The Journey Begins

Grace, Faith, and The Church Today

The church today is losing and here’s why.

Christians are just as sick, just as tired, just as depressed, and struggling just as much as unbelievers. All that we have presented to the world is eternal hope but we haven’t given them a lot of help for today—for this life on earth. The church today isn’t presenting victory not the victory that Jesus talked about, not the victory that He offered to us— victory here, now. Victory that inspires us, spurs us on and lights a fire with us that leads us to a better life and helps us lead others to a better life here and in eternity. The church today isn’t bold and strong. The church today has become tired and defeated and though we look energetic and put on a good face for social media, we are dying inside.

Our lack of victory has relegated us to looking to Hollywood for inspiration and we now mimic their methods of entertaining us and with a scripture and some religious lingo, it now looks like we have something we can offer. Yet…as churches grow in number, we have become what we always criticized….religious. We cannot offer to others what we do not have ourselves. There is no depth…no anchor. When life’s battles come, will we fare better than the rest of the secular world…? No…There is no evidence that we are faring better…Battles have come and we are still suffering. Death, illness, depression…Many ask, when will we see the victory Christ promised?

Since the church can’t offer the world what it needs now, we’ve had to change. We’ve had to adapt the world. We’ve had to find something to offer them to keep our doors open, so we chose to become like the world and we justify it by saying “by being like them, they will become like us.” This doesn’t even make sense and it’s not a principle that we would teach our children. We would never teach them to look around and do what everyone else is doing….We would never teach them to succumb to peer pressure, but instead to be different, to stand out. So, what are we doing and how did we get to this point?

The legalistic church has mixed the old and new covenants and are so busy working their way to heaven or into God’s good graces that they have no time for God—They are too distracted by man-made religion. (Mark 7:9, 13) They cannot obey Jesus’ command to go into the world and make disciples, heal the sick, and raise the dead (Matthew 10:8). They cannot access the power that Jesus left them through the Holy Spirit  (2 Timothy 3:5). They are just trying to stay afloat in the sea of rules and regulations. The sin of pride.

The grace church has been so focused on God’s grace that they, too, have been distracted from the full gospel of Jesus Christ. They, too, cannot access the power (2 Timothy 3:5) left them because in the guise of freedom, they have become like the Nicolaitans of old (Revelations 2:6, 15) and are too busy enjoying the pleasures of “sin for a season” (Hebrews 11:25) and suffering from the consequences of a life filled with sin the rest of the time (Romans 6:16, Galatians 6:7-8). Yet still, the sin of pride.

If we want victory in this life and the next, we must come to end of ourselves (Luke 9:23-24; Matthew 16:24). We must decide that knowing God and His Word is the most important thing in our lives. We must decide that our opinion of what He said is unimportant (Romans 3:4). We must let go of everything that we have been taught, everything that we have believed and everything that we want to believe and choose to do as Paul did (Galatians 1:16)—lay ourselves out before God-and commit all that we have and all that we are to Him. He will teach us all we need to know if we are focused on Him (2 Timothy 3:16-17). A life focused on Him is full of faith, studying His Word and denying our flesh. Doing so requires a sacrifice of our empty pleasures, our “me-time.” But the price is so little compared to what Jesus Christ paid in becoming sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21).

We have a job to do and we have great power and victory to share, if only we would take a hold of it for ourselves.

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:57‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The Enemy’s Tactics

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10 ESV

We are at war. Yet, we have to remember that our fight is not with other people. Our enemy is much less obvious. Satan has been warring against mankind since the beginning. He wanted to be God and his pride got him cast from heaven. His goal since then has been to take as many people with him to hell as possible. He loves destruction–destruction of the truth, destruction of God’s beloved creation, destruction of God’s church, destruction of God’s people.

He loves evil and he hates anything of God. He has two battle fronts: first, he fights sinners. He works to keep them from coming to Christ and, second, he fights believers who have put their faith in Christ.

He will do anything possible to keep people from accepting the truth and putting their faith in Christ. He will lie to them and tell them the Bible is fantasy, that believers are weak, that God doesn’t exist and if He does exist, then He hates us. He is constantly in every possible way trying to turn us against God because if we are against God then we are for him. There are only two choices–no one is neutral in this war.

If he cannot keep us from accepting Christ, he will plague us with lies, unbelief, pride in ourselves and our sin, hatred, dissension, fear, doubt, anger, and every other sin he can squeeze into our lives. Satan is working overtime to destroy those of us who have faith in God, His Son, and His Word. He does this individually and he does this through the church.

I have known many people who have shunned the church. Some were unbelievers who rejected God, His standards, and His people outright. Some were Christians who were hurt by things that went on in the church. Both are doing exactly what Satan wants them to do.

Satan destroys the church through dilution of the gospel via vain discussion and and shifting the focus of the church to entertainment.

Why is there trouble in the church where God’s people are supposed to be living out His Word? Because we have an enemy who is actively working to destroy us. What better way for him to get us (or sinners observing us) to reject God and/or to hinder our spiritual growth than get us wrapped up entertainment and the pride of our life, our jobs, our family, our goals, our desires and our fights with each other?

Have you noticed that people fight over petty, vain discussions (1 Timothy 1:6) and it’s accepted, but as soon as someone stands up for the truth, for God’s Word and even quotes Jesus’ own words–that person is labeled as a trouble maker and persecution ensues (Think Paul)? This makes perfect sense. It has been happening since God sent His prophets, His Son, His apostles, and it happens today.

Anything to distract us from what God wants us to do or to even get us to reject God– Satan will do it and we go right along with it and play right into his hands like puppets.

The church has become more interested in entertaining people to bring in the numbers than discipling its members. I see dress up days, mardi gras celebration, and churches being flooded with nonsense while lacking strong biblical teaching and we are too busy to go home and study the Bible, so we just accept what fed to us by people who are too busy to study the Bible because they are planning parties instead of worship services. It is heartbreaking that God’s Word is drowning in the sea of entertainment (“amusement or diversion provided by performers” Merrian-Webster).

When will we start seeing through our spiritual eyes? When will we look at the end and understand that this life is temporary? When we will lay ourselves before Christ and stop prioritizing our entertainment or our opinions and put Christ first? When will we cry to God to help us out of the ditch and then fight to enter in to God’s rest (Hebrews 4:11)?

If the church wants to see sinners saved, see the blind eyes opened and experience the peace of God through the trials of life, then it must stop being a victim to Satan’s tactics—saying all the right things while hiding behind what John calls the lusts of the flesh (1 John 2:16) and become a living sacrifice to God.

Only when we die to ourselves will we truly live and make a difference for His eternal kingdom. “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. ” Philippians 1:21 ESV

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12 ESV

Our Fathers in the Faith

We have a tendency to focus our Bible studies on our fathers in the faith—Moses, Abraham, David, etc. We look to them as role models, as examples of how to live and how not to live. We look to them to learn how to relate to God, how to walk in faith and this is good—the scripture says they were written for our examples (1 Corinthians 10:11)….yet, a majority of our focus and study should be our Lord—His life, His Words, and we should be modeling ourselves after Him—He should be living through us and we should be practicing His instructions—the fruit of which should be evident in our lives. (John 15:8)

Our relationship with God will not be exactly like our Old Testament Fathers in the Faith. Here is what we need to take away from their lives: We should walk in the faith in which they walked and put God, His Word, and His opinion above everything and everyone in our lives including ourselves. He should be our sole focus and His purpose our sole purpose.

The great news is that through the blood of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, we have more power to walk in that faith than our spiritual ancestors did.

{Hebrews 13:5}

{Matthew 28:20}

Exposing Darkness

And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. 2 Corinthians 11:14 ESV

Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” Ephesians 5:11 ESV

When I began studying the Bible in depth, I wanted to know exactly what the scriptures were teaching—in context and in the original language. I have spent innumerable hours over the last couple years and I have gone through the entire Bible and very heavily—multiple times—the New Testament. 

And after being a good little lifelong Bible reader—always in church 2-3 times a week–thinking I knew what the scriptures taught, I was stunned what I learned when I actually began to study it prayerfully.

What is emphasized heavily in scripture, is not emphasized in the church. To my recollection—I have never heard a sermon on, nor have I heard mentioned or taught—warnings against false doctrines and those who teach them. I may have sat through a sermon at some point, but at a minimum, it has barely been discussed-not enough to have ever had any impact on me at all. Many other things have been emphasized and are still focused on very heavily, but no one talks about the scriptures’ warnings of false doctrine and false teachers. When compared with what the Bible teaches, much of what is taught is unscriptural and out of context.

It’s frightening and tragic that the perversion of the gospel that Paul cursed is here and our churches are drowning in it. And with social media and its ubiquitous video clips of popular preachers tickling our ears going viral, false doctrine is spreading like wildfire and we are not even addressing it.

As I worked through my study, I started seeing these repeated warnings about false teachers and their teachings. But it really became apparent as I prepped to teach my Bible Study classes. As I went over and over, verse by verse, chapter by chapter, book by book, literal versions in English and Greek, I began realizing how often this was repeated. So—I started digging–looking to see if others had noticed this, too. And they have! There are others that have studied this in depth. In 2013, Steven J. Cole wrote, that according to a seminary study, within the New Testament “warning against false doctrine is emphasized more than any other thing, even more than love, unity, and experience.” Peter and Paul repeatedly warned about it and Jude’s entire book is about false teaching infiltrating the church. And God even warned in the Old Testament that prophets were spreading lies and tales about false visions. (Jeremiah 23:16 & Ezekiel 13:9)

Why do we—as born again, Bible believing people who refer to ourselves as followers and disciples of Christ—not emphasize in our teaching and in our study what is the, or at the least one of the, most heavily emphasized subjects in the New Testament? Why are we not studying the entire Word of God in context? Why are we not learning everything God has given us to know? 

Paul said that after Christ came that the mystery was revealed—that a full understanding of what God wants us to know is available through the scripture. So, why are we not studying it? Why are we not emphasizing it? 

We should be heeding all the instructions in the scripture and studying the Bible feverishly. We should stop relying on only what people tell us, stop assuming everything that has a scripture attached is truth, stop falling for everything we see and hear on the internet and find out for ourselves what the true gospel is and with everything in us, we should hold to it. And as we are instructed by the Bible and the example set by the apostles Peter, Paul, Jude, John, and our own savior, Jesus Christ, we should be standing up against false doctrine and teachers with the same zeal they did by exposing the darkness and proclaiming the truth vigorously. (Ephesians 5:11 & Titus 1:11)

God has no favorites (Romans 2:11)—He will show you and teach you all that is in His written Word—if you want to know. So, I challenge you, as I continue to do as well, to research and study this on your own–study in great detail, pray, learn the true, whole, complete, full gospel of Jesus Christ and stand firm in it no matter the consequence. Because someday every single one of us will stand before our loving, patient, merciful, but eternally just God who wishes that all come to repentance and salvation (1 Timothy 2:4) and we will be without excuse (Romans 1:19). The results of our choice will be for eternity.

preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” 2 Timothy 4:2 ESV

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” 2 Timothy 2:24-26 ESV

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Perilous Times—Strengthen Your Roots

Christ urged us to beware of those coming falsely in His name and Paul repeatedly fought the infiltration of false doctrine in the church. He warned about it over and over in multiple letters he wrote.

In his book of Colossians, he instructed all believers that we should walk in Christ and grow in His teachings to prevent us from falling prey to wrong doctrine, human philosophy, and manmade, worldly traditions.

These are perilous times—I strongly encourage you to research and study the scriptures regarding this.

“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”

Colossians‬ ‭2:6-8‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The Holy Spirit

“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” John‬ ‭14:26‬ ‭RSV‬‬

As we are made in His image with a body, soul, and spirit, God is 3 persons in 1—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

God the Father is the thoughts, the ideas.

Jesus the Son is the Word.

The Holy Spirit is the one who acts.

We talk often of God the Father and Jesus the Son, but let us not forget the third person of the Trinity—The Holy Spirit. He is just as important. He is our teacher. He helps us to understand the scripture and it is through His power that we can have Godly peace and overcome our flesh, life’s trials, & attacks of the enemy.

“You gave your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold your manna from their mouth and gave them water for their thirst.” Nehemiah‬ ‭9:20‬ ‭ESV‬‬

A Vain Resistance

And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.” Acts‬ ‭9:5-6‬ KJV

When Jesus stopped Paul as he was on the road to Damascus, He told him it was hard for him to kick against the pricks. “Pricks” in the Greek is “kentron” also meaning “goad”’as in an iron prod used on cattle.

Paul’s Damascus Road experience was not the first time that God had communicated with him. Paul, as evidenced in his acrimonious persecution of Christians, as well as Jesus’ words here, had been resisting the prodding of the Holy Spirit and it had been a difficult struggle for him, until he became willing to do what the Lord wanted him to do.

Paul came to have a love for Jesus that was as passionate and committed as was his love for religion and as his persecution of the church. He spent his life sacrificing earthly comforts and treasures and enduring unspeakable pain and persecution by not only strangers, but former friends and brethren. And he did it all with joy in obedience to Jesus and to see others saved through the cross of Christ.

What a lesson for us!! May we not fight the urging of the Holy Spirit to turn our hearts, minds, and lives over to Him in obedience in the way that Paul did. It will not always be the easy path, when like Paul, we suffer at the hands of strangers and even those we call friends. But Jesus promised that in the midst of trials & troubles from the enemy, and persecution from friends & family, He would never leave us and He would have a remnant of other believers with which we can comfort each other in love. He also promised something even greater—the hope of a perfect eternity with Him in His kingdom.

Let’s live for tomorrow in obedience to Him today!

Thank you Jesus!

What is the Gospel?

There are many things being done using the name of Jesus and much being presented as the gospel that is not the gospel.

So, what is the gospel of Jesus Christ?

It isn’t social justice. It isn’t self-help psychology or personal improvement. It isn’t being a good person. It isn’t earning anything.

It’s recognizing that there is no good in human nature. It is recognizing that we need a savior—someone to reconcile us to our Creator, Almighty God. It is repentance. It is, through faith, believing that Jesus Christ, as fully God and fully man, is that savior. It is believing that He took our punishment, was crucified, and after 3 days was resurrected. It is having confidence that He will come again and knowing that those born again of His Spirit will live eternally with Him.

It is knowing that anything good that comes out of me is Him.

It is denying yourself, your wants, your plans, your purpose—your life and exchanging it all for Him.

It is the best decision you will ever make and it will bring you peace of mind that cannot be explained in mere words.

One Jesus, One Way

“And it came to pass in our going on to prayer, a certain maid, having a spirit of Python, did meet us, who brought much employment to her masters by soothsaying, she having followed Paul and us, was crying, saying, `These men are servants of the Most High God, who declare to us a way of salvation; and this she was doing for many days, but Paul having been grieved, and having turned, said to the spirit, `I command thee, in the name of Jesus Christ, to come forth from her;’ and it came forth the same hour.” Acts 16:16-18 YLT

Luke tells of a demon possessed, fortune-telling slave girl that followed them through Philippi proclaiming their ministry. Paul was disturbed by her presence and through Christ’s name and power, he commands the demon to leave and it does, of course, taking its fortune-telling ability with it.

This spirit of divination was not doing Paul and his companion’s ministry a favor. Philippi was Roman colony and the Philippians worshipped many pagan gods. Adding one more god to the mix isn’t a problem to Satan, but preaching the One True God, THE Way of salvation is and that is exactly what Paul and his team were doing.

As are all of the other problems we see in society and the church today, this, too, is not new. Our enemy will distract us with every way possible. Every way, but THE Way.

Jesus Christ of Nazareth is THE Way, the ONLY way. (John 14:6) There is no other. Not good works, not gimmicks, not formulas, only Jesus–Not any Jesus. Only Jesus Christ of Nazareth, God in the flesh, born of the virgin Mary, died on a Roman cross, risen, and ascended into heaven. That Jesus. The one who never contradicts Himself. The one who never fails. The one who is always with those who choose Him. The one who cleansed the temple with a whip. (Matthew 21:12-13) The one from whom multitudes of people walked away from when He spoke the hard truth. (John 6:66) The one who loved so much without compromise that He not only died, but He suffered tremendous anguish for you, for me, for us all.

Today, like the days of old, there are many presenting to us another Jesus, another way. It grieved Paul and it should grieve us, too. There are gimmicks. There is compromise and the truth is becoming clouded behind religious lingo used in churches and “Biblical” books, behind the other ways that we are being told we can find salvation. But if those ways contradict Jesus of Nazareth, then they are not the way.

We have a better hope than the emptiness of emotional highs we experience in the dark smoke-filled room of a trendy church, the feeling of loneliness in a crowd at religious social gathering, the feeling of despair we feel drowning in our sin that is accepted by the postmodern church telling us so absolutely that there are no absolutes.

But how can we know that hope, if we don’t know—THE HOPE, THE WAY–Jesus Christ, Himself.

It takes a great amount of courage and a great amount of humility to place our broken selves at the feet of THE WAY. Our Triune God will free us, love us and save us, if we want Him. Never will He force our hand. Unlike His adversary who will find every way in to tempt us, lie to us, and deceive us, God, the Father, sent His Son to make the way, and He has sent His Holy Spirit to nudge us, to speak to us, to teach us, to show that there is comfort in The Only Way.

If you have not accepted Him, that is your first step, the necessary step…to acknowledge that He is the Only Way, the truth, the life. Accept Him today. Study the Bible with a pure heart and ask Him to teach you all things through His Word and He will.

If you have accepted Him, but are holding back, still trying to do it your way, still fighting to hold on to those things that are bringing death into your life, stop. Stop today. Don’t wait. Have the courage to fall vulnerable at His feet and die to yourself. Let go of all other ways. Let go of what people say, let go of religious trends, let go of what you want. Let go of your arguments, your justifications. Let go of being satisfied with the struggle of sin and today and everyday, choose Him first, above all else. In THE Way, there is no regret, no fear, just love.

It is free, but it will cost you everything.

“…I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 ESV

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An Exchanged Life

And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” Matthew 21:44 KJV

There is a great misconception about the Christian life. The overarching belief is that when we accept Christ, He changes our life. But that is not what He taught when He walked this earth and that is not what He confirmed to Paul and the other apostles. A good study of the New Testament clearly shows us that when we accept Him, our life is not changed through Christ, but it is EXCHANGED for His life.

Jesus taught that we must be born again (John 3:3). He never says that He will come in and work with our flesh, tame it, or compromise. He is very direct in His teaching that the flesh is tainted and unusable (John 6:63), but that when we become born again, His Spirit now lives within us and it is through Him that we have power to overcome the flesh. It is through His Spirit that we can know Him. It is through His Spirit that we can love others. It is through His Spirit that we can turn the other cheek when we are mistreated. It is through His Spirit that we can let go of our worries as we walk through the battlefield of life and trust God.

The only way to have true peace and true victory is through stepping out of the way every single day and choosing to let Christ live in our place. Paul called it crucifying the flesh (Galatians 5:24). If we are His, then it is not about what we want, our goals, our vision, doing things FOR Him. If we are His, then it is about Him doing it THROUGH us.

There is no compromise with Christ. We cannot be lukewarm (Revelation 3:16). It is Him or us. We must choose and we must let go of all of this life and take on His life.

You see, we must die to live. There is no other way and to try to live otherwise will stunt our spiritual growth (Hebrews 5:12), keep us defeated and make us vulnerable to being swayed by spiritual fads and “doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy 4:1) that leave us in spiritual danger.

All that will satisfy us, all that will fill us, all that will solve our problems, and all that will make us see that what we are experiencing on this earth is nothing in comparison to what we have before us in eternity is Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

If you are struggling, if you are in pain, if you are sick, if you are depressed, if you are worried, if you are anxious, if you are drowning in the cares of life as I was, YOU are still trying to live. Come to the end of yourself, fall on the stone that is Jesus Christ, and give all you are to HIM. YOU HAVE TO DIE TO YOURSELF TO REALLY LIVE. I had heard it a thousand times. I knew it and I finally did it. Now my only regret is that I waited so long, but God takes even that pain makes it sweet through His love, grace, and mercy.

Paul knew the way and he told us…”I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20 KJV

Thank you, Jesus.

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