Tuesday, May 31, 2011

All In One Sermon by A W Tozer

Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. --1 Thessalonians 5:14

Because we are the kind of persons we are and because we live in a world such as we do, the shepherd of souls is often forced to work at what would appear to be cross purposes with himself.

For instance, he must encourage the timid and warn the self- confident; and these may at any given time be present in his congregation in almost equal numbers....

Another problem he faces is the presence in the normal Christian assembly of believers in every stage of development, from the newly converted who knows almost nothing about the Christian life to the wise and experienced Christian who seems to know almost everything.

Again, the Christian minister must have a word from God for the teen-aged, the middle-aged and the very aged. He must speak to the scholar as well as to the ignorant; he must bring the living Word to the cultured man and woman and to the vulgarian who reads nothing but the sports page and the comic strip. He must speak to the sad and to the happy, to the tender-minded and to the tough- minded, to those eager to live and to some who secretly wish they could die. And he must do this all in one sermon and in a period of time not exceeding 45 minutes. Surely this requires a Daniel, and Daniels are as scarce in the United States today as in Babylon in 600 B.C. The Set of the Sail, 82-83.

"That's an impossible task, Lord! I again confess myself totally dependent on the Holy Spirit. Enable, I pray, in Jesus' name. Amen."


by David Wilkerson

No matter what happens to the economy, no matter what crisis we face, no matter what sorrow or trouble may come our way – OUR BLESSED LORD IS LEADING AND CARING FOR US EVERY STEP OF THE WAY.

God had to finally disown those he delivered out of Egypt, because they doubted and limited him after having been so miraculously coddled in his loving arms. It isn’t simply that God would like for us to trust him in difficult times – he demands it. This is why Scripture so strongly warns us against unbelief. We are told it grieves the Lord and shuts us off from every blessing and good work he has promised. Our unbelief makes every promise “of no effect.”

For us in New York City, this is not a dead theology. We have to practice what we preach just to survive each day. If we did not fully trust the Lord’s promises and rely on Jesus with all that is in us, we would freeze up with fear and panic. The streets here are like war zones; people live constant fear and danger, and bystanders are murdered left and right. Our costs to care for those we minister to are heavy, and the needs of hurting people are so enormous. IF WE DID NOT REST IN GOD’S STEADFAST PROMISES, WE WOULD BE OVERWHELMED.

But we are not overwhelmed – we are not afraid. As the problems grow worse,
we grow stronger in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Read this devotion online: http://www.worldchallenge.org/en/node/13441

Preaching: Too Much Originality by A W Tozer

May: Preaching

You may say, "I believe all that. You surely don't think you are telling us anything new!" I don't hope to tell you very much that is new; I only hope to set the table for you, arranging the dishes a little better and a little more attractively so that you will be tempted to partake.

How to Be Filled With the Spirit, 12.

May 29

Preaching: Too Much Originality

O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge. - 1 Timothy 6:20

Some preachers have such a phobia for repetition and such an unnatural fear of the familiar that they are forever straining after the odd and the startling. The church page of the newspaper almost any Saturday will be sure to announce at least one or two sermon topics so far astray as to be positively grotesque; only by the most daring flight of uncontrolled imagination can any relation be established between the topic and the religion of Christ. We dare not impugn the honesty or the sincerity of the men who thus flap their short wings so rapidly in an effort to take off into the wild blue yonder, but we do deplore their attitudes. No one should try to be more original than an apostle. God Tells the Man Who Cares, 144.

"Lord, I'm sure I've too often been among those who 'flap their short wings' in our effort to get a weak sermon to take off. Give me a word from heaven, Father, that will fly without my weak efforts at cute originality! Amen."

Today's "Insight for Leaders" is taken by permission from the book, Tozer on Christian Leadership, published by WingSpread Publishers

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Has the Baton Been Passed to the Asian Church?

by J. Lee Grady

Last week in Singapore I saw the future of Christianity—and it has a definite Chinese flavor.

Last week during a trip to Singapore I enjoyed all the tastes and smells of China—chili crab, salted milk crab, prawns, ban mian (flat noodles), bak chang (rice dumplings), lychee fruits, chicken feet (not my favorite!) and several varieties of fish. But the flavor I savored most was found in the worship times at Cornerstone Community Church.

“Missionary strategists have already predicted that by 2035 China will be a Christian nation. Then nations of Asia, including Singapore, are positioned to be 21st century Antiochs.”

I got choked up while watching the young people at Cornerstone last Sunday. Hundreds of young people—mostly Chinese, many first-generation converts to Christianity—jammed to the front of the auditorium at the close of their youth service. Many were on their knees. Some were sobbing. They were all singing:

Set this generation apart for You
Let me be a part of what You’re doing
I want to stand in purity and righteousness
Set this generation on fire
Lord I will burn, I will burn for You.

This was not shallow emotionalism. These kids were dead serious about following God. I preached in seven services at Cornerstone last week, and every meeting was filled with high school and college students as well as young adults. A majority of the young people who attend the 3,000-member church are involved in weekly cell groups that offer discipleship training. At a leaders’ meeting held on Saturday morning, more than half of the church’s leaders were in their 20s or younger.

The church’s youth pastor, Paul Liu Jiancong, a thin guy whose English has a dignified British accent, knows that something unusual is stirring among the youth in his country of 5 million people. “Let’s press in for revival!” he exhorted the crowd. “Let’s consecrate our hearts!”

The founding pastor of Cornerstone, Yang Tuck Yoong, 52, knows that revival is much more than altar calls and emotional displays. It is measured by a growing number of solid converts. Here in Singapore, where the government enforces a policy of tolerance toward all religions, the number of evangelical Christians has been steadily rising in recent years. Many new Christians come from Buddhist backgrounds.

Anglicans and other mainline churches were hit with charismatic renewal in the 1970s and ‘80s, sparking a wave of church growth. Today Singapore is home to numerous charismatic megachurches. One veteran charismatic Anglican leader told me that the percentage of Christians in Singapore has now risen to 18 percent, up from 14 percent just a few years ago.

Yang and his wife, Daphne, started Cornerstone in 1990 when they were still Anglicans; they broke from that denomination in 1995, and Cornerstone became an independent Pentecostal congregation. The church now meets in a massive facility that was once a nightclub.

What I saw in Singapore last week filled me with hope for the future of the global church, for three key reasons:

1. They are taking world evangelism seriously. Last year Cornerstone Church sent out 52 short-term mission teams to various nations, including Uganda. Because Singapore enjoys financial prosperity (some analysts say Singapore has already passed the United States in per capita wages), many of its churches invest millions of dollars in mission work. Singapore already has one of the highest percentages of commissioned missionaries, per capita, in the world.

2. They understand the importance of the Holy Spirit’s power. Growing churches in Singapore have abandoned formalism to embrace Pentecostal doctrines. However, many of them also pursue biblical balance and stress the need for discipleship. At Trinity Christian Center, for example, a fast-growing Assemblies of God congregation pastored by Dominic Yeo, its 7,000 members are trained in weekly care cells.

3. They are investing in the next generation. One young man from Cornerstone named Nathaniel told me that he came to Christ from a Taoist background. “Many Taoists are coming to Jesus today,” he said. “As they become educated they are turning to Christianity. They are leaving the old superstitious religion behind.” These young people—many of them bright professionals—are now being trained to take their faith into the marketplace, or on the mission field beyond Singapore.

What does this mean for us? I believe it’s obvious we’ve entered a new season in which the Asian church will set the pace. The baton has been passed. Missionary strategists have already predicted that by 2035 China will be a Christian nation. Then nations of Asia, including Singapore, are positioned to be 21st century Antiochs. I hope we will be humble enough to learn from them. And I pray they will stay humble enough to avoid the mistakes we’ve made in the West.

J. Lee Grady is contributing editor of Charisma. You can follow him on Twitter at leegrady. For more information about Cornerstone Community Church, click here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


by Neil Anderson

John 8:44 The devil . . . does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies

Satan's power is in the lie. He has no power over you except what you given him when you believe his lies. You break his power when you expose the lie. Scripture says, "We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one" (1 John 5:19).

How much deception is actually going on in Christians today I can only speculate. In my ministry I encounter it in nearly every counseling session. Many Christians I talk to struggle with oppressive thoughts, but they are afraid to tell anyone for fear that others will think they have a mental problem. Seldom do they realize that these distractions reflect the battle which is going on for their minds, even though Paul warned us: "The Spirit explicitly says that in latter times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons" (1 Timothy 4:1).

Since Satan's primary weapon is the lie, your defense against him is the truth. Dealing with Satan is not a power encounter; it's a truth encounter. When you expose Satan's lie with God's truth, his power is broken. That's why Jesus said: "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). That's why He prayed: "My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. . . . Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth" (John 17:15, 17 NIV ). That's why the first piece of armor Paul mentions for standing against the schemes of the devil is the belt of truth (Ephesians 6:14). Satan's lie cannot withstand the truth any more than the darkness of night can withstand the light of the rising sun.


Lord, I seek Your boldness today to defeat the enemy's lies in my life and in the lives of those around me.

Preach the Person of God by A W Tozer

He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. -Romans 4:20-21

My faith does not rest on God's promises. My faith rests upon God's character. Faith must rest in confidence upon the One who made the promises....

When I think of the angels who veil their faces before the God who cannot lie, I wonder why every preacher in North America does not begin preaching about God--and nothing else. What would happen if every preacher just preached about the person and character of God for an entire year--who He is, His attributes, His perfection, His being, the kind of a God He is and why we love Him and why we should trust Him? I tell you, God would soon fill the whole horizon, the entire world. Faith would spring up like grass by the water courses. Then let a man get up and preach the promises of God and the whole congregation would join in chorus: "We can claim the promises; look who made them!" This is the confidence; this is the boldness. Faith Beyond Reason, 45.

"Lord, begin with me. I commit myself today to knowing You more fully and preaching and teaching Your person and character as the foundation of faith. Let confidence and boldness be my testimony. Amen."

YOUR BATTLE IS THE LORD’S (2 Chronicles 30:15)

by David Wilkerson

The reason I am writing this is to remind you the battle you are facing is not yours, but God’s. If you are a child of his, you can be certain that Satan will “rage against you.”

In 2 Chronicles 20, a great multitude came against God’s people. King
Jehoshaphat and his people set their hearts to seek the Lord and to fast. The king cried out to God a prayer that most of us have prayed at times in our spiritual journey: “We have no might against these that come against us,
neither do we know what to do; but our eyes are upon you” (20:12). “The
Spirit of God came in the midst of the congregation…saying, Be not afraid nor dismayed…for the battle is not yours, but God’s (20:14-15).

Isaiah gave this warning to all satanic forces: “Who have you reproached and
blasphemed? And against whom have you exalted your voice?... Even against the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 37:23).

God told his people Israel, and he tells us today: “The battle is not against you. It is Satan’s rage against me, the Lord who abides in you.” God said to Satan, “I know where you abide, and where you come and go, and your rage against me” (37:28).

I ask you: where is your battle? In your marriage? Your business or job? Your finances? Your health? Does your battle get more intense day after day? If you have a heart for Jesus and a desire to cleave to him, you will face the rage of hell. But that is still not your battle.

You can end your battle quickly if you choose – simply by quitting and giving in to your fears and doubts. Satan will not bother those who give up their confidence in the Lord.

Yes, the battle is the Lord’s, but we have a part – and that is to trust
and believe his promises in the face of hopelessness and what seem to be
impossibilities. “Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God?” (Isaiah

Faith demands that I turn over all my problems – all my critical situations,
all my fears, all my anxieties – into the hand of the Lord. When I have done
all I can do, and I know my battle is beyond my power, I must submit all into his hands.

Our Lord knows the raging of Satan, and we must truly believe he will act. He will bring us through floods and fires and put to chase all spiritual enemies. Here is God’s Word concerning what he will do: “Because of your rage against me…it has come into my ears, therefore I will put a hook in your nose, and my bridle in your lips, and I will turn you back by the way you came” (Isaiah 37:29).

If you will hold fast to your faith – trusting him, resting in his promises,
rejecting all lies of Satan coming into your mind – then expect God to come
by his Spirit into your situation and bring an expected end to your particular battle. He will move heaven and earth to deliver you and make a way. The way out is to trust, trust, trust! “He makes wars to cease” (Psalm 46:9).

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Mystery of Righteousness by Ray Stedman

Read the Scripture: 1 John 3:6-7

It is my great hope that there is coming to all, as we study together in First John, a growing awareness that every Christian must be a revolutionary because Christ is a revolutionary. God does not like the status quo. He is grieved and hurt by racial hatred, by war, by poverty, by unhappy homes, by human strife. God is a revolutionist: he is determined to protest these conditions, whenever and wherever they occur. But more than that, he is determined to correct them, to deliver men from them. Speaking generally, it would not be wrong to say that God is in full sympathy with most of the goals of the radical groups that exist today. He sees clearly the same things against which they are protesting. But there are two things that mark the difference between God's revolutionary methods and those of the radicals:

First, God thoroughly understands and identifies the underlying cause of these problems. He names it for us. We saw it last time in Verse 4 of Chapter 3 of First John: Lawlessness! That is the problem: a revolt against reality. It is not economic distress, it is not class warfare, it is not pressure politics behind the problem of human strife and unrest. All of these are symptoms of an underlying cause. The underlying cause is, simply, man rebelling against the laws of his own being. That is the problem. It is civil war in the heart of every man, both that of the radical as well as the respectable. In other words, men have already caught the disease they are trying so desperately to cure.

The second thing that marks the difference in God's approach to these problems is that he has, himself, already done the only thing that can be done to correct this. In the mystery of the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, he has provided a means by which to break the grip of this lawless principle upon human beings, and to permit us to become gripped, instead, by the more powerful principle of love -- and all this done in the person of Jesus Christ, his Son. This is what John declares to us in the verse we looked at in our last study,

You know that he appeared to take away sins[or lawlessness], and in him there is no lawlessness. (1 John 3:5 RSV)

Well, what is in him, if there is no lawlessness? Obviously, the trouble with us is lawlessness. We do not like something, and so we do not do it. Even though it is the right thing to do, even though we know it is for our best interests, if we do not like it, we do not do it. So we are lawless, whether we are respectable in other areas, or radical. This is the problem. But "in him there is no lawlessness." Well, what is in him? Love. In him there is love. We have learned in Romans that love is the fulfilling of the Law, that when someone acts in genuine love he fulfills all the Law there is to be fulfilled. This explains the link between love and righteousness. Here is another one of the great terms of the gospel, righteousness. Anyone who fulfills the Law is righteous, and since love is the fulfilling of the Law, therefore, righteousness is love behaving. That is all it is.

We have already learned many times in our studies together that love is the very being of God, the essence of his nature, and thus of the nature of Christ. John says, God is love. Yet that life which is love, is also light. It illuminates, it clarifies, it dispels darkness, it breaks through our confusion and our lack of understanding and makes us see things as they are. We read of the Lord Jesus, "in him was life, and the life was the light of men," (John 1:4 RSV). So, with this threefold gift of love, of light, and of life, when Christ enters a human heart he destroys lawlessness. Lawlessness is the destruction of life, the extinguishing of light, and the violation of love. Now what could be simpler, as a solution to the problems of life than that? That strikes at the very heart of discord. That is why, as we saw last, the gospel is the greatest revolution of all times, the revolution that occurs at the deepest level of the human heart and life.

Now the great question is, "How do we lay hold of this threefold gift in actual daily practice?" How does the gift of love from Christ destroy and push out the lawlessness of our lives? In what way does it happen? We have seen it all before, but John now beautifully summarizes it for us in Verses 6 and 7 of Chapter 3:

No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. He who does right is righteous, as he[Christ] is righteous. (1 John 3:6-7 RSV)

Here is the mystery of righteousness. John does not call it that, but Paul refers to it as "the mystery of God-likeness, or godliness" (1 Timothy 3:16 KJV), i.e., the way by which a man or a woman, or a boy or a girl, begins to live like God, to become God-like though remaining a man. To become God-like in his attitudes, his outlook, his actions and his reactions. If you read the Old Testament, you know that certain men of olden times discovered this secret. They became, to a great extent, God-like, they lived like God. Abraham, for instance, Joseph, Moses, King David, and others. They became stabilized, outgoing, love-oriented, they became men in every true sense of the word.

The secret was hidden to most. Actually, of course, it has always been the same secret, it was Christ in them. That is forever the secret of God-likeness. But no one understood that in the Old Testament days, they could not because it had not yet become historically evident. But now, Paul says (and John and Peter and others), the mystery has been made clear. Paul calls this, in Colossians, "the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now made manifest to his saints," Colossians 1:26 RSV). Let me share with you the full passage in which that occurs, as it is found in Phillips' translation.

I am a minister of the church, by divine commission, a commission granted to me for your benefit, and for a special purpose: that I might fully declare God's Word -- that sacred mystery which up till now has been hidden in every age and every generation, but which is now as clear as daylight to those who love God. They are those to whom God has planned to give a vision of the full wonder and splendor of his secret plan for the nations. (Colossians 1:25-27a J. B. Phillips)

Did you hear that? God has a secret plan for the nations. That is at once the explanation of, and the remedy for, all the evil that exists in the human race. Now he goes on,

And the secret is simply this: Christ in you! Yes, Christ in you, bringing with him the hope of all the glorious things to come. (Colossians 1:27b J. B. Phillips)

Now those are not just so many beautiful words. That is a very practical proposition which God is working out through human history, and is making available to men. Peter says the same thing in other words, in his second letter (the Living Letters translation):

For as you know Him better[i.e., Christ], He will give you through His great power, everything you need for living a truly good life: He even shares His own glory and His own goodness with us! And by that same mighty power He has given us all the other rich and wonderful blessings He promised; for instance, the promise to save us from the lust and rottenness all around us, and to give us His own character. (2 Peter 1:3-4 Living Letters)

That is the Good News. John puts it bluntly and plainly, "No one who abides in him sins." Or, to use the interchangeable term for sin which he has just given us, "No one who abides in him lives lawlessly."

Perhaps some will say, "Now, wait a minute! Isn't this a contradiction? In the first chapter, Verse 8, John says, 'If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.' And now, in Chapter 3, he says, 'No one who abides in him [Christ] sins.' How is this? And isn't it even more positively put in Verse 9 of Chapter 3, 'No one born of God commits sin; for God's nature abides in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God.'" Surely this is a bit of a problem.

In Verse 6 he says a Christian does not sin; in Verse 9 he says he cannot sin, because he is born of God. Yet, again in Chapter 1, he says, "if we say we do not sin, we are liars"; and in Chapter 2, Verse 1, "if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." Admittedly, we have come to one of the most difficult passages of Scripture. But yet it is a very important one, and is not a contradiction. The man who writes this is no fool, he is an intelligent person. He does not say on one page something that contradicts himself on another page. He is an inspired apostle, and writes with wisdom, intelligence, and understanding. The problem does not lie in the text; the problem, if anywhere, lies with us. We must think this through, we must give our attention to this. I propose, therefore, that we take some time with this passage because of its importance, that we might understand the working of the mystery of evil in human life, and, likewise, the mystery of righteousness which counteracts it.

We shall examine this problem in much greater detail in future messages, but, for the present, I will point out that the problem is really settled by the tense of the verb the apostle employs here, "No one who abides in him sins." He uses the present continuous tense for the word sinsto mean "no one who abides in him keeps on sinning" or lives in lawlessness. If John had wanted to refer to a single act of sin there is a Greek tense that would have made it very clear. He could have employed the aorist tense which would then have said, without any question, "No one who abides in him can commit even one single act of sin." But he did not say that. He used instead this continuous tense, and to note this will help us a great deal in understanding the passage. So he is saying, "Any one who abides in Christ does not go on living in sin." He cannot live lawlessly, he does not keep on sinning.

But now do not miss the trees because we are so intent upon the wood. How do you avoid living lawlessly? How does one come to this place of not living sinfully? Well, as he puts it, it is all in this one word, abides. "No one who abides in him sins." Remember that in Chapter 2 he had said, "And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears he may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming," (1 John 2:28 RSV). The key is abiding. We have already seen that the relationship of a believer to Jesus Christ, involves him in two aspects. Abiding in Christ is an advance on simply being "in Christ." Our Lord himself spoke of these two aspects of a disciple's relationship to him. He described them by these words, "you in me, and I in you," (John 14:20b RSV). Now those two aspects are very important:

"You in me" is to be in Christ. It is to believe, to receive Jesus Christ. It is to be joined in a union with him that results in new birth, the impartation of his life and love to us, by an act of faith. It is to receive him, to act upon his invitation to come into your life. When you do, you are "in Christ." You are in union with him. "You in me," that is the first union. But that is not the aspect John is describing here. That union does not necessarily result in being freed from the bondage of sin. Oh, it makes freedom possible, it is all potentially there, but in itself it does not result in deliverance. That is why, as we have seen, it is quite possible to be "in Christ" and go on living for a time in sin, lawlessly.

But it is the second relationship, "I in you," Christ in us, experienced by an attitude of faith, in which he makes his home in our hearts, that frees us from sin's reign. We allow him to live through us, we expect him to do so, in every moment of our experience. It is this that is called abiding, and it is this that results in freeing us from the bondage and the power of sin, so that we can live godly, God-like lives.

As you read through the Scriptures you discover certain things that are produced by this abiding relationship. In the great 15th chapter of John's gospel, Jesus said these words: "He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit," (John 15:5b RSV). So abounding fruit comes from this relationship of abiding. Abiding is abounding. The fruit, of course, is the fruit of the Spirit -- love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and self-control. These are the marks of One who abides.

Later on in that same chapter, Verse 7, he says, "If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you," (John 15:7 RSV). Here effectual prayer is a result, not of being "in Christ," but of "abiding in Christ." Are your prayers being answered? Are you seeing God at work in your experience? Are the things you ask for that are clearly in line with his great program or men coming to pass in the lives of individuals for whom you pray? This is the promise, "If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will [within that relationship], and it shall be done for you."

Now John says, "No one who abides in him sins," i.e., lives lawlessly. He is able to live Godlike. Therefore, this relationship of abiding is very important. "Well," you say, "just what is it? This is what bothers me. I've heard all these great promises before -- and God knows I want them -- but it eludes me. What is this abiding, anyway?" Well, let us ask the Lord again for clarification on this. Once again in the 15th chapter of John's Gospel, Jesus says these words, "If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love," (John 15:10a RSV). That is putting it plainly, is it not? If you obey me, you will abide in me. "And he that abides in me ... bears much fruit," (John 15:5). "He that abides in me can ask whatever he will and it will be done," John 15:7). "He that abides in me will not sin," 1 John 3:6a). "If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love," (John 15:10). Of course, that obedience is by faith; i.e., this is not an exhortation to give ourselves to a groveling, dogged obedience, saying, "Here's a rule and I've got to do it." No, no. It is an expectant obedience, an obedience that acts expecting him to come through to make it a joy. That is the whole secret. It is by faith.

Well, how does this work in practice? Since Christ is in you, if you are a believer, you are in him and he is in you, then you need but set yourself to do what he says, expecting him to act, and the minute you start doing it, the power to carry it through will be there, to make you able to do it and to make it a joy. It is like those Israelites in the Old Testament who were told to cross first the Red Sea and later the river Jordan. Here was a body of water before them, but the command of God has to go through the water. It looked like suicide, utter foolishness. The worst thing they could do would be to plunge headlong into the depths of the waters. But, on each occasion, as the children of Israel stepped down and their feet touched the water, the waters parted and they went on through. It was when they acted on what they were told to do, despite any appearance that anything was happening, that it happened. Of course, this was not simply a thoughtless, spectacular miracle. It was a parable, designed to teach us how God acts.

When we hear his command to us, whether we feel like it will work or not, the whole idea is to obey. Act on it! Do what he says! When we do, we discover that the minute we begin to act, the power of God acts also. What we are hoping to accomplish will be accomplished. It works out as God said. We discover that God is at work within us. That is what Jesus means, "If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love," (John 15:10a RSV). This is also what Paul is saying to the Philippians. "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure -- the thing that pleases him," (Philippians 2:12).

Do you find it difficult to love some, for instance? This is one of the most nagging, persistent problems of life. Someone treats us cruelly, or indifferently, and our natural reaction, stemming from our tie with Adam, is immediately to strike back, to avenge ourselves, to cut them off, don't speak to them, or to say something caustic. We wish to avenge ourselves. But that is not the command of the Lord. His word is crystal clear. "Vengeance is mine, says the Lord," (Romans 12:19). Do not avenge yourself. He says, "Love your enemies... Do good to those who hate you and despitefully use you. Pray for your enemies," (Matthew 5:44). "Love one another," (John 13:34, 15:12, 15:17, et al). But you do not feel like doing that; in fact, that is the last thing you feel like doing. You are like those priests who did not feel like putting their feet in that cold, dirty water of the Jordan River, either. But God had said to do it. And when the soles of their feet touched the water, they parted, and the people went on through.

So, when you set yourself to act toward this individual whom you are finding it difficult to love as love would act; if you do something that love would do to that individual; if you respond to him as those who love him would respond; if you obey God, in other words, you will find that if you are expecting him to act, he will. The feeling of love will follow your act instead of preceding it, and you will discover that your whole relationship, your whole attitude, to the individual is different. You will see him no longer as an obstacle standing across your pathway, opposing what you want to do, but you will see him as a person with a problem -- a problem like the problems you have had -- who needs understanding and acceptance. Then the problem will clear up, as your problems have cleared up.

Are you tempted to lust? Are you tempted, in this sex-saturated society, to give way to lusts and desires of the flesh that you know are wrong? Well, there is plenty of it around today and in respectable circles, too. But the word of God is, "Flee youthful lusts, because they war against the soul," 2 Timothy 2:22 KJV). It is not that sex is wrong. Sex is wonderful. Sex is what God made it to be; it is his gift to humanity. But the improper use of it is wrong. So God says, flee youthful lusts because they will destroy you, they war against you. Well then, obey them! Turn from them and turn to him in expectant faith and you will find there is an immediate sense of release, a flood of cleansing, purifying, love from him that makes your renunciation not an act of dogged, dismal determination, but an act of delight, of gladness and freedom. What a difference!

Even an unregenerate man, a non-Christian, if he wants to for one reason or another, can set his will against doing something that is harmful or wrong or evil, and can stop it. Certainly he can. But he will not have any particular joy in doing so. He will be acting from a grim, dismal determination to walk in this way, with no compensating light or gladness. But the difference for a Christian is that when he so acts, Christ is there. We obey him, and thus we abide in his love. Every act of renunciation against these forces that would destroy us results in an accompanying sense of glorification, of joy, causing us to rejoice in God's grace.

If you have him, you can do these things. If you cannot do them, it is because you do not have him. That is why John goes on to add here, "no one who sins has either seen him or known him." That is, so strong is our link with him, and so powerful are the cleansing tides of his life in us, that if we say we have Christ in us and do not show some evidence of it, in increasing degree, then we have been deceiving ourselves. We do not have him at all. We have never seen him or known him. If you can live content with evil, without a struggle, deliberately doing what the Word of God declares is not right; if you can go on thus, and it does not particularly bother you, you have no struggle with it, then you have no right to name yourself a Christian. That is what John is saying. You have not seen him, you have not known him. Jesus Christ came into the world, and into your life, to destroy lawlessness. That is his goal. That is the revolution he is set on bringing to pass. If this is not happening, then you do not have him, for he will not change his purpose. He is moving to this end. This is what he came for, and this is what he will do.

You are only kidding yourself if you think you have him because you know many Bible verses or you can recite certain creeds, you have been attending church all your life, or your whole family is Christian. You are deceiving yourself. No, one who lives lawlessly has either seen him or known him. So he concludes in Verse 7,

Little children, let no one deceive you. (1 John 3:7a RSV)

Oh, they will try. There is much attempt today to put on a pious front and make it look real, but do not let them kid you. The true sign is this: "He who does right is righteous." Remember, righteousness is love behaving rightly. He who acts that way (and that kind of love always involves self-sacrifice), it is because he is linked to the Righteous One. There is no other way to act righteously than that:

He who does right is righteous, as he is righteous. (1 John 3:7b RSV)

It is interesting that in the original language here the pronoun he is literally, "that one." It appears also in Verse 5. "You know that 'that one' appeared to take away sins." And Verse 7, "Little children, let no one deceive you. He who does right is righteous, as 'that one' is righteous." It is almost as though John is seeing Christ standing there. So close is he to him, it is as though he were standing right there, and John refers to him as "that one." He who does right is righteous because that one is righteous, and he is living in him. Because he is living in him, there must be righteousness breaking out from time to time in that individual's life. It has got to be there. When a person discovers this and learns to abide in him, all the time expecting that one to be working in him, then he soon learns he cannot do anything without him. But he discovers that with him, he can do anything he asks. That is why Paul says, "I can do all things, through Christ who strengthens me," Philippians 4:13).


What a wonderful revolutionary thing this is, our Father. What a glorious transformation of human life is involved in this. How it searches us out and probes us, plumbing the depths of our conscious as well as our unconscious life, doing radical things to us, changing us from the inside out, from the bottom up. We thank you, Lord, that this is the continuing experience of those who come in contact with this glorious, wonderful Person, our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and walks among men, who offers himself to us for this very purpose. Make us all here living examples of this revolutionary movement, challenging the status quo, refusing to accept things as they are, because we have caught a vision of things as they might be. We ask this in Christ's name, Amen.

Bringing Christ To Work by Ray Stedman

Read the Scripture: Ephesians 6:5-9

...not in the way of eye-service, as men-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart... (Ephesians 6:6 RSV).

Several times the idea is put forth: never work for men, you Christians; work only for God. You can work under a person's direction, but remember that you are working unto the Lord, that your daily task is work that He has given you to do, and you do it unto Him. What a glory this gives to every task. If you approach your work like this, you will never have another dull day. You will never be bored stiff with the routine and humdrum of what you have to do if you recognize that you are doing it with the eye of the Lord upon you and with the recognition that one day it will be made open and clear to all whether you did it as unto the Lord or unto men. What are the signs of the failure to do this?

The first sign is eyeservice, which means working only when the boss is watching. When the boss is not there to observe, you quit working. Some years ago I read an account of a foreman and some primitive workers under him. He found that they were afflicted with this disease of eyeservice; they worked only when he watched them. But this particular foreman was the proud possessor of a glass eye, and he found that he could take his eye out of the socket and lay it on a stump where it could “watch” the men, and they would go right on working, whether he was there or not. But one day he came back to find them all lounging around. He had placed the eye on the stump, but one of the men had found a way to sneak around, come up behind the eye, and put his hat over it so that it no longer “saw” them. It is that attitude that so widely pervades our society today, the idea of working only when the boss is watching. If you are a Christian, this is forbidden if you want to be faithful to your Lord. Remember, the eye that watches you is not a human eye.

The second sign of failure in this respect is to be men-pleasing. Notice how the apostle is putting his finger on the attitudes that he found so frequently in this relationship of labor and capital. What is being men-pleasing? It is falsely flattering the boss, apple polishing, or playing office politics. It reveals a double heart, the lack of a single eye. It reveals that we are trying to get on by making other people happy but disregarding what God thinks. These are the signs of failure.

Christians are called away from these things. They have no business engaging in these types of activity if they want to be faithful to their Lord. They do not accomplish a thing. They seem to accomplish something, but in the end they do not. Christians are saved from all this if they remember that what they do is the will of God. Paul says that we are to obey our earthly masters in singleness of heart, “doing the will of God from the heart.” What is the will of God? Your work! The very work you are doing, where you are doing it, with your co-workers, under the present circumstances and conditions under which you have to work-that is God's choice for you, that is the will of God.

Father, I live before You. There is no area of my life that is not subject to Your gaze and to Your judgment. Grant to me that I correct what is wrong in my own work in the light of this word.

Life Application: Our workplace ethic is praiseworthy when we appropriate the power of His Presence. Do we have a tendency to strive in life and work to please others but disregard Him?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Preaching: Nibbling at the Truth

A W Tozer

For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. - Galatians 1:10

This is one of the marks of our modern time--that many are guilty of merely "nibbling" at the truth of the Christian gospel.

I wonder if you realize that in many ways the preaching of the Word of God is being pulled down to the level of the ignorant and spiritually obtuse; that we must tell stories and jokes and entertain and amuse in order to have a few people in the audience? We do these things that we may have some reputation and that there may be money in the treasury to meet the church bills....

In many churches Christianity has been watered down until the solution is so weak that if it were poison it would not hurt anyone, and if it were medicine it would not cure anyone! I Talk Back to the Devil, 30-31.

"Lord, don't ever let me be guilty of watering down the truth or playing to the crowds, concerned about my 'reputation' or 'money in the treasury.' Amen."

Friday, May 20, 2011

What Will You Do With Jesus’ Tattoo?

by J. Lee Grady

ShareJesus wears a name that says, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” Don’t mislabel His true identity.

I don’t have a tattoo, and I’m not planning to get any at this point in my life. However I’ve met many young Christians who have bought into the tattoo craze. I’ve seen hearts, crosses and Scriptures (English, Greek and Hebrew) on wrists, ankles, arms and necks. When I meet a young guy who has “JESUS DIED FOR ME” inscribed on his back, I don’t criticize his fashion sense.

Regardless of what you think about tattoos, you can’t ignore Revelation 19. I preached from this passage earlier this month when I spoke at a college in Georgia. I reminded the students that one of Jesus’ many names is written on His body. John said:

“And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True … He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. … And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, ‘KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.’” (v. 11,13,16).

“Today people pick and choose what they believe about Jesus without accepting His full identity. They craft a god in their own image to meet their needs, then they stick the Jesus label on their idol.”

Purists will argue that this is not a tattoo, and they are probably right since John’s vision is allegorical. But we must face the truth that is clearly etched in ink in this verse. JESUS IS LORD. Is that how you see Him?

John says Jesus will burst on the scene in all His majesty at the end of history, and all the world will see Him for who He is. Yet today people pick and choose what they believe about Jesus without accepting His full identity. They craft a god in their own image to meet their needs, then they stick the Jesus label on their idol. Do you recognize any of these false versions of Jesus that are popular today?

1. The Rolex Jesus. Many people worship at the altar of this golden calf. This Jesus promises health, wealth, mansions and luxury cars—but the people who benefit most from his favors are the prosperity preachers who demand that you tithe to them.

2. The Santa Claus Jesus. He lives far, far away and visits rarely. He makes a list and checks it twice, and his love is based on your performance. If you aren’t too naughty he gives you what you ask for.

3. The Rabbit Foot Jesus. Some people treat Jesus like a magic charm. They don’t seek to know Him personally, but they figure if they show up at a church service a few times a year, or hang a picture of him on their wall, they’ll be lucky when bad things happen to other people.

4. The Oprah Jesus. He’s soft, cuddly and adaptable to your spiritual preferences. He lets you define your own morality. He’s like a spiritual bartender—he’ll mix Buddhism, Hinduism and hedonism into your favorite New Age cocktail. He invites you to eat, drink and be merry because all religions lead to heaven.

5. The Fightin’ Fundie Jesus. He’s always angry, especially at homosexuals, women who work outside the home, and stores that sell liquor on Sundays. At any moment he’s ready to unleash an earthquake to destroy America. He doesn’t really like other countries either.

6. The Liberal Mainline Jesus. He’s similar to the Oprah Jesus, but more respectable. He doesn’t mind if you rewrite the Bible, but he requires that you wear a suit to church and that you sing the first, second and fourth verse of every hymn. And he asks that you keep your music very mellow.

7. The Rock Star Jesus. This one is hugely popular today. He doesn’t care how you live your life during the week, or who you sleep with, but in church you must be trendy and use lots of hair gel. Songs must be loud (even if they have no content) and sermons must have a lot of movie clips. Words such as “sin” or “holiness” are off-limits because they are just not cool.

8. The Republican Jesus. When this flag-waving Jesus was transfigured, he appeared with George Washington and Ronald Reagan. He’s willing to bend the rules and let certain conservative politicians and pundits into heaven (especially Mormons) if they promise to keep taxes low and guns available.

9. The Democratic Jesus. He rides on a donkey and dispenses good will, health care and stimulus money to all who are weary and heavy-laden. He steals from the rich, gives to the poor and creates jobs for people who are too lazy to work. He’s fine if you talk about God in speeches, as long as you don’t mention sin or offend a special interest group.

There are many other false versions of Jesus out there, but I think you catch my drift. We need to know, worship and proclaim the real Jesus, the Jesus of the Bible whose robe was dipped in blood because He died for all of us. His name is clearly legible: KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. Let’s tell everybody about Him now so they won’t be caught by surprise when this life is over.

J. Lee Grady is contributing editor of Charisma. You can follow him on Twitter at leegrady. His new book 10 Lies Men Believe released this month from Charisma House.

Unashamedly Ethical Campaigns Spin Off in Malaysia

The Global Day of Prayer (GDOP) event last year, has more than 9,000 Christians gathered together to pray. It marked a significant event for a nation whose majority population are Muslims. While the event has spanned out greater commitment to praying for Malaysia and the nations of the world, it sets a new course of action from 2 Chronicles 7:14b, which is to turn away from the wicked ways. The Unashamedly Ethical Conference (UEC), which is aimed at getting people to stand united and say “NO” to bribery, collusion and corruption, is the spin off on the early of this month.

The Unashamedly Ethical Conference held on 1st and 2nd May in Kuala Lumpur and on 5th and 6th May in Penang has successfully impacted the participants and Christians who came for the event. The 1200, pledges collected from the Unashamedly Ethical Conference (UEC) and a businessmen banquet on May 3, in Kuala Lumpur and Penang. And the addition of 1850 similar pledges made by participants of a Methodist Churches Conference in Sibu, Sarawak on May 1, where Graham Power also spoke. It reaped a total of more than 3000 signatories.

Graham Power was one of the three main speakers at the conference in Kuala Lumpur. Dr. Dion Foster, a market-place minister and academic, and Steve Johnstone, International Coordinator of Unashamedly Ethical were the speakers in Kuala Lumpur and Penang.

During the workshop sessions, Graham Power commented how Malaysia and South Africa was just a 0.1-point score apart from each other on the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index for 2010. Malaysia is ranked 56th and South Africa 54th out of 178 countries.

“Corruption is one of the social ills preventing nation building,” said Eugene Yap, National Evangelical Christian Fellowship (NECF)’s executive secretary for research. “UE’s anti-corruption campaign deals with this."

Among the local speakers invited to conduct the workshops were Transparency International Malaysia President, Datuk Paul Low, Director of Marketplace Ministries Studies at Malaysia Bible Seminary, Dr Mark Lovatt, Associate Director of Training at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, (Asia-Pacific) I’Ching Thomas, Senior Pastor of Skyline SIB (Kota Kinabalu), Dr Phillip Lyn. 

The workshops taught how Malaysians could make an impact in their own communities by standing against the currents of unethical practices.

UE has three stages of implementation. The first is a challenge to sign a pledge, committing to “good values, ethics and clean living” and is called the UE Commitment Campaign. 

“A UE Committee was set up as soon as the Conference in Penang ended with some enthusiastic marketplace Christians and pastors who have caught the vision,” said Josephine, the organizer of the UEC in Penang. “They are on ‘fire’ to campaign for more Christians signatories."

While the UE signatories campaigns continue to gallop, the GDOP Malaysia, chairman Rev, Looi will also temporarily coordinate the UE movement until a suitable Christian leader and the committee is formed. A definite UE movement will spiral in this nation and will spread to the other surrounding nations in times to come. 

For future projections, the process of forming a UE Committee will take onto the end of the year. The next stage is forming UE communities of people who sign in the UE Commitment and compiling a UE yellow pages directory of UE Commitment of companies and individuals can have a network to draw from.

Accountability is also a necessary discipline of the campaign. Thus, the discrepancy of people who violated the UE commitment will lodge complaints to a ombudsperson who will adjudicate and is empowered to take disciplinary action.

Rev. Looi Kok Kim,
GDOP Malaysia Chairman and Coordinator of UEC Malaysia

About the controversy in Malaysia

On the eveing of the 5th May, we were invited to attend a dinner together with a local politician (not from the ruling party) and several influential local Christian leaders. During the evening we spoke about the Unashamedly Ethical commitment and we prayed for the minister:

This photograph then appeared on a blog the next morning, with the blogger maliciously claiming that "there had been a gathering of Christian pastors and opposition political figures who had together vowed to make Malaysia a Christian state and to install a Christian prime minister."

Although this accusation was totally false, over the next 3 days the press picked it up and the story moved from page 6 to page 2 to the front page of the national newspaper, with the Prime minister telling everyone involved to "Cool it" and instructing the police to investigate further:

Subsequent to that, the editor of the newspaper who first ran the article (Utusan Malaysia) was rebuked by the Prime Minister for publishing these baseless accusations:  http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/utusan-let-off-with-ministry-warning/

Yesterday the head of Transparency International, Malaysia (out friend Datuk Paul Low), made a public statement also refuting the claims of the newspapers and blogs. Datuk Paul was with us at the dinner, also just a guest. Read his bold statement here:  http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/ti-m-chief-confirms-no-christian-malaysia-pact/

Finally, this morning saw Unashamedly Ethical on the front page of The Sun newspaper in Malaysia, with all 10 Individual Commitments listed (on the front page of this national newspaper!). See the article here: . The publicity that this whole controversy has given us has been simply miraculous. If you had said to me that we as an openly Christian movement would go to Malaysia, a Muslim nation, and within 3 weeks of our visit the 10 Unashamedly Ethical Individual Commitments would be printed on the front page of their national newspaper... well I would not have believed it! But here you see it:

Follow things as they unfold on our Facebook Page
We are posting daily updates on the Malaysian controversy on our Facebook Page. To follow, please go HERE and LIKE the page.

Many thanks to Ps Looi for putting this report together for us, and while we thank God for all of the exposure the campaign has created, we do not underestimate the stress and pressure this has caused to our local UE committees in Malaysia. All seven of our committee members in Penang were brought into police custody for questioning and interrogation. We want to assure Ps Looi, Annie, Jo, William and the rest of the team in Malaysia of our ongoing support and prayers.

Steve Johnstone
Unashamedly Ethical - International Coordinator

Related article:
Church And Corruption: Soliciting A Christian Response

Manifesto aims to make 'evangelical' less political

By Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA TODAY

An "evangelical manifesto" being released today by a group of Christian scholars and theologians is expected to try to take back the term
"evangelical" from politics and return it to its theological roots.

"Evangelical" has been widely used to refer to Christians who have conservative political views, but the Evangelical Theological Society requires members to agree on just two points: inerrancy of Scripture, and belief in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as "separate but equal in attributes and glory" and essential for salvation.

The manifesto condemns Christians on the right and left for "using faith" to express political views "without regard to the truth of the Bible," according to a draft obtained last week by the Associated Press. When faith "loses its independence," it says, "Christians become 'useful idiots' " for politicians.

But the president of the research arm of the Southern Baptist Convention says he's concerned that it will be "spun to conclude that Christians should hold back from speaking out on public policy."

LifeWay Research president Edward Stetzer says a new LifeWay survey finds that 52% of U.S. adults do not think "Christians are too involved in politics," and that is particularly true of evangelicals (72%).

Evangelical writer Os Guinness and eight other scholars, pastors and theologians drafted the manifesto to reclaim "evangelical" because the term risks sliding into the same disfavor and misuse as "fundamentalist," which lost its moorings as a statement of core Christian beliefs and became a pejorative code word, says A. Larry Ross, spokesman for the group.

The text, which Ross says has been revised since the Associated Press saw it last week, will be made public at a news conference in Washington, D.C., and posted at evangelicalmanifesto.com. The public will be invited to join in a discussion or sign on in agreement.

More than 80 "influential Christians" have lent their names to "prime the pump," Ross says.

But several prominent evangelicals, including Richard Land, head of the public policy arm for the Southern Baptist Convention, and James Dobson, the influential founder of Focus on the Family, a Christian group in Colorado Springs, have not signed on, the Associated Press said.

Ross declined to comment on who was asked to sign but noted: "This is inclusive, and everyone is invited to decide for themselves when they read it. The goal is to lay down lines on the turf and go back to the root theological meaning of the term evangelical before its character is obscured and its importance is lost."

Stetzer, who has not seen the manifesto, says: "Christians need to speak prophetically to all parties, not be beholden to one. Evangelicals need to be known for what we are for: showing and sharing the good news of Christ, not only what we are against on public policy.

"You cannot stand for justice and be afraid to speak of Jesus," he says.

The LifeWay survey asked 1,201 adults April 10-12 whether they agreed that "I'm concerned that at times Christians are too involved in politics." The survey's margin of error is plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.

Evangelical Manifesto here.

US evangelical engagement in politics is too partisan

by Christianity Today

The evangelical movement in the US is too involved in partisan politics, say the authors of a new book questioning the role Christian religion will play in the future political landscape.

Political writers Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner paint a very real picture of the evangelical movement in their book, City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era.

The evangelical movement in politics, beginning in the 1970s and leading up to the 21st century, has been a defensive one, they said. The movement was led by a vast leadership stepping up to combat the social ills of the day – abortion, banning prayer in schools and attempts to regulate Christian schools.

From 2000 to today, the evangelicals' political leadership has declined as its leaders decline in age, the authors noted. The movement’s tone has become largely negative and some evangelicals are looking for new forms of public engagement.

According to the writers, the recent descent of Christianity’s political right is a direct result of becoming too close to Washington. Evangelism, they said, has become synonymous with partisan politics and hard-line religious positions have become the battle tools of politicians.

As Gerson put it, “It is too closely identified with one ideology, one political party. At the point when your entire political agenda is determined by the contours of someone else’s political ideology, it’s easy to become a tool [of power play] and be seen to that by the public.”

On Wednesday night, the pair participated in a panel discussion and book signing Wednesday night in Washington DC.

Fellow panelist and New York Times columnist Ross Douthat pointed to Republican and Tea Party activists as an example of how politicians have come to set the religious tone in politics.

“Who is the most prominent evangelical active in American politics today? Sarah Palin,” Douthat said.

Palin, a self-proclaimed conservative Christian, is a hard-line Republican who has drawn large crowds to the Tea Party movement with spirited discussions on pro-life and pro-family issues.

“It’s very tricky ground when you get involved in politics,” said Wehner, a columnist and senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Once you are involved, it is “hard to stay clean”, he added.

However, Wehner and Gerson, a former speechwriter for George W Bush, do not encourage a total removal from politics. When that moral guidance is withdrawn, Gerson cautioned, the result is similar to that of Nazi Germany.

In their new book, the co-authors point to German Christians and their failure to denounce the Nazi movement. Their failure, it states, demoralised the Lutheran church, robbed it of credibility and gravely impacted society.

The authors also warn against the opposite mentality, which institutes theology through the government. Gerson pointed out that Christian Conservatives have wrongly equated “the American experiment with the covenant of Israel”.

He reminded Christians, “We live in a human kingdom as citizens from another kingdom.”

As such, Christians should try to influence the political debate without become entrenched in it, the authors wrote in their book. The Christian influence is critical, Gerson stated, because the Christian faith provides a unique moral guidance that is lacking in world politics.

“Christians do not have a purely procedural view of justice … and we don’t have an egalitarian view of justice,” he noted.

Instead, Christians judge justice based on how “the least of these” are treated, he asserted.

Given the Christian definition of justice, Gerson and Wehner encouraged evangelicals to adopt the political approach similar to that used throughout the civil rights area.

“I do think that Martin Luther King was an example in several respects,” said Wehner. “He articulated his case and his cause in a way that spoke truth in his day.”

He lauded King for his ability to use words that inspired believers and non-believers alike to pursue justice for an alienated people and cast him as an example of religion and politics at its best.

In the here and now, Gerson said, evangelicals are living in a “plastic moment” where they can choose to return to a previous style of engagement centred on justice. He said evangelicals must pursue issues of justice even if those issues cross political lines.

Adding to the remark, Douthat said Christians must also recognise there is no single, solitary Christian political ideology.

“There is not one Christian politics,” he stressed. “There are many Christian politics and there are many ways that we are all [searching] for the appropriate way to engage in politics.

“The biggest mistake I think so many believers make is to just say, ‘I’m into Christian politics. My beliefs led me to be pro-life, [and] against gay marriage. I affiliate with the Republican Party and therefore I also know what I think about health care, foreign policy, tax policy and so on.”

But when Christian conservatives focus on issues of justice, the political agenda expands from simply abortion and gay marriage to include human rights issues such as poverty and the global AIDS epidemic, Gerson pointed out.

Already, the contemporary evangelical movement has moved in that direction, with younger evangelicals, especially, making the environment, genocide, poverty and AIDS top issues on their agenda. The authors note in their book that an increasing number of evangelicals want their brand of politics to be “less partisan and bitter “and “more high-minded and more firmly rooted in principles”.

“In short, they seem to be looking for a politics that is both moral and civil. And, they are thirsting for more serious Christian reflection on human society and the human person – on first principles,” they wrote.

Evangelicals, Wehner underscored, must always strive to maintain the integrity of the message rather than wage political war. “When in doubt, preserve the integrity of the church,” he instructed.

The Wednesday night book discussion and signing was hosted by publishing house and leadership academy The Trinity Forum and Pepperdine University.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Is There Anything Wrong With Rob Bell’s Gospel?

J. Lee Grady

The popular author’s controversial book Love Wins celebrates God's love but drifts dangerously into Universalism.

I'm usually quick to speak my mind. But in the case of Rob Bell's controversial book Love Wins, I've withheld comment until now because (1) I don't think Christians should judge books before reading them; (2) the theological issues addressed require careful analysis; and (3) I have many young friends who are fans of Bell's books, and they may write me off if I don't treat him fairly.

So I'll begin with a compliment. Bell is a masterful writer whose prose is poetic. As pastor of the 7,000-member Mars Hill Bible Church in Michigan, Bell has gained a following because of his casual style, his ultra-cool Nooma videos and the previous books he's released with Christian publisher Zondervan (especially Velvet Elvis).

“Bell's core theme is that Christians have been too narrow in their view of God and His mercy. He argues that God loves people too much to banish them to hell. In the end, he says, after this life is over, everybody will find ultimate reconciliation in Christ.”

With Love Wins, he's taking his message mainstream. HarperCollins published it, and Time magazine featured a cover story in April about the firestorm Bell has triggered among conservative Christian leaders who have accused him of heresy. So what's all the fuss about?

Bell's core theme is that Christians have been too narrow in their view of God and His mercy. He argues that God loves people too much to banish them to hell. In the end, he says, after this life is over, everybody will find ultimate reconciliation in Christ. Bell claims this is what the Bible teaches, and he suggests that Christian theologians have promoted the idea for centuries.

He writes: "At the center of the Christian tradition ... have been a number who insist that history is not tragic, hell is not forever and love, in the end, wins and all will be reconciled to God."

That sounds a lot like Universalism, the idea that all spiritual paths ultimately lead to heaven. But pinning the Universalist label on Bell isn't easy because he doesn't write authoritatively. He muses, hints, speculates and suggests his views, so not to offend. Rather than preach with conviction, he invites his readers to a "conversation." It feels friendly and non-confrontational.

Near the end of the book Bell sounds solidly evangelical when he emphasizes that people must receive the grace God has offered to us. But he sounds more like Oprah when he asks: "Has God created millions of people over tens of thousands of years who are going to spend eternity in anguish? Can God do this, or even allow this, and claim to be a loving God?"

I can appreciate Bell's desire to distance himself from the mean-spirited side of American fundamentalism. Young people today are horrified (so am I) by self-righteous, Bible-toting believers who burn Qurans or spew hatred toward immigrants or homosexuals. Bell despises the "turn or burn" attitude that has made Christians look judgmental. He also believes we've trivialized salvation by turning conversion into a formulaic prayer, and by focusing the Christian life on the idea of "getting into heaven." I agree with him on those points.

But Bell is also guilty of trivializing salvation. He writes about an ooey-gooey God of love but leaves out God's justice and holiness. His gospel, at times, sounds squishy and spineless. You can't correct the abuses of fundamentalism by disregarding the severe side of God's nature. You can't bring balance by swinging the pendulum too far the other way.

Because of Bell's popularity, Love Wins could steer the American church into dangerous waters. You can ignore the book if you want, but you can't ignore the fact that younger Christians are turned off by certain attitudes in the church, and they need solid answers. We must address the key doctrinal issues that Bell raises:

1. The reality of hell. Bell downplays Scriptural support for the existence of hell while admitting that Jesus talked about it more than anyone in the New Testament. At times he suggests that hell is just a state of mind, or maybe a manifestation of evil on earth. He also questions whether God would send anyone to hell since He's so forgiving.

Yet when the apostle Paul preached the gospel he warned of "the judgment to come" (Acts 24:25, NASB). The essence of the gospel is that Jesus came to save us from eternal separation from God. Don't we still believe this?

2. The exclusivity of Christianity. Bell makes a strong case that Jesus died to reconcile all people to God, but then he suggests that not everyone will realize it was Jesus they were praying to. The inference is that Muslims, Hindus or Buddhists will show up in heaven since they were responding to a divine impulse they didn't understand.

If that's true, why did Jesus Himself say the road to salvation was exclusively narrow and the road to destruction was wide? (see Matt. 7:13-14). Why did He command us to take the message of salvation to the nations? Why did the early apostles preach that salvation was only in His name? Were they narrow-minded fundamentalists too?

3. The necessity of evangelism. Bell comes close to ridiculing Christians who share their faith, and he wonders if it's really necessary for missionaries to share the gospel abroad. He asks: "If our salvation ... is dependent on others bringing the message to us--teaching us, showing us -what happens if they don't do their part? What if the missionary gets a flat tire?"

I'm sure Bell gets laughs when he repeats that line in a sermon. But it's really not funny. He's suggesting that there's no urgency about preaching the gospel, and that lives aren't at stake when we ignore our responsibility to evangelize. Tell that to the apostle Paul, who wasn't laughing when he said he felt an overwhelming obligation to preach so he could save sinners (see Rom. 1:14).

Bell says he asked Jesus into his heart when he was a child, so I'm treating him as a brother in Christ. I'm not picking a fight with him. But I can't endorse Love Wins. The doctrines of heaven, hell, salvation and damnation are too serious to be treated haphazardly. May the Lord help us to reclaim a truly New Testament gospel in an hour of spiritual compromise.

J. Lee Grady is contributing editor of Charisma. You can follow him on Twitter at leegrady. His most recent book is 10 Lies Men Believe (Charisma House).

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


by David Wilkerson

Somebody reading this needs a touch from Jesus. When the Lord ministered here on earth, he went about healing and restoring the afflicted by simply touching them. When Jesus touched Peter’s mother, “the fever left her.” He touched the box casket of a dead child, and the boy came to life. He touched the eyes of blind people, and they could see. He touched the ear of a deaf man, who couldsuddenly hear. Parents brought their children to Jesus “that he should touch them.” His gentle touch changed everything. Multitudes brought their sick and infirm, and Jesus took the time to reach out and touch them all, healing them.

If you truly know the Lord intimately, you have known and felt the touch of the hand of Jesus. In times of loneliness, times of discouragement, times of
confusion, times so painful and uncertain, you cried out from the depth of your soul: “Lord Jesus, I need your touch. I need to feel your presence. Come, Jesus, and touch my thirsting soul.”

Some need a touch of Jesus upon their mind. Satan has come with his wicked
principalities to harass and overburden the mind with thoughts that are hellish – unbelieving thoughts, unChristlike thoughts, fearful thoughts, thoughts of unworthiness, thoughts of God’s displeasure. Honest believers will tell you they have experienced these attacks on their mind. Satan is determined to destroy our faith and dependence on the Lord.

In Scripture, the touch of Jesus came in answer to a cry. There is no evidence he ever ignored or rejected such a cry. And he will not turn away from your cry, but will mercifully respond to your need. In Matthew 8 we read of a leper coming to him, saying, “Lord, if thou will, thou canst make me clean.” Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.”

Find a place alone with Jesus today, and say to him what the leper said:
“Lord, you are able. Make me clean.” Then expect that he who is no
respecter of persons will touch and heal you, in mind, body, soul and spirit. The arm of the Lord is outstretched to you, but he waits for that cry of need, the cry for help that is also a cry of expectancy.

“And the Egyptians evil entreated us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage; and when we cried unto the Lord God of our father, the Lord heard our voice, and looked on our affliction, and our labour, and our oppression: and the Lord brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders: and he that brought us into this place, and hath given us this land, even a land that floweth with milk and honey” (Deuteronomy 26:6-9).

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Preaching: Old-fashioned Horse Sense

A W Tozer

He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him. --John 14:21

When they want to get blessed, some people try getting worked up psychologically....

Some people try group dynamics....

What is needed is some old-fashioned, salty horse sense. I am sure there are 189 mules in the state of Missouri that have more sense than a lot of the preachers who are trying to teach people how to get the blessing of God in some way other than by the constituted means. When you get people all broken up, dabbing at their eyes and shaking, what is the result? It does not bring them any closer to God. It does not make them love God any better, in accordance with the first commandment. Nor does it give any greater love for neighbors, which is the second commandment. It does not prepare them to live fruitfully on earth. It does not prepare them to die victoriously, and it does not guarantee that they will be with the Lord at last.

The Lord has constituted means. Jesus said in the Gospel of John, "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me" (John 14:21a). Rut, Rot or Revival: The Condition of the Church, 51-52.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Those Who Covenant With God

Francis Frangipane

Throughout the history of God's dealings with man, He has revealed Himself as a covenant-making God. The Almighty made major covenants with Noah, Abraham, Moses and David; He renewed His Abrahamic covenant in His call to Isaac and Jacob. Each covenant initiated a new wave of redemptive power into the world and forever impacted the human condition. The word covenant means, "to fetter" or chain together. It was the highest form of commitment that two individuals could share. Any of several rituals were employed to express the covenant partners' unity.

A sword might be passed, signifying that the two would be united against the enemy as one. They might pass a sandal between themselves, which symbolized they would travel any distance to be at one another's side. Or, they might cut an animal in two and pass between its halves. As the two halves, though separated, were still one animal, so the two covenant partners would become as one individual.

When the Lord initiated His covenant with a man, He did so as an extension of His eternal purpose; the man was a component in a series of divine initiatives. Contained within the Lord's covenant were His divine intervention, His supernatural wisdom and strategies, His love and forgiveness, and His provisions.

Thus, if we look at the Lord's call to Noah, we see that it was not the ark but the covenant of God that preserved Noah and his family during worldwide judgment (Gen. 6:18). Noah was a component, a factor in a series of divine initiatives, which accomplished the Lord's predetermined plans. God established the covenant, designed the ark and brought the animals. The Lord even shut the door after Noah entered the ark (Gen. 7:16).

When the Lord established His covenant with Abraham, a flaming torch passed twice through the two halves of the animals Abraham offered in sacrifice. The two passes signified that God would keep His part of the covenant and, remarkably, He would also be the strength in Abraham to fulfill his part of the covenant as well! Today, a restored Israel testifies to God's faithfulness in His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And it is God's covenant with Abraham, not merely the Israeli military, that preserves Israel in our times.

The agreement the Lord cut with His covenant partner was not only for His servant, but it also extended to His servant's descendants. The promise God made could be passed on generationally.

Payment And Pattern

Similarly, we are saved and sustained through life by Christ's covenant with the Father. Our salvation has been secured not only because Jesus died for our sins but also because His death was part of a covenant He had with the Father. The fact that Jesus suffered on my behalf is staggering; but His crucifixion was a component of an even more powerful reality: His covenant with the Father.

The terms of Christ's covenant were such that if He would live His life blamelessly and offer His holy life upon the cross for sins then everyone who believed in the Son of God would be granted forgiveness by God. The Father would look to Christ's sacrifice and see justice; sinners would look to Jesus and find mercy. We are saved by this New Covenant.

Yet, as maturing disciples, we find in Christ's covenantal mission not only just our peace but also a pattern Christ calls us to follow. He told His disciples, "As the Father has sent Me, I also send you" (John 20:21). Having laid down His life in covenant surrender, He now bids us to follow Him (Matt. 16:24). Of course, our cross does not replace His cross, nor do the local covenants we make with God supersede Christ's eternal covenant. The truth is, our cross extends the power of Christ's cross into our world and times. Indeed, our covenant with God finds its backing because of Christ's covenant with the Father.

Thus, the Lord invites us to follow Him; even as He covenanted with God for the sins of the world, so we covenant with God for our homes, cities and nations. The covenant positions us in the same attitude expressed by Christ, revealed again through us for our families, cities and nations.

The Harvest and Covenant Power

To many, the idea of making a special covenant with God is unfamiliar. Yet, besides the major covenants we mentioned earlier, the Bible tells of many other times when men made a localized covenant with God. (See 2 Kings 11:17; 23:3; 2 Chr. 29:10; Ezra 10:3; etc.) I believe that many have already felt the Holy Spirit speaking, urging them to deepen their commitment to Christ on behalf of their families, cities and nations.

Even so, covenants—and our obedience to them—must not be made casually. They must come from our hearts in response to the Lord's initiative. You will know the depth of your covenant by the vision, faith and depth of burden God has given you.

A new authority is coming to those who desire full conformity to Christ. For a great harvest is indeed prophesied for the end of this age (Is. 60:1-3; Acts 2), and those leading the way will be individuals who understand Christ's covenant and, in surrender to Christ’s initiative, have themselves covenanted with God for those they love.

About the author:·Francis Frangipane is the founder of River of Life Ministries in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and has traveled throughout the world ministering to thousands of pastors and intercessors from many backgrounds. In June 2009, he retired from his position as senior pastor of River of Life Ministries and is devoting himself to prayer and the ministry of God's Word. For more about his ministry, go to www.frangipane.org. Article adapted from Francis' book, The Power of Covenant Prayer (Creation House).

A Sweet Surprise Is Hidden Inside Your Worst Trial

Before you whine, complain or throw a pity party, remember that God can bring something good out of something bad.

I’m usually adventurous when it comes to foreign food. But I was leery when I learned about a tropical fruit called durian during a trip to Indonesia. Three things made me highly suspicious of this strange delicacy, which is sold in large quantities on the streets of Jakarta.

First of all, durian looks absolutely deadly. Each of the large, round fruits is covered with massive thorns that stick out four inches or more. I’m sure if you threw one of these things at somebody from a second-story window the victim would die instantly.

“Praise God even when everything in your flesh wants to quit. Be patient. When you rejoice in adversity, the bitterness of life is replaced by the fragrance of Christ.”

Second, when you cut open the tough skin of a durian (Indonesian vendors will do this for you with a machete) you discover a hideous-looking gray pulp that has the consistency of thick pudding. Third, the odor of durian reminds me of garbage, dirty dishwater and spoiled cantaloupe. It’s gross—and the scent is so nauseating that hotels in Indonesia don’t allow the popular fruit on their premises.

Since I am a culinary risk-taker, I decided to try durian when some guys from Apostolic Generation Church in Jakarta took me to a wooden stall on the street. There a young man sold us a durian and sliced it open. We sat at a crude sidewalk table and I braced myself for the worst. I held my nose and then put a clump of the gray fruit in my mouth.

I expected to gag, but that wasn’t my reaction. I couldn’t believe my taste buds! What looked ugly and smelled revolting turned out to be both sweet and pungent. I became a durian convert. On my last visit to Jakarta I even tried durian ice cream.

I also learned an important lesson. God made durian, I believe, to teach us that there’s always something surprisingly sweet hidden in the difficult trials we face.

Life throws thorny durians at us all the time. Usually we try to avoid them. But the Bible tells us how to respond. Peter wrote: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing … but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing” (1 Pet. 4:12-13, NASB).

The apostle Paul had the same strategy. His letter to the Philippians is called “the epistle of joy” because the words “joy” or “rejoice” appear in it 16 times. It is in this letter that Paul wrote: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (4:4). Yet he penned this epistle while he was chained inside a Roman prison.

Like the durian fruit, Paul’s jail cell looked and smelled horrible. Scholars say the dungeon probably reeked of human waste and death itself, since prisoners often died of starvation or disease. Yet amid that dank, mildew-stained cell Paul found something sweet. The sustaining presence of Christ gave him words that still comfort us 2,000 years later.

Dutch evangelist Corrie ten Boom spent many months in a German concentration camp in the 1940s. She experienced unimaginable suffering in the lice-infested barracks of Ravensbrook. Yet Corrie learned to praise God—and in that hell on earth she found her life’s message: “There is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still.”

Your situation may look thorny and menacing like a durian—maybe even deadly—or it may just stink. But you must realize that God allows trials to mold our character, crush our pride and break our hard, outward shell so the Holy Spirit can flow through us to touch others.

If you’re in a tough place these days (most people I know are), learn the secret of durian. Don’t run from your trials, and don’t whine, gripe and whimper about them like a spiritual adolescent. This is your chance to grow up. Praise God even when everything in your flesh wants to quit. Be patient. You’ll eventually find a sweet surprise inside your trial. When you rejoice in adversity, the bitterness of life is replaced by the fragrance of Christ. There is pain in this process, but you’ll savor the final result.

J. Lee Grady is contributing editor of Charisma. This week he is ministering at Christ for the Nations in Dallas. You can follow him on Twitter at leegrady. His newest book is 10 Lies Men Believe (Charisma House).

Getting the Weirdness Out of the Prophetic Movement

J. Lee Grady

Let’s reclaim the simple, profound purpose of prophecy—and reject all sensational substitutes.

When I was a college student, a visiting minister regularly came to preach at our campus meetings. At the end of his messages he would often point at someone in the room, smile and say something like, “You in the blue shirt, I believe the Lord has a word of encouragement for you.” Then he would prophesy.

This freaked me out! How could this man know what God was saying to someone else? What if he was wrong? I loved the gift of prophecy because I had benefitted from it myself. But I remember telling the Lord back in those days that I would never, ever stand in front of a group and prophesy to an individual like that. Way too scary!

“If we focus on spiritual gifts as an end in themselves, our distraction will lead us into deception of the weirdest kind. Let’s get our eyes back on Jesus.”

Then, during a trip to China in 2000, an underground church leader asked me to come to a room in the hotel to meet with a group of ministers. When I arrived, the leader told my translator that she wanted me to prophesy over 14 ministers who were already seated around a table. I was cornered! I prayed a desperate prayer—“Help!”—and 90 minutes later I finished praying and prophesying over all those people. The Lord used a scared and insecure American guy to encourage those brave warriors—and I have prophesied to many people since then.

I believe prophecy is a powerful spiritual gift when it is used correctly. Paul told the Corinthians (who had been abusing charismatic gifts) that genuine prophecy has three important functions: (1) edification, (2) exhortation and (3) consolation (see 1 Cor. 14:3). When we give a word from God, it comforts the weary, encourages the fainthearted, propels them toward God’s purpose or breaks spiritual obstacles.

Genuine prophecy is one of the most potent weapons in God’s arsenal. But if we are not careful, the gift can be hijacked—either by devious spiritual con artists or by gullible Christians who don’t have proven character or a solid foundation in God’s Word. This is why the gift of discernment should operate alongside prophecy at all times.

Several people have recently asked my opinion about some of the “prophetic buzz” circulating in churches these days. I’m not the only one who is becoming increasingly concerned about the weirdness that is evident in some charismatic camps. My alarm bells often go off when I read some of the prophetic messages people are claiming to be from God. These messages usually have one or more of these characteristics:

1. Preoccupation with end-time predictions. No prominent prophet in the United States issued a clear warning about the recent earthquake in Japan. But in the aftermath of that disaster, many began to release dire predictions of subsequent quakes—stirring up doom and gloom among the saints. Now some are predicting explosions on the sun that will knock out all electrical power on earth. God never intended prophecy to cripple His church with fear. His word brings comfort, not foreboding.

2. Obsession with numbers. There is certainly a place for symbolic numbers in the Bible. But many prophets today seem to think that every number they see on a clock or a billboard is a message from God. God is not cryptic with His sons and daughters—He wants to speak to us plainly. His will is not a secret code to be deciphered.

3. Overemphasis on dreams. Of course we know God can speak through dreams. But the apostle Paul (whom we are called to imitate) received most of his guidance from the Holy Spirit while he was awake. Some ministers today are spending too much time in the pulpit describing their technicolor dreams—and this could actually lead people into error if the dream has more to do with pepperoni than biblical revelation. Stay focused on the Word!

4. Fascination with exotic visions and manifestations. Our movement has been invaded in recent years by many questionable influences—from New Age spirits to stigmata to a bizarre fixation on gold dust, gems, “angel” feathers and “manna.” In most cases those who claim the substances are real won’t have them verified. In Illinois, a church drew crowds because of reports that giant red and blue gems were falling from the ceiling. The people stopped coming after the guy in charge of the supposed supernatural display ran off with a woman who was not his wife. Please remember that everything that glitters is not gold.

5. Worship of elite prophets. It has become fashionable in parts of our movement today to drop the names of certain prophets in order to establish credibility. After all, if Prophet So-and-So said it, it must be true. Some of these prophets are quoted more often than Scripture—and such glorification of people borders on blasphemy. Groups that focus their attention on hyper-spiritual personalities and their prophecies can quickly drift into cultic behavior.

How do we avoid being deceived by false prophecy and unhealthy spiritual phenomena? The best way I know is to get our priorities in line with God’s Word.

The purpose of any genuine spiritual gift is to edify the church so we can fulfill the Great Commission. If our main goal is to win souls, plant healthy churches, make disciples and advance the gospel around the world, then prophecy can help us do those things. But if we focus on spiritual gifts as an end in themselves, our distraction will lead us into deception of the weirdest kind. Let’s get our eyes back on Jesus.

J. Lee Grady is contributing editor of Charisma. You can follow him on Twitter at leegrady. His newest book is 10 Lies Men Believe (Charisma House).

Legalism, License, Lordship, and Liberty

Frank Viola

When my editor read the pre-publication manuscript of Revise Us Again, he told me that the chapter called “The Three Gospels” had a huge impact on him.

“History,” Martin Luther said, “is like a drunk man on a horse. No sooner does he fall off on the left side, does he mount again and fall off on the right.”

The same can be said about the Christian life. (So it seems to me anyway.)

In the chapter entitled “The Three Gospels,” I discuss three distinct “gospels” (messages) that many contemporary Christians have accepted.

Some have accepted the gospel of legalism. Reformed people tend to restrict legalism to be the attempt to earn salvation by human works. But for the genuine Christian who is saved by grace, legalism goes much deeper than that.


Legalists are people who believe that salvation is by grace alone, but sanctification comes by their own efforts of trying hard to be a “good Christian.” Legalists tend to push their own personal standards onto everyone else. They are quick to judge other people’s motives, thinking the worst of them and their intentions. They confuse obedience with trying to serve God in their own strength. They demand other people do things that they themselves would never carry out. They regard the sins of others as more severe and grievous than their own. (Philip Yancey described the legalist perfectly when he said, “Christians get very angry toward other Christians who sin differently than they do.”)

Legalists also feel that it’s their right to become intrusive meddlers, or as Paul put it condemningly, “busybodies in other men’s affairs.” They are blind to their own self-righteousness, and they pride themselves on being “clean” on the outside (without realizing that they are defiled on the inside). For all of these reasons, they unwittingly bring a lot of pain and heartache into the lives of others, yet sadly they seem to be out of touch with this.

Forgive the personal reference, but when I was in my teens, I came to the Lord through a legalistic denomination. I was fed a steady diet of the gospel of legalism and was surrounded by legalists. Thus I used to be a legalist without realizing it. But God was merciful.


In reaction to legalism and the devastation that it brings to other people, some have accepted the gospel of libertinism. Libertines are folks who live the way they want and have skirted the Lordship of Christ and all that it means. They are apt to justify carnality by pulling the “grace card,” the “I’m free in Christ” card, and the “don’t judge me” card. For the libertine, grace becomes license to live in the flesh and silence their conscience.

(Regarding the “judge not” card, the Bible gives us a sharp paradox on the matter of judging. There are scores of texts that exhort us to judge and scores of texts that forbid us to judge. I have written a blog post that I will release sometime in the future that resolves this paradox. It’s tentatively called To Judge or Judge Not?)

Some libertines have rationalized to themselves that they can continue to practice a particular transgression and God is “kewl wit dat,” irregardless of the carnage it brings. (A mark of sin is that it produces unnecessary pain in the lives of others. Sin and love are the exact opposites. Love is benefiting others at the expense of yourself. Sin is benefiting yourself at the expense of others. Sin is selfishness; love is selflessness. Love is a greater force than sin – God’s life is more powerful than satan’s nature – and “love covers a multitude of sins.”)

Some libertines have gone so far into deception that they have reinvented Jesus in their own image to justify their rebellion against the Lord and clothe it with spiritual talk. Others have gone further off the beam and have become practical atheists.

Note that there are degrees of legalism and degrees of libertinism. But these descriptions should give the general flavor of each.

In short, the libertine lives as if there is no God. The legalist lives as though she/he is God to everyone else.

Both attitudes are incompatible with the life of Christ.

Complicating Factors

What complicates the situation further is that . . .

The legalist doesn’t know that he/she is a legalist and tends to view all non-legalists as libertines.

The libertine doesn’t know that she/he is a libertine and tends to view all non-libertines as legalists.

Without the Holy Spirit’s illumination, this deception is difficult if not impossible to break.

The truth is, we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. And we all need Jesus Christ to forgive, deliver, and keep us each day from both the defiling acts of the flesh and the self-righteousness of the flesh.

Lordship and Liberty

In “The Three Gospels,” I discuss both the gospel of legalism and the gospel of libertinism in great detail, comparing and contrasting them and giving examples for each.

I then contrast these two “gospels” with the gospel of Jesus and Paul, which I call the gospel of Lordship and Liberty. And I explain how those two words go hand-in-hand.

But the gospel of the New Testament is rooted in reality – the real Jesus – and it sets us free from the defilement of the flesh and the self-righteousness of the flesh—both of which come off the same tree. Both of which bring bondage and cause untold pain to others. For both violate love, the nature of God’s own life.

One of the things I’ve learned in my spiritual journey is that the closer someone gets to Jesus Christ, the less judgmental, self-righteous, harsh-toward-others, and selfish he or she will be.

Again, we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. And we all need Jesus Christ to forgive, deliver, and keep us each day from both the defiling acts of the flesh and the self-righteousness of the flesh.

To my mind, this chapter (though not the best in the book in my opinion) is worth the price of admission.

Read more here.