Yesterday was the second Sunday we met together virtually, and I for one can’t wait until we can put aside social distancing and meet again face-to-face. I miss your voice as you sing songs to the Lord and offer prayers to Him for the sake of others. I miss your attentiveness as we look into His Word together and I especially miss our times of fellowship when we can catch up on things and see how everyone’s doing.
But since it appears this ordeal our nation is going through will last for several more weeks (hopefully not longer), I thought it would be encouraging to remember in the face of uncertainty what we do know for certain, and in our world of constant change, what is unchangeable and will remain forever.
Things We Know For Certain
There are so many things in our life right now that we have no control over. How long will the coronavirus last? What’s going to happen to our economy? Am I going to have enough money to pay my bills and feed my family? How can I protect myself and those I love from all of this? And the list of questions seems to be endless.
There are so many uncertainties right now. And nobody can give us any definite answers.
But there are some things that are certain and will never change, no matter what happens. And as long as we keep our heart focused on these unchangeables, we will not get swept away by the swirling tides of doubt, fear, dread, and depression that often follow.
Certainty Number One: God Loves You!
Scripture repeatedly reveals the wonderous fact that God loves you and you are loved by Him. The word that describes the love God has for you is, of course, agapē. This is the highest form of love. It is a covenant love, an altruistic, unconditional love that describes the love God has for His own Son and even for you and me.
“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love” (John 15:9).
Just think about this statement for a moment. As God the Father loved His own Son, so the Son has chosen to love each of us, regardless of how undeserving we are. This love is not based on what we think we deserve or what good we have done, but on the nature of God whose very essence is love (1 John 4:8). And in every instance cited the word used to describe this kind of love is agapē.
So rest or abide in this love that is unchangeable and will last forever.
Certainty Number Two: God is Sovereign
As you know, my life verse is Psalm 115:3, which reads, “But our God is in heaven; He does what He pleases.” In other words, our God exists beyond what we can touch, see, hear, taste or feel. He resides far above our financial problems or worries about the future. His abode is in heaven and from His throne, He does what He wills. His desire can never be thwarted, delayed, or hindered. Never. This can be either good news or bad. If you trust God and see him as your loving, forgiving, merciful Father, these are very encouraging words. But if you view God through the eyes of an abused child and see Him as an angry, selfish, narcissistic, bully (that many of us may have had as earthly fathers), then His sovereignty becomes frightening.
But the Bible constantly reveals the character of God to us. And His character coincides precisely with the fruits of the Spirit He gives to us. He manifests Himself by the fruits of His character. They are an extension of Himself and only come when He, in the Person of the Holy Spirit, resides in each of us. This is who God is:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
This is a perfect description of your sovereign Father. No need to live in fear or doubt.
So as you see wall-to-wall news coverage on how terrible the coronavirus is and how our economy is going to collapse and how one party is not doing what’s right for the other party or now everybody is a racist… whew. Just remember Certainty One and Two: God is Sovereign, and in His sovereignty, He has chosen to love you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3).
Rest in that love. Abide in that love. Take a deep breath and relax in that love.
And live secure in the fact that God sees the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10), and as long as you are in Him, you’ll be okay.
If there’s anything I can do to help you or if you have any specific prayer needs, please let me know.
Until tomorrow or until we see each other again face-to-face,
When we have the discernment that Jesus spoke about to know the “signs of the times” (Matt. 16:3), it becomes clear we are living in the last days. In fact, there are several key signs that bring us to this conclusion.
- The regathering of Israel into their own land
- The surging apostasy
- The coming Middle East peace
- The reuniting of the Roman Empire (East, West, both?)
For the church today, the most important of these prophetic signs is the rising tide of apostasy or defection from God and the Christian faith. We see this happening almost daily within the ranks of the church. As we have already discussed, apostasy means to “depart, revolt, or forsake. It is a deliberate defection from a formerly held religious position.” Apostasy doesn’t necessarily mean a total rejection of God or the authority of His Scripture. Apostasy can come in stages. It usually begins with a defection from a section of Scripture or a specific teaching that is incompatible with the current cultural church mood. Some examples are the issue of homosexuality, divorce, women pastors, abortion, or a myriad of other issues that divide the Body today. And once a small defection takes place, full-blown apostasy is not far behind.
But this shouldn’t surprise us. After all, Jesus said in Matthew 24 the greatest sign of His return was deception. And He warned His disciples about that deception four times (Matt. 24:4, 5,11, 24). He even went so far as to say the deception at the end would be so great that, if it was possible, even the elect would be deceived (Matt. 24:24). And the elect includes Peter, Paul, James and John, Martin Luther, D.L. Moody, Spurgeon, Billy Graham, and you and me. That’s a sobering thought that should not be taken lightly.
So what can we do to prepare for the coming apostasy?
The Apostasy is Coming
Or, how do we prevent falling prey to the deception that will only get greater as the Day approaches? Great question. You must know what you believe, and why. You must personally experience God for who He is. You cannot ride on the coattails of another’s faith. Your faith must be your own. And you must understand how overwhelmingly powerful the deception will be in the end times and be prepared.
Ask yourself the following questions:
Has God ever revealed Himself to you in an unmistakable fashion that left no doubt? Has He ever revealed Himself to you through His Word? If so, what was that experience like? How did it change your view of Scripture? Do you hunger for more of Him? Has that hunger led you to read more of His Word? And if not, why?
Once you begin to understand the power of His Word and the wisdom He gives you through His Word, what the world offers is nothing more than pocket change. You, through Him, have more wisdom than the talking heads on CNN. You have more understanding than those who make acceptance speeches at the Academy Awards and spend that time telling you how to live. You are the dwelling place of God Himself, in the Person of the Holy Spirit, which makes you a living sanctuary of the Presence of God.
Tell me what the world has that you don’t. Exactly. Nuthin’!
The following is a study on How to Prepare for the Coming Apostasy and 1 Corinthians 2.
To download the slides to this message, click – HERE
As the Scriptures claim, one of the greatest signs of the end is the mass defection or apostasy from the Christian faith by those who once claimed to be believers. Paul, in his letter to Timothy, warns that the “Spirit expressly says that (when) in latter times (who) some (what) will depart from the faith, (how) giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1). This great apostasy is characterized by a rebellion or revolt against God and His Word. And it is promoted by those who once claimed Jesus as Lord but are now “giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.” Peter says “scoffers will come in the last days” (2 Peter 3:3-4). Jude calls them “mockers” (Jude 17-19).
So what are we to do in the face of this great apostasy? How do we answer skeptics when they demand we “prove our God exists?” How do we defend our faith in the unseen God? What are we to do? Historically, the answer has been to study up on apologetics and be prepared to go toe to toe with those who demand answers from us void of faith. But is that the real purpose of apologetics? I’m not so sure.
For the message (or, preaching) of the cross is foolishness (mōría – folly, absurdity, moronic, stupid, senseless, foolhardy, insane) to (who) those who are perishing (or, being destroyed completely, to render
void), but to (who) us who are being saved (to deliver, make whole, preserve safe from danger, loss, or destruction) it (the message of the cross) is the power (dúnamis) of God – 1 Corinthians 1:18.
Our faith in the cross of Christ is moronic to those who are perishing. Period. And apologetics won’t change that fact. Think about it, our God doesn’t need defending. He can take care of Himself. And you cannot lead someone to Christ by logically answering all their questions about faith and the Scriptures to their satisfaction. Why? Because faith in Him is a gift from God and, before God imparts faith to the individual, the lost are incapable of believing the Gospel. To them, our faith in the cross of Christ is moronic.
So, is apologetics important? Absolutely. But not necessarily in the way you think.
The purpose of apologetics is for you to have all your questions answered about God and salvation and to allow your faith to grow strong. It is not for the direct benefit of the lost. This is what 1 Corinthians 1 and 2 shows in graphic detail. It has always been God’s plan to thwart man’s wisdom by revealing Himself through something man considers foolish. He does this to bring to nothing the wisdom of this world and, in turn, exalt faith in Him as the key that opens the door of salvation. Consider the following from 1 Corinthians 1:21-22:
Question: Where is the wise (or, respected, learned philosophers and experts)?
Question: Where is the scribe (or, writers, scholars)?
Question: Where is the disputer (or, debater, reasoner, influencer) of this age?
Question: Has not (who) God made (what) foolish the wisdom of this world (kósmos)
For since, in the (what) wisdom of God, the world through (its) wisdom did not know (ginōskō – or choose to know) God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached (foolishness to those who are perishing) to save those who believe (faith).
The reason for apologetics is for you to be secure in your faith and not necessarily to convince someone by the power of your arguments to receive Christ. That is a sovereign act of God alone. And prior to the impartation of faith in the elect, our most important argument is foolishness (stupid, ridiculous, moronic, insane) to those who are perishing. Jesus never gave signs for others to believe in Him.
So let me ask you just a few questions about your belief vs. God’s wisdom.
- Do you believe in the creation account in Genesis?
- Do you believe in the virgin birth?
- Do you believe in the floating ax head?
- Do you believe in the lion’s den or the fiery furnace?
- Do you believe in the fall of Jericho?
- Do you believe a good God sometimes does things that don’t seem so good to us today?
- Do you believe God rewards faith and punishes unbelief?
Are there parts of His Word that you don’t believe? If so, you are on very dangerous ground. Why? Because Jesus said the deception in the last days would be so great that, if it was possible, even the elect would be deceived (Matt. 24:24). And that includes you and me.
As we see the day of His return approaching, it is vital to know what we believe to be true. For help in securing your belief against apostasy, keep listening.
The following is a study on the Limitations of Apologetics as found in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31.
To download the slides to this message, click – HERE
Jesus chastised the religious elite of His day for their confidence in predicting things like the weather, but not being able to discern the signs of the times. In fact, He called them hypocrites. Remember? “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times” – Matthew 16:2-3. I wonder if He would say the same about His church today? After all, it appears we all seem to know everything about everything. Just ask us.
It seems we resemble those that Isaiah was called to address.
Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and prudent in their own sight – Isaiah 5:20-21.
But there is one prophetic statement of Jesus regarding the times before us that is hard for many, including me, to understand. That is until today. Jesus said “because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold” (Matt. 24:12). Got that. He also promised that “a man’s enemies will be those of his own household” (Matt. 10:36). How is that possible? How can our love for our spouse or children grow so cold we will treat them as enemies to the extent of hatred and betrayal? (Matt. 24:10). How can that be true? What sort of perverted human would turn on his own family for the sake of himself? What kind of depraved mind or personality disorder would produce sociopaths with a love this cold?
In a word, it’s called narcissism. And it is the ultimate end-time personality disorder.
In general, narcissism or narcissistic traits can be described as follows:
- They have an exaggerated sense of self-importance.
- They have a sense of entitlement and require constant, excessive admiration.
- They expect and demand to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it.
- They exaggerate their achievements and talents.
- They are preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate.
- They believe they are superior and can only associate with equally special people.’
- They monopolize conversations and belittle or look down on people they perceive as inferior (which is just about everyone).
- They expect and demand special favors and unquestioning compliance with their expectations.
- They habitually take advantage of others to get what they want.
- They have an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others.
- They are envious of others and believe others envy them.
- They behave in an arrogant or haughty manner, coming across as conceited, boastful and pretentious.
- They Insist on having the best of everything because they are entitled.
And they are everywhere! They multiply like kudzu.
Narcissism may very well be the ultimate personality disorder of the end-times. And it certainly fits the Laodicean church model. In fact, psychologists believe that in the last 15 years over 30% of our population now registers on the narcissism spectrum. And that number grows daily.
So what are we to do? Great question. Keep listening to find out more.
The following is a study on Narcissism and the End Times.
To download the slides to this message, click – HERE
One of the vital truths regarding our desire to follow Christ is to fully understand our union with Him. After all, we are invited to become one with Him and are described in Scripture as being “in Christ.” In Romans 8 we are called “children of God” that are “adopted” into His family and are now “joint heirs with Christ.” Romans 6 tells us our old man has died and Christ now lives in us in the Presence of the Holy Spirit. But do we really understand the implication of what this means?
Wayne Grudem, in his Systematic Theology, states “Union with Christ is a phrase that summarizes several different relationships between believers and Christ, through which Christians receive every benefit
of salvation. These relationships include the fact that (1) we are in Christ, (2) Christ is in us, (3) we are like Christ, and (4) we are with Christ.” Ok, I’ve got that. But is there more to this union with Christ than dry theology? Can I really experience union with Him? And, if so, how is that done? What do I have to do to experience the fullness of my union, my relationship, with Christ?
Great questions. And the simple answer is, “Yes, you can know the wonder of our union with Him.” And the wonder of it comes with the invitation of Christ to be joined with Him.
Consider the following invitation found in Matthew 11:28. It is a familiar passage:
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Now, let’s see what it means by defining a few terms.
“Come to Me, all you who labor (to be worn out, fatigued, faint, weary) and are heavy laden (to overload, heavily burdened, like with the freight of a ship), and I will give you rest (to cease from labor, to refresh, relax, loosen, to be at peace or rest).”
Do you see the trust relationship implied in this invitation? Do you see Christ’s invitation to let Him carry your troubles and you rest in Him? To be united in Him?
Many of us struggle with this and ask how is that accomplished? How can I truly experience rest in Him? Is it just a mental thing? Or is it some sort of resolution I make and then fail at when things get uncertain or tough? Is it a mantra I go over and over again in my mind, like “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can”? Or is it something else?
Oh, it is definitely something else. Let’s look at the second invitation.
To Abide in Him
The second invitation reveals to us the “how” of our union and complete trust in Him. This invitation is found in John 15:4, and elsewhere in that chapter.
“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.”
Note the two-fold relationship. One, I abide in Christ. And two, He abides in me. This is vital. And “abide” means, “to remain, dwell, live, to make one’s home, to be united with one heart, mind, and will.” So I “remain” and “make my home” in Christ, “to be united with one heart, mind, and will” with Him. And He will “remain” and “make His home” in me, “to be united with one heart, mind, and will” with Me. This is what it means to abide.
As you listen to this podcast in order to understand more of this marvelous relationship we have with the Lord, remember the following:
The branch (you and I) does not produce the fruit. That comes from the Vine (Christ).
The branch does not secure the nutrients necessary to produce the fruit. That again comes from the Vine (Christ).
The branch does not position the buds to get the most sunlight. The Vinedresser (Father) does that.
The branch does not prune dead wood. Again, that is the Father’s job.
The branch does not provide water nor sunlight.
The branch does not participate in harvesting.
The branch (you and I) only bears the work of the Vine (Jesus) for the glory of the Vinedresser (the Father).
The key to all Christ has provided for us is found in a dependent, branch to vine, relationship with Him. He would not require from us what He has not equipped us to give. This kind of life is possible and provided for you and is the default position as a believer in Christ. But to experience the fullness of this relationship, we must surrender our petty desires to Him.
So, once again, the choice is ours. We can continue to live in lukewarm Laodicea satisfied with less than the abundant life Christ promised. Or we can jump into the deep end of the pool and surrender all to Him. It’s not complicated. It’s just hard. What do you want to do? The ball is in your court.
The following is a study on being Fully Surrendered to God from John 15.
To download the slides to this message, click – HERE