2 Timothy 4:3 "For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry".

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Do you testify with Christ? John 7:7

Do you testify with Christ? John 7:7

John 7:7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.

In my experiences as a Pastor and as an evangelist, I have run into many people who have criticized me for my message. In love, I try to tell the truth about people and where they stand before a loving and merciful and holy and just God. My question for myself and for you, dear reader, is do you (I) testify with Christ?

In John 6, which forms the backdrop for this verse, we see that Jesus reproves the understanding of the people. Many people who saw the miracle of the loaves and the fishes believed Jesus was the prophet that Moses predicted. Others saw him as a prophet-king who would remove the foot of the Romans off the neck of the Jews, returning Israel to a sovereign nation. Jesus was both, but he was also the great High priest, the anointed Messiah of God. He was a prophet in that He spoke with the authority of God Himself. He was king, though not of this world, indeed of a kingdom that was now and not yet. He would reign over the Kingdom of God for ever and ever! And, He was the great high priest who would give his life as a sacrifice for the people. As he showed those who were following Him who He truly was, as the bread of life of whom we must eat and drink (believe and trust alone), many could not take this teaching and they left him. Only the twelve and a few others remained.

In John 7, we see Jesus, some six months later still in Galilee. His brothers are still not convinced as to who He is in truth. They want him to go down to Jerusalem (where the Jews are trying to have Jesus killed) and proclaim Himself king. This is where Jesus reproves them (and those who will hear Him today). Jesus explains to his brothers that they would have no problem being very comfortable in Jerusalem, for they were of the world, and the world loved them. Jesus on the other hand was not very popular, because He preached the truth, and proclaimed that the world’s works were evil.

Today, this is a major problem. People do not want to serve that type of God, read that type of book (the Bible), or render righteous judgment as the Bible commands (see John 7:24). In fact, many who share the office of pastor desire that they would have the community’s and the world’s approval rather than preach the whole truth as found in the Bible. Look at James 4:4

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

Indeed, Jesus proclaimed the truth, and condemned those who would seek friendship with the world

Luke 6:26 “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets”

My friends, what kind of person would encourage you to blindly and ignorantly step off of a cliff, without warning you of the results of a ten thousand foot fall? Would that be a friend? Certainly not. What if that person made you feel comfortable, feeding you, giving you drink, even giving you shelter and good advice for a better life as you marched toward that proverbial cliff? Is that a better friend? No it is not. Yet many of us are of the belief that it is the job of a Christian to make people feel good about themselves, and even make the way easier for them in this life rather than warning of the fall that is to come. They desire the friendship of the world. And they get it, they are well spoken of by those in this world as ones who do good deeds and speak refreshing words. They have the approval of man, and not of God.

What we, as Christians, are called to do is to warn people of the fact that they will die, and after this they will be judged:

Hebrews 9:27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment

And we will be judged, for our good works as well as our bad deeds. Indeed, The Bible calls our best deeds filthy rags, and declares that there is NO ONE righteous (Romans 3:9) and that all have sinned (Romans 3:23) and that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). There are those who are in our lives that love us enough to warn us of the walk towards the cliff (sin), and the fall (death) In fact, God has given us a conscience that has already warned us all multiple times, but many of us have short-circuited it by our very denial of the truth that we can see so clearly.
As Christians, we must know the truth of the Word of God and, without apology, study His Word and apply it first to ourselves and then proclaim it to the world. We are the voice warning people that if they go into eternity without having their sins forgiven (through repentance and faith in Christ alone- John 14:6) they will face God who is holy and just, who will not let sin into His presence, and who takes sin so seriously and loves us so much (Romans 5:8) that He sent Christ, imputing our sin to Him, pouring out his wrath that we deserved on Him, so that those who will repent and put their faith in Him alone will be saved.

While in Florida, we searched for a reason that so many young people claimed to be Christians as they were drinking alcohol and planning for pre-marital sexual activity (fornication) and feeding the lust of the eyes and the lust of the flesh. We also wondered why, among so many of those who came down to share a gospel, had no real training or understanding what a Christian was. This is when we studied Jeremiah 23:

Jeremiah 23:9-15 concerning the prophets:

My heart is broken within me; all my bones shake; I am like a drunken man, like a man overcome by wine, because of the Lord and because of his holy words. 10 For the land is full of adulterers; because of the curse l the land mourns, and the pastures of the wilderness are dried up. Their course is evil, and their might is not right. 11 “Both prophet and priest are ungodly; even in my house I have found their evil, declares the Lord. 12 Therefore their way shall be to them like slippery paths in the darkness, into which they shall be driven and fall, for I will bring disaster upon them in the year of their punishment, declares the Lord. 13 In the prophets of Samaria I saw an unsavory thing: they prophesied by Baal and led my people Israel astray. 14 But in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: they commit adultery and walk in lies; they strengthen the hands of evildoers,so that no one turns from his evil; all of them have become like Sodom to me, and its inhabitants like Gomorrah.” 15 Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts concerning the prophets: “Behold, I will feed them with bitter food and give them poisoned water to drink, for from the prophets of Jerusalem ungodliness has gone out into all the land.”

As pastors, indeed as Christians, we should approach the Lord and His Word in this manner that we see in verse 9. When is the last time that you read the scripture and it broke your heart? The last time it knocked you silly, as though you were drunk? That it made you tremble and shake before God? As pastors, indeed as Christians, God's Word is a powerful thing, and is to be humbly approached by us as we allow it to change us. As it changes us, we can see very clearly the difference between those who follow Christ and those who do not. Jeremiah was speaking to Jews at the time, but we can easily cross the bridge into today and see that the land is full of spiritual adulterers, led by adulterous pastors and priests who preach a false gospel, who do not tremble before a holy God and His Word.

The prophet, one who declares God's Word, indeed the priest, who leads us into religious acts of worship, are declared ungodly in this passage. Even in the houses of worship there is evil! We saw the fruit of this on the beach. Many of these young people claim to be church goers, some even claim that their parents and their pastors or priests approve of their letting off a little steam. We had one young woman claim that her youth Pastor encouraged her to go, before she said a blasphemy and dropped an f-bomb. My friends, I have no problem hermeneutically applying this passage to the modern-day church. Even in the house- the house of worship, we see this evil. There are many evidences that in this sex crazed society of churches with 30 day sex challenges, advertised with pornographic and suggestive photos. We see it in those in the pulpit who use crass and worldly language. We see it in the removal of the Bible as the final authority. We see it in the syncretism between the world and the church, indeed in the ecumenism of 'all roads lead to heaven'. And we see it in the man-centered worship that many churches turn to as numbers and donations dwindle. I could go on; but I do not have the room. Suffice it to say that many pastors have cast aside the scripture as authoritative in their own lives long ago, and the visible local church is paying the price.

The worst thing about the priests and the prophets in this passage is that in their own lives they commit spiritual adultery, and then they lead others astray, indeed they 'strengthen their hands'. Not only do they lead their parish astray, but they actually encourage evil acts in the sight of the Lord. What is spiritual adultery? Well, it takes many forms. It begins with a low view of God, or a low view of scripture. If we as pastors and priests do not fear God, or look at His Word as authoritative, our people will catch that disease. If we do not tremble before God and His Word, neither will those in our churches. If we do not preach the truth, the people will not hear the truth. And it all boils down to the fact that many preachers and priests are more afraid of man than they are of God. They fear that if they preach the word of God as it is that people will leave. They are right; for Jesus Himself lost most of his disciples when He preached the hard truth (See John 6)

The fruit of this is the young christians we observed in Florida, indeed, that was just a very blatant slap in the face, for I have experienced the same thing in my small town. The self-professed christians who were drinking stated 'god loves everybody, and he will forgive everybody'. In other words, they have learned from someone that if you dive into sin, drinking it in like water, chase after the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes, that this loving god up in the sky will wink his eye at your sin and just forgive you. It is not just these young people that believe this, it is a pervasive teaching in our country today. Indeed, many of the other campus ministries represented in Florida while we were there preached the very message that god loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life, and if you will just pray this prayer, he will forgive you!

That is a perversion what the Bible says.

Acts 17:30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent,

The Greek word is Metanoeo, and it means to change one's mind, to change one's mind for better, and to amend with abhorrence of one's past sins. In other words, it involves confession, which is agreeing with God and what His Word teaches about us and our sin. It involves a turning away from that sin, utterly forsaking it, having a determination never to return. However, as I have witnessed, this is not the case with many who sincerely ask God for forgiveness. For one, they do not agree that they, by nature, are sinful. They do not agree that their actions are sin, and offensive to a holy God, and they have no intent to leave behind their sin. Their mind remains unconvinced that what they do is wrong and that God will just look past their human frailty. This is due to a false understanding of who God is, indeed, it is a lack of true sorrow for sin that results in repentance. Many who confess or ask forgiveness still love their sin more than they love God. They fear the consequences more than they fear God.

On our recent trip to Florida, one young man upon hearing our message was visibly shaken. He had heard that no drunkard would enter heaven (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) He came to speak with one of our team, but wound up counseling with one of these other campus ministries and was led in a sinner’s prayer. It was explained to him that God loved him, and that he could be forgiven if he would only ask. So, he was led in a prayer where he asked forgiveness of God and 'accepted' Christ. Assured of heaven and that he was a Christian, he ran to his cooler to drink another beer. God will be the judge if he was sincere, but the fruit was simply not there. How dare we give assurance that one is a Christian because they parrot a prayer! How dare we gloss over the grace of repentance or the work of the Spirit in one’s life!

None of this is to say that we fully understand what it means to be born again when it happens. Salvation is a work of God that is both immediate, progressive, and has a future result. The Greek word for salvation is soterios, and it is broken down in three tenses. There is the past tense, which is “I have been saved” and is described by two words: Justification (a forensic term meaning ‘being made right’) and redemption. These mean that at the moment of belief and repentance towards God, we have been saved, purchased from death, made right in the sight of God. This is in response to the hearing of the Gospel we repent of sin and turn towards God by faith, placing our trust for salvation in Christ alone. It is at this point that we are a new creature in Christ. Following that is the statement "I am being saved" a process called sanctification. In this, we are being made more like Christ as, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are becoming more and more holy, or set apart to God from the world. Lastly, we will be saved. The word there is glorified, and, if we are truly born again, we will be kept by the power of Christ through the Holy Spirit until that day.

Salvation comes by a move of God on a person through hearing the Gospel and the person responding by obeying the Gospel through faith. It is not of ourselves. It is a gift of God.
Ephesians 2:8-9 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
We are not saved by praying a prayer, though prayer is involved. We are not saved by accepting Jesus, we are saved by grace through faith which is not of ourselves. We cannot produce salvation, it is given us by God. It is a work of God through the preaching of the Gospel after being drawn by God. It is nothing that we want, or even desire, for it involves a mortification of the flesh, that is, dying to the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. 

This is not the Gospel preached by the modern church. The modern church goes for the lust of the flesh and the pride of life by seeking to please men and help men and women improve their lives by giving them moral platitudes and by addressing felt needs. The fruit of this belief is a church that comes from a culturally compromised position rather than standing firm in the scripture, allowing the scripture and the application of it to change culture. The fruit is also of a generation of believers that follow a false gospel that negates the importance of scripture and orthodoxy as well as a  relationship with Christ that comes on His terms rather than ours.