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When God Brings Us Low

Recently I’ve had what I will refer to as a spiritual butt whooping. It sounds funny, but I certainly mean it in all seriousness. I’ve had a problem for a long time about which I would rather not divulge the details, but the experience is something that may prove helpful for someone else out there.

God has been steadily bringing me under conviction for a while, but the past several days have been more so than usual. It all finally came to a head and I realized I am guilty. Guilty of dishonoring the spirit which I was gifted. Guilty of all sorts of depravity. Guilty of repeating the same sins from which I had been freed long ago. I have fed the flesh instead of the spirit and while, thankfully, it hasn’t knowingly affected my earthly life it has had a devastating impact upon my spiritual life.

It all started with a little slackness. I skipped the morning’s time with God – I’m was late for work and/or I too busy. That goes on for a little while, seemingly with no consequences. Then another thing gets dropped, and then another, and then another, until one day I realized I was almost completely removed from God. He’s been handing me over little by little to my fleshly desires until they consumed me as they did before I accepted Him as Savior. Then I began to wonder if these verses applied to me:

“…for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved. 20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21 For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. 22 It has happened to them according to the true proverb, “A dog returns to its own vomit,” and, “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.”” – 2 Peter 2:19-22

Whew, that’s harsh! But it is true, and had I not been absolutely confirmed in my salvation I would have thought it was lost again, for once these verses sunk in I felt a heavier burden than ever before. I began to think “am I like Ananias? Have I so wronged God that He would kill me?”

I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” – 1 Corinthians 5:5 (note that this verse is not about Ananias, but another offending believer)

The verse is in the context of dealing with people in the church who have been admonished and refuse to repent. They should be kicked out, thereby separating them from God’s people and preventing their sin from permeating the rest of the body. The person may then realize his condition and come back to God begging for his mercy. And this is what has happened to me. I didn’t get kicked out of the church, for my sin was not perceivable except to God and perhaps the most discerning of the saints. But God had kicked me out of His fellowship and gave me a stark reminder of that “…Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

The term “destruction” in 1 Corinthians 5:5 is our translation of the Greek word “olethros”  meaning:

So this death is initially the metaphysical death of the flesh, but if left unattended to can become physical (see here for clarification and further explanation – http://www.gty.org/resources/bible-qna/BQ7811/handed-over-to-satan). Now, don’t take this lightly – this is incredibly serious! God rebuked me, as I’m sure He has done countless times for others, and to me it felt like I was going to die where I stood. I am not being hyperbolic, I sincerely felt that way; I wanted to throw up. I had a real, honest to goodness, ‘come to Jesus meeting’ and it was certainly no fun at all.

I know my salvation is secure, and so is yours if you have it. However, at times when we are not careful we can still fit the descriptions of those in the Bible who are heading for eternal damnation. And with this condemnation from my Lord I started wondering how I should be restored and here it is:

“If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death…” – 1 John 5:16

“Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” – Galatians 6:1–2

Confess to a friend, one you trust, and have him make an intercession for you. I did just that, and I am so blessed to have a friend (even though I have never met him because of the digital age) whom I trust in his character and relationship with Christ. I gave him the verse I was guilty of and asked him to pray for me, which I am convinced he did almost immediately, for soon thereafter the weight was lifted as if Jesus was saying to me “I think you have learned your lesson today.” Afterwards I felt like a child who had just gotten a serious spanking. The panic and emotion were unreal and something I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

But just like my father told me as a child after it was all over, “son, I don’t do this to hurt you. I do it because I love you.” And here I am with God doing the same thing to me all because He loves me with an undying love. Had it not been for my dad I don’t know that I would understand this now. I praise God for my earthly father who set me straight time and time again when I was young and gave me the ability to process this emotion.

“…“MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD,
        NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM;
  6FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES,
        AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.”

7It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? 10For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. 11All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” – Hebrews 12:5-11

I can personally attest to the truth of this passage several times over. Now, to move forward, and remember what I have learned, and to keep the Lord’s commandments so that I may not fall into the devil’s traps. God bless.

 

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Believe Like Spurgeon – Live Like Wesley

These two famous pastors taught the gospel with considerably different opinions on salvation. Yet while Spurgeon had no love for the Arminian viewpoint, he believed John Wesley to be one who lived his life according to the word of God.

What caused Spurgeon to admire Wesley in this manner? In Spurgeon’s autobiography he writes:

“I can only say concerning him that, while I detest many of the doctrines which he preached, yet for the man himself I have a reverence second to no Wesleyan; and if there were wanted two apostles to be added to the number of the twelve, I do not believe that there could be found two men more fit to be so added than George Whitefield and John Wesley.  The character of John Wesley stands beyond all imputation for self-sacrifice, zeal, holiness, and communion with God; he lived far above the ordinary level of common Christians, and was one ‘of whom the world was not worthy'” (Vol. I: The Early Years, p. 173).

Can you believe that? Pretty high praise for someone whose doctrine he detested. But Spurgeon was certainly no fool, and he saw in Wesley what he wished he saw in every Christian – the character of God. So we are at an impasse. On one hand, we have the head knowledge of proper and sound doctrine. On the other hand, we have the heart knowledge of the life to which it should lead. Hence, it seems to me that we should strive with all of our being to be like them both, not shun one or the other.

So believe the right doctrine of salvation—that it is a one-time deal and you have been forever redeemed by the Savior by whom you have eternal security. But live like the Arminian claims you must – always fighting to keep it as if you had stolen it and it is under constant threat of being taken away! Has your faith not been worked out in a while? Is God using you constantly or hardly ever? If you are, I have found a wonderful article that will get you back on track:

http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/what-to-do-when-faith-dies

On Choosing Salvation

It is commonplace today to hear a Christian say “I chose the Jesus” when they talk about the day they became His child. But I find that most people, myself included until recently, have no real grasp on how it is that they came to make that so-called decision. You see, there is a prevailing idea in the world that has only come into dominance over the past couple hundred years or so, and that is the idea of free will. That idea, which is inherently false, gives way to another idea that one is free to accept or reject God.

First off, let’s deal with the idea of free will in the context of salvation. Merriam-Webster defines the term free will as this:

    1:  voluntary choice or decision <I do this of my own free will>
    2:  freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or by     divine intervention (emphasis mine)

Now look at the second definition closely – the choice must be made without prior cause or divine intervention. As Christians we know this cannot be. There are two primary external forces influencing the mind – God and the devil. We know this through both our own personal experiences and through biblical scriptures. Who was it that tempted Judas to betray Jesus? Who tempted David to take a census? Who tempted Eve to take and eat the forbidden fruit? Add to that the prior cause,
which is sin resulting in a corrupt and depraved nature, and we now have a startling impossibility.

Every temptation Christians face is from the devil (see the book of Job) and these temptations oftentimes come into our minds in the form of a thought, which is why “…we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ…” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Do you not remember the struggle you had with salvation? What was warring within you was your own flesh teamed up with the devil, against the power of the Holy Spirit who prevailed, thankfully, for none can resist Him! You fought hard against that conversion, didn’t you? I know I did, which means the choice also wasn’t voluntary, at least not by the flesh – strike three! Months and months went by with God patiently knocking, until one glorious day He invited Himself in and my response at that instant was immediate – to bow down before Him, confess my sins, and repent of my ways! The Spirit had won, amen, and He will always win “… because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. “ (1 John 4:4)

Not enough? Consider the conversion of Paul:

Acts [9:3] As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; [4] and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” [5] And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, [6] but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.” [7] The men who traveled with him stood speechless,  hearing the voice but seeing no one. [8] Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus.

Did Saul pray the sinner’s prayer? No. Did Saul ask Jesus to come into his heart? No. God came in against Saul’s will, which was quite set against God as evidenced by the saints he had killed, and God prevailed. Saul did not decide – God did. And He did it long before Saul or anyone else was ever born.

Now you say “my conversion was not like Saul’s, so it wasn’t the same with me.” Was it not? How did you come to the Lord? You say “I heard the gospel and responded” and you most certainly did. But what about all the other times you heard the gospel and did not respond? Was it not God who opened your ears to hear and opened your eyes to see? Were you not led to Him or did you get there all by yourself with no help from Him whatsoever? What made the time you responded different from all the others?

Isaiah 35:5    Then the eyes of the blind will be opened
And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.

So, you see, we are all influenced by external forces. God chose you and the devil warred against Him to spoil the prize. But God’s will cannot be subverted, amen. Had our salvation been left up to us we would be hopelessly lost for we would never choose God; we much prefer the darkness and naturally despise His authority on the basest level because of our sinful nature.

Before we “chose” God were we not brought so low in our lives that we had no other choice than Him? I remember my desperation. I felt alone, though I wasn’t. I felt a great weight upon my shoulders for God had made Himself known to me, but my rebellion was fashioned hard against Him. The conviction of the Holy Spirit grew and grew and I could bear it no more! I had no other choice than God! What other choice is there? Sin? Depravation? Hell? Those are not choices; they are condemnations in which we already exist!

We currently treat the gift of salvation like we do the choice between desserts or food from a menu. We think it a choice in order to please ourselves and our ill-conceived notion of having authority over our circumstances and lives. But you do not choose a gift. Think about the Christmas present. Some you like, some you don’t, but they are all yours because they were given regardless of whether or not you asked for it.

God is in control, not us. We are bound to sin by chains that were not forged by human hands. They are the sentence of God for our transgressions. There is only one Chain Breaker, the Lord Jesus Christ, and He freely gives the gift of salvation! He paid for it by the shedding of His innocent blood to satisfy God’s wrath against us for our transgressions of His law. Jesus broke the chains of sin and bought us as the slaves we are in order to spare us the most painful agony of hell.

We cannot choose against Him, for how can a slave choose against the master that owns him? He raised me from the dead – to choose against Him is to choose death.&nbsp;Before I was a slave to sin, but now, praise God, I am a slave to Him! I was never free, even though I fancied it so. I am
free from the bondage and penalty of sin, but not of the servitude of my Master, for “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe.” I incorrectly refer to myself as a
slave -&nbsp;Jesus has something better:

“No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is
doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.
“You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. John 15:15-16

Sinner, be reconciled to God this day. Be done with the flesh – obey the Holy Spirit and bow down before Him, confess your sins to Him, repent, acknowledge that Jesus is Lord, and you, too, will be saved. Do not wait! There never was and never will be a saint who said “I’m glad I put it off as long as I did.” No, on the contrary their only regret is that they didn’t do it sooner!

***Note – I want to reiterate again that my arguments against free will and free choice in this context do not lead to hard determinism as some might say. In the overall argument there is just cause to think that some things are predetermined while others are not. However, in the area of salvation it is quite clear that our statuses as saints was predetermined long before we were ever born. Jesus’ death was ordained before the world was even formed. He knew each one of His children then just like He knows them now and there are no accidents or mistakes. God will accomplish what He set out to do from the beginning. Amen.

Duck, Duck, Duck, TRUTH!

I don’t blog very often, but when I do it’s usually because something is deeply troubling me or is just begging to be let out. This time, it’s the latest argument about Phil Robertson’s comments to GQ and his subsequent suspension from A&E. This isn’t a new thing. Television shows in the past have cancelled shows and hosts for voicing their personal beliefs, but that doesn’t make it okay.

Nor does it make it wrong.

A&E received some correspondence from the LGBT community, and it was enough to cause A&E to suspend Phil. Now, I’m not going to get into the details of what Phil said except for this – that he was not directly equivocating bestiality and homosexuality in any sense other than from a biblical world view that both are sins and are equal in that light. The non-Christian population does not understand this viewpoint. They want to claim that Phil is trying to make that point from a pop-culture perspective that largely adheres to moral relativism in which there is no absolute right or wrong and “whatever is right for you may not be right for me.”

While there are many logical problems with moral relativism, we must understand that this is not where Phil was coming from. In the Christian worldview, there is sin, and everyone is subjected to it, not just gays, racists, thieves, etc. With God, there is no graduated scale of punishment for sins. One transgression is equal to the next whether it’s a little white lie or murder. That’s hard to comprehend from a non-biblical worldview because, in our government, different punishments exist for different crimes. We base punishment upon how much harm is suffered by the victim. A white lie can be seen in a good light (it usually prevents someone’s feelings from being hurt) while a murder is seen as the ultimate crime since it robs someone else of life.

However, with God all sins require a verdict of guilty to be conveyed upon the offender. There is only one sentence – eternal suffering in hell. It’s a horrible place and it’s hard to fathom that if we mess up just once that’s all it takes. But the horrible truth is that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”, “the wages of sin is death”, and “whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all” (Rom. 3:23; Rom 6:23; James 2:10). But this death isn’t the physical death that we all experience; instead it is the spiritual death that God’s law requires as a result of our sin.

You may think that’s harsh. And it is—according to our world. But this isn’t our world we’re dealing with but God who is perfect in all His ways. However, the good news is that it is not His intention to abandon us to eternal suffering with no hope. Didn’t I say that God is perfect in all His ways? To illustrate His perfection He sent His son, Jesus Christ, who lived among us and bore God’s wrath on the behalf of those who would believe in Him. You see, not only are God’s mind and law perfect, but His heart and love are also faultless. He knew beforehand what Jesus would go through in order to bring about the salvation of man and fulfillment of His law, and He did it anyway because He loves us.

So you see, Phil isn’t uttering hate speech as many would see it. Instead, he is making us aware of our sins before God so that we would seek to be reconciled with Him and not suffer. And that is what real love is. Love isn’t turning a blind eye to your friend or neighbor when he is doing something you know will end badly for him. Rather, love is trying to help him see a better way so he would not suffer the consequences of his actions. And this is what the Bible teaches us that Jesus did – He spent years on this earth enlightening and giving us knowledge of a better way. Then He made the way possible by dying in our place so we wouldn’t have to suffer God’s wrath.

If you are gay, you need Jesus. If you are straight, you need Jesus. If you are involved in porn, you need Jesus. If you are a child, you need Jesus. If you are rich, poor, middle-class, homeless, black, white, or Hispanic, you need Jesus. Basically, if you are human you need Jesus! Some time ago, Christians made homosexuality out to be some super sin that is worse than all others. The truth is that all sins are equally deadly and all require forgiveness, which is what Jesus offers us.

If you would only be reconciled to Him today! Be done with all of the insecurity of wondering what will happen to you when you die. Accept Jesus as Lord of all creation, the son of God, and profess it with your tongue, begging Him today to forgive you for your transgressions against Him. He will be listening and waiting as He has all this time.

“Though we have sinned He has mercy and pardon, pardon for you, and for me.”

Preparing the Heart to Receive Christ

Luke 8:5-15 5 “The sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell beside the road, and it was trampled under foot and the birds of the air ate it up. 6 Other seed fell on rocky soil, and as soon as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. 7 Other seed fell among the thorns; and the thorns grew up with it and choked it out. 8 Other seed fell into the good soil, and grew up, and produced a crop a hundred times as great.” As He said these things, He would call out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
9 His disciples began questioning Him as to what this parable meant. 10 And He said, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.
11 “Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God. 12 Those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away. 14 The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity. 15 But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.

I am a great many things. Some might use the phrase ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ to describe me. I grew up on a farm that my family still owns to this day. I am a Systems Administrator by trade, but I’m also a farmer, a plumber, a musician, a beekeeper, and I know enough about mechanics, HVAC, electrical, and general construction that I don’t need to worry about calling someone out to service my home.

With that being said I would like to offer some insight into this parable as a farmer. There aren’t many farmers around today so some folks might just gloss over this parable without truly considering it. I think there is an important part left out of this parable – and that is soil preparation. As a farmer and hunter I have planted a few things in my day, but one thing I have learned is that soil preparation is key when you are planting seeds. The soil here is synonymous with the heart – it must be properly prepared to receive the seed of faith that is Christ Jesus so that it may yield up a fruit-bearing regenerated spirit. Try witnessing to an atheist and see how that goes if you want to understand what hard heartedness is.

So we see that the heart is hard like soil in a fallow field – it is only good for growing weeds. If we sow seeds in a fallow field they may sprout, but they’ll immediately be choked out by the competing weeds. This is certainly not good. You have wasted valuable time in sowing seeds and money in the purchase of the seeds. How do we remedy this? By preparing the soil first and here’s how.

When we speak of the things of God this is often met with resentment by the unbeliever which is a symptom of heard heartedness. We must break through and soften the heart (soil) by using apologetics (plow) as a way to soften the heart. Christianity is the only religion that makes sense of the entire world, universe, and our place in it and it is logically defendable. We must be able to defend and reason our faith to anyone at any time – this is the responsibility of the follower of Christ.

I read somewhere that the average number of times a person gets witnessed to before they become saved is eight. That’s a bit odd to me because in order to convert a fallow field into a fruitful one it can take eight or more trips to make it usable for production.

Burning a field removes all vegetation and stimulates new growth.

Step #1 – Treat the field with a fire. Just like confronting the defenses of an unbeliever this step removes unwanted vegetation growing in the field, or heart. This step may take several applications.

Jeremiah 23:29 ““Is not My word like fire?” declares the LORD, “and like a hammer which shatters a rock?”

A plowed field in need of rock removal.

Step #2 – Once the vegetation has died off plow up the field. Using the word of God we tell them who God is. This chisels away at the hard heart and soil, breaking up the rocks and turning over the soil. This also aerates the soil and produces new growth.

Step #3 – Apply the fire again. Why? Because those previous weeds have had a long time to produce seeds in that field and there is now a seed bank where all those seeds have settled. You’ve broken the soil up and disturbed the seed bank which causes the dormant seeds to germinate. We need to deal with those, too.

Proverbs 26:11 “Like a dog that returns to its vomit Is a fool who repeats his folly.”

Step #4 – Now we apply fertilizer (knowledge) which adds nutrients to the soil needed for growth and lime removes the harsh acidity from the soil so the seeds can absorb the nutrients efficiently.

Luke 13:8 “And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer;…”


Step #5 – Time for the lime (love of Christ – understand that I draw this comparison based on the agricultural purpose of lime instead of Biblical context). This sweetens the soil by neutralizing the pH level. Acidic soils germinate more weeds and most desirable plants cannot tolerate harsh soil; applying lime helps to inhibit new weed growth and germination. It also allows the plants to more readily absorb the nutrients of the fertilizer contained in the soil.


Step #6 – Now we plow again. This mixes in the new nutrients and lime into the soil so that it is spread evenly and effectively throughout the soil. This will almost completely ensure that wherever the seed falls it will have a chance to germinate.


Step #7 – Now we plant. The seed of faith is the Word of God. Plant it firmly into the heart and soil of the unbeliever. Cover it with a light dragging of the soil. Seeds buried too deeply don’t germinate. Seeds left lying on the surface are eaten by birds. When you cover them with just a little soil and then pack it down gently you have given that seed every chance possible for germination. Seeds require good contact with the soil which is why the drag and roller are needed to cover and bed them down.
Step #8 – Water! Prayer and the Holy Spirit will handle this part. You have done everything you can – it is up to God to do the rest.

James 5:18 “Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.”


When the seed receives proper watering it opens up and yields new life. Because you have thoroughly prepared the soil you have increased the chances of a successful germination. In all likelihood that plant will grow and thrive and turn into an awesome fruit-bearing plant that will give you and God great joy.


You may not be the person to apply all these steps. It is not uncommon for eight or more people to participate independently of each other in this process. So if you do participate be sure to do your portion correctly and make it so the next believer doesn’t have to correct anything you did before he can proceed. Sometimes God does the preparation for us and sometimes He asks us to do it. No matter the point in the process where the unbeliever is always be ready to step in and pick up where the last brother in Christ left off. remember one thing, though, and that is that none of this work is done properly without the Holy Spirit guiding the way.