The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Where Are All the Miracles?


“. . . And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about . . .” – Judges 6:13

Where are all the miracles? We look at the Bible and see miracles. Where are the miracles today? Miracles are happening today. Miracles can happen today. God is no different now than He was in Biblical times. God is immutable; unchanging. Miracles attest to the reality of God (e.g. Acts 2:22). But it seems the miracles that are happening today are happening in faraway places in underdeveloped parts of the world. Is there a connection? Has our science and technology, our modernity, gotten in the way of miracles? Perhaps, but I think there may be a more rudimentary explanation.

In the Old Testament a man named Gideon asked the same question. When the Angel of the Lord called on him to deliver God’s people Gideon said, “O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.” (Judges 6:13). In other words, “Where are all the miracles?”

It’s interesting that the LORD doesn’t respond to Gideon’s question. Instead it states, “Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?” (Judges 6:14). The LORD put His finger on a pressure point of Gideon. The truth of the matter was that Gideon had nothing in himself that could be associate with “might.” Gideon was quick to react, “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” (Judges 6:15). Gideon was weak. God knew it. But God works through weakness. “And the LORD said to him, ‘Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man.” (Judges 6:16).

God was going to teach Gideon a major life truth. All we need is God. All Gideon had was God. And all Gideon needed was God. You may not be in agreement with all that Martin Luther the Reformer did, but some words he uttered captures the sense of the Lord’s conversation with Gideon. Luther, when under persecution, said, “One with God is a majority.” That’s the truth!

But where are the miracles? Well God would deliver His people from the Midianites. He would use only 300 men led by Gideon to defeat an army described “as the sand of the seashore in multitude” (Judges 7:12). That was certainly a miracle. But Gideon’s initial response to the Angel of the LORD indicates this was a time when miracles had stopped. And today we look around us and miracles aren’t that common. Have you ever seen a miracle? Some have, but most today would probably say they have not. Why is that?

We see many miracles in scripture. But we have to understand that the Bible does not contain every detail of history. For instance the Book of Acts contains many accounts of miracles, but we need to remember that those miracles occurred over a period of about 30 years of history in the early church. In light of that duration we get a better perspective on the occurrence of miracles.

A “miracle” is defined as an extraordinary unusual event manifesting Divine intervention in human affairs. Something that is extraordinary and unusual is by definition not common. But sometimes it doesn’t seem like there are any miracles happening around us. Still we ask, “Where are the miracles?”

If we go back to Gideon and look at the context in which he asked why there weren’t any miracles happening, we see it stated, “Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD. So the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian for seven years” (Judges 6:1). Maybe there were no miracles happening then and maybe there are few miracles today because of the sin of God’s people. Maybe it was a way of God to get the attention of His people. Much of the world and our own nation is steeped in sin. There is a globalization of immorality. And the church is not immune to it! There is sin everywhere.

The Midianites were so oppressive of God’s people that they moved into caves for protection. Today too many Christians are isolating themselves from the world for protection. Isolation is not the answer. Jesus called His followers to be salt and light; to purify in order to preserve the world and to shine light into the sinful darkness (Matthew 5:13-16). You can’t do that by isolating yourself from the world.

The Midianites were destroying “the produce of the earth,” the crops of the people. God’s people were “greatly impoverished” by the Midianites (Judges 6:2-6). Today the Midianites take the form of deficit spending, war costs, public school indoctrination and a host of other parasitic vermin that is sapping not only our secular resources but the resources of our spiritual heritage.

Finally the people called out to God. Finally they had enough. Finally they came to the end of themselves. Finally they realized they could only turn to God. When will we get to that point? When we do finally God will answer. What did God say? What will He say?

It states, “the Lord sent a prophet to the children of Israel, who said to them, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘I brought you up from Egypt and brought you out of the house of bondage; 9 and I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of all who oppressed you, and drove them out before you and gave you their land. 10 Also I said to you, “I am the Lord your God; do not fear the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell.” But you have not obeyed My voice.’ ” (Judges 6:8-10). God points His people to the Exodus, a time of incredible miraculous manifestations. He also recalls how God had cleared out the Promised Land for them. But then He adds, “But you have not obeyed My voice.”

Miracles, even the Exodus and conquest of the Promised Land, didn’t lead God’s people to obey God. Jesus recounted the story of a rich man in hell who upon seeing the consequence of his life of luxury begs Abraham to get word to his five brothers so they won’t have to follow his eternal destiny. Abraham’s response was, “if they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded through one rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31).

The reason we don’t see miracles today is because our motive for wanting them is wrong. We think if God would just perform a miracle it would so impress people that they would fall on their knees and repent. But scriptural history tells us different. God’s own people saw Egypt, the mightiest empire of their time defeated by the miracles of God. They saw the Red Sea parted and then closed up on the Egyptian army. They saw water from the rock. They ate manna from heaven and quail dinners provided by God. God parted the Jordan River. He brought the walls of Jericho down. He made the sun stop in the sky. He defeated enemy after enemy for His people. He did countless other miracles. And still they disobeyed Him!

In the Gospels we see Jesus turn water to wine, the blind made to see, the lame to walk, lepers healed and our Savior rise from the grave. We see the disciples follow in the steps of their Master healing and delivering people from demons. We see numerous miracles and still so many stray.

Why no miracles? There are no miracles because, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3). The hypocritical Pharisees sought a sign from Jesus and Jesus didn’t grant their request. In fact Jesus said it was an evil and adulterous generation that seeks a sign (Matthew 12:38-39). Herod was eager to see Jesus so that he might see Jesus do a miracle (Luke 23:8). Simon the sorcerer was rebuked by Peter for wanting to purchase the ability to perform miracles (Acts 8:14-25). Miracles sought with wrong motives are not granted.

But not everyone asks amiss. Who is to say our motives aren’t pure when we see a suffering child or adult and ask God for a miraculous intervention? But go deeper. What is so bad about going to be with the Lord? To live is Christ, to die is gain (Philippians 1:21). When our loved ones are hurting and we are begging the Lord for help, our emotions are so upset it’s hard to wade through and know our motives. If a miracle is to occur it must be according to God’s will and for His glory. That is the criteria we must bow to.

Why no miracles? Gideon’s weakness and lack of faith was evidently representative of the lack of faith amongst God’s people at that time. The Gospels indicate that the lack of faith hinders the manifestation of the miraculous (Mark 6:1-6)

If we follow the pattern of Gideon, he asked for a confirming sign to authenticate it was indeed the Angel of the LORD he was talking to (6:17), he prayed for the Angel of the LORD to wait for him to bring an offering to him (6:18), and we see that it was in the sacrificial offering that the Angel of the LORD confirmed who He was through a sign of igniting the sacrifice into a fire (6:19-21). Then Gideon encountered peace in the presence of the Lord (6:22-24). Gideon named the place YHWH Shalom, or The-LORD-Is-Peace.

After this Gideon was sent on a mission to overturn and destroy a pagan altar of Baal (6:25-35). This was to build Gideon’s trust in God. God mercifully further confirmed to Gideon that He would deliver Israel through him (6:36-40). And then God miraculously delivered His people from the Midianites with only three hundred men (Judges 7).

So what is the pattern? First confirm that it is the LORD that is talking to you about the miracle you seek. Second, through prayer and worship wait for the LORD to confirm His will. Third, let God’s peace guide you (cf. also Col. 3:15). Then let God direct you to strengthen your faith in preparation for the miracle He will do. Then follow the leading of the LORD and be ready for Him to do a miracle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Way of Escape


“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”  - 1 Corinthians 10:13

Many people, unfortunately Christians included, struggle with bad habits or addictions. Many are enslaved in sinful lifestyles. These people are conscience convicted that what they are doing or the way they are living is sinful, but they feel powerless to change. Their conscience gnaws at them from within. So frustrated have such people and those who love them become that they have been reduced to justifying their sin and condoning, even promoting sin as “normal,” and “natural” even though the clear testimony of God’s timeless Holy Word says differently. The thought is that by making the sinful behavior socially acceptable the pain or problems will go away. They won’t.

Though the gnawing of conscience may seem ruthless like a predator pursuing its prey, it is meant to be so. You see, God is longsuffering; it pains Him to see anyone caught in the talons of sin. And sinful choices lead to painful sinful consequences. Such consequences may be an arrest, jail time, and the horrors of incarceration. It may be disease such as sexually transmitted diseases   or disease connected with substance abuse. There are physical consequences to sin. There are mental anguish consequences. Sin wrecks relationships. There’s always shame involved in sin; shame for the offender; shame for their loved ones.

The most serious consequence of sin is that it distances us from God. “Your iniquities [i.e. perversity, depravity, sin] have separated you from God; and your sins [i.e. habitual sinning] have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear” (e.g. Isaiah 59:2). “Your own wickedness will correct you, and your backslidings will rebuke you. Know therefore and see that it is an evil and bitter thing that you have forsaken the LORD your God, and the fear [i.e. reverential awe and concern] of ME is not in you” (Jeremiah 2:19). Sin separates us from God.

But God is not willing that any should perish in sin (2 Peter 3:9). God loves us. He looks down on our sin produced plight and pities us. He proves His love in the sending of His Son Jesus (Romans 5:8). He provides salvation from our sin so that we can spend eternity with Him through faith in Jesus (Romans 5). This is where our liberation from sin begins, through spiritual birth in Christ (John 3; Romans 6). But God doesn’t just forgive our past sins, He provides a way for dealing with present and if need be future sins. God’s word proclaims, “For sin shall not have dominion over you” (Romans 6:14a). If you’re looking for a solution to your sin problem, read on.

The normalization of sin, such as we see regarding same-sex attractions (e.g. LGBT+), open marriage (i.e. adultery), sex before marriage (i.e. fornication), sologamy (marrying yourself), polygamy (marrying many), and a host of other Biblically aberrant life choices, only serves as a band aid on a cancerous condition. We live in an age of people who don’t much care about truth or right and wrong unless it is defined in a way that gives license to sin. But no matter how you try to erase or rationalize or justify away sin on your own, there is a consequence. And the consequences of sin involve pain, suffering, sadness and emptiness.

A person can disregard their God-given conscience that tells them their sinful choices are wrong to the point where they kill it and make their conscience lifeless. But the consequences will continue. Pain in the body tells us something is wrong. Pain in relationships and the way we live is also an indication something is wrong. Pained thoughts tell us something is wrong. All the pain and discomfort and unrest and chaos tells us something is very wrong. Isn’t there a way out? Isn’t there a way of escape? Yes there is! But it’s not coming out to proclaim your sin, its coming out of your sin. There is a better way. There is hope. There is a way of escape.

How can we escape such enslavement and experience liberty? It begins with Jesus. Jesus is the way (John 14:6). Jesus said if we abide in His word we will know the truth and the truth will set us free (John 8:31-32). It is in the word of the Lord that we will find the way to liberty. The word tells us there is liberty from sin available in Jesus. God reaches out to us when the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sinful predicament (John 16:8-11). Once convicted of sin and in faith we express a willingness to leave our sin behind, the Spirit points us to Jesus as Savior from sin. Through faith in Jesus God forgives our sin (John 3:16; 2 Cor. 5:21). Then through faith in Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit we can be freed from the dominion of sin in our lives (Luke 4:18; Romans 6:14; 2 Corinthians 3:17; James 1:23-25). I encourage you to look up these scripture references. But God who loves us so incredibly, has given us a promise in a single verse of scripture so that in the simplest of ways we can understand His way of escape from the pains of sin.

There is one verse in the Bible that gives us the way to liberty in Jesus and that is found in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians where it states:

  • 1 Corinthians 10:13 – “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” 

This is a verse every person seeking freedom from sin should memorize. It’s one of the most important and precious promises of God in all of scripture. Let’s study this verse and identify the steps to liberty in Jesus.

First, understand that temptation is common to everyone.  Paul is inspired to say, “No temptation has overtaken except such as is common to man; . . .” Temptation is not sin. Jesus was tempted and He did not sin (Matthew 4:1-11; Hebrews 4:15). Temptation overtakes everyone. Temptation to sin is not sin; it only becomes sin when we decide to give in to its sinful lure. This is what James explains for us in his epistle where it states:

  • James 1:12-15 – “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” 

These words tell us that there is a blessing for those who endure, or who victoriously resist the lure of temptation (James 1:12). Here we also see that temptation is not “by God; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone” (James 1:13). There are no grounds for blaming God for the temptations we experience. It’s wrong to think or say, “Well, God made me this way so I’ll live on even if the way I’m living is sinful.” Don’t blame God for the temptations you face. God is not unjust or the Author of sin. He did not create us to live in ways that He calls sinful.

If not God, then who is the source of our temptations? The answer, we are! Yes, Satan is referred to as “The tempter” (Matthew 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:5), but James lays the blame for temptation on our doorstep. He says, “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” (James 1:14). Those desires emanate from our flesh or sinful nature. Since our first parents sinned, every subsequent human has been born with a sinful nature or a propensity to sin. God created us to have a loving relationship with Him. Love is a beautiful thing. But love isn’t love without the capacity to choose to love. Adam and Eve were put in a wonderful place to enjoy the Lord. But they chose to not love God. They disobeyed Him (Genesis 3). The rest is history. We have been suffering ever since. But God is merciful and has provided a way out of sin.

We as human beings are guilty in our first parents; in their sinful choice. Sin entered the DNA of humanity with the sin of our first parents. We, because of them, are infected with sin. And the sinful nature is that part of us which is selfish and self-serving, self-promoting and self–satisfying. While we are not morally culpable for such planetary or universal sin, we are culpable for sinful choices we make. God’s grace gives us an option to not choose to sin. But the sad story is that human beings choose to sin. In our own strength we are hopelessly addicted to sin.

Our inner thought life comes into play here. And what we feed our mind has a consequence. If we feed our mind junk by looking at or listening to sinful things, it will produce in us sinful behavior. For instance, what did you think would happen when you watched that program or website, or watched that video or porn? Did you think you could subject yourself to a flood of profuse refuse and filthy language and it not find its way into your own words? What did you think would happen when you entered that bar or club? What do you expect will happen when you put yourself in a sin-saturated environment? It infects our thoughts. It penetrates our heart. It all sets a person up for “desires” to be further enticed. It all plays a part in setting a person up for the lure of temptation and the Tempter. James says, “Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” (James 1:15).

These verses offer both hope and horror because they tell us of the consequence of the decisions we make in the face of temptation. When we choose to give in to temptation and sin it works death in our lives. When James says, “When desire has conceived,” he means when those inner sinful desires are tempted they give birth to sin and when the single act of sin becomes a habit or even an addiction, it works death in our spirit. Relationships die, good reasoning dies, right thinking dies, accurate perceptions of reality die, and our fellowship with God is greatly hindered. The more we sin the more it is as though we cover ours ears so that we can’t hear the Spirit. The more we sin the more we depend on ourselves and consequently the weaker we get spiritually. You can argue all you want about whether a person can or cannot lose their salvation, the greater point is that when you feed your mind and heart with sin it is like a cancer that eats you up and works death in your life in all areas, especially your spiritual sensitivity and your fellowship with God.

But the opposite is also true, if you resist temptation and choose to take the way of escape God is faithful to provide, each time you resist in the strength and way He provides you will become stronger in your faith and more spiritually sensitive and closer in your fellowship with God. Paul was inspired to say it like this:

  • Galatians 6:7-8 – “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.”

The choice is clear, choose life, or choose death.

Getting back to our verse in 1 Corinthians, notice too what is “common” to man. Temptation is common to man. It does not say, “Sin is common to man.” Yes, believers remain weak and flawed and there is no such thing as sinless perfection in this life. But we don’t have to adopt a defeatist attitude toward sin and temptation. John wrote that his first epistle was aimed in part to help his readers not to sin, but if they did, he wanted them to know they had an Advocate, Jesus who had the means of forgiveness and cleansing from sin (1 John 2:1-2). When tempted you do not have to give in and sin. But how can we escape? Let’s go on with our verse study.

Second, understand that victory and liberty depends on God’s faithfulness more than it does yours. Paul writes, “but God is faithful, . . .” The key to victory begins with trusting the Lord and His faithfulness. If we depend on our faithfulness we will fail because we are weak (compare Romans 7 and 8). The Holy Spirit helps us in our weaknesses (Romans 8:26). It is God who works in us (Philippians 2:13; 4:13). God is faithful to help us when we are tempted. But how does He help us?

Third, understand God has promised to be faithful TO NOT LET YOU BE TEMPTED BEYOND WHAT YOU ARE ABLE. Paul states, “who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, . . .” This phrase is both encouraging and challenging. God knows our limits and weaknesses. He knows us personally, even better than we know ourselves (Psalm 44:21; 139:1,23-24; 1 John 3:20-21). This is comforting because we can face temptations knowing God is in control and won’t allow us to be overwhelmed. But this is challenging too, because when we give in to temptation and do sin, these words tell us we are responsible for that sin because God has been faithful to show us a way out, but we have not taken it. You see, with every temptation that overtakes us, God has promised to limit its lure so that it will not be overwhelming to us, IF WE FOLLOW THE NEXT STEP.

Fourth, understand God has promised to make a way of escape from the temptation. Paul goes on to say, “but with the temptation will also make the way of escape . . .” Just as surely as we will be faced with temptation to sin in this life, God is faithful to always provide an escape route so we don’t have to give in to the sinful thing we are being tempted with. There is a way out, always! That way of escape may be as simple as turning off the TV or computer. It may be not entering a sinful place. It may be deciding to heed God’s warning and ending a sinful or tempting relationship. In every sinful danger zone we enter in this world, God promises to show us the way of escape. We simply need to be attentive and desiring to please Him and follow His warning signs that point us to the way of escape.  

We don’t’ have to sin, but if we do, Jesus is there to be our advocate and basis to go to God for forgiveness. Look at these verses mentioned earlier but quoted here from the first epistle of John where it states:

  • 1 John 2:1-2 – “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” 

John was a realist and well in tune with the reality of humanity, even saved humanity. He wrote his first epistle in part to help his spiritual children to not sin. The phrase “that you may not sin” expresses what is grammatically the “Subjunctive Mood” of the verb “to sin” (Greek hamartano) which means to miss the mark to err, . . . to sin . . .  trespass.”[1] The idea expressed here is that of possibility. John is saying to us that it is possible not to sin when tempted. But he goes on to say, “And if anyone sins . . .” Again he uses the Subjunctive Mood with the verb “sins” telling us that it is also possible that we will sin. If we do sin, Jesus is our Advocate with the Father who will forgive us on the basis of Jesus propitiation or His sacrifice on the cross, which satisfies His just requirements.

Earlier in John’s first epistle the means to secure forgiveness and cleansing from sin is through confession of it to God. John says:

  • 1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 

To “confess” here means to see our sin from God’s perspective. It is not merely being sorry, it is more a repentant revulsion at what we have done and a desire to be cleansed from the impurity sin has brought to our heart. The word “confess” (Greek homologeo) means to assent, i.e. covenant, acknowledge . . .  con (pro-) fess, [2] This verb is also in the Subjunctive Mood expressing possibility and it is also in the Present Tense of the Greek grammar indicating an ongoing action of this verb (Present/Active/Subjunctive). The idea is if you are confessing. This door to forgiveness is always there and we should always take it, sincerely sensing the death-working nature of sin we have allowed to enter us when we give in to temptation.

All of this tells us that we have a decision to make when faced with temptation. We either choose to give in to temptation and sin or we choose not to give in to temptation and not sin. What does Paul go on to say in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that will help us make the right decision not to give in to temptation and not sin?

Fifth, understand you can be liberated from your temptations. Paul concludes, “that you may be able to bear it.” You can bear it! It is possible to defeat your bad sinful habits and destructive addictions. You may be thinking, “But I can’t, I’ve tried.” You are correct in one sense, YOU can’t do it, but remember; we must lean on God’s faithfulness to gain the victory. God has said He will be faithful to provide an escape for you so you don’t have to give into temptations, if you have thoughts that say, “God is not faithful,” or “I can’t do it, there is not escape,” then where do you think such thoughts are coming from, THE LIAR, SATAN who is playing on your flesh (John 8:44). You need to take those defeatist thoughts captive in Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). We need to prayerfully ask God to show us the way out of our sinful habits and addictions and when He does show us the way out, by faith, relying on His power, we need to follow His escape route.

God’s way of escape is always Scriptural. Look to God’s word for insight and direction in the way to escape sin in the times of temptation. God’s word is specifically designed to guide us in the way we should and should not go in times of temptation (e.g. 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Titus 2:11-12; Hebrews 4:12; 1 John 2:1-2). When you prayerfully seek the help and direction from the Lord in His word, He will answer you and point you in the way you should go. He never fails to do this; you can count on Him to show you the way of escape in His word (Psalm 119:9-11). Your ability to avoid and resist sin and live victoriously in the face of temptation is in direct proportion to the amount of scripture in your life.

 

God’s way of escape is precautionary. It’s a lot easier to stop something you never let get started. God’s word warns us clearly about so many sinful behaviors. It would be best to heed the word of God from the start and not indulge in anything that God prohibits (See 1 Corinthians 6).

 

God’s way of escape can be difficult.  God’s way of escape is not made difficult by God, but by us when we allow sinful patterns or situations to arise in our lives. If we disregard the scriptural and precautionary steps of God’s way of escape allowing ourselves to indulge fleshly lusts and sin, once sin gets its foot in the door, it can be very hard to evict. There is a measure of pleasure in sin, otherwise why would anyone do it. Moses chose to turn away from the passing pleasures of sin (Hebrews 11:24-26). Sin may have a measure of pleasure, but it is “passing,” it is temporary and fades. But oh! What a persistent and often permanent measure of pain and suffering it leaves in its wake!

 

Paul said those who seek to live godly lives would be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12). The people around you won’t necessarily help you. Your old friends don’t want you to leave your sinful ways because that brings them to terms with the sin you are leaving behind that they may still want to indulge in. When you identify sinful behavior and seek to leave it behind, that brings conviction to those who would rather indulge the same kinds of sin. Misery loves company and sinners don’t want to be convicted of their sin. This, for example is why the LGBT+ communities do not only want society to leave them alone, but they want societies approval for their sinful lifestyle (Romans 1:18-32, especially verse 32). God never tells us that taking his way of escape is easy. He simply tells us it is possible and we do not take God’s way of escape in our own strength but in the strength He provides when we seek Him out to help us (Philippians 2:12-13; James 4:7-10; 1 Peter 5:8-9).

 

God’s way of escape is often common sense. Our “common sense” comes from God; it is not something we come up with. Therefore, there are some very practical common sense, logical things we can do to keep tempting situations from overwhelming us. Maybe you need to clean house and get rid of any paraphernalia that would tempt you to give in to temptation. If you have a history of substance abuse, don’t keep a pipe, bong, rolling papers, syringe, etc. around for sentimental purposes. If you are married but struggle with sexual temptations like adultery don’t keep your little black book with all your old girlfriends or boyfriend’s names and numbers in it just for a memento. You need to clean out the leaven, even the small sinful things around you (1 Corinthians 5:5-7). All of this is common sense.

 

Also, if you have difficulty with pornography on TV, computer, phone, or other device, arrange it so that when you are using these things you will not be alone, but with someone who will motivate you not to entertain sinful temptations. With the advent of IPhone and IPad it’s harder to avoid temptation, but not impossible. Remember God’s promise.

 

If you are an addict of some kind, maybe you need to change who you hang out with or the places you go. Watch the trick of the enemy who will urge your flesh to rationalize and reason that your old friends won’t get saved unless you hang with them. That’s hogwash! God desires their salvation far more than you do and He is able to save them with someone else if need be. You need to get spiritually grounded and mature in your faith, otherwise you will put yourself in a situation where you are primed to fall and sin again. That would be a bad testimony and counterproductive to how God might want to use you. Plan ahead and take steps to not put yourself in tempting situations. And if a tempting situation catches up to you, prayerfully ask God to show you the way out and give you the strength to take it.

 

God’s way of escape is always there, but only good for those who really want to follow it. Here is the conviction and challenge. An escape route is only good if you take it. If you are drowning and God throws you a life preserver, and you push it away, or ignore it, you will drown and it is your decision to do so. You have to ask yourself, “Do I really want to escape? Do I really want to follow the Lord or sin? Do I want to allow this sin to threaten my fellowship with the Lord? What is more important to me, the Lord and His good path, or my sin?” Jesus said

 

  • Matthew 7:13-14 - “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.14 “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” 

There is a way out, a way of escape. Jesus said it is a narrow way. It is narrow because His way is the only way (John 14:6). He will give you clear and direct plans of escape. We have to accept them and take them by faith. Remember, God is faithful and won’t let you be tempted beyond what you are able. That’s His promise. You can depend on it. When tempted, pause and prayerfully ask God to show you the way out. He will do it and give you strength to follow it to liberty in Jesus.

 

 



[1]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.
[2]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

God Wants You to Know the WHOLE Truth

God wants you to know the WHOLE truth. It seems that there is a great deal of watering down, changing, and editing of the gospel and God’s word occurring in the world and unfortunately, in the church today. The popular reason for altering the gospel is the feeling that it is too offensive or too narrow minded, or too intolerant. Some alter the gospel with “good “motives; they want to make the gospel palatable and seeker friendly. From the seeker friendly church we see the evolving emerging church whose stated goal is to provide a culturally sensitive ecumenical experience oriented “gospel” (which is really no gospel at all – Galatians 1:6-9). Such church growth strategies come at the expense of relying on God’s word, God’s truth, and in reality, God’s true gospel.

On top of this we see segments of the church overtaken with a spirit in the world today of tolerance and "peace" at the expense of truth and reality. This has led to such aberrations as Chrislam and interfaith "dialogues" which attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable. There happens to be a huge dust up in the church over this regarding James White, a noted apologist for the Faith inviting a Muslim apologist into his church with an introduction o their being "kindred spirits."

What does Jesus have to say about all of this?  What follows is an updated teaching I did on how a watered down Gospel leads to an inoculation from the true Gospel.

Jesus stated, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:31-32). Often times people discard the gospel because they say, "It doesn't work." Why doesn’t this “gospel” work? Those who alter the gospel would say that it is out of date, archaic, and needs to be modernized. They blame the lack of power in the gospel on being an outmoded message.
 
Others sacrifice truth due to personal emotional connections. This happens when two people of opposite views sit down to "dialogue" in order to try to find a way that they can "coexist" (seen the bumper sticker?). What happens is the two or one of the parties takes a liking to the other and decides their differences can be overlooked for the sake of relationship or "friendship." This inevitably leads to compromise of one side. Unfortunately of late it has meant the compromise of Christianity. I believe this may be behind the actions of the James White situation. (Please see the balanced and Biblical response of Dr. Mike Spaulding at https://nortonsafe.search.ask.com/web?q=Mike+Spaulding+on+james+white&chn=1000&doi=2017-06-13&geo=US&guid=956019C8-DD86-49ED-A5A0-576619AD8144&locale=en_US&o=APN11912&p2=%5EEQ%5Eis10us%5E&prt=NS&ver=22.9.4.8&tpr=2&ts=1499283591992 ).
 
Jesus and His word are unchanging (Matthew 24:35; Hebrews 13:8). The gospel of God’s word is still powerful (Romans 1:16-17). And anyone for any reason who seeks to compromise the Gospel is under an anathema (cf. Galatians 1:6-9). If that is so, why are people missing out on that power, on that life changing power? Why are they compromising? The reason there is no freedom from sin is because the "gospel" being presented is "really no gospel at all." What is the cause of such a truth heist? The truth is robbed from the gospel because well intentioned messengers filter the gospel for fear of offending listeners. The consequence of such actions is an inoculation against the true gospel.

"The Great Inoculation"

Medically, inoculation is the injection of a controlled amount of microorganism or toxic material into the body. This is done to allow the immune system of the body to build up a resistance to the alien substance infecting the body. There is another area where inoculation takes place. "The Great Inoculation" is an inoculation in the spiritual realm. It is an inoculation against the gospel and all that God calls holy.

This inoculation takes place whenever God’s word is castrated by spurious paraphrase renditions. This inoculation takes place when the gospel is given in dosages judged to be inoffensive or non-threatening. Gospel inoculation takes place when the gospel is watered down. The premise underlying this practice is that the gospel is too offensive or too likely to "turn off" the recipients if spoken directly. The concern and worry of the Gospel inoculators is that "relationships" need to be established before the gospel is shared.

This brings us to some questions. What comes first, establishing a relationship unassociated to Christ with the hope that in the future Christ can be injected into the relationship? Or, first being associated with Christ which draws people into redemptive relationships? It's a question of honesty. Will we speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15)?

Charlatans, false teachers, politicians and shady lawyers may feel it is acceptable to bend, and mutilate the truth, but God's ministers certainly should not! If you detect an air of urgency in my words it is because we live in times perilously close to the completion of the scriptural prophecies concerning the last days (2 Timothy 3). Given global unrest, the rise of Islam (yes, "Islam" not "radical Islam" for truly Islam can be shown to be violent by nature in its pursuit of world domination) economic inflation and uncertainty, ecological disruption and natural disasters, even the common person on the street can see something is going on that we need to take notice of. Then we have the relatively recent works like the DaVinci Code, and the presentation of Gnostic gospels as alternatives to the true gospel which are evidence of the wave of deception that serves as a one-two punch combination that has many people reeling. Besides the propaganda and negative reporting in the media, we still have the perennial problems of abortion, crime, self-indulgence, the Middle East "Peace" etc. And on top of all of this, people are losing faith in the church because it is in the church where much of the deception, abuse, and manipulation is taking place.  It looks at least as though we are in the twilight years of planet earth as we know it. The apostle Paul warned of these last days writing, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables" (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

And what of the psychologizing of the church? If gospel counsel from God’s word is avoided by those who would be ministers, what is ultimately communicated is that counsel does not have to be based on the Gospel and God’s word. If scripture is avoided in counsel, then scripture is not seen as foundational or even necessary as a means to healing life problems. Instead counsel can be humanistic or based on another resource. Furthermore, the appearance of lukewarmness is communicated as well as a lack of commitment to Christ and His holy Word. The impression left is, "Maybe Jesus and His Word aren't the 'only way'." The so-called minister of Christ loses their identity and their effectiveness as Christ's ambassador. The image of Christ is lost. Their reason for being becomes vague. And there we have it, the germs of gospel inoculation! Inoculated by a "gospel" that is really no gospel at all (Galatians 1:6-7).

You see the problem with the premise that we can water down the initial presentation of the gospel in hopes of maybe later divulging the full gospel is that such a transition often never takes place. What happens is because the truth has been so minimized and the churches filled with “seekers” attracted by palatable sweets, the fear of losing the crowds is so great that they settle for living on the watered down milk toast, wishy washy non-gospel. Those introduced to the church with an inoculating gospel become immune to the true gospel.

I would ask those who defend this "gospel" inoculation to consider the following observations.

First, the nature of the gospel is that it is offensive. When the apostle Paul referred to the gospel he often described it by way of the Greek word skandalon. Skandalon is translated "stumbling block" and "offense" (1 Corinthians 1:23; Galatians 5:11). We get our English word "scandal" from this word. The apostle referred to Jesus as, "A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense [skandalon]" (1 Peter 2:8 NKJV). Because of this, we ought to expect some people to take offense at the gospel, no matter how much we speak the truth in love.

Second, to depend on mere human perspective to gauge the extent to which we share the gospel is sinful. Such an attitude comes perilously close to trying to usurp the throne of God. It betrays a lack of trust in the work of the Holy Spirit. It is God who works on the heart of humans and draws them to Himself (John 6:44; 14; 16). When a person attempts to take over the role of God, the mission is doomed to failure (see Saul for example - 1 Samuel 15). Doomed to failure because the human perspective is limited to the surface of people's reactions. God can plumb the depths of our being. We can view the blank stare of a recipient as either thoughtful agreement with our message or daydreaming disinterest. God is the Knower of the heart (kardiognostes - Acts 1:24; 15:8). He has no such confusion or will He make any such mistake.

Third, to carve up the gospel and present it in an inoffensive way results in modeling an air of non-urgency. The gospel becomes a secondary life source of direction. The recipient is tempted to wonder, "The gospel can't be that important if nobody wants to talk about it." Suppose you are waiting for the train that arrives 6:55 a.m. and someone comes to you at 6:50 a.m. and asks, "Do you think I have time to go grab a bite to eat and do some window-shopping before the train comes in?" You answer in a way that you think will bring comfort and peace, "Sure go ahead, enjoy yourself, you've got plenty of time." How do you think that inquisitor is going to respond when he or she returns half an hour later to find both you and the train are long since gone? Or maybe they get back in time to see you and the train pulling away. How do you think they will feel? How do you think you will feel? It's safe to say no one will be happy. And you will have had exactly the opposite effect that you intended. The apostle Paul wrote, "Now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2 NKJV). Each day is a gift from God and only He knows each persons allotted amount (Proverbs 27:1). Jesus can return for His Church at any time (Luke 21:36; 1 Thessalonians 5:2). What right has anyone to presume on the time a person has to make a decision to accept Christ? To assume such responsibility is to tread where angels fear to go.

Fourth, the convert of a non-urgent and secondary gospel message would likely be doomed to lukewarmness from the start. The strategy of inoffensiveness plays into the hands of those who seek only an undisturbing amount of Jesus. The result is a generation of those who talk-the-talk but overlook walking-the-walk of Christianity. Jesus warned, ". . . Because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth" (Revelation 3:16 NKJV). The first words out of Jesus' mouth in Mark's gospel involved a call to "repent" (Mark 1:15). The Greek word for "repent" is metanoeite which literally means "to have a thorough change of mind." Change is integral to gospel salvation. Without repentance, the good news is out of the gospel.

Fifth, being inoffensive is often justified by those who say, "love does not offend." But "love" is said to "rejoice in the truth" (1 Corinthians 13:6). A heresy is a half-truth. It's hardly an act of love to expect someone to make a decision of eternal consequence based on half-truth. Jesus wants us to speak the truth in love. That means loving people enough to risk offending them. True love peaks the whole truth. There is self-denial, a cross and following involved in coming to Christ (Luke 9:23). Paul wrote, ". . . I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus" (Galatians 6:17 NKJV). Peter wrote, "It is written, 'Be holy for I am holy'" (1 Peter 1:16 NKJV). Jesus said our top priority was to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind" (Matthew 22:37 NKJV). God takes a back seat to no one and no thing!

I once heard a youth worker comment on another youth worker's interaction with some youth during a bible study. Their comment was, "It was a pretty good study, but too much Scripture is a real turnoff." That’s what is being said in many church groups. Maybe this preoccupation with what is and isn't a "turnoff" is the cause of lukewarmness amongst many of the youth in churches today. Maybe people haven't rejected the gospel or the church because maybe they haven't been exposed to the real thing. Young people and all people need to be given a chance to accept or refuse the gospel in its entirety. People ought to be permitted to make an educated decision.

It is a disservice to "lead" someone to Christ under the mistaken notion that it is a comfortable thing to do and requires no tangible life changes. It is counterproductive and only results in inoculating the recipients against the gospel. Those who have slipped into the inoculative mode need to turn around and trust in God to draw people to Himself. If you call yourself an ambassador of Christ, then represent truthfully The King you claim to serve!

I think it's time we took to heart these inspired words of Paul who said, ". . . We should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head - Christ" (Ephesians 4:14-15 NKJV)

Maybe you've been reading this and wondering "Where do I stand with the Lord and His gospel? Am I saved?" If you are uncertain about where you stand with God then the way to find assurance of your salvation in God's Word. The word of God is clear about the gospel (literally "good news") of salvation. This is what it says:

1.     All people fall short of what God requires to get into heaven and are sinners (Romans 3:21-25). People are spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1-3). Everyone has broken God's Law and even just one offense condemns (Galatians 3:10; James 2:10). Jesus is God's standard to get into heaven (John 16:8-11). Jesus said the destiny of the sinner is separation from God (Matthew 25:32), everlasting fire (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 19:20), everlasting punishment (Matthew 25:46), and an everlasting sad, lonely, darkness (Matthew 8:12).

2.     God Himself has made provision to reconcile us to Himself in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). Only God incarnate could live the life and pay the price for the sins of all people (Isaiah 53:4-6; John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11).

3.     God's salvation is a gift to be received on His terms, by faith (Ephesians 2:4-10). Jesus requires us to make a decision about Him. To make no decision is to decide against Him (Matthew 12:30). He also requires us to publicly confess our faith in Him (Matthew 10:32-33). God forgives us when we repent (Acts 2:38-39) and trust Him to forgive us on the basis of the work Jesus has done (Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-8). Salvation is free, but it wasn't cheap. It cost Jesus His life. God loves us and knows we can't save ourselves. He has done the work for us. He sent Jesus to die and pay the penalty for sin instead of us. We need only accept it. An acronym for the faith that saves is Forsaking All I Trust Him to forgive me of my sin. You have to ask God to save you and your prayer could be as follows:

God forgive me of my sin. I know that I've sinned against You, but I turn from my sin right now and turn to You by faith. Jesus, come into my life. Be my personal Lord and Savior. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit. Help me to be your disciple. Thank You that You have forgiven me. Thank You that I'm now a child of God. Thank You that I'm going to heaven. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

When you pray that prayer from your heart, understand that the Bible states you are born again (John 3:1-21); a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17); a child of God (1 John 3:1); you are forgiven (Colossians 2:13).

  1. When you become a Christian you are born again into the Body of Christ which is called the Church (2 Corinthians 5:17). The Holy Spirit has a spiritual gift for you to use to serve God (1 Corinthians 12-14). You have a part to play. God has a plan for your life (Jeremiah 29:11-14; Ephesians 4:11-16). You need to be taught God's word and learn about your faith and Who God is (Acts 2:42; Philippians 2:12-13; 2 Timothy 1:12). Find a church where you can be taught the word of God and where you'll find the support of loving fellowship (1 John 2:3-11). Read God's word on a regular basis and pray to your heavenly Father in the name of His Son Jesus. Begin by going back and reading all the scripture references in this issue. Let them sink in prayerfully.

Don’t settle for half truths or anything less than the whole truth of God in His word. The whole truth of the whole gospel provides a way for you to enter into a powerful life changing personal saving relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. Don’t settle for anything less! (I John 1:1-4).



 


 

 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Church as Mission Field


“. . . the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, . . .” – Ephesians 4:12

 

On the rear exit way leading out of our church is a sign that reads “You are now entering the mission field.” Having thought about this, I believe the same sign should be placed on the outside for those entering the church. The Church is a mission field. I believe this is true of all churches.

Church is not only a place where we come to be fed and spiritually equipped. It is a place where the saints are equipped so they can do works of ministry in their everyday lives. But that is really only a part of what church is all about. Those who come to church only looking to receive will get only half of what God offers them. Church should be a place where we come to receive, but it should also be a place where we come to give.

The Body of Christ is composed of many different parts. And those interconnected parts are the instruments Jesus uses to minister to His flock. When we come to church we should come not only with a mindset to feed ourselves spiritually, we should come with a mission mindset looking for how God might want to use us while we are at church. Church is a mission field. It is a place where hurting people come and God might just want to use you to bring healing and comfort to those hurting. People who come with problems that need solving or questions that need answering, or simply with life issues, these people can be ministered to by the members in the local church body. This makes the church run more efficiently. The Church is built on the One Man Jesus (1 Corinthians 3:11). But there is no other man or individual upon which the Church universally or locally should rely. Paul was inspired to point to the church and say, “Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually” (1 Corinthians 12:27). And like a physical body we are to work together to function properly as God intended. There are times when you might be one of those in need. There are other times when you might be the one helping someone in need. The Lord comforts us so that we can later be used by Him to comfort others (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

Jesus has provided His church with ministry gifts such as apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teachers (Ephesians 4:11). These are given to those entrusted with overseeing the church and equipping saints to do ministry (Ephesians 4:12). But there are also a host of spiritual gifts that are distributed by the Holy Spirit to all born again believers in order that they might serve purposefully those they come into contact with either in or outside of the church, wherever the mission opportunity presents itself.  (For the types of spiritual gifts distributed by the Holy Spirit see Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12-14).

When we look at the seven churches of Revelation we see that Jesus finds issues that need attending to in five of the seven churches. Two of the churches receive no criticism from Him. But all of these representative churches are part of a Christ’s mission field. There are needs in all of them. There are needs all around us. We need to be open to the Spirit for His empowerment as well as to how and where He might want to use us. Spiritual growth comes through service; through applying in real life what we learn from the Lord in His word. There are opportunities for such service both in and outside of the church. The world is a mission field, but so is the church.  

Jesus expressed that one of His main purposes for the Church was to bring a unity to His followers that would be representative of the unity He experienced in the Triune Godhead (John 17:20-23). It glorifies God when people come together who are steadfastly devoted to the Bible, fellowship, worship and prayer (Acts 2:42-47). God is glorified by the unity of those who hold to "the foundation of the apostles and prophets” with "Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone" and where the Holy Spirit dwells (Ephesians 2:19-22; 4:4-6; Philippians 2:1-2).

The Bible reveals that in the Last Days there will be a one world religion. This religion of unity is referred to as Mystery Babylon and has its roots at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11). This false religious system will ultimately be brought down by God (cf. Revelation 17). The Mystery Babylon “church” system is not glorifying to God but opposes God with all deception and rebellion against Him and His word. This false unity is on the rise today. There is an attempt by the enemy today to absorb the true Church into this Babylonian “whore” of a church. It is a “Church” that is unfaithful to the truth of God and in fact is a cheap substitute for the real Bride of Christ. “Unity” is good, but not at the expense of God’s truth.  This threat to the Church of God is a big part of what makes the Church a mission field.

 

Jesus acknowledged diversity in ministry (Mark 9:38-41). He initially came to give the gospel to Israel but thank God He also spoke of opening the gospel to the diversity of the Gentile world! (John 10:16). When people of different races, nations, actual biological genders, financial means, intellectual capacities, cultural backgrounds, and spiritual gifting come together in Christ, it glorifies God. When people who worship God differently come together it glorifies God. Whenever people who agree in the essentials of the faith but differ in nonessentials of the faith come together, it glorifies God.

Diversity in the body of Christ is good. We can all learn from those who are different from us. And diversity is necessary to make us whole. God Himself is diverse in that He is One God in Three persons. My wife and I are different in many ways. She is a woman. I am a man. She is practical. I am not always practical. I am big and strong. She is delicate and soft. She sees things I do not always see. I see things she does not always see. Separately we might be vulnerable. Together we are strong and watch each other’s back. The same is true of the church.

When churches unite regardless of denomination, location, or mode of worship, it glorifies God.  This is a big part of our Church mission. People in the church are different in many ways but our differences make us stronger. Our differences make us more versatile, perceptive, sensitive to the needs of the lost and empathetic. Our differences enable us to watch each other’s back. Such diversity does not only glorify God; it is the will of God.

But, having said that, part of the mission of the Church is to remain pure. The ambition of Jesus is to wash His Bride the Church with His word, “that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:26-27).  Division based on prejudice, ignorance and a lack of love is sinful and never glorifies God. Division characterized by backbiting and gossip in the church is sinful and does not glorify God. Our mission in the church should be to eliminate such sinful practices.

We see in the Bible that God glorified Himself when His people separated from Egypt (Exodus 4-14). And when God’s people were about to enter the Promised Land He warned them through Moses to remain separate from the pagan peoples, false prophets and their false teaching (Deuteronomy 7; 13 and 18). God tells us to watch out for those who cause division because of doctrinal deception and false teaching and that we are to "keep away from them" (Romans 16:17; cf. also Jude). It is not doctrine or the teaching of God’s word that we are to keep away from; we are to unite in the truth of God’s word. We are to stay away from those who teach false doctrine. That is part of our mission in the Church. Whether a person or group holds to the teaching of God’s word determines whether they belong to God and so this is eternally important and therefore worth dividing over (2 John 9).

What makes this issue of division a bit more complicated is the mindset expressed by the Arabian quote the enemy of my enemy is my friend. There are certain circumstances and situations in life where we are tempted to join with those who we had previously opposed to unite in confronting a common foe. Is it ever right to unite with a secular group or religious group who has unscriptural or Christ denying ways? There are many diverse groups that oppose abortion, immorality, and what we would call sin. We see this in political circles. One of the accepted mottos of such circles is “Politics makes strange bedfellows.” There is a labyrinth of deception and twisted alliances in the political world. That is because the objective is, for the most part, to attain and maintain power, not bring glory to God. In this realm of politics and elsewhere, uniting with those who believe differently than God says in His word is permissible if and only if you can maintain your scriptural Christian identity. But don’t allow yourself to be manipulated into a situation where you compromise the truth of God’s word. Our mission here is to proceed with caution and never go beyond the parameters of Gods’ word.

If uniting means approving of or condoning sin or scriptural heresy and falsehood, of even giving such a compromising appearance, then it would be better to fight whatever cause it is separately. God put Joseph in a position that was second in command to Pharaoh of pagan Egypt to save the messianic line (Genesis 37-50). God used the pagan Persian King Artaxerxes to help Nehemiah rebuild the walls of the holy city of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 1-2). God can use the unsaved for His purposes. It is by infiltration of rather than isolation from such groups that we can be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16). In such situations we serve as a restraining force against evil (2 Thessalonians 2:6-7). This can be an effective part of mission strategy.

But the Bible also says we are to "come out" and not be "unequally yoked with" unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6). We are not to be united with unbelievers in a way that disregards the holy difference of God’s people. The Church should never become so associated with and sensitive to “Seekers” that it forfeits its identity as the Church. The trend of our day in the Church is to be so trendy, relaxed, informal, modern, worldly and comfortable that the lost will mosey on in. The problem with such thinking is that it fails to recognize that the true Gospel, which includes the cross of Christ, is by nature offensive to sinful people (cf. Galatians 5:11). And to such perversion of Church mission we should say with Paul, “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).

Unity with globalist groups, eclectic ecumenical religious groups that sacrifice truth for unity, racist organizations, or other entities that we are warned about in scripture, for say, political reasons, would not glorify God. Dividing from them would glorify God. An ecumenical worship service where Christians unite with Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and other religions where the message being sent is “All religions are basically the same; all roads lead to heaven” would be inappropriate. All of these groups define "God" in unscriptural and even blasphemous ways not to mention conflict with the truth of God’s word.

Would it glorify God to unite with churches that ordain homosexuals or who perform same sex marriages or who approve of abortion, even partial birth abortion? Not if it meant condoning such sin and compromising God’s truth. In seeking to fulfill our mission we should not play fast and loose with who we align with in causes. We should never pooh-pooh challenges to God’s truth. Our trust is to be in God not worldly alliances. In our preparations for battle, we should never forget that deliverance is of the LORD (Proverbs 21:31). We don’t want to forfeit God’s vital involvement because of unholy alliances. We should seek to be involved in things that God can put His signature upon. Our confidence needs to come from our relationship with God. “For the LORD your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you” (Deuteronomy 20:4). “Salvation belongs to the LORD. Your blessing is upon Your people” (Psalm 3:8). Our mission should involve seeking His blessing. Then there is victory and most importantly, then God is glorified.

The mission to the Church and through the Church is a holy mission. We aren’t to fight like the world fights. “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-4). There are a lot of high proud things and ways in this world. In our mission we need to guard against being polluted with the things of this world. We must use holy means to fulfill our holy mission both in and through the Church. How about looking to God in prayer, deep heartfelt prayer, maybe even fasting, before we look to secular marketing techniques in religious packages? Who knows, maybe God will give us a revival is we do.

God is clear on how He feels about those who misrepresent Him; His judgment is on them. God barred Moses from the Promised Land because he misrepresented God (Exodus 17:1-7 and Numbers 20:1-13). God allowed His people to be defeated and taken into captivity because of their associations with pagan sinful peoples and adopting their sinful religious practices (2 Chronicles 36:14-21). The New Testament is full of exhortations to maintain purity and unity in the teachings of God’s holy word (for example Jude 3-4). When we divide from those who disregard or rebel against God, it glorifies God. It glorifies God because it demonstrates we put Him and His word above the comfort that comes from tolerance of sin and compromising the truth He has revealed (for example Matthew 5:10-16; 10:32-39).

But even if we disagree with someone and have to remain separate from them, it should still always be in love (John 13:34-35).  Making the distinction and separating from the groups I just mentioned is clear cut to anyone who respects and holds dear God and His word. We speak the truth in love and share the gospel with such groups, but we do not unite with them. Division sometimes glorifies God.

The only place we see Jesus write a letter in Scripture is to the seven churches of Revelation (Revelation 2-3). The Church is important to Jesus. The Church is His bride. Like any groom Jesus is deeply in love with His precious Bride. He has a seven year (!) wedding feast planned for her (Revelation 19:7). As His Bride we have been entrusted with a mission. That mission is both to the Church and through the Church. It is a holy mission both in and without. Let’s fulfill this holy mission in a holy God ordained scripturally sound way.