Do we care about having our sins forgiven?

During a time of his ministry where Jesus was actively healing lots of people, a paralytic was brought in. Of course, the expectation is that Jesus will heal the man and he will walk again. But what Jesus says catches him off guard.

So He got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His own city. Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.” Matthew 9:1-2 NKJV

Here is a guy that has been paralyzed for who knows how long, being told of the amazing healing that Jesus is doing in others, probably excited and nervous, wanting to be healed but not completely sure if this is all true or not. And then Jesus says to him, “be happy! Your sins are forgiven.”

I wonder what that man’s thoughts are at that moment. The story goes on to tell us what those around Jesus are thinking, but not this man.

Was he excited? Or was he bummed that he couldn’t walk? Maybe this whole thing was a fraud, or maybe God just didn’t want to heal him.

We don’t know what he was thinking, and can’t really speculate, but I bet his response was completely dependent on this man’s view of his own sin. And this is where we can take a lesson and apply it to our own lives.

If this man saw sin as something that “everybody does,” a part of every day life that, yeah, maybe it sucks, but we just have to deal with it because “I’m only human” then he was likely disappointed at this news that Jesus shared. Sin can be seen as a bit of an ephemeral thing, something we know happens but don’t see the effects of so we don’t take it seriously. And since “everyone does it” we assume it’s a normal part of our daily lives and move on. In this case it is only our physical needs that we really care about. “Who cares about my sin! Just make me walk again, that’s what matters!”

On the other hand, if we see sin as God sees it–as a horrible act of disobedience that severs our relationship with our creator–then at that moment we would break down in joy. Our sin has been forgiven! That which should never be forgiven, that which can never be made up for, is gone! Who cares about physical healing, or if we will ever walk again, or have perfect health. Our relationship with God can be restored! Isn’t that an amazing thing?

You can tell a lot about a person’s spiritual health by how they treat sin. If sin is something they tolerate and are okay with, then something is wrong. The person is spiritually sick. But if sin is something that they hate, something they want no part of and are eager to give up, that person will be shown mercy from God.

He who covers his sins will not prosper,
But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy. – Proverbs 28:13 NKJV

Yes, we are all sinners, and will continue to sin until we shed these bodies, but sin is not something we are to tolerate as believers. We have been set free and saved from sin, not so we can continue living in that filth, but so we can experience redemption and a restored relationship with God, our father. It isn’t just about being sorry we sinned, or sorry we got caught, but wanting to forsake sin completely!

Stand firm, act like men. Do all in … what?

Yesterday when reading the Bible I came across one of my favorite Bible verses. In 1 Corinthians Paul is trying to encourage the church and he says something that many men’s Bible studies have memorized.

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. (‭1 Corinthians ‭16‬:‭13‬ ESV)

This is an awesome verse. I can just see someone like William Wallace, a great warrior, standing in front of an army while waiting to be ambushed.

Face painted, looking fierce, walk back and forth in front of his army. Trying to encourage his men and give them the courage to stand through the night he starts to shout. “Be watchful,” he says, staring the men in the eyes as he passes by them in the chill night air. “Stand firm in faith,” he says, “act like men!” Then pulling out his claymore and pointing it towards the direction of the enemy army he yells “Be strong!”

You can hear the strength in his voice and all of the men shout, feeling fearless as they follow this warrior.

This is just such a great passage that really encourages men to stand apart, not to fall, and be warriors. Don’t fall into pornography, it’s a trap! Be watchful of your actions, of what your eyes wonder too. Watch what your family does and stand strong for them. Lead them. Because this is what a man is supposed to do!

And then I read the next verse and it kind of shattered this whole image of William Wallace.

Let all that you do be done in love. (‭1 Corinthians ‭16‬:‭14‬ ESV)

For some reason I just can’t see any strong warrior shouting this at the end of their battle cry. As men, we love to be strong, watchful, courageous. These are qualities we look up to in others and hope to have in ourselves.

But love? That doesn’t describe a warrior. You don’t see Navy SEALS talking about love. So why is Paul putting these statements together?

God obviously thinks that loving others is of supreme importance. Jesus tells us to love our enemie (Matthew 5:44) and tells us that loving God, and loving others, are the two greatest commandments (Matthew 22:36-40).

Then God gives us the ultimate example of love in the cross, where God did not conquer evil, but gave His only Son to die in the place of those who are rebelling against Him. Why? As John 3:16 says, Because God so loved.

Paul makes it clear that it doesn’t matter how faithful of a follower of God you are, or how awesome of a warrior you are, if you don’t have love and act out of love then you are nothing.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (‭1 Corinthians ‭13‬:‭1-3‬ ESV)

Trying to live our daily lives interacting with so many people is tough. We get short with our spouses because, often times because of pride. We start to get frustrated or angry at our kids, neighbors, or coworkers. And yet these very people are our mission field. We are called to be Christ to them. To love them.

In every interaction, no matter how difficult it is, we are told to love them.

Be strong, Christian brother. Stay strong in faith. Be watchful and ever vigilant. Act like men, and let all that you do be done in love.

The Silliness of Hiding from God

A few months ago, I started something new in my family: budgeting. I know, the dreaded “B” word, one that I tried for so long to avoid. Assigning every dollar a job and keeping track of every dollar spent has been great in helping us not overspend. With there being so much benefit to this, I thought I would never again go back to the world of spontaneous spending and not tracking each transaction (Yay, YNAB!).

But then, I would make a purchase that I knew I shouldn’t make. I felt guilty for spending the money on things like eating out when we are low on grocery money, or buying a movie just because I’m bored. I realized that when I would make those purchases, I would resist wanting to record the transaction.

I don’t really know why I wouldn’t record it; it’s not like I was hiding it from the bank. Once the transaction has been made, the bank is fully aware of it. The amount available in my account will reflect this transaction, even if I never record it in the budget.

Ultimately, the only person I’m hiding the transaction from is myself. It becomes a pain to reconcile my checking account to the budget when I have transactions that I didn’t track, and eventually I have to track them anyway, so, really, hiding it from my account does me no good.

Because of my guilt, however, I somehow feel better, or at least I think I can ignore the guilty purchase, by not recording it. It really is silly and pointless.

Then, I realized that we end up doing this same silly thing with God. We sin, and then think that we can somehow hide it from God. So, we don’t confess it; we try to hide it and move on with our lives like we never committed that sin.

The entire time, the only person we are hurting is ourselves. It weighs on our conscience, and continues bothering us and sapping away our joy. God already knows that we sinned. Heck, He knew that we would commit those sins before we were ever born. Yet He still chose to save us and love us. We are not really hiding anything from Him, so why don’t we just confess the sin, repent from it, and move on?

Doing this is just part of our rebellious human nature. It goes all the way back to Adam and Eve:

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself” (Genesis 3:7-10 NKJV).

After they sinned, they felt shame, and tried to hide what they did from God. God is all knowing. Can anyone hide anything from Him? Of course not, but we try anyway.

Some people try their best to act righteous in an attempt to hide whatever wrong they have done, but God sees right through this:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:25-28 NKJV).

The Pharisees would pretend that they were righteous, while still hiding their sin from people and attempting to hide it from God. But Jesus was not fooled. He saw right through their mask and went to their hearts. These are the people that Jesus rebuked.

But those who openly admitted their sin and then repented of their sin, those are the people that Jesus spent time with and praised.

Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Matthew 9:10-13 NKJV).

Basically, it all comes down to this. Yes, you sin. God knows it, so don’t try to hide it. Repent from your sin (turn away from it), and follow Jesus.

Just like you can never hide a transaction from your bank, you cannot hide your sin from God. He already knows about it.

That’s the beautiful thing, though. If you are a Christian, God knew that you would sin before He chose to save you, and He still chose you, despite that – because God loves you.

If you have been avoiding church, or avoiding fellowship with other believers because you feel ashamed for what you have done, know that it isn’t hidden. God already knows about it, so stop letting that be your excuse to not go to church.

If you have been resisting the idea of repenting from a sin as a way to hide it, then know that you are only hiding it from yourself. God knows about it already, so the longer you hide it from yourself, the longer it will weigh down on your conscience and drag you down.

Is there something that you have been trying to hide from yourself that you need to get out in the open?

The Discipline of Discipleship

US Air Force 061029-f-8789C-041 Chuck Norris v...
US Air Force 061029-f-8789C-041 Chuck Norris visits the 386 AEW (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last night at church we had a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) demonstration followed by some teaching.  It was a great time.  I got some great notes from the speakers.  The first speaker was Carlos Machado who is friends with Chuck Norris, the demi-god that is said to start fire by rubbing ice cubes together, can count to infinity, and has a living grizzly bear as a rug in his room; too afraid to move.  He also did some work on the show Walker, Texas Ranger.

The second was from Victor Marx (http://www.victormarx.com/) who tells the story of his tragic life growing up, and how he fully embraces Romans 8:28 when it says “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”  You should really check out his story and documentary.

I will be talking more about these guys and some of the stuff they taught me soon, but for now I want to talk about something that comes from just the foundation of martial arts.

When you hear of martial arts, what do you think of? Fighting? Mr. Miyagi?  Martial arts is not just about getting strong and fighting to beat people up.  It is a discipline; it teaches discipline.

dis·ci·pline

  • training to act in accordance with rules; drill
  • activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill; training
  • the rigor or training effect of experience

The word discipline is a heavy word.  If you want to be really good at something it takes a lot of personal discipline to get good at it.  This goes with anything. Martial arts, musical instruments, carpentry, or programming.

To be good, to be effective, you must discipline yourself. You must work hard, and not just from time to time, but all the time.  These guys that are good at martial arts are good because they do it, every day.  Hours a day of training and dedication to get good.

I can speak from experience with this point, but from the other side.  I have tried to play multiple instruments in my life, and tried various disciplines of martial arts, but for one reason or another (or for one knee giving out or another), I had to give it up.  Sure, I had a couple months of training, but it never became a part of my life.  Nothing that I ever became dedicated about long enough to get good.

I do remember a few things though.  Like how to break some simple wrist holds (if you hold my wrist in just the right way) and I can, with a lot of effort, play part of Fur Elise on a keyboard still, but I’m not good at it.  I did not, or was not able to, stick with it enough to let it become a discipline in my life.

Ever wonder why the followers of Jesus called themselves disciples?

This thought crossed my mind last night while thinking on these things.  Is it a coincidence that these words sound like they have the same root word?

Is it possible to be a disciple of Jesus Christ without having the same kind of discipline towards Him that martial artists have in training?

If you have followed this website for any amount of time it is no surprise to you that I am a fan of Leonard Ravenhill.  Leonard Ravenhill was a preacher with a great ministry. He was able to reach people for Christ and encouraged a lot of people to be bold preachers, to be prayer warriors, and to long for personal revival in ones life.

But the ministry he had did not come to him easily, it was not something that he just participated in occasionally and one day something just clicked and he was deeply spiritual.  On the contrary, every part of his life and ministry had the impact it had on others’ lives only because he was disciplined.  It was only because he treated prayer like a discipline that he was effective at all.  His son, David, said this about him.

My father was a powerfully anointed preacher who could bring down the convicting presence of God in a way that very few can. People would begin making their way to the altar even before any type of invitation was given, their hearts pierced by the Word of God. His preaching was superceded only by his passion for prayer. Like the apostle Paul, he carried “the daily pressure of concern for the church.” Prayer was his life. Prior to his death in 1994 he told me he had received a number of requests from seminary students who wanted to come and see him for the sole purpose of having him lay his hands upon them in order to receive his “mantle.” With his typical dry British humor, but at the same time deadly serious, he said, “Everyone wants to have my mantle but nobody wants my sackcloth and ashes.”

Leonard Ravenhill. Why Revival Tarries (Kindle Locations 21-26). Kindle Edition.

1 Corinthians 9:24-25 tells us that we are to train in the same way, with the same intensity that an athlete trains.  Not training to run, but to win.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.

I remember being amazed during the Olympics that just ended at the athletic ability of each of these athletes.  It never came easy to them, well, maybe for Phelps (just kidding).  They gave their life to their sport, to not just doing a good job at it, but at being the best.  None of them trained for last placed, or trained for the bronze; they trained to win the gold.

The self-discipline required to do that was amazing.  Hours a day at the gym and training for years on end, giving up many of the pleasures of life we enjoy like deserts or watching tv and playing games.  Why did they do it? For a medal and for fame.

How much more, my brothers and sisters, how much more should we be training spiritually to take the gold.  Not for fame and fortune, but to know God, to draw closer to God.  To have more faith.

Faith comes from God

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, – Ephesians 2:8

And through reading scripture

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. – Romans 10:17

It makes us strive to live Holy before God, while Jesus works on completing our faith

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:1-2

Being a Christian is not a weekend adventure, or morals we consult occasionally, it is a lifestyle of following Christ, a discipline of putting Him first in our life.  In every part of our life.

After all, this IS the call that Jesus gave to those who want to be His disciples.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. – Matthew 16:24

Oh father, please forgive me for the lukewarm attitude I have had towards you.  Help me to have the discipline to put you as a priority in my life every day, and to stop living a life that ignores you.  Father, give me a renewed vision of the goal, and give me an increase in faith.  Only you are worthy of the pursuit of my life.

Amen.

A mission field forgotten

Francis Chan
Francis Chan (Photo credit: williamhartz)

While listening to Francis Chan the other day something he said really struck out at me.  He said that if you went on a missions trip to Africa, every single day you were there you would have the mission in mind.  It is what you are there for, your primary focus.  You would wake up in the morning and the first thing you would think about would be the mission.  Your life there would be consumed by it.

Then when we get back to the U.S. we relax and get back into the mentality of this being our home.  We let down our focus and the mission to us becomes nothing more than what we did that one week in Africa.

But the reality is that we have just as much of a mission here at home as we do when we go on missions trips to other cities and countries.  Perhaps even more so in some cases.

We have a culture that has been raised thinking it is a God fearing, Christ loving, Christian culture while they go about living their lives for themselves, enjoying their sin and not giving any thought to Jesus or to the gospel message. We have thousands of people filling churches in our neighborhood believing they are saved but in reality they are just in denial.

Then we have thousands more that do not know the gospel at all, or only know of some perversion of it.  They do not give any time to think that they might be a sinner, or that they are living their life in rejection of God.  These people all around us that we are in contact with every day are going to hell and they laugh at the thought without understanding how serious that truly is.

This is our mission field, masked by the fog of normal day-to-day life. It is time to see through that fog so we can work the field that surrounds us.

The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few – Matthew 9:37

In the next article we will start to see what is creating this fog over our mission field.

This is the first part of a series titled: Neglecting our Mission Field

What is Spiritual Warfare?

Machew is a guest writer to ETM, and as such the views expressed in this article may not be the views of ETM and its staff.

It is incredibly important for the church as a whole to understand spiritual warfare.  Too often Christians delegate their struggles to their flesh not realizing that much of what you think and feel doesn’t originate from you at all.  We have a very real enemy that will stop at nothing to get you to convince yourself with his lies to undermine your walk with Jesus and to make destructive decisions in your life.  For this reason, I write this article.

Before I start with Spiritual Warfare, I need to lay down some Biblical Context:

We will start in Genesis:

Genesis 1:26-30 (NASB)(emphasis mine)

26Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.

27God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

28God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.

29Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you;

30and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so.

So what is the point I want to make in this passage? God gave Adam and Eve delegated authority to rule over the Earth. We all know how this story ends, the devil comes in the form of a serpent and Adam and Eve eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and they fall because of sin. The devil had no authority over the Earth before the fall. So how did he get his authority?

When Adam and Eve came into agreement with the devil’s assessment of reality, they sinned. And because there was no atonement for sin at the time, they were separated from God and their agreement with the devil essentially handed over their delegate authority over the Earth to the devil. (John 12:31, John 14:30, 2 Corinthians 4:4, Matthew 4:8-10)

Next I will give some basic groundwork to what spiritual warfare is.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NASB)(emphasis mine)

3For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh,

4for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.

5We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,

So according 2 Corinthians spiritual battles happen in our mind and thought life. Why is this the case?

In Matthew 4:8-10 Jesus is tempted by the devil, as the devil offers Jesus all of the kingdoms of the world if he bows down to him and worships him. The devil still had the authority and rulership over the Earth from Adam and Eve. But after the resurrection of Jesus, He says to His disciples in Matthew 28:18 “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me

If Jesus now has “all authority” over the Earth, this means that the devil now has no authority. Jesus took back Adam and Eve’s authority from Satan. He was able to do this because their sin was now completely atoned for.

So the question you probably have now is: “How then is the devil able to do so much evil on the Earth?”

The question to ask is: How did the devil gain authority in the Garden of Eden?

He hasn’t changed his strategy at all. Look at 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 again. The battle is in our mind. The weapons formed against us are thoughts and speculations that exalt themselves above the knowledge of God. Why are these weapons used? Because the devil needs your agreement in what he wants to do before he has authority to do it. Jesus gave back authority over the Earth to humans. Before Jesus dies on the cross He states the following to His disciples:

Matthew 16:19 (NASB)

19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

So the devil is able to steal, kill, and destroy when humans come into agreement with what he says (thoughts, emotions manifested from thoughts).

This is what 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 is talking about when it says the weapons of our warfare are not carnal. The fortresses that it is referring to are areas in our thought life that we are in agreement with the devil. The devil builds on your current agreements with him, to bring in more deception into your life. Essentially the agreement with the devil (fortress) is a place where he can hide in your life and have authority in that area of your life. This fortress is what the enemy hides behind to assault you with more lies, to try to gain more ground in your life.

So to review: The devil is only able to operate on the Earth through human agreement.

So what does this mean?

The devil is only able to operate in your life through your agreements with his lies, and the agreement of lies that the people in authority over you believe (ie: parents, teachers, government authorities).

This is why it is so important to constantly be studying and filling your heart and mind with the Word of God. The Word of God is what reveals deceptions you are believing, that allow the enemy into your life, and the lives of those under you.

Hebrews 4:12 (NASB)(emphasis mine)

12For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

For this to work though, you need to be born again and filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s help is a necessity in understanding the Bible and to know how it applies to everyday life.  Only through the Holy Spirit does the truth of the Bible penetrate your heart and actually change you (2 Corinthians 3:6, John 16:13, John 14:16-17, Romans 8:27, Isaiah 11:2, Ephesians 1:17).

The current situation we face is having a whole world of people where most people are not born again, and the devil is able to wreak havoc over the Earth because people are constantly in agreement with him. But God has given believers the keys to His kingdom. God’s Kingdom is superior to this kingdom(the Earth), and Jesus tells us to model our prayer like this:

Matthew 6:9-10 (NASB)(emphasis mine)
9″Pray, then, in this way:

‘Our Father who is in heaven,

Hallowed be Your name.

10’Your kingdom come

Your will be done,

On earth as it is in heaven.

So then we are to bring the dominion of God’s Kingdom to Earth (God’s government/way of doing things), whether it be through the salvation of others, loving the unlovable, giving all of your possessions, or worshiping Him through praise. In the words of Matthew 6, His “…Kingdom Come…Will be done…On Earth As it is in Heaven.” So if it is happening in heaven it should be happening here. If it is not happening in heaven it shouldn’t be happening here. When God’s kingdom is brought to Earth it enforces what Jesus did on the cross and destroys the work of the devil in our lives, and in the lives of others. Spiritual warfare cannot be won by human strength as 2 Corinthians 10 tells us, but as indicated, only by divinely powerful weapons. And we have no divinely powerful weapons by ourselves. But we do have God’s Word; whether it is from the Bible, something God has spoken to you recently, or something God told you before. God always backs up His Word with the resources of His superior Kingdom. But just reciting God’s word isn’t enough!

His Word Becoming Who We Are:

When we read the Bible, have relationship with Him through prayer (conversation), and meditate on what He has said or is saying, it opens our hearts to receive His Word and Truth. Truth that we only believe conceptually or intellectually will falter when tested. But Truth that has become a part of us deep down in our core, our very being, and heart can never be shaken. This is why we are not only supposed to hear and read the Word but receive it implanted into our hearts (James 1:21). And as James 1 describes the Word of God given to us will be tested but proven true to us by experience through perseverance in the testing trial. Once we have God’s Word truly implanted in us, because it has proven to be true under testing and trial, no argument, emotion, or lofty thing will ever be able to get us to doubt what God has said. And we are then able to stand firm, in boldness, and in confidence against the devil’s lies. When we are able to fully believe God’s Word deep in our very being, we are finally actually fully capable to “Submit…to God” which is when God uses His divinely powerful weapons, giving us what we need to “Resist the devil” causing him to “flee from you” (James 4:7) Until we truly believe what God has said and have the faith to believe it, it is impossible to submit to God(specifically submitting to what He has said to us). As Hebrews 11:6 says it is impossible to please God without faith.

God brings every believer through this process for our benefit, that His Word would literally become a part of us, so that we would become the walking Word of God. God’s plan is that we would literally become the image of the Living God. The devil has no weapon that works against this kind of believer.

Blessings,

Machew

I Missed my chance to say goodbye… Forever

Written by Jon Zenor

This article has been a really tough one to write.  After several days of thinking about this I don’t even know how to begin, so I will just start writing…

On Sunday I got a phone call with some very bad news. My biological father had committed suicide.  This has left me with some very mixed emotions that have been hard to deal with.

My parents divorced when I was 3 or 4, and my mom then married my (step) dad who was in the Navy so we moved a lot, and my dad officially adopted me and I haven’t seen my biological father since then.  It didn’t really bother me at all.  My dad did a good job of raising me and as far as I was concerned my biological father had walked out on me so I had no real connection with him.  Growing up I didn’t hate or love him, wasn’t angry or upset or anything else, I just felt indifference; he was nothing more than a stranger on the street to me.

Two years ago God put it on my heart that I needed to contact him, so I did.  We had a couple of good emails and facebook messages back and forth, ending with him saying he wanted to catch up on what he missed.

One day after another went by and got busy with life, I fully intended to keep in touch with him and wanted to meet him one day.  But I just never got around to sending the emails that were on my mind to send.

And now it is too late.

Plague of the “What If”s

Anybody who is affected by the death of someone who committed suicide is plagued with the mental agony of asking “what if” all of the time.  Talking to his wife I heard a few of these questions.  “What if I would have done something different? Why did I not see that he was acting different? What could I have done differently to prevent this?”  Until now I never fully understood the pain caused by such questions.

What would have happened if I had contacted him recently?  How much would it have meant from him to get an email or phone call saying “happy father’s day” from his only (not-adopted) son that he has not seen in 24 years?  Would things have turned out differently if we had made plans to meet so he could meet me and his only grandson?  I can’t help but think that things would have been different… if I had just …. If I had just taken 10 seconds out of my day to send an email saying “Hey, I was thinking about you, how have you been?”

Someone told me even if I had talked to him then I would just be asking what if I had said things differently or talked more often… I guess he is right that the plague just never ends, no matter what you wish you would have said.  But as we are creatures with free will I believe we can affect our futures, and the futures of those we interact with.  Which means what I did in the past could have prevented this altogether.

Eternal Destination Reached

I do not know for sure if my biological father is spending eternity in heaven, or in hell.  But the very thought that he could be in hell right now made hell a little more real to me.

I know this is a very touchy subject, but a very real one that needs to be covered.  Our society, our own human nature, is convinced that almost everyone except the most hardened criminals are going to heaven.  When is the last time you went to a funeral service where they did not talk about the deceased person “being in a better place” or “watching from above” or some other saying which implies that the person is for sure in heaven?

We really want to believe everyone gets to heaven, especially those who have done nice things for us, those who have really touched our lives in some meaningful way, and those we love.  But that is not reality.

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. – Matthew 7:13-14

I cannot say how much I hope my biological father had a relationship with Jesus and is now in heaven worshipping God, but my hopes do not give salvation, only him having a relationship with Christ.

The thought that he could be in hell right now, that the instant after he died he could have waken up in hades, being eternally tormented by hades itself and by the realization that he spent his life rejecting God, the one who created him. Every time we sin we are offending God, we are doing wrong to Him, hurting Him.  Even after we continuously reject God with every aspect of our lives He sent His son to die in our place so that we could be restored and have a relationship with Him.

God did all of this for us and many of us, most of us, do not care one bit. We just keep rejecting God.  Hell will be a rude and painful awakening for way too many people. And it will last for all eternity.

Do you understand how long an eternity is?  Someone who goes to hell today, will still be there in 20 years. When I reach 50 years old that person will still be there, being tortured by the agony of hell and the lake of fire, and tortured even more so by their conscious with the regret that they lived their few short years of life rejecting God and living in sin and just living for themselves.

If my biological father did not have a relationship with God then when my son is 50 years old, he will still be in hell, still be in agony, and it will just be the beginning.

I do not say this to bring shame to his name, or to tear down his character — because as I said I do not know for sure what his relationship was — but I say this because just the thought that he might be in hell brought all of this to my mind and it disturbed me.

I say it as a warning, to all of you.  You do not know how much longer you have to live.  You do not know how much longer those you know will live for.  I wanted to have a conversation with my biological father about his relationship with God.  I thought I had time.  I thought I could send off an email any day I wanted to, so there was no rush to send it off today.

I was wrong. The last possible day for me to contact him came, and passed right by without any warning, and I forever missed a great opportunity to lead a man to Christ.

That is a huge lie that Satan plants in us all.  We think we all have more time when really we are all just a vapor that could fade away at any instant.

James 4 says

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”;  whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” (James 4:13-14)

Do not delay one more day! Right now, make sure that you have repented and have a relationship with God! Make sure that you are not living the life of a hypocrite, pretending to be a Christian because you go to church every week but in your heart you deny God the throne of your heart.

Do not delay one more day in righting relationships that have been strained, do not wait to share the gospel with those God brings into your life.  Do not wait one more day to repent of those sins you know you are living in.  Start living for God today because you may not have a chance to tomorrow.  If you do not want to repent of your sin today because you do not want to give it up, then my heart breaks for you.  That you would choose to continue rejecting God, why? So you can look at pornographic pictures on the internet?  So you can keep feeding that addiction of alcohol or gambling?  Sin leaves you a broken empty shell.  Sin promises riches and pleasure but leaves you emptiness and worthless junk.

Choosing to live in sin over choosing to live for God is like denying a feast because you want this candy bar that is right here in front of you now.  It smells really good and makes your mouth water, so you say you don’t need a feast, you just have the candy bar.  So you follow the trail of candy bars that lead you farther away from the feast, further from God. Only to wake up with realization one day that what you really have been eating and enjoying is a chocolate covered dog turd.

It is at that point that you realize how nasty sin really is that you want to go dive into an ocean to clean out that nasty taste in your mouth, which you thought just a day before was delicious.

God is offering you something so much better than what sin can offer you, stop choosing your sin over God, put down the chocolate covered dog crap and run to Jesus who will clean you of all the nastiness your sin left on you, and he will happily welcome you into his banquet hall to feast.

Hell is a real place, and it is a sad truth that so many will go there, not because they deserve it more than me or any other person alive, for we, I,  fully deserve hell.  But they go because they refuse to accept the forgiveness Christ offers us when we turn our lives over to Him.

It took this tragic death to make eternity a reality for me, don’t wait for the same thing to happen to you.  Repent, today. Restore those relationships that have bridges burned down, share the gospel with those you can influence in your life.

Nothing else in all of eternity matters.

Want to be saved? Just raise your hand and repeat after me…

Written by Jon Zenor.

The decision to follow Christ is the most important decision made in your life.  It is that decision where you decide to quit living your life for yourself and to follow Jesus, making him your master. You go where He wants you to go, do what He wants you to do, you stop living the sinful lifestyle that goes against God and you commit your life to Him.

Jesus says that if we want to follow Him it means giving up everything for Him, and to count the cost before you decide to make the journey (Luke 14:25-33).

That is what it means to make yourself a slave of Christ, you make Him your master.  The decision to do this is not one made lightly, and it is not a decision to be made light of.

In 2002 I made a decision to join the U.S. Navy.  This was not a decision I made lightly, I considered it for months beforehand.  I was signing a contract with the government to serve in the military for a minimum of four years. I would go where they told me to go, learn what they told me to learn.  I was theirs.

Our church normally does an alter call, where we invite people who want to give their lives to Jesus to come up front and talk with one of the pastors, to receive prayer and be given some information about what the decision they are about to make really means.  But it wasn’t so on Christmas Eve.

Maybe it was because the Christmas Eve service was so full, maybe for some other reason I don’t know about, but whatever the reason our church decided to take the “short cut to salvation.”  They gave the announcement “If you would like to receive Jesus in your heart just raise your hand.” A few people raised their hands and then the pastor led them in prayer. “Repeat this prayer after me and you will be saved!”

This is one of the sickest common perversions of the gospel in our society today.

What’s the big deal?

You are probably thinking that this is no big deal, it doesn’t matter how they are led to the prayer as long as they prayed.

Why does someone come to Christ?

A person comes to Christ because for one, they realize and believe that He is real, and then they realize they have offended God with how horrible their sin is, and then because of that they repent, turn from their sinful lifestyle to live the way God calls them to live.

and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. (1 Corinthians 14:24-25)

The response to realizing God is real and you are in His presence is to worship, and the response to realizing you are a sinful is grief over your sin, and the response to you grieving over your sins is repentance, and the response to your repentance is forgiveness. Forgiveness of all of the sins you have ever committed or ever will commit.

And you are telling me a person went through all of this by simply raising their hand?

For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:10)

Still don’t see the problem?

So you still don’t see a problem with this way of presenting the gospel?  Let’s have an analogy.

So this guy is standing in front of a group of people seated before him.  He says in a slightly excited tone “I have the winning ticket for the Power Ball lottery! Raise your hand if you want it.”

A few people in the crowd raise their hand.

“Awesome,” the man says, “Just repeat after me and it is yours.”

“Thank you for giving me twenty million dollars and I promise to use it to get my life right.”

The crowd responds, repeating what the guy said, and then after the guy is done talking they all quietly get up and start heading out the door calmly and quietly.

In this scenario, would you say that any of the people being offered multi-millions of dollars actually believed they got the money the guy up front told them they would get?

No, there was no excitement, no change, no commitment to actually follow God.

When a person gives their life over to God, they receive something so much better than all the money in the world, shouldn’t there be some type of response?

The Very Real, Very Serious Consequences

Here is the extremely real, extremely serious consequences of such a gospel message.

You convince people that they are saved, that they have a relationship with God, just because they raised their hand and repeated a prayer during an alter call.

Raising your hand and repeating a prayer does not save you. Cannot.

But now you have a few dozen people who walk out of that church believing they are saved because they raised their hand.  They didn’t even have a pastor talk to them to explain what raising their hand really meant.  But they believe; not in Christ, not in sacrificing their life and carrying their cross before Christ, no, they just believe they are saved.

But belief in salvation does not save you, only a relationship with Christ.

We have a generation of thousands in churches that believe they are saved because they said a prayer once but they have no fruit of the Spirit as evidence, no change in their life. This is why Leonard Ravenhill boldly proclaimed that “the sinner’s prayer has sent more people to hell than all the taverns in America.”

I doubt if 5% of professing Christians in America are born again–and that’s true of England! – Leonard Ravenhill

But it gets even more serious, we have churches full of leadership who think they are saved but have no relationship with God, they serve because they want to do the right thing but when they get to heaven they will just hear “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:23)

But because all these thousands of people believe they are saved they will go on their life ignoring anybody who may tell them to repent. “I don’t need to repent, I’m already saved!” the person will say to himself.

You have just given a blind man headphones and praise music to make him happy but you never turned him away from the path he is on, a path headed straight for the cliff.  All you did is make it harder for him to hear others trying to warn him over the praise music.

Do you see yet the serious problem here?

What do I do?

If you believe you are saved, it is one of our duties to examine our salvation, to test ourselves to make sure we are saved and not just fooling yourself.

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! (2 Corinthians 13:5)

Have you felt that godly sorrow over your sins that leads you to repent?  Do you live a holy life, not because you try to but because God has transformed you?  Do you live your life according to scripture and breath in joyfully every word of the Bible?  Spend some time in scripture analyzing what it means to be saved and see how you match up to it. Repent of the areas you fail in, and pray for strength to help you where you need it, but fist make sure you have that relationship with Jesus.

Holiness is not a Iuxury, it’s a necessity. If you’re not holy, you’ll never make it to heaven. – Leonard Ravenhill

If you are not saved, then there is no better time than right now.  Every sin you commit hurts your relationship with God, drives you farther from Him.  He is the one who created you and despite you turning from Him and living in strict opposition to Him He still sent His only son to die, to pay the penalty of your sins.

Why did Jesus die for you? Because He wants you to be free from sin, He wants you to follow Him and find true joy in Him, and He wants you to share that with others so others can find joy in Christ.

If you want someone to walk you through this you should contact someone at your local church, or call Eternal Truth Ministry at 719-4285-ETM and leave a message and we would love to walk you through any questions you may have.

This is too important of a decision to make to let yourself be fooled, and it is way too important of a decision to put off another day.

Finally, if you are a pastor, preacher, evangelist, or in any position to give “alter calls” then do the right thing, go out to the people, get them alone one on one and pray with them, answer their questions, explain what this decision really is, guide them as they repent and decide to follow Christ.

There is nothing wrong with having someone raise their hand to say they want to be saved, but keep their hands raised until someone can pull them out of the crowd and take them aside.  One on one, make it personal to them.

 

Do you agree with what I said here or do you think I am being overly picky? I would like to hear what you have to say in the comments section below.

The Incarnation: The Best Present Ever

Written by Josh

The Incarnation: The Best Present Ever

The greatest gift ever given came as a baby, and we would do well to reflect and remember who He is and why coming as a baby was necessary.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

(Luke 2:11-12 ESV)

This week, the Carolers at my local grocer filled the air with holiday cheer by singing “Away in a Manger.” We sing songs about him, but who is the baby with ‘no crib for a bed?’ They don’t include scenes of Jesus crying or pooing in the church plays, but we have manger scenes, not ‘inn scenes.’ Jesus situation was very human, gritty and Real.

Most Christians will say Jesus is God (note the activetense of the verb) while most non-Christians say Jesus was just a man. In my experience, we in the church have responded to the doubt around us by stressing the divinity of Christ to the exclusion of his humanity. While we should stress the divinity of Christ, we must not ‘throw the baby out with the bath water’ as it were and conceptually sacrifice His humanity to protect His divinity.

When we sing about Jesus’ birth, it’s very easy to think of Jesus as either a man or as God only. But Scripture holds these two ideas in tension without apology so we must as well.

Simply put, the Incarnation is a key tenet of Christianity. If you don’t believe it, you give up the entire enchilada of the faith. Why? First, without the Incarnation you do not get the Jesus of the Bible. Secondly, you lose the Savior of infinite worth but human identity.

Without being God, Jesus’ death would be of limited value, but being God, his death is of infinite value, so there’s no internal limit to its saving power (he can cover our bill). But, without being human, Jesus’ life could not fulfill the Law Adam broke for us nor could his death on a cross take our place. Only a human could be a propitiation or substitute for us. So it is precisely the Incarnation that empowers Jesus’ victory over sin and death in the cross and resurrection. For as Hebrews says he took on flesh and blood like us so he could intercede on our behalf as our propitiation (Hebrews 2:9, 17).

Who does scripture say Baby Jesus is?

He is Immanuel, God with us. He is the Eternal Logos and maker of all things, yet he is also a man who grew in wisdom and stature before both men and God, who got tired, was tempted, suffered true anguish in Gethsemane, and was crucified and died.

Only by permanently shouldering true humanity could God the Son stand in our place as the Second Adam. (That’s right, the Incarnation is permanent.)

What is the Incarnation?

The Eternal Word (Logos), i.e. the 2nd Person of the Trinity, took on flesh (permanently became human) and is forever now the God-Man, fully God and fully Man, joined together in a union comprised of two distinct natures (human and divine) neither of which being confused or blended, but distinct and yet somehow together in a way we can better describe than understand.

The boys back in the day called this the “hypostatic union.” It is a mystery, kinda like gravity. We can describe gravity, and tell you about its results, but truly master it? Nope. But what would you expect from the Trinity?

So, as you prepare to celebrate Christmas, mull over how the greatest gift given came without a gift receipt: the giving of the Son by the Father in the Incarnation.

If you really want to get into the Spirit of the Season, find the nearest baby and cuddle it. Be gentle, they’re fragile, but hold that baby close and contemplate how Jesus was like that: small, weak, frail, in a real sense dependent. He ate, slept and pooped just like you and I did when we first showed up. Yet, in the mystery that is the Incarnation, he was at the same time still fully God, somehow through his divine nature, still upholding the universe (Heb 1:2-3 and Col 1:16-17). Wild—Strange—Real.

This should humble and encourage us: God the Father, gave us his Son who willfully became human forever altering himself to honor the Father’s will, so as to make all things New. We can move through our day with a kind of courage that comes from knowing God the Son loved us so much he was willing to endure what we do and more, just to rescue us while we were still his enemies.

That kind of love does not abandon or quit on a person, it can and should propel us as we go through whatever providence brings our way, because if He would do that for us, we can trust Him in it with assurance and hopefulness no matter what comes. That doesn’t mean we like it or even enjoy all that life brings for life brings thorns and thistles. Still, we can deal with such knowing knowing we are not being abandoned to be cut by them. God the Father took the Evil of His Son’s crucifixion and used it to redeem the world and the resurrection is our proof.

Merry Christmas. This week I invite you to the following passages about Baby Jesus, why he came and how his unique status as the God-man made possible what he accomplished in his life, death and resurrection.

Virginal Conception Predicted:

  • Isaiah 7:14
  • Isaiah 9:6-7

Jesus Humanity:

  • Matt 1:22-23
  • Luke 1:68-69
  • Luke 2:29-32
  • Luke 2:40
  • Luke 2:52
  • John 1:1-18
  • John 4:6
  • John 10:30

Purpose and Result of His Coming:

  • John 1:1-18
  • Galatians 4:4-5
  • 1 Peter 1:10-12
  • Philippians 2:5-8, 9-11
  • Hebrews 2:9, 14-15, 16-17

 

Do you have as much passion for Jesus as you do for football?

Written by Jon Zenor

Have you ever seen a person who is fanatical about football? They sit in the bleachers in a blizzard with nothing covering them but pants and paint.  What is it that makes a person go to such lengths to show support for their team?

It’s passion, or in this case extreme passion.  But you don’t have to have an extreme passion for something to make it number one in your life.  Most football fans don’t go to those extremes, but they do spend as much time as they can involved in the sport.

A football fan spends hours a week watching football, even throwing parties to get others together to watch the game.  You talk about it all day at work, spend time looking up news on how well various teams did that week and on trades or injuries.  You wear jerseys that show support of your team, even if they lose all the time.  You even create your own fantasy teams.

Your life, as a football fan, is consumed by football.  There is not anything wrong with being a fanatical fan at all, I just have one question for you.

How does your passion for Jesus — your Lord and Savior, your creator, the one who died to have a relationship with you — compare to your passion for football?  It may not even be football for you, it could be video games, baseball, programming, martial arts, planes, motorcycles, or any number of things that consume your every thought.

Jesus must come first!

Matthew 13:44 says “the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

As Christians Jesus must come first in our life.  Not because it will please God, but because God deserves it, it is the least we can do, and the Bible says we must do it.

Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” – Luke 9:62

It is even written in the Ten Commandments when God says to Moses “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3)  Leonard Ravenhill reminds us that “Anything you love more than Jesus Christ is an idol, I don’t care what it is!”

If you think that is harsh look at what Jesus himself said.

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” – Luke 14:26

Jesus is saying that your love for Him MUST be first in your life, and nothing goes above that, not your own life, and not even family.  And if you think this is selfishness on God’s part, just remember that He is God almighty, the creator, the one who holds all of existence in his hand, you are just a created thing, a sinful man who rejects God every chance you get.

Please do not misunderstand what I am saying here.  I am not saying all entertainment is bad and you should do nothing but read the Bible and sing praise songs.  What I am getting at is that when we become a Christian, a Christ-follower, we are saying we are putting God first in our life, above everything, including entertainment.  Where you spend your money and how you spend your time show what is first in your heart, Jesus or something else?

Imagine the impact YOU could have

Imagine what the impact would be like in the lives of those around you if you treated Jesus with as much time and energy you spend on football.  You would go to work talking about what God has done in your life, sharing the gospel, talking about God and what is going on in the church.  You would let the world know that Christians are not just hypocrites that live like the rest of the world but they are actually out there doing things!

You would remind them that when disasters happen and the government has its hands tied to help, like FEMA did when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, it was our churches that were out there giving food and aid to the people.  In fact, instead of going to football games you would go on a missions trip to somewhere that needs the help and help others.

Instead of looking up news for football stats you could look up what news there is on martyrs around the world and pray for them.  Every week I get an email from Voice of the Martyrs with information on those being put in prison, who are losing their homes, who are being outcast from their families and beaten because they are the ones on the front lines putting Jesus first in their life.

You would attend church no matter what the weather was like outside, or how much air conditioning worked or how comfortable the chairs at your church were.  Your focus would be more on fellowship and worship than on comfort.

We don’t even need everyone to do this, just you.  If just you would start putting Jesus first in your life, and having a passion for Jesus, then you alone could change a huge part of the world, everyone you interact with.  Those that look up to you would catch that fire and it would spread.

Del Tackett of Focus on the Family, teacher of The Truth Project, said if just a few of you would really believe what the Bible says is true, you would change this world for Christ.

Being a Christian is not a game or a hobby. It is not something we do just once a week.  Being a Christian is a life long commitment that changes your daily life, putting God first in everything you do.

When you don’t have the passion

If you find that you do not have the passion for Christ that you should there is hope for you.  The first and most important thing is to test your salvation, make sure you are saved.

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!” – 2 Corinthians 13:5

Study the Word of God, what does it mean to be a Christian?  This is an important enough topic to spend the time studying for yourself.  When I went through this last year it took me a couple of months of searching scripture, comparing what I was reading to my life, and most importantly praying, a lot.  Being saved is not based on works, but if you are saved, if you do have Christ living in you, then you cannot help but manifest the fruit of God living in your life.

A major thing that will get in the way of a Christian’s passion for Jesus is sin.  If you are living in sin then you will not be passionate for God, you can’t be.  You will avoid the Word of God, and the things of God.  Search your life for any unrepentant sin and repent of it, turn every area of your life towards God.

“Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. – 1 John 3:4-6

Jesus wants all of us, not just our leftovers

And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” – Matthew 10:38

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

Jesus wants, and deserves every part of you to follow Him.  He knows that we are most satisfied personally when we are bringing glory to Him, it is what we were created for.  Don’t waste another day putting garbage in the place of God in your life.