesus speaks of the glorious unity, which His disciples should have, is not some internal state of affairs, but a visible unity, which no one around can possibly deny. Jesus wants His followers to form an objective society in order to demonstrate that God is a society – a community of love between the Father, the Son, and the Spirit into which we have been brought as members.

Earlier when we talked about Romans 1:7, which leads “to all that be in Rome”, we were talking about all the believers, as we discussed. Now lets examine that for a moment. Who and exactly where were all the believers in Rome? How could Paul make sure that the letter would be read to every believer in Rome? How did Paul know where to address this letter?

The answer is simple. Paul addressed the letters he wrote to CHURCHES, because there was no thought of believers acting like lone rangers outside the fellowship of other believers. The church is an essential part of the gospel!

Is the church essential to the gospel? If so, why? The Church is the Body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23) and Christ is the Head of this Body (Colossians 1:18). Furthermore, He is the Savior of this Body (Ephesians 5:23) because He died for the Church (Ephesians 5:25).

When you are saved you are made part of the Body of Christ: another way of saying the same thing is that one cannot be saved without becoming a part of the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-13, 27). Therefore, the church is an essential part of the gospel. We cannot become a part of a Body and then separate ourselves from the rest of it, and expect to live.

You may think that all you need to do is stay connected to the Head and you are all right, but when you are separating from the rest of the Body, you are also separating from the Head. You cannot be nourished by the Head while at the same time un-sewing yourself from that which you are knit together (Colossians 2:19). We only increase with the increase of God as we are holding the Head and we stay knit together with all the joints and ligaments. You may think that you can continue to be a part of the invisible body while at the same time declining to participate in the visible body, but you are only fooling yourself.

We give thanks to God through Jesus Christ by attending and serving the institution that He founded, the Church, and we serve the universal church body by serving its visible expression, the local church body. God has a covenant with the Church.

Church is about fellowship, yes, and it is also about worship, yes, and worship in the context of fellowship is good and right. However, church is also about discipleship, and this takes leadership. All of this is necessary for the proper stewardship of a church through its members.

Let’s look at some negative and positive reasons for attending a local church.

To those who say they don't need to or have to go to church, or ask the question, "Why do I have to go to church?" …

Going to church honors God, does your absence?

Preaching helps build the building (edifice - edification - preaching) and it is essential for the exhortation and comfort of believers, in addition to their regular feeding on the Word. Also, most that I have observed who give the excuse that they don't need to go to church to be fed and led aren't actually feeding on Christ at all, or very little at best.

When you avoid church, you are avoiding the community of believers that need your gifting, 1 Corinthians (12-14) speaks plainly to this. Romans 15:14 / Colossians 3:16 – you cannot admonish and edify others without fellowship! In other words, you are being selfish, and you are ripping me off personally! He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit; that is, one with Christ, AND ALSO, one with each other. Are you really part of the Body of Christ?

It is the fellowship of the church where we find Jesus Christ. Jesus is active in His Church. Yes, He is active in individual lives, but those lives find more power in the context of the local church.

It is the fellowship of the church where we find protection from the demonic forces of evil and sin in this world. We call it a sanctuary for a reason, folks.

It is the fellowship of the church where we find encouragement in life. We can't keep on the path with Christ without the help and support of other Christians.

It is the fellowship of the church where we become Jesus Christ to the world.

The church is where we can find the best vehicle for our growth. We hear the Word preached and taught, and it stimulates us in our own private devotional and study times.

That, in the “spiritual bodybuilding” aspect, is like “taking your vitamins” The second part of “getting big” is to engage in resistance training. In accordance with this idea, the environment of the church provides two important features of growth producing conflict:

Authority who will challenge you with truth and correct you when you are wrong.

The environment of believers who are imperfect and whose rough edges will serve as sandpaper to smooth out your wrinkles. “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend” (Proverbs 27:17). Hurt feelings are probably the greatest reason why people leave churches, but deepening your roots in Christ and His Word can immunize you against such tenderness. “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them” (Psalm 119:165).

If anyone thinks he is spiritual, just get close to your brethren, and you’ll find out what’s really inside you. People are like “mirrors” in which we can see ourselves as we really are. Matthew 7:3-5, consider how having a beam makes us see everything as having a beam in it. Sometimes we don’t notice a certain type of car all over the road until you own one yourself. If there’s bitterness or a lack of love, it will become exposed. When you hide from church, you are exposed.

It doesn’t matter how agitating, rude or unspiritual your brethren might be. This does not justify your intolerance or impatience with them. These attitudes are characteristics of your own immaturity – a weakness in YOU that needs perfected. This is why some people run from church to church – because it exposes their bad side. They see their own sins and blemishes revealed in their relationship with the brethren, or they become outraged when their self-willed desires or sins are challenged through convicting preaching or correction.

If a person remains an “island” to themselves they will never have to face up to the spiritual immaturity within them. But exposing themselves to the environment of the church will cause them to face conflicts that must be overcome in order to grow up. A sign of a spiritually mature person is that they can be loving and patient with anyone (1 John 2:10 / Galatians 5:22-23), and they can humbly submit themselves to truth and the correction of authority (Hebrews 13:17).

Many would fight against God’s institution and claim they don't have to go to church by appealing to the “priesthood of all believers.” Yes, it is true we are all able to come to God through Jesus; we are all a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:5-9 / Revelation 1:6), and no one else is a mediator between God and man but Christ (1 Timothy 2:5). So, you are a priest, but did you consider the fact that the priests served in the temple!

Another objector (read: REBEL) may use what we just said and then say, “okay, but I am the temple – take a look at 1 Corinthians 6:19, pal! Of course, this is easily refuted by pointing out that the church is also the temple, 1 Corinthians 3:16 – so there!

And furthermore, looking back at the 1 Peter 2:5-9 passage, it says that we are lively stones. Now consider the fact that God, in 1 Corinthians 3:17, says, “If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (the church). If we are lively stones, yet we are absent from the church, the temple of God, then are we helping build the church, or are we hindering the building of it? Well, we certainly aren’t helping matters by not being there!

We may not feel like we are tearing it down, but our lively stone is supposed to be a part of the building. You might say, well, it can be built without me. Okay, then God will indeed build it without you, but then just remember you won’t be a part of it. If God has to build the building without you in it, then you are not a part of it, e.g., you are not a part of the temple, you are outside, and it was your choice! See?

You will either leave the church or believe in the church. As the days of Noah were, so will the coming of the Son of Man be (Matthew 24:37). Noah pleaded for people to come on board, and he didn’t promise good times, great music, hot babes, or any other thing in the world except a bunch of dirty, stinking animals! Are you going to get in the Ark or not?

If you are out of the church you are out of God’s will. Part of finding a good one is you staying and growing and helping it to be a good one.

Instead of looking for one reason not to go to church we should be looking for one reason to go to church. No more selfish excuses – GET IN CHURCH, AND STAY IN CHURCH.

Here are over 50 posts detailing more about this important topic...

Why you HAVE to go to church - Don't Miss This!

Why you HAVE to go to church - Part II

Why you HAVE to go to church - Part III

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Sanctification - The P, Q, R, of S

Sanctification, or growing in grace, is the supreme way and measure of our thanks to God through Jesus Christ.

We are predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ, and this will ultimately happen at the coming of the Lord, but in this life, we cooperate with the Spirit. As Paul says in Romans 12:1-2, we are not to be conformed by the world but transformed by the renewing of our mind to think and act like Jesus.

This is a dual effort with God and us as Paul says in Philippians 2:12-13. Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. We act in accordance with His decrees.

The problem we see in the church today is the nature of how this works, and we see three examples of how it can be done wrong, how we can drift one way or another into error.

The P, Q, R, of S (Understanding the Two Sides of Sanctification)

P = Pietism

Pietism is the notion that sanctification (holiness) is a purely human work.

Produced by too much emphasis on the human side of the equation.

Pietism is a totally active approach to sanctification. It is up to you to defeat sin.

This is manifest in various forms of legalism and asceticism, like the religion of the Pharisees, and the monasticism of medieval Christianity.

Operative phrase: Go and get God

Q = Quietism

Quietism is the view that sanctification doesn't occur until we give up striving for it.

Produced by too little emphasis on the human side of the equation.

Quietism is a totally passive approach to sanctification; it is an attempt to become holy by abandoning all effort and simply "trusting" God to remove the temptation to sin.

This is manifest in the Deeper Life movements.

Operative phrase: Let go and let God

R = Riotism

Riotism is the idea that sanctification is an unnecessary focus.

Produced by no emphasis on the human or the divine side of the equation.

Riotism is a totally careless approach to sanctification. Because we teach that one can be saved without sanctification, masses of unconverted church members are lulled to sleep and end up in hell. The Bible teaches, "without holiness, no one will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14).

This is manifest in seeker sensitive movement, and sections of prosperity teachings.

Operative phrase: Don’t go – forget God

T = Truth:

The truth brings the knowledge that sanctification is an ongoing struggle where we ask God to give us the will to win (Ephesians 4:22-24 / Colossians 3).

Produced by a proper emphasis on both sides of the equation.

Truth is the proper approach to sanctification. We are simultaneously justified yet sinful.

This is manifest in the giants of the faith, and their struggles with each of the other ways.

Martin Luther was clearly involved with pietism first, being a monk.

John Wesley taught entire sanctification, but never achieved it in his own life.

We see both pietism and quietism as having failed, and of course riotism isn’t even a consideration, not that those who practice it are even considering anything anyway.

Operative phrase: Don’t let go of God

Fear and trembling is to understand that we will always have to be fending off our old man, but understanding that God will give us both the increased will and the deeds of holiness as we become closer to Him.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Sanctification - The Ongoing Struggle

The Ongoing Struggle With Sin And The Pursuit Of Sanctification:
A Matter Of Divine Purity Not Human Morality (1 Corinthians 1:30)

Realize what is going on: Why God continues to let you struggle with sin

Exodus 23:29-30 – Flesh goes slowly so that God gets the glory. Desolate land means the enemies are out, but Satan can come back stronger if we do not increase in our godliness (Luke 11:24-26); the beasts of pride and self-sufficiency can multiply and creep back in.

Psalm 73:21-23 / Ecclesiastes 3:18 – Having to deal with our flesh helps keep us in a state of repentance. Flesh keeps us reminded of how we are nothing without God, only brute beasts before Him.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 – Flesh has to be battled so that when we reach a place of victory or overcoming, we may help others in their struggles. This is why I struggled for so many years, now I can say with all assurance that God can deliver you from bondage.

2 Corinthians 4:6-18 – To keep us in communion with Christ. We realize our flesh man is dying to Christ, and that we are being renewed in strength in our new, everlasting man.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 – To keep us humble before God. We need him, and he is sufficient, this teaches us to trust and depend on him, and not our flesh or our senses.

Galatians 6:9 – To keep us active in service to Him, to keep us from becoming complacent. The struggle to become Christ-like is taking up our cross, by denying our own struggles and going to help others in service.

Hebrews 12:1-11 – In order to change our character. This is a big one, because people believe that trials mean only those things God allows, not our own fleshy sins. We acted badly, and so now we are condemned, believing that we have no right to pursue fellowship until we can “control” ourselves. But what do Romans 7 and Philippians 3 teach?

Sometimes God allows Satan or circumstances to stir up sin so that we may see that we are to die to flesh daily. The chastening is for sinners (vs.4), not “holy people” who are suffering persecution; the promises are applicable to all of us “vile offenders” out there. We are not to draw back, but to draw near (Hebrews 4:16 / 10:22 / James 4:8).

The fact that you are struggling with the flesh is a good sign. You can see what your flesh is really like, your spirit man hates sin, and this is motivation to press on. You are actually coming to a place of overcoming, a victorious testimony and a new level in God IF YOU CHOOSE TO.

Breaking out of bondage: Inner vision and positive confession

One of the keys to breaking out of bondage is by seeing yourself doing so. How we see ourselves influences the way we think and the actions we take. The pictures that we have on the inside of us determine who we are, as far as our daily walk is concerned.

We need to understand our union with Christ (Romans 8:9-16 / 1 Corinthians 1:30 / 1 Corinthians 6:17-19 / 2 Corinthians 6:16 / Galatians 2:20 / Ephesians 3:17 / Colossians 1:27). We must believe that we are what God says we are, and cast down thoughts of doubt (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Along with this, the affirmation given by verbalizing our success expedites the process. We must develop a confidence in God and His promises in order to stand firm in faith, expecting that God will do as He says He will. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45).

Realize that the flesh will not get better: We are to focus on the “new man”

Matthew 26:41 – Our flesh cannot obey God (Romans 8:7).

Romans 7:17-25 – The old man of sin still exists in our flesh; it is him who sins, not us. Yes we are responsible for sin, but we must realize where it originates and deal with keeping our focus on the new man, building up that life so that the old life has no place.

Galatians 5:16-17 – The problem for many is that they keep coming to the altar to consecrate the old dead flesh instead of consecrating the new man. Our flesh isn’t sanctified, and will not be sanctified; it must be mortified (Romans 8:13).

Because of this wrong belief, we keep on trying to make our flesh better, practicing “sin management”, instead of transformation. Your spirit, the “new man” is able to follow after God, but your dead flesh is still there, wanting to be reincarnated every day.

Instead of reincarnation, we need to be living in resurrection power (Philippians 3:10). It is not you, the true you, the one that will live with God everlasting that is the problem, it is the old man, who was crucified on the cross with Christ. He isn’t coming with you to Glory. Don’t let him live your new life in Christ now (Colossians 3:1-5). Submit to the resurrection power of Jesus.

Realize the traditional way of fighting sin is wrong: It puts the cart before the horse

1 John 2:3-5 – We have an epidemic of spiritual dyslexia in the church today. We believe that we must keep the commandments first, before we can know God. But these verses say the exact opposite. When we know God and His love we keep the commandments. If we aren’t progressing it is because we aren’t progressing in the knowledge of God’s love for us.

The solar system example – In the dark ages we believed that the sun and the planets revolved around the earth, that we were the center of the solar system. When the truth was realized, that the earth and the planets revolved around the sun, that is when scientific advancement was made, mathematics and all sorts of knowledge depended upon this discovery.

Today we live in a “soular system” where many believe that they are the center of the system, and that the Son and the planets (our members) revolve around them. Our focus is wrong; Christ does not revolve around us, we revolve around him. If we discover this fact that ourselves (the earth) and our bodies (the planets) revolve around the sun (Jesus), we will see that how we go about trying to tame sin is just not right. We ought to focus on the source of power not our power to be good in order to stay in orbit. We must focus on Jesus, and growing in the knowledge of Him first, not on battling sin first. God requires PERFECTION: only Jesus has it.

John 16:9-11 – The Holy Spirit is supposed to be a positive force for the believer, but we do not think of Him that way. This is why Jesus explained these verses, because he knew that people would misinterpret them. The Spirit convicts us of not fellowshipping, of unbelief, that is the sin we are convicted of, the other sins are just a manifestation of this, and they are all already paid for. “Of righteousness” reminds us of His indwelling.

The genesis of ongoing sin, unbelief, the old man, not the act itself, is the main problem. What did Jesus say, “but I say unto you, that if you look upon a woman”. You can be holy without believing Jesus, the Pharisees proved that, and many atheists and Mormons are some of the most holy people around! No, the Holy Spirit is leading us back to fellowship with Christ saying, “Why did you steal that, you know that God will provide, repent and trust in Jesus”, not condemning you to hell. The conviction of the Spirit is for confession and conformity.

John 17:15 / Acts 4:29-31 / Galatians 5:16-17 – The flesh doesn’t go away easily or altogether. We fight and fight and fight and get frustrated, always asking for God to remove something instead of asking for power and peace.

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 – We have liberty and we must trust that God will do what he says. We would probably worry less about what people think of us if we realized how seldom they do think of us. Don’t compare yourself with others in your growth (2 Corinthians 10:12).

Colossians 2:20-23 / 1 Timothy 4:3-9 – Holiness starts in the heart, not in the hands. We fight the wrong battle when we try and tame the flesh; we are to keep it dead (Romans 6:4-7). Not being our best selves, but our new selves; Jesus living His life through us.

Realize that to renew your mind is to walk in the Spirit: The head controls the body

John 8:31-32 – We need to build spiritual muscle before we trim sinful fat. Body building example – I was reading a muscle magazine where a famous bodybuilder was asked about losing weight, and getting into contest shape. She said that you should never diet first, just start building muscle, and eventually you will know when you need to start dieting. To focus on dieting first was to miss the point. Also, if you gain muscle, you burn fat at a faster rate even when you sleep. The point about bodybuilding is exactly that, building your body first, then sculpting later. The whole process of building up makes trimming off the unwanted fat much easier. We must build up in the Word if we want to be conformed.

Romans 6:11-14 – We do have a chance, we do have a choice, and we must renew our minds so that we will believe what God says in his Word. These truths cannot be merely taught they must be caught.

Chair example – The head rules the body, just like Christ, the head of the church, rules the body of believers. If Satan has us under his thumb, we can’t stand up unless we move our heads first. Use your head, renew your mind, and change your center of gravity, the focus of our weight (thought).

John 17:17 / Romans 5:9-10 / Galatians 5:6,14 / Ephesians 3:14-19 – Growing in the knowledge of His life and His love by meditating upon the Word yields results. We fulfill the law by loving others.

Romans 13:14 / Ephesians 5:18 – Fighting off sin by being filled with the Spirit is like an a/c unit not a leaky bucket. It isn’t the traditional way of looking at being filled, where we are a leaky bucket that needs more water. It is more like a house (which we are) that has an a/c unit (like the Spirit, which we do) already. If we keep the door closed, the a/c cools off that room okay, but the rest of the house is still hot. If we keep the doors (of our heart) open, the flow will keep the whole house the right temperature. We don’t need “more” we need to let the Spirit flow, to emerge within us. Then Christ begins to appear in our lives in power.

Romans 8:28-29 / 1 John 5:4 – “Everything” brings out the worst which should make you realize that it is the flesh, not people or circumstances that need to be dealt with. Faith in Christ is victory.

Romans 12:2 / Ephesians 4:23 / Colossians 3:16 / 2 Peter 1:2-3 – Renew your mind; get the Word about a transformed life into your heart. Put on the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16).

Proverbs 15:3 / Proverbs 16:6 – Coram Deo – Practice the presence of Christ. The face of Jesus example – Have you ever seen the Jesus film by Campus Crusade for Christ? When Peter denied Jesus for the third time, and just then he sees Jesus being drug out in bondage, looking directly at Peter’s eyes in the most hurt way; I’m telling you, it will revolutionize your life if you will just picture the face of Jesus staring back at you with those wounded eyes!

Imagine Jesus being right there, because He is. There is no way that you can sin willfully while you are in present communion with Christ. Can you imagine a man about to commit adultery telling the other woman, “Wait, let’s pray to God before we do this and ask His blessing?” Sin is about breaking fellowship with God, and if we practice His presence, we can help eliminate much sin.

If we don’t listen to those God puts in our path to teach us, we aren’t listening to God (Matthew 10:40 / Luke 10:16 / John 13:20). Please pray to “catch the vision” (Ephesians 1:16-19)!

Realize God still loves you: He wants fellowship and He will work His power in you

Psalm 136 – He is full of mercies that are renewed every morning.

Isaiah 26:3 – Keeping our mind on God is the way to peace.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 – God has our best interests in mind.

Matthew 11:28 – Jesus is our rest if we believe.

John 14:27 – The world’s peace is absence of conflict, but God’s peace is an inner assurance that all is well despite circumstances.

Romans 5:1 – We have peace with God, not with our flesh.

Romans 8:1 – Don’t feel condemned, you’re disagreeing with God.

2 Corinthians 13:5,11 – The fact that you are examining yourself is proof that you care and that the Spirit is working in you.

Galatians 2:20 – We can overcome if we let Christ live in us.

Philippians 1:6 – God will do what He says; He finishes what He starts.

Philippians 2:13 – He is the one who works upon our actions.

Philippians 4:6-7 – Worry is a lack of trust in God.

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 – God will conform us into His image.

2 Timothy 2:11 – Jesus’ life is our life and power.

Hebrews 9:14 – The sacrifice was for our justification, but also for our sanctification.

We must not condone or compromise with sin; but we must bring courage and compassion to the sinner

Conviction is not for condemnation, it is for confession and crucifixion which brings conformity to and communion with Christ

Conscience gives us the chance to make the choice for change

The cross is where our commitment must be if we are to continue to be consecrated

Crisis events can only bring change if we attach concrete actions to them

Confession without commitment to consecration is a cancer that brings catastrophe

Continued rebellion causes the conscience to become crippled

Counterfeit Christ’s control and corrupt the conduct and character of those who don’t crucify the flesh

Contempt for God is shown by those who use grace as a cloak for sin

Consideration regarding liberty should be shown towards converts

Realize that you must stay in contact with the Word

If we’re not in the Word of God, then we’re not in the will of God, so we won’t have the wisdom of God, therefore we will be taken captive by the wiles of the devil and the wants of the flesh

There is no reason for you to believe that you will be successful in Spiritual warfare without having your sword sharpened and your armor on (Ephesians 6:10-18). If we are in an intimate, present reality, dynamic relationship with Christ, we will be invincible. But when we look away from Jesus we, like Peter, begin to see the storms of life, and sink under our own weight of unbelief.

God wants communion with us; if we become lax in our prayer life and Bible study, no matter how long we have been a Christian or how many verses we have memorized, our flow will be hampered. It is our constant communion with God that gives the Word its power; otherwise, the Holy Spirit will not be present, leaving the Word as the dead letter, ineffective to us. After all, do you not agree that it is the Spirit that gives life and that to stop the flow of communication means that using the Bible becomes an exercise in our own strength? You can’t bottle the anointing (Exodus 16:15-21), that is why we are to pray for our daily bread (Matthew 6:11).

The wisdom from God is predicated upon a present tense relationship with Him. No amount of “build up” or maturity can take this fact away. Want proof? How about Solomon: Once he strayed from God, he sank into apostasy. If it can happen to the wisest man who ever lived, then surely it can happen to us.

Modern day examples abound. Consider the great preachers who had anointing by the barrelful yet fell all the way down the mountain because they trusted in the past without tending to the present, treating God as a means to an end, rather than their relationship with Him being the purpose itself.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Arrow of Deception: Idolatry and Obedience (Jeremiah 41 – 44)

Many try and avoid going to the Cross, believing they can avoid the pain and still be a disciple of Christ. They are like the remnant of Judah after the fall of Jerusalem and the beginning of the Babylonian captivity. The Jewish remnant thought they could escape the trials of Babylon, which was caused by their continued disobedience, by going back to Egypt, the former place of their bondage, and now the place of their death. People are deceived into believing there is a short cut way around the death of the flesh, and it only leads to deception and more flesh, which is idolatry.

People sincerely believe that they can be openly disobedient, unrepentant, and still stay on track with God. They will try and justify themselves rather than just deny themselves. You will hear statements such as, “everyone has sin”, and “it’s no worse than what so and so is doing”, and the like. Of course, there is a complete difference between someone who knows he has sin, admits it is sin, and wants to be cleansed and free of it, and the person who stubbornly, and blindly will not even acknowledge that the thing they commit in front of God and man is even a problem.

Many think they are “getting away with it”, but even though they do not have to deal immediately with the problems posed by their lack of obedience (Jeremiah 42:14 / 44:17), it leads to an even greater problem, and greater suffering. Galatians 6:7-8 – Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

God breaks us down to purify us but we won’t comply, we struggle to try and find an “alternate route”. We understand that Jesus went to the Cross for us, and we feel that we have no need to follow Him, we don’t have to go through the pain, we can avoid it, there is another way, etc.

We only want to submit to God halfway, and it leads to deception and idolatry.

Exodus 20:3 – No other gods before me needs to be realized for what it means, because so many today think that it has no context, no relevance for today, being that no one is making idols out of wood, etc., at least in the West. However, an idol is anything that takes precedence over God, and most often it is self, and the self-ish, self-indulgent, fleshly desire of our nature to want to be able to hang on to our old life while claiming to be regenerated to new life.

Before is paniym (paw-neem), in front of, in the presence of, in the face of – they weren’t calling the golden calves Baal. God is omnipresent, and so everything is in His presence, or before Him, and so we may have no other Gods, period, not that God is to be placed first, He is to be the ONLY God we serve, and that includes self.

Jeremiah 41 – Jerusalem had fallen, and the governor that king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had appointed over it was murdered by one of the remnant Jews. They feared for their lives (vs.18), and also believed that they were right in wanting to have a prince of the house of David, and Ishmael was of the royal family (vs. 1). How often do we think our position protects us from having to go through judgment, or trials, how often are we deceived into believing we are actually fighting for a just and holy cause when we are really just blinded by our own esteem for ourselves.

Jeremiah 42 – the people wanted to hear God's Word from God’s prophet, but not so as to actually obey, but rather, that God might sanction what they had already determined to do. Jeremiah didn’t receive the Word for 10 days (vs. 7). The delay was designed to test the sincerity of their professed willingness to obey (vs. 5-6), and that they should have time to commit their wills to obedience. God told them through Jeremiah that He would protect, preserve, and eventually promote them through the trial (vs.10-12). God made it perfectly clear that they were not to go to Egypt (vs.14-19), but He knew that their hearts were hypocritical (vs.20-21) and declared their doomed destiny (vs.22).

Jeremiah 43 – the people were falling fast into apostasy. They turned on the Word of God through the prophet (vs. 2). They didn’t obey and went into Egypt (vs.7), and took Jeremiah with them. It reminds us of how they probably thought that having God’s prophet with them would be like having God’s blessing with them. This is using God’s tools like a magic weapon of sorts, like the Israelites did with the Ark of the Covenant (1 Samuel 4).

Jeremiah 44 – What happened to these people that went into Egypt is that they fell into total apostasy, they began blatant idolatry, and became deceived in so many ways that they were completely blinded to the truth of God’s Word (vs.17-19).

The people were so blind and hardhearted that they actually believed that serving other gods was their ticket to prosperity, and that disobedience was the way to safety and security. Jeremiah let them know that God in His longsuffering had let them go until their iniquity was fully ripe, and that it was their disobedience that lead to their lack, not leaving off the service to other gods (vs.21-23).

This is what happens when we fail to go to the Cross. We fail to suffer the death of the flesh, and our worship becomes as it did for these that went to Egypt, it becomes vain and idolatrous, without our even realizing it. This is what happened to others whose pride eventually lead to their downfall, those who thought that they could worship God “any old way they felt like”. Results and relationships cloud their judgment and discernment.

Adam saw Eve eat the apple, but he still had a choice. He could have chosen not to eat of the apple himself. Instead, he chose his relationship with his wife over his relationship with God and His Word. This is why Jesus told us that if someone wouldn’t hate their family compared to Him, they couldn’t be His disciple (Luke 14:26).

Think about Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10. They relied on their relationship to their father Aaron and as priests to protect them from having to worship in the way God intended for the “others”.

How about Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:31 / 12:20, 25-33 / 13:34)? He was given the 10 northern tribes by God, yet he thought that he could establish a different place and different methods of worship. They didn’t start out thinking those idols were other gods, they worshipped them as Jehovah, just as Aaron and the Israelites did while Moses was on Sinai.

King Uzziah was a great and godly king, but his results lifted up his heart, and he thought his relationship with the Lord meant that he could act as priest as well as king (2 Chronicles 26:3-5, 15-16). He paid dearly.

A lesson is this: we must stay in a repentant attitude, and if God says that we are to do something in a certain way, then we are unwise, unrepentant, and rebellious to do otherwise. It will lead to deception and idolatry, where we will think we are doing right but we are sincerely wrong. Sincerity is no substitute for truth.

Deception can be very subtle. If you place a frog in a pan of boiling water, he will jump out immediately. However, if you place him in a pan with cool water, and then slowly turn up the heat, soon you will have frog legs for dinner.

Protecting yourself by running to “Egypt” won’t work (Jonah) (Psalm 139:7) – people who plan an “out” by waiting until people vanish at the rapture and then they will get saved, etc.

Now let’s look closer and see just how deceived these people were, and how certain things can blindside us. Jeremiah 44:17: “T’s” of idolatry, the pragmatic outworking of today, and the “scriptural justification” some might use to keep from being obedient.

1) Testimony / “out of our own mouths” – who are you to tell us, we are just as much a Christian as you, we are holy and righteous in this, you are the false teacher, buddy! The Lord orders our steps!

Answer: Jeremiah 6:16 / Luke 4:4 / Numbers 16:3 / Proverbs 14:12, 21:2

2) Togetherness / “we” – we need unity, division is bad, your doctrine causes strife, can’t we just get along, Jesus wants us together no matter what, what about John 17?

Answer – Romans 16:17-18, we mark those against God and his doctrine, not those who rebuke each other (Titus 3:9-10)

3) Tradition / “our fathers” – always done it this way – Jesus never changes (Hebrews 13:8)

Answer: Mark 7:7 / Colossians 2:8, make sure traditions are Bible, Queen of Heaven and Mariolatry (1 Timothy 2:5), doctrines of demons like not marrying and abstaining from meat (1 Timothy 4:3)

4) Teachers / “our kings and princes” – doing what we were taught, are just submitting to authority (Romans 13)

Answer: Acts 4:19,5:29, as they follow Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1 / Ephesians 5:1)

5) Totality / “city of Judah” – this is a universal doctrine or practice, everybody’s doing it, why would we be the ones to get punished for it, mouth of two or three, multitude of counselors, all the other prophets are saying peace, three fold cord not easily broken, etc.

Answer: 1 Thessalonians 5:21

6) Treachery / “streets of Jerusalem” – out in the open (open season for treason), shameless conduct (lasciviousness), we are not doing anything wrong or anything in secret, we aren’t hiding it, everybody knows it, no harm in this we are doing it for good reasons, we are doing it in faith (Romans 14:23), we see the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5).

The emergent church movement or conversation is trying to justify all types of treachery, and promoting things such as yoga, labyrinths, burning incense, contemplative prayer, and the like. They do these things under the guise of finding more ways to be intimate with God. However, their idolatry shows itself in their self-indulgence and licentiousness, with their justification of tattoos, piercing, cussing, etc. They justify trying to be like the culture by saying that it allows them to be more able to identify with those whom they witness to, but we are supposed to be identifying with Jesus, not them. We shouldn’t try to show that Christianity is “cool”. Yes you can have a tattoo and go to heaven, but we don’t need to get a tattoo to show others the way to heaven. Do you see the difference, the subtle deception that can creep in? It is the same for all seven points here.

“Christian coolness” is not evangelical relevance, it may be cultural relevance, but it is worldliness, not Christian maturity. It is irresponsible. It is compromising the integrity of the Christian witness. More often than not, those who would emphasize Christian liberty are actually just exercising the old man. The converts these people make are just converts to their idea of religion, but it is not authentic Christianity, it is a counterfeit. They have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof to live a holy life and break away from the world. They are lovers of self and pleasures more than lovers of God (2 Timothy 3:4-5).

Answer: Ecclesiastes 8:11 / Deuteronomy 8:16 / Proverbs 28:26

7) Treasure / “plenty” – prosperity as the measure, pragmatic yardstick, it works, Gamaliel (Acts 5), don’t trash what God is blessing, etc.

A well-known teacher says the Bible is only one message, obey and God will bless (wrong: we can’t obey and so God gives us grace, he blesses us by changing our sinful situation, not our social situation), and they are “living now in my reward” (verily I say unto you, you have your reward)

Answer: Proverbs 1:32 / Romans 16:17-18 / Deuteronomy 13 / 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12, logical fallacy of induction (specific to general)

Vs. 18 – Malachi 3:13-15 / Job 13:15

Vs. 28 – Malachi 3:16+

Ezekiel 14 / 2 Samuel 22:27 / Luke 19:21-22

All true knowledge of God is born out of obedience – John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion. Character determines revelation – Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

Obedience doesn’t get you a reward for being good, what it does is keep you from getting the wrong perspective, you stay in the bread line and keep getting good food, wholesome and not leavened. You may “get away with” certain sins for a time, but they lead to a bigger problem, the idolatry of self, where you have a hard heart and cannot be broken, and are led into deception and perversion, apostasy and falling away.

Philippians 3:18-19 (NLT) – For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. Their future is eternal destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and all they think about is this life here on earth.

Be aware of this fact: it is not those who don’t even claim the name of Christ that Paul is talking about in this passage, it is those who remain self-indulgent, who don’t press on to maturity, but who keep feeding their old man, and then try and justify it by saying that they are allowed, or even that it is somehow right. They are ripe for deception, and are already deceived. It is not those who are trapped in sin, even, that Paul is discussing and warning about, it is those who defiantly state that they are of Christ but who won’t take their self-indulgent old man to the Cross.

Their end is destruction, whose god is their belly, or their own appetites, meaning they do what they want to do; their god is their own self-ish desires, with its self-indulgent agenda. They are proud of their liberty, thinking they are more enlightened than those whom they see as more narrow-minded, and they are constantly trying to defend their “right” to import this or that practice from the world. They are worldly, they thought they could be whatever they wanted to be, worship however they wanted to, and approach a holy God anyway they saw fit, and still keep Jesus too.

They wouldn’t let anyone correct them, they wouldn’t accept rebuke or be admonished, and they thought that they knew better. They are not broken by their sin and instead of falling on Christ, He will fall on them to their peril (Matthew 21:44). They wouldn’t suffer the death of the flesh; they are enemies of the Cross of Christ.

In this way are they enemies of the Cross: they may have thought they believed in it for Jesus, and indeed that is all it takes to be saved, believing Jesus died on the Cross for your sins is a saving knowledge of Christ. However, the bible clearly teaches that this knowledge if held in truth will cause a believer to also follow Jesus to the Cross. Godliness teaches us to become more and more repentant, our lives will progressively become more and more unlike the world, not like the world.

The degree of effectiveness in an individuals life is not the question, the resolve to do it at all or to deny the need to is the matter at hand (1 Corinthians 5), the desire to become sanctified in practice, rather than defiantly avoiding the possibility of going to the Cross for the gradual death of the self life, that is the question. In essence, they deny this saving knowledge in practice, if not in doctrine, by not believing in and following Jesus to the Cross in their own life. They became progressively more and more deceived, their faith was proven not to be real, and they are damned.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©