400: Count the Cost, Pay the Price

400: Count the Cost, Pay the Price

Life teaches us that anything worth having has a price attached to it.  Nothing of value, other than salvation, comes free.  “No pain, no gain,” as the saying goes.  Jesus spoke that same truth in Luke 14:26-33.

And the same principle applies when it comes to understanding and experiencing spiritual gifts.  There are some things we must do and some things we can expect.  Let’s look at our part first:

You must have a desire for more of the Lord.  A desire for the Spirit’s gifts.  But that desire means more than calm, wishful, thinking.  Consider the following

1 Corinthians 14:1 – Pursue love (agápē), and desire (zēlóō – to burn with zeal, to be heated or to boil with envy, to lust, covet) spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.

Then you must cultivate a vibrant prayer life.  This takes time and effort.  But the rewards are life-changing.

And finally, you must be willing to fast.  Why?  Because the Lord links fasting, for some reason, with prayer and spiritual fervency.  They seem to come in a package.  Two for the price of one.

Do you want to know more about growing deep in your intimacy of the Lord?  Do you want to begin living in the realm of the gifts the Spirit has given you?  Do you want to let Him manifest HImself to the world through you (1 Cor. 12:7)?  Great.  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on 1 Corinthians 12:4-11.

To download the slides for this message, click – HERE

Download this episode (right click and save)

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Is Your Heavenly Father Like Your Earthly Father?

Is Your Heavenly Father Like Your Earthly Father?

In my devotional time today in Proverbs 5, I discovered some words of wisdom I would like to share with you:

Proverbs 5:1-2 – My son, pay attention (listen carefully, give heed, obey) to my (not the world’s) wisdom; lend (extend, stretch out) your ear to my (not the world’s) understanding, (why) that you may preserve (watch, keep, guard) discretion, and your lips may keep knowledge.

The Proverbs are all about wisdom, understanding, and knowledge.  And the key to living in these blessings is to forsake the wisdom of this world, which is moronic (mōría) at best, and embrace the wisdom that only comes from God (1 Cor. 3:19).  It’s a daily choice, sometimes an hourly choice, we can make.

So how ’bout it?  Are you up for the challenge?

And one more:

Proverbs 5:21 – For the ways (path, journey of one’s life) of man (each man, you and me) are before the eyes of the LORD, and He (the Lord) ponders (to make level, to weigh, to guard or watch carefully) all his (each man, you and me) paths (goings, the circle of a camp).

Did you catch the meaning of this proverb?  Our life’s journey, our life’s choices are laid out before the Lord.  Nothing is hidden from Him.  He sees all.  Everything.  Good and bad.

Is that a good thing that nothing is hidden from God?  Or not such a good thing?  That depends on your view of God as your Father.


What is Your Heavenly Father Like?

There are two ways to look at this proverb.  And they are basically determined by our perception of what God the Father is like and how we choose to interpret the word, ponder (pālas).  One way is to focus on the part of the definition that means “to make level, to weigh.”  The image would be of a large legal scale, with our actions on one side and God’s righteousness on the other.  We would then see God as a great Judge with a mighty hammer waiting for us to cross the line, to do something disappointing to Him, something embarrassing to His character.  And once the scale becomes unbalanced towards our sin and not His righteousness, WHAM! – down comes the hammer.  In essence, “All our lives are before the Lord and He is waiting, just biding His time, until we mess up.  And when we do, geez, out comes His iron fist.”

This is a picture of an abusive father who is head over a dysfunctional family.  This is not what our God is like.

The other way to view this proverb is to focus on the other meaning of the word, ponder.  That would be to “guard or watch carefully.”  Now we see the Father as a caring, careful Parent who wants to make sure His beloved children are safe, protected, and not somewhere where they could get hurt.  He’s waiting everyday at the bus stop for them to arrive home.  He’s sitting in the stands watching every soccer game they play to make sure they don’t get hurt.  He’s hands on, proactive, and always involved.  And our blessing comes from knowing our lives are always “before the eyes of the Lord.”

This is a picture of a good father who lovingly leads a wonderful family.  And this, my friend, is what our God is like.

Rejoice today that your life is hidden with Christ (Col. 3:3) and the very hairs on your head are numbered (Matt. 10:30), and not simply counted.  And know how much your loving Father can’t keep His eyes off you— His beloved child.

Rest in that today.

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Jude:  How Can Grace Become Sin?

Jude: How Can Grace Become Sin?


How Can Grace Become Sin?

For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation,
ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the
only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jude 1:4

In this verse, Jude tells us four things about these “certain men who have crept in unnoticed” in the church: (1) their condemnation or judgment was determined long ago, (2) they are ungodly, (3) they turn the grace offered by our God into a license to sin, and (4) they deny the Lord Jesus Christ.1

This is the inevitable outcome of someone who only sees one side of God’s character— grace.  When we only believe the nature of God is grace alone, we tend to see Him as an all-forgiving Father who puts up with the sins of His children and is either too afraid, weak or insecure to confront their behavior.  He becomes nothing more than a Get Out of Jail Free card whose only purpose is to clean up our mess, pay for any damages, and continue to give us access to His unlimited American Express to fund our carefree lifestyle.

He becomes, in effect, a bad parent by showing only grace to the willing sins of His children and not demanding repentance, accountability, responsibility, and retribution.

But God is anything but a bad parent.

When Jesus confronted the woman caught in the act of adultery, He first offered her grace, then repentance.

John 8:10-11 – “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”  She said, “No one, Lord.”  And Jesus said to her, (grace) “Neither do I condemn you; (repentance) go and sin no more.”

Grace is only one side of the character of Christ.  The other side has to do with the consequences of rejecting grace.


Wrath of the Lamb

There is a chilling verse in the Revelation that should strike fear in those who take the grace of God for granted and use it as an excuse to sin.  This verse shows a different side of Jesus.  There’s no more “Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild” as the children’s song goes.  Jesus, referred to as the Lamb of God, now comes with something we’d never expect from a lamb— wrath.

Revelation 6:15-16 – And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!”

Did you catch that?  Those under condemnation for the sin and rejection of the truth were trying to hide from the wrath of the Lamb, the wrath of Jesus. In fact, Jesus said, “the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22).

Jesus, with His judgment, also brings wrath.

And He brings His wrath explicitly on those who take His marvelous, undeserved grace and turn it into lewdness.  The word for lewdness is asélgeia and means “debauchery, sexual excess, the absence of restraint, perversion, having an insatiable desire for pleasure.”2  It speaks of unrestrained vice, the very worst of sins.3

Jude was compelled to warn us to watch out for those who will embed themselves in the church, under the cloak of darkness, like a satanic sleeper cell, to turn the church away from the purity of holiness and run after lust, sexual sin, and deviance.  And the bait is a perversion of the grace of God.  It goes something like this:

“You can do anything you want because God loves you and must forgive you if you ask Him.  You can go and sin to your heart’s desire just as long as you remember to say your prayers when you go to bed and ask God to forgive you for what you did today.  As soon as you say ‘I’m sorry’ BAM!— your sins are forgiven and your slate wiped clean.  Then go and sin all you want tomorrow and say ‘I’m sorry’ and you’re forgiven.  You can do it again the next day. And the day after that.  As long as you say, ‘I’m sorry’ you can do anything you want. It’s all grace, grace, grace from a pushover God.”

This perversion of grace now becomes our motivation to sin— which is the very thing that nailed Jesus to the cross.


Repentance

Grace offers us the blessings of forgiveness.  And for forgiveness to take place, there must be repentance.  True repentance always, without exception, involves a change of behavior.  In other words, if there’s no definite change in action and attitude, there is no true repentance.  The grace we’ve been given to have our sins forgiven, when we repent, must include righteous living.  Otherwise, it’s just mere words.  Verbal garbage.  Smoke and mirrors.

But it gets worse.

Those who turn the grace of our Lord into an excuse to sin also “deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:4).  They mock His sacrifice, pain and suffering He endured to bestow grace to us.  Because of Christ, we have unearned, undeserved and unmerited favor with God who gave us His only Son to die in our place.  And then to twist this grace into an excuse to partake of the vilest of sexual sins is the reason Jude calls them “ungodly men” (Jude 1:4).  In fact, the term denotes a moral outrage against God and not just disbelief.4  We see more of them in vs. 15 where Jude uses the word “ungodly” four times to describe their shameless deeds and again in vs. 18 where he speaks of their “ungodly lusts.”5

Please understand, if Jude was warning the church in his day of this danger, he is also warning the church today.  There are these same ungodly men who have slipped in under the radar of your church and, by their actions and words, are attempting to amplify the lust in each of us to draw us away from the holiness of God and tempt us to do what we deem right in our own eyes (Jud. 17:6).

Be aware.  Guard your heart (Prov. 4:23).

And as “He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy’ ” (1 Peter 1:15-16).

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Notes

1. Schreiner, T. R. (2003). 1, 2 Peter, Jude (Vol. 37, p. 437). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
2. Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (p. 270). Chattanooga, TN: AMG.
3. MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2005). 2 Peter and Jude (p. 161). Chicago: Moody Publishers.
4. Davids, P. H. (2006). The letters of 2 Peter and Jude (p. 44). Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.
5. Green, M. (1987). 2 Peter and Jude: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 18, p. 187). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

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399:  Signs (or Not) of the Kingdom of God

399: Signs (or Not) of the Kingdom of God

If you’ll take the time, you’ll find the core message of Jesus was about the kingdom of God.  Over and over again we find summary verses like this one:

Matthew 4:23 – And Jesus went about all Galilee, (1) teaching in their synagogues, (2) preaching the gospel of (what) the kingdom, and (3) healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.

In fact, Jesus said the object of the gospel He preached, and commanded us to preach, is the kingdom of God.  Consider what Jesus said in His olivet discourse:

Matthew 24:14 – “And this gospel of (what) the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”

There are also certain kingdom characteristics in the lives of believers that the Scriptures point out to us as signs of His kingdom.  In essence, when believers manifest certain characteristics of the kingdom in their lives, we can know the kingdom of God is present.  And, conversely, when a believer doesn’t manifest these kingdom characteristics, we can also safely assume the kingdom of God is far from them.

This is a sobering thought.  Character, holiness, and sanctification matter.  Do you want to discover more about the signs of life in the kingdom?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study of Acts 4:32-5:16.

To download the slides to this message, click – HERE

Download this episode (right click and save)

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Jude:  We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us

Jude: We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us


We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us

For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation,
ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the
only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jude 1:4

Churchill once said, borrowing from an old African proverb, “When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.”  While there is much truth to that proverb, the opposite is also true.  “When the enemy is within, the enemies outside can hurt you.”  And they can hurt you bad.  Often permanently.

This was the situation Jude was warning the church about in his letter, and the same situation we find ourselves today.  The enemy has breached our walls and is now inside the camp.  What are we to do?


Who Are These Certain Men?

Jude, after calling believers to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3), begins to tell us why it’s so imperative to defend our faith.  He says, “For certain men have crept in unnoticed” (Jude 1:4).

There are several words that need further scrutiny.

The first of these is certain.  The Greek word is tis and means “a certain one, some person whom one cannot or does not wish to name.”2  In other words, “It’s one of those guys.  You know who they are.  I don’t even need to call them by name.”

These certain men have crept (pareisdúō) into the church unnoticed, or by stealth.  The word means to “enter in craftily, under cover of darkness, like a thief.”3  They, like a terrorist sleeper cell, blend in with the others waiting for a time to attack from the inside, from the unprotected underbelly of the church.  They are most sinister.

But who are these guys?

Jude describes them as those “who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:4).  But we’ll look more into this at a later time.

They are, in effect, pastors void of holiness.

Businessmen, masquerading as pastors, who see the church as their next current startup.

They’re entrepreneurs, building their own product, brand, and empire within the church.

Jesus called them “false prophets”— ravenous wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt. 7:15).

And we don’t seem to care they’re among us, spreading like kudzu.


Bread and Games

We’ve allowed them to take root in the hallowed halls of the church.  We’ve let our guard down, chosen not to make waves, and go along with what feels good for a moment.  We’ve sat idly by and watched our church become a business where we offer a Sunday product of cotton candy to satisfy the sweet cravings of the carnal and uncommitted.  We’ve continually judged our success by how many tickets we sell to our Sunday matinee or how large is the crowd.  And we have no problem changing our preaching to make people feel good in their sin and apathy.  For us, bigger always means better.  But that’s not necessarily true in the kingdom of God.

It’s just like it was in Rome.  “Bread and games to satisfy the masses.”

How did they get in unnoticed?  Where were the watchmen on the wall?4

Pastors, over the years, sought after success defined by the likes of Rick Warren or Bill Hybels, and now Andy Stanley.  They became more concerned with their personal brand than with the gospel of Christ.

And the church bought into this “Bigger Means Better” mantra.  “If it works on Wall Street,” we reasoned, “it should work in the church.”  We hired, not Spirit-filled pastors and Bible teachers to reveal to us the deeper things of God, but Madison Avenue marketing gurus and visionaries, all promising to take our church to the next level.

But the pastor’s job is not to be a visionary.  That’s Jesus’ job.  The pastor is to simply implement the vision of the Lord, our Master, as a faithful slave, or doúlos to Him.5  Even if Andy Stanley says going to a small church is “stinking selfish.”6

Now, it seems, we need multiple campuses all watching our hip, relevant, popular pastor live-streamed on video.  And we call that community or family?  Far from it.


The Need for Watchmen

Remember, the men who’ve entered the church unnoticed, under the cloak of darkness, are defined by Jude as evil men, ungodly men, who long ago were marked out for commendation (Jude 1:4).  These are lost, unregenerate men, traitors to the faith, hidden sleeper cells, that have found a home in the church— much like the birds of the air found a home in the branches of the mustard tree (Matt. 13:32).

What are we to do?

Now it gets personal.

We need watchmen on the walls of the church.  We need those who will strive to keep the body of Christ as a “glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle” and contend earnestly to keep her “holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:27).

In practical terms, here are a few examples of what you can do.

If your pastor shows R-rated movie clips to illustrate a biblical principal or uses coarse language to seem relevant to the world, you must confront that carnality.  But you must do so with respect for his position as pastor, even if the man is disqualified (Rom. 13:1).  If nothing changes, remove yourself and your family from that gathering and let the Lord direct you to another church.

If the gospel and true biblical preaching is replaced with a sweet tasting, feel good message, have a frank discussion with your pastor and, if nothing changes, remove you and your family from that church.  Don’t worry about where you will go.  The Lord will direct you to a place where you can grow in your faith and understanding of the Scriptures.

And if you church approves of homosexuality, or any sin that is now culturally acceptable, it’s time to find a new church.  Now.  Immediately.  Post haste.

Remember this important warning:

1 Corinthians 15:33 – Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”

Or, to put it another way, “Bad company corrupts good character” (NIV).

Don’t let yourself be corrupted by certain men (and you know who they are) who have crept into your church unnoticed, or under the cloak of darkness.  Even if these men may be pastors or elders.  Point them out.  Contend earnestly for the faith.  Do all you can with respect and honor.  And if nothing changes:

“Adios amigos.”

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Notes

1. The title comes from a quote from the syndicated Pogo comic strip that was created by Walt Kelly (1913-
1973). The strip ran from October 4, 1948, until July 20, 1975.
2. Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (pp. 1385-1386). Chattanooga,
TN: AMG.
3. Ibid., 1117.
4. See Ezekiel 33.
5. Zodhiates, p. 483.
6. http://www.christianitytoday.com/karl-vaters/2016/march/dear-andy-stanley-please-be-small-churchs-ally-
not-our-enem.html.
7. Spanish for “Goodbye, friends.”

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