Welcome to Leaving LaodiceaThe Survival Manual for the Coming Underground Church
Today is the last day of 2019 and, amazingly, the last day of the decade. Tomorrow we will be celebrating the beginning of a New Year and the birth of 2020. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I have a hard time believing that it’s actually 2020. Much has happened over the last 10 years. And, as every aging boomer bemoans, “Where has all the time gone?”
The verse we are using to help focus our prayers today is Ephesians 3:1-2, which reads:
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles— if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you.
Tomorrow we will be looking at the word dispensation and all the truths we can discover from Paul’s use of it. (Spoiler: They are quite challenging and convicting). But for today, I’d like to focus on the phrase “the grace of God which was given to me for you.” And specifically, the words grace and given.
This past Sunday we talked about what it means to be a follower of Christ by slowly unpacking Matthew 16:24-25 which reads:
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”
In this passage we focused on words like “desires” and “deny himself” and “take up his cross” in order to try to know exactly what following Jesus actually meant for His disciples then, and what it means for us today. We then spent some time in Matthew 10 going over the costs of following Jesus and the one specific aspect of discipleship He emphasized. And that, unfortunately for many in the church today, is evangelism.
I don’t know about you, but one of my biggest regrets as a Christian is the fact my prayer life is not what I know it could be. Statements like “pray without ceasing” (1 Tim. 5:17) have often led to guilt and self-condemnation because of my lack of doing just that. But my biggest blind spot as a Believer is probably my lack of witnessing or evangelism. In fact, almost everyone that I talk to wishes they had led more people to Christ. Do you feel the same?
We have looked at what it takes to become a Faith Prepper over the last few weeks. We did this by learning to pray at all times by letting the Holy Spirit, through God’s Word, direct your prayers. And we also spent some time learning how to trust at all times by allowing your faith to grow by having it exercised in often unpleasant situations. But even with all of this, we still are plagued with a few questions.
How do we go from talking about faith to living by faith?
How do we learn to trust the Lord in all things?
How do we know and understand His will?
What are the practical steps we need to take to surrender our all to Him?
And how can we go about doing just that?
The answer, according to Scripture, is found in the single word, surrender. It means “to yield, give up or over, submit, abandon, relinquish, cede, waive, or capitulate. From the Christian perspective, it means to relinquish ownership of what we consider ours: our property, rights, time, decisions, future, independence, basically our life.
Surrender, like most things, is a choice.
The classic passage on total surrender is found in Galatians 2:20. It reads: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
But there is so much more.
The following is from Robertson McQuilkin in the book, Five Views of Sanctification. This was written as a defense of the Keswick view of sanctification and I find his words incredibly enlightening. In fact, I read this as the opening statement before my sermon on How to Surrender Your Life to the Lord that I preached this past Sunday.
I hope it proves to be a blessing to you.
Average is Not Normal
Average is not necessarily normal. For example, the average temperature of patients in a hospital may be 100 degrees, but such a temperature is not normal. The average score for a group of friends on the golf course may be 85 for the day, but par may be only 72. So it is with the Christian life. The average experience of church members is far different from New Testament norms for the Christian life.
The normal Christian is characterized by loving responses to ingratitude and indifference, even hostility, and is filled with joy in the midst of unhappy circumstances and with peace when everything goes wrong. The normal Christian overcomes in the battle with temptation, consistently obeys the laws of God, and grows in self-control, contentment, humility, and courage. Thought processes are so under the control of the Holy Spirit and instructed by Scripture that the normal Christian authentically reflects the attitudes and behavior of Jesus Christ. God has first place in life, and the welfare of others takes precedence over personal desires. The normal Christian has power not only for godly living but for effective service in the church. Above all, he or she has the joy of constant companionship with the Lord.
Today, before we pray, we will look at some qualifiers in this passage and elsewhere in Scripture. What do I mean by qualifies? They are simply statements in the Word of God designed to let the reader know the promise is not meant for everyone. It is a blanket divider that separates those who are predestined to hear and understand, and those who are not. Let me show you how this plays out in Ephesians 3:1-2, which reads:
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles— if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you – Ephesians 3:1-2.
Paul begins by describing himself as “the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles” and then goes on to divide the Gentiles into two camps (Eph. 3:1). One, those who “have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you” (Eph. 3:2). And two, those who have not heard. Or, by implication, have not heard and believed. So Paul is saying the “dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you” only means the Gentiles who have heard of this or have had their spirits quickened to the truth. It is a truth proclaimed for everyone, but applied to only some. Just like salvation and so many other aspects of the Christian faith.
Yesterday we were introduced to the Greek word “mystery” mustḗrion and how its use in the New Testament is different than what it means in contemporary English. For us today, mystery means something not known or unknowable. But in the Greek, where it is used in these passages, it means something that is known or knowable but not to everyone. It is knowledge or truth that is known only to those who it was meant to be revealed. Not to everyone, but to the elect.
But there is more we can learn about this mystery.
When Paul speaks of both Jews and Gentiles being created into one new people, the church, he is revealing something given to him “by revelation” (Eph. 3:3) that will allow us to understand his “knowledge in the mystery of Christ” (Eph. 3:4). And this revealed knowledge has been, in other ages, hidden from “the sons of men” but is now “revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets” (Eph. 3:5) and, as such, it is now being communicated to us.
What is this incredible mystery? You got it. That “the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel” (Eph. 3:6).
The verses we are looking at for the next couple of days are another one of Paul’s blessed digressions. It is his style of writing, his way of making sure we understand the past, present, and future aspects of our relationship with Christ. It is the Holy Spirit’s way of taking nothing for granted and making sure each of us is fully equipped with what we need to know about His church. Let me show you how this works.
Paul ends Ephesians 2 by describing who we are in Christ as fellow citizens, saints, and members of the household of God (Eph. 2:19). He then goes on to say the church, now revealed to be made of both Jews and Gentiles, is like a temple of God built on the foundation of Christ and each of us, regardless of our backgrounds, are perfectly “fitted together” into a growing entity for a “dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Eph. 2:20-22). This is an amazing revelation about His church. And it seems natural, after making this proclamation, that Paul would continue in prayer as he does in Ephesians 3:14:
For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (Eph. 3:14-19).
But he doesn’t. He can’t. Why? Because there is still more to be said about this great “mystery” he only spoke about briefly in Ephesians 1:9-10.
Having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth— in Him (Eph. 1:9-10).
Paul knew, through the Holy Spirit, he needed to spend more time letting the church at Ephesus, and each of us today, know about this great “mystery” we call the church and God’s design behind its creation. Hence, we have the wonderful and blessed digression of Paul in Ephesians 3:2-13.
Sometimes, in the smallest of words, the Lord can show a picture of His love in ways we may have overlooked or taken for granted in the past. I see one of these in the verse we are using to focus our prayers today. It is Ephesians 3:1 which reads:
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles – Ephesians 3:1.
As we discovered yesterday, Paul considered himself a prisoner of the Lord and not of Rome or the Jews or even Caesar himself. He was totally committed to his Lord and gladly accepted his imprisonment. Why? Because Paul’s God is absolutely supreme and sovereign. Therefore, it follows that God could change Paul’s situation at any time, if He so desired. But since He hasn’t, then this imprisonment must be His will for Paul at this point in his life. And for us, who have the advantage of hindsight 20/20 wisdom, it was the perfect will of God to take Paul off the streets and put him in a cell where he could write many of his epistles for the glory of God.
The following is an article by Hal Lindsey. It is just another sign that its time you became a Faith Prepper. Why? Because times for believers, especially in the United States, are going to get real bad, real fast. It is time to take the words of Jesus seriously and prepare your faith to have it severely tested. Soon.
So get prepared now!
Nikki Haley, former US Ambassador to the United Nations, recently characterized a Canadian vote at the UN as “a deal with the devil.”
That’s strong language coming from a well-regarded diplomat. I assume she meant it figuratively. But something literal is at work. Canada’s recent about-face on Israel is a capitulation to the growing forces of darkness in our world. In recent years, the nations of the UN have been making a lot of deals with the devil – the actual devil.
Haley was referring to a vote on an anti-Israel resolution sponsored by North Korea. That’s right, those paragons of respect for human rights – North Korea’s government leaders – sponsored a resolution condemning Israel for “occupying” East Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. The resolution also says that the wall Israel built “severely impedes the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.”
That wall was built to stop terrorist activity in Israel. It has been highly effective. It was necessary because Palestinian leadership continues to act as a major sponsor of terrorism. Israel tries to make peace while Palestinian leaders encourage their constituents to randomly stab people and blow things up. When Israel responds to these terrorist acts, the Palestinians decry Israel’s actions. Israel continues to try to make peace. But while they work for peace, they must keep their people secure. Thus, the wall.
Today we move on to a new section in Ephesians 2. Here we find Paul giving us still another example of who we are in Christ. We have learned we are “no longer strangers and foreigners” but are now “fellow citizens with the saints” and, if that wasn’t enough, we are also “members of the household of God” (Eph. 2:20). Next, the Lord shows us we belong to a grand temple, a “holy temple in the Lord” (Eph. 2:21), which is the “dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Eph. 2:22). This magnificent temple has its foundation built on the teaching and revelation of the apostles and prophets and the chief cornerstone is the Lord Himself (Eph. 2:20). This is who we are in Christ. Breathtaking, isn’t it?
As we pray today, let’s focus our prayers on the first phrase in Ephesians 2:20. This verse speaks of the household of God being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets yet it is in the past tense. It says:
Having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone – Ephesians 2:20.
When we read this our attention naturally gravitates to the words “apostles and prophets” and to “Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone”. But if we’re not careful, we’ll miss the beginning of this verse and all that simple beginning conveys. There it says “having been built”. That’s past tense, something already done and established in the past. And from these three words, we can get much encouragement today in our prayers.
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…