God Is Looking for Men

Few verses of Scripture have more powerfully influenced my personal life than Ezekiel 22:30. After having given my life to Christ in an act of repentance, and receiving His free gift of salvation, a few short years later I accepted the call to preach the word.

However as a young adult I let selfish personal desires and worldly decisions turn me away from the promise I had made to God. Though God kept that promise which I had made to Him ever before me, in rebellion I lived only for myself and like a tornado left a path of destruction which affected the lives of everyone with whom I came in contact. But, even in my immorality and wickedness God still loved me, and desired to draw me back to Himself, and to obedience to His Will.

After many years in disobedience, I had reached a point at which God in His mercy had allowed me to be completely broken. I was broken materially, emotionally, and most of all spiritually. I was jobless, homeless, and had lost all respectability and integrity. Like the prodigal son I had wasted everything God had ever given me and destroyed every relationship with those who mattered to me. However, even at the depths of my depravity, and despite my unrepentant attitude, there were those who never ceased to pray for me. In doing so, they kept the illuminating and purifying light of Christ shining into my life and exposing my sin.

At that low point in my life, as a result of those prayers and through the efforts of my mother and oldest daughter, I began to be exposed to Godly men who, in the love of Christ, began to council and then disciple me. After a few months I cried out to God for forgiveness and gave Him complete control of my life. Believing completely in His power and ability to change my life, I again turned to His Word to show me His Will. I began that process of sanctification, daily endeavoring to be more like Christ, which yet continues even to this day. Late one night while reading, I came to this passage in Ezekiel and God began to show me, to teach me, just what He would require of me.

Ezekiel was a prophet of God to the nation of Israel during the Babylonian captivity. Because of Israel’s wickedness and disobedience God had allowed Nebuchadnezzar to conquer the nation. In the process of the conquest, the destruction of Israel took place over a period of years and included three separate periods of destruction during which the people of Israel were either scattered into other nations or were carried into captivity to Babylon. Ezekiel had been a part of the second captivity and his prophecies were both for those in captivity, and those who yet remained in Jerusalem, to turn from their wickedness and ask for restoration before God. Ezekiel chapter 22 details the depths of wickedness to which the nation of Israel had fallen, and what His judgment on them would involve. Having reached this point, God told Ezekiel;

“And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none. Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord GOD.” (Ezekiel 22:30-31 KJV)

God had looked for one man, just one. It would have only taken one man to step into the breach in obedience, one man completely committed to God to make a stand for God before the nation of Israel. One man who was steadfast and loyal to God, to stay God’s judgment on the nation. But, the Scripture says, He found none.

As I read and studied that passage I was struck by two thoughts; first, how tragic it was that God could not find even one man willing to stand for Him in all the nation of Israel; and second, I was overwhelmed and captivated with the realization that God is still looking for a man. That, in fact, throughout history, in every generation, God has looked for a man, Today, God is still looking for men willing to be His steadfast and loyal watchmen, warrior servants, and leader servants, willing to stand for God, for Christ, before this wicked world, calling for repentance and declaring His righteousness.

As the meaning of this passage and its significance became clear to me, especially as it pertained to my own life and to my walk with Christ, I realized that incredibly, God still wanted to use me. I realized that He wanted to use me not because of who I was becoming in Christ, but because of who I was before I turned to Him.

This realization compelled me to begin a study of the men God chose to use, both in the Old Testament and New, to accomplish His goals. And while this study revealed the character and characteristics of the type of man God is looking for, most importantly I began to understand not only why He still wanted to use me, but also what He was going to require of me.

Many years have passed since Christ in His mercy restored me to Himself and allowed His Holy Spirit to indwell me, protect me, teach me, and empower me to be His obedient servant. The process of sanctification continues in my life, and each morning as I rise I hear the call of the Holy Spirit in my heart saying “I sought for a man among them” and I pray to my heavenly Father; “cause me, make me, enable me to be that man.”

God is still looking for men! But God is not looking for perfect men, He is not looking for the wealthiest, or the best looking, or even the most intelligent men.

What kind of man is God looking for?

  • God is looking for men who will stand in the gap and love Him more than they love the things of the world.
  • God is looking for men who will stand in the gap because their hearts desire is to serve Him in obedience.
  • God is looking for men who will stand in the gap because as men they are dependent on Him, humble men who trust him completely to lead them.
  • God is looking for men who will stand in the gap and not compromise the Word of God to the popular culture or the ideas of man, who will not tolerate unrepentant sin, yet who will love sinners just as Jesus did.
  • God is looking for men who will stand in the gap and love, lead, comfort, and protect their wives just as Christ does the church.
  • God is looking for men who will stand in the gap because they are more concerned about their children’s souls than their athletic abilities or popularity.
  • God is looking for men who will stand in the gap and lead by the way they live rather than by what they say.
  • God is looking for men who will stand in the gap and pray, who current in their prayer life, are intercessors praying for the lives of others.
  • God is looking for men who will stand in the gap as watchmen, warning His church of apostasy and infidelity, who will be defenders of the faith.
  • God is looking for men who will stand in the gap having put on the whole armor of God, and having done all to stand, will stand therefore!

The most important thing that we must understand is that God is looking for men not only willing to die for the cause of Christ, but more importantly, He is looking for men whose lives are yielded to the power of the Holy Spirit and who are willing to live for Jesus Christ!

Is He looking for You?

 

Whatever Happened to John 3:16?

Quite literally, every day we learn of another example of man’s inhumanity to man. News organizations, both traditional and Internet-based, daily report on the atrocities and unspeakable evil which permeates, affects, touches, or in some way influences the lives of nearly every person on planet Earth. We are being constantly made aware of new and terrible diseases, or the resurgence or mutations of age-old maladies which are increasingly affecting numbers of peoples all over the world. And, weather events and natural disasters continue to increase in severity and frequency.

However, those of us who consider ourselves to be a part of the True Church, the Body of Christ, point to prophetic Scripture and declare that the Bible says these things are to be so as we approach the end of days. We of course do so by sharing these things from our pulpits, or in our weekly Bible studies, or through books we write, or (more and more frequently) through blogs posted on our own websites and those of others.

News organizations detail the latest atrocities committed by ISIS in Iraq, Syria, Jordan, and the rest of the Middle East; Boko Haram in Africa, Russian separatists in Ukraine, the Iranian proxies (Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon), Al Qaeda in Yemen and Libya, the PLO in Israel, the Taliban in Afghanistan, Muslim extremists in Europe, and rising anti-Semitism worldwide. We hear about Chinese belligerence in the Far East, the nuclear aspirations of Iran, North Korea, and India, and increasingly, the failure of the United States to articulate any real understanding of, or implementation of, foreign policy.

In the US domestic news, we also read and see evidence of the growing influence of Islam, the continued proliferation of secular humanism in our institutions of learning, the insidious and intolerant assaults on Christianity and traditional family values by progressives (formerly known as liberals), and the militant minority LGBT community.

Lately, as I follow these news sources and then read the blog articles and comments of those in the Christian community, I have begun to see what I consider to be a disturbing trend. Many, though certainly not all, of these comments, articles, and posts focus on the condemnation of the individuals, groups, or countries committing these egregious acts without commenting on, or attributing, the ultimate reason for these evils to the very fact that we are living in a world which is ruled by the prince of the power of the air, and the rulers of darkness of this world, which is of course, Satan and his demons.

In fact, many in the Christian community have become so intentional in their desire to “expose” the hatred and evil inherent among those who are doing Satan’s bidding in these days, that they have forgotten not only the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:36-40) and Great Commission (Mark 16:15), but in fact, the words of John 3:16. Even while acknowledging that we are living in the Last Days, that the Rapture of the church is imminent, and that a time of great Tribulation is approaching mankind, which will culminate in Christ’s physical return to the earth in power and great glory, we are failing to do the work which we were first called to do; proclaim the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 (NKJV)

Remember this verse? It is one of the best-known verses in the Bible. In fact, for most of us it is the very first verse we ever committed to memory. John 3:16 clearly and simply declares the Good News of the Gospel.

Let’s break this verse down a bit, “For God so loved the world” tells us that the creator of the universe loves His creation. However, the “world” here is not descriptive of the cosmos, or even the earth itself, but of all mankind. So the Scripture is saying that God loves all men, even those who scorn or reject His love. When I read “God so loved the world,” I can individualize that to say that He loves me. Yet, the same can be said by every other individual on the earth. This then means that the whole love of God is available to every single soul who has ever lived. Understanding that, the blessed truth here is this; no matter how far one distances himself from God, no matter how little one thinks of God, or no matter that one never even shows any love for God, it makes absolutely no difference to the very fact that God loves them.

Let’s continue, “that He gave His only begotten Son” is describing the fact that Jesus Christ became the sacrifice required by a Holy God to pay the sin debt of the entire world (read mankind). We must understand here that it was not Jesus’s death that turned God’s wrath and anger away from man, but rather it was God’s love for man which appointed Jesus Christ’s death. This then demonstrates that God loved men before He sent Christ to pay their sin debt. (2 Corinthians 5:14-21; Hebrews 2:9; 1 John 2:2)

This brings us to the last part of the verse, “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Now then, “whoever” means whoever. There is nothing complicated here, there is no mystery here, any and every man who believes that Jesus Christ paid his sin debt can have eternal life.

Believing in Christ means that we acknowledge that He alone could be the perfect sacrifice which a Holy God required. It is acknowledging Him as our Savior, and surrendering to Him authority in our lives as our Lord. It is the act of acknowledging His will as our own as we become His disciples.

God hates sin, and God certainly does not like the wicked state of the world in which we live. But God loves men, and Peter tells us that He is not willing that any should perish. (2 Peter 3:9)

So, the purpose of my article is this:

We who are disciples of Jesus Christ, who make up the Body of the True Church, which is the Bride of Christ, need to examine our attitudes as they relate to men and sin. When we stand in our pulpits, or sit before our computers we need to remember that Jesus Christ came to save sinners, and that but for the grace of God, we ourselves could still be in need of redemption. We need to humble ourselves as did the Apostle Paul when he wrote; “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15).

Jesus Christ came to save sinners, mankind; no matter what their nationality, no matter what their race, no matter what their religion, no matter what their sexual orientation, no matter what political office they may hold, no matter whether they are rich or poor, no matter what the circumstances of their life are, Jesus Christ paid their sin debt and we have the responsibility to share that Good News with them. No matter what the cost may be.

Reread the Book of Acts, up until his conversion on the road to Damascus in chapter 9, the church considered Paul (Saul of Tarsus) a terrorist. Yet, look at what Christ did with his life. Take a hard look at your life and examine what you might have become had it not been for Christ’s intervention and your salvation. Think about what Christ could do with the life of a world leader or even a would-be terrorist who found redemption in Him today.

Please understand this, I am not asking that we cease our efforts as “watchmen on the wall” or that we quit proclaiming the imminence of Christ’s return for His Church. I am not even suggesting we quit commenting on current events and their relationship to the end times.

What I am asking is that we refocus on that which is the most important task we have been given, to share the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Share it in every message you preach, every study you lead, and every article you write. Is it not truly what we have all been called to do? Is it not really the reason we have become watchmen?

Yes, Jesus is coming soon, and we need to share the Good News so that many more will be ready for His coming.

Discipleship: Fully Committed to Christ

In Luke 14:25-33 we find a passage that describes what is required to truly be a disciple of Christ.

“Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, ‘”If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.”’

Many would consider this passage as some of the “hard sayings” of Jesus. At the point in His ministry at which He made these statements, He had been attracting great crowds which followed Him everywhere to hear His teaching. Yet many of them were following Him expecting temporal reward or at the very least, reflected glory for themselves. And so, Jesus delivers to them this message in order for them to understand what truly would be required of anyone who desired to be His disciple. Additionally, He shared with them examples of counting the cost of being His disciple.

When Jesus spoke to them in verse 26; “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple” the implication was not that they would truly hate their own family or themselves, but in fact, that as much as they loved their families, they must love Jesus infinitely more. And in verse 27; “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple,” He is saying, in order to be His disciple, not only should one be willing to face unspeakable persecution and suffering, but one willingly commits to following Christ even if it means his death. In verse 33 Jesus said; “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” Again, the inference is that if we are to be disciples of Jesus Christ, we must be willing to put our love and service to Him above all of our material possessions. My friends this is a total commitment that He is requiring. You must follow Him completely or not at all. It is all or nothing. Jesus Christ is either Lord over everything in your life, including your life itself, or He is not Lord at all.

To be a true disciple of Jesus Christ one must count the cost. One must realize that sacrifice is required, suffering and persecution is to be expected, and we very well may be required to forfeit our very lives. In teaching on discipleship I often say it is not for the weak at heart. Again, remember Jesus told us in John 15:20; “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you,” and they crucified Him.

So, we have looked at what Christ says is required to be a disciple, but how does that relate to being a Christian? Let’s look at Acts 11:28; “And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” In this passage, which is telling about Barnabas taking Paul to Antioch, disciple is synonymous with Christian. I’m wondering if that puts a whole new light on your understanding of your relationship to Christ. Let’s look again at the words of Christ, this time in Mark 8:34; ‘“When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”’ There are three imperatives here:

  • First, is self-denial. This again is putting Christ before anything, anyone, and everything in your life;
  • Second, is self-sacrifice. Again, being willing to suffer and lay down your very life for Jesus Christ if so required;
  • Third, Jesus said “follow me” and there have been volumes written about the meaning of those two words, but the short version is this, having embraced self-denial and self-sacrifice,
    • commit to the life of a disciple by studying the Word of God,
    • grow more Christ-like by living by the Word of God,
    • share the Word of God with others,
    • and defend the Word of God without fail.

Here then is the bottom line. Jesus, the very Son of God, was born into this world to become the Christ. At Calvary He took on the sin debt owed by all humanity, paid it with His own life, was buried, and resurrected Himself into life. By His victory over sin and death, He has offered to all mankind the free gift of salvation and eternal life for all who will believe in His finished work at the cross and recognize Him as their Savior, and Lord of their life. In understanding this, we comprehend that discipleship as a Christian is voluntary. In accepting Christ’s gift we willingly are giving over our will to His Will. In that respect, becoming a Christian and a disciple is intentional.

Unfortunately, there are many who call themselves Christian, yet have not counted the cost. They never really surrendered their will to His Will. If you take an honest look at your life, can you truly say that you have surrendered your will to Christ? If not, you must seriously question your commitment. Are you truly following Christ? Are you His disciple? Again, if not, there is no better time than now, no better day than today to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior and surrender your life and your will to Him.

True discipleship begins at the cross of Christ. It requires sacrificial devotion to Christ without compromise, it requires putting the needs of others ahead of one’s self for the sake of the gospel, it is an absolute commitment to God’s Will in the disciple’s life.

Are you a disciple of Jesus?

Following Hard… or finding it Hard to Follow?

So you say you are a Christian, and in fact you can point to a day in your life in which you acknowledged your sinfulness, repented of your sinful nature, and asked Jesus to be your Savior and the Lord of your life. Undoubtedly, every day since has been filled with ease and pleasure, right? What? No?

Is it possible that your faith has brought suffering rather than the happiness you expected? Have you been rejected by family members or friends? Has your relationship with Jesus Christ caused you to have to sacrifice something or someone important to you? Have you been reviled or persecuted because of your faith in Jesus Christ?

Did you know that Jesus Himself told us this would happen? In John 15:18-21 we read;

“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.”

Remember, Jesus was mocked, lied about, beaten, spat upon, scourged, stripped naked, and in fact, Jesus Himself was abandoned by all of His disciples except John when He was nailed to the cross.

So, there is something here that we all need to understand as followers of Christ; we need to be prepared to face the fact that in all likelihood, sometime during our life, we can expect to suffer for our faith in Christ. Many of our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ in various parts of the world today are in fact doing that very thing; suffering rejection, persecution, vile depredation, and even death. We may not all be required to face death for Christ, but the Apostle Paul warned Timothy;

“Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” (2 Timothy 3:12)

After Christ’s resurrection and ascension, when the Holy Spirit was given to indwell the disciples, they began to recall all that they had been taught by Jesus when they walked with Him, and so began to speak boldly all the things that they had learned and witnessed. In Acts 5 we have recorded the story of John and Peter’s persecution for having refused to obey the edict of the Sanhedrin not to speak about Jesus. And Acts 5:40 records the fact that they were beaten and once again instructed not to speak about Jesus. However, in Acts 5:41 we read;

“So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.”

How does one possibly develop an attitude of thanksgiving for having suffered persecution? Quite simply, it happens when one goes beyond merely accepting Jesus Christ as Savior, and commits to doing the work that is required to become a disciple. In his letter to the church at Colossae, the Apostle Paul instructed the believers there;

“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.” (Colossians 2:6-7)

This is the act of Spiritual growth! Walking in Christ involves daily living by His Word; being rooted in Him requires the study of the Word; being built up in Him involves constructive growth in understanding doctrine as defined in the root of the Word; all this will establish you in your faith in Christ, enabling you to rejoice in every circumstance with thanksgiving.

Wow! You say. That sounds an awful lot like work. Well, yes it is. Becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ requires hard work, and because of the ever-present possibility of suffering and persecution, it isn’t for the faint of heart. But, the work is rewarding and the results are eternal.

So, as a believer in Jesus Christ, where do you begin to become a follower of Jesus Christ, one of His disciples? Actually it begins with your faith in Jesus Christ. The realization that you could not redeem yourself, and that by accepting God’s free gift of salvation through Christ’s finished work on the cross, you have acknowledged Christ as your Savior, and as the Lord of your life. This means you have yielded your will to His Will. When you have yielded your will to His Will you have actively begun the process of becoming a disciple. The Apostle Paul described this transformation as the “renewing of your mind.” In writing to the church at Rome the Apostle Paul encouraged the believers there;

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2)

So, Paul says after we give ourselves to God, the first work we must do is to renew our mind and by doing so, we may prove or know God’s Will. We do that by not being conformed to the world, but rather by being conformed to the Word of God. In other words everything that you learned or thought you knew before you became a Christian, must now be examined and filtered through the Word of God. This may involve unlearning some things and getting rid of old thoughts, replacing them with thoughts that are centered on Christ.

Renewing your mind, and becoming a disciple is a process not an event. When you accepted Christ as your personal Savior, your Salvation resulted in Justification in the sight of God. Discipleship is the process of Sanctification, which is daily endeavoring to grow more Christ like. Discipleship is a lifelong process, one never completes the process this side of heaven.

Discipleship is doing the work of learning to follow Christ. What does that work involve?

  • Jesus Christ discipled the 12, and hundreds more, in fact at Pentecost there were no less than 120 of His disciples present. Paul discipled Timothy, Titus, Tychicus, Luke, Phoebe, and countless others; Peter discipled John Mark among others; John discipled Ignatius, Polycarp, and others, Priscilla and Aquila discipled Apollos as did Paul, Polycarp discipled Justin Martyr and Onesimus (who was also discipled by Paul). And so down through the centuries this process has continued. I have been discipled by Dr. Jimmy Moody, Dr. Charlie Dodd, Dr. Mal Couch, Dr. Eliseo Solorio, Doug Pabody and others. What is the point here? If you truly desire to become a disciple of Jesus Christ find a more mature disciple of Christ’s and be discipled by them.
  • Discipleship is disciplining yourself to learn the Word of God and making yourself accountable to a discipler who loves you and Jesus enough to encourage you to do the hard work.
  • Daily read and study the Word of God and in so doing ask the Holy Spirit to guide and teach you. As you learn the Word of God be obedient to what you learn. Obedience is part of the hard work.
  • Memorize passages of Scripture. Committing them to your mind will not only allow you to share them with others, but more importantly they will become the foundation on which you stand and the compass by which you navigate through life.
  • Pray. Pray for understanding, knowledge, wisdom, and others. The Scripture tells us to pray without ceasing. In other words we should always be in an attitude of prayer, ready to talk to God about anything and everything. Remember in your prayers to give thanks for all that Christ has done for you and is doing in you.
  • Develop a Scriptural understanding of stewardship, realizing that all you have and all you are belongs to God. This will allow you to properly allocate your time, talent, and resources as God leads.
  • Involve yourself in a local Bible believing, gospel preaching church (here’s a hint, the more intimate and family like the congregation and staff are, the more likely it is that you will find true disciples and disciplers there). Get involved in every Bible study available to you in the church, and look for ways to serve the body of Christ in and through your church.
  • Oh, and one more thing! As you grow as a disciple, become a discipler. Make yourself available to a believer who is less mature in his or her walk with Christ than you are and begin to teach them the things you have learned from the Word of God as a disciple.

Discipleship is more than just learning how to follow Christ, it actually involves following Christ no matter what the cost. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said; “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Bonhoeffer was martyred for Christ. I think I mentioned before that discipleship is not for the faint of heart. In fact, are you aware that all of Christ’s disciples who became His Apostles were martyred with the exception of John? I have often wondered if John was spared martyrdom because of his appearance at the cross during Christ’s crucifixion. Among the other disciples I named above in this article; Timothy, Titus, Tychicus, Luke, John Mark, Ignatius, Polycarp, Apollos, Onesimus, Justin Martyr, and Dr. Eliseo Solorio were all martyred for the cause of Christ.

Remember, Christ promised we would suffer, but He also said;

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20)

I like that promise, “I am with you always.”

Let us be busy as Disciples following hard after Jesus Christ, let us not fear those things which may befall us because we, like Paul, can say;

“For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” (2 Timothy 1:12)

Even when the following gets hard… Especially when the following gets hard… Follow Hard after Jesus!

The Night Is Far Spent

It has been nearly 2000 years since the risen Christ (Messiah), Jesus of Nazareth, the very Son of God, ascended into heaven and was seated at God’s right hand. During His relatively short life on earth, the self-described Son of Man accomplished everything His heavenly Father had tasked Him to do. Most specifically, His death on Calvary paid the sin debt of all mankind (Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23), both past and future. And His subsequent burial and resurrection proved Him victorious over sin and death enabling all who confess and believe on Him (Romans 10:9-13) to be saved from the penalty of that sin debt.

The ascension of Jesus Christ ushered in the Age of Grace or the Church Age, which began at Pentecost when the promised Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ descended on the disciples, indwelling them (Acts 2). During this Age of Grace, through the work of the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ has been calling out (1 Peter 2:9; 1 John 3:1) from among Jews and Gentiles alike, His church; (Matthew 16:18), “thou art Peter [pétros; a small stone = Peter] and upon this rock [pétra; a mass of rock = Jesus Christ] I will build My [Jesus Christ] church.”

Jesus is the Rock the church is built on, not Peter, which is also the Body of Christ (Ephesians 1:15-23; Colossians 1:13-18) redeemed to serve Him (Titus 2:14). This Age of Grace will culminate when Jesus Christ raptures His church (1 Corinthians 15:51-58; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17) to join Him before the throne of God in preparation for His eternal reign.

During this nearly 2000 years the church of Jesus Christ has grown despite the ever-present darkness and attacks from Satan and his demonic forces (Ephesians 2:2; Ephesians 6:12; 1 Peter 5:8). But unfortunately, right alongside the true church of Jesus Christ we have witnessed the growth of a false church (2 Peter 2:1-2), a counterfeit church which has a form of godliness, religious in nature, yet its false prophets and false teachers lack the guidance of the indwelling Holy Spirit. They are actually doing the work of Satan (Matthew 24:11) by giving those in their congregations a false representation of salvation leaving many to believe they are “Christians” who actually have no relationship with the risen Christ.

Today, we as the true church need to heed the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 13:11-14:

“And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”

Unfortunately complacency in the true church has in many cases caused it to become as ineffectual as the counterfeit church. Many followers of Christ have grown contented with their present life, and while they believe that Jesus will return someday, they are no more looking for His return than those in the false church. Paul is telling us to wake up and wake up we should. If the imminence of Christ’s return was real to the church of Jesus Christ in Paul’s day, we need to understand that almost 2000 years later our salvation is in fact “nearer than when we first believed.” Throughout the entire Church Age the church of Jesus Christ has grown, yet too has the darkness of the demonic influence of the prince of the power of the air. Only the spiritually ignorant would in any way claim that the condition of the world is less sinful today than in the first century. In fact, man’s moral and spiritual depravity has grown exponentially between the time of the ascension of Jesus Christ and today.

However, a simple examination of the growing fulfillment of biblical end-times prophecies and the birth pangs described by our Lord in Matthew 24, should cause the follower of Jesus Christ to see, that indeed, “the night is far spent,” and “the day is at hand.” The night in which we have long been enveloped by the reign of Satan’s darkness on this earth has nearly run its course, and will soon give way for the Christian to the dawning of the day in which Christ Jesus will return in the clouds of glory to call His church to meet Him in the air. Because of this, Paul encourages us to put on the armor of light.

Notice Paul did not tell us to put on white robes of righteousness (which we will receive from Christ in glory), but armor. The armor of God, which is the armor of light, is the holy protective cover for the warrior of Christ. We are not yet to be dressed for eternity but rather for conflict. Our armor and armament are described in Ephesians 6:10-18 and are given to us in this present age so that we might be able to stand for righteousness against darkness and the demonic rulers of this present age.

If we belong to the day we must be equipped for the fight because there is always fighting to be done. The armor shows the character traits of the true Christian which are in fact a reflection of the character of Jesus Christ. Therefore when we put on the armor of God, which is the armor of light, we in truth are doing as Paul encouraged in Romans 3:14 and have “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Putting on the Lord Jesus Christ means that we become a reflection of Him in word and deed, desiring to have the mind of Christ, following His example of life. Putting on the Lord Jesus Christ means that in obedience we are willing to be conformed to His will for our lives, submitting ourselves to that will.

Putting on the Lord Jesus Christ requires continual effort, a daily dying to self, so that He can make of us warriors worthy of the cross. If we so put on Christ, not only will we be protected from the works of darkness, not making “provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts,” we will also be equipped to stand for Jesus Christ as He defeats the rulers of darkness in this age.

Make no mistake, the true church of Jesus Christ, the Body of Believers (Jew and Gentile) which make up His remnant church of the last days, are and will be under attack by Satan as he utilizes every weapon in his arsenal, including the apostate false “Christian” church. Until Christ raptures His church, we can only expect the battle for the souls of men to intensify and grow in graphic devastation.

In anticipation of the blessed “dawning of that day,” we as followers of Christ should be excited that we have been given the opportunity to stand with our Lord and Savior by putting on the whole armor of God which He has provided for us. For when that day has fully dawned we will be allowed to set aside the armor for the pure white robe with which Christ will clothe us. For in that day we will have been deemed to be “more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37) and standing before the Bema will hear, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).

“The night is far spent, the day is at hand.”

Even So Come.

Suicide and Cremation

A lady recently asked my wife, Rachel, if a relative that committed suicide and was cremated could go to heaven. Two or three days later, a different lady asked me about one of her relatives that committed suicide. She said several members of her family, especially the parents and wife of the deceased, are having trouble dealing with it.

These questions have nothing to do with Bible prophecy, but they concern ministry, and the proximity of the two incidents caused Rachel to suggest that I write an article on this.

Understand that I am not saying that cremation is a good thing. As a general rule, I advise against it because it can lead to problems like the ones that are mentioned above. But a person’s salvation is not based upon how a person dies or what happens to their body after they die. It is based on their decision to accept or reject Jesus before they die. Their soul and spirit will be in heaven or hell before anything is ever done with their body.

Many Christians have been burned at the stake. Others have died in bombed buildings, burned down houses, plane crashes, car accidents and the like. They didn’t go to hell because their body was incinerated. But even if they did go to hell or they drowned at sea hundreds of years ago, God will still raise them from the dead (I Thess. 4:13-18; Rev. 20:13). God couldn’t do all things, if He couldn’t raise those from the dead who have been cremated, but He can do all things.

There is just one unpardonable sin and it is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (unbelief or attributing the works of God to Satan) not cremation (Matt. 12:31). Also, if the grace of God can cover sins such as murder, adultery and lying, it can cover suicide and cremation.

Paul made a very important statement along these lines. He said, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39). “Us” is a key word in this passage. It refers to those who have truly accepted Jesus. The passage means a sincere confession of faith in Jesus is not canceled by how a person died or what happened to their body.

The story of Samson is an excellent example (Jud. 13:24-16:31). In essence, Samson committed suicide and God gave him the strength to do it. Even though he took his own life, Samson was saved because he is mentioned in the Hall of Faith (Heb. 11:32).

Prophecy Plus Ministries
Daymond & Rachel Duck
daymond.duck@yahoo.com

American Religion

In the book of Acts chapter 17 we find the apostle Paul in the city of Athens, in Roman occupied Greece near the middle of the first century. In verse 16 we read that Paul’s spirit was stirred in him when he saw that the city was “wholly given to idolatry.”

In a close examination of that statement we find that literally, the city was inundated with idols and the practice of idolatry. Petronius, a Greek satirist and a contemporary of the apostle Paul remarked that in Athens one could find a god easier than a man.

And Pausanias, another contemporary of the apostle, said that Athens had more idols and altars than the rest of Greece combined. Here Paul encountered two groups of philosophers:

The Epicureans who had given up the search for truth and instead focused their lives on seeking pleasure. And the Stoics who maintained that self-sufficiency and self-reliance could fulfill all of man’s desires, and that he had need of nothing outside of self.

Luke, in his description of the Athenians said they spent their time either telling or hearing some “new thing.” In other words their lives were completely occupied with an insatiable obsession for the latest gossip, discoveries, philosophies, technologies, entertainment, and other forms of pleasure.

On the whole then, the Athenians were a self-absorbed people whose gods existed to bring them pleasure, and in fact, they even had an altar to the “unknown” god, just in case they had left a god out. They certainly didn’t want to offend him.

Having been invited to speak by the philosophers so that they might examine his teaching, Paul spoke to the crowd from Mars Hill. The apostle Paul’s remarks to the Athenians were such that he perceived them to be very religious.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word religious as:

  1. A set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
  2. A specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Buddhist religion; the Christian religion; the Muslim religion, the Jewish religion; etc…
  3. The body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: a world council of religions.
  4. The practice of religious beliefs; ritual observances.

Understand, although they believed he was being complementary—Paul was not giving them a compliment. You see, the apostle at one point in time had been part of a religious sect of the Jews called the Pharisees. But after his conversion on the road to Damascus he no longer followed a religion, for he had a relationship with Jesus Christ, the very Son of God.

In fact, Paul was condemning them for their ritual observances which, devoid of faith, were no more than exercises in self-satisfaction. However, Paul used their religiosity to declare to them the identity of the “unknown” God to whom they had built an altar.

In Athens of the first century, I see a picture of the United States of America as it is today. This is a land filled with idols and altars to innumerable gods. America is a land filled with religiousness, yet devoid of faith. Like the Epicureans and Stoics, Americans are seekers of pleasure and are self-indulgent in their pursuit of materialism, success and self-glorification.

I believe the apostle Paul describes the condition of Americans today in Philippians 3:18-19:

“For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things.”

Many people worship in stadiums, arenas, ballparks, and every other type of sports venue with little gods in uniforms to whom they pay homage. Many others worship in concert halls, theaters, and nightclubs paying homage to musicians and vocalists—whose self-absorbed lives are idolized and aggrandized.

Still many others worship in theaters or in their own homes before altars which are screens showing digital images and stories, which for the most part are filled with fantasy or debauchery and filth—portrayed by actors devoid of morals and any sense of personal accountability.

In America, there are those who worship at the altar of money, some who worship at the altar of fame, some who worship at the altar of politics, some who worship at the altar of education, some who worship at the altar of environmentalism, some who worship at the altar of sex and pornography.

And some who worship at the altars of alcohol and drugs, some who worship at the altar of compromise and tolerance and inclusiveness, and there are some who worship at the altar of atheism and secular humanism. And, in many ways these are all worshiping at the altar of self.

In America today there are many forms of religion from every corner of the earth. There are deists, pantheists, monotheists, polytheists, panentheists, animists, agnostics and atheists. Some of which hope to pacify; others who hope to proselytize. Others who hope to marginalize, and still others who simply desire to enslave or eliminate anyone who does not adhere to their form of religion.

In America today, most churches are institutionalized memorials to religiosity, populated by people who either are seeking approval for their own actions and ideologies, blindly following the unscriptural tenants and teachings of false teachers and false prophets, or are simply going through the motions of ritualistic religion.

For all of the altars at which people worship in America today, unfortunately I have yet to find an altar to the “unknown” god such as the apostle Paul found in Athens. In fact, in America today people seem to be completely satisfied worshiping at the altars of their self-made idols and hedonistic gods.

However the infinite, eternal, God whom Paul declared to the Athenians, is still the immutable, incomparable, inscrutable, unfathomable, unsearchable, transcendent, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, righteous, just, gracious, holy, and sovereign God today. He is the Creator God of the universe who made Man; rather than an idol or object made by Man, who is dependent on Man.

He is the righteous God, who in His sovereignty, yet, requires payment for Man’s sinful rebellion which began with Adam in the garden. He is the gracious God, who provided that payment when His own Son, Jesus Christ, paid the sin debt of all who will believe on Him, by His death on the cross, burial and resurrection.

He is a Holy God, who has provided the Holy Spirit of Christ to indwell everyone who has believed on Jesus, as their Comforter and Teacher. He is a just God, who has appointed a day when everyone in the world will stand in judgment by His Son, if they have not repented of their sinfulness and accepted His free gift of grace.

Today in America (and the world) there needs to be a spiritual revival which causes people to turn away from their self-centered idolatry and worldliness, and turn to the infinite, eternal, creator God of the Bible.

Time is growing short, God could at any time tell Jesus to call out His children, His church; and that my friends will set in motion a chain of events which will culminate with Christ’s return in power and great glory to judge the earth and all of its inhabitants.

Do you know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior? Have you, like the apostle Paul, turned away from religion and embraced a relationship with Jesus Christ? If not, I invite you to read the following verses from the book of Romans in God’s Holy Bible.

Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Romans 3:10: “As it is written: ‘THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NO, NOT ONE.’”

Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 5:8: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Romans 10:9-10:  “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

Romans 10:13: “For ‘WHOEVER CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD SHALL BE SAVED.’”

Romans 8:1-2: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.”

These verses are commonly known as the Romans Road to salvation. It is a starting point for developing a true relationship with Jesus Christ. He really does desire a relationship with you, which through the study of and obedience to His word, will cause you to grow closer to Him and prepare you to really live.

If you understand these verses in Romans and believe them to be true, and if you desire to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, establishing that relationship with Him, it would be good for you to communicate this with Him through prayer. Understand, that your faith in Christ establishes your salvation, while your prayer begins your relationship in Christ.

The prophet Jeremiah also left an important message for you:

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you” (Jeremiah 29:10-12).

Remember, reciting a prayer cannot save you! If your desire is to receive the salvation that is available through Jesus, you must simply place your faith in Him. Totally trust His death as the sufficient sacrifice for your sins. Absolutely rely on Him alone as your Savior. That is the true biblical way of salvation.

If you have received Jesus as your Savior, please, say a prayer to God. Pray in your own words acknowledging the verses in Romans above. Tell God how thankful you are for Jesus. Offer praise to God for His love and sacrifice. Thank Jesus for dying for your sins and providing salvation for you. That is the biblical connection between salvation and prayer.

If you have made a decision today to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior, we would love to hear from you. Send me an email with a way to contact you and we will send you information on how to grow in your relationship in Christ. Like the gift of salvation, the information is free.

“Because the night is far spent, and the day is at hand!” (Romans 13:12a).

EvenSoCome

Dr. Tucker Whitaker

drwhitaker@ymail.com