Welcome to Leaving LaodiceaThe Survival Manual for the Coming Underground Church
Today is the first day of a 40 day adventure.
No, this adventure is not about a mission trip to Haiti or a hike down the Appalachian Trail. This 40 day adventure is a time set aside to discover more about the Lord and to specifically learn to hear Him speak. That’s right, it’s my desire during this adventure to draw closer to the Lord than I’ve ever been before and to learn to hear His voice. I’m not talking about hearing Him speak to me through His Word, which is wonderful. But I long for something more personal, more intimate. I long to hear Him speak to me like He has others in Scripture, and as He has also done for me several times in the past. In fact, those times of hearing His voice are some of the high points in my spiritual life.
I know what many of you may be thinking.
“Oh, here we go again. It looks like somebody else is wanting to move beyond the sufficiency of Scripture. I guess Scripture’s not enough for Steve and now He wants more than God has already provided for him. Maybe he wants an encounter like the one described in The Shack or to hear God speak like Sarah Young claims in Jesus Calling or something like that. Doesn’t he know that God only speaks today through His Word?”
No, I don’t know that. In fact, I see many places in Scripture where God speaks to His children in other ways than through the Scriptures. Let me give you a few examples.
Today, as we continue our study into the life of Christ, we’ll look into the testimony of John the Baptist regarding Jesus that begins in John 1:19. In fact, it’s hard to read the question they ask him without having the CSI theme song, the Who classic from 1978, playing in my head. “Who are you?”
Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” (John 1:19)
What we have before us is the testimony of John the Baptist. And the word “testimony” (marturía) means “a witness, certification, record, that which someone witnesses or states concerning a person or thing.” It is a declaration by a witness who speaks with the authority of one who knows, like an expert witness. John is very familiar with this word and uses it over 75 times in his writings. But there is more.
Just think, John the Baptist is the first witness the Apostle John calls to testify of the Lordship of Christ. Later he writes:
This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true. And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen. (John 21:24-25)
But there is more.
In John 15 we have the Lord’s blueprint for the “abundant life” (John 10:10) He promised each of us. And no, that life doesn’t involve expensive cars or vacation homes or buckets of cash or having Your Best Life Now! The abundant life in Him is defined by being able to bear His fruit, and bearing it in ever-increasing quantities. Or, like Jesus said, “more fruit”, then “much fruit”, and finally “fruit that will remain”. Consider the following:
“Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:2)
“By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” (John 15:8)
“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” (John 15:16)
Unless the church fully understands the importance of bearing the fruit of Christ, the Vine, this incredible teaching of Jesus will have little meaning or lasting effect on our lives. Or on the lives of those we try to influence with the Word, our spouse, our friends, our parents, children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren. We must come to a clear understanding that the only purpose for the branch, the only reason you and I were created and chosen in Him (Eph. 1:4), is to bear the fruit of the vine. And the only one who benefits from the fruit we bear, is the Vinedresser, the Father. The one key to hearing “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:23), is our commitment to being nothing but branches, committed totally to bearing His fruit.
As we said last week, there is no other way.
When it comes to the topic of the Christian and their struggle with temptation, preaching should not only tell us the “what” and “why” — but it should also give us the “hows” to stand up against it. Because we all have the same questions, such as what are some practical steps we can take as believers to soar over temptation and stand victorious as our Lord did in Matthew 4 and Luke 4. And when we study the account of Satan’s attempt to get Jesus to sin and how He responded to the enemy’s trickery, we should be encouraged to follow His lead like a dependent child.
Notice what Jesus did to ward off Satan’s schemes.
But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'” (Matthew 4:4)
Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'” (Matthew 4:7)
Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.'” (Matthew 4:10)
Notice anything that ties these three defenses together? Or do you notice anything you could place in your arsenal to combat the evil one on the day of temptation?
We are now in the third temptation of Jesus that is recorded in Matthew 4 and Luke 4. And in this temptation, Satan drops all pretense and allows his true nature to emerge. He no longer tries to get Jesus to move outside of God’s will by either meeting His own needs (turning stones into bread) or trying to force God’s hand (jumping off the pinnacle of the Temple). Instead, Satan now suggests he can offer Jesus exactly what His Father has promised Him, a kingdom, but he can get it to Him quicker and without any suffering. Look at how this temptation unfolds:
Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” (Matthew 4:8-9)
Luke’s account adds a few more details:
Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.” (Luke 4:5-7)
Which raises a few questions.
Once we move past identifying the characters in this teaching (Jesus is the vine, God the Father is the vinedresser, and we are the branches), we can clearly see the focus is on bearing fruit (more fruit, much fruit, and fruit that remains). But the key to having a relationship with the Lord that allows us to bear the kind of fruit that brings glory to the Father (John 15:8), is being able to “abide” in Him, in the vine. In fact, we find that phrase repeated over and over again in this amazing discourse. Consider the following:
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” (John 15:4)
“If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” (John 15:6)
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” (John 15:7)
“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.” (John 15:9)
“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (John 15:10)
So the concept of abiding is not something to be taken lightly. Obviously, it is a description of the relationship Jesus has with the Father, and the relationship all Three share in the Godhead. And the amazing thing is that He commands us, no, He invites us to abide in Him the way He also abides in His Father. What a wonderful privilege He offers each of us.
But let’s address the elephant in the room, the $64,000,000 question. What does abide in this passage really mean?
For the past two months, our nation has been held in the grips of, as President Trump said, an “invisible enemy.” But this “invisible enemy” is not Covid-19. Nor is it the loss of jobs and the bankruptcy of thousands of small businesses and the inevitable collateral effect that will have on our economy for years, maybe even decades, to come. No, the “invisible enemy” we face is fear. And fear is a result of a lack of faith, and a lack of faith renders even the strongest believer useless as His light-bearer (Matt. 5:14-16).
But we know that. Yet, for some strange reason, it doesn’t seem to have any effect on us. Why?
Because many of us as believers in the West have surrendered our rights and privileges as children of God (Romans 8:16-17), in order to live comfortable lives in this fallen world. We have made ourselves, as James tells us, “an enemy of God” because of our “friendship with the world” (James 4:4). Just spend a few minutes on Facebook and you can see the narcissistic cancer that runs unchecked in our culture today… even in the church.
These are truly desperate times.
But what are we to do? How can we prepare ourselves for what the Lord is allowing to happen? And what lesson is there to be learned from watching Him bring our evil and proud society to its knees by events beyond anyone’s control? What do we need to do?
Simply this: We need to grow in our faith and our relationship with our Lord like never before. Like there is no tomorrow. Because there might not be. We are not guaranteed tomorrow (James 4:13-16). No one is.
Now is the time for serious soul-searching. Now is the time to put Him first in all things and to lay up for ourselves “treasures in heaven” and not spend our lives collecting trinkets and toys on earth (Matt. 6:19-20). And the best way to do this is to truly understand what our life is all about and why God created each of us in the first place.
Welcome to John 15.
Today we’ll take a look at Satan’s second temptation of Jesus where he tries to chide Him into putting His Father to the test. And in this, Satan ups the ante. He now quotes Scripture in a veiled and useless attempt to entice Jesus to sin, and tries to make it sound spiritual, or Scriptural, or not all that bad. In his temptation, Satan justifies the evil behind it by quoting from Psalms 91:11-12.
Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If (or, since, because) You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” (Matthew 4:5-6).
This is classic bait and switch.
As with the first temptation, Satan is working hard to get Jesus to distrust God’s perfect plan for His life and take an easy road out. After all, if Jesus wouldn’t take it upon Himself to turn stones into bread because He was dissatisfied with the Father’s timing of meeting His needs, then let’s put the Father in a situation where He has to respond to Jesus’ demand or violate His own Word.
It sounds like a good idea. But it won’t work. Jesus is always one step, actually light years, ahead of the deceiver.
Let’s look at this exchange together.
The following is an article I received today from Roberto Bottrel, who is serving European churches by helping them multiply via cell-group ministry. If you remember, this very subject is what we talked about the first Sunday we had to go online. You might want to take a listen again, if you have forgotten.
Anyway, enjoy and get ready to embrace the future.
Because change is coming, and there is nothing we can do about it but prepare and adapt.
Join us today as we look into Satan’s first shot at Jesus, tempting Him to turn stones into bread (Matt. 4:2-3). On the surface, this doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. But as you will discover, this temptation of Jesus is so effective against each of us today. In fact, I think you’ll see how easily we all fail and turn our own stones into bread.
And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If (since, because) You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” (Matthew 4:2-3)
Intrigued? Good. Then let’s look at this incredible event together.
Something About Us
This is a collection of the many questions I have struggled with and the answers I have found regarding the relationship between authentic faith in Christ and much of what is portrayed today as Biblical Christianity. Especially with the coming darkness looming over all of us, including the church.
Come with me. It should be a wild ride!
To find out more about us and what we believe, just continue reading…