Welcome to Leaving Laodicea

The Survival Manual for the Coming Underground Church
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.
 

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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.
 

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Jude:  Why We Must Continue to Contend for the Faith

Jude: Why We Must Continue to Contend for the Faith


Why We Must Continue to Contend for the Faith

Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation,
I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith
which was once for all delivered to the saints.
Jude 1:3

We are engaged in a bloody war.  It’s a war taken to us, laid on our doorsteps— a war we cannot afford to lose.  To the victor goes the heart and mind of the church.

In the past, Satan has attacked the church both outwardly and inwardly with mixed results.  In Acts, for example, the external attacks from the religious establishment were countered by the church speaking “the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31).  And the internal attacks only led to “great fear came upon all the church” (Acts 5:11) and increased ministry to others (Acts 6:7).

In each of these, the church only grew stronger.


A Single Voice

In its early history, the church would meet in authoritative councils to define truth or orthodoxy and address heresy.  When a falsehood would arise that became popular among the people and threatened to lead them away from the truth of the gospel, church leaders from all over the world would gather to examine the heresy, compare it to Scripture, and issue a binding statement that would define Christian belief for the church at large.  These binding statements became known as creeds. Some of them, the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed for example, codified for us the doctrines we often take for granted.

But today it’s different.

There’s no authoritative voice for the church and little accountability.  With the internet, pretty much anything goes.  And with most Bible-believing Christians not believing the Bible, the spread of heresy and false doctrine is rampant.
 

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398:  When Our Blessings Become Curses

398: When Our Blessings Become Curses

One of the greatest blessings the church has experienced has become its greatest curse.  And that is wealth.  Opulence.  The ability to run ahead of God rather than waiting on Him to provide what His church needs and when it needs it.  Then there’s the great blessing that comes with persecution that a wealthy church always views as a curse.  How did it become so upside down?

The early church understood the blessings that come with persecution.  Because they remembered the promise of Jesus when He preached His sermon on the mount where He said, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:11-12).

And later, Paul would tell his son Timothy that “Yes, and all who (condition) desire to live godly in Christ Jesus (result) will suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12).  Do you see the condition and the result?  If you desire to live godly in Christ Jesus, which most Christians would say they do, then you will suffer persecution because of your godly life in Christ.  It’s a given.  A promise.

And the opposite of this promise is also true.  If you are not suffering persecution, then it stands to reason you do not desire to live godly in Christ Jesus.  Sobering, isn’t it?  This is not how the early church lived.  They embraced every opportunity to live godly in Christ, regardless of how they suffered.  Do you want to know more about people who love Jesus that way?  Good.  Then keep listening.
 

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Jude:  The Non-Negotiables of Salvation

Jude: The Non-Negotiables of Salvation


The Non-Negotiables of Salvation

Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation,
I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith
which was once for all delivered to the saints.
Jude 1:3

Jude’s intention was to write about their common salvation— the salvation believers share together.  One of the definitions of the word common (koinós) means “belonging to several, of which several are partakers.”  Jude’s letter was originally designed to talk about the salvation they shared and what it all means.

But something changed.  Now the Holy Spirit has moved Jude on to a related, yet new topic.  He finds it now necessary to encourage those who share this common salvation to learn how to contend or strive or fight earnestly for the faith on which their salvation was built.  It’s as if the object of their faith was under attack, which it was.  To “contend earnestly for the faith” implies it’s a single, finite faith. It’s a faith that isn’t fluid or breathing, or doesn’t change with the whims of each generation.  This is the faith “which was once for all (final) delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3).

And the faith that undergirds their common salvation is what we call the gospel.


Look What We Done With the Gospel

If the faith, the gospel, is unchanging and finite, why do we see so many interpretations of the gospel within the Christian church?  At last count, it has been reported there were over 33,000 Christian denominations worldwide, which reeks of chaos.  No single entity now speaks authoritatively for the church at large.  If the world, for example, wants to know the Christian view on homosexuality, they can ask ten different pastors and get seven different answers.  But our faith, like prophecy, is not open to private interpretation (2 Peter 1:2).  It’s a faith that was delivered from Jesus Christ based on His rules and standards, and accountable only to Him.  We didn’t secure the way to salvation through consensus. He paid for it with His own blood.

What we’ve done to His church is splinter it into a million different fragments all separated by personal nuances that seem to work with our personalities.  If someone preaches holiness too much for our taste, they’re legalistic.  If someone is more licentious than we feel comfortable with, then they’re liberal.  We judge everything by ourselves, creating God in our image and according to our personal likes and dislikes.  Assuming, of course, that God feels like we feel and thinks like we think.  Which He doesn’t (Isa. 55:8-9).
 

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Jude:  Why is Diligence Such a Neglected Discipline Today?

Jude: Why is Diligence Such a Neglected Discipline Today?


Why is Diligence Such a Neglected Discipline Today?

Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation,
I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith
which was once for all delivered to the saints.
Jude 1:3

There seems to be a difference between those whom God uses in a mighty way, and the rest of Christianity.  It’s not their skill or education that makes them most likely to succeed in the kingdom of God.  It’s certainly not their pedigree or upbringing that matters.  For 1 Corinthians teaches that “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise” (1 Cor. 1:27).  God can take anyone, of any background and experience, and turn them into a D.L. Moody or a Billy Graham.

It seems the single attribute that separates those who serve Him with reckless abandon and those who just go through the motions, is commitment.  Or, to use the words of Jude, being very diligent.


Some Background

It appears Jude had a different intention for this letter.  He begins by saying he wanted to “write to you concerning our common salvation (Jude 1:3).  But in the span of the same sentence, Jude pivots by saying something has changed.  “I find it necessary (as the Holy Spirit changes his focus) to write to you exhorting (helping, encouraging) you to contend (strive, struggle) earnestly (not casually or haphazardly) for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3).  In other words, what began as a letter exploring the nature of our “common salvation” has now changed.  The Holy Spirit is moving in a different direction.

It’s this new direction, the warning and rebuking of the apostates within the walls of the church, that gives Jude a special place in the New Testament.  But we’ll talk more about that later.


Very Diligent

The phrase Jude uses, very diligent, means “speed, haste, earnest in accomplishing something, zeal.”  It implies someone who is totally committed or single-focused with tunnel vision aimed at completing the task set before them.

It’s a trait we honor in every area of life except the spiritual.  Michael Phelps, for example, won more Olympic Gold Medals than anyone in history.  Do you think he was able to accomplish that feat with a haphazard attitude towards his sport?  Of course not.  We applaud his commitment, his diligence, and the obvious sacrifices he made to achieve success in his field.  But do we applaud the same in other Christians?

For some reason, we see diligence and commitment as a necessary element of success in every form of life except in our relationship with Christ.  We admire those who make sacrifices to attain certain levels of success, like Michael Phelps, yet we assume the same is not required of us.  When we study the lives of great men of God, we see that’s not true.  Those who accomplished great things for God also sacrificed great things for God.  They were very diligent about serving Him.  As Jim Elliott said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
 

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Jude:  Mercy, Peace, Love, and Multiplied

Jude: Mercy, Peace, Love, and Multiplied


Mercy, Peace, Love and Multiplied

Mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.
Jude 1:2

It looks like this verse presents us with a few more Greek words to define.  First, there’s the three-word salutation Jude employs: mercy, peace, and love.  In Paul’s general epistles, his opening salutation usually only involves grace and peace.1  In the pastoral epistles and 2 John, mercy is added to the mix.2  Now, in Jude, love replaces grace.  We then find the Holy Spirit choosing to amplify the blessings of mercy, peace, and love by using the word multiplied instead of given or added— which is breathtaking in its implications.  Let’s take a look at each of these.


Mercy

The word mercy (éleos) refers to “compassion, kindness or goodwill towards the miserable and afflicted; it’s a state of active pity, accompanied by a sense of piety and innate goodness.”3  It’s not getting what we deserve, which is pretty much the opposite of justice.

Some teach that mercy is just another word for grace.  But that’s not true.  There’s a gulf of difference between these two words.  Mercy is when God chooses not to punish us for what our sins rightly deserve (Rom. 6:23).  We are spared the chastisement we’ve earned.  And grace, on the other hand, is when God chooses to go a step further and bless us in spite of our sins.  One is the removal of just punishment, and the other is the pouring out of divine blessings.


Peace

Next, the Greek word for peace (eirḗnē) means “to be in a state of tranquility, harmony, and accord; it’s the opposite of war and dissension and arises from the reconciliation with God and a sense of divine favor.”4  Psalm 7:11 says “God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day.”  But not with us.  We are at peace with God due to the sacrifice of His Son on our behalf.

But Jesus spoke about another peace.  Jesus promised us this peace when He said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace (eirḗnē) I give to you” (John 14:27).  Note, it’s His peace.  It’s the very peace He experienced in the midst of His pain and suffering, that He now gives to us.

A few chapters later Jesus said the only peace that can overcome the tribulation of the world is found in Him (John 16:33).  And this is just a taste of our inheritance as children of God and joint-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17).
 

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Jude:  How Are We Sanctified and Preserved in Christ?

Jude: How Are We Sanctified and Preserved in Christ?

 

How are we Sanctified and Preserved in Christ?

Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James,
To those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ.
Jude 1:1

There are two key words we are going to look at today.  The first is sanctified and the second is preserved.  Let’s look at what they both mean before we go any further.


Sanctified

The word sanctified (hagiázō) means “to render holy, to separate from profane things and dedicate to God, to purify, consecrate, devote, or set apart from common to sacred use.”1  It’s the condition of a believer after regeneration takes place, after their salvation.  Some Bible translators replace sanctified with the word beloved and that is unfortunate.  It would then read, “to those who are called, beloved in God the Father, and kept (preserved) for Jesus Christ” (NASB).  Although it is true we are beloved in Him and by Him, the essence of what Jude is saying about his intended audience is that they have been set apart by God the Father for a holy and righteous purpose.  They have been, past tense, sanctified.  And their sanctification came by way of the Holy Spirit who now lives in them and their salvation is now “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Eph. 1:13).

Most of the modern Bible translations remove the word sanctified and replace it with beloved.  In essence, they make the verse more about us and what we receive from God and less about who we become by God.  That seems to be the way we go today, living in the land of self-indulgence and having our narcissistic attention focused solely on us.  But to be sanctified is to be changed into something that reflects the nature of our God.  And that nature is holiness.  It was the single attribute both Isaiah (Isa. 6:3) and John (Rev. 4:8) heard the angels proclaim when they were allowed to see the throne of God.

But we are not only changed, we are changed for a purpose.  We are “set aside for a holy purpose” in much the same way the Old Testament priests would take gold and silver utensils and remove them from common use and set them aside to be used exclusively in the temple of God.  There was a change in their purpose and their audience.  We are to be sanctified, like God, and reflect His glory and His holiness, just like His Son.  To change that into “beloved” is to lessen our responsibility and our calling.  Are we also loved and cherished in God the Father?  Yes, without question.  But we are also created for a purpose.  And that purpose is not for our self-gratification, but to be used by the One who gave us eternal life.  We are to be like the One who saved us.  Sanctified.  Set apart.  Holy, because He is holy (1 Pet. 1:15-16).

It should also be noted that the person of the Godhead who came to reside in those sanctified by God the Father is the Holy Spirit.  Note His name, attribute and description: Holy Spirit.  Not loving, or forgiving, or gracious Spirit (which He is also).  But Holy Spirit. His nature is holy.  And it’s this Holy Spirit that now lives in us to do His will through us, His bondslaves.  Again, are we beloved?  Absolutely.  But more so, we are called to a deeper purpose.  We are set-apart for something much more important.  We have the privilege of allowing the Holy Spirit to manifest His life through us.
 

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397:  The Same Day at Evening

397: The Same Day at Evening

In John 20 we find some events that took place on that momentous Sunday, the first day of the week, when Jesus was raised from the dead.  Some of those events took place early that Sunday morning and other events happened later that day, at evening.  It was at this time, in the evening of the same day, that Jesus appeared to His disciples and others who were hiding for fear of the Jews (John 20:19).  And then, to this frightened and confused group of friends and disciples, Jesus spoke these words:

John 20:21 – “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”

His words to them were comforting and also challenging.  Just like they are to us today.  And then Jesus uttered some of the most misunderstood words in all of the gospel accounts.  He said:

John 20:23 – “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Do you see how a lazy interpretation of this verse could lead you to believe that God has granted fallen, mortal men the ability to forgive sins?  And those sins are forgiven, not because they are confessed by the one who has sinned, but by the forgiveness of an uninterested third party.  How can that be?  Want to know more?  Then keep listening.
 

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Bring Mark for Ministry

Bring Mark for Ministry

This is day five of our 40 day adventure.  And today, I’ve been thinking about getting older.

Sometimes, when we get older, we think it’s our time to slow down.  “After all,” we reason, “I’ve done my part.  I’ve worked hard and paid my bills and raised my kids.  I’ve done more than my fair share.  Now it’s time for someone else to carry the torch and lead.  I’m just going to kick back, relax, retire, and die.”

But that’s not the example we see from Scripture.

In AD 60, Paul was imprisoned in Rome.  He was treated well and allowed to stay in his own house at his own expense, for two full years “preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him” (Acts 28:31).  It was during this time he wrote his prison epistles: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon.

Paul was in his mid-sixties.  About retirement age.

Paul was imprisoned a second and final time during the summer of AD 66.  The cause of his arrest may be found in a statement Paul made in his final letter to Timothy: “Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm.  May the Lord repay him according to his works. You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words” (2 Tim. 4:14-15).

This time, Paul was not allowed to remain under house arrest, but was thrown among the most vile of prisoners in the Mamertine prison or another such dark and horrid place.  This prison was more like a dungeon, or a pit that could only be reached by a ladder or rope let through a hole in the floor above.  There was little ventilation and sanitation was non-existent.  If the idea was to reduce men to mere animals before they faced trial and execution, then the Romans did their job quite well.

It was in this desperate condition, accompanied only by Luke (2 Tim. 4:11), that Paul penned his last letter to Timothy.  Paul was now in his late sixties, well past retirement age.
 

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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.

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“I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot.  So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.  Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.”

Revelation 3:15-17

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