First, let me state at the outset that I believe in the Church. I believe in it’s presence, it’s purpose and it’s power. Established by the Lord Jesus Christ, I also believe that it continues to grow and I am sure that the gates of hell will not prevail against it (Mat.16:18). This being said, it must be told that the present state of the Church is not good.
Having said that, it is important to note what the church is. The word church is properly defined biblically as, ‘a called out company or assembly’. The word is used in three different ways:
1. the local assembly – i.e., the gathering (‘…the church that is in her house’ Col.4:15)
2. individual believers – i.e., you are the church (the idea Paul conveys when he tells the Corinthians, ‘…you are the temple of God…’ 1Cor.3:15)
3. the universal/worldwide body of believers – i.e. all true Christians throughout the world
Once this is understood we can come to the conclusion that the messages to the churches are to be and can be applied to the church in general and/or to the individual members in particular. Although a church may be blind to it or unwilling to own up to it, every local assembly, more or less, will find its identity in one of the seven churches. Also, and this is important, the letters are addressed to leadership. They are to the churches in general (every member), and the pastors (leaders) in particular. Each letter opens with, ‘…unto the angel of the church of…’ The angels, without going into any long dissertation or explanation, speak of the pastors of those particular churches. A church, by default, will take on the nature of its leadership. What they do or don’t do, or what they allow or don’t allow, is in turn, what that congregation will follow through on. This is why leadership needs to be in alignment with the Lord’s program and not their own.
The Church at Sardis – Revelation 3:1-6
Their Reputation (v1)
And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.
This church had ‘a name’. This reputation identified them as:
• being alive
• being active
• being successful
It was their activity (works), which gave strength to the idea that they were alive and successful. But this was not the case. This was their outward appearance; how they looked to others. However, all these things were not a true indication that they were a living, breathing church. Jesus knew the real truth.
Their Reality (v1)
The truth about this church that Jesus knew was that it was actually dead. This reality was either unknown or unaccepted by them.Their works were hollow and incomplete. Any church void of the moving and operation of the Spirit of God is dead. A hollow word breeds a hollow faith, which breeds hollow works. It was hollow because it had lost its power; yet their problem was not necessarily doctrinal–it was obedience. They had the Word, but for them, it wasn’t enough; and once you put His Word aside, you will, eventually, venture into alternative facts. Today’s church is also guilty of reaching for something extra, and has, unfortunately gone the way of doctrinal error. The sad part about it is that doctrinal error is so accessible. Many high profile names speak a truth that is not truth, and preach a gospel that is not the gospel. Youth groups are dead and dying because their leaders are trying to entertain them, rather than preach the pure gospel, which is the Cross. However isn’t it good to know that even death is not beyond His touch? There was and is hope.
Their Recommendation (v2-3a)
Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.
Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent…
Of all the seven churches, Jesus had nothing good to say about them. The closest he comes is telling them to strengthen ‘what remains’. His recommendation to them is a strong one, which amounts to a command. He tells them in essence, ‘You need revival’. That was the essence of His words ‘be watchful’, which simply meant, ‘Wake up!’ Jesus’ words also reach us today–we too need revival. We do not more dead words and dead services. No more promises of great financial and spiritual wealth. No more soothing, feel good messages that will serve only to reinforce the spiritual stupor we are in. With all the revival services that I see advertised, if it was real revival, churches would be full; ain’ts would become saints, and prayer meetings would be breaking out, instead of another concert. Here’s truth: good singing is not revival; great sounding choirs is not revival; passionate preaching is not revival; big crowds on consecutive nights is not revival; dancing and shouting before the Lord is not necessarily revival. Real revival reacquaints us with the Christ of our salvation; it sets us on a path of obedience. Real revival goes hand in hand with brokenness. That is where repentance comes in. He calls us to change; to turn around.
Their Reproof (v3b)
…if therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.
This coming that the Lord is speaking about is judgment. Scripture states in 1 Peter 4:17:
For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
Sometimes, judgment can come in the form of an absence of His presence, due to a grieving and quenching of His Spirit. Other times, His judgment can come in the form of sifting. That is, He will allow the enemy to have some leeway in our lives. Whatever way He chooses to judge, it can be avoided if we would judge ourselves. Here’s what the Spirit says through the pen of the apostle Paul:
For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.1 Corinthians 11:31-32
This principle, set forth during a discussion of the Lord’s supper, holds true here. We must be able to receive His truth and make an honest assessment of our condition. Just come clean.
Their Remnant (v4)
Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.
Names. Individuals. It’s important to remember here once again that the church is made up of people. Jesus says here that there were some people—but sadly not many, who had not ‘defiled their garments.’ This is the harsh, but honest language He uses to describe those who had not allowed sin, Satan and self to intrude and dominate their lives. They had not allowed the world to pollute and contaminate their minds and hearts. They had made themselves so familiar with truth that when a lie entered into their hearing, their Spirit-given discernment immediately was aroused. There is yet that same remnant that exists in today’s church. Their ears have not been tickled by the latest fad or teaching. The only thing they are guilty of is remaining true and faithful to the Lord and His Word—and this makes them worthy; not perfect—just worthy.
Their Reward (v5)
He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.
I’d like for you to get the full import of this word ‘overcome’. It speaks of those who hold firm to their faith even to the point of death, and against the power of their enemies, temptations and persecutions. Wow! In essence Jesus says, ‘he that continues to conquer…’ We ought to be living in victory, not always reaching for it. This can only happen through the Cross. Jesus promises three powerful things here. First, He says we will be clothed in white. This indicates full righteousness as we walk with Him on the streets of gold. Second, He states that our faithfulness means that we will be kept until the end. Finally, our names will be joyfully acknowledged before the Father. Could it be that our names will be shouted throughout the corridors of heaven? What a day that will be!
In spite of its present day condition, His Church is a glorious Church, and it will remain so because He is the Head, and hell’s best will not even begin dent its doors. We the body need to live up to its glorious calling.
Our Response (v6)
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
Church, let’s not turn a deaf ear to our Lord’s words. Rather let us respond to His gracious invitation found in Isaiah 1:16-18:
Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment; relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
If we cannot hear what he is saying, maybe it’s time to go back to the altar. Only as we obey His word can we avoid the judgment He promises. Wake up Church! There is life in Jesus’ name!
That’s the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.
- As it pertains to worship:
- Mat.15:8-9 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
- As it pertains to works and service:
- As it pertains to devotion:
- As it pertains to self-righteousness:
Winter. Spring. Summer. Fall. What’s your favorite season? Depending on who you are, and no matter what your seasonal preference is, you’d have to admit that each one has its own perks. Look at winter. Winter has Christmas! Yay! The children say to that (and many adults too, I’m sure). Ah springtime! Melting snow, nasty cold weather slowly disappearing, along with the blooming of flowers–readying themselves for warmer weather. Then there’s good ‘ole summer! Schools closed, vacation time, warm days at the beach, and the park. Can you beat all that? Finally, the only season with two names. Autumn brings the promise of color! Those summer green leaves transforming into bright oranges, yellows and shades of brown; all falling to the ground. And not to forget, the children go back to school! Yay again!
Each season also has its downside. And once again depending on who you are, it’s too cold in the winter, too rainy in the spring, too hot in the summer, and too many leaves to rake in the fall. It’s all a matter of preference, but the simple fact is seasons come and seasons go–and that will never change. Read the Lord’s words in the first book of the Bible: While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease (Genesis 8:22). That’s the promise. As long as this earth remains, there will be seasons. I believe this truth; and I believe this principle can also be carried over into our spiritual lives. The fact is that our lives in the Lord also consist of seasons.
God says that there is a time and place for everything. This is not as much a theological truth as it is a practical truth. All seasons however, must be seen in their proper perspective. In addition to these seasons or times we experience, there are several other seasons we go through that the bible speaks of both specifically and not so specifically; yet I believe most have experienced many of these seasons for ourselves.
- There are seasons of plenty
Ex. Egypt’s seven years plenty (Gen.41:47-49)
- There are seasons of drought
Ex. Egypt’s seven years of famine (Gen.41:54)
- There are seasons of dependence
Ex. Elijah being fed by ravens (1Ki.17:6)
- There are seasons of doubt
Ex. Lord I believe: help thou my unbelief (Mk.9:24)
- There are seasons on the mountain
Ex. Elijah and the prophets of Baal (1Ki.18:20:40)
- There are seasons in the valley
Ex. Elijah running for his life (1Ki.19:3)
- There are seasons of transition
Ex. Abram moving on from Ur (Gen.12:1)
All of these seasons, both good and bad, play vital roles in our lives and help to shape us into the persons we are and will become. The psalmist stated, ‘It was good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes’ (Psa.119:71). Ultimately, all seasons serve a definite purpose and are in God’s sovereign control. Once again, the Word declares: ‘…all things work together for good to them that love God…’ (Ro.8:28), and also from Eccl.3:11: ‘…He hath made everything beautiful in His time…’
The list of Seasons can go on and on. A thing qualifies as a season if you remain there for a significant amount of time. But there is another season-it’s a season you want to avoid at all costs. It’s a season you don’t want to step into. Yet many, because they are so zoned in to making it happen for themselves, willfully enter in to this season by giving God a rain check; and with a friendly ‘don’t call us we’ll call you attitude, walk away from God’s best for them. They have entered into the convenient season.
What is the convenient season? A convenient season is a time of your own making. It is putting God on hold. It is time and life on your own terms. It is a season that finds you attempting to undermine and derail the plan of God for your life. It is the sinners’ or saints’ excuse when under conviction and refusing to surrender to God’s will and way. It is a refusal to say, ‘Not my will, but thine be done.’ Read the words of governor Felix to the Apostle Paul after being convicted by the Spirit of God to change his ways: “And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.” (Acts 24:24-25). Notice that Felix trembled after hearing the powerful gospel. This discomfort gave him all the reason he needed to remove himself from Paul’s presence. What he didn’t realize was that he was actually attempting to distance himself from God’s presence. The truth is that you can never unhear the Word of God after the Spirit of God has impressed it upon your heart and mind. Felix’s response shows us that in addition to placing himself into a convenient season, he also entered into:
- A proud season…when I…(v25)
- A presumptuous season…I will…(v25)
- A selfish season…makes it
all about you
- A deceptive season…he listened to Satan’s lie what other lies will he tell him?
- A declining season…Whooping Goldberg had a line in the Oscar winning movie ‘The Color Purple’ that went like this: ‘…till you do right by me, everything you think about gonna fail!’
Though not precisely scriptural, the statement yet has an aura of truth around it and here it is: As long as an individual chooses to remain on the opposite side of the will of God, whatever it is that they do will be tainted-it will ultimately come to naught-at least for them. This is because it will have the stench of disobedience upon it. That thing may be good and right; but it is not good and right for that person because it’s not what the Lord told them to do. The convenient season says, ‘I’m in my place, I’m in my time–I need to complete me before I deal with with God.’
The convenient season in all cases are seasons of procrastination. In all cases they are seasons of avoiding the truth. It is the result of running from God. Runners from God have a language all their own. They say things like:
- I’m not ready
- It’s not my time
- I will later…promise
- What if this way is not the right way?
- I have other things to do…let me go and bury my father first (Lu.9:59-60)
Avoiding the convenient season is as simple as saying, ‘Yes, Lord.’ Except saying it is sometimes the most difficult thing to do. We have to come to the end of ourselves by concluding that God, in His infinite wisdom, knows what is best. God’s will is not a matter of convenience, it’s a matter priority. He must come first or I run the risk of following myself and not Him; and when I follow myself, ultimately I’m no different than the proverbial dog who chases his tail-getting itself nowhere.
So when faced with the choice to do or go God’s way, or your own…don’t settle for convenience. Avoid it at all costs. You’ll be glad you did.
That’s the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.
No, I don’t have an axe to grind. I’m not angry at anyone. And I don’t for one second presume to think I know better or am better than anyone else-because I’m not better and I don’t know anything. I’m just a small voice in a small corner of the world, trying to fulfill the Great Commission. I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind about anything with the words that follow. But I’d like to address several important issues that have been scratching at my heart and mind lately. Indulge me if you please.
Ok. Let me lay down some ground rules. I am Pentecostal. No shame for me there. I would probably be described as being of the more ‘conservative’ brand; comparatively speaking-as opposed to those who are hyper or ultra Pentecostal. I am neither, but I am Pentecostal nonetheless. We’re the ones who speak in tongues. Some of us jump, shout, and wave our hands; we are quite the demonstrative ones. Some even run, spin around or wave their hands; and I hold no malice toward those who do those things–I do some of those things myself. But it must all be Spirit led and Spirit driven, and not flesh driven. Having said all that, I must say sadly, that as I see it, much of the bad doctrine that has permeated the church in recent years, has come from our camp (I speak also of the closely related Charismatics). It’s actually a shame to even speak of different ‘camps’–seeing that God does not recognize denominations anyway.
Do Pentecostals have the corner on spirituality? Of course not. Depending on what church you attend, why is it that we Pentecostals sometimes spend so much time and effort trying to make everyone else just like we are? Let me tell you what happens sometimes, or rather what I have witnessed. In some churches there are ‘cliques’. These cliques sometimes call themselves ‘ministries’. Some of them, however, are quite ‘exclusive.’ To be a part, you basically have to do what they do and speak and believe what they do. If you don’t measure up, you become a piriah (an outcast), and you get treated as such (yes, I’ve seen it).
In some churches, tradition prevails over truth in some matters. Many people, especially young people, are made to feel as if they must ‘conform’. They are inadvertently pushed by well meaning, but overzealous parents and in some instances pastors, to be baptized, take communion, or even ‘preach’. I once heard a pastor tell a young person, ‘You’ve been coming to church long enough, why are you not baptized yet?’ Surely time spent in church cannot be the criteria for getting baptized and such, right? Am I missing something? Caterpillars cannot fly. Longevity has its place, but that alone is no substitute for salvation. Before baptism and the like can take place, a person must be saved. Encouraging individuals, especially youth, to do saved things, will not benefit them-if they’re not saved. As it pertains to preaching, the church is not the place to ‘hone’ your preaching skills. Young people don’t need to ‘learn’ how to preach. If the call of God has been placed on someone’s life to preach, He will make it known. The church is not the Aberdeen Proving Grounds. You may be thinking, ‘Who set you up as a judge, and how do you know who’s saved or not?’ What I will say is that God has given us discernment; the Spirit-led ability to know whether someone or something is of God or not. In our desire to see young people serve God, we must not attempt to ‘play God’ by placing them behind the pulpit to keep them on fire for God. If some of these are not saved in the first place, as stated previously, then there’s no fire anyway; putting them behind the sacred desk will do them no good, except possibly giving them a false sense of security, resulting in the mistaken idea that they must be a Christian; ‘After all, I preached!’, some may say to themselves. When will we learn that going and being in church is not the equivalent of being in Christ. The pulpit, as far as the preaching of the Word goes, is for those who have been called to it.
The following matters are not weighty issues at all. They do not affect one’s salvation in one way or another. I bring them up only as points of reference as they pertain to youth, or others affected by it. For instance, does the bible explicitly state that it is a sin for a woman to ‘straighten’ or ‘perm’ her hair? Weaves? No. Many young people in hyper-holy churches are told yes. How about braids? Or pants on women? Sleeveless blouses in God’s house anyone? Those who are part of the hyper-holy crowd will tell you that these things are evil, worldly, and just plain ungodly. Once again, I’m simply using these cases as examples. My aim is not engage in any lengthy debate. I’m only saying that for those who believe that these and many other such things are actually sinful, young people in particular are placed under pressure and highly scrutinized. The older ‘saints’, in an effort to keep them and the church ‘holy’, are actually turning out ‘clones’, i.e., younger versions of themselves. Is this what we want? Listen to what Jesus said: ‘Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves (Mat.23:15). I’m not calling anyone a child of hell, but what I am saying is that we should avoid adopting a ‘pharisaical’ mindset. Should we not want folk to be like Jesus, and not like ourselves? With all of our holier than thou, pre-conceived, ‘I think that’s what Jesus would’ve done’ attitudes? Half the things folk do in church, in His name, He never sanctioned anyway!
When it comes to matters of praise, worship, the moving of the Spirit of God and prayer, how is pressure placed upon the young? First of all, church, i.e., the worship service, is not a circus. The Spirit of God can have His way without it being a free for all. Anything should not go in God’s house. The Holy Spirit is the moderator of worship services-not we ourselves. Some of the things I’ve seen over the course of many years in several places, amount to one thing–flesh. Scripture tells us in 1 Jonn 4:1, that we should test the spirits, to see whether they are of God or not. He’s telling us here not to be deceived; everything that looks of God is not of God. So, when some well meaning saint places their hands on someone to pray for them, and the immediate response of the one being prayed for is a shake, and a shimmy, and a shout, and the same response comes from the next one, and the next one, and the next one, etc.; and all of the responses are exactly alike in word and motion–then I know that something is rotten in Denmark! No rocket science is needed to figure out that something’s not right.
Mimicking has become an art in many Pentecostal churches. As I stated at the outset, I’m Pentecostal myself. We’re loud. We express ourselves. This is what we do. However, we all cannot do the very same thing, in the very same way, at the very same time all of the time. It’s not a spiritual phenomenon, but it is a fleshly one.What I believe has happened in some places is that folk have simply, and maybe unintentionally picked up one another’s behavior, and made it their own. When this happens they are not allowing the Spirit of God to work uniquely with them, and settle for ‘conforming’ to what everyone else does. This in turn causes the Spirit of God to step back because not only is He grieved, but He is quenched now that the flesh has come in. Scripture plainly states: ‘…So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.’ (Romans 8:8). Young people, sometimes because they don’t know any better, or because they just want to be a part, unfortunately fall into this terrible behavior of just doing; copying and mimicking what the older ones do; and it’s not good, and it’s not right. Caterpillars cannot fly.
As far as the scripture goes, a wrongly divided word will do untold damage to those who hear it. When preachers add restrictions and read things into scripture that are not there, they place invisible shackles upon those under the sound of that word. For the young, many of them carry those chains with them into adulthood, with varying degrees of misery. As they grow, many begin to question certain restrictions that have been placed on them because they don’t find proof of these restrictions in the Word for themselves. This is because these restrictions do not exist! Rather, they are the unfortunate misinterpretations of those who have treaded down legalism’s path. Legalism is a dangerous monster and it’s victims are many. Young people who have chosen to opt out of church due to all they have seen, heard and experienced. For each one who has opted out, several others have thought about it or are presently thinking about it. A young lady told me years ago that she couldn’t wait until she turned eighteen, because then she was going to leave home, and leave church, due to the fact that she had had enough. All I know is, from that point, I began seeing her less and less-until I didn’t see her anymore.
Let me close by saying that we are not perfect. This should be obvious. But we must take pains to get the Word right. If not we run the risk of pushing people out rather bringing them in. The Word of God is described as a hammer; (Jeremiah 23:29), but we must not turn it into a spiked club. The Word is a sword; (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12) but we must refrain from using it as a dagger. Let’s draw them to the water of life that they may drink-freely. We must not impose, we must not force, assume or take things for granted. We need to draw young people and everyone else to the living water, but we cannot make them drink. It’s the simple presentation of the gospel-the message of the Cross, preached under in the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit that will change lives. Anything more, or anything less, will not produce the desired results. Only saved people should do ‘saved’ things. Caterpillars can’t fly; and they shouldn’t try-not until they’ve been transformed into butterflies. And then the sky is the limit.
That’s the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.
Imagine your favorite food. You taste, and it’s just not right; something is missing. You go and get that one ingredient that will make it taste the way it should. Once you add just enough of what was missing, you can eat on to your heart’s delight.
There are two types of people in every congregation: those who profit from the Word preached–and those who don’t. There always seems to be a case of us or them. Two students, same teacher; one passes and one fails–us and them. Consider also
two siblings with the same parents. Each child goes in two opposite directions in life–once again a case of us and them. In every group, some seem to go up and others seem to go down; some move forward in life, and some go backward; some do well and others not so well. Then there’s our case of the two people in the same congregation. Both under the same preacher, hearing the same gospel and only one of them profit from that word being preached–us and them.
“Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.” Heb.4:1-2
This word preached that proved to be unprofitable to the hearer is not the fault of the Word. The Word of God has the power to pull down strongholds. The problem here is that the Word which was heard was not mixed with faith. The hearer simply did not believe. As it was then, so it is now.
The Choice of Unbelief
Do not fail to enter into His rest because you fail to believe–unbelief is the crux of the matter:
“Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:”
The phrase ‘harden not your hearts’, obviously indicates personal choice. This was for the Israelites, their unfortunate response upon hearing the voice of the Lord. It is the voice of direction; why do we run from it? It is the voice of peace; why do we ignore it? There is a price to pay for not trusting His voice, as they would find out. The price we pay is no less. No, we don’t just die away as many of them did. It is a slow death to void oneself of His help. To put oneself at odds with the One that we will give an account to is a foolish thing. To choose not to believe what He has spoken, has to be the highest form of treason; choosing our way over His.
“So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” Hebrews 3:19
The Character of Unbelief
Unbelief is, at its root, rebellion. It is both a hardening of the heart and a departure from the living God.
“Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation…”
“Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.”
We are told here that unbelief is akin to evil which is a departure from the Lord. This makes unbelief a very serious matter.
“That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” Hebrews 6:12
The Chemistry of Unbelief
“…but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it”Heb.4:12b
Several things cannot be mixed the Word. You cannot mix worry with the Word and you cannot mix doubt with the Word. Worry and doubt are cut from the same mold, and are actually the opposite of faith. Another thing that cannot be mixed with faith is apathy. Apathy naturally says, ‘I don’t care.’ The only thing that can be mixed with the Word is faith.
Two Impossible Things
First, it impossible to live the Christian life in your own strength. Most will deny that they do this. However, when individuals continue to ‘work’ at being a Christian and trying harder by doing more in an effort to keep from sinning, then living through your own strength is what is taking place. Second, it is impossible for someone who is not a Christian to live the Christian life at all–and don’t say ‘Who would ever do something like that?’, because it happens every day and every Sunday in churches all over the city, country and world–individuals caught up in church life. This is commonly called religion and uncommonly called churchianity.
The Consequence of Unbelief
Old and young alike, show up to church to have a good time, or to fulfill some duty, or even to make some connection–business or otherwise. Unfortunately, some are so blinded, deceived and far away from God, due to a false sense of security, and an over abundance of self-righteousness, they just don’t get it. No matter how much they hear, they don’t understand. They are the ones that scripture says are ‘ever learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth’ (2Ti.3:7). This is truly a sad state of life; to be in the right place to hear the truth, yet not able to receive it and walk in it.
I believe there are several things we can do to, in a sense, ‘protect’ our faith. These things themselves are accomplished by keeping Christ at the center of all we do by faith.
- Do not allow the difficulties of your present circumstance overshadow the reality of God’s truth. All God’s promises concerning our well being in times of trouble, must be received.
- Don’t be a hearer of the Word and not a doer; this is deception – (Ja.1:22)…thinking that because you have heard and have put yourself in a position to hear, that this amounts to righteousness on your part, or that God is somehow pleased.
- Don’t be a learner and not a believer – 2Ti.3:7 (one who does not trust or have faith); this is also deception. Learning in this way only makes you acquainted with facts.Facts are good; but they are not enough. Remember, truth that does not transform, is truth that has not been properly received.
Without faith, hearing and learning become exercises in futility. Not entering into rest in the Lord due to a refusal to believe, actually causes one to short circuit and sabotage ones’ own destiny.
The Cure for Unbelief
Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16
The cure for unbelief is faith! It is shown by coming boldly, that is, coming in confidence and assurance, to receive what is needed, in this case, rest. This must be done by faith because:
“…without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” Hebrews 11:6
Once we enter in to His rest by faith, great things will begin to unfold.
By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:2
Need some rest? Add some faith!
Thats the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.
My former pastor, Jack A.SanFilippo, was a man among men. It was through his preaching that I was introduced to Jesus. As a teen, on several occasions after evening services, he would drive me home. I can still hear him, as on more than one occasion he would say to me: ‘Michael, do you see all these buildings? Do you see all those lights in the windows? I would answer, ‘Yes,’ and would say, ‘Each light represents a soul; someone who is lost and needs Jesus.’ The profoundness of the statement escaped me then, but I’ve understood it now for many years. His words may seem a bit extreme to some, but the fact is, he associated each light with a soul; a potentially lost soul. His statement was an expression of the burden that he had for souls. I’ve never known anyone since then who had the passion for the lost that he had. He would cry, pray, and even walk the streets to reach out to the lost. It was through his example, I began to learn the value of a lost soul. No one is to be thrown away. No one is a hopeless case. Though he went to be with the Lord over thirty years ago, I have tried to keep his example and his words about ‘the lights in the windows’ in my heart every day.
Jesus, first and foremost, had a burden for the lost. We see this truth spoken by the Lord himself:
For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. Luke 19:10
When we speak of ‘the lost’, it is sort of an in house phrase. It is a phrase sprinkled throughout the New Testament used to identify those who are not saved. People are lost because they have lost their way. This is the universal condition of those who are without Christ. Here’s what the Apostle Paul told the Ephesians about the fact of being lost:
That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:12-13
It is an unfortunate condition because most who are lost, don’t see themselves in this way. Some may even be offended at being described in this manner. Aliens? Without hope and without God? Far off? No way! Most will tell you that they know who they are, where they are, and where they are going. Of course there will be exceptions. These see their lives as sort of a wandering maze, going from one thing to another and not quite knowing what it’s all about. They probably wouldn’t tell you, but they are searching, but have no idea what they are seeking for. They go from job to job, weekend to weekend, party to party, club to club–even relationship to relationship looking for that elusive peace and satisfaction. Oh, they do manage to find occasional happiness and a pseudo-peace that temporarily masks their need, but nothing quite gives them the peace they seek, because like sin, pleasure is but for a moment.
Why did Jesus have this burden for the lost? It was because He knew and understood several things. First, take a look at this verse:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised. Luke 4:18
As we have seen in Luke 19:10, Jesus came to seek and save those who were lost. Here they are. They are described by Jesus in no uncertain terms. So concerning the lost, Jesus understood that:
They were BLIND
In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
2 Corinthians 4:4
Satan and this world system of which he controls has effectively blinded the very minds of the lost, causing them not to see or understand their dangerous condition.
They were in BONDAGE
And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.
2 Timothy 2:26
This blindness keeps them in bondage to the enemy. He has managed to both trap them and enslave them-because he could. The lost have no personal power over him.
They were in DARKNESS
And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. Acts 26:18
This is part of the lost condition; blindness implies darkness, and for the lost, it is preferable. This is because the lost are under the dominion of Satan.
They were in DANGER
He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. John 3:18
This is the culmination of blindness, bondage, and darkness–condemanation. The lost in this condition. Daily, they are on the precipice of destruction, one heartbeat away from an eternity without the Lord. Yes, the lost are in great danger.
In light of these things, what should the Christian’s response be to the lost? Our response, I believe, should the same as the Lord’s. We should have a burden for the lost. A burden that causes us to remember the most important part of men and women. The soul. Until the soul is brought into union with Christ, that person will wander; that life will be incomplete. A great old chorus says it all:
Souls are crying, men are dying,
Won’t you lead them to the Cross?
Go and find them, Please help to win them
Win the lost at any cost!
Win the lost at any cost–are you doing your part?
That’s the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.
Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. (John 8:44)
The devil is a deceiver. His name says it all. Here in our verse the phrase ‘he speaketh of his own’, means that he speaks from his character. He is a liar; he lives in untruth. It is what and who he is. Deception flows from his pores, so to speak. He lives to deceive and above all, and most dangerous of all, he himself is deceived. He thinks he will win. He’s seen the last page of the book, which spells out his doom and his demise, yet he still believes he can change it all. Somehow, he believes he can defy what has already been declared and decreed by the finger of God through the Holy Ghost. It is because of this arrogant and twisted self-deception, that there are several things that he simply cannot accept, or handle. I believe that these are the things that drive him to destroy people; that fuel his blind, yet intelligent hatred toward humanity and the true Christian in particular because it is we who proudly carry the name of the One who defeated him at the cross. So, first of all, here is truth number one that the devil just can’t handle–
The fact that he himself is not God
For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. (Isa.14:13-14)
These verses are tagged simply as Satan’s 5 ‘I wills’. These five statements spell out his wish list, his bucket list, if you will, with the last one being his ultimate goal; what he’s wanted almost from the start. Having said that, there are three titles ascribed to Satan that I’d like to bring to your attention. First, scripture states that Satan is the ‘god of this age’ (2 Cor.4:4). Secondly, in John 12:31, he is spoken of as ‘the prince of this world’. Finally, in Eph.2:2, he is called ‘the prince of the power of the air’. With all of these grandiose titles–and I’m sure he appreciates and embraces them all, it’s still not enough for him. He wants to be God himself. He would love to dethrone God if he could, but he can’t, so let’s move on. The second thing that the devil just can’t handle is–
The fact that his beauty was not enough to get him what he wanted
Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee. How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! (Isa.14:11-12)
Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone wasthy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so:thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee
Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee. (Ezekiel.28:13-15,17)
Look at all Lucifer had going for him! He was given power, beauty, wisdom, and even an anointing! Yet he forfeited it all because eventually, he came to believe that all of this merited him equal status with God. But of course, this would not be the case. This is a truth he just can’t handle.
Pride is a serious matter. If it was able to bring an angel of God down, then what do you think it can do to us, who are created a little lower than they were? God is absolutely repelled by pride because it was the very thing that instigated this thing we call sin. The bible states emphatically that, ‘God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble’ (James 4:6). Pride is also actually first in a list of seven things that are an abomination to Him.
These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren. (Prov.6:16-19)
Thirdly, I believe the devil just can’t handle–
The fact that he can’t do exactly what he wants to do
And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD. (Job 1:12)
And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life. (Job 2:6)
I believe it rankles Satan to no end that he cannot really do what he wants, when he wants. We see here his proposals to God, as to what he wanted to do, and we see Gods’ response as to what he actually could and could not do. Do you ever wonder sometimes, why you are even still here, when you have such an enemy as Satan who wants and is willing to destroy you? Why doesn’t he just do it? It’s because he can’t. God has drawn a line in the sand, and the devil won’t–can’t cross it. If he hasn’t been given permission to do a thing, then he just can’t do it. Oh sure he has been given some power along with some rope, and he does manage to ruin,destroy, and blind the minds of those who do not serve him, but he does not have a free hand. All he does and is allowed to do falls under the sovereign and watchful eye of his creator.
Next, we see that the devil just can’t handle–
The fact that he doesn’t get the worship he craves
And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. (Mat.4:9-10)
This certainly must be classified as desperation at its peak. Satan is literally asking Jesus to worship him! At the same time though, his request has a two-fold purpose. First, he obviously wants to be worshipped for his own twisted reasons. Remember, he wants to be God, so he naturally desires the worship that goes along with it. Second, and actually more importantly, if he could get Jesus to sin, he would have effectively ruined God’s plan of redemption for humanity. This of course, he was unable to do.
The last two truths that the devil can’t handle probably stick in his craw more than all the rest, because they have to do with Christ and His people. The first being–
The fact that the blood of Jesus sets men free
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. (Rev.12:11)
Because he was unable to thwart God’s plan of redemption, he cannot handle the truth that Jesus’ blood that was spilled on the cross, still has the power to save, heal and deliver from sin. Satan’s plan backfired; blew up fight in his face. You see, the very thing that the devil wanted to happen, that is, Christ dead and out of the way, was the very thing that God needed to happen. No, I am not saying that we owe a debt of gratitude to the devil for inflaming Jesus’ foes with hatred enough to have him crucified. But what I am saying is that God uses the enemy at times to fulfill His purposes. The fact is, Jesus came to die, only the devil didn’t know it. This is how he would go about destroying the works of the devil. WhAnd I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. When we read Joseph’s words in Genesis, we see a principle that God lays out in scripture, namely that God is able to take what looks bad, what is bad, and cause it work for His purposes. Joseph said, ‘But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive’ (Gen.50:20). The things that make us scratch our heads and say, ‘Why?’, are the very things that God is able to use for our good. This is what happened at the cross. It certainly looked bad, at least for three days. But joy came on Sunday morning! That’s the kind of God that we serve! His blood still sets people free–and the devil hates the blood.
Because Christ did die on the cross, something else fantastic happened, and it’s the final truth that devil really can’t handle. It is–
The fact that he has no power over the child of God
And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. (Col.2:13-15)
Here we have the proverbial ‘nail in the coffin’, the ‘coup de grace’, the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’. These are some of the most powerful and overlooked passages in the bible. They speak to the nature and enormity of the defeat that Satan suffered at the cross. It was both public and humiliating and he’s been trying to recover from it ever since, to no avail. He still stands powerless before the ‘cross wise’ child of God. When we understand that Satan was disarmed at the cross, having his power over us snatched away, we can better appreciate the victory that was purchased for us there. Christ’s death on the cross secured a perpetual victory for all who trust in Him, and an enduring and most devastating defeat for the devil. He fell there, and he will never get up because he was crushed. And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel (Gen.3:15).
So there you have it. Prophecy was fulfilled, and truth came to pass–just like God said it would. And oh don’t you know that the devil just can’t handle the truth!
That’s the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.
Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3)
This question has been asked and answered by many, with a variety of answers. Many people believe that they are a Christian based on the mere fact that they live in America. This is is based on the idea that the United States is a Christian nation. While this may be true at least foundationally, this is obviously not the case in actual practice. What does the bible say? What does Jesus say?
Is it going to church?
Is it living a moral life?
Is it treating people right?
Is it living in America?
Is it keeping a list of rules?
Since the very beginning man has been seeking to cover himself by his own means. Lets first take a look at Genesis chapter 3:
And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. And they heard the voice 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 amongst the trees of the garden. And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. (Gen.3:7-10)
Here’s what it is. Man has been seeking to cover himself by his own means ever since. We have our own ‘fig leaves’ that we use to cover our sin in an effort to put or keep ourselves in God’s ‘good graces.’ Whatever looks right and feels right must be alright, and God must approve of it–right? Not so fast. Before we fall into the world’s mindset and believe that God is a happy, tolerant, higher power who just wants us to be happy in whatever makes us happy, we must first search the scriptures. There we will find truth.
Those seeking to be justified by the things they do, by default, usually wind up saying things like the following to show that they are saved, or that at least they have a place in heaven:
But I’m educated
But I’m a member of the church
But I give to charity and feed the poor
But I’ve been baptized
But I give to the church
These are all works. These are all false hopes of salvation. But what does the bible say? For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast (Eph.2:8-9). When a person becomes a Christian, they enter into a spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ. As for the aforementioned actions deemed to be good enough to make one righteous, the bible says that there is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the way thereof ends in death (Proverbs 14:12).
The Case of Nicodemus
Nicodemus was a good, religious and upstanding citizen. When I say ‘good’, I mean that at least he was considered good by the people. Being a Pharisee automatically placed him in the upper echelon of their community–and they knew it. They were, for the most part looked upon in favor by the people. Jesus however, saw them in a different light. While the Pharisees, almost to a man, looked upon themselves as righteous and accepted in God’s sight, Jesus told them the truth about themselves. Listen to Jesus’ own penetrating words:
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. (Matthew 23:27)
Nicodemus may have also thought like the majority of the other Pharisees, that he was better than others. Here is a sampling of the Pharisaical mindset:
And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. (Luke 18:9-14)
I am sure that when Jesus came on the scene, and Nicodemus heard him, while as stated, he may have had this particular mindset concerning himself, Jesus words arrested him. The Holy Spirit began His convicting work in Nicodemus’s heart. Nicodemus came to Jesus by night because he knew that there would be backlash aimed in his direction had his Pharisee brothers known that he had come to question Jesus concerning the things He spoke. Though Nicodemus had probably thought that he was righteous based on his status and the things he did, he now realized that something was missing. He came to Jesus to find out what it was. Jesus obliged him telling him that he needed to be born again.
The Case of Cornelius
Here was a man, by all intents and purposes, who, if you did not know the intricacies of what a Christian is, would be your model of what a Christian should be. Read his profile found in Acts 10:1-2:
There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.
Cornelius was doing things that some Christians don’t even do regularly! He was devout and respectful, and he had reverence for God. He was that type of person who would cross himself each time he walked past a church, cathedral or temple. Cornelius also had a heart for the poor, as scripture here says that he gave ‘much alms’, that is, charity to the less fortunate. Also, Cornelius did not just pray, he prayed always. In all he did, God saw his heart and knew his heart–but still–Cornelius was not saved. Had he died in that state, I shudder to think where he would have spent eternity. But God is gracious. God dispatched an angel to Cornelius who instructed him to seek out Peter who would in turn, speak words to him that would bring salvation to his soul, and as instructed by the Holy Ghost, this is just what Peter did. Cornelius and his family were saved, even before Peter could finish speaking!
In each case, both Peter and Jesus make it absolutely clear that becoming and being a Christian have nothing to with the good or righteous things we do. Being a Christian is not about turning over a new leaf, or deciding you’re just going to be better. Being a Christian means having a living, breathing, one on one relationship with Jesus Christ. Too many people believe that just by going to church over a period of time, or listening to gospel music of some kind–and enjoying it, or because they actually ‘like’ God, and try to do the best they can when they can, qualifies them as ‘Christian’. Here is the bottom line: when your life changes from the inside out, and not from the outside out; when His Word becomes what you do rather than just what you hear; when your sin, more than anyone elses, becomes an affront to you, and prompts you to run to His throne for mercy, then you have entered into relationship.
In closing, please allow me one final thought. Please stay away from religion. It will kill you spiritually and eventually send you off into eternity without ever knowing Jesus personally. It will also drive a wedge between you and God and give you a false sense of security. It’s what the Pharisees were. It’s what Cornelius was. The mercy and grace of God bought them out. When they placed faith in Christ, He in turn, gave them new life. There it is. The Christian life is about living a new life. His life, in us.
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John14:6)
That’s the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.