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Thursday, 25 June 2015

21 centuries later, do we pass the test?

As the gospel has been preached for 21 centuries, it is clear that a lot of deception has overtaken many people in the world. You don’t need a divine revelation to know this; you just need to read your Bible. Paul the Apostle saw this coming; he said in 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.” Below are a few summarized messages from the gospel and the stark difference between the professing Christian in the 1st Century and the professing Christian in the 21st century. Twenty-one centuries later, do we pass the test? Or do we fail the test?

THE GOSPEL: Jesus died for you and forgives you of EVERYTHING you have done.
1st CENTURY RESPONSE: That life is behind me; I am a new creation in Christ Jesus.
21st CENTURY RESPONSE: I know it’s wrong, but it is okay, God will forgive me.

The early church understood well that forgiveness is not a license to sin. To sin intentionally with the mindset that “Jesus will forgive me” is proof that we have not grasped his forgiveness and sacrifice at all. Such a person believes their sin to be a small and inconsequential thing. Yet, the scriptures teach us clearly in Isaiah 59:2 that sin is so odious that it breaks communion with God. In 1 Peter 3:7, we see sin preventing a husband’s prayers from being answered because he treats his wife unjustly. Beyond the horrible repercussions of sin such as death, disease and hatred, the gospel tells us that sin has jarring spiritual effects.  The gospel begins to work in our hearts when we realize that the cross is not only something done FOR us; it is also something done BY us. YOUR sins alone, Beloved, are enough to cause the death of God. When you get born again, the inward change in your life will be reflected by an outward change in your life. Do we sin because we will be forgiven? That is deception, Beloved, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you--unless, of course, you fail the test?” 2 Corinthians 13:5


THE GOSPEL: Jesus requires a life of obedience and purity from you.
1st CENTURY RESPONSE: Lord help me walk with you day by day.
21st CENTURY RESPONSE: Don’t judge me; I’m a human!

Imagine two points in a field at night. One side of the field with a bright lamp. The other with utter darkness. The Christian walk is like walking across that field- away from the darkness and toward the light. Jesus said in John 8:12 “...I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” The true follower of Jesus throughout the scriptures is defined as one who moves away from darkness and goes towards the light. Of course the scriptures teach that the believer will sin and make errors but that is simply because he/she hasn’t reached the light yet. When you give your life to Christ, you are JUSTIFIED (accepted by God into his family). When you die, you are GLORIFIED (literally accepted into God’s kingdom, made pure and given a new sinless body). But between justification and glorification is SANCTIFICATION (walking towards the light). A professing believer who wants to justify a carnal act should query themselves if they are walking towards the light or towards the darkness in that field of life. Jesus said in John 3:19-20 that light has come into the world but men have loved darkness and rejected the light because their deeds were evil. One of the biggest hindrances to repentance and holy living in our generation of professing Christians is a love for wickedness sugar-coated in these two phrases: "I'm a work in progress" and "I'm human." It sounds poetic, but, Beloved, the love-language of God is obedience. And his commands are not burdensome (1John 5:3). "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." James 1:22 says. Unfortunately, many 21st Century professing Christians love quoting Jesus in Matthew 7:1. I wish they would keep reading his words and quote him at Matthew 7:21 too. To say that it is okay to live in sin because after all you’re human is deception, Beloved.“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you--unless, of course, you fail the test?” 2 Corinthians 13:5


THE GOSPEL: Do not conform to the world’s pattern.
1st CENTURY RESPONSE: Lord forgive me for I have sinned.
21st CENTURY RESPONSE: You’ve not walked in my shoes, so don’t tell me what to do!

"In my personal walk with Christ, I find that the closer you get to God, the more sinful you realize you are and thus the more forgiven you realize you are. And the more forgiven you realize you are, the more moved you become by the sacrifice on the cross. If a message on repentance and sin makes you feel worse, there’s something amiss. Getting closer to God is like a black spot approaching the filament of a bright white bulb. The closer it gets to the white light of the filament, the darker it seems. Even semi-white looks like yellow in contrast to pure white. The closer you get to God, the more you realize how dark your heart really is and how badly you need his grace. No good works, giving to charity or praying can wash away that darkness and make you white before the filament. Getting close to God cannot make you feel better about yourself; if anything, it makes you humble in the light of His Holiness and Majesty. If I feel morally superior, spiritually greater, theologically sounder than those around me, I only reveal that my dark heart has moved away from the white filament; I have become proud and I need to go back to the light to be humbled. If I point out a pharisee, then I just may be a bigger pharisee- for I consider my "whiteness" better. However, that doesn't mean I will conform to the blackness of sin. Not conforming to the world means drawing closer to the light- that way everyone will see your blackness and have the courage to approach that same bright filament called Christ Jesus. In this lifetime, if we confess our need for the Saviour Christ Jesus and the need to be saved from the blackness of our sinful hearts, He gives us a white coat of righteousness to cover our black hearts. And on that day when we shall see Him return, our black hearts shall be thoroughly sanctified to match the white filament, not by our efforts, not by our morals, not by our good deeds but by his Grace and Mercy alone. The more you move away from God, the less stained you think you are and the more averse you are to the message of sin and repentance. Beloved, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you--unless, of course, you fail the test?” 2 Corinthians 13:5


THE GOSPEL: Jesus is the greatest thing you could ever have!
1st CENTURY RESPONSE: Thank you for that sacrifice!
21st CENTURY RESPONSE: I will accept Jesus if he gets me a boyfriend/girlfriend.

If we say to Christ, “I want to give my life to you IF...you help me go through law school and be a lawyer/ IF you help me find a husband/ IF you help me become rich and successful/IF IF IF IF...then we haven’t really come to Christ in need of what he offers. Christ the carpenter, Christ the son of poverty, Christ the sibling and the dusty prophet, Christ the murdered “law-breaker” is also Christ the Cosmic King, Christ the Son of Majesty, Christ the Creator, Christ the Lord of Heaven and Christ the One True God. To come to him with conditional IFS to his offer of eternal life is to fail to understand the gravity of his sacrifice on that cross and the importance of the state of your soul. Not that our requests for jobs, houses and spouses are trivial. Nay! But they reflect the absence of more wonderful news that we should all pay attention to. This is the Good News; this is the Gospel: The Cosmic king became a carpenter for you. The Son of Majesty became a son of poverty for you. The Creator and Lord of heaven became the sibling and dusty prophet just for you. Christ the One True God became the murdered Law-breaker to set you free from the punishment of your sins. He has no advantage in your acceptance yet he pursues at his own cost- even his life. If you grasp that and are moved by it, you will discover that asking him into your life is not asking for an assistant to pass your exams or asking for a moral example to follow. Nay! Asking the carpenter to come into your life is asking the Cosmic King to become your saviour because none of us in all our moral rectitude can save ourselves. His salvation is offensive and violent to our selfishness because it demands that we place our lives down and take up his- yet his salvation is gentle and will never be forced on anyone who does not take it up. Beloved, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you--unless, of course, you fail the test?” 2 Corinthians 13:5


THE GOSPEL: Do not be drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit.
1st CENTURY RESPONSE: Amen, please tell me more of what pleases the Lord.
21st CENTURY RESPONSE: I don’t think it is sin; as long as I'm not hurting anybody

The gospel is both loving and offensive. The common man in the 21st century confuses love for sentimentalism. As a result, if a message does not appeal to his/her "feel good" emotions, they will unlikely accept it unless it is watered down for palpability. Truth, no matter how patient and gracious, will always offend deception. Jesus said in Matthew 11:6 "And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” Jesus knew that no matter how loving he was, people somewhere would still be offended by the truth. If we get a right grip of love and lose the Hollywood sensation of mushy feelings, we will understand that the Surgeon needs to "hurt" us in order to treat us. We will understand that the cross is our anaesthesia and we will realize that the sharp object in the surgery is not a dagger to kill us but a scalpel to save us. What pleases the Lord matters more than what pleases us. Beloved,“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you--unless, of course, you fail the test?” 2 Corinthians 13:5


THE GOSPEL: The love of money is a root to all kinds of evils.
1st CENTURY RESPONSE: I brought nothing into this world. I will leave with nothing.
21st CENTURY RESPONSE: But what about my blessing?

Be wary of "spiritual" messages that get you excited about good tidings without requiring your obedience to the scriptures. So many people are drawn in by thrill messages of "God will make your bank account richer," "Your blessing is coming today". Many of these messages are being generalized to desperate masses that may not be following God in the very first place. Beloved, you may like an update, type amen or declare blessings but nothing will happen. Walk with God and experience true refreshing and blessings. Live out your life as God decrees and you shan't be pulled in the deception of thrill messages.  The power of the Holy Spirit is not power to “claim” a Mercedes Benz. The power of the Holy Spirit is not power to extort money out of people who have refused to carefully study the scriptures and thus taken advantage because of their desperation. The power of the Holy Spirit does not exalt any pastor, human or spiritual leader above the person of Jesus. The power of the Holy Spirit is power to turn a man like Peter Bar-Jonas to Peter the Rock- coward to courage. The power of the Holy Spirit is power to speak boldly about the truth of Jesus with gentleness and respect without watering down the message for human approval. The power of the Holy Spirit is power to do great signs that mankind may not fathom only for God’s glory and never for the glory of self. The power of the Holy Spirit is power to exalt the sonship of Jesus and not the denomination of a church. The power of the Holy Spirit is ultimately not to make your bank account rich (as some wrongly teach) but it is power to make humanity spiritually rich (as Jesus taught) through witnessing the saving power of a crucified God for our sins that men and women who receive this gift of Grace and Mercy may secure their life when they die. Beloved,“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you--unless, of course, you fail the test?” 2 Corinthians 13:5

THE GOSPEL: Jesus requires you to surrender your life fully to God.
1st CENTURY RESPONSE: Search my life, Lord. Is there anything that does not honour you?
21st CENTURY RESPONSE: My entertainment is my choice. Don’t bring church onto my DVD player.
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If all you want to hear is God’s forgiveness and grace but not his holiness and light, then you will fail to know who God your creator really is. If all you want to hear is your need for God’s unfailing compassion but not your need for His lordship over you, then you will not experience the full measure of his love for you. If all you want to hear is what God can give you but not how much you owe him, then you will fail to see the cancerous power of pride and self-absorption in the human heart. If all you want to hear is God’s gift of free will for you but not his Sovereign will over what happens in your life, then you will miss out on lasting true peace in times of the storms of life. If all you want to hear is the pardon of your mistakes but not the need for the repentance of your sins, then you will miss out on healing out of the addictions that weigh you down. If all you want is Jesus as an example to follow but not Jesus as a Saviour for your sins, then you will miss out on the eternal life He offers. If all you want to hear is how hurt you have been in this life but not how hurt he was on that cross, then you will fail to find the healing for your life that he offered when he died. If all you want to hear is your best life now on earth but not your best life after death, then you will miss out on why he came just for you! Accept Him as he is, not as you would like, and your soul will lack nothing. The true test of the faith is an acute awareness of grace and an equally if not greater acute awareness of the need for his lordship over ALL of your life. Beloved,“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you--unless, of course, you fail the test?” 2 Corinthians 13:5

I pray you pass the test, Beloved!