Sunday, February 27, 2011

Singapore churches are preaching the half gospel

Originally posted by Blogpastor

I find Michael Horton’s books invigorating. I have read his “Putting the Amazing Back into Grace” and “Power Religion” of which I would warmly commend the former. But I have not read his more recent books titled Christless Christianity and the Gospel-Driven Life but they should be thought provoking stuff.Michael is currently the professor of systematic theology and apologetics at Westminster Seminary in Escondido, California, and the author of many books. Recently he was interviewed by Mark Galli from Christianity Today.

I am posting excerpts from this interview on some issues raised in these recent books to strengthen my claims that preaching in Singapore is too man-centered and imperative-driven and needs to return to being God-centered and indicative-driven or gospel-driven. What people have been receiving is a half gospel. The interview will clarify what I mean.

Here are some excerpts from there:

ARE OUR SERMONS IN CHURCHES TODAY CHRISTLESS:

What is at the core of the temptation to practice a Christless Christianity?

When the emphasis becomes human-centered rather than God-centered. In more conservative contexts, you hear it as exhortation: “These are God’s commandments. The culture is slipping away from us. We have to recover it, and you play a role. Is your life matching up to what God calls us to?” Of course there is a place for that, but it seems to be the dominant emphasis.

Then there is the therapeutic approach: “You can be happier if you follow God’s principles.” All of this is said with a smile, but it’s still imperative. It’s still about techniques and principles for you to follow in order to have your best life now.

In both cases, it’s law rather than gospel. I don’t even know when I walk into a church that says it’s Bible-believing that I’m actually going to hear an exposition of Scripture with Christ at the center, or whether I’m going to hear about how I should “dare to be a Daniel.” The question is not whether we have imperatives in Scripture. The question is whether the imperatives are all we are getting, because people assume we already know the gospel—and we don’t.

But aren’t many churches doing good preaching about how to improve your marriage, transform your life, and serve the poor?

The question is whether this is the Good News. There is nothing wrong with law, but law isn’t gospel. The gospel isn’t “Follow Jesus’ example” or “Transform your life” or “How to raise good children.” The gospel is: Jesus Christ came to save sinners—even bad parents, even lousy followers of Jesus, which we all are on our best days. All of the emphasis falls on “What would Jesus do?” rather than “What has Jesus done?”

It’s our default setting. No one has to be taught to trust in themselves. No one has to be taught that what you experience inside yourself is more authoritative than what comes to you externally, even if it comes from God. Since the Fall, it has been part of our character to look within ourselves. And it is part of our inherent Pelagianism to think we can save ourselves by following the right instructions.

In such a therapeutic, pragmatic, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps society as ours, the message of God having to do all the work in saving us comes as an offensive shot at our egos. In this culture, religion is all about being good, about the horizontal, about loving God and neighbor. All of that is the fruit of the gospel. The gospel has nothing to do with what I do. The gospel is entirely a message about what someone else has done not only for me but also for the renewal of the whole creation.

ON WHATS A GOSPEL-DRIVEN LIFE (IS HE TAKING A DIG AT THE PURPOSE-DRIVEN LIFE?):

What specifically do you mean by “a gospel-driven life”?

Because I live in San Diego, I think of a sailboat decked out with all of the latest equipment that tells you where you are and where you need to be. It plots your course, but it’s a sailboat, so you need wind in your sails. You start out, and it’s a beautiful day with wind in your sails. You’re out in the middle of the ocean when the wind dies down. You’re just sitting there dead calm. And your radio tells you that a hurricane is approaching. But all of your sophisticated equipment will not be able to get you to safety. What you need is wind in your sails.

A lot of Christians, especially people who have had dramatic conversion experiences, go sailing out of the harbor with wind in their sails. They are so confident in Christ and what he has done for their salvation, and that gospel wind is in their sails. Yet after two years, they have heard just one imperative after another. They have lots of course plotting, lots of books on how to do this and that. They’ve read every manual on spiritual disciplines. They have heard their pastor tell them they need to pray more, to read the Bible more, to evangelize more. Now they are dead in the water. There’s no wind in the sails.

Paul calls the gospel “the power of God unto salvation,” and I don’t think he meant the power of God just unto conversion. The gospel remains the power of God unto salvation until we are glorified. Calvin once said we need the gospel preached to us every week, and the Lord’s Supper to ratify that promise, because we are partly unbelievers until we die.

‘Paul calls the gospel “the power of God unto salvation,” and I don’t think he meant the power of God just unto conversion.

In The Gospel-Driven Life you use news as a metaphor. Why?

I stole it from the apostles! Their dominant metaphor for the gospel message is “good news.” The content is that God has done all the saving, no thanks to us. Someone asked Martin Luther what we contribute to salvation, and he said, “Sin and resistance!”

The gospel is not even my conversion experience. If somebody asks me what the gospel is, I’m not going to talk about me; I’m going to talk about Christ. All of the testimonies we find from the apostles’ lips are not testimonies about what happened in their hearts. They are testimonies about what happened in history when God saved his people from their sins. That’s the gospel. Although the gospel makes all sorts of things happen inside of me and gives me the fruit of the Spirit, the gospel itself is always an external word that comes to me announcing that someone else in history has accomplished my salvation for me.

Someone comes with instructions and says, “Here’s what your life could be like if you do x, y, or z.” Good news is, “Let me tell you what has happened!” The gospel is not good instructions, not a good idea, and not good advice. The gospel is an announcement of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.

So what is the first step in living a gospel-driven life?

Become a recipient again. Mary and Martha, the two sisters and disciples of Jesus, had different relationships with Jesus. Martha busied herself with many tasks, and she was getting mad at Mary for making her do all the work. Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet, learning from him. Jesus rebuked Martha for criticizing her sister and said Mary had chosen the better part.

First and foremost, disciples are recipients of Jesus Christ’s teaching. His teachings are really teachings concerning his person and his work. He has accomplished our salvation. He has accomplished our redemption. So first, allow the gospel to soak in again.

Then allow the imperatives that arise out of that to be our reasonable service. Instead of trying to live the victorious Christian life, instead of trying to get into God’s favor by following tips and formulas, let’s receive the gospel and then follow the commands of God’s law when it comes to directives. Then our sailboat is perfectly equipped. Now we have the wind in our sails—the gospel—and we also have God’s own wisdom to guide us in that gospel-driven life.

If we understand what Michael Horton is saying in this interview, we will understand why our churches are full of tired Marthas running around on an empty tank in the kitchen, and who will end up in churches that cater for Marys.

For the full interview go to Christ At The Center article in online Christianity Today.com.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

THE OLD CROSS & the NEW

-A.W. Tozer.

ALL UNANNOUNCED AND MOSTLY UNDETECTED there has come in modern times a new cross into popular evangelical circles. It is like the old cross, but different: the likenesses are superficial; the differences, fundamental. From this new cross has sprung a new philosophy of the Christian life, and from that new philosophy has come a new evangelical technique-a new type of meeting and a new kind of preaching. This new evangelism employs the same language as the old, but its content is not the same and its emphasis not as before.

The old cross would have no truck with the world. For Adam's proud flesh it meant the end of the journey. It carried into effect the sentence imposed by the law of Sinai. The new cross is not opposed to the human race; rather, it is a friendly pal and, if understood aright, it is the source of oceans of good clean fun and innocent enjoyment. It lets Adam live without interference. His life motivation is unchanged; he still lives for his own pleasure, only now he takes delight in singing choruses and watching religious movies instead of singing bawdy songs and drinking hard liquor. The accent is still on enjoyment, though the fun is now on a higher plane morally if not intellectually.

The new cross encourages a new and entirely different evangelistic approach. The evangelist does not demand abnegation of the old life before a new life can be received. He preaches not contrasts but similarities. He seeks to key into public interest by showing that Christianity makes no unpleasant demands; rather, it offers the same thing the world does, only on a higher level. Whatever the sin-mad world happens to be clamoring after at the moment is cleverly shown to be the very thing the gospel offers, only the religious product is better.

The new cross does not slay the sinner, it redirects him. It gears him into a cleaner and a jollier way of living and saves his self- respect. To the self-assertive it says, "Come and assert yourself for Christ." To the egotist it says, "Come and do your boasting in the Lord." To the thrill-seeker it says, "Come and enjoy the thrill of Christian fellowship."

The Christian message is slanted in the direction of the current vogue in order to make it acceptable to the public. The philosophy back of this kind of thing may be sincere but its sincerity does not save it from being false. It is false because it is blind. It misses completely the whole meaning of the cross. The old cross is a symbol of death. It stands for the abrupt, violent end of a human being. The man in Roman times who took up his cross and started down the road had already said good-by to his friends. He was not coming back. He was going out to have it ended.

The cross made no compromise, modified nothing, spared nothing; it slew all of the man, completely and for good. It did not try to keep on good terms with its victim. It struck cruel and hard, and when it had finished its work, the man was no more. The race of Adam is under death sentence. There is no commutation and no escape.

God cannot approve any of the fruits of sin, however innocent they may appear or beautiful to the eyes of men. God salvages the individual by liquidating him and then raising him again to newness of life. That evangelism which draws friendly parallels between the ways of God and the ways of men is false to the Bible and cruel to the souls of its hearers.

The faith of Christ does not parallel the world, it intersects it. In coming to Christ we do not bring our old life up onto a higher plane; we leave it at the cross. The corn of wheat must fall into the ground and die. We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum.

God offers life, but not an improved old life. The life He offers is life out of death. It stands always on the far side of the cross. Whoever would possess it must pass under the rod. He must repudiate himself and concur in God's just sentence against him. What does this mean to the individual, the condemned man who would find life in Christ Jesus? How can this theology be translated into life? Simply, he must repent and believe. He must forsake his sins and then go on to forsake himself. Let him cover nothing, defend nothing, excuse nothing. Let him not seek to make terms with God, but let him bow his head before the stroke of God's stern displeasure and acknowledge himself worthy to die. Having done this let him gaze with simple trust upon the risen Saviour, and from Him will come life and rebirth and cleansing and power.

The cross that ended the earthly life of Jesus now puts an end to the sinner; and the power that raised Christ from the dead now raises him to a new life along with Christ. To any who may object to this or count it merely a narrow and private view of truth, let me say God has set His hallmark of approval upon this message from Paul's day to the present. Whether stated in these exact words or not, this has been the content of all preaching that has brought life and power to the world through the centuries. The mystics, the reformers, the revivalists have put their emphasis here, and signs and wonders and mighty operations of the Holy Ghost gave witness to God's approval. Dare we, the heirs of such a legacy of power, tamper with the truth? Dare we with our stubby pencils erase the lines of the blueprint or alter the pattern shown us in the Mount? May God forbid. Let us preach the old cross and we will know the old power. (-A. W. Tozer, Man, the Dwelling Place of God, 1966).

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"Noise to Signal" - Jaeson Ma





AWFUL SHAKING in CHRISTCHURCH

by Andrew Strom.

It was with terrible sadness that I learned yesterday of another huge earthquake hitting the New Zealand city of Christchurch. It has only been 2 months since we left that city and we have many dear friends there. The first earthquake last year had no fatalities but this one looks to have many dead and injured.

I want to share a few things about our time in Christchurch that left me quite disturbed and concerned when we left. But I want to be sensitive because of the terrible sadness associated with this new quake.

As some of you know, one of the main things that I hoped to do in Christchurch after the first quake was to organize a large open worship event in the city - to praise and glorify God that nobody had been killed even in a huge 7.1 earthquake. I found that no such event was being planned, but there were thousands of evangelical Christians in Christchurch, and I felt very strongly that it was important for us to publicly glorify God for the miracle of surviving such a disaster with no-one killed. The place was traumatized and it was obvious that a sensitive Worship event would do much good - and even many non-Christians would likely attend. But sadly it was not to be. And this is the disturbing part.

I have organized large events before, so the Christian Radio network knows me - and quickly agreed to promote the event for free. The PA sound people also agreed to supply excellent sound for a very low cost. And the Christchurch City Council couldn't have been more helpful. Everything was looking good. But then we ran up against the Christian leaders.

One of the main networking Pentecostal leaders in the city told me that we could count him OUT of any support for the event. Then I spoke personally with the Dean of Christchurch Cathedral who told me that we could NOT use the main Square in Christchurch for a worship event for the whole Body. (Today this man's Cathedral lies in ruins. It had survived the first quake, but it did not survive this new one).

I called a number of prominent pastors and worship bands around Christchurch. I said we had the support of Radio, the Council, the sound and everything. No response. Worship bands not interested. Pastors not returning calls. (You might think they were busy after the quake - but remember no-one died and Christchurch was up and running pretty fully after only a couple of weeks). I simply couldn't understand it. The evangelicals of Christchurch had made no public acknowledgement of God at all - no public worship for this miraculous escape - no public glorifying of Jesus. Even the secular News and the politicians were calling it a "miracle". People were traumatized everywhere. Wasn't it a "no-brainer" that we should be doing such a thing? Doesn't God deserve public praise after protecting so many people from harm?

In fact, it was such a no-brainer that the secular people themselves decided to do something. A number of the top bands and musicians from New Zealand came down and gave a free concert in the park for the traumatized city. It was heavily advertised on Radio - and 20,000 people showed up. Of course it was a secular event - not Christian. The Pentecostals, Charismatics and Evangelicals of Christchurch had made virtually no public sound at all.

I felt strongly that I could not push things any further without some basic support from the church. We managed to hold a couple of outdoor concerts for the homeless, and got involved with distributing care packages and things, but I was so disappointed. In fact I was more than disappointed - I was alarmed and deeply disturbed. I even told some friends that it was "dangerous" to offer no public praise after God has just so obviously saved your city. I felt so strongly about it - and deeply saddened for the state of the Body of Christ. But I could do nothing more.

On December 17, 2010, my family departed from Christchurch. On December 28th we boarded a plane for Australia. I believe it may be some time before we ever return.

My heart truly goes out to the people of Christchurch - and to all the world so poorly served by the church of our day. This was truly one of the worst "lost opportunities" that I have ever witnessed in all my years with the church. And Christchurch was truly one of the most beautiful cites I have ever seen. The people are so dear to us. Our thoughts and prayers are with you, my friends. May God bless and protect you all in these dark times.

Yours with great sadness,
Andrew Strom.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Use of Religious Titles

by Don Martin (Bible Truths)

Introduction: The use of titles in religion is a common occurrence. In fact, religious titles are so common that they are expected and questioned when not present. There are many such titles or appellatives in use. Such terms as "Your Eminence," "Reverend," "Your Holiness," "Your Grace," "Reverend Father," "Father," "Your Piety," and "The Venerable." Perhaps the apex of religious titles would be, "Lord, God, the Pope." Over time, certain behavior is expected toward what people call the clergy. In preparing this article, I came across one Web site that provides "clergy etiquette." Consider the suggested "clergy etiquette."

"The following is a guide for properly addressing Orthodox clergy. Most of the titles do not exactly correspond to the terms used in Greek, Russian, or the other native languages of the national Orthodox Churches, but they have been widely accepted as Standard English usage.

"Greeting Clergy in Person. When we address Deacons or Priests, we should use the title 'Father.' Bishops we should address as 'Your Grace.' Though all Bishops (including Patriarchs) are equal in the Orthodox Church, they do have different administrative duties and honors that accrue to their rank in this sense. Thus, "Your Eminence' is the proper title for Bishops with suffragans or assistant Bishops, Metropolitans, and most Archbishops (among the exceptions to this rule is the Archbishop of Athens, who is addressed as 'Your Beatitude'). 'Your Beatitude' is the proper title for Patriarchs (except for the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople, who is addressed as 'Your All–Holiness'). When we approach an Orthodox Presbyter or Bishop (but not a Deacon), we make a bow by reaching down and touching the floor with our right hand, place our right hand over the left (palms upward), and say: 'Bless, Father' (or 'Bless, Your Grace,' or 'Bless, Your Eminence,' etc.). The Priest or Bishop then answers, 'May the Lord bless you,' blesses us with the Sign of the Cross, and places his right hand in our hands. We kiss then his hand."

I. In many circles, it is considered not only rude not to use, acknowledge, and engage in the use of religious titles and etiquette, but also irreligious.

A. The question is, how do the scriptures relate to such and what relevant biblical principles are found?

B. Jesus taught against the spirit of self-elevation. Jesus often addressed the attitude of humility. It seems that his disciples were continually competitive and carnally ambitious, seeking the glory and recognition of men. They asked the Lord, "Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" (Matt. 18: 1). Jesus' reply was not expected. Jesus said, "Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven" (vs. 4, see vs. two and three). James and John besought the Lord to grant them special places of esteem and recognition in the kingdom (Matt. 20: 20). Even their mother made a similar request regarding her sons (Mk. 10: 35).

C. Jesus said, "For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted" (Lk. 14: 11).

II. Jesus unmistakably condemned the use of religious titles of ascendancy.

A. Some of the Jews and Pharisees of Jesus' day were given to praise and titles of recognition. Hear Jesus as he plainly teaches about the use of religious titles: (read Matthew 23: 5-12).

B. Jesus is not addressing the use of such terms as rabbi, master, and father as terms of simple designation (cp. Jn. 1: 38; Matt. 22: 23; 23: 32). These were terms being used by these Jews as religious titles of distinction.

C. Notice also Jesus' reference to "special clothing" of separation (Matt. 23: 5). Commentator Matthew Henry makes the following observations regarding Matthew 23: 5-12:

"They loved greetings in the markets, loved to have people put off their hats to them, and show them respect when they met them in the streets. O how it pleased them, and fed their vain humour, digito monstrari et dicier, Hic est—'to be pointed out, and to have it said, This be he,' to have way made for them in the crowd of market people; 'Stand off, here is a Pharisee coming!' and to be complimented with the high and pompous title of 'Rabbi, Rabbi!' This was meat and drink and dainties to them; and they took as great a satisfaction in it as Nebuchadnezzar did in his palace, when he said, 'Is not this great Babylon that I have built?' …that the Jewish teachers, the masters of Israel, had assumed the title of 'Rabbi', 'Rab', or 'Rabban', which signifies 'great' or 'much'; and was construed as 'Doctor', or 'My lord'. And they laid such a stress upon it, that they gave it for a maxim that 'he who salutes his teacher, and does not call him Rabbi, provokes the divine Majesty to depart from Israel;' so much religion did they place in that which was but a piece of good manners! …(2.) He cautions his disciples against being herein like them; herein they must not do after their works; 'But be not ye called so, for ye shall not be of such a spirit,' v. 8, etc." (Complete Commentary on the Bible).

III. The origin of the use of religious titles.

A. Such titles as "Reverend" have not gone without question and challenge, even among denominational people. Consider the meaning of "Reverend," "Worthy to be revered; entitled to reverence. Pertaining to or characteristic of the clergy" (The Random House College Dictionary, pg. 1130). Of course, "reverend" is a biblical word. Notice the only occurrence of "reverend" and how it is used: "He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverent is his name" (Ps. 111: 9). God deserves to be called reverend because of his essential nature and deeds. However, it is audacity in the extreme for man to arrogate to himself such a term as reverend (the milder of many of the religious titles used today).

B. Consider the warning issued by the Baptist Standard regarding such titles.

"Some of the words used by the Baptists of today in their preaching, writing, and conversation are altogether alien to the verbiage of the early Christians. Who could imagine Onesimus going to Philemon and talking to him about 'The Reverend Paul?' Who could imagine Gaius writing to the 'Reverend John' to give him a good report about the 'Reverend Demetrius?' Yet modern Baptists use the term 'Reverend' every day in speaking of preachers or writing of them….If the Baptists of the medieval age could hear it today they would cry against the use of this title which has been borrowed from an ecclesiastical hierarchy that would draw a line between the laity and the ministry. When the word 'Reverend' is used in the Bible, it refers to God, for He alone is to be revered." (Baptist Standard, April 9, 1955, Editorial Section, pg. 2.)

a. Hence, such titles of self-praise had their origin in the vanity and carnal ambition of men.

IV. The use of "Reverend" among churches of Christ.


A. Shortly following the Civil War, the term Reverend began to be used by some in churches of Christ. Isaac Errett was the first preacher of popularity to use Reverend. History tells us that when Errett began preaching for the church in Detroit, he had a silver doorplate inscribed with "Rev. I. Errett" on it.

B. In defense of the use of Reverend, J. S. Lamar reasoned:

"…It is (the word Reverend, dm) coming to be more and more widely understood that the Saviour's words (referring to Matthew 23, dm) do not prohibit the use of any designation which simply makes known the fact that the man to whom it is applied is a preacher….The word Reverend before a man's name is universally understood to indicate simply that he is a minister of the gospel. It bears no significance to personal superiority or official eminence" (Memoirs of Isaac Errett, by J. S. Lamar, Vol. 2, pg. 278).

C. It was fortunate that while a number of preachers in the church of Christ followed the example of the influential Esaac Errett, there were those who did challenge and refused the use of the religious title Reverend.

D. In all honesty, there are terms that are not normally religious apellatives that can be used as religious titles. Brother, Pastor, Elder, Preacher, and Evangelist are sometimes used as distinguishing and elevating modifiers. "May I introduce to you Pastor Smith," is such an example. Such a use of "Pastor" also often intimates the "pastoral system" of church government (the preacher in charge of the local church). I must again stress, though, that some terms are by their very nature religious titles, while other terms become titles by use. For instance, John refers to himself simply as "The elder" (2 Jn. 1). "Elder," in this case, just means John the aged.

V. Religious titles and the clergy concept.

A. Religious distinctions of ascendancy reflect the clergy/laity concept that is so common. As a matter of fact, "clergy" in the sense of a group of ordained persons (preachers) enjoying a lofty position over the "laity" is not in the vocabulary or concept of the scriptures. However, the Greek word kleron (plural of kleros) is found. Kleron is translated "God’s heritage" in I Peter 5: 3. Peter is instructing elders (not preachers, as such) not to be lord’s over God’s heritage, the church.

B. The interesting point is our English word clergy derives from kleros, the word the Spirit used to designate the people of God in general (what man calls "laity") and not a select, distinguished group.

VI. It is often the case that not only do some crave special recognition, but also they are not even content with their titles of prominence.

A. The title "Reverend" has been given degrees in an effort to develop gradation of distinction. There is "Reverend," "Very Reverend," "Right Reverend, and "Most Reverend." On still another occasion, the disciples were involved in strife as to who was the greatest among them (Lk. 22: 24 ff.). Jesus said, "…But he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve" (vs. 27).

B. The real rule of greatness is, "…for he that is least among you all, the same shall be great" (Lk. 9: 48).

Conclusion: The greatest man to have ever lived said of himself, "Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many" (Matt. 20: 28). The use of religious titles such as described and discussed in this material reflect a pride and haughty spirit and create sinful distinctions of elevation.

Related: Church Leaders & The Use of Honorific Titles

One of the Heart’s Most Potent Enemies -Tozer

The Christian who is seeking better things and who has to his consternation found himself in a state of complete self-despair need not be discouraged.
Despair with self, where it is accompanied by faith, is a good friend, for it destroys one of the heart’s most potent enemies and prepares the soul for the ministration of the Comforter.

A sense of utter emptiness, of disappointment and darkness can (if we are alert and wise to what is going on) be the shadow in the valley of shadows that leads on to those fruitful fields that lie further in.

If we misunderstand it and resist this visitation of God we may miss entirely every benefit a kind heavenly Father has in mind for us.

If we cooperate with God He will take away the natural comforts that have served us as mother and nurse for so long and put us where we can receive no help except from the Comforter Himself.

He will tear away that false thing the Chinese call “face” and show us how painfully small we really are. When He is finished with us we will know what our Lord meant when He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”

Prayer
Tear away every false thing in our lives, Holy Spirit, and show us how painfully small we really are!

Scripture
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, / I will fear no evil, / for you are with me.
—Psalm 23:4

Thousands imagine that they are humble

(J. C. Ryle, "The Gospel of Luke" 1858)

"A dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest." Luke 22:24

See how firmly pride and love of preeminence can stick to the hearts of Christian men.

The sin before us is a very old one . . .
ambition,
self esteem, and
self conceit

lie deep at the bottom of all men's hearts, and often in the hearts where they are least suspected.

Thousands imagine that they are humble, who cannot bear to see an equal more honored and favored than themselves!

The quantity of envy and jealousy in the world is a glaring proof of the prevalence of pride.

Let us live on our guard against this sore disease, if we make any profession of serving Christ. The harm that it has done to the Church of Christ is far beyond calculation.

Let us learn to take pleasure in the prosperity of others, and to be content with the lowest place for ourselves.

Pride, self-conceit, and self-exaltation

(J. C. Philpot, "New Years' Address, 1857")

Pride, self-conceit, and self-exaltation, are both the chief temptations, and the main besetting sins, of those who occupy any public position in the church.

Therefore, where these sins are not mortified by the Spirit, and subdued by His grace; instead of being, as they should be, the humblest of men; they are, with rare exceptions, the proudest.

Did we bear in constant remembrance our slips, falls, and grievous backslidings; and had we, with all this, a believing sight of the holiness and purity of God, of the sufferings and sorrows of His dear Son, and what it cost Him to redeem us from the lowest hell; we would be, we must be clothed with humility; and would, under feelings of the deepest self-abasement, take the lowest place among the family of God, as the chief of sinners, and less than the least of all the saints.

This should be the feeling of every child of God.

Until this pride is in some measure crucified, until we hate it, and hate ourselves for it, the glory of God will not be our main object.

The most lovely Christian!

(William Dyer, "Christ's Famous Titles")

"Learn from Me-for I am gentle and humble in heart." Matthew 11:29

Learn humility--from Christ's humility.

For lack of humility--some angels became devils! Proud sinners are fit companions, for none but proud devils!

When men glory in their pride--God stains the pride of their glory! "The Lord Almighty planned it--to stain the pride of all glory, and to humble all who are renowned on the earth." Isaiah 23:9

The most lowly Christian--is the most lovely Christian!

A believer is like a vessel in the sea: the more it fills--the more it sinks!

None live so humble on earth--as those who live highest in heaven. See how one of the best of saints looks upon himself--as one of the least of saints, "Unto me who am less than the least of all saints," said the great Paul in Ephesians 3:8.

The most holy men--are always the most lowly men. Where humility is the corner-stone, there piety is the top-stone. The coat of humility--should always be worn on the back of Christianity. "Clothe yourselves with humility." 1 Peter 5:5

God Almighty has two houses in which He dwells: His city-house, and His country-house. His city-house is the heaven of heavens; and His country-house is the humble and lowly heart! Isaiah 57:15, "I dwell in the high and holy place," that is, in heaven, God's city-house; "and also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit," that is God's country-house.

Humility is a 'Bethel' for God's dwelling-place!

Pride is a 'Babel' for the devil's residence!

If you do not keep pride out of your soul, and your soul out of pride--pride will keep your soul out of heaven!

I will not say, that a poor man is never proud--but I will say, that a proud man is never godly. James 4:16, "God resists the proud--but gives grace to the humble." The face of piety--shines brightest through the mask of humility.

"Clothe yourselves with humility." Of all garments, humility best fits Christians, and best adorns their profession. A Christian should look with one eye upon God's grace--to keep him thankful; and with the other eye upon himself--to keep him mournful. When you begin to grow proud of your glistening feathers--look down upon your black feet!

Revelation 4:10, "The twenty-four elders fall down before the throne, and cast down their crowns before Him who sits on the throne." The only way of keeping our crowns on our heads--is the casting them down at Christ's feet!

Alas! sirs--what are you proud of?

Are you proud . . .
of your riches,
of your honors,
of your relations,
of your beauty,
of your strength?

Alas! alas! these are poor base things to boast in!

Oh, go to the graves of those who have died before you. Are not their bones scattered, their eyes rotted, their flesh consumed, their mouth corrupted! Where now are their ruddy lips, their lovely cheeks, their fluent tongue, their sparkling eyes, their flowing hair? Are they not all gone, as a dream!

And where will you be before long?
And will you be proud of these things?
"I hate pride and arrogance!" Proverbs 8:13
"He is able to humble those who walk in pride!" Daniel 4:37

Link

Now I "Entered the Ministry"

WB - "Called Into Work - Grasping Vocation" Journal

Try this experiment. Type the words "entered the ministry" in the Google search box. How many hits will you get? I did that recently. Those words returned 30,600,000 results. Most referred to Christians starting to work as religious professionals.

I typed the same phrase into my Bible software concordance, checking a dozen translations. The response: "No matches found for 'entered the ministry.'" Hebrews 9:6 came closest, telling how the Old Covenant priests "entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry."

But their entering brought them into a room-not into the ministry. According to the Bible, the work of ministry or serving (Greek diakonia) belongs to the saints-to all of God's people (Eph. 4:12), Paul, writing to all the Christians in the Corinthian church, told them to give themselves fully to the work of the Lord (I Cor. 15:58). So the call of God to become a Christ-follower is a call to serve God and others-to minister. If you have entered the kingdom of God through Christ, the Door, you have been called into "the ministry." (How well or poorly you are doing that ministry is another question.) So by entering Christ, the Door, you become a minister (servant).

I recently led a seminar on serving Christ in the workplace. Afterward several participants came individually to say that they had finished seminary or Bible school and were now working in this or that non-religious job. One after another they told how they had struggled with feeling they had missed God's best for their lives. What I heard confirms this statement in a current web site: "Even late into their lives, [many Christians] wonder about leaving their businesses or careers to enter the ministry . . . ."

Christ calls every member of His body to serve-minister to-Him and to others. If our Christian jargon deceives many of those members into thinking they are still outside the ministry, we effectively strait-jacket the full effectiveness of the church. The way we use the words, "enter the ministry," comes not from Scripture but from our own religious traditions and institutional thinking. Let's abandon that phrase and learn to think and speak in ways that build the church.

Again, the call of God to become a Christ-follower is a call to serve God and others-to minister. If you have entered the kingdom of God through Christ, the Door, you have been called into "the ministry." (How well or poorly you are doing that ministry is another question.)

CAN GOD’S LOVE FADE - Part 1 by Jonah Lee

Most of us have this question in mind since God love us so much could His love fade away if we sin?

To answer this question more accurately we need to have a correct view about His love. We need to understand that the Scripture says God is love but never says love is God because love is of God and love itself is not God.

Love is only one of His many attributes even though it is greater than faith and hope as explained by apostle Paul in 1 Cor 13. It is the first fruit of the Holy Spirit and also the greatest commandment of Jesus Christ. I believe God’s love can never fade because it is in His nature, however, I believe it can be diminished by our consistent rebellion.

For example, if we willfully reject His Son and the work on the cross. Surely this will break the heart of God but it will also provoke Him to wrath and diminish His love. The Scripture tells us in Hebrews 6:4-6,

For it is impossible to keep on restoring to repentance time and again people who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have become sharers of the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of God's word and the powers of the coming age, and who have fallen away, as long as they continue to crucify to themselves the Son of God and to expose Him to public ridicule. And again in Hebrews 10:26-31, For if we sin willfully (voluntarily, willingly) after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He who despised Moses' Law died without mercy on the word of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy of punishment, the one who has trampled the Son of God, and who has counted the blood of the covenant with which he was sanctified an unholy thing, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who has said, "Vengeance belongs to Me, I will repay, says the Lord." And again, "The Lord shall judge His people." It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

This act is call apostasy. The word “apostasy” means: defection from truth (properly the state) - falling away, forsake, backsliding, turning away, draw back, an overturn, subverting, rebellion a person who would not hesitate to sin.

We can diminish God’s love by such behavior. These are God’s people who have tasted His love but have turned against Him because of their love for the world and sinful pleasure more than His love. 1John 2:14-16, I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the Word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him, because all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

These people their hearts are hardened towards the conviction of the Holy Spirit who is also the Spirit of Grace. The Scripture warned us that in the last days many Christians would fall away first, before the coming of the Anti-Christ. They are enticed by the love of themselves, the love of money and the love this world. (2 Tim: 3) Other examples are grieving and blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and lukewarmness towards Him. These are willful sins not out of human weakness but rather they are being deceived by the enemy. Mark 3:28-29, truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven to the sons of men, and blasphemies with which they shall blaspheme. But he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never shall have forgiveness, but is liable to eternal condemnation. Blasphemy means to vilify: belittle, speak ill of, run down, libel, defame, rail on, revile, speak evil and speak impiously (disrespectful) of his nature, attributes, and works. So we have to be careful of what we speak lest we sin in our own foolishness.

With regards to grieving the Holy Spirit, A W Tozer has this explanation to make: In his book The Counselor, 51-52 and this is what he says, And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption - Ephesians 4:30. Because He is loving and kind and friendly, the Holy Spirit may be grieved.... He can be grieved because He is loving, and there must be love present before there can be grief. Suppose you had a 17-year-old son who began to go bad. He rejected your counsel and wanted to take things into his own hands. Suppose that he joined up with a young stranger from another part of the city and they got into trouble. You were called down to the police station. Your boy and another boy who you had never seen sat there in handcuffs. You know how you would feel about it. You would be sorry for the other boy but you don't love him because you don't know him. With your own son, your grief would penetrate to your heart like a sword. Only love can grieve. If those two boys were sent off to prison, you might pity the boy you didn't know, but you would grieve over the boy you knew and loved. A mother can grieve because she loves. If you don't love, you can't grieve.

Another area that could diminish His love is in Revelation 3:15-19 the Spirit of the Lord tells us, I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I would that you were cold, or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, I am rich, and I am made rich, and I have need of nothing, and do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. I advise you to buy from Me gold having been fired by fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, and your shame and nakedness may not be revealed. And anoint your eyes with eye salve that you may see. I, as many "as I love, I rebuke and I chasten." Be zealous, then, and repent! The rebuke doesn't sound so loving, isn’t it? Nonetheless, isn't this is because He loves us that He chastises us? So, that we may repent?

We often hear GOD IS HOLY AND HOLY IS GOD. This could be described interchangeably. However, according to the Scripture we could call God a Holy God but NEVER A LOVE GOD. The reason is because holiness is the main characteristic of God so much so it has become known as His name. The entire heavenly hosts know this and worship Him by this attribute. Revelation 4:8, Isaiah. 6:3, and the four living creatures each one had six wings around, and within being full of eyes. And they had no rest day and night, saying, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty," the One who was, and is, and is coming! They didn't say, love, love, love, Lord God Almighty, the One who was, and is, and is to come. The last part of the sentence is extremely important because it tells us that He is the same yesterday, and today and forever. He never changes for He is a Holy God. This is the most distinctive character of our God. Thus, He posed this demand to His children, “Be ye holy for I’m holy”.

In addition, we are taught by Jesus when we pray, we must first address the Father by His holy attribute. We must know Him not only by His love but who He really is. Love is just what He gives to His children. We must accept Him just as He accepted us without any condition. In this way, it will help us to know Him more intimately.

To sum up, I would like to quote from Mike Taylor and A W Tozer:

“There’s a reason that the Wesley and Whitefield used to start by preaching God's holiness: it's an absolutely necessary foundation for understanding his grace and his love. God's holiness and our sinfulness is the backdrop against which God's love is seen. What would be so special about God forgiving our sin if he didn't care that much about it? Grace is so wonderful because it is God's response to something that he utterly, utterly detests, not something he is merely unenthusiastic about. If God were merely loving but not holy, then he would be soppy (overly sentimental or affectionate). But because God's holiness burns so hot, his love is shown in all its power.” – Mike Taylor

“Wrong ideas about God are not only the fountain from which the polluted waters of idolatry flow; they are themselves idolatrous. The idolater simply imagines things about God and acts as if they were true. Perverted notions about God soon rot the religion in which they appear. The long career of Israel demonstrates this clearly enough, and the history of the Church confirms it. So necessary to the Church is a lofty concept of God that when that concept in any measure declines, the Church with her worship and her moral standards decline along with it. The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high opinion of God.

Before the Church goes into eclipse anywhere there must first be a corrupting of her simple basic theology. She simply gets a wrong answer to the question, ‘What is God like?’ and goes on from there. Though she may continue to cling to a sound nominal creed, her practical working creed has become false. The masses of her adherents come to believe that God is different from what He actually is, and that is heresy of the most insidious and deadly kind.” - A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (Harper Collins: San Francisco), 1961, p. 4.

The only way to know God is through reading the Bible with a right attitude and accept what is written there without reservation or a preset idea. Don't try to explain away by reasoning but rather seek Him more thoroughly through the Scripture. Prayer is another key. If we don't understand certain portion of the scriptures we need to ask of Him. The Holy Spirit is our teacher and He is ready to lead and guide us if only we ask! Sometimes, He will answer almost immediately. Other times, He will show and reveal Himself to us through life experiences to confirm His word.

We must not let human imaginations, emotions, or even experiences to influence our thinking about Him. Otherwise, we may be easily ended up sweeping away by every winds and doctrines created by man to draw us to another gospel, and thus, another God.

Related: Chastening Love

Vision: The Lord’s Sheep Devoured by Dr. Owour

The May 14th, 2010 Vision of the Lord

The desire for an earnest reformation in the church, right now sits at the centre of the Lord’s Heart. The confession of sin appears to be distant, hence His appeal and repeated renunciation of the church’s apostate ways at this hour. There is no better place at which to perceive God’s yearning for the church to reform, than at this very stunning May 14th, 2010, night vision of the Lord. It was between 3-4am in the night, when the Lord God Almighty visited with me in a very very astonishing way, to talk to me about the state of the church today. In that vision, the Lord brought me to a place of worship and took me around in the Spirit, to show me the different aspects of His house that needed a thorough reformation. Within the house of the Lord were the sheep of Christ worshipping. However, Jehovah the God of Israel then showed me the shepherds in the house, in their most shameful form of complacency. The Lord in this vision, made me know that the shepherds were very much aware of the grim danger that lay outside the house of the Lord.

The Devour

Outside the house of the Lord, I was then able to see lots of wild beasts that looked like mean dogs with very long mouths that were beak-like. Those dogs were most aggressive and with very sharp teeth and were roaming outside the house of the Lord. The Lord made me appreciate the great danger that they posed onto the lives of the sheep that were inside the house of worship. Then, at that time, an immediate instruction was handed down from heaven to the shepherds, directing them to be extra cautious and vigilant with gate-keeping that the wild beasts may not make their way into the sanctuary. However, to my greatest shock and stun, I witnessed in this vision as the shepherds tried to shut the door to the sanctuary in vain. The door that the shepherds were trying to shut had been seriously compromised in its strength and ability to keep the beasts out of the house of the Lord. Though seriously compromised, that temple door that the Lord showed me, still maintained some significantly strong reinforcement of vertical iron bars that could practically keep the wild beasts out of the house of the Lord if well shut. Within this tremendous vision of the Lord, I was then very shocked to see that as the shepherds tried to close the door, the outside wild beasts aggressively advanced towards the very door, with the intent to attack the sheep that they could well see through the bars of the ravaged door. It was then that I saw the complacent pastors who had no vigilance, literally being overpowered by the beasts at the door. In a moment, the beasts overpowered the reluctant pastors and made their way into the sanctuary.

It was also most stunning to realize that the shepherds did not have even a stick in their hands, or a shepherd’s rod with which to ward off the attack that was now eminent in the house of the Lord. Then, at that moment came forth the horrendous yelling, wailing and mourning of the sheep as the beasts began to recklessly devour them. When this was bad enough a situation to handle, then came the most horrific episode within this attack. In a split-second, when I looked towards my right-hand side, then I saw that the sanctuary wall on that right-hand side had a collapsed portion that made it porous. I was then able to see a group of more grievous wild beasts outside the sanctuary of the Lord. The wild beasts I saw had some longer tails and sharper teeth contained in their long beak-like mouths. Those beasts that I saw marauding outside on the right-hand side of the Temple, appeared to be more dangerous and were in a large group. It was then that it took a very short time and I was so stunned and shocked to witness how those beasts made their way into the sanctuary of the Lord. Then, from that point on, nothing else mattered except a massive commotion of tempest that ensued in the house of the Lord.

The Lord then took me around the house after the beasts had destroyed the sheep and what I saw was absolutely unsightly. There was a terrible scatter as many sheep had been heavily beaten and devoured to the point that they lay all over the grass in the house. The grass in the vicinity was totally trampled upon and blood-stained in the struggle that ensued when the sheep were being bitterly and terribly devoured and mauled.. While some of them had been severely maimed, with some limb totally plucked off at the sharpness of the teeth of the wild beasts, others on the other hand, had their stomachs plucked off and eaten. The amount of blood that was smeared at the place as the struggle went on, was totally abhorrable and an unsightly scene to behold. The horrific destruction trail that the wild beasts left behind is what absolutely shocked me in that vision to the point that I broke down and wept.

On the other hand, as the Lord continued to take me around the house, I also found other sheep that were hiding within the grass, totally under trying to evade the attack, and they lay there with their little ones in a state of extreme fear and trauma. This ugly invasion into the house of the Lord took place in two quarters, from the ravaged door on the left hand-side and the collapsed wall that created the porous entry from the right-hand side. The Lord made me experience the agony that consumed Him as He watched the precious defenceless sheep of Christ mercilessly devoured. The wild beasts that invaded the house of the Lord to devour appeared to have come with the one and only objective, to destroy as much as could be achievable in the shortest time.

Even most astonishing to me was when the Lord made me understand in this vision, that after the heavy devour, the sheep lay there helplessly. But, to witness the cascade of events boiling down to the massive carnage, is what exactly made me weep in that tremendous vision of the Lord. My heart sank so deep in this vision when the Lord finally took me around to witness the excessive damage that had been done on his special sheep and their current helpless condition. The vision I saw greatly troubled me so much.

Pastors pickingup their bicycles

Then came the second part of this vision at which the Lord of Hosts showed me a white car and asked me to go speak to the pastors that were standing by. The Lord of Hosts gave me a strict directive to ask the pastors to come with me and enter the white car that I was going to drive towards the mission field. It is incredible and most baffling that the pastors refused to enter the white car, and instead chose to go pick up their own bicycles that were parked on the right-hand side of the white car. I was very astonished because I very well knew that along the journey there would be some eminent danger of wild beasts. And yet here they were, as supposedly prudent pastors, choosing to take the bicycles that could virtually expose them to the vicious attack of the wild beasts that the Lord made me aware to be roaming that dangerous road. However, when I looked at the bicycles that the pastors were picking up for this voyage towards the mission field of the Lord, I realized that they were very old bicycles whose mechanical advantage had been seriously degenerated. Even more puzzling was that I managed to quickly recognize that not only were those bicycles old, but also black in colour.

Then the Lord of Hosts opened my eyes further and I was again able to see the pastors at their homes and there was such a serious strife among their children and themselves. I saw the pastors homes with rebellion abound and disobedience alive. Moreover, then came the moment when I saw those pastors, this time around caught in a very bitterly heated arguments and disputation. The disagreements that I saw ensue between pastors, were so bad that they literally part ways, only for each one of them to remain solitary. It was then that this cruel episode caused me to jump up and wake up from that vision, only to break down in great shock. The Lord saw it all and grieved it all. How sad that such a vision can be presented by the Lord at this last hour in the history of the church!

The Revelation

In this vision, it is absolutely very clear that as the Lord’s glance sweeps over the throng of churches all across the globe, His eye definitely kindles while His face lights-up, causing Him to be stirred with deep pity and sadness. While in His first coming, Jesus may have mingled freely with the populace giving no outward evidence of His Majesty and taking no measure to bring Himself to popular notice, His return in the rapture though, will be well dramatized to the extent that literally every living being on the face of the earth, will get to know that He is the Messiah. The dominion of the kingdom of darkness must be overcome by the glory of the Lord that was well pledged in Joel 2:28-32. And because the Lord Jesus is the embodiment of all of God’s power promised to the church, then the unfolding presented in this vision, can only help to further the conviction that today’s church has not yet recognized her weakness and called-upon Christ for help.

God Almighty in heaven willingly sacrificed His most beloved Son Jesus Christ so that all who receive Him would have forgiveness and redemption from the cruel dominion of the devil’s reign. And to witness the church literally being attacked, mauled and torn-down, can only help to reiterate that there is a spiritual dysfunction in the house.

In that vision, what comes out elaborately clear, is that death has entered the church. It is ironical though, for death to befall the house of the Lord, especially that the One after whom they follow, is One who gives eternal life; the unblemished Lamb of God who was sacrificed for all man’s sin; and is the Bread who satisfies all spiritual hunger; also being the Living Water who quenches all spiritual thirst; and the Light who guides the redeemed away from darkness; while at the same time, He is the Shepherd who leads the church away from danger into greener pastures. It must also be remembered that He is the Vine who gives life to all His branches; and is the Counsellor who comforts and teaches the church all she needs for a new and abundant life.

How then, can death have befallen the church at this last hour prior to rapture, if she really were connected to the True Vine? The same God who created the universe is indeed able to create a new life within the church by illuminating His Light that exposes and drives away the darkness of the human race. That same Light that brightens the dark corners of the world, is the True Light of the world and the source of life and spiritual renewal for a dying church.

The broken door

The broken door that the Lord presented in this vision, essentially represents the appalling state of neglect that has today degraded the sacred sanctuary of Jehovah God. With most of the door ravaged and leaving only the skeletal metal grills, there is not much protection being accorded to the precious sheep of Christ in the house any more. While things in the house of the Lord may appear well and at times even feel normal in the physical realm, unfortunately though in the spiritual realm, things have gotten really out of control. The vulnerability to degradation and decay that the Lord presents in this vision, is a kind of prototype that mirrors today’s apostasy in church.

To best understand the specific elements that the Lord presented in this vision, it would be beneficial to characterize each of the individual players there. First and foremost, we see that when the Lord in that vision brings me into His sanctuary, He shows me the shepherds who were in the house and the sheep that were engaged in worship. And secondly, Jehovah God draws my attention to the wild beasts that were outside expressing an indescribable gusto of appetite for devouring the sheep inside the sanctuary. What emerges out of this most disturbing scenario is that dilapidation and desolation must have been the primary reasons as to why no maintenance and servicing could be accorded the sacred House of The Lord. Additionally, the shepherds in this vision did not appear to have been able to distinguish clearly what the Lord was instructing when He commanded that the sanctuary door be closed to ward-off the beastly attack.

And what today’s church understands not is that they should have turned their eyes in faith to Him that is invisible and yet beholds the revelation of God’s protective glory upon mankind. The necessity for the Holy Spirit comes in very central in today’s church presented in this vision, since ears that had never listened to the Lord’s Voice, cannot be able to listen to the words of His witness, except that they be spiritually enlightened ears. This must have been the root cause for the disconnect between the Lord’s directive to shut the temple door and the shepherds’ failure to obey.

In declaring the institution of the five-fold ministries, God Almighty affirmed the custodianship of the church onto the shepherds. That affirmation also included the custody and stewardship of the word being preached in the church. Thereafter, any misgivings and fall-out from God’s established order of grace would definitely have to be accountable to the shepherds and their spiritual wrongdoings.

The shepherds that the Lord presented inside the sanctuary, and instructing them to shut the door, are the genuine servants of the Lord who are called after Ephesians 4:11-16. The only tragedy with them being their disgraceful fall from God’s favour and hence their spiritual deafness. It is today’s corruption of the gospel that must have not only drifted the shepherds away from their most noble pastoral calling into an adulterated service unto to the Lord. That spiritual gliding away in essence represents a shamefully backslid priesthood whose only intent is to feed themselves at the expense of protecting the sheep in the house.

Being all-knowing of the present and the future, the Lord say it well in advance that an interlude would surface at which decay would make in-roads into his sacred priesthood. And such a dispensation has truly now caught up with the church of Christ, at which place her priesthood is today more concerned with funds-raising, TV telethons, selling bottled oil, selling water from River Jordan, giving inspirational speeches, soliciting for seed money, preparing cruise-ship tours, organising modern women’s conference that have nothing to do with salvation, etc.

The depiction that the Lord unveiled in this vision, is the true state of today’s pastors who are more pre-occupied with constitutional reforms and other money generating church activities than helping enhance spiritual growth and a holier salvation among the sheep. It is a state of neglect that has predisposed the sheep to an eminent invasion from the marauding wild beasts of this dark world. God Almighty well spoke about this in Ezekiel 34:1-17;

‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them. “‘Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them. “ ‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice. “ ‘As for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats. Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? Must my flock feed on what you have trampled and drink what you have muddied with your feet? (Ezekiel 34:1-17)

The Wild Beasts

Almost impatiently, they waited outside with a great urge of raiding into the sanctuary of the Lord to do exploits for the kingdom of darkness. Sometimes the church goes through life excusing her shortcomings to various disadvantages that the world may have stacked against her. Likewise, there are believers that today grow up in churches where wisdom is modelled and taught according to the principles of this modern world. In this way, the majority of today’s christians are not privileged enough to receive wise counsel in the house of the Lord.

If the present-day church were indeed deprived of spiritual guidance from the word, she may have been justified to feel having been short-changed, and hence became angry, resentful and ashamed. But, the problem is that she has the full uncensored access to the wisdom of the Holy Spirit whom God the Father Himself freely and willingly honoured her with. Ideally, all believers, including the pastoral community ought to have received wise and godly counsel from the Holy Spirit in order to gain understanding on how to safely navigate themselves away from the dangers emplaced on her path by the adversary. The enemy has placed wild beasts along the way through which the church is to pass. Regardless of spiritual upbringing, every christian should have a non-tapered access to God’s wisdom from heaven.

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him (James 1:5).

Monday, February 21, 2011

Wear The Three Marks of a Man of God! - Part 4 of 4

by Susan Tang

The road to success for a man of God was mapped out by Paul when he penned these forceful words to Timothy, "O man of God, flee, follow and fight" (1 Timothy 6:11-13). A man of God! What a dignified and distinguished title. Paul said that such men will be marked by these three distinct characteristics:

(i) Flee! This word, 'phlego' means 'to run away from something with terror in your heart.' A man of God knows how to run away from evil with terror in his heart, the way Joseph fled from Popithar's evil and seductive wife. Joseph's story reminds us that sin is both violent and tenacious. There are times we need to stay and pray but there are times when we need to flee because this is the only way to be safe!

Joseph taught us that saying 'no' to sin verbally is not enough; there are times we have to get out of that situation because of the nature of sin. It is both violent and tenacious. Most anointed priests succumbed to sin because they did not flee in the first place. In fact, we are told to flee from the mere appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22). Since our anointing does not annul our humanity and our vulnerability, we must know how to protect ourselves by living with our spiritual antenna held high. Whenever something appears to be evil, we must run from it with terror in our heart in order to save our souls! (1 John 5:18).

(ii) Follow. This word 'follow' means to pursue relentlessly. A man of God is always marked out by what he pursues. It is sad to see so many prophets and priests not hungering and thirsting for things that will enrich their souls and deepen their relationship with God and not placing their values on things of spiritual and eternal worth. A man of God must truly pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience and meekness. Then there will be fewer cases of sexual promiscuity in the priesthood. The appalling statistics of moral failures tell a sad, sad tale - priests are no longer pursuing what they should pursue. Like prophets and priests in the days of Jeremiah, many have gone after excesses and extortion. They live for materialistic rewards and worldly gains.

(iii) Fight. If we have first learnt to flee and to follow, we need not have to end up fighting all the time. We don't have to keep repeating, "I rebuke you, I cast you out, I curse you, kick you, slap you, etc." everyday! Evil cannot lodge within us so easily when God has put holiness within us. This is how powerful the Christ life can be in us. We may come into contact with evil daily yet we do not have to be connected with them. Jesus had constant contact with evil but He was never connected to it. Prophets and priests fall because they have not chosen to flee, to pursue things of spiritual value and finally, when they are ensnared by evil, they realize they have, like Samson, lost every ounce of their strength to fight. They want to fight and to end the illicit affair, but alas, they discover they have no inner strength to do so. Often they carry on until the affair is discovered by someone else. I have heard this sad, sad story too many times.

Too many prophets and priests have cultivated ungodly and deadly habits and tendencies. They run along with the wrong company, spend hours in front of the TV and Internet and get addicted to unhealthy and violent films, obscene pictures and pornography. We cannot nurture such appetites and then turn to the Bible and expect revelation knowledge to flow. Neither can we expect God to give us the victory over evil when we are running empty on the inside. This will never be.

As you rebuild your life, you will also need to restructure, realign and re-learn. Remember there is efficacy and complete sufficiency in the blood and the resurrection power of Jesus Christ to take you through the process. Our prayers go with you. May the God who restored David greatly do the same for you.

Your Anointing Will Not Annul Your Humanity - Part 3 of 4

by Susan Tang

God's power in our lives will certainly work to make us more like Jesus, but not less human. You may be anointed, but you still have hormones, eyes and ears. This means you are not immune to temptation. You can still be attracted to another woman or man even though you can cast out devils, heal the sick and raise the dead. Even Jesus was tempted sexually but He did not give in. Temptation is painful. This is why the scriptures says, "He himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour (lift up) them that are tempted" (Hebrews 2:18).

When Jesus was fitted into a human body, He had a mind like ours - a mind prone to take its own ungodly mental excursions. It also means He had emotions like ours. He could feel as any human being feels - depression, fear, anxiety, meanness, resentment, hatred or revenge but He did not give in to these feelings. It also means His physical body was also impacted with muscles, hormones and appetites just like us. Yes, Jesus as the Son of Man, was, in "all points (mentally, emotionally, socially, sexually etc) tempted like as we all, yet without sin." If He had not subjected Himself to every human temptation, then He cannot be our merciful and faithful high priest (Hebrews 2:17-18, 4:15).

He was called the "Son of Man" because of His humanity, a humanity from which He did not hide. He was never unreal when He was on earth. He opened blind eyes, cleansed the lepers, multiplied loaves and fishes and raised the dead but in the garden of Gethsemane, He bared His soul to His disciples. He told them that He was going through some things that He could not go through alone, so He asked for their support and their prayers. That was being human and real.

When He was overwhelmed by grief, He was not afraid to cry, even in public. When He was angry He was not afraid to express it by overturning the tables of the money changers. When He became disgusted at the hypocrisy of the religious leaders, He proceeded to rebuke them with strong language and scathing remarks. He enjoyed Himself at social gatherings and He interacted well with children, women and men.

He was invigorated by sweet smelling perfume as it was poured over His head. He also believed in taking a 'break.' He told His disciples to "come apart and rest awhile." He definitely did not believe in "working till you drop." He believed in taking 'snacks' between preaching, if it was necessary. When He felt the people were hungry, He stopped His discourse and told His disciples to give the people something to eat. He also believed in eating a good breakfast! Even in His resurrected body, He dirtied His hands by cleaning fish and collecting firewood to cook breakfast for His disciples

The humanness of the apostle Paul could be seen in some of his epistles, especially in his letter to Timothy. He expressed his loneliness and his need for human companionship and comfort (2 Timothy 4). This anointed man of God was so disappointed when Titus did not catch up with him in Troas that he decided not to preach there (2 Corinthians 2:12-13). He was anointed but at Troas, he needed more than the anointing; he needed human succour.

Paul was very real with his own feelings when he confessed that he was "troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears" and that God comforted him by "the coming of Titus." God did not comfort him by giving him more revelations and visions but by the coming of a trusted friend. Yes, however strong we are, there are times when we need someone to whom we can open up to and someone who can pray with us. To the Corinthians, he was bold enough to say, " Who is weak and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?" He was indirectly saying, "I am still a human being like you all, subjected to the same passions." When one is secure in the anointing, one is also real. There is no need to hide behind unreality.

Many anointed priests fell because they thought their anointing had cancelled their humanity and had made them invincible and infallible. They thought they could stay independent of human support and they denied they had temptations. They thought they were immune to their seductive secretaries, scantily clad church women or the lustful people they ministered to. Unhealthy denials, false 'bravado' and self-delusion caused their fall. They failed to flee from evil until evil had them ensnared.

When we know we are vulnerable, then we must learn to flee, not just from evil, but from the MERE APPEARANCE of evil! This has always been the biblical stand (1 Thessalonians 5:22).

Minister Out of a Strong Inner Life - Part 2 of 4

by Susan Tang

Most ministers today do not minister out of a strong inner life. Image is more important to them. Many of them have worked hard to rise to the height of influence, privilege and glory. But they have forgotten that there are dangers lurking on those heights, and that they need to guard their lives with the strictest vigilance.

The indictment given by God to the prophets of Israel in the days of Jeremiah was that they had separated their ministry from their relationship with Him. God charged that they had not stood in His council to see, to hear and to listen to His word before they went ahead to minister (Jeremiah 23:18). As a result, they had no fresh word from God. Instead they borrowed one another's visions, dreams, fleshly prophecies and words and ended up as the "blind leading the blind."

If prophets and priests have no capacity for God, then where does this leave our people? How can we take them further and deeper? If spiritual leaders were to sever their relationship (with God) from ministry, then not only will they be easy targets for marauding demons of lusts and deception, but where will they draw their strength from?

It is a lie to believe that when we have Jesus we have an inexhaustible supply. No, the truth is: when we have Jesus we have ACCESS to the inexhaustible supply and the accessing must be made frequently and unceasingly. The apostle Paul talked about "prayers and the supply of God's spirit" (Philippians 1:19, 2 Corinthians 1:11). Prayer will keep our spirits supplied with God's spirit and strength. If we do not connect with Him through prayers, the supply will be cut off. Life is too full of complications and complexities, and the only way to unravel the complications and the complexities is to come into the presence of God so that the deep subtleties of our own hearts can be exposed.

Spiritual intimacy or prevailing in God's presence will unravel the complications and put all deceitfulness, deception, strife and painful complexities to rest. (Please read my book on SPIRITUAL INTIMACY.) To do spiritual work without connecting with God is utter foolishness and the sure result is failure. This explains why there have been so many moral failures among the priesthood in the last two decades.

Ministry is about fighting wicked spirits, not flesh and blood. The only thing that can help you withstand these vicious attacks is your strong inner life. Many priests are not aware that they had "picked up spirits" in the process of their ministry. Demons of uncleanness, lusts, hurts, anger, sickness and death can follow you and then call for a full attack when you are not conscious of it. You may say that this is not possible because God promises that "greater is he who is in me than he who is in the world." Well, how great have you allowed Him to be in you? Can God rise great in you when you do not connect with Him? Instead of walking in His light, you walk in your own selfish will. No, God cannot rise greatly in us when we daily make the choice to let self rise higher.

Demons are not afraid of our great and fanciful exteriors. They only understand the language of force which comes in the name of Jesus through a strong inner man. A strong spirit or a strong inner life is the only thing that can succour you or help you "lift up the standard" against the flood waters of the enemy. The Bible tells us: "The spirit of a man will sustain (hold up) his infirmity but a wounded spirit (injured or weak inner man) who can bear?" (Proverbs 18:14). What a tragedy that today's priests and prophets spend their time building into the outward (ministry, building, reputation etc) but not into their inward or inner man or into their relationship with God.

When King David requested God to "build the walls of Jerusalem" (Psalm 51:18) in his penitent prayer, he was acknowledging that his inner walls had collapsed. This was why sin and temptation could take hold of him so easily and he could live in it for years before God Himself apprehended him. David's outward moral walls fell because he had not been building into his inward spiritual walls. He was so intoxicated with success, prosperity and position that he became spiritually incapacitated. Honour can be too much sometimes for some people. David had allowed success to breed complacency and laxity into his life, so much so that he became insensitive to the timing of God in his life. When the time came for war, he refused to go to war. While every man in his kingdom went to do his duty, he became 'un-dutiful' and he absconded. He lingered behind, became restless, walked about aimlessly, saw Bathsheba and fell into sin with her.

Oh, that God will bring us back to His ancient ways to re-lay the right foundation. We have deviated and we have swerved. We have pushed back God's ancient stones and strayed from His ancient ways to concentrate on the wrong thing. We have drunk from only broken man-made cisterns and attended too many seminars that challenged us to build for God, build for God and build more for God. But when will we ever learn to let God build into us? Many prophets and priests fall because they are too busy building for God but have never allowed God to go beyond the scaffolding of their lives to build into their inner man.

In "CLOSING THE GAP", I wrote the following paragraph,

"Let God work into you and build into you because the only thing we can take with us into heaven is what He has built into us. The apostle John learned this lesson when he was taken up to a high mountain by an angel. The angel wanted to show him the Lamb's Bride (Rev. 21:9-10). On reaching the top of the mountain, he saw, to his surprise, not a bride, but a glorious and heavenly city - the city of Jerusalem! The bride had become a city! A city built by God! God is telling us that every redeemed life has to become a city, a city built by God. Are you a city built by Him? If we are not, then nothing in us will be of lasting value and worth (page 72, "CLOSING THE GAP" by Susan Tang).

Burn for God and Not for Ministry - Part 1 of 4

By Susan Tang
(An excerpt taken from the book The Anointed Priest Who Sins)

So many today are burning for ministry and not for God. Burning for ministry is actually indirectly burning for self and living for selfish gains. So much has been stressed about building our ministry, our church and our gifting but not our relationship with God. The undiscerning will think that burning for ministry is being zealous for God. No, it is not. True zeal for God will always consume or corrode self. We know this because both David and Jesus confessed that their zeal for God had burned up the self in them. That is the meaning of "The zeal of thine house (for God) hath eaten me up."

The manifestation of the burning for self within the Body of Christ is frightening today. This is the reason why so many have burned out, fallen out or have been taken out of the ministry. God's promise is, "He that doeth the will of God abideth forever" (1 John 2:17). Many have claimed that they are doing the will of God, but where are they today? They have lost the abiding, and have vanished into thin air.

When we burn for God, He becomes the focus and the purpose of our life. But when we have a zeal that burns so much for ministry until it has no time for God, then it is a zeal that is totally unrelated to or estranged from God. It is a zeal in which the vital element of self denial is absent. It is counterfeit fire. Counterfeit fire is fire that is not taken from the altar of burnt sacrifice. (Burnt sacrifice always means self denial or death.) Nadab and Abihu died because they offered to God a fire of their own kindling. Instead of taking fire from the altar of burnt sacrifice which fire originally came from heaven and was deposited at that sacred altar, they offered to God defiled fire. Many anointed priests today 'died' early because they offered to God fleshly and defiled fire.

When we burn for God we will make time to connect with Him. Unfortunately, today's prophets and priests have lost the joy of wanting to go into the private chamber behind closed doors for communion with God. Living the hidden life has also become an unknown experience to so many. The more we live for the 'greater,' the more we should retreat from the public and build up our inner life. Most things done in the public today are not aimed to please Him, but are done to secure the admiration of man and for self display.

Drawing near to God is the highest human experience because it requires the help of the Holy Spirit and demands the exercise of all our highest faculties. Unfortunately, most prophets and priests have lost it. They are so busy burning for self that they have prostituted even the soul's greatest privilege of having communion with God. We are living in difficult days. The advent of globalization and the new world culture have ushered in godless days and living on the anointing upon us is not enough. We have to live by the anointing within. We have to draw from that inward Spring and that indwelling Presence by making the contact daily and unhurriedly.

In the days of Noah, when God flooded the earth to destroy the wicked, the waters did not only fall from above. The waters that fell 'upon the earth' from above were not sufficient to cause the deluge. It was the water that came from within the springs of the earth that was really powerful. The earth was flooded out by water that came from two sources - above and within.

"The same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened" (Genesis 7:11).

Many priests and prophets have failed because they only lived by water (or the anointing) that came upon them. They did not know how to draw from the water that came from the springs of the deep (the anointing within).

They could not draw from the Fountain within because they were too busy - busy connecting with the outward ostentatious things that have no spiritual value or eternal validity. Time is spent to connect with the 'accessories' but not with solid reality. We have failed to understand that ministry is taking the Lord's yoke and bearing His burdens. His yoke and His burden are light - not stressful, not vexing, not competitive, not vain and definitely not oppressive.

When ministry gets to the point when we feel vexed, heavy, vain, competitive, and we cannot connect with Him, then we have missed it. We are NOT taking His yoke and bearing His burden, (we are taking our own yoke and bearing our own burdens), and we are not burning for Him but for self. The fire we burn is called 'strange fire' and it is the equivalent of what Nadab and Abihu offered before God (Leviticus 10:1-3). It is not hard to tell that this is the fire of our own kindling because such fire always burns out our appetite for God, burn out the joy of contemplative prayers and the meditation of the Word.

When Mary and Joseph, the earthly parents of Jesus, discovered their loss - that Jesus was missing from their midst, they immediately stopped their journey and went back to Jerusalem to 'retrieve' Him before they journeyed on. They refused to take the journey until the 'substance' came back. May you do the same. You have burned for ministry and have been burned out. When Delilah came, you could not stand up against her because you had lost all your strength by allowing her to shave off all your hair. Thank God that hair can grow back! Samson's story had a happy ending. May yours too be the same.

May you now learn to burn for God. When you do, you will not burn out or fall out. Hear the voice of your Saviour inviting you to learn from Him, take from Him and bear His burden.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Market-Driven Christianity

By Don Fortner

"Am I now trying to win the approval of men — or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men — I would not be a servant of Christ." Galatians 1:10

Religion in America is big business. Scads of money, powerful personalities, huge egos, and positions of prominence, influence, and recognition are at stake in the business of religion, just as they are in any other business. There was a time when the concern of churches and preachers in this country was the glory of God and the truth of God. Today, like any business, the concern is for success.

Christianity today is market-driven. The goal of all marketing is to make both the buyer and the seller satisfied. Consequently, market-driven churches, in utter abandonment of God’s glory and God’s truth, in their insatiable quest for success and recognition — do whatever it takes to win customers and keep them.

Be warned! False doctrine and worldliness always go hand in hand. Worldliness usually leads the way. The early modernists did not aim at destroying biblical Christianity. They simply tried to make Christianity palatable to an unbelieving world. It cannot be done. When Christianity becomes acceptable to unregenerate people — it has ceased to be Christianity!

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing!" 1 Corinthians 1:18