The Word

The Creator God gave man the ability to read, the gift of rational thought and the desire to worship. Then He gave us a Book to study, containing eternal words to ponder and all we need to know about Whom to direct our worship to. All through the ages evil men and fallen angels have held back nothing in their wicked desire to discredit and extinguish the only God authored Book in history. Tyrants have banned it, religious authorities have burned it and the wise have believed it. This Book reveals the corrupt heart of man, the loving Holiness of God and the only means of changing the former and reconciling with the latter. It has been slandered, mocked and treated with scorn. It has had its words twisted and its priorities ignored… and often by those who claim allegiance to its Author. Yet still it stands, immutable, eternal and invincible. God’s word still holds up the standard of divine truth, it still humbles the proud and exalts the humble it still births life into the dead spirits of men. It still speaks of sin and Saviour, judgement and pardon, the weakness of men and the strength of God. It still births faith, promotes godliness and condemns arrogant unbelief. The acceptance of it (or rejection of it) in this life has consequences for eternity.
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away” …Jesus Christ of Nazareth Mt 24:35

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The offence of the gospel.

After being blocked recently by a “professional evangelist” for challenging him on his universalistic “gospel”, I started to wonder, yet again, why is the gospel so offensive to people. To people generally and even to those within churches and EVEN to professional religionists.

The gospel highlights the holiness of God and the total unworthiness of man.

It is bad news before it is good news. The cross shows a God who hates sin, defines sin, and judges sin before He forgives sin.

The heart of man tends to be mightily impressed with the achievements of man, but the gospel declares the works of men useless, vain and condemned as offensive to God.

The gospel promises nothing that humans tend to be enamoured with; no earthly treasure is promised even though heavenly riches are at the disposal of those who embrace the cross. Temporal comforts may vanish for the one who chooses allegiance to Christ, but eternal comfort is provided.

The carnal man desires peace and friends and unity and camaraderie with all men. The gospel promises rejection, family members becoming our enemies and slander and hatred. But the fellowship with the Almighty is worth all that for those whose affections have been changed by the Spirit of God.

The fear of man resident in the heart of man recoils at the thought of delivering a message of God’s righteous anger at sin. Men (even religious men) prefer a likeable God, friendly and approachable who ticks “like” on every persons Facebook page. This God of the Bible revealed in the gospel is not nice, He’s indescribably, awesomely fearfully holy.

The pride of man is offended that the gospel declares nothing he has or has done of any value to God.

The intellect of man is insulted at the divine genius manifested in the simplicity of the gospel.

The declaration of the gospel that One way and one way only has been provided for reconciliation with God, stirs up the natural ecumenism in the heart of the unregenerate.

The independence of man is crushed that the gospel declares us totally dependent on God’s mercy.

The tendency of humans to create gods in their own image is confronted by the God Who is Who He is and will not change to suit our preferences.

The gospel reveals a hell deserved before showing a heaven offered.

It shows the Deities wrath before opening the vista of His love.

It shines a light on all that we wish were hidden.

The fig leaves of our own supposed goodness are exposed as useless.

The gospel promises peace with God at the certainty of enmity with men. Carnal nature prefers peace with men even if it offends God.

Men will travel the world telling folks that God loves them and is impressed with them and accepts them just as they are…but that is not the gospel. It is simply a Satanic “ring in”.

The true gospel is not seeker friendly. It is not inclusive. It is not people focussed. It is not fun. It is not entertaining. It is not optional. It is not pleasant. It is not nice. It does not make people feel good about themselves. The gospel does not promise a trouble-free life or popularity and success.

The true gospel is a bloody gospel, a flesh crushing message, a clarion call of rescue for those who are aware of their need.

The gospel of Jesus has us weeping before it has us singing. It brings us low before it lifts us up. It condemns us before it pardons us.

New age slogans regularly posted by churchians are useless to save. The weak and saccharine sweet message given by some so-called evangelists leaves people in their sin and under the wrath of God.

The rule preaching religionists will find their multitude of self-imposed regulations useless on the day they stand before God.

But the gospel is the power of God to salvation for everyone who will simply take God at His word. As humbling as that may be.

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Reading the Bible biblically.

We live in a day when many reject God’s word out of hand. They are easy to debate for the ignorance they have of the word of God is easily proved. But there are those who actually believe they believe, when in fact they have no grasp on the Book they profess to honour. Cults of all descriptions will use portions of the Eternal Word to back their God denying doctrines, and heretical teachings infest many alleged Christian organisations.

Part of the problem is that people won’t read the Bible biblically.

Not that there is some clever and gnostic way to read it, it just requires some sanctified common sense. Of course there are those who think doctrine is irrelevant and that we should all just get along. What these folks call tolerance, God calls compromise. They are for another post perhaps, but those who cling to the Bible and refuse to actually read it in a way that brings understanding are the ones I will focus on for the moment.

Cults and false teachers love to preach their doctrines out of the Book of concordance. They peruse the lists of verses to find the ones that will apparently support whatever error they are trying to get people to accept. A concordance is a wonderful tool but like any tool, when used foolishly it becomes dangerous.

They don’t understand that this is not the way to get understanding. And those who hear in their ignorance often think to themselves, “Well, it must be biblical they used a verse”

Ok let’s go over some basics so that we might actually comprehend what the Book of Books actually says. Our eternity is at stake.

Scripture must be read reverently. This is no lighthearted matter. This is not reading to pass an hour of boredom. It is the very word of God and our approach to it will be remembered at the judgement. It must be treated with the utmost respect for to get this wrong is to get everything wrong.

The Bible must be read with humility. I mean by this biblical humility not mans poor version of it. For true humility is not cowering to every mans opinion it is bowing to God’s, and God’s alone. Some folks think their opinion is sacred. They will receive nothing from the LORD for He humbles the proud and exalts the humble. For a professing bible believer to refuse to change their opinion when shown in scripture that they are wrong is to play chicken with eternity. A deadly game.

God’s word is to be approached apostolically. Most of the cults and many genuine believers are unaware that the New Testament beliefs are gleaned from the apostles of our Lord. Any old testament teaching which is not in line with apostolic teaching is unbiblical for a born again believer. Some folks get all tangled up in festivals, food regulations and Sabbaths without comprehending that the Apostles of Christ gave clear and concise teaching on all these things, and the appropriate spiritual application to new Covenant believers. Many cultists cherry pick verses from all over the Bible to defend their unique Bible interpretations. The biblically literate believer will not be conned by people giving unbiblical teachings with out of context Old Testament scriptures tacked on to give them the appearance of biblical authority. Much can be learned from the sacred text of the Old Covenant but much confusion can also result if they are not read apostolically. I have come across various false teachers lately who speak often of “harmonizing” the scriptures. What they mean by this is to collect all the isolated verses that mention a topic and knit them together in some hybrid form of doctrine. God has already harmonised the scriptures and we don’t need to dissect the Word of God and reassemble it in some way that suits us. This is not some numbers game where we see your 3 verses out of Deuteronomy and raise 4 verses out of Psalms. To find what God has to say on any issue, we simply go to the passages that address that topic. It’s really quite simple and logical but apparently some can’t get it.

Scripture must be approached hungrily. The earnest desire to know God and His ways is a prerequisite for grasping any truth. Those who do not love the truth will be handed over to delusion. Unfortunately I have seen to much of that lately amongst cultists…even cultists within supposedly biblical Christian churches. If a man or woman only opens the word to find support for their own opinion they are in peril.

And of course the scriptures must be read spiritually; that is leaning on the Holy Spirit to open up His word and propel it into our hearts.

You would think that all these simple concepts would be readily recognized by anyone desiring to know God’s written truths, but unfortunately reading the Bible biblically is becoming a lost art. Much of the spread of cults such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists would be arrested if people just opened the word of God and read it the way God intended. And the same can be said for the “in-house” cults of prosperity teachers, seeker friendly, “best life now” and emerging churchies.

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Doctrine and devotion

Cold, dead orthodoxy is just as much a slander of God as wild-eyed heresy. All true doctrine is devotional. And all godly devotion is doctrinal. The truth of the gospel always crushes mens pride and pronounces judgement on apathy. It exalts Christ and lays men low. It demolishes mens puffed up philosophies and lifts up the wisdom of God. Orthodoxy is far more than a bored assent to the truth of Christ, it is a heart-felt glorying in the goodness of God alone. Heretics are often more passionate in their allegiance to hell bound lies about God, than those who profess truth are to the heaven-birthed realities of Christ Jesus. No one can really grasp the truth of the gospel without their heart being filled, their mind being enlightened and their voices being loosed to sing and declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His glorious light.

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You must be born again

I’ve come to the sad conclusion that much of what goes by the name church today is really unregenerate religion.

Not just the in the Roman cult or the liberal mainliners but the evangelical pentecostal supposedly bible believing church.

This explains so much. The adoration of religious humanism in the form of the Rick Warrens and Bill Hybels etc of the church world. The passionate pursuit of emerging non theology. The political mindset and the promotion of left wing causes by those who claim to follow the One who said His Kingdom is not of this world.

George Whitefield when asked why he kept preaching you must be born again, replied, “Because, you MUST be born again!”

His friend Wesley agreed as did Spurgeon, Moody, Edwards, the reformers, the apostles and Christ Jesus Himself. Many of these names mean nothing to the modern churchgoer. And many modern religionists know nothing of the biblical doctrine and the personal reality of the new birth.

Jesus said to the foremost religious leader of His day, “You must be born again” and Nicodemus was completely baffled as is many seminary trained “Nicodemus” today. (There is some evidence that Nicodemus did finally grasp this vital spiritual truth later on.)

What goes by the name church today can not be fixed. It can’t be repaired or tweeked, it must be resurrected. The problem is not some doctrinal errors here and there. The problem is it is dead. And the only solution to death is new life.

How did the organization that claims allegiance to Christ lose sight of the most fundamental teaching of the the Saviour? Over the years the pursuit of influence, numbers and  a political voice  saw the promotion of “preachers” and teachers” who promised to show new ways to achieve influence, numbers and a political voice. This allowed for the promotion of more and more “leaders” who have no personal story of salvation but are very good at playing this new church game.

Folks in the pews bombared with a constant stream of organisational teachings on “vision” “leadership” and “church growth” learned the jargon, bought into the new “paradigm”, and embraced a religion without cost, a faith without faithfullness and church in rebellion against the Head of the church. Those who had experienced the new birth either lost their fervour and settled in to the comfortable orthodoxy of heresy or they left, to wander the increasingly barren fields of churchianity in search of others who know what they know (or more importantly know WHO they know)

Many voices are today addressing the ills of the institutional church, perceived or real, and yet even some of the apologists seem to have as their goal the return of the church to a rose coloured image of a childhood memory; but much that is wrong today had it’s birth in compromises of yesterday. You only have to read of Spurgeon battling the downgrade controversy of his day to know this is a long standing problem. Not to mention revivalists, reformers and prophets of even earlier ages who suffered cruel persecution because of their bold message, “You must be born again!”

The new birth is the unltimate equalizer.

Catholic and protestant must be born again.

Pope and Archbishop must be born again.

Conservative and progressive must be born from above.

Religious and atheist must be born of the Spirit.

Gay and straight must be born again by the living and enduring word of God.

Rotary member and Hells Angel member must be regenerated.

Drunk and teetotaller, politician and voter, church goer and church leader must all be transformed by the power of God.

There is no other entry to the eternal city other than the rebirth through faith in Christ.

Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Wiccans, occultists of all descriptions and “Christians” must be born again.

The one who is still dead in their sins may parrot the creeds, have perfect church attendance, “tithe”, pray and even read the Bible and yet still be outside the family of God.

The religious adherent without the new birth is still part of this world sysytem. Their goals, though religious, are worldly. Lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and pride of life operating in a carnal religious system.

The affections of the the twice born are a mystery to the once born. The love for Christ, the emphasis on His cross, the joys of worship, the passion for prayer, the desire to congregate with God’s other children and the holy devotion to God’s written word can not be conjured up by human effort. These are fruit of the Spirit implanted by Him the moment He exchanges our heart of stone for a heart of flesh.

No one enters this new life by human effort anymore than a child can choose to be born.

Many are wandering in a maze of religious confusion and yet refuse to enter the Gate.

Much of what the world offers, including the church world, is rotten, worm riddled timber gilded with thin layers of fools gold. What Christ offers is eternal gold hidden beneath the wooden cross of the Roman executioner.

This heavenly birth is not obtained by the lazy lifting of a hand in a meeting. It’s not secured by repeating a half understood prayer. It’s not received from any other than the God of the Bible. The new age rebirth leaves the practioner dead still. The occultic rituals of various cults and secret societies can only increase the darkness. The new years resolutions of the masses reveals perhaps desire to change but is without the power to accomplish it.

And the one who is a recipent of God’s grace through the heavenly birth is not better or brighter than any one else. Although declared citizens of the heavenly city there is still much of their former neighbourhood clinging to their robes. But they are children of God though even the Creators kids can be messy.

But change comes. Not coerced from the outside in but growing from the inside out, from a divine seed: the holy Word of God  received by faith.

To speak in some church circles today of the new birth can draw blank looks and a scornful twist of the lip. Some are full of mockery towards the ignorance of those who simply believe in the hidden treasure of divine life in Christ. Church folks can speak long and loud of their “vision” and their “ministry” and their inroads into popular culture and yet so many remain silent of His grace and His provision through His cross.

The apostles went to the synangogues of their day to preach the word. The assemblies that should have been the joyful recipients of what God was doing were often the hardest to reach. Today churches may well be the hardest mission field their is. And yet the message must be preached to church and non-church alike. “You must be born again”.

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Demas

2 Timothy 4:10 …for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world…

Paul, the battled scarred veteran of so many years of spiritual conflict writes from a damp prison cell to Timothy, his protegé.

In the midst of the encouragement and advice and instruction concerning the end time scenario to come, he bears his heart concerning the loss of his friend and fellow minister, Demas.

The hurt bleeds through the simple words on the page.

Demas who had stood with Paul and served the gospel along with the great apostle, had now for whatever reason deserted his mentor, and it seems had deserted Christ.

One of the greatest pains that a believer has to endure is to see someone fall from the faith. A friend, confidante and brother or sister in Christ leaves the path and wanders off into a barren future, devoid of the fellowship of the Saviour.

Over the thirty years I have been following Jesus, I’ve seen so many, TOO many, abandon the faith and walk off into the sunset of apostasy. Sometimes they have been dear friends, We had worshipped together, shared from the scriptures what God was speaking, seen each other through trials, victories and heartaches. But now, when and if there is a chance meeting there is no life, no fellowship and no spiritual companionship.

Demas… the names change but the pain’s the same.

It’s different if a faithful follower of our mutual Saviour leaves our side to follow their calling. They may have changed location but the heart connection remains. But when they have loved this present age and it’s not their bodies that have changed location but their heart, it is a deep spiritual wound.

David felt this when he wrote in Psalm 41 about the enemies who devised evil against him and plotted his downfall and then with a choked voice in vs 9 “Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.”

The LORD put this in scripture for those who lose friends in the faith to apostasy. And so often the one who was a beloved friend in the faith becomes a sworn enemy when they lose their devotion to Christ. The one who once gave strength now mocks. He who once gave godly advice now wants us to stumble. The one who stood near, now stands afar off with scorn and derision.

Oh Demas. What happened to your zeal and faith and love. What in this present age could be so attractive that you would give up eternity for it. What short-term goal, what demonic deception, what cherished sin could induce you to give up your inheritance in Christ.

Oh Demas. You walked with God and now you stumble along the path to destruction.

Demas, Demas. Is it too late? Are you so far gone? Does the name of the LORD no longer bring a warming of your heart? Do you ever think of your previous life?… Your love for the Word?… Your insights into the scriptures?… Your desire to share your faith?… Your concern for the saints?… The things you endured and the One you enjoyed!??.

How did the devil take you captive? What lies did you listen to? What earthly desire overtook your heavenly passion?

Demas, I miss you. I grieve for you. I know I can knock on your door or pick up a phone and we can share words. But the Demas I knew is no longer present. The words are lifeless and no longer Spirit-filled. I can meet you in this life, but Demas it’s in the life to come that I wish to walk with you again.

Demas we are in the last days. The march of history is coming to an end. Jesus IS coming soon. Now is not the time to give up. If there is any spark of faith left, call upon Him. He is merciful. He is able to bring you back. For I too nearly fell. I stumbled. I also took my eyes off the King. But He brought me back. He forgave. He restored. What He did for me, He can do for you.

For those who have endured the grief of a Demas, my heart is with you. A child, a parent, a spouse, a friend who you once shared sweet counsel with. A companion, an acquaintance who walked the divine path with you and now reproaches and despises your faith. (Psalm 55:12-14) Take a leaf from Paul’s example. He carried on in the work. He did not allow this greatest of griefs to disable him. He fixed His eyes on Jesus who, even though God in the flesh, also knew the pain of betrayal by a friend. And it’s not the personal betrayal that concerns us but the loss of a brother or sister in the Lord.

Stay firm, stay strong, stay close to Christ. He will bring comfort from His throne room. And you will in time be able to comfort others with the comfort you have received from Him.

Father, I pray for the Demas’, I commend them into Your trustworthy hands. I do ask you to grant repentance and restoration. Father I pray too for those who are suffering under the loss of a brother or sister in Christ. Grant them, grant us, strength to not let grief hobble our service to You. In the Name of Christ the Head of the church and the strong Son of God.

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The command to judge

To judge: To form an opinion or estimation after careful consideration

It’s never a good idea to get our theology from the devil.

Jesus refuted satan in the wilderness when the serpent tried to “spin” the scripture to trap our Lord. One of the scriptures that the adversary is using today to immobilize God’s people is a twisted view on judging.

You can guarantee that the minute you hold up God’s word against some false presentation of an important biblical truth that someone will reflexively quote “Thou shalt not judge” (It’s always quoted in King James English for some reason)

But is that verse honestly telling us we are not to evaluate, discern or test anything against the immutable word of God? Of course not.

This is satan’s attempt to silence the prophetic voice of the church. This is his way of getting people to turn off their brains, harden their hearts and block their ears to what the Spirit is saying to the church, and to individual members of the church.

The very verse so often deployed against discerning disciples of Christ goes on say to “Do not throw your pearls before swine or give what is sacred to dogs.” (Matthew 7:6). Why is that portion of scripture never used? Because it’s too “judgemental” of course. So now Jesus Himself is judged as too judgemental. You do see the problem here, I’m sure.

In fact there are multitudes of scriptures and entire books of the Bible commanding us to judge. If we don’t heed those writings we are not being non-judgemental…we are being disobedient.

Look at it this way; supplement some synonyms for “judge” and see how it plays out.

Thou shall not be discerning.

Thou shall not think.

Thou shall not weigh up whether something is true or not.

Thou shall not test all things and hold on to what is good.

Thou shall not test the spirits.

Thou shall not evaluate, take heed or beware of false teachers.

Thou shall not be a Berean of more noble character.

Do you see how this injunction to not judge, employed constantly by judgemental voices, becomes a nonsense when misapplied.

This one verse taken out of context has perhaps done more in our generation than all the bars and brothels combined to send people to a Christless eternity!

Now of course only the righteous Judge of the universe can look into a person’s heart and know perfectly what are their motives, their pains, their heartaches or secret sins. In that sense we are not to judge. Only God knows a mans heart and only God through the gospel can change it. But it is NOT judgemental to agree with God’s word. It’s eminently sensible and the only wise way to live. To state for instance that homosexuality, or adultery or fornication are sinful is not judgemental, it’s true. According to God Almighty Himself. To state as some religious leaders do that these things are not sin, is not tolerant and gracious, it’s rebellion and a lie. To speak clearly and without apology scriptural truth is not negative or critical; it’s faithful discipleship.

Unfortunately there is a category of believer today who thinks ignoring, downplaying or rejecting God’s clear word on an issue is being loving and generous; Well, it’s not! It’s a hateful thing to steal at any time, but to rob people of truth is perhaps one of the most wicked things we can do. Jesus soundly rebuked the religious elite of His day who saw God’s word as their personal possession to do with as they saw fit. Those who follow their lead today face the same rebuke from Christ.

Obviously God’s people are not to be hypercritical and jump on the smallest deviation of their self-assumed truth.

The children of God should never instantly expect the worst of people.

We should not categorize and label and reject people because of their race, gender economic or educational background etc. We should not accept gossip as gospel or slander as true.

We are never to declare that some individual is too wicked for the grace of God to change; after all He changed us. So in those instances to judge is wrong and sinful, but as mentioned previously to extend that to become a doctrine of silence where God’s clear declarations are avoided or rejected is a terrible twisting of the truth.

In our particular time in history it is imperative for the twice born sons of God to once again take seriously the charge and command to judge. To judge righteously to be sure. To extend grace for certain, but to judge nevertheless.

We must ask, “Is what I’m hearing true? Does it line up with Christ’s clear words? Is it accurate and complete?”

Much error is truth pushed to an extreme.

Many deceptions have been wrongfully backed by a scripture wrenched from its context.

Many of the devil’s lies are promoted as biblical truth.

The only way we can tell truth from error is to exercize our God-given capacity to discern, evaluate and judge whether a thing is so or not.

Afeter all Jesus Himself said, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgement”… John 7:24

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