People of The Living God

Matthew 24

 

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December 2015



 

 

 

 

WATCHMEN ON THE WALLS

TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

James Sanderson

        “The day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.  For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape” (I Thess. 5:2-3).  The day of the Lord is a short span of time in the end of the world when God will bring to fruition His complete purpose in the earth.  The culmination of that period of time will usher in the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ.  That day will be unlike any other time in the history of the world.  Men of God throughout the Old and New Testaments made reference to the day of the Lord.  During that time, the catastrophic social, political, and economic upheavals that the Apostle Paul compared to the sudden labor pains of a “woman with child,” will have a lasting effect upon all of humanity, for God will utterly destroy the wicked.

        The prophet Zephaniah vividly describes that day.  “The great day of the Lord is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the Lord: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly.  That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers.  And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the Lord: and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as the dung.  Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the Lord's wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy: for he shall make even a speedy riddance of all that dwell in the land” (Zeph. 1: 14-18).

        Signs of the times point to the fact that the fulfillment of these words may be close at hand.  Jesus Christ clearly warned that worldwide conditions in the end of time will be like those that prevailed in the days of Noah and in the days of Lot.  “And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man…Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot.  Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed” (Luke 17:26,28,30).

        It is imperative that the people of God awaken to the urgency of the time in which we live.  Only those who are aware of the lateness of the hour and seek to make the proper preparation will be able to endure the time of tribulation that is coming upon the whole world.  A comparison of present conditions with those that prevailed in the days of Noah and in the days of Lot should help to arouse every Christian to the realization that the day of the Lord is close at hand.

The Days Of Noah

        Although the Scriptures do not present a detailed account of life before the flood, enough information is available to realize that every segment of society had become saturated with evil.  “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5).  Humanity had plumbed the depths of moral depravity.  The apostle Peter described that era as “the world of the ungodly” (II Peter 2:5).  Ungodliness permeated the hearts and minds of men.  Ungodliness has to do with being destitute of reverence toward God.  Vine defines this word as “impious, ungodly, without reverence for God, not merely irreligious, but acting in contravention of God's demands” (Expository Dictionary, page 1193).

        The Apostle Peter also described that generation as “disobedient” (I Peter 3:20).  Vine states that that word disobedient “denotes obstinacy, obstinate rejection of the will of God” (Vine's Expository Dictionary, page 321).  Conditions had reached the point that God Himself was unable to turn men from their headlong rush down the road of destruction.  “My Spirit shall not always strive with men” (Gen. 6:3).  The cup of iniquity had come to the full, and the judgment of God had become the only remedy.

        “The earth also was corrupt before God…for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth” (Gen. 6:11-12).  In the Old Testament the use of the word corrupt is often associated with the worship of strange gods and other demonic activity (Deut. 4:25-26).  In the days before the Flood, witchcraft, idolatry, and various occult practices flourished in the earth.  After departing from the Living God, many had surrendered control of their lives to Satan and his multitude of seducing spirits.

        “The earth was filled with violence” (Gen. 6:11).  Hatred, crime, and oppression had become a way of life.  Reason and order gave way to anarchy as men became governed by their passions and lusts.

        In the midst of such degradation, Noah, a “preacher of righteousness,” faithfully warned his generation of imminent worldwide judgment.  Unfortunately, the vast majority of humanity completely disregarded the testimony of this servant of God.  “They were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage” – carrying on the usual routines of life – up to the very day that “the flood came and took them all away” (Matt. 24: 38-39).

The Days Of Lot

        Sodom and Gomorrah were thriving centers of culture and wealth located in the fertile plains of the Jordan River.  This area “was well watered every where,…even as the garden of the Lord” (Gen. 13:10).  One thing marred the beauty of this region.  These cities had given themselves over to “fornication and going after strange flesh” (Jude 7).  “But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly” (Gen. 13:13).

        There, in that ungodly environment of Sodom, dwelt Lot, the nephew of Abraham.  Many years before, he had forsaken the life of a nomad in order to enjoy the ease and prosperity of Sodom.  While his uncle Abraham wandered about in tents looking “for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God,” Lot vexed his righteous soul daily with the unlawful deeds and filthy conversation (conduct) of the wicked men of Sodom (II Peter 2:7-8).  The comforts and security that Sodom afforded helped to soothe his troubled conscience.  The mounting violence in the streets and the depths of sexual perversion failed to awaken a sense of urgency in his heart.  Only the prayers of faithful Abraham and the merciful intervention of Almighty God saved this man from the judgment that destroyed that city.

        “Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities and that which grew upon the ground” (Gen. 19:24-25).  Since that fateful day, Sodom and Gomorrah have been examples of the consequences of sin and the severity of God's judgment upon evil men.  “And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly” (II Peter 2:6).  It is quite interesting that archaeologists have in recent years uncovered the city of Sodom and discovered that life had abruptly ended just as the biblical accounts declared.

Modern Day Sodom And Gomorrah

        The same conditions that prevailed in the days of Noah and in the days of Lot presently characterize America, and much of the Western world as well.  Lawlessness, violence, and every type of perversion now permeate society.  School shootings or some other horrific act of violence has become regular fare for the news networks.  Standards of morality and ethics are at an all-time low.

        Although true Christians have always been a minority, the majority of Americans, throughout the history of this country, respected and upheld traditional Christian values.  The general population embraced a moral sense of right and wrong.  Even our laws supported the basic moral principles of a Christian society.  Such is not the case today.  Witness the recent Supreme Court ruling making same-sex marriage the law of the land.

        Did such a ruling suddenly occur in a vacuum?  The forces of darkness have been laboring tirelessly to gain the hearts and minds of men.  A Pew Research study in 2014 found that there has been a significant shift in attitudes toward religion.  Religion, in general, is losing its influence on American public life.  Moreover, the number of people describing themselves as Christians had declined significantly by 8% in just 7 years since 2007.  That number had already been steadily declining over the past number of years.  A Gallup Poll, conducted in May of this year, found that 60% of Americans now support same-sex marriage.  That statistic is up 5% from 2014.  In other words, the majority of Americans support the homosexual lifestyle.  Another Pew Research study in June of this year (2015) found that 22 countries now have national laws allowing same-sex marriage, and a number of other countries are soon to follow.

        Not too many years ago, homosexuals, euphemistically called “gays,” would have been reluctant to express their perverted sexual inclinations publicly.  They have now become a rather vocal group with plenty of political clout.  They parade their “gay pride” slogans down Main Street while the politicians vie to identify with their cause.  One can find them in every level of society: congressmen, teachers, and even ordained ministers.  Just since the Supreme Court ruling that supported gay marriage, those who have come out as gay on social media has increased three fold.

        Another problem facing school systems today is what to do with transgender students.  The government, along with the support of the ACLU, is now attempting to force school districts to allow transgender students complete access to whatever locker rooms and bathroom facilities fit their chosen sex.  One school district was threatened with a loss of $6 million of government funding if it did not comply.  In another incident, two Christian day-care workers were fired because they refused to call a six-year-old girl a boy.  Governments in many places are, also, pushing anti-discrimination ordinances that trump laws that support religious freedom.  Those who publicly maintain biblical standards of morality face ridicule and harassment.

        Not many people realize that the U.S. State Department now has a special envoy with the job of promoting the rights of LGBT people around the world.  Our present Secretary of State said, “We're working to overturn laws that criminalize consensual same-sex conduct in countries around the world” (U.S. News and World Report, Feb. 27, 2015).  In other words, our government is focused upon advancing the gay agenda throughout the world.

        The dawn of a new century has witnessed a dramatic change in the mores of American society.  The transformation of this country into an almost totally secularized culture in a relatively short span of time is rather shocking.  America has become a spiritually bankrupt nation.  The display of the Ten Commandments, Bible references, and school prayer are outlawed in schools and on government property.  A recent news account told of a high school coach in Washington state who was suspended from his job simply because he prayed publicly before a football game.  Such accounts have become commonplace.  Since man is a moral being, he does not live in a moral vacuum.  Remove Christian values; someone's values will replace them.  The powers of darkness have successfully capitalized upon this truth.  A well-known American psychiatrist stated, “We have to let students know there are no right answers, and we have to let them see that there are many alternatives to certainty and right answers” (Schools Without Failure, William Glasser, 1969).

        The onslaught of secular humanism in our schools and colleges over the past 50 years has helped to produce the depraved society that we see today.  “We need to recognize the new secularism for what it is –an attempt to undermineand destroy Christianity” (David Robertson, “New Secularism,” Christianity Today, May 19, 2014).  “While men slept” the enemy has been quite successful in sowing tares in the hearts and minds of men leading them stray from God, the Bible, and the Church.  As a result, we have a society that has hardened its heart against the gospel and has rejected the values that our forefathers held dear.

        Pat Buchanan, a syndicated columnist, recently observed that what 1950's America would have called “decadence” – homosexuality, abortion on demand, and same-sex marriage – is now called “progress.”  He went on to write, “America is a different country today, a secular and post-Christian nation on its way to becoming anti-Christian.  Some feel like strangers in their own land.”  He also characterized present-day American culture as an “open sewer” (“U.S. and Catholicism in Crisis,” Herald Chronicle, September 29, 2015).

        The strong family unit that has been the backbone of America is fast becoming a relic of the past.  Even the definition of family has changed.  “Our families are not just straight – we are gay, we are lesbian, we are transgender” (Huffington Post, 6/1/2013).  A Pew Research analysis finds that “less than half of U.S. children (43%) younger than 18 years of age are living in a home with two married heterosexual parents in their first marriage.  In 1960, 73% of children fit that description.”  Today 41% of children are born outside of marriage.  In 1960, that number was 5%.  These statistics do not bode well for America.  As the family unit disintegrates, what can one expect to happen eventually to American society as a whole?

        Does the Bible predict any improvement in the present situation?  Can anyone honestly expect a time of true repentance to sweep over America?  On the contrary, the Word of God declares unequivocally that conditions will deteriorate to such an extent that only the intervention of Almighty God will keep man from complete annihilation.  “This know also, that in the last days perilous time shall come” (2 Tim. 3:1).  “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived” (II Tim 3:13).  [I]niquity shall abound” (Matt. 24:12).  “And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened” (Matt. 24:22).

The Urgency Of The Hour

        As one ponders the conditions in the world today, he can come to only one conclusion: God's judgment is on its way.  Judgment is not a popular subject.  Virtually every prophet of old bore a message of judgment against a sinful nation.  In how many places would an Isaiah or a Jeremiah be welcomed?  It doesn't take an Isaiah or a Jeremiah to see that the handwriting is on the wall in large glaring letters: “God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.  Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting” (Dan. 5:26-27).  By the power of the Holy Spirit, the prophet Isaiah declared, “If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: but if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword” (Isaiah 1:19-20).  The Biblical record demonstrates that any nation that forgets God is doomed to failure and judgment.  Every nation or great civilization that has left its spiritual moorings has ended shipwrecked, a mere statistic in the annals of history.  America is no exception.

        Recently, Billy Graham, America's best known evangelist, warned the churches to “prepare for persecution.”  He went on to write, “As a whole, our nation does not know what privation is.  We do not know what sacrifice is.  We do not know what suffering is.  Suppose persecution were to come to the church in America, as it has come in other countries.  Since we have experienced little religious persecution in this country, it is likely that under pressure many would deny Christ.  Those who shout the loudest about their faith may surrender soonest” (reported by Fox News, November 3, 2015).

The Call To Come Out

        It is time that Christians everywhere realize that these are serious times.  A crisis of major proportion is looming on the horizon – a crisis that will affect every man, woman, and child.  Political, social, and economic upheavals are on the program.  As the cup of iniquity comes to the full, the judgments of Almighty God will come forth in great fury as well.  “Alas for the day!  For the day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come” (Joel 1:15).  “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matt. 24:21).

        Corruption and wickedness are now multiplying at an alarming rate.  Man's system is fast becoming “the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird” (Rev. 18:2).  The sins of modern-day Sodom once again “have reached unto heaven” (Rev. 18:5).  It is only too obvious that there is coming a time that God's people will no longer be able to dwell in the midst of such evil without compromising their stand for the Lord.  The mere acts of buying and selling will become impossible unless one is willing to surrender full allegiance to the powers of darkness (Rev. 13:16-17).

        The Scriptures offer God's people only one way of escape from these end-time calamities.  “And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues” (Rev. 18:4).  Only as the Church, God's people, experience a spiritual awakening and extricate themselves from the systems of men and gather together unto God will they find deliverance in the evil day.  Jesus declared this same message in the parable of the ten virgins.  “And at midnight, there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him” (Matt. 25:6).

        Such a solution may seem radical to some.  Once again, one has only to refer to the accounts of Noah and Lot.  Certainly, to those who lived in Noah's day, the construction of an ark was a senseless venture.  Nevertheless, the Word of God demonstrates that only those who willingly, by faith, entered into the ark of safety escaped the deluge of Noah's day (Heb. 11:7).  Likewise, in the days of Lot, only those who heard God's warnings and fled the city of Sodom found deliverance from the fire of divine judgment.  It is to be noted that Lot attempted in vain to admonish his sons-in-law to flee.  “But he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons-in-law” (Gen. 19:14).

        It is quite unfortunate that many in evangelical churches adhere to the idea of a secret pre-tribulation rapture as God's means of deliverance in this evil day.  A thorough study of the Word of God does not uncover one credible reference to a secret appearance of Christ.  The Scriptures always describes the Second Coming of Christ as a worldwide phenomenon visible to “every eye”, including both the just and the unjust.  Adherence to the doctrine of a secret rapture will cause many to be unprepared for the difficult times that lie ahead.  The Lord did not remove Noah and his family completely out of the earth.  God provided a way of deliverance in the midst of the storm.

Redeem The Time

        Jesus told a parable of two builders.  One was wise; the other was foolish.  The wise man utilized his time constructing an edifice that would stand in the day of the storm.  In order to secure a strong, sturdy foundation, he made every effort to dig deep and build his house on a rock.

        The foolish man also set out to construct a house, but he had ideas that were quite different from those of the wise builder.  He saw little value in establishing his house on a firm foundation.  Why not take the easy, less costly way to complete the task?  After all, there are other things more important to accomplish in life.  He simply built his house on sand.

        One fateful day a storm came.  The winds blew fiercely.  The rains descended until a flood arose.  The streams beat vehemently against both houses.  The wise man's house withstood the storm while the foolish man's was swept away.  The foolish man failed to value the time of preparation that God had provided, nor did he comprehend the urgency of the situation.

        Paul's admonition to the Ephesians carries greater significance today than at any other time in history.  “See then that ye walk circumspectly (carefully), not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16).  The time to prepare is now.  When the storm arrives, it will be too late.

 

 

 

 

WHY WE NEED THE BAPTISM WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT

Mary C. Woodard

        After my husband and I were baptized with the Holy Spirit according to the Scriptures in the early 1960’s, we began to talk to others regarding this wonderful experience.  Among the replies that we received was this one: “It’s all right for you, but I don’t need it.”  We believe that all born-again Christians (to whom this gift is given) need this “promise of the Father.”  I would like to list some of the reasons we believe this.

        In Acts, Chapter 1, Jesus commanded His disciples to “wait for the Promise of the Father…for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:4,5).  Jesus gives them the reason in Acts 1:8: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

        Power!  Power to witness – with our mouths and with our lives!  My husband was pastoring a church at the time he discovered these verses, and he realized he needed this power.  When my pride and prejudice was swept away and I became spiritually hungry, God gave me this power, also.  My desire was to know Jesus in a fuller way.

        I remember Charles and me visiting a friend of his who was also a ministerial student and who had received the baptism with the Holy Spirit.  As we sat talking, he looked directly at me and said, “Isn’t Jesus sweet?”  Now I knew I was saved, but the concept of Jesus being “sweet” had never occurred to me.

        The baptism with the Holy Spirit makes Jesus real to us!  It makes us realize that His presence in our lives is sweet, and that He is precious as the Scripture has said, “to you who believe, He is precious” (I Peter 2:7).

        The baptism with the Holy Spirit gives us boldness!  Shortly after we received the baptism with the Holy Spirit, we were asked to go on Christian radio for an interview by a friend who worked with the radio station.  The interview was not rehearsed and the first question he directed to me was, “What has the fullness of the Holy Spirit meant to you?”  The first thing that came to my mind was, “He has given me boldness to witness for Jesus.”  I had wanted so much to be a witness for Jesus and had entered whole-heartedly into witnessing classes at the church, but I was still very shy both in and out of the church.  Now I can say I have boldness!  “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John…they realized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).  Now, like Peter and John, I cannot but speak the things I have seen and heard” (verse 20).

        The Holy Spirit is a comforter, or helper!  All of us would have to admit we need a Comforter.  I have a quilt on my bed which is called a “comforter.”  On chilly nights I snuggle down under my comforter and I am warmed and comforted.  The Holy Spirit comforts in time of grief for He has “borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4).  I have lost several loved ones, and I have experienced His comfort.  When it was discovered I had cancer in 1987, the Holy Spirit comforted me and replaced fear with peace…and He healed me of this dreaded disease.  Whatever situation we find ourselves in, He is our Comforter.  He comforts the downcast (II Cor. 7:6), and He also comforts us that we may be able to comfort others (II Cor. 1:4).

        The Holy Spirit is a teacher!  The Scripture says “He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all things that I said unto you.”  Some people have asked me how I memorize the Scriptures.  I tell them I don’t memorize them.  Over the years I have read and studied them and now when I need them the Holy Spirit brings them to my remembrance.  I was able to write a book which I entitled, “Following On To Know Him,” because He brought to my remembrance things He had been doing for us since the time we were saved.

        The Holy Spirit opens up the Scriptures to us!  I sometimes tell people the Holy Spirit has caused our Christian experience to take on a new dimension.  Scriptures open to us with new meaning we never saw before and we receive new spiritual truths that were heretofore hidden to us.  They just seem to “come alive” and we know that miracles, supernatural healings, the gifts of the Spirit – the power of God in action – did not stop at this time or that time, but that they are for the body of Christ today!  Wonderful revelation!  We learn that Jesus is the same yesterday, and today, and forever (Heb. 13:8), and that He has not left us comfortless, but that He has come to us to fill us with Himself and to give us the abundant life which was the purpose of His coming (John 10:10).  Praise God!

        The Holy Spirit enables us to show forth the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance.  We’ve heard Christians say, “I just can’t live the life.”  It is impossible within ourselves, but when we are full of the Spirit of God and allow Him to control our lives, we find we can overcome those things which rob us of the fruit of the Spirit.

        The Holy Spirit endows us with the gifts of the Spirit (I Cor. 12).  I had an experience I shall always remember shortly after I was filled with the Spirit of God.  We were visiting with a group meeting in a small store-front building with wooden orange crates for benches.  My husband had preached that morning on “returning to the leeks and garlics of Egypt.”  The Holy Spirit flowed out of my mouth as the gift of tongues burst forth.  I was also given the interpretation.  I had a sister and brother visiting me that day who were not serving God and knew nothing of His gifts.  I thought what an unlikely time for me to exercise my first gift.  My husband told me later he was praying someone would confirm his message, and this is just what I did!  Space will not permit me to go into the advantages of “praying in the Spirit” (Rom. 8:26-27) and from edifying one’s self by “speaking in an unknown tongue” (I Cor. 14:4).  This will accomplish far more than the psychologists and psychiatrists could ever hope to accomplish!

        The Holy Spirit reproves of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment (John 16:8).  If we are living a sober, righteous, godly, and separated life to the glory of God, He will reprove and convict through us!  This is totally in contradiction to what we see today.  The popular notion is that one only has to lead the sinner in the “sinner’s prayer” and then that one is pronounced “saved.”  No!  A heart must be prepared by the Holy Spirit to see the need of a Savior through conviction of sin and repentance of sin before one can be saved through faith in Jesus Christ.  We have found that when one is truly born again according to the Scriptures, that one will joyously confess Jesus Christ as Savior without being prompted to do so.

        We are too easy on sin and too easy on the sinner.  We are afraid we will make him or her uncomfortable, and so we have everyone pray the “sinner’s prayer.”  I submit that the sinner must be made to feel uncomfortable before he or she will be saved!  Of course that is the work of the Holy Spirit, but it is up to us to make a difference between the saint and the sinner.  My husband and I no longer pray the sinner’s prayer.  We were saved by God’s grace over 30 years ago.  Now we rejoice and thank God for our salvation and pray for that one who has not yet been saved.

        I am aware that I have barely touched on the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of one who is totally yielded to Him.  A study of the Scriptures will reveal much more to you.  “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matt. 5:6).

 

 

 

 

FERVENT IN SPIRIT

Charles F. Woodard

        “Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord” (Rom. 12:11).

        The word “fervent” might well have been translated “earnest” or “ardent.”  The word “spirit” has a small “s,” therefore it does not refer to the Holy Spirit, but to the natural spirit of man.  The context is speaking to the members of the “Body of Christ.”  “So we, being many, are one Body in Christ, and every one members one of another” (Rom. 12:5).  So to paraphrase we might say, “Not slothful in the Lord’s business, earnest or fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.”

        I am astounded at the zeal shown in the world.  The golfer will be on the golf course at sun-up, ready to play eighteen holes.  The skier will drive hundreds of miles to find the best snow.  Sports addicts act as if crazed at sports events.  Yet members of the visible Body of Christ on earth show a casual and even nonchalant attitude in their standing.  Most gather once or twice a week, sing a few songs, listen to a pastor or speaker and go home.

        We are not “fervent in spirit!”  We are not aglow, red hot, burning with the spiritual fire in our spirit.  We do not rejoice in the promise of the gospel, patient in suffering, and constant in prayer: “Rejoicing in hope (Gk. promise); patient in tribulation: continuing instant in prayer” (Rom. 12:12).

        The gospel has become an old, old story to some; instead of patiently enduring suffering and tribulation, many go from prayer-line to prayer-line seeking deliverance.  Be honest with yourself, how much time do you spend each day in prayer?  We are not “fervent in spirit!!”

        Raising hands while singing or dancing the charismatic two-step is not “fervent in spirit.”  A fervent spirit cannot be seen in overt actions.  A fervent spirit is one that presents the body it controls as a living sacrifice to God.  A fervent spirit lives a holy life and is not conformed to this world.  A fervent spirit has a renewed mind and exhibits the good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Rom. 12:1-2).

        A fervent spirit is not a showoff!  It never tells what it has done or how many it has led to Christ.  A fervent spirit is quiet and peaceful: “that we might lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (I Tim. 2:2).  A fervent spirit is not excited and out of control, but is quiet and peaceful: “But let it be the inward adorning and beauty of the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible and unfading charm of a gentle and peaceful spirit, which (is not anxious or wrought up, but) is very precious in the sight of God” (I Peter 3:4, Amplified).  A fervent spirit is one that is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer.

        Paul’s charge to Timothy is a word picture of a fervent spirit: “But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness” (I Tim. 6:11).

        A fervent spirit must be renewed and refreshed daily by the Word of God and prayer.  Think of a fervent spirit as a special anointing from God.  I like Hebrews’ term: “the oil of gladness”: “Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows” (Heb. 1:9).

 

 

 

 

HAVE NO SIN?

Harold Kupp

        Those who say that it is not necessary to cease from sin in order to inherit eternal life often quote the following verse:” If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8).  By quoting that verse they attempt to prove that it is impossible to cease from sin.

        In response, I would point out that any attempt to make that verse prove that Christians are unable to cease from sin is to contradict the design of the Epistle "that ye sin NOT."  It would also contradict John's many decisive statements to the effect that a Christian who is truly born of God does not commit sin.  In fact, John said: “He that committeth sin is of the devil" (1 John 3:8).

        Please compare the following statements made by John in the very same Epistle:

Group A                                     Group B

"If we say that                            "Whosoever is born of God

 we have no sin,                  doth NOT commit sin." (3:9)

 we deceive ourselves." (1:8)

 "If we say that                   "Whosoever is born of God

 we have not sinned                     sinneth NOT." (5:18)

 we make Him a liar," (1:10)

        Do you think the verses in both groups refer to someone who is born of God?  If so, then John is hopelessly contradicting himself.  Of course, that cannot be.  Therefore, we may be certain that each group of verses has reference to a different subject.

        *The verses in Group B refer to those who are born of God.  They do NOT commit sin.

        *The verses in Group A have to do with exposing false teachers who were teaching Gnostic concepts about the nature of sin.

        When John said:  "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves" He was pointing out the error of Gnosticism which said that those who committed sin were held to be not guilty in the eyes of God.

        "Gnostics alleged that by reason of the spiritual seed in them, and of their superior spiritual knowledge and communion with the light they were free to act as they chose and were not polluted thereby."  (Lange Commentary)

        Daniel Steele said this about Gnosticism: "The moral effects of this doctrine were indeed deplorable.  Sin existed only in the body while the soul was perfectly HOLY, hence all kinds of sin could be committed with impunity.  The golden jewel in the dunghill was not defiled.  Thus was it with the soul of the glutton, the drunkard, and the adulterer.  None of these needed cleansing, for the spirit, the real personality was SINLESS."  (Half Hours with John's Epistles, 1901)

        In the first chapter of John's Epistle, he was comparing what he and the apostles taught with the doctrines of false teachers.  For example, John exposes a different lie in each of the following verses that begin with the phrase "If we say…"

        (1:6) “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and walk in darkness, we lie, and DO NOT THE TRUTH.”  (Thy law is the truth, Psalm 119:142)

        *The false teachers say that willful sin does not break fellowship with God.

        (1:8) “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”

        *The false teachers say that we have no sin charged to our spirit; the body is guilty, but the soul is under the blood of Jesus and therefore has no guilt.

        (1:10) “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”

        *The false teachers say that we have not sinned in our spirit; it remains sinless no matter how many times the body sins.  Look closely, the above verse does not refer to those who say "I do not commit sin" – it refers to those who say: I have NOT sinned.  All men have sinned, but those who are born of God stop committing sin.

        The false teaching of modern Christianity is that we have dual natures (one sinful and the other sinless).  They say something like this:

        "The Old nature is born of fallen man, and is evil.”

        "The New nature is born of God and is Holy.”

        "The New nature does not commit sin, because it comes from God's seed."

        "The Old nature does sin any time you agree to let it."

        "Seed from God is incorruptible and produces in us an incorruptible nature.  Therefore, the NEW nature cannot be corrupted at any time or any way."

        "Man is corruptible so man's nature is sinful."

        "God is incorruptible, so the New nature is SINLESS."

        Therefore, they say, "even if you are a 'defeated Christian' (a willful sinner) you will still be saved because of God's new nature which dwells in you."  "Praise God, in the NEW nature we have no sin."

        After reading the explanations of Gnosticism, it is easy to see that modern Christianity has come up with a new form of Gnostic teaching which says that we have dual natures; one sinful, the other sin-free.  They say that because of the blood of Jesus, even if we commit deliberate willful sin, all sins past, present and future are forgiven, and we are held to be not guilty in the eyes of God.

        The truth is that Jesus makes His people free FROM sin – not free TO sin without fear of eternal destruction.  When we are born of God, we have committed to obey God and surrender ourselves completely to His will.  At that stage, we probably do not know much about sin or the sin nature buried deep within our souls.  We may do things that break God's law without knowing it.  If the sin is done in ignorance then the atoning death of Jesus covers it.  But, once we recognize that what we are doing is sin, we must stop doing it – or be guilty of rebellion.  If we continue to commit sin, we will eventually be lost because we are refusing to accept Jesus as our Lord.  Think about it – if we do not obey Him, he is not our Lord.

        When John said, “And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous,”he was referring to sins of ignorance – not willful sin.  John said: “Whosoever is born of God sinneth NOT.”  As sin is revealed by the Holy Spirit, those who are born of God do not continue doing it.  Eventually all sin is revealed and thus they quit doing all sin.  The Christian who continues to willfully disobey even one of God's Ten Commandments will be lost.

Have No Sin Means Have No Guilt

        “If we say that we HAVE NO SIN, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (I John 1:8).  First, please note that John is NOT saying the following: "If we say we DO NOT COMMIT SIN we are deceived."

        Now please note what John IS saying, “If we say that we HAVE NO SIN, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (I John 1:8).

        So, what does the term "we have no sin" mean?  It means: "we have no guilt."  The Greek phrase translated as "have no sin" is hamartian ouk echomen.  This is the same phrase Jesus used when he told the Pharisees, “Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth” (John 9:41, KJV).

        The KJV translates "have no sin" which is quite literal but does not convey the sense of Jesus' meaning.  The RSV and NIV both point out that "have no sin" is better rendered "have no guilt".  For example:

        Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, 'We see,' your guilt remains (John 9:41, RSV).

        Jesus said: "If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.” (John 9:41, NIV).

        Jesus was declaring that if they were ignorant they would have no guilt but because they could see they would be guilty.

        Moffat correctly translates 1 John 1:8 as, "If we say we are not guilty."  John was saying that the false teachers would say in some way or another that if we commit sin, our spirit would "have no guilt."

        Daniel Steele D.D., speaking of the verse "we have no sin," writes: "Because" said the Gnostics, "sin never defiles the soul but the body only, and hence we need no cleansing, having in our spirits no sin to be cleansed from."

        “Bengel, Bishop, B.F. Wescott, and others have noted that the phrase, ‘to have sin,’ is found only in John’s writings (John 9:41, 15:22,24, 19:11) and that it expresses guilt."  (Half-Hours With John's Epistles, 1901)

 

 

 

 

EARNESTLY CONTEND FOR THE FAITH

Alfred King

        Not too many years after the great outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost recorded in the book of Acts, Jude writes his short letter admonishing Christians to “earnestly contend for the faith that was once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).  The exact date this epistle was penned is uncertain for some authorities believe it was written between 64 and 66 AD while others believe it was shortly after the destruction of the temple in 70 AD.  Whether it was before or after God’s judgment fell upon Jerusalem, Jude expresses a great concern that over the years a departure from that faith which once possessed the early Apostles and disciples of Jesus Christ was clearly evident.  It appears that Jude diligently wanted to write unto them of the common salvation, the Gospel offered in Christ for all nations and races, but found it more necessary to write unto them of the great need to return to that faith that had been lost.  With the diminishing of this faith, the glory and power that rested upon that early church had waned and lest there was desperate and earnest contending for that lost faith, Jude seemed concerned that more would slip away from the church of his day.

        The Greek word epagœnízesthai found in Jude three is translated “earnestly contend”.  It is to war against or for, to be combatant against an enemy coming in to thwart God’s divine will for His church.  The faith that once motivated and empowered the church was gradually but surely slipping away.  This would leave the church in a very perilous state.

        Most Bible commentaries state that this “Faith” that was once delivered to the saints is the teaching or doctrines which were the foundation of the early church.  Over time false teachings entered the young church, thus weakening its power and effect upon the world.  If false doctrine began to infiltrate the church in the first century, where is the church today?  It is sad but true that false teachings plague the church today and false doctrines have caused multitudes to stray from the strait and narrow path that leads to life.  False doctrines are the enemy’s tool designed to lead believers astray and miss the goal God set before them.  False doctrines are the devil’s means of deception which leads one away from truth.  No doubt then the doctrines that were taught by the early Apostles and disciples of Christ have been attacked on every side.  Today the church has slipped so far from those once pure and pristine doctrines that we wrestle to find truth in the midst of it all.  It’s like searching for a lost diamond ring in the city dump.

        False doctrines distort important truths that make the church what God designed it to be.  Jesus did not purchase to Himself a church that is destined to be weak and sickly, a church more worldly than Godly, a church infiltrated with immorality and covetousness, an irreverent church which has lost its fear of a holy God.  Jesus died to bring forth a church that is glorious without spot or wrinkle, a church without blemish, a church that walks in righteousness and holiness (Eph. 5:27).  False teachers with their false doctrines have robbed the church of its glory and power and left in its place a weak and powerless faith that brings little, if any, glory to God.  It’s time for the church of the 21st century to awake and earnestly contend for that faith that was once delivered to the saints and to be unsatisfied until there is a “restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21).

Old Testament Men Of Faith

        To get a greater comprehension of the faith that was once delivered to the saints, we might do well to consider some of the great men and women of faith recorded in the Old Testament.  A consolidated list of some of these men can be found in Hebrews 11.  Abraham heard the call of God to leave his hometown and go to a place that he would afterward receive for an inheritance.  Abraham simply obeyed and left everything behind.  While he never possessed the land himself, he believed God and was confident that God would give the land promised to his seed.  It was this faith that honored God so greatly and Abraham was called “the friend of God” (James 2:23).  So great was this man’s faith that when God commanded him to offer his son, Isaac, as a burnt offering, he immediately set off to obey God.  Where do we find such faith today?  No wonder he is called, “The father of the faith.”

        That dear sister Ruth also left her home and all she knew because she saw something in Naomi’s God that drew her to forsake all, go to a foreign land where Gentiles were not well accepted, all because she wanted to learn more about the God of Israel, “if haply … (she) might feel after him, and find him” (Acts 17:27).  And we must not forget those who left the conveniences of Babylon in order to suffer privation and danger in order to see Jerusalem and God’s temple rebuilt.  Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah left a very comfortable and secure lifestyle to be a part of the restoration of Jerusalem and God’s order for Israel.

        There are many other great pillars of faith such as Noah, Daniel, Elijah, Elisha, Samuel, David, etc. but for this article we want to focus on the need for the restoration of God’s order and His glory, which involves the promises contained in scripture that God will bring about a restoration in the last days.  For this restoration to take place there must be an earnest contending for the faith that has been lost through the years.  In this 21st century we find ourselves further from the apostolic faith than previous generations, for Satan and his cohorts have had years, even centuries to infiltrate our congregations, water down and dilute the Gospel to where we today have only a shell of the original anointing and power.  In writing this, I am not saying that we at People of the Living God are exempt from this departure from the faith because we also find ourselves lacking greatly so that we too are seeking for the return of this precious faith.  But as Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah set out to see God’s glory return to Israel, so must we today forsake a lot of the comforts of our modern lifestyle and begin to seek for this lost faith so that God can build again and restore the glory that once rested upon His people.

Faith Of The Early Church

        The early church received a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost that empowered and emboldened them to preach God’s word in a way that has not been matched to this day.  But as we see warnings and signs of the times in which we live, do we not also see that the only way to combat the opposing forces of evil that are surrounding us is to be empowered once again with that holy anointing that enabled the early church?  Do we find ourselves ready in our present condition to war against the onslaught of the demonic powers of hell that are being released from the pit of hell?  Do we think that we can stand in our own strength and that we know Christ well enough to face the days ahead?  Let me digress here and point out a prominent false teaching found in many if not most of our modern Protestant churches today.  It is that doctrine that teaches and promotes the pretribulation rapture of the church.  This doctrine prepares people to be unprepared.  Many think they are prepared for the rapture and won’t be here for the great tribulation.  However, if one is not prepared for the tribulation, they are not prepared for a rapture if it were a true doctrine.  A great time of tribulation is destined to come upon the world, for it was prophesied to come before Christ returns.  Jesus warned three times in Matthew 24 to be on-guard for deception.  False doctrine (or teaching) is designed to deceive.  Contrary to what many Christians think, doctrine is very important.  “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hos. 4:6).

        Returning to the Restoration:  It is sad today that most Protestant churches teach that the gifts that empowered and glorified that early assembly of disciples are not intended for today’s Christian.  They were only to “jump start” the Gospel and the Christian age.  “In the New Covenant age we have scripture and that’s all we need” so it is claimed.  While we cannot place a value on scripture, it is that very scripture that teaches us that the gifts are still for believers today.  Consider Jesus’ words to His disciples in His great commission recorded in Mark 16:17-18, “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”  Jesus said, “these signs shall follow them that believe.”  He did not single out the apostles, but those that believe.  Is it possible that this is included in that “faith that was once delivered to the saints”?  While we are told that these gifts were only for the apostles, let’s consider Jesus’ words to these same disciples in this same discourse as recorded in Matthew’s account.  “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:19-20).  The apostles were told to teach all nations what He had taught them.  If they teach us what Jesus taught them, then this empowerment is for the church in the 21st century.  Also consider what the Apostle Peter preached in Acts 2:38-39.  “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.  For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”  Do these words include those believers living today nearly 2000 years after they were spoken by the Apostle Peter?  To save space here I will only refer to Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth.  In his first letter and in chapter 14, he gives instruction to this Spirit-filled church concerning the order in which the gifts of tongues, interpretations and prophecies should operate.  If these gifts were only for the Apostles, why would he encourage this church in Corinth to continue in the operation of the gifts and rather not just tell them, the gifts were not for them?

        The modernist’s response: “But didn’t the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews state that whereas He spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, ‘God hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son’ (Heb. 1:1-2).  Since we have Jesus’ words, God no longer speaks through prophets.  And is it not true that many and probably most of the prophecies that come forth today are false and distort the Gospel?”  (To be clear on the issue of prophets, we need to understand that those who teach that prophecy is not intended for today, also teach that prophets are merely preachers and teachers.  So today’s prophets are pastors and Bible teachers.  This is not Biblically sound, for prophets according to scripture are those who were called seers, they saw their message.  Read the following verses to see this for yourself: I Sam. 9:9; II Sam. 24:11; I Chron. 21:9.  There are many more besides these.)  Continuing: Ironically those who use Hebrews1:1-2 to silence prophets are in many cases the same ones who reject most of Christ’s words.  They postpone or relegate the requirements set forth by Jesus in His “Sermon on the Mount” to another dispensation.  And in place of Jesus’ teachings they substitute Paul’s words.  They declare that Paul brought a different gospel and therefore put Paul’s words above the Master’s.  Paul did not preach a different gospel than what Jesus taught.  Many of his teachings run parallel to the Sermon on the Mount and there is no contradiction anywhere in Paul’s epistles.  But again I digress.

The Faith For Which To Earnestly Contend

        The faith for which we must earnestly contend is that faith that believes every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.  The church must awake and realize that Jesus’ condescension, life, death and resurrection contained more than just allowing sinners to be born again.  In no way do we want to discredit or minimize the importance of this wonderful new birth provided by our loving Lord and yet we do not want to discard all the rest provided by Christ’s ultimate sacrifice.  Believers today need to learn to trust God completely by taking His word as a divine promise to them personally.  Let’s review a few portions of scripture in which God gives wonderful and gracious promises for His people.  Those recorded in the Old Testament are not only for national Israel of that time but are for those in New Testament times who are of spiritual Israel, having the circumcision of the heart.

        In Matthew 8 we read of a leper who came to Jesus and said unto Him, “Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.”  Jesus responded by laying His hand on the leper and said, “I will; be thou clean.”  What Jesus promised this man, He fulfilled.  He did not state something and then not do it.  With that thought in mind consider Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28.  “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  This promise to men today is just as true as those words spoken to the leper 2000 years ago, “I will”.  If any will go to Him, He will give them rest.  So often we are weary and worn, sometimes discouraged and dismayed by life’s trials and labors yet we find ourselves going to some other source for rest.  That faith that we must contend for is that which believes Jesus’ words, that true rest is found in Him and not in other things.  Simple but true.

        Jesus also said in John 14:14, “If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it”.  Continuing in this same chapter of John, verses 16 and 18: 16) “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 18) I will not leave you comfortless: I will come unto you.”  Notice the “I will” in these verses.  That faith for which we seek is to believe these words absolutely.  It must not be merely words that sound sanctimonious but rather those which ring true in our hearts and which we embrace in full assurance that what He has promised He will fulfill.  One more verse in this same chapter that we want to consider is verse 21.  “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and (I) will manifest myself to him.”  Wonderful promises are for those who will set their affections on things above, love Jesus Christ above every other love.  He promises that He will love us and will reveal Himself to us.  How He does this is different in each case but in some special way Jesus will make Himself known to those who love Him.

        A couple more promises from Jesus: “upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 16:18-19).  God has promised that He will build His church and the faith we seek is that which believes this promise even when everything around shouts out against it.  Jesus is building a glorious church, of which we all have the privilege and honor to be a part.  So let us not faint but rather seek to have that faith to press on “toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14).  Take notice of the promise to them that follow Jesus, recorded in Matt. 4:19.  “And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  The promise here is that those who will follow Jesus’ words will automatically be those to whom the lost are drawn.  On the day of Pentecost, thousands were added to the church daily.  It was the drawing power of the Holy Spirit that rested upon the Pentecostal believers.  That same drawing power is for God’s people in this hour as well and surely we are all aware of how desperate the need is today.  The world is fast turning away from every principle set forth in God’s word.  The need for “fishers of men” is critical in this hour.  Let us “earnestly contend for the faith” necessary for the salvation of the lost in our society and in our communities.

        From the Old Testament consider just a few verses of many which speak of God’s promised blessings.  Isa. 42:16, “And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.”  The promises given here to Isaiah were in reference to what Jesus was to accomplish when He came.  It is fulfilled completely in Him but only procured through that faith Jude saw was leaking from the church in his day.  Isa. 44:3, “For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring.”  The danger today is that there are those who would shove this promise under the cover of false teaching, hiding it from those who might actually believe that God will pour out His Holy Spirit upon them in a special way, enabling them to be a powerful tool in His divine hand.

        Consider one more of God’s promises that He will:  Psalm 91:14-16, “Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.  He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.  With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.”  The promises are overwhelming and above all that we can ask or think.  So let the church of Jesus Christ awaken and begin to “earnestly contend for the faith that was once delivered to the saints.”

 

 

 

 

THE SINNER’S PRAYER

Steve Jones

        After a rousing sermon, evangelist Johnny Rex Lubbets turned to the camera to address the television audience.

        “Now, if you’re not born again, if you’ve never been saved, this is your day.  This is the day of salvation.”

        The white-haired preacher lifted his Bible aloft with one hand, signaling that he was about to utter unquestionable truth.

        “Christ has promised in this book that if you invite him, He’ll come into your life,” he said, the pages of the open Bible draping over his palm.

        “All you need to do is pray something like this: Jesus, I know that I’m a sinner.  I know that I’ve broken Your law.  I deserve hell.  But I believe You suffered my hell for me on Calvary.  Come into my life and make me a new creature.  Wash away all of my sins.  Amen.”

        Then closing the Bible, he smiled serenely into the camera.

        “If that was the prayer of your heart, you are now an heir of heaven.  Jesus has just come into your life.  You have just this moment passed from death to life.  Please write and tell us if you just prayed this prayer so we can rejoice with you.”

        As the credits came up on the screen, Lubbetts walked off the platform and shook hands with one of the elders of the tabernacle.

        “Praise the Lord.  How’s my good brother Williams?” he asked.

        “Well, to tell you the truth, not so great,” said Rick Williams, a man in his early 30’s and a member of the Crusade Team. “I’d like to talk with you in your office if you don’t mind.”

        “Sure,” said the smiling evangelist.  He escorted Williams to a room behind the baptistery – a room usually reserved for sinners seeking salvation after the altar call.

        “Sit down, brother,” he said, as he filled two mugs with coffee.  “You take it black, right?”

        Williams nodded and Lubbetts handed him a steaming mug emblazoned with “Smile, God loves you.”

        “Now, what seems to be the matter?”

        Williams hung his head.  He paused for a moment to gather his thoughts.  “It’s like this, Pastor.  I…uh…am wondering about my salvation.  I’m not sure I’d be saved if Jesus were to come back today.”

        The Pastor’s eyes widened with surprise as he slid into his chair.  “Not saved?” he said.  “You know that isn’t true.  Why, I led you to the feet of the Savior myself many years ago.  We prayed that prayer of decision together and settled the matter right then and there.”

        “I know, I know, but…”

        “No buts.  Buts like that come from the Pit.  Satan is trying to rob you of the joy of salvation.  The problem is that we sometimes don’t always feel saved.  But we often just have to take God at His word and say ‘no’ to our feelings.”

        Williams sighed.  “Look, pastor, you don’t understand.  This has nothing to do with feelings.  It has everything to do with the way I’ve been living for the past eight years.”

        The pastor put his hand on Williams’ shoulder and began to speak in fatherly tones.  “Rick, I don’t care what you’ve done.  I don’t care how you’ve been living.  And, believe it or not, neither does God.  All He really ever cares about is whether you’ve asked Christ into your life.  That’s the main issue.  We all fall short.”

        Williams summoned a measure of boldness and spoke more forcefully, “Pastor, I know you’ve been to Bible college.  You can quote Scripture a lot better than I can.  But, still, I guess I just have to disagree with you about this whole salvation thing.”

        “Salvation thing?” said the pastor.  “What do you mean?”

        “Well, first off, I’ve been reading my Bible and I honestly don’t see where you get this thing about asking Christ into your life by a prayer.”

        Lubbetts grinned confidently and flipped open his Bible to a well-worn place.

        “Why, it’s right here in Revelation 3:2.  ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If any man…’”

        “I know the verse, Pastor.  You quote it on almost every Crusade.  But I just don’t see that it teaches anything about getting saved through a sinner’s prayer.”

        “What do you mean?”

        “Well, Christ was speaking to a church in this passage.  The church of Laodicea.  They had lost their first love and Christ warned them that He was about to spit them out of His mouth.  But He was still knocking to come back in to have fellowship with these people.”

        “You’re right, Rick.  That’s Christ knocking at the door of your heart, as He did eight years ago.  And you let Him in.  You’re a saved man, Rick,” the pastor said.

        “But I haven’t been living a righteous life,” Williams said in an exasperated tone.  “Actually, I haven’t even been trying.  That prayer didn’t do anything.”

        “It did everything,” Pastor shot back.  “You were justified in God’s sight the moment you prayed that prayer.  God looks at you and He doesn’t see your sin at all.  All He sees is the perfect righteousness of Christ.”

        “But Jesus never taught that we can be accepted by God without doing His will.  Look at Matthew chapter seven.”

The pastor paged through his Bible back through the Gospel of John, which was underlined copiously, and into Matthew, which had almost no pencil marks in it.

        “Here, Pastor.  Verse twenty-one.  Jesus said: ‘Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven.’”

        “Yes, I know the passage, Rick.  But what you don’t understand is that doing the Father’s will is to accept Jesus as your personal Savior.”

        “But, Pastor, that can’t be the meaning of this passage,” Williams said.  “Look at verse twenty-three.  Look at what Jesus calls the people He rejects on Judgment Day: ‘you who work iniquity.’  He’s not condemning them because they neglected to say a sinner’s prayer.  He’s condemning them because they had lived in sin.”

        “Rick, maybe you didn’t hear me earlier.  I said that we all fall short.  Even I do.”

        “But I haven’t been striving after righteousness.  I haven’t sought God.  How can you possibly assure me I am going to inherit eternal life?”

        Lubbetts grasped his Bible firmly and held it up in the air.  “Rick, the God who gave us this book is a God of grace.  Grace.  He never expects anything from us but failure.”

        But Lubbetts could see he wasn’t getting through.  He slowly lowered the up-lifted Bible, giving a wary look to this co-laborer who had now become a theological antagonist.  Where was he getting this familiarity with the Scriptures?  Maybe the shepherding Bible-study groups weren’t such a sparkling idea after all, the pastor thought.

        Williams took a sip from his coffee mug.  “I’ll agree, of course, He’s a God of grace.  But Paul said in Titus 2:12 that God’s grace teaches us to live holy lives.  There’s certainly more here than just forgiveness and a free ticket to glory.”

        Williams continued.  “And look at this.  In Romans 6:14 Paul writes, ‘sin shall not have dominion over you.’  That doesn’t sound to me like God expects constant failure.”

        “Oh, now wait, Rick.  When Paul says such things about being delivered from sin, he’s not necessarily talking about being delivered from sinning.”

        “You mean there’s a difference?”

        “Oh, yes.  You see, Paul is speaking positionally.  Such verses refer to your standing, not your state.  Your state may be carnal and sinful, but you are still perfectly righteous in the Father’s sight.  And eternally secure, I might add.”

        “But look at this other text in the Sermon on the Mount,” Williams said as he turned to Matthew 6:14.  “For if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses,” he read aloud.

        He looked up from his Bible at the pastor.

        “There are several people in this very church that have hurt me, and I’ve never forgiven them for it.  I’ve been harboring bitterness toward them for the past five years.  You mean to tell me – despite this verse – that God is going to forgive me while I feel this way?”

        The pastor chuckled with a sense of relief, assuming he had discovered the root of the problem.  “Rick, Rick.  Now I see the difficulty.  It’s doctrinal.  You see, our Lord’s words in chapters 5-7 don’t relate to the church age at all.  That is the way life is to be lived during the Millennium, when Christ reigns as King of the Jews.”

        Williams gave Lubbetts a bewildered look.  “Pastor, no disrespect.  But that seems way out.  Are you telling me Christ’s hearers weren’t obligated to obey those precepts the day they heard them?  They were to wait until the Second coming, thousands of years later?”

        Lubbetts stood up, walked over to a bookshelf and pulled a hardcover Bible off the shelf.  “This would do you a world of good, Brother.  The Durwood Annotated Bible.  Brother Durwood’s notes show us how to divide up the Bible into the various dispensations.”

        “What do you mean?”

        “You see, this is the age of grace.  Paul taught the gospel of grace for this dispensation.  Christ’s words in Matthew are the gospel of the Kingdom.”

        Williams maintained his perplexed countenance.  “You mean as Christians we follow the teachings of Paul, not Christ?”

        “Regarding grace and salvation, yes,” Lubbetts said.  “I know this is all very complicated.  I learned this system at Bluford Creek Bible College.”

        Williams shook his head in disbelief.  “But Paul taught the same thing Jesus taught,” he said.  “Look at the second chapter of Romans.  It says in verse six that God ‘will render to each one according to his deeds.’”

        “Oh, yes,” the pastor replied.  “But that has to do with rewards or lack of rewards.  It has nothing to do with salvation, which is a free gift to everyone who invites Jesus in.”

        “But it does have to do with salvation, Pastor,” Williams said.  “Forgive me for disagreeing with you.  But look at the next verse.  It says God gives eternal life ‘to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor and immortality.”

        “But that would be a works-salvation,” the pastor said, growing increasingly defensive.  “Our denomination stands foursquare against that.  It’s not evangelical doctrine.”

        Williams continued: “Look at the next verse. ‘But to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness – indignation and wrath.’  That’s exactly what Jesus taught in John 5:28,29.”

        “Well…let’s see how Durwood interprets those passages,” the pastor said, opening the hardcover book.  “These texts can’t mean what you’re saying they mean.  That would be a denial of everything I preach during the Crusade.  It must have something to do with how we treat Israel – or something.”

        “No, I don’t think I have time for Durwood; I probably wouldn’t understand his analysis anyway,” said Williams, rising from his chair.  “I’ve got some serious business to undertake with God.  I need to pray a real sinner’s prayer.”

        Williams leaned over the table, resting on his palms.  “I need to confess that I haven’t lived for Him, but that I want to start.  I want to tell Him my desire to imitate Christ, not just invite Him into my heart.  I want to cultivate Christian virtue, the fruits of the Spirit.”

        The pastor looked troubled by the words.  “Rick, beware of doctrinal error,” he said.  “We’re under grace.  Don’t go back to the beggarly elements of the law.”

        Williams looked back on his way out the door.  “All I know is, I want to start following Jesus, on a daily basis.  If that’s doctrinal error, then I guess I’ll have to be a heretic.”

        “But, Rick, let me read you John 3:16.  That spells it all out.”

        “I memorized that verse long ago, Pastor.  But the ‘believe’ part must mean more than praying your sinner’s prayer.  If the rest of the Bible is true, it must mean a life-changing conviction – like the faith James wrote about.”

        “Rick, you don’t understand.  You can’t earn brownie points with God by being good.”

        “Thank you for listening, Pastor,” said Williams, leaving the room.

        As the footsteps diminished, Lubbetts shut the Durwood Annotated Bible and looked downward, dejectedly.  “Maybe if I could get him to enroll at Bluford, maybe they’d straighten him out,” he said to himself

                From: Wisdom & Power by Permission

 

 

 

 

A SPECIAL THANK YOU

       People of the Living God and Cedars of Lebanon Academy would like to thank those of our readers who contributed to aid the school.  In August we made known the financial problem we were facing regarding the school.  There were several who contributed to this ministry, and it has been a tremendous help to the school and to some of the students who have been able to continue their Christian education because of scholarships made possible by donations.  As long as God provides the means, People of the Living God will continue offering Christian education to families in this area who desire their children to be free from the influence of our secular public schools.  As the moral decline in our society has infiltrated our public educational system, we believe Christian education is most important and more imperative than ever before.  Our desire is to see Cedars of Lebanon Academy grow so more children can have a good education and gain a foundation in God’s word that will help them stand in the future.  Please, remember the school and the students when you pray, for the young people of this day face many temptations unknown in previous generations.  We do appreciate every prayer.  Again, we want to especially thank those who have contributed in this time of need.  May God richly bless each one in your walk with God.

        For those who may be interested, we have posted some pictures of the school and the children on our website.  The site is: www.peopleofthelivinggod.org.  We would like to publish some pictures in “The Testimony of Truth” but our printer does not print pictures very well so we have posted them online.

Sincerely, The Staff, Teachers, Students and Parents of Cedars of Lebanon Academy