The Biblical Test of a Prophet and Prophecy

I acknowledge upfront that the following teaching places me squarely in the minority; it has gotten me in a lot of trouble with my charismatic brothers and sisters. But I believe this with all my heart.

I believe there are two tests that apply to New Testament prophets and prophecy:

Deuteronomy 18:21-22, “And you may say in your heart, ‘How can we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?’ When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not occur or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You shall not be afraid of him.”

Deuteronomy 13:1-3, “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass concerning that which he spoke to you, saying, ‘let us go after other gods’, which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them’, you must not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”

I am not a cessationist; I believe in the continuation of prophecy as well as all the gifts of the Spirit according to the will of God to distribute them. But I do not believe that Jesus Christ came to lower the standard of prophecy, which we remember “the spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus Christ”. I do not believe that Jesus came to corrupt His own testimony.

So I want to consider something from the New Testament in light of these two prophetic tests:

2 Thessalonians 2:9-12, “The coming of the evil one is in accordance with the working of Satan with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all deception of unrighteousness among those who perish, because they did not receive the love for the truth that they might be saved. Therefore God will send them a strong delusion, that they should believe the lie: that they all might be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

Today we are seeing an unprecedented flood of unrighteous deception from prophets who do not speak the truth; many practice astrology and prognostication (forbidden in Isaiah 47:13-14), and are openly speaking presumptuous words as if from the Holy Spirit. This flood of unrighteous deception is deadening the hearts of those who call on Jesus’ name to the love of the truth and causing many churches to become inhospitable to the truth.

God said in Deuteronomy 13:3 “you must not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul” and in 2 Thessalonians 2:12 “Therefore God will send them a strong delusion, that they should believe the lie: that they all might be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” God is being faithful to His word.

Consider this Scripture:

Jeremiah 23:25-26, “I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in My name, saying, ‘I had a dream, I had a dream!’ How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies? Indeed, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart.”

Jeremiah 23:30-32, “See, therefore I am against the prophets, says the LORD, who steal My words, each from his neighbor. See, I am against the prophets, says the LORD, who use their tongues and say, ‘The LORD says.’ See, I am against those who prophesy false dreams, says the LORD, and recount them and cause My people to err by their lies and reckless boasting. Yet I sent them not nor commanded them. Therefore they shall not profit this people at all, says the LORD.”

I believe those who present themselves as speaking by divine inspiration must be tested according to these Biblical tests, and if their words are found to fail, or if they come to pass but the lead the Church astray from God’s word, then they are false prophets and wolves dressed in sheep’s skin.

The Cross

Are you struggling with addictive sins?

“If anyone will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” ~Luke 9:23

Self-denial in response to Jesus is how we pick up the cross to follow Him. The cross is the Truth of the Spirit by which our flesh is put to death.

As remarkably simple as this is to understand, it remains a gruesome and painful discipline to practice!

These two elements of self-denial and truth are necessary to Christian living; “if you love your life”, as Jesus said, “you shall die, but if you lose your life for My sake, then you shall live” (Lk 9:24). You must forsake your life- denying yourself, in response to Christ, of those things that are so desperately craved by the flesh.

IF YOU HAVE ADDICTIVE SIN: when you feel the impulse of sin in your flesh, reach for the Bible and mark those words whereby you are called by Christ to forsake the flesh and read them; kneel yourself in prayer and do not rise until the Holy Spirit has accomplished His work and you are free again in Christ! Persevere in this and you will find that the flesh will die and you will be free!

WARNING: beware of self-righteousness being masked as the cross. You may recognize the tell tale signs of this when you begin preemptively denying yourself things that Christ has not called you to forsake and then binding them on others. The wisdom here speaks this way: let that which Christ has spoken in the Word be for all, and keep that which is spoken in your conscience be for yourself.

“For many are walking in such a way that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ. I have told you of them often and tell you again, even weeping. Their destination is destruction, their god is their appetite, their glory is in their shame, their minds are set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, from where also we await for our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our body of humiliation, so that we may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working of His power even to subdue all things to Himself” ~Philippians 3:18-21

Thanksgiving Praise: the Fruit of Lips

Through Him, let us continually offer to God the sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name! Hebrews 13:15

This year for Thanksgiving I am offering the fruit of my lips as my sacrifice of praise to God my Savior.

  1. I thank You for my wife- a virtuous woman clothed in the beauty of meekness, and I thank You for my daughter- who is the work of Your hand even so young as she is!
  2. I thank You for Your calling to salvation in sanctification by the gospel- for You have overcome my sins and my past, even my future, that I may be redeemed in the Body of Christ!
  3. I thank You for the fellowship of my brethren who have surrounded me in prayer so that You may be glorified in the abundance of fruit! And I thank You for every answered prayer that You have answered this year- how full will the Kingdom be because of the grace that You have poured out in answer to prayers!
  4. I thank You for the gift of repentance that You have given in our assembly- for how highly magnified Your mercy has been in our sight!
  5. I thank You for being the Father to our brothers and sisters who have never known the love of a father- for being a husband to those who have none, the joy to those who are overcome in sorrow, and the welcomer of them who are unwelcome!
  6. I thank You for Your ever-faithful daily provision of food, shelter, clothing, warmth, cooling, health, and understanding of Your Word, that we might be nourished and strong in both body and spirit!
  7. And I thank You for that which my flesh cannot give thanks: for abandonment, which has taught dependence on You, for false accusations and mistreatment, which has shown me the blessings of truth in Christ, for infirmity, which has taught me humility and the strength of your grace in joy!

Oh how marvelous are Your ways, and so high above my plane of comprehension! You make Your rain to fall upon the just and upon the unjust, and you give the sun to shine upon both the unrighteous and the righteous! Blessed be Your name forever and ever, amen!

Tomorrow We Begin Our Harvest

Tonight while praying from across the ocean on the other side of the world, I had a passage impressed upon me: “Do not be deceived. God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that will he also reap” (Galatians 6:7).

For the past 18 months, America has watched an election cycle unlike any other in our nation’s history, and we have sown the seeds of contention, deceit, and division, not only in our nation, but in our church as well. Tomorrow we will begin to reap the harvest of what we have sown, both in our nation and in our churches.

Those who know me the best know that my heart is irrevocably pierced for the unity of the Church; Christ’s own words in John 17 formed the steel of the sword that pierced my heart with the burden of unity in His body. And in this election my sorrow has compounded to an almost unbearable measure for the defilement and destruction being wrought in the Church by the personal ambitions and agendas of greedy men and women (both in the pulpits and in the pews).

So I want to call on my brothers and sisters to consider how you have sown during this election cycle.

  • Has your online presence stirred up strife, or pleaded for peace?
  • Have your family discussions entrenched bitterness or worked forgiveness?
  • Have your church discussions caused divisions or mended wounds?

What will our harvest be because of our labors?

How Should We Correct Our Brethren?

With all the current events the church faces today and the deep, deep, divides in our midst, there is one question that needs to be asked: “what is the Biblical means of correcting brothers and sisters who are in error within the Church?”

We must ask ourselves what is our aim in bringing correction, and how do we handle our brothers and sisters when we find ourselves in gridlock and unable to come into agreement with each other?

PASSAGES TO CONSIDER:

2 Timothy 2:24-26 “A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.”

This passage gives us great wisdom in knowing both “how” and “to what end” we deal with those who have been “taken captive by the devil to do his will”. We need to make sure that those we find ourselves at odds with are, indeed, at odds with God and have truly been taken captive by the devil to do his will; we must not mistake a brother or sister being at odds with our position as the same as being taken captive by the devil to do his will. If our opposition to a brother comes from strife within our own heart, then we must humble ourselves and seek peace with our brothers and sisters before our sin consumes us whole.

James 3:13-18 (esp. v18) “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show his works by his good life in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, do not boast and do not lie against the truth. This wisdom descends not from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, and devilish. For where there is envying and strife, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

Another passage that speaks volumes. Here we find that “the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (v18). The mightiest debater will loose the kingdom of God with each argument that he or she wins, but whoever is faithful to Christ will win the kingdom of God in peace!

1 Peter 3:8-9, 15-16 “Finally, be all of one mind, be loving toward one another, be gracious, and be kind. Do not repay evil for evil, or curse for curse, but on the contrary, bless, knowing that to this you are called, so that you may receive a blessing.
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts. Always be ready to give an answer to every man who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you, with gentleness and fear. Have a good conscience so that evildoers who speak evil of you and falsely accuse your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.”

Today we find that those who preach the truth may be falsely accused as much within the “church” as without; but this reality does not change how we minister to the Lord, rather, it forces us to purify how we minister to the Lord. It forces us to sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts, or be given over to bitterness and strife.

Galatians 6:1-2 “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.

I suggest this passage requires us to acknowledge the “humanness” of the person that we are dealing with. By “humanness” I do not have in mind any humanist worldview, nor do I have in mind that we consider their sin and excuse it “because they’re only human” (which is a humanist viewpoint as well). Rather, I have Genesis 1:27 and 1 Peter 1:18-19 in mind; we must have God’s purposes in mind as we approach our brethren. We must never view our brothers and sisters as anything less than those made in the image of God and redeemed by the precious blood of the Lamb. To approach one another with any lower view is to de-humanize our brothers and sisters in Christ and insult the integrity of Christ who gave His blood as a ransom for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

To any brother or sister who thinks he or she is walking in Christ, and yet, who does not bear the burdens of his or her brethren, I ask you to reconsider whether or not you are fulfilling the law of Christ. We cannot fulfill the law of Christ if we do not “restore one another in a spirit of gentleness”.

2 Cor. 6:11 & 10:1 “O Corinthians! We have spoken openly to you, our heart is wide open!”
“Now I, Paul, myself am pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ- who in presence am lowly among you, but being absent am bold toward you.”

Ephesians 4:1-3 “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, exhort you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you were called. With all humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another in love, be eager to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

I believe it is with closed hearts and a spirit weary of unity that often dominates the affairs of the Church today. And for this my heart will never cease to mourn- as I believe Christ’s heart is broken and will not be satisfied by anything less than unity within the body.

1 Peter 3:1-4 (for a word to our beloved sisters in Christ) “Likewise you wives, be submissive to your own husbands, so that if any do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, as they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Do not let your adorning be the outward adorning of braiding the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine clothing. But let it be the hidden nature of the heart, that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.”

Isaiah 32:17 “The work of righteousness will be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.

I believe there is reason here to be forward-looking in our approach with our brethren. We do not minister for people with the present alone in mind, but with eternity in mind. So shall we see the necessity of “peace” when we begin to see eternity.

Hosea 10:12 “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the LORD, till He comes and rains righteousness upon you.”

Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”

SOME CLOSING THOUGHTS

Scripture teaches us not to be quarrelsome when correcting one another, but to do so in humility and with hearts wide open. This means that there is potential to be “hurt” when you come to someone with your heart wide open- they can wound you deeply- but our aim in correcting our brethren is not self-preservation, but rather, the edification of the whole body. The manner of our conduct towards the brethren we seek to correct should be in gentleness, patience, and peace.

I strongly urge careful and diligent consideration be given to the above passages.

We can never forget that “it is God who works in us, both to will and to do His good pleasure”; we must offer ourselves to the Lord as instruments of His healing, but never try to supplant Him as “the Great Physician”.

May this strengthen the hands that hang down who are weary from brokenness. And may God give wisdom as we learn to be peacemaker in a bitter and spiteful world so that Christ may be glorified according to His last petition. Amen!

 

The New Man: The Miracle of Regeneration

I have recently seen the necessity to think and speak rightly about the miracle of regeneration; for the slightest derivation in our thinking and speaking about this subject can lead to traumatizing spiritual maladies in our personal relationship with Christ.

Because of this I felt compelled to begin a series in our church on the topic of being “born again”.

I can’t ignore the reality that so many Christians today are perilously besieged by Satan’s lies on this subject; many in the Church today believe that it is normal for divorce rates, fornication, adultery, racism, and abortion to be as prevalent within the Church as it is in the world- nothing could be farther from the truth! But Satan’s attack is not one dimensional. Unfortunately, many Christians, seeing this deception for what it is, have been besieged by another one of Satan’s lies about regeneration; namely, that it is impossible to sin once you become born again.

What I have recognized during this series is just how much discipline is required to think and speak rightly on this subject. It is remarkable just how easily influenced our belief’s on this subject are by the various trends and currents of today’s events: but we must not be so easily tossed to and fro by every wind and wave of doubt. We must believe what God has promised with all our heart and mind!

THE MIRACLE OF REGENERATION

There’s a trend today to divorce the moral teachings of Jesus from our desperate need for atonement. As Oswald Chambers put it, “people talk pleasant, patronizing things about Jesus’ teachings while they ignore His cross. But the teaching of Jesus apart from His atonement simply adds an ideal that leads to our despair. What is the good of telling me that only “the pure in heart shall see God” when I am impure? Or of telling me to love my enemies when I hate them? I may keep these thoughts down, but the spirit is still there. Does jesus Christ make it easier? He makes it a hundredfold more difficult! The purity God demands is impossible unless we can be remade from within, and that is what Jesus Christ undertakes to do through the Atonement.” (Biblical Ethics/ The Moral Foundations/ The Philosophy of Sin: Principles for Christian Living, chapter 1: Moral Imperatives 1).

We must understand something about the moral imperative of God’s law that has been placed on the heart of all mankind: God’s moral requirement of humanity does not make itself weak to those who are weak, nor does it palliative our shortcomings; it does not take into account our heredity, infirmities, or cultural disadvantages. God’s moral requirement upon humanity requires that we be absolutely moral because God created us as moral beings. This is what separates us from animals; we feel moral indignation over transgressions and injustices that they simply cannot entertain in their animal senses.

But, through sin, death has separated us from our Creator and thus fractured in us what it means to be fully human. And as soon as we realize our human brokenness and inability to attain to God’s standard, we begin to equivocate: “of course God won’t demand it; of course God will make allowances”. But, as Oswald Chambers wrote, “God’s laws are not watered down to suit anyone; if God did that He would cease to be God. The moral law never alters for the noblest or the weakest; it remains abidingly and eternally the same.” (Biblical Ethics/ The Moral Foundations/ The Philosophy of Sin: Principles for Christian Living, chapter 1: Moral Imperatives 1).

ROMANS 2:11-12, 15 (MEV) “for there is no partiality with God. As many as have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and as many as have sinned under the law will be judged by the law, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, while their conflicting thoughts either accuse or excuse them.” (see also Romans 3:23).

There is no human being that does not have some remnant of a moral imperative within them that makes them say “I ought to do this”, or “I should not do this”. This remnant of the human moral fiber exists in every person, even in the most degraded human specimen, and the Bible tells us exactly how it got there- it comes from God (Genesis 1:27).

Oswald Chambers wrote, “the modern tendency is to leave God out and make the moral standard whatever is most useful to people” (Biblical Ethics/ The Moral Foundations/ The Philosophy of Sin: Principles for Christian Living, chapter 1: Moral Imperatives 1). Nothing has changed since his time in the late 1800’s.

The prevailing moral thinking today says that morality has evolved by human beings for the benefit of humanity- the greatest good to the greatest number- but nothing could be farther from the moral reality each of us experiences on a day to day basis. A thing is not “moral” simply because it benefits the greatest number of people, a thing is moral because God is behind it! This is why philosophies of eugenics are so abominable to the human conscience; only a human conscience that has been seared beyond human recognition finds the rational practice of eugenics to be “moral”.

However, our problem is that we find in our brokenness this disposition: “I ought to do this, but I won’t; I shouldn’t do this, but I will.” This universal human problem removes from the realm of possibility all moral philosophies that teach us that we can simply “teach people what is right and they will do it”- they simply will not. The Scripture tells us our problem, that “we are carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. What I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do” (Romans 7:14-15). Fittingly this discourse in Scripture ends with the despairing cry “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24) But the human spirit revives at the revelation “I thank God- through Jesus Christ our Lord! 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” (Romans 7:25- 8:1).

Again, Oswald Chambers nails it; “what we need is a power that will enable us to do what we know is right! We at say, ‘Oh, I won’t count this time’, but every bit of moral wrong is counted by God. The moral law exerts neither coercion nor tolerates compromise. ‘For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all’ (James 2:10). Once we realize this we see why it was necessary for Jesus Christ to come. The redemption is the reality that alters our inability into ability!” (Biblical Ethics/ The Moral Foundations/ The Philosophy of Sin: Principles for Christian Living, chapter 1: Moral Imperatives 1).

The law of God is “the great equalizer”; everyone comes to it clothed and beautified by their wonderful accomplishments of pride, and everyone flees from it naked, bruised, and bloodied! Some flee from God’s law and quickly redress themselves in their vain accomplishments and pride; others, hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ, humbly kneel before their creator with a broken and contrite heart. The former flee into eternal damnation, the latter kneel into everlasting life and are raised into newness of life and clothed in the white garments of Jesus Christ!

Jesus did not come to make things easier, as some preachers erroneously claim, He came to supernaturally lift us onto another plane! Remember Jesus said, “Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will in no way enter the kingdom of heaven!” (Matthew 5:20). Jesus goes behind the law to the heart of our very disposition. As it is written, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets, for I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17).

As Oswald Chambers wrote, “The teaching of the Sermon on the Mount penetrates our very heart and soul! Jesus didn’t simply say, ‘you shall not do certain things’, rather He demands that we have such a condition of heart that we do not even desire them! Every thought and imagination of heart and mind is to be utterly pure!”

We must make absolutely certain that we do not err in our thinking and be led to believe that “salvation” is at all separate from “atonement”: the purity God demands is impossible unless we can be remade from within, and that is exactly what Jesus Christ undertakes to do through the atonement!

Jesus didn’t come to tell people that they “ought to be holy”- everyone of us has already been born of a moral fiber and intuitively knows that there is an “ought” to which we are accountable- He came to put us in the place where we can be holy. This is the miracle of regeneration, and it is where humanity stumbles the most because it is out of our control. I can intellectually acknowledge various truths and realities; I can perform various sacred sacraments like baptism and the Lord’s Supper; but I cannot lift myself out of the fractured state of separation from God and place myself onto the high plane of justified fellowship with my Creator in true and unending holiness! That is the one thing I simply cannot do on my own.

Read Hebrews 9:14 (MEV), “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”

What is fractured in our carnal condition is restored in the regeneration of Christ. Though every human being has a moral conscience, only those who are “born of water and spirit” have clean consciences. The carnal man’s conscience is fractured; it is not complete because he has been separated from God through sin. But the new man’s conscience is restored because he is in Christ Jesus and walking according to the Holy Spirit who now miraculously abides within him.

Therefore it is not a question of first applying Jesus’ teachings to your actual life and then trying to live them out, but rather, it is a question of applying them to your relationship with Him; then as you keep your soul open towards Him, He works in you to bear then fruits of your new life!

When we read “blessed are the poor in spirit”, this is not to say that we then attempt to become paupers towards the world! There are enough mortally poor in spirit souls in the world as it is. Rather, it is to say that we must become utterly poor in spirit before our God; then will we the “kingdom of heaven be ours”. Likewise with out mourning, meekness, hunger for righteousness, mercy, and purity. Such teachings of Christ must first be applied to our relationship with God before they can be realized in our walk upon this earth.

Therefore the best expression for us is found in Psalm 139:23: ‘Search me, O God’; I cannot make my own heart pure, I cannot alter my heredity, I cannot alter the dress of my mind; ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart.’ That is the poverty of spirit Jesus has blessed; if you are in that condition, He says the kingdom of heaven is yours! Why? Because God gives teh almighty gift of salvation from sin to paupers; He gives the Holy Spirit to them who ask as those who are destitute (Luke 11:13).

The Reality of Hell

The concept of an eternal destination reserved for wicked souls that is filled with the wrath of God and torment is too terrible an idea for many people to tolerate. And I would even submit here that the idea of Hell should be too terrible to tolerate; I do not believe God gave us the revelation of Hell to be tolerated.

We need a revelation of hell that will drop us to our knees!

Unfortunately, the academic tendency of today’s theology is to sterilize Biblical concepts with finely articulated and well rounded presentations. I am not going to offer such an apologetic here. Hell is holy to God because Christ satisfied hell on the cross (Romans 5:8-9).

Hell is the most abhorrent, appalling, disturbing, ghastly, gruesome, terrifying and terrifyingly misunderstood thought one can entertain. It’s a place God created for Satan, the murderer and father of all lies, and his demons (Matthew 25:41) where His wrath will burn with everlasting punishment (Matthew 25:46)! I believe that because God created the human soul to be in holy, eternal, fellowship with Him, the thought of everlasting separation from God in burning wrath is fundamentally the most repulsive thought imaginable for our hearts to entertain. The tendency, then, is to veil the reality of hell in layers upon layers of questions, doubts, and theories, thus dulling this terrible thought until it no longer pierces our soul through with anguish. But we must never allow our hearts to become dull towards the reality of Hell. It is holy to God and was central to Christ’s finished work on the cross!

People have not changed so much in 2,000 years that the doctrine of Hell we find so repulsive today was somehow so acceptable to them then. No one relishes the idea that they will be strictly held accountable for every wicked deed they do; and every soul finds the idea of everlasting punishment unbearable! The world was converted to God 2,000 years ago because it witnessed the love and power of God, and in light of God’s great love and power, the reality of hell makes sense. God did not give us the revelation of Hell to win popularity contests and delight our fancies; “hell” only makes sense after someone has witnessed the “power” and “love” of Jesus on the cross and in the resurrection! The reality of Hell can only be rightly understood in light of God’s revelation of sin, love, and justice.

SIN & DEATH

The agony of death is separation from God (Matthew 7:23), and sin is the mechanism by which God’s creation is separated from Him (1 Cor. 15:56). Our Creator-God has told us that we are more than mere flesh, but that we also have a soul and a spirit (1 Thess. 5:23). Even our body is more than mere material value (Luke 12:23). This means that death is not simply the end of our mortal body, but instead, that the reality of death is sin-induced separation from our Creator (Genesis 2:17 and 3:24).

I’ve heard it said that “Heaven is for those who humbly bow their knees before God and say ‘not my will but Thine be done’; Hell is for those who hold up their fists to God until He finally says to them ‘not My will but thine be done’.” Hell is not God’s will for His creation; Hell is the will of those who obstinately choose separation from God.

God did not mince words when He said “wrath is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18); wrath is the result of deliberate defiance and rebellion against the truth. When we choose the things that God will have no part of, we choose separation from the One who gives life!

We see the reality of separation from God in death portrayed in the revelation of the judgment: “And I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. THIS IS THE SECOND DEATH. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:11:-15)

What we understand as death now is the first separation from God, but Hell is the final separation from God where those who persistently denied God and choose separation from Him in this life by their works will receive the reality of their choices.

The more we suppress the truth with our lies about God the tighter grip death gains on the world! Like a chain smoker who tries to ignore the signs of his cancer, or the drug addict who reassures himself that he can keep it together, our lies do not change the reality of our separation from God, they only ensure its finality!

JESUS & WRATH

“Hell” was eternally satisfied with Jesus when God did the unthinkable by putting on flesh and emptying Himself of all privilege; taking the sins and infirmities of the world upon Himself, in the body of Jesus God provided the ultimate sacrifice on the cross and proved His love to the world with power to deliver the human race from their sin and guilt! In the face of Christ we see God’s will for mankind and the love that He demonstrated towards us even while we were still sinners as we peer into the face of Him by whose blood we were saved from wrath (Romans 5:8-9).

The few times in human history when someone of great privilege has sacrificed everything and lowered themselves to the desperate and destitute around them, they have received praise and acclamation from everyone for their noble sacrifice. Yet all of these noble souls were guilty of sin at some point in their life. Only Jesus was wholly innocent of all guilt; for all of mankind’s time on this earth, God was lavishly pouring out His grace on the human race and giving life and joy to all who lived on earth, regardless of whether or not they returned any thanksgiving or worship to Him. As the human race stubbornly pressed on in sin, reaping death for the transgressions that separated them from the author and giver of life, God’s love and mercy was proved upon the earth with every new sunrise. From such a place of perfection did God empty Himself of privilege and took upon Himself flesh- and unimaginable denigration for the Creator of all things- and subjected Himself to mortal weakness because of His perfect love!

To the apostate and the skeptic who cast blame on God, saying “for all the injustices we suffer here, living on earth is hell enough”, what will you say to the love of God who left heaven with the resolve to pay for your sins and surrendered His hands and feet to be nailed to the cross by sinners just like you and I?

JUSTICE AND JUDGMENT

The lies we tell ourselves can sometimes suppress the insatiable human desire for justice when “justice” becomes personal, however, we cannot escape the reality that every human soul craves justice.

Political philosophers (http://www.iep.utm.edu/justwest/) have long agreed that the single most important pillar of stable governance is “justice”. Families stand strong when there is a clear sense of justice, and they crumble when there is oppression and chaos. Businesses thrive with equitable business practices, but unfair business practices can poison entire business cultures. No part of the human experience of life can long survive when justice is robbed! We need justice.

Justice necessitates both “moral law” and “impartial fairness”. One of the lies we tell ourselves today is that there is no moral standard to which we are accountable, yet we loudly protest when we are not treated fairly. We rob ourselves of the justice we crave when we separate ourselves from the moral law of our Creator to pursue our own lusts. This suppression of the virtues of truth in favor of ungodliness eventually leads to the “hell-on-earth” of an utterly unjust society, courteously of our own making! Whether here on earth or in eternity to come, we cannot escape hell when we choose separation from God!

Justice belongs to God. He wrote His moral law on our hearts in our consciences (Romans 2:15), and He will execute an impartial and fair judgment upon all mankind (Romans 2:5-11). The Judge of all mankind has said that “indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, according to each one’s deeds” are the inheritance of every soul who does evil (Romans 2:6, 8-9). He is impartial and fair in His judgments; there will be no favoritism towards the Jew, nor prejudice against the Gentile. We will all be judged according to what we have received from God.

There are many questions regarding how God will apportion His wrath on sinners when the Day of Judgment arrives; such questions as “is hell eternal?” “Is hell a conscious torment?” “Will those who never heard or rejected the gospel suffer in hell?” These questions are valid but not necessary in order for God to be a just judge. A prior understanding of the precise proportion of punishment that will be received for a transgression is not necessary in order for justice to exist. I may not know what the penalty is for Grand Theft Auto, but I know that it is wrong and that I will be punished accordingly. Justice only necessitates the existence of a moral law and an impartial and fair application of punishment.

The aforementioned questions are valid subjects for another time- subjects to which many scriptures speak- but it is a foolish and disastrous distraction to worry about how God will apportion His wrath on sinners when the Lamb of God is offering the love of God to the world on God’s holy altar!

HELL IN LIGHT OF CHRIST

I believe there is a reason why God said that He will “judge the secrets of all mankind by Jesus Christ according to the gospel” (Romans 2:16). I believe the reason why we will be judged by Jesus Christ is because when those of us who rejected Christ look at Him, all our lies will evaporate like the dew in the morning heat and we will see in Christ Jesus the perfect and irrefutable logic of God! We are told that “at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11); I do not believe this confession will be made under duress, but that when the world looks at Jesus Christ on the Judgment Day, we will see the love of God that we rejected, and we will find no shelter from the terrible reality that we have chosen for ourselves!

I said above that we must never let our hearts become dull towards the reality of hell. I believe there is only one thing on earth worse than a Church that denies the existence of hell, and that is a Church, knowing the existence of hell, that says nothing about it to the lost world! The Christian whose knee is bent before God in prayer because of hell will rise with the fire of the Holy Spirit to save souls from hell by the good news of Jesus Christ!

Unity: Wisdom is Justified by her Children

Unity in the body burns in Christ’s heart so much so that it consumed His last prayer before His crucifixion (John 17:20-23) and by the Holy Spirit who speaks only what He receives from Christ instructed the Church to reject a divisive man (Titus 3:10). For my part, through the communion of the Holy Spirit, my heart has been broken over the disunity that plagues the Church today. The Scripture certainly hit the nail on the head, saying, “know that the divisive man is warped and sinning” (Titus 3:10).

But I am not without hope! The very nature of “love” always hopes, and I believe that those who love Jesus will be broken over the state of disrepair the Church’s love for one another has fallen into, and we will all be compelled together again someday; even that one day tears will run over the time and fellowship that we needlessly lost!

Does this make me ecumenical? By no means! I believe the Church will unite in sanctification and honor. I believe that in humility and meekness we will one day endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Perhaps it will be through trial and tribulation that we will have our pride and arrogance purged from us and learn to walk in the grace of God, rather than just being content to talk about the grace of God. But I am certain that through the work of God love with be revived in the Church again and unity restored to our Body!

The difference between the move of God towards unity and the apostate ecumenical movement is that the latter is made on man’s terms, on man’s timetable, but the former is according to the infinite wisdom of God who works all things together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose; one is made in the peace of Christ, and the other is made in the peace of the world.

Ephesians 4:11-16 (MEV) He gave some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, for the equipping of the saints, for the work of service, and for the building up of the body of Christ, until we all come into the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, into a complete man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so we may no longer be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the trickery of men, by craftiness with deceitful scheming. But, speaking the truth in love, we may grow up in all things into Him, who is the head, Christ Himself, from whom the whole body is joined together and connected by every joint and ligament, as every part effectively does its work and grows, building itself up in love.

“Teachers” were given, in part, for the purpose of building up the body until we all come into the unity of “faith” and “knowledge of the Son of God”. Though teachers today are more known for accomplishing division rather than unity, it is my hope here to offer something by which the body may be strengthened according to the timely work of God for the “unity of the faith and the knowledge of His Son”.

WISDOM IS JUSTIFIED BY HER CHILDREN

Matthew 11:18-19 “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon. The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a wine bobber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children.”

Luke 6:43-45 “A good tree does not bear corrupt fruit, nor does a corrupt tree bear good fruit. Each tree is known by its own fruit. Men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a wild bush. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bears what is good, and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bears what is evil. For of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. ”

Perhaps one of the greatest stumbling blocks to Christian unity has been in knowing how to exercise unity in light of faithfulness to God. There can be no doubt that many of the “divisions” that have occurred in Church history have followed great moves of the Holy Spirit to separate His children from various apostasies (1 Cor. 11:19 & 1 John 2:19). But the vast majority of divisions within the brotherhood throughout our history have come from contentions over the appearance of godliness, but which in substance had nothing to do with godliness.

If we will humble ourselves and wait to observe the fruits of a matter, perhaps we will not be so easily divided against one another. In waiting- and praying- for the fruits of a matter to be revealed we will more clearly see the hand of God at work in our midst, and we will be slow to form harmful and unrighteous judgments against one another. But one thing may be said of this that I can see no way for the boastful, the proud, or the mighty who are puffed up with knowledge to practice this kind of patience; I believe this practice will only bear fruit worthy of the Holy Spirit when it is received with the meekness of wisdom, then we will see the fruits of righteousness that are sown in peace by peacemakers in the church of Christ again.

Perhaps the Lord will create the platform and provide the environment for the Church to be strengthened by what every joint and ligament supplies for the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God; perhaps we will again see the love of God awakened and rekindled to a fervent pitch in the heart of the Church until we can no longer stand to walk in the darkness and be divided against one another like we were enemies (1 John 2:11).

Culture Slaves: In Bondage to the Culture

Today while on the bus I was communing with the Lord regarding evangelism and discipleship; “where do you take new disciples for evangelism?”, “is it culturally accepted here to talk with strangers about deep subjects?”, “what size group would be best?”

Then the Spirit spoke a word to me and said “Don’t be put in bondage to the culture.”

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” ~Romans 12:2

When the world begins to shape the way the Church thinks about serving God it causes us to become slaves to the culture and stagnation shortly follows. The Church is called to do many things that go against the dictates of culture; we’re called to “love”, to be “a voice of truth”, to live “holy” (separate unto God) in ways that defy the culture. How can we love the poor as Christ calls us to when we allow “culture”- which has already relegated them into obscurity- to define how we act towards them? As children of God, how can we love our enemies if we conform ourselves to the culture of the world, which teaches us to defend against our enemies? Indeed, how can we love our brethren as Christ loved them if we listen to the culture which says to place “self” above others?

Cultural bondage may promise “effectiveness”, but it only delivers the fruits of compromise. Consider those fruits for a moment: is the truth silenced? Is love hot, cold, or lukewarm? Is the Church pure? Is the world converted through genuine repentance? Is grace perverted?

“Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.” ~1 Peter 2:17

Perhaps our bondage to “culture” can be seen clearly in how we understand the first command of this passage. When we think about “honoring all people”, to who do we look to first to understand how we should go about this, to God or to culture?

If we look first to the dictates of culture for this we may honor people before people while dishonoring them before God. We must look to our Creator to understand how to honor His creation.

It bears repeating that when we allow the world to shape the way we think about serving God we become slaves to the culture and stagnation will follow shortly. This is one of the reasons why the Western Church is so dead, because she allowed cultural “do’s” and “don’ts” to quench her fire!

“Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. Acknowledge Him in all your ways and He will direct your path” ~Proverbs 3:5-6

May we trust in Jehovah with all our hearts and lean not on our own understanding; let Him be the One we look to in all our ways that He may direct our paths! Amen!

Defending Your Faith: Is Jesus Yahweh?

There is nothing more important, more central, and so hotly disputed than the deity of Christ. Muslim’s believe that Jesus was a prophet, but not God; Mormons believe that Jesus became god distinct from the Father; Mahatma Gandhi believed Jesus to be a “great man”; atheists believe him to be anything from a great man, to a raving lunatic; and Christians believe Jesus to be Jehovah God incarnate.

So what did Jesus claim?

Jesus said “you are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I AM [He], you will die in your sins” (John 8:23-24). Jesus used Jehovah’s “I AM” covenant name, making His meaning explicitly clear: unless we believe that He is Jehovah God, we will die in our sins.  Because of this the Jews picked up stones to kill Him for what they saw as blasphemy

The claim today is that either Jesus never claimed to be God, and/or, that the prophets never gave the Messiah deity.  Indeed, if Jesus came claiming to be God but the Scriptures never said the Messiah would be God, then Jesus would have been a imposter and a fraud; He would not have been the promised Messiah if His claims about Himself were found to contradict the prophecies concerning the coming Messiah. 

So, as the Bereans were considered “more noble” because they tested daily everything that was preached to them according to the Word to find out whether or not it was from God, we must give a defense for our belief that Jesus is Yahweh incarnate.  And we must remember that giving a defense for the faith we have in Christ is one of the chief tasks given to the Church (1 Timothy 3:15; Matthew 28:19-20; 1 Peter 3:15), but to do so we must “study to show ourselves approved” (2 Timothy 2:15[NKJV]). Lazy answers and cliche’s are damaging to the Church because they show through. Clever debate tactics and mudslinging may win arguments, but they will not win souls. We must be able to reason from the wisdom and word of God with those we encounter so that they may receive the faith that is delivered to us by Jesus Christ through the Word of God.

Prefatory Note: if we answer this question only with an experience-based answer (i.e. “I know because He lives within me”), then we haven’t given a defense of Jesus as the promised Savior and Messiah; we have only stated that we have had some kind of mystical encounter, but that says nothing of Jesus Christ. Neither have we given a defense of the faith that will make “faith” possible in the ears of the hearer, for “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).

Thus, I put forth this question to answer: “Is Jesus Jehovah GOD?”

Herein is my defense for why I believe from the Word of God that Jesus is Jehovah God (this is my answer to questions like “did Jesus really claim to be God”, “why not call Jesus a prophet/great man”, “the Messiah was never prophesied to be God”, “there is only one God, so Jesus and the Father can’t both be God”):

Firstly, Old Testament prophecies demonstrate that the Messiah bears the names and titles of God:

  • “God”: Deuteronomy 4:35 and 6:4 make it known that Jehovah alone is God; in Isaiah 9:6-7 the Messiah is given 5 names; “Wonderful”, “Counselor”, “Mighty God”, “Everlasting Father”, and “Prince of Peace”. See also John 1:1 and Romans 9:5.
  • “Savior” & “Redeemer”: Isaiah 43:10-11 says that God alone is “savior”. Again in Isaiah 49:26, Jehovah reveals that by His judgment all living things will know that He alone is “savior” and “redeemer”. See Hosea 13:14, Luke 2:11, John 4:42, and Acts 5:31for further details.
  • “Jehovah” (YHWH): Jeremiah 23:5-6 foretells the coming “Branch of Righteousness” and says “Now this is the name by which He will be called: Yahweh our Righteousness”. In the New Testament, Hebrews 1:8-12 also ascribes to Jesus Psalms 102:25-27.
  • “I AM”: Exodus 3:14-15 ascribes this title to God. In John 8:23-24, Jesus said that unless you believe He is the “I AM”, you will die in your sins (see also John 8:58-59; 13:19; 18:5-8).
  • “Alpha and Omega”: Isaiah 44:6 God takes upon Himself the Hebrew version of the Alpha and Omega, and in Revelation 1:8, 17-18; 2:8; 22:12-13, it is Jesus communicating that He is the Father by bearing the title Alpha and Omega in Himself.
  • “King of kings and Lord of lords”: In Deuteronomy 10:17 God takes this title as God of gods and Lord of lords, furthering His message that there is only One God, and in Revelation 17:14 and 19:11-16, Jesus receives this title Himself.

The Scripture then witnesses that Jesus also receives the prerogatives of Deity:

  • “Glory”: Isaiah 42:8-11 foretells the glory of God that rests upon the Messiah. We see this reflected in Jesus in John 17:5 and 17:24.
  • “Worship”: Exodus 34:14 forbids giving worship to anyone else but God; Jesus refuted Satan in Matthew 4:10 with this commandment. But Jesus received worship at His birth (Matthew 2:2-11), after calming the storm (Matthew 14:31-33, and after His resurrection (Matthew 28:9-10).
  • “Saving name”: in Joel 2:32 it was promised regarding the Messiah that “whoever calls on the name of Jehovah shall be saved”. Jesus was given the name by which men may be saved (Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13); recall Isaiah 43:10-11 in which we’re told that only Jehovah is “Savior”.
  • “Prayer”: Jesus is prayed to and through (John 14:13-14).
  • “Faith”: Jesus is also believed on for salvation (John 3:16, 36; Acts 16:31).
  • “Forgiveness of Sins”: in Isaiah 53:4-5, 10, and 12, it was foretold that atonement for sin would be made by the Messiah. Psalms 99:8 calls God by the name “God-Who-Forgives”.

Scriptures also demonstrates that Jesus possesses the incommunicable attributes of God:

  • “Independence”: only God is all self-sufficient, therefore “aseity” belongs only to God (Ex. 3:14-15); but Jesus possesses aseity in Himself (John 5:26).
  • “Eternity”: Micah 5:2 prophesies of the coming Messiah to arise out of Bethlehem and says that He is “from everlasting”. See also Isaiah 9:6, John 1:1-2, and Hebrews 7:3.
  • “Immutability” (unchangeableness): Hebrews 13:8 ascribes to Jesus this immutability that is ascribed to Jehovah in Malachi 3:6.

Lastly we must consider Scripture’s witness showing that Jesus performed the works of God:

  • “Creation”: Proverbs 8:27-31 uses the archetype of wisdom to illustrate the Christ and says that “When God prepared the heavens, I was there”. In Isaiah 44:24-28 “the Redeemer” is the one who stretched out the heavens “alone” and spreads abroad the earth below. See Job 9:8; John 1:3, 10; 1 Co. 8:6; Hebrews 1:2, 3:3-4 for further study on Christ as the Creator.
  • “Judgment”: God alone may sit as the Judge to whom all things are accountable: Zechariah 14 foretells of the coming day of wrath and judgment that God will execute by “His right arm”. In Romans 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:10; and John 5:22, judgment is shown to be by Christ.

God’s word says in Romans 14:10 that we are all going to appear before the judgment seat of Christ to give an account of ourselves to Jehovah God, who alone is God. Every soul will witness to God without excuse having His varied testimony to mankind according to His perfect wisdom. When you stand before God, if you have not acknowledged that Jesus is the “I AM”, you will die in your sins (John 8:24).

For further consideration, please see these videos:

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