Until Jesus Comes

Repent. Pray. Read your Bible. Pray. Believe it.  Pray. Be changed by it. Pray. Live it. Pray. Continue to repent, read, grow and live out God’s truth. Pray. 

Wait a minute.

Wait just a minute. Those things are yesteryear’s way. Our way today is so much more stupid enlightened. We don’t need all those old-fashioned ways.

Do we?

The church will never change the culture until the truth of God’s Word changes us. Churches all across America (and, indeed, the world) have bowed to shiny idols and sacrificed to Satan. We’ve said we believed Scripture but we’ve lived as if we don’t. We’ve rejected the clear teaching of Scripture in so many areas. Holiness? Godliness? Obedience? Ugh, all so very old-fashioned. We’ve embraced do-gooding as a substitute for growing in the fruits of the Spirit because it makes us feel as if we’re doing something. We’ve stained Truth with a more gentle man-centered approach, an approach we’re sure that Jesus Himself would have taken if He’d had the privilege of living in our modern, more compassionate, society. We’ve gotten all hyped up on a hefty dose of self-esteem and thought if we could just teach that, it had the potential to change things like nothing else ever could. We’ve put away the teaching of the Narrow Way and deemed those who believe that God’s Word is inspired, inerrant and infallible as harsh, judgemental and out of touch with the path of the modern church. But that’s alright, that’s okay. Because doing all of this has gotten us where we are today.

Just where we want to be.

Where is it we are going now?

The result of our wandering from truth is that we find ourself lost in a morass of Christ-less churches and moral decay.

We can’t achieve godliness without knowing God. We can’t know God without reading His Word and spending much time in prayer. We can’t follow Him and be His hands and His feet to this generation without repentance. We’ve made excuses for ourselves long enough; worse, we’ve made excuses for God. “God didn’t really mean….”, “The Bible says that but what it really means is….”.

Either we are for Christ or we are against Him, there’s no other option. We can’t say we are for Him and live for ourselves, ignore His Word or twist it to our satisfaction.

If we are for Christ then we have to believe what the Bible says about Him and about us: He’s the only Savior and we’re great sinners in need of Him. What His Word says is true.

Always.

As important as many issues in the church and in our country are, we can’t save anyone by focusing first and foremost on our government, marriage, family, children, abortion, modesty, poverty or any other area we’ve poured our lives and dollars into. I’m not saying those issues aren’t important, indeed their importance cannot be overstated. But to try to remedy what has gone wrong in any of these areas without beginning at the Cross is to make a bigger mess of things than has already been made. Those are the “hows” of being Jesus’ hands and feet. The why is the same thing it has always been: the Cross of Christ.

If we get the message of the Cross right, if we believe it, act on it and obey it then, suddenly, everything else falls into place.

But how can we do that? It seems too simple. And too hard.

How? By realizing we’ve been wrong. By throwing out all of our man-centered teaching. By destroying our programs, our manuals and all of our Christ-less books and falling on our faces in repentance.

By continuing on with our repenting, reading, praying, obeying.

By keeping on repenting, reading, obeying, praying.

Then more praying, reading, believing, obeying….

And keeping on and on and on with it…and only it…until Jesus comes.

 

 

People Of The Word

It feels so good to call ourselves “Christian”; we’re a part of a greater whole and meant to make a difference. Unfortunately the difference we often want to make is a cultural one rather than an innately spiritual one. This we must understand: Christ didn’t come to redeem society but people. Yet changed people will always result in a changed society. A person is changed only through repentance and obedience. Some try to explain away the necessity of repentance but necessary it is. When we see ourselves as we truly are then repentance won’t be hard, it will, in fact, be a swelling necessity to us for we all, each one of us, is vile indeed without Christ.

Obedience to God begins and ends in the love one has for God. If we love Him, we will seek to obey Him. This will be an active seeking, a digging deep into His Word so that we might know His heart. If we don’t have love for our Lord, we will find ourselves explaining away His commands or viewing them through a cultural lens. It is time for a heart-check when we find ourselves saying, “But God didn’t really mean….” or “Those teachings are so old-fashioned. The Bible must be interpreted in light of the times.” Sin in the first century is still sin today. God’s holiness doesn’t change and neither does His standards for His people.

If we are ever to truly make a difference in even one other person’s life (not to mention society itself), the difference must first be made in us. Living for Christ, by His strength and power, covered by His blood, made anew and forgiven, not only changes us, it changes our course, our direction; when we are on the pathway of righteousness, it is then that God can use us to bless and change others. If we aren’t changed by Him, He will use us to bless no one. When we find we still want what we wanted before our conversion we must then ask ourselves if our conversion was real. God is holy and intends to make for Himself a holy people; if we are not one of the holy, we are not one of His. When we truly are His, our holiness, our set-apartness, must define us: we will love what He loves and hate what He hates. One of the things we will hate is worldliness in any form whatsoever.

We cannot belong to Christ and have our affections set on the world. If we still desire riches to spend upon our own pleasures, if we find ourselves despising the authority that is set over us, if we find creative ways to redefine sin, our god is the god of the flesh not God the Father. David often asked God to search him, try him and see if there was any evil in him; we must be willing to daily do the same. Repentance must be a natural ongoing part of our life, each step taking us a step closer to godliness and righteousness. If we would please God, we must grow in His likeness and do as He would do. His canvas is the person He has redeemed, not the culture that person lives in. When we focus so very much on changing society, we forget the things that are to set us apart in the first place are those things that are in antipathy to the society in which we live. A God-centered life will lead one to martyrdom, either in this life or in our death for the cause of Christ; such things are rarely those which the élite of society are interested in.

When we focus on this world, we set ourselves at enmity with Christ; we cannot please both it and Him. Nor should we try for He will not have us under those circumstances and the world will think us both crazy and non-loyal (and why would they want us then?). In the spiritual sense allegiance to the world at all declares our allegiance to it overall; our allegiance declares where our affections lie and if they are to the world then they aren’t to Christ. When we seek to accommodate Christ’s teachings so that they are pleasing to the world, we have declared it to be our “Lord” rather that Him. Our failures in acknowledging Christ as our Lord in no way diminishes Him for He is Lord always and in all ways; however, it destroys us. Our allegiance declares the truth of our supposed conversion: in a word, we weren’t.

So we can call ourselves “Christian” all we want to for by God’s grace some of us really are; meanwhile we must remember that just because we say it, it ain’t necessarily so. We are either for Christ and His Kingdom and are willing to live all out in devotion to Him and to His teaching or we weren’t His in the first place. If we find ourselves focusing more on helping society make good choices rather than on growing spiritually so that we might make good choices ourselves, reaching the lost with the truth of God’s Word or helping our brothers and sisters to grow and to prosper (spiritually first and foremost) then we ought to be alarmed for our ways aren’t the ways of the One we claim to serve. It is then we must be on our knees in repentance and in seeking God’s truth and seeking to know if we truly are His…or not. At that point all that left to us is repentance. Then and only then we will be people of the Word and people whom God can use. And He will change us…one person at a time.

 

The Day Of Repentance

1 John 2: 15, 16, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”

We’ve let the world sneak into the church inch by inch. We share the world’s beliefs and values, entertain ourselves as they do, wear their immodest styles, use their tactics and treat our churches as if they were businesses. We live the same, act the same and incorporate their methods into our worship. We welcome anyone into our churches who claims that they are saved without a second thought as to how they live (we mustn’t be judgmental) so that we can increase our numbers. We try to be cool and relevant (read: worldly) so that we can relate to the lost (we don’t want to turn them off by acting all holy, do we?). We engage them in discussions on the philosophical advantages of being saved while assuring them it’s all pluses and no minuses (after all, if we tell them about the cross that they must bear then they might not want to be saved–and we couldn’t put them on our rolls…and our numbers would grow…and more money wouldn’t come in!). Many churches are nothing more than country clubs:  a place to gather with the “right people” and have fun. We’ve lost our grounding. We’ve lost our boundaries. We’ve lost our understanding who we are and Who we belong to. We’ve forgotten what sin is. We’ve invited the world to come on in (and Satan right along with them) and they’ve taken us at our word. Then they made themselves at home and took over.

God forgive us.

We must get back to God. Repentance starts with me. I must change. You must change. We must weep over our sins. We must weep over the sins of the church. We must prostrate ourselves before God and pray. Prayer isn’t just intercession or  asking for what we need or even asking that others might be saved. Prayer is a desperate plea to know God better. Prayer aligns our will with His. This must be our aim.

We must become people of the Word again. Love for God will result in love for His Word. Study of it will cause our spiritual eyes to be opened; when they are nothing will look the same. Where now we see fun, then we will see the vulgarity of sin. Where once we sought worldly success, we will then see the futility of seeking after worldly things that won’t last. God sees things differently than we do: He sees them as they are. He calls us to do the same. That is accomplished through deep study of His Word.

Even our pastors must repent. Long have they misled us; long have they let truth be swept under the rug. For years they have drawn the circle of acceptance wider and wider while marking off things that “aren’t really that important”. The result has been goats in the pews and a weakened gospel (which is no gospel at all). Pastors must once again boldly preach the truth–no matter who it offends. The church isn’t a business and it doesn’t exist to entertain or to bring temporal happiness to its members. If the congregation doesn’t like hearing the truth and they walk out because of it, the church leaders must be willing to let them go and their money right along with them. Goats will never be sheep no matter how hard we try to make them act like sheep. Sheep are born of repentance; repentance is born of hearing the Word of God. If the pastor is faithful, God will bless his work and the church will prosper. A church grown by God’s plan will be a beacon to all.

The church has been so very busy being busy for God. We have Wednesday night suppers, ladies classes, men’s classes, preschool ministries, car washes, chicken dinners, barbeque sales, ski trips, six flags trips, lock-ins and on and on and on…. What are we doing? What is our justification for the things we are doing? Pragmatism may build numbers, might do great things for businesses but it does nothing for godliness or for growing churches according to God’s plans.

Our goal in everything ought to be to bring honor to our Lord. When we really love God, we will want to please Him. Luke 6: 46 records this poignant question by our Lord, “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” Can it be that He is asking this question of us?

We have misunderstood God’s intent for His people:  He desires our holiness much more than He desires our happiness. Obedience to God will cause us problems. It will make those around us uncomfortable. It will cost us something–perhaps a lot. We will be maligned, slandered, shamed, persecuted, perhaps it will cost us our life. We will lose friends; our family might shun us. It might cost us business deals or even a job. We will be laughed at for believing in traditional marriage. We will be shamed for having more than 1.7 children. Others might snicker at our old-fashioned ways or laugh at our desire for modesty. These things are not comfortable and they don’t lead us to the kind of personal happiness that many seem to believe that Christians  are entitled to; because of this, some have tried to maneuver to make Christianity more appealing, more comfortable, to bring us more happiness. To do so is to blaspheme God and His Word.

The devil has conducted our worship services long enough. We’ve elevated self and others above our God and had no knowledge of our treason. Long has God’s Name been blasphemed by those who claim to wear His Name. The time to change is at hand. Now is the day of repentance.

 

Only The Cross

We care so much for the people around us. We want so badly for them to have a better life. To have enough. There are so many who don’t. By natural extension we worry about their afterlife. We want people to miss hell. It would be so horrible for anyone to go there–especially after having a bad life here.

We try so hard to convince them to want to go to heaven. We put it in their language. Make it colorful. Make it sound good. We present it as something that is easy to attain, as their right to have. Hell is a bad place to go so we make heaven sound like fun.

We make it man-centered all the way.

We do this at our own peril. Our Gospel message begins to soften. We soft-sell it. We try a new angle. We will do anything to help someone to work up a desire to do something so they can slide into heaven. We change the nature of God. Dumb Him down, if you will. He becomes the anxious lover, the nervous suitor, the father always longing, always searching, always ready to forgive and forget…even when the people in question never fully come to Him. He will endlessly pursue, stand at the door and knock, respond to anything that they say or do that shows that they just might have the slightest desire for heaven (not for God Himself but for the comforts of heaven). He becomes a genie working overtime, ever ready, ever watching, always anxious to pluck another person out of the grasp of hell. The faintest whisper of the sinner’s prayer is the only ticket they need. “Just do this and say that….” “Come forward, say a prayer.” “…heaven can be your home and you can miss hell.”

Miss hell?

Is that what we think the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is all about? Missing hell?

The Gospel isn’t about our missing hell; it’s about the Cross. It’s about God being glorified. God didn’t send Jesus to the Cross so that we could miss hell or make it to heaven. God’s wrath wasn’t vented on His Son so that we could have a happy life here on earth or a comfortable after life. God isn’t anxiously waiting up in heaven hoping that we will do the least amount possible so that He can nudge us over the line from lost to found. The Gospel isn’t about us at all.The Gospel is about God’s glory not ours.To say otherwise is to sinfully make it man-centered.

The Cross is where we must begin and end our theology. We need to preach the Cross again and again. It needs to take center stage in our preaching. The older preachers knew this. Spurgeon was once told that his sermons all sounded alike. His response? “That may be so. I can take any verse in the Bible and make a bee-line for the Cross.” We need more men of God to do that today. They need to forget themselves, forget numbers, forget church growth and concentrate on the Cross.

We try to preach people out of hell, when we ought to be saying, “The Cross—look at the CROSS!” No one will ever be saved simply because they don’t want to go to hell. Nobody wants to go to hell. The devil has known for a long, long time that hell is his eternal destination and even he doesn’t want to go there. We cartoonishly present Satan as ‘lord’ of hell when he himself would still love to go to heaven–if only God wasn’t in charge. Most of us don’t want God anymore than he does.

God deserves to be glorified simply because of Who He is, because He is God, because He is the Great I AM.

He deserves to be glorified and praised endlessly because of the Cross.

Understanding the Cross is to understand Christ. Understanding Christ, you understand God. Understanding Him is all that we are told that we ought to glory in.

The Cross is all that matters. Anything else is digression.

The Gospel must center on God and His glory. The Gospel must center on the Cross. When preachers preach that once again, we will once again have an understanding of sin. Then, and only then, will we have true repentance among the people supposedly coming to God.

A man truly converted to God will take one look at the Cross and heart-broken, fall to his knees. There he will stay, and as repenting gives way to praise, he will crawl to Calvary and beg God, “Give me one! I beg you. Give me a cross. Jesus bore the Cross for me. I want to bear a cross for Him. Crucify me with Him. Give me a cross!”

The converted man will gladly give up all of his so-called rights. On the cross there is no chance for self-promotion, pride or a physically abundant life. Nothing else here on earth will ever matter to him again–not like it did before his he took up his cross. The things of God will consume him. For the crucified man there can be no other way.

God’s Will will now be all encompassing.  Once on the cross, God’s man can no longer go into the world and participate of it. By God’s grace, he won’t want to. Christ died for him so how can the world hold any further attraction for him? The things that once brought him so much happiness will now be seen as they actually are: instruments used by the devil to bind him and lead him to eternal death.

The Cross, the Cross will be his cry, his plea.

When the man of God looks at the Cross and fully realizes that Jesus’ beard was plucked out because of his gluttony, that His back was lashed because of his pride, that He was beaten unmercifully because of things he lightly called “addictions”, the torment will break through his soul like so much water through a broken levy. When he completely comprehends that Jesus suffered in quiet agony because of his covetousness, that He was thrashed with rods because of his “little white lies”, that His head was pierced with a crown of thorns because of his enslavement to money, His hands and feet were nailed to the Cross because of his lust, repentance will flow and keeps on flowing. His proclamation from that moment on will forever be “Worthy is the Lamb!”

The Cross shows God’s love, His mercy, His justice, His wrath like nothing else ever has or could. To see the Cross, to know the Cross, to understand the Cross is to understand God.

The Old Testament points towards Christ and His Cross. The New Testament reveals it. If heaven itself, if the Triune God-head is so consumed by the Cross, shouldn’t we be?