Sunday, November 27, 2011

Are Americans Confused?

The last time I read a poll about Americans and Christianity, Americans were polled to be 80% Christian. I am sure that is significantly less today; however, there are still many that would consider themselves to be Christians. The reality is, many consider themselves Christians because their parents were and that’s how they grew up; I even had one person tell me after I asked him how long he’s been a Christian say, “I was born that way.” I am not trying to criticize people with this mind set, because the fact is, the devil has done a good job of deceiving; after all, that is what he does. The devil is so crafty that he can manipulate people in to using the term Christianity, and even the name of Jesus and still create the stumbling blocks necessary to keep you from being saved. By that I mean, the same people that will consider themselves Christian probably have heard the bad news of sin and hell; and they have definitely heard the Good News of Jesus dying for their sin (even if they don’t understand it completely); but the major problem is, most don’t really know what God’s Word says about the “evidence” that you are truly saved. If Satan can give you a false sense of “eternal security” he still wins. Whether you live like the worst wretch in the world, or if you live with a confused belief of Salvation, Satan wins. Both groups of people will die in their sin.

Case in point, a friend of mine was out on a “meals on wheels” outreach with a church for Thanksgiving. The person he was partnered up with had been a member of that church for over 30 years. As they drove around, my friend started talking to him about Jesus, and how he’d recently been saved, and how he now lives for Jesus and loves to share the Gospel. In my friend’s words, “he looked at me like I had three eyes and couldn’t change the subject fast enough.”

A different friend (yes, I have two) posted a link to an amazing blog post on his Facebook page and I wanted to share it here. Of all the Truth Americans need to hear from God’s Word, I think this is the most important:

Question: "If I am saved and all of my sins are forgiven, why not continue to sin?"

Answer: The apostle Paul answered a very similar question in Romans 6:1-2,

Romans 6:1-2 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2  By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

The idea that a person could “trust in Jesus Christ” for salvation and then go on living just as he/she lived before, is absolutely foreign to the Bible. Believers in Christ are new creations

2Corinthians 5:17  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

The Holy Spirit changes us from producing the acts of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21) to producing the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). The Christian life is a changed life because the Christian is changed.

Galatians 5:19-23 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

What differentiates Christianity from every other religion is that Christianity is based on what God has done for us through Jesus Christ—divine accomplishment. Every other world religion is based on what we must do to earn God's favor and forgiveness—human achievement. Every other religion teaches that we must do certain things and stop doing certain other things in order to earn God's love and mercy. Christianity, faith in Christ, teaches that we do certain things and stop doing certain things because of what Christ has done for us.

How could anyone, having been delivered from sin's penalty, eternity in hell, go back to living the same life that had him on the path to hell in the first place? How could anyone, having been cleansed from the defilement of sin, desire to go back to the same cesspool of depravity? How could anyone, knowing what Jesus Christ did on our behalf, go on living as if He were not important? How could anyone, realizing how much Christ suffered for our sins, continue sinning as if those sufferings were meaningless?

Romans 6:11-15 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13  Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. 15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!

For the truly converted, then, continuing to live sinfully is not an option. Because our conversion resulted in a completely new nature, our desire is to no longer live in sin. Yes, we still sin, but instead of wallowing in it as we once did, we now hate it and wish to be delivered from it. The idea of “taking advantage” of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf by continuing to live sinfully is unthinkable. If a person believes himself to be a Christian and still desires to live the old, sinful life, he has reason to doubt his salvation.

2Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?--unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

The take away from this is simply, we need to agree with God about sin; what sin is and what the penalty of sin is. When we do that we will surrender our life to Him, we will turn away from sin, and trust in Jesus Christ alone to save us.

Ephesians 5:15-21  Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Old and New...Same God, Same Plan...Praise God

Going forward with the blog I planned to be a little bit random, meaning, if the Lord is showing me something that I want to share, I will. Otherwise, my intention is to slowly and methodically work/blog through Isaiah, while ("behind the scenes") learning how to read prophecy through a study guide on Hosea. That being said, as I was preparing for this I was reading some really good stuff to set the table for Isaiah and I wanted to share that here:

The central theme of Isaiah is God Himself, who does all things for His own sake:

Isaiah 48:11 For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.

Isaiah defines everything else by its relation to God, whether it is rightly adjusted to Him as the glorious central figure in all of reality.

Isaiah 45:22-25 "Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. 23 By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: 'To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.' 24 "Only in the LORD, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength; to him shall come and be ashamed all who were incensed against him. 25 In the LORD all the offspring of Israel shall be justified and shall glory."

God is the Holy One of Israel,

Isaiah 1:4 Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the LORD, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged.

the One who is high and lifted up but who also dwells down among the “contrite and lowly”,

Isaiah 57:15 For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: "I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.

The Sovereign over the whole world, whose Wrath is fierce:

Isaiah 9:12-21 The Syrians on the east and the Philistines on the west devour Israel with open mouth. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still. 13 The people did not turn to him who struck them, nor inquire of the LORD of hosts. 14 So the LORD cut off from Israel head and tail, palm branch and reed in one day-- 15 the elder and honored man is the head, and the prophet who teaches lies is the tail; 16 for those who guide this people have been leading them astray, and those who are guided by them are swallowed up. 17 Therefore the Lord does not rejoice over their young men, and has no compassion on their fatherless and widows; for everyone is godless and an evildoer, and every mouth speaks folly. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still. 18 For wickedness burns like a fire; it consumes briers and thorns; it kindles the thickets of the forest, and they roll upward in a column of smoke. 19 Through the wrath of the LORD of hosts the land is scorched, and the people are like fuel for the fire; no one spares another. 20 They slice meat on the right, but are still hungry, and they devour on the left, but are not satisfied; each devours the flesh of his own arm, 21 Manasseh devours Ephraim, and Ephraim devours Manasseh; together they are against Judah. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still.

Isaiah 10:4 Nothing remains but to crouch among the prisoners or fall among the slain. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still.

but whose cleansing touch atones for sin,

Isaiah 6:7 And he touched my mouth and said: "Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for."

whose Salvation flows in endless supply,

Isaiah 12:3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

whose Gospel is Good News of happiness,

Isaiah 52:7 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, "Your God reigns."

who is moving history toward the blessing of His people and the exclusive worship due Him.

Isaiah 43:3-7 For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. 4 Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. 5 Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you. 6 I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, 7 everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made."

Isaiah 2:2-4 It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, 3 and many peoples shall come, and say: "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths." For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 4 He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.

He is the only Savior,

Isaiah 43:10-13 "You are my witnesses," declares the LORD, "and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. 11 I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior. 12 I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses," declares the LORD, "and I am God. 13 Also henceforth I am he; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?"

And the whole world will know it.

Isaiah 49:26 I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh, and they shall be drunk with their own blood as with wine. Then all flesh shall know that I am the LORD your Savior, and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob."

To rest in the promise of this God is His people’s only strength;

Isaiah 30:15 For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, "In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength." But you were unwilling,

To delight themselves in His Word is their refreshing feast;

Isaiah 55:1-2 "Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.

To serve His cause is their worthy devotion, but to rebel against Him is endless death.

Isaiah 66:24 "And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh."

As an FYI: The “table setting” is from the ESV Study Bible and the Hosea study I am doing is from Hands to the Plow Ministries (Tom Kelby)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

What entertains you?

I haven’t decided how I am going to proceed with the blog; however, today I feel compelled to preach to myself, and if anyone else can relate, please be encouraged.

Last night I went to a friend’s 45th Surprise Birthday Party which was at a bar with live music. I knew what the scene would be like before I went in, so I prayed that the Lord would give me the strength to keep my eyes and mind from wandering. Although it didn’t go great, it wasn’t too bad; I diverted my eyes and attention “OK” for the 2 hours I was there.

When I got home my wife wanted to watch a movie, which we enjoy doing, but haven’t made the time to do much lately. As we scrolled through the On-Demand New Release options I agreed to watch “Horrible Bosses”. First of all, it is rated ‘R’. Second, I didn’t read the movie description. Third, I continued watching the movie even after I realized the lewd and vulgar content. Which brings me to today’s blog post.

I know enough about the Word of God to know that we are called to fix our mind and heart on Jesus. We are also called to prepare our minds for action and hold every thought captive. When you voluntarily subject and submit yourself to vulgar, blasphemous, profane, and sexual immoral content in any form of entertainment….whether it be movies, TV, music, books, magazines, fantasy, or theatre…you are outside of God’s will for your life. He DOES NOT want us to flood our mind with anything unrighteous and if this is a habit and/or practice in our life we need to repent of it.

2Corinthians 10:3-6 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, 6 and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.

Although we function in our daily lives in the flesh, our battle is not of flesh and blood, our battle is in the spiritual realm, where God is the only One with the power to tear down the strongholds. The mind has been referred to as the “devil’s playground”; however, Satan and his demons flee in terror at the Name of Jesus. So, if you really don’t want the devil using your mind as a playground, rebuke those thoughts in the name of Jesus and start quoting Scripture. The problem is, in our weakness, we want to entertain these things in our mind, we want “just a taste”. The desire for that “taste” becomes less and less, and weaker and weaker as we grow in Christ and abide in Him more and more; but until it is completely gone and of no effect, we need to prepare our mind for action if we sincerely want to live a life pleasing to Our King.

1Peter 1:13-16 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy."

Just before I got saved I listened to a preacher continually in my truck and he used to say, “What does ‘all’ mean?”….”All means all that’s all, all means.” So in light of this reality, read the underlined portion of verse 15 again: be holy in all your conduct.

For us to be holy in ALL of our conduct, it is going to require a transforming of our mind. God always does what He promises; when we are born-again we are given a new heart with new desires; but there seems to still be a level of continued surrender on our part; why else would Paul say, “BE TRANSFORMED”. In other words, do you want to be transformed, or are you just saying you do….is it a wish, or a decision?

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Ephesians 4:17-24 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!-- 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

The truth is, when you have made the decision to follow Christ, you will be transformed. You will not be perfect, but when you slip up, like I did last night, you will have Godly sorrow and you will repent of it. It is not remorse from the stand point of “being caught” because there wasn’t anything to “get caught” in by the world’s standards; after all, my wife enjoyed the movie and would be confused by this post. But I felt the heavy hand of conviction and immediately knew I needed to seek forgiveness from my King. This isn’t the first time I have made this mistake, but hopefully it will be the last. That being said, repentance is turning from this behavior. If I already had plans to watch another vulgar movie tonight, that would not be repentance, that would simply be a sin-sorry-sin-sorry dance that leads to hell. Instead, because I know this is outside of God’s will, I will seek His forgiveness. It is not until I know this is sinful that I can get forgiveness, after all, why would I confess my sins to God if I didn’t think it was a sin? On the other hand, if I am convicted and broken over the fact that I sinned against my Lord, I will confess it to Him. Look what He does when I do that:

1John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

THAT IS POWERFUL!!! Check that out. In 22 Words we see the whole deal. First, Jesus is the ONLY ONE with the power to save or condemn. Second, Jesus is the only One with the power to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness. Third, it starts with agreeing with Him that what you are confessing is sin. Fourth, once you have been brought to the knowledge of the Truth, you will confess your sins to Him and call out, “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

WHAT DOES HE DO AFTER THAT? HE CLEANSES US….from what? Unrighteousness! How much unrighteousness? ALL UNRIGHTEOUSNESS!! Thank You Jesus!!

We may never use our liberty in Christ as a license to sin; liberty is not license. Jesus made it very clear in His earthly ministry how important it is that our mind be as diligent as our heart and soul to seek, worship and love Him.

Matthew 22:36-37 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" 37 And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely

The Bible, which is God’s Word, is the primary way He communicates with believers. We do not have to guess what God’s will is, we do not have to guess what He loves and what He hates; it is all made abundantly clear in His Word. With that being said, I find it EXTREMELY interesting that the first Words of Jesus Christ in the last chapter of His Word are almost identical to the last Words of the last chapter of His Word:

Revelation 22:7 "Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book."

Revelation 22:20 He who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming quickly." Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

At the beginning of chapter 22, John is given an image of the Kingdom of Heaven. He is so overtaken, that when the angel revealed this to him he dropped down and worship the angel. If you remember a few chapters back, John already made this mistake (worshiping an angel) and he was quickly rebuked, just as he is here:

Revelation 22:8-9 Now I, John, saw and heard these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things. 9 Then he said to me, "See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God."

Seemingly that it would not get missed, Jesus tells us again who He is and an additional warning that He is coming quickly:

Revelation 22:12-14 "And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last." 14 Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.

Did you read my above comment about, “an additional warning”, and say, “WARNING!? More like a promise!”?  If so, PRAISE GOD! Because to those of us that are born-again that is a promise from our King that we are anticipating. I, for one, would love to be here when Jesus comes back! For those that do not feel the excitement and anticipation of Jesus’ return, or maybe you don’t believe that is going to happen, or maybe you think it is completely illogical; I would say, God has never lied, He has never missed an event on His prophetic time table and He will not start with being wrong about His return. He tells us over and over again that He is coming back, He even tells us how He is coming so we do not get deceived by posers. Do not harden your heart, because in addition to making His return clear, He also makes it clear who will not enter Heaven:

Revelation 22:15-16  But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie. 16 "I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star."

Jesus wants to save you, and He makes it clear that you can drink from the water of Life without charge. Jesus is not the only one saying “Come”….the Holy Spirit is saying “Come”….followers of Jesus Christ are saying “Come”. True followers of Jesus Christ are referred to as the “bride of Christ” and they do not say “Come to Jesus” because they will be saved any more…it is not a multi-level scheme….followers of Christ tell people about Jesus because they are overjoyed that God saved them, they now know they narrowly escaped eternal condemnation by the Grace of God and they want everyone to escape God’s Wrath…God wants you to escape His Wrath….that is why the Spirit and the bride say “Come”:

Revelation 22:17 And the Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.

Revelation 22:21 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.