Arm Yourself – Persecution

August 31, 2009 at 6:30 am | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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In America today, there seems to be a horrible disconnect with the rest of the world concerning persecution. Many children and adults who grow up in the American church have no idea or understanding of what persecution really is. Sadly, many don’t even realize what is happening to Christians outside the U.S.

In America, we consider persecution to be when people attack us verbally for our beliefs. We see anti-Christian groups like the ACLU and various atheistic groups as persecutors when they try to get Christmas images removed or when they try to get “Under God” removed from our money. To many, persecution is covering up images of Moses in the government buildings in Washington, D.C. or it’s seeing our ability to speak out against issues like homosexuality or abortion slowly eroding away. For Americans, persecution is uncomfortable and disconcerting because it removes some of the things we take for granted or bursts our little bubble of warm fuzziness. Continue Reading Arm Yourself – Persecution…

Chasing the Blessing

November 12, 2008 at 4:03 pm | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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Today, I’m going to talk about something that aggravates me to no end. The modern churches around the world seem to spend a lot of time talking about and focusing on how God’s people (I probably should put that in quotes) should be “blessed”. These blessings take the form of financial, physical, spiritual, and relational blessings. Most Christians talk about being blessed when they get a windfall or a medical report comes back positive. They talk about being spiritually blessed when they “feel God’s presence” or they “see God working in their lives”. If their family is well and their marriage isn’t falling apart, they are “blessed”.

 

While I don’t have a problem with these things and while they could be considered blessings, it seems that the focus of many Christians is the blessings that make us happy, comfortable, and content. I have to ask, is this the blessing that scripture is talking about? The main scripture that many use to “claim” the “blessing” is found in Galatians 3:13-14.

Many talk about the blessing of Abraham. They talk about the great and precious promises that Peter talks about. They claim that these promises are given to us and that the church needs to be blessed so that the world will see God is who He says. I’ve heard a number of times that we need to be blessed so that we can bless others. I’ve heard that we should be healed and not sick. I’ve heard that we need to be spiritually “blessed” so that others can see and “feel” the power of God in their lives.

 

I’ve got some problems with this. First, the scriptures that are used to support this idea are taken out of context. The context of these scriptures is completely different. We’ll look at that in a minute. Second, they don’t agree with other scriptures. If you look at Job, the story is that Job is a righteous man. In fact, Job is so righteous that God boasts about him. From the conversations between God and Satan, we can see that what happens to Job is not because of something that Job has done. It’s God allowing Job to go through this. Job lost everything. He lost his family, his material goods, and even his health. This completely contradicts the idea that God’s children some how deserve to be blessed. It also contradicts the idea that God wouldn’t allow anything bad to happen to His children. This is ludicrous. You might be saying, “but that’s the Old Testament, and we’re in the New Testament era”. Ok, let’s look at some of the New Testament faithful. What about Stephen? He preached the truth to those who put Jesus to death and was stoned for it. Does this mean that he didn’t have enough faith? Jesus stood up for him! What about Paul? Paul went from be the greatest persecutor of the church to being one of the greatest promoters of the truth of the gospel. He says that the “thorn in the flesh” that he had was given to him. Timothy is encouraged by Paul to drink a little wine for the sake of his stomach and frequent ailments. What about most of the apostles? They spoke out for Jesus and preached the truth, spreading the gospel across the world and most of them were killed for it. Some were crucified; some sawn in half, some beheaded, some burned at the stake, and some were fed to the lions. How does this correspond to the belief that Christians deserve to be blessed and will be protected from harm and sickness. Take the life of Jesus Himself! If the Lord Himself was not spared from attacks and strife, why should we expect any different, especially when Jesus promised that we would have trials and tribulations? What about the believers today who have cancer and other diseases? Are they not healed because they lack faith?

 

In Galatians, Paul tells his readers that he’s amazed how quickly they are deserting their faith. He calls them foolish and asks them whether they have been received the Spirit of God by faith or by the works of the Law. He then tells them that Abraham was justified by faith and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. He tells them that Abraham had the gospel preached to him and that those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham the believer. When we get to verses 13 and 14, we see:

 

Gal 3:13  Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us–for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE”–

Gal 3:14  in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

 

This scripture isn’t talking about the financial prosperity that many claim it does. It is a reference to the justification by faith. The blessing of Abraham isn’t silver, gold, donkeys, land, etc. It’s the blessing of being saved by faith. We Gentile Christians are spiritual heirs with Abraham. There is no biblical guarantee that Christians will be blessed. The verses above say that Jesus redeemed us from the curse of the Law, but does that curse include poverty? There is nothing in scripture that says that. Just because we think that poverty is a curse doesn’t mean God sees it that way. When Jesus died, He provided Gentiles (as well as Jews) the ability to be saved and receive the promise of the Spirit.

 

As I mentioned above, another passage that many use is found in 2 Peter:

 

2Pe 1:1  Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:

2Pe 1:2  Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;

2Pe 1:3  seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.

2Pe 1:4  For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.

2Pe 1:5  Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,

2Pe 1:6  and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,

2Pe 1:7  and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.

2Pe 1:8  For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2Pe 1:9  For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.

2Pe 1:10  Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;

2Pe 1:11  for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.

 

Many “preachers” proclaim that the magnificent (great) and precious promises are financial/physical blessings. They claim that these are the promises that allow those who believe and “have faith” to live successful, happy, and “victorious” lives. They are the promises that Christians should be healthy and wealthy, that we should be “the head and not the tail” (Deut. 28). But, if you read the passage above, you’ll see that these promises are not financial. They are for us to have life and godliness. They are so that we can partake in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world by lust. They are so that we should have a number of qualities that portray us as Christians. The promises have been given to us so that we can be sure of our calling and so that we will be kept from stumbling. Because of these promises, the entrance into the eternal kingdom is open to us.

 

There are numerous other verses that are taken out of context to support these ideas of “blessing”. Some of these include Isaiah 53:5/1 Peter 2:24, John 4:4, and John 8:32,36.

 

Many people also look at things like “spiritual blessing”. Many times “spiritual blessing” is seen as an increase in “anointing”, “power”, “gifts”, or “revelation”. Is this scriptural? Is it really possible to get more anointing? Can you increase your gifts if the Spirit gives them in the first place? According to a hermeneutical understanding of scripture, the true spiritual blessing is the fact that those who repent of their sins and put their trust in Christ will have their sins forgiven and will enter the kingdom of heaven.

 

What are the possibilities? Can God provide money? Yes (think about Peter and the fish or Acts 4). Can God heal people? Yes. There are numerous instances of this in scripture as well as the history of the church since the writing of scripture. Will God heal everyone? No. That’s seen in the fact that people who believe in Christ get sick or diseased every day. Can God increase someone’s anointing? I don’t think that we see this in scripture. The anointing that Christians are given is from the Holy Spirit. How could that increase? Scripture says that Jesus grew in wisdom and power, but was this more anointing? Jesus was God, how could He increase in anointing? There is nothing that I can find in scripture that says anointing is increased…I would have to ask is it really more anointing or is it a better understanding of that anointing?

 

There is nothing in scripture that shows this view of the blessing, which is often associated with the Word of Faith and charismatic movements, and is creeping into other areas.

 

We need to have a proper and correct understanding of scripture. This means that it needs to be taken in context. This means that we need to be willing to change our lives, ideas, and beliefs if they don’t line up with scripture. Where are you?

Don’t be lead astray!

November 3, 2008 at 6:30 am | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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2Co 11:1-6  I wish that you would bear with me in a little foolishness; but indeed you are bearing with me. For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully. For I consider myself not in the least inferior to the most eminent apostles. But even if I am unskilled in speech, yet I am not so in knowledge; in fact, in every way we have made this evident to you in all things.

 

By just this passage alone, we can see Paul’s concern for those who were part of the churches that he started. He was concerned that those new believers would be lead astray from their devotion to Christ and the truth that He represents. He specifically mentions being deceived, as Eve was (Gen. 3:1-13). He was concerned that they were hearing a false gospel, the real one being perverted by the Judaizers so much that it was truly a different gospel. The main purpose for his warning is the fact that he knew what would happen to them if they did stray from the true gospel.

 

If Paul were alive today, I believe that he be more concerned about those in the church today than he was when he wrote the passage above. Back in Paul’s day, the main detractors of Christianity were the Judaizers, who tried to get Christians to continue keeping the law, and the Gnostics who said that it was impossible to know God and to have absolute knowledge about anything. Over the last 100 years, the gospel of Christ has been changed, diluted, and perverted by a number of people. Some of them have done so to deliberately lead new or naïve believers astray. Without the true gospel, they have nothing to stand on in times of persecution or tribulation and they fall away from the faith. In a large number of American churches, a gospel other than the one that Paul preached is being proclaimed. The congregations of these churches are being taught to chase things other than God. They chase the lust of the flesh (homosexuality, adultery, fornication), the lust of the eyes (greed, covetousness), and the boastful pride of life (self-righteousness, works-righteousness).

 

They are also following other “Gods”. They follow strange doctrines (prosperity, God is love and nothing else, the perpetual virginity of Mary), myths (Hinduism, Islam, Mormonism, evolution, New Age), and spout endless genealogies (Judaism, “the men in my family have been Baptist preachers for a hundred years). The pastors that are “leading” them are making them comfortable and tickling their ears, telling them what they want to hear and inoculating them against sin.

 

But, how are Christians supposed to combat these things? To deal with persecution, you have to know what Jesus said. You have to know that He said that it was going to come. You have to realize that there are people who are dying and going to hell who need to hear the truth of the gospel. To fight the different gospels being preached today, the first thing to do (again) is to know the truth of scripture. Jesus tells us in John 8:32,36 that we are to continue in His Word if we are to be His disciples. What I’m going to say next is probably going to upset a few people but that’s part of it. If you are going to be a true disciple of Christ, you have to check everything against scripture, no matter who says it or how well respected they are. You have to truly study scripture. You have to know what God said, how He said it, and the context in which it was spoken. We have to be willing to read scripture and change our lives to conform to it instead of the reverse. We also have to be alert. The false gospels that are being preached today (prosperity gospel, social gospel, feel good gospel, etc.) are subtle gospels that can easily deceive even those who have been “in church” for years if those people are not careful. To fight against the idols and chasing of other things, we have to repent. We have to put God first and put Him before anything or anyone else. There is only God, His Son, and His Spirit as they are presented in scripture. To fight being comfortable and having our ears tickled, we’re going to have to be honest. If you are sitting in church Sunday after Sunday (or whenever you go) and you never come to the point where you are convicted about some of the things in your life, either you’re perfect (you’re not) or you’re not hearing the gospel. If you go to church and you never hear about sin, judgment, and hell then something is wrong. If you’re pastor/preacher is always giving topical sermons or doing sermons series on the Beatles, then you are not getting the gospel the way that you need it.

 

There are other things that I think that we need to do as well. One thing is that we need to stop running the church as an entertainment business. We are not in the body of Christ to turn around and entertain anyone. We are in the body of Christ because of the grace of our Lord and His sacrifice on the cross and resurrection three days later. We are supposed to be telling others the truth so that they can escape eternity in hell. Another thing that I think the church needs to do is to start disciplining its members. Sadly, this would greatly reduce the number of people in the church drastically. I truly feel that many pastors are not pastoring but just standing up in front on Sunday for accolades or attention or because they feel that it is their “calling” or “duty”. If you don’t care enough about the people in your local church to discipline them if they are living in sin, then you need to reconsider whether or not you’re a pastor. One final thing that we as the body of Christ need to be doing is calling heresy what it is. We need to recognize heretics and call them what they are. If they are preaching a false gospel and leading others astray, they are heretics. This includes ideas like Modalism (which is something that TD Jakes believes), the prosperity gospel (being preached by people like Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, Creflo Dollar, Jesse Duplantis, and Benny Hinn), and the social gospel (which is espoused by Rick Warren of Saddleback Church and Bill Hybels of Willow Creek). None of these beliefs are hermeneutically sound. They all present different gospels and different Christs than those found in the bible.

 

If we are truly going to change America and every other country in the world, then we, as the church and as Jesus’ representatives, need to present and live the truth in front of others. We cannot live our own truth and expect others to see Christ…


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