The Necessity of Prayer

Do we believe in the absolute importance of prayer, and do we truly desire revival in the lives of Christians and for great awakening in the lives of unbelievers? No we don’t, for these will not come apart from fervent prayer. Yet, by and large, most churches no longer have regular prayer meetings. Many churches no longer have altar calls. And hardly will you hear the stressing of prayer or the need for revival from pulpits. There was a time when, in many Baptist, Methodist, and Pentecostal churches, altar calls were filled with persons crying out to God for lost family members and friends. But that is now a bygone era. Advertise that Chris Tomlin will be playing at a certain time of the week and you’d have people coming from miles around. Have a prayer meeting any time of the week and the average church would be lucky to have even a tenth of its members attend.

Do we believe in the vitality of prayer? No, we put more stock in formal theological education, good preaching, conferences, and good ol’ know-how, despite the fact Jesus tells us plainly, “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). 

So important is prayer to the very One we call our Sovereign Savior and Lord, He says, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’?” (Luke 19:46)

Greg Frizzell rightly notes, “If a restaurant is called a ‘House of Fish,’ that implies … that the prominent practice of that establishment is the cooking and eating of fish. When you call a place a ‘house of something,’ you certainly expect that ‘something’ to be the predominant practice of the establishment. In the exact same way, if the church is to be the ‘house of prayer,’ God expects prayer to be its predominant ongoing practice. When a church chooses to become a house of prayer, the practice of prayer literally saturates all it does.”

Are churches today known as “houses of prayer”? No, they’re called either houses of God or houses of worship. An average church service will have about 20 minutes of worship time, 30-45 minutes of preaching, and maybe five minutes of prayer. We like to think God is honored by all of this because we do it all in His name, but is He honored when we deliberately disregard what He has told us what He desires for the emphasis of His house to be? And is it any wonder why churches and denominations are in such poor shape? Understand, sound biblical teaching and genuine worship are, indeed, important as well. But it is through prayer and the moving of God which fuels these with power. A pastor is not a savior. If churches are not being the church, and a house of prayer filled with the Holy Spirit, a pastor will not be able to fix what’s broken, regardless how talented he might be. He might preach well, and organize well, but he is completely helpless in doing what only God can do in response to the prayers of His people. 

Furthermore, (and I believe this wholeheartedly) a church will only value and emphasize prayer as much as the leadership will. If leadership puts stock in various credentials, those are what the church will put stock in. If the leadership will not stress prayer, neither will the church. The emphases on prayer and its necessity must be a priority of those in leadership, for only then will the church begin to recognize its importance. Only as God’s people humbly and sincerely cry out to Him in faith, will we witness mighty moves of God. I’m not talking about ridiculous sensationalism, as one might see on TBN, but genuine moves of God when people are convicted of sin, the chains of vices and addictions are broken, and people becoming genuinely inflamed with passion for Christ. 

We are told in Matthew 9:36-38, “When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’”

Why does Jesus command us to pray earnestly on this matter? If God is sovereign and has no need of us, then why must we pray? Yet, although God is sovereign, the Scriptures teach us that many things either happen or not—depending on whether God’s people pray. But let me ask, does Jesus contradict His own sovereignty? He certainly does not, yet He commands us to pray earnestly for laborers in God’s harvest. And by laborers, does he simply mean those who are formally trained in a theological institution? This is highly doubtful, since in Acts 4, we are told of two of Jesus’s disciples who stood before the Jewish Council, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus” (v. 13). Then later, when a controversy arose between the Jewish and Greek believers, the apostles commanded, “Brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Notice the lack of worldly credentials in both accounts. Instead, the emphases are company with Jesus, good reputation, fullness of the Spirit and of wisdom, and prayer. 

Now, consider what some of the great saints have said about prayer:

Oswald Chambers observes, “Prayer seems like such a small thing to do—next to nothing at all in fact. But that’s not what Jesus said. To Him, prayer is everything…. We tend to use prayer as a last resort, but Jesus wants it to be our first line of defense. We pray when there’s nothing else we can do, but Jesus wants us to pray before we do anything at all…. He wants us to talk to Him, not aboutHim. He wants us to talk to Him about unbelievers before we talk to unbelievers about Him. Prayer is not just an exercise routine God has us on; it’s our business, our only business. Prayer is our holy occupation. Plain and simple.”

John Calvin rocognizes our desperate need for prayer, as he notes, “we are plagued with such poverty and destitution that even the best of us must sigh and groan continually, and call on the Lord with all humility.”

Charles Spurgeon, the prince of preachers, declared, “I would rather teach one man to pray than ten men to preach.”

Thomas Watson, the great Puritan, notes, “The angel fetched Peter out of prison, but it was prayer that fetched the angel.” Watson also notes, “That prayer is most likely to pierce heaven which first pierces one’s own heart.”  

The Puritan, William Gurnall, says of the importance of corporate prayer, “There is a wonderful prevalency in the joint prayers of [God’s] people. When Peter was in prison, the church met and prayed him out of his enemies’ hands. A prince will grant a petition subscribed by the hands of the whole city, which, may be, he would not at the request of a private subject, and yet love him well too. There is an especial promise to public prayer: “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” 

Jonathan Edwards says, “Prayer is as natural an expression of faith as breathing is to life.” He also notes, “When God is about to do a mighty new thing He always sets His people praying.”

And lastly, Henry Blackaby observes, “Studying revivals throughout history will reveal that they are not identical. Revivals in Wales, New England, Kentucky, Korea, India, Ruanda, and South Africa had characteristics unique to the people and the social environment in which they occurred. However, in every revival the consistent common denominator is fervent, faithful, persistent, righteous prayer.”

So, I ask again, do we believe in the utmost vitality of prayer? Is it not strange that in churches one is more prone to hear quotes on Calvin’s teachings on God’s sovereignty, Billy Graham’s thoughts on evangelism, or even some hogwash from persons of questionable theology and character, rather than on the very words of the incarnate Son of God when He stresses the importance of prayer? And why are many of us negligent in prayer? Does it not boil down to a mixture of pride (thinking we can accomplish great things—which is very contrary to the Scriptures, as well as to reformed theology), lack of fervor for Christ and His glory, laziness, unbelief, and really, straight-up apathy for the lost? Men, we give so many lousy excuses for our lack of praying, but these five reasons are truly why we do not give more attention to prayer. Yet, if one reads some of the Puritan prayers in books like, The Valley of Vision or Piercing Heaven, he will read passionate prayers exemplifying genuine humility and the awareness of personal sinfulness, a burning passion for the glory of Christ and the furtherance of His kingdom, confidence in the mercies, providence, and wisdom of God, and pleadings for God to pour out His mercies on others as He has done so to them.

Charles Spurgeon, who was a staunch Calvinist, understood the dual, non-contradictory truths of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility better than any preacher I know of. In one of his sermons on these very things, in the first part of his message he stresses the biblical teaching of God’s sovereignty in salvation. Later, he argues against the hyper-Calvinists of his day, saying, “When God sent the prophets to Israel and stretched forth His hands, what was it for? What did He wish them to come to Him for? Why, to be saved. 

            ‘No,’ says one, ‘it was for temporal mercies.’ Not so, my friend; the verse before is concerning spiritual mercies, and so is this one, for they refer to the same thing. Now, was God sincere in His offer? God forgive the man that dares to say He was not.”

It is true, God is sovereign over our salvation. Not a single one of us, comes to God apart from Him making the first move toward us. Yet, let not our lofty views of Calvinism blind our minds and hearts to the equal truth of God’s love and desire for the lost to come to know Him and so be saved. Just as definite God will one day thoroughly judge the wicked in His wrath, so just as definite are His tender mercies for them, as He told the angry prophet, Jonah, concerning the ruthless, idolatrous Ninevites, “Should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?” Just as surely as God’s sovereignty over our salvation are His words spoken through Ezekiel, “As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live” (33:11). Just as certain as the apostle who stressed in Romans that God “has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills” (9:18), is also the same apostle who emphasized to his protégé, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:1-6).

But how will people come to this saving knowledge of Christ? Simply by God’s sovereignty? We are not granted any more authority than the liberal to pick and choose what Scriptures we like or prefer. As Spurgeon notes, ‘The system of truth is not one straight line but two. No man will ever get a right view of the gospel until he knows how to look at the two lines at once.” What he is talking about is the truth of God’s sovereignty as being one line, and God’s sincere invitation to all people to repent. But how will men come to saving faith in Christ? Simply by solid biblical preaching? Someone might say, “Yes, for so Paul says in Romans 10.” But does one think, really, that the power comes from a preacher apart from prayer?

But what does Jesus say? He tells us to pray. He tells us to pray that God will send laborers into His harvest. He tells us to ask, seek, and knock. And what does Paul say? Does he say to simply preach and let the chips fall wherever they are sovereignly destined? No, he tells us to pray.

How can the fire of revival sweep through our churches or a great awakening resound throughout the nations? Indeed, these must come by God’s sovereign power, there’s no doubt about that. But does not God invite us to ask and plead for these? James tells us we have not because we ask not. Is it not true that we do not earnestly pray for these? When was the last time you pleaded for revival in private prayer? Or when has the church gathered to plead for revival? Churches will only do so when they truly recognize they need revival. How many of us genuinely believe we ourselves need to be revived? Those of us who are fathers, do we just give everything to our children, or do we not often give things only when they sincerely ask?

Did the Holy Spirit fall on His disciples during Pentecost sovereignly, while they were sleeping, or when they were together in the upper room praying, utterly dependent on God’s direction and moving? Was Peter released from prison simply by the sovereign hand of God or was it in connection with a gathering of believers pleading fervently on his behalf? When Moses was on top of a hill with Aaron and Hur, watching Joshua and his army fighting the Amalekites, did God simply help Joshua prevail or was it only as Moses raised His hands to God? Prayer was vital in each of these events.

We often view Paul as some spiritual powerhouse, but when we read his letters, we see he was a man devoted to prayer, as well as dependent on the fervent prayers of God’s people. In the thirteen letters of Paul, he mentions prayer in some form nearly fifty times. To the Ephesians, he asks that they pray for him, “that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel” (6:19). To the Colossian believers, he writes, “Pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ” (4:3). He says in his letter to Philemon, “I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective” (1:6).

And as I was preparing for this study, I was reminded of a dear brother’s message recently, from the prophet Ezekiel, when God said, “And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none” (22:30). As this brother pointed out, is God not looking for men to stand in the breach today, when our country and world are standing on the brink of destruction? Are we to be content with God’s judgment on the wicked? Such an attitude reveals the wickedness of our own hearts and is no reflection of the tender heart of God. God wants us to pray.

As Southern Baptists, we might pride ourselves for our dedication to the Great Commission, but what are we that we can accomplish anything? Can we truly fulfill it by our own strength and ingenuity? The common underlying attitude is that we can. No, of course we don’t say this outrightly, but our lack of prayer declares this as much. But how’s this going for us so far? The Great Commission was never intended to be fulfilled apart from true commitment to Christ’s teachings, an absolute dependence on Him through prayer, and the filling of His Holy Spirit.

Men, should we not feel ashamed when the ladies of many of our churches have taken it upon themselves to make time to get together for times of prayer, when God has called us to be the spiritual leaders? This is not a criticism of the women, but of us, for it is we who should have taken the lead.

Leaders, whether you are pastors, deacons, or on committees, don’t expect great things for our churches if prayer is not of utmost priority. Jesus states plainly that apart from Him, we can do nothing. This fact remains true whether we accept it or not. 

If we genuinely desire to see revival take place in our churches, and to see people experience true life in Christ as they are delivered from the bondage of sin and the devil, then we must become a people and houses of prayer. Otherwise we will simply remain a people who do churchystuff. If we truly desire revival, then we must actively plead for it. We might blame the lack of revival or awakening on men’s wickedness or God’s just sovereignty, but we are just as much to blame when we are unwilling to acknowledge our own sins and stand in the gap on behalf of the people.

I think I have made it clear that we do not truly see prayer as being absolutely vital, despite what we might say with our mouths. However, what are we going to do with the charge presented here? Like the church in Ephesus, we might have impeccably sound theology, but this does not guarantee fervency of spirit and passionate love for Christ. May churches truly become a houses of prayer to the nations and devoted to our first love. To not do so means to both remain powerless and to dwell in sin because of choosing to not become a house of prayer. Brethren, we must repent. Let us not think that God shares in our apathy for a lost and dying world around us, nor think that somehow our concern and burden for them is greater than His. Our hills of love in which He creates within us will never compare to the mountains of love which are an eternal part of Him.

In closing, may we truly begin to understand the necessity of prayer. Jesus says this place is to be a house of prayer. And as Chambers says, prayer is to be our holy occupation. 

Let us pray.

12 Deceptions Christians Are Succumbing To

Each of us is deceivable and have fallen for lies of one kind or other, whether we were conned out of money, wooed and trusted sweet nothings, suckered by political rhetoric, etc. The trail of deception is littered with broken hearts, shattered dreams, oppression, vice, and emptied wallets and bank accounts. Deception is never innocent, and it always leaves behind tears, pain, and sometimes even death.

The Bible repeatedly warns persons against various deceptions. The proud and arrogant declare God simply wants to withhold freedom from us (God could easily bind us and cast us into hell if He wanted to, we are no threat to Him whatsoever), but God gives us boundaries and warnings for our protection. To dismiss these can result in dire consequences. Much like the accounts we hear of occasionally about those ignoring the posted signs at the Grand Canyon or on beaches. 

God has posted numerous signs warning us of danger. Sadly, many who profess to be Christians dismiss these signs, thinking their wisdom and goodness is somehow superior to God’s. My friend, this is an impossibly on both accounts. But let each of us be warned, to dismiss these can have severe ramifications. 

  1. Claiming to have no sin. One can become very susceptible to this deception when either he thinks a sin he is committing is not sin or if he thinks he is so spiritual that he thinks he is so severed with his sinful nature he is now above being tempted with sin. Note, the sinful nature (Gk. sarx) is not redeemed and it will neverstop loving and craving sin. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). We must also beware of this deception when dealing with the sins of others. As one points out the specks in another’s eye, the log in one’s own eye must not be ignored (Matt. 7:1-5). The goal of confrontation is always to be for repentance and reconciliation, not for shaming and condemning.
  2. Being hearers of the Word but not doers. This is the grave danger of nominal Christians especially. We are told, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). God is not simply interested in church attendance, religious activities, or “good deeds.” He desires obedience from a pure heart. God spoke through Samuel to King Saul, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry” (1 Sam. 15:22-23). Think of it this way, a boss or a parent is not pleased when an employee or child simply hears instructions, but when the instructions are carried out and fulfilled.
  3. Empty words. Today, as in the days of the apostles, false teachers infiltrated churches promoting such things as vulgarity, immorality, and covetousness (greed). These dismiss the warnings of judgment and hell as they continue to speak empty words of flattery and desensitization. Paul writes, “For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience…. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible” (Eph. 5:5-6, 11-13).
  4. Thinking the unrighteous will inherit the kingdom of God. This deception runs rampant solely because of teachings of cheap grace apart from the necessity of repentance, and sin being minimized, trivialized, or denied. Nevertheless, Paul sternly warns, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10). Certainly such sins can be forgiven of, and persons might still feel stirrings of temptation. However, to indulge in such practices as though God is indifferent, or even condoning, is a great deception, indeed. Such persons will not inherit the kingdom of God, nor are they citizens thereof.
  5. Thinking bad company doesn’t corrupt good morals. One of the unpleasant principles in this fallen world is that it is easier to pollute than to purify, to defile than to sanctify. It is unwise to think one can continuously keep company with persons who are immoral, vulgar, and the like and not be affected. We are warned, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals’” (1 Cor. 15:33). This doesn’t mean we are to cut ties with everyone who doesn’t believe, but it does mean we need to beware of our own vulnerabilities. If one desires to grow in Christ, wisdom, and purity, he must keep company with Christ, His Word, and His people. 
  6. Having one’s thoughts led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. The church today is just as susceptible to the cunning of deceitful liars promoting false Christs and false gospels. Paul writes, “But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough” (2 Cor. 11:3-4). Many today are being led astray from a pure and sincere devotion to Christ for “health and wealth,” warm fuzzies, a false gospel demanding no cost or repentance.
  7. Thinking one is something when he is nothing. In context, this is more than just mere pride, but the thinking one is above showing gentleness and understanding towards one who has fallen in a transgression, thinking himself to be above succumbing to such temptation. “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load” (Gal. 6:1-5). Each of us is in desperate need of grace, and none of us is above temptation or giving into it. One deceives himself to think he is somehow superior to  another who has fallen, be it another believer or otherwise. Each of us has fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). Even among the righteous, there’s not one who never sins (Ecc. 7:20).
  8. Philosophy and empty deceit. A godless world and its philosophies/ideologies will always conflict and seek to undermine the teachings of the Scriptures. We can see this clearly in Darwinism, Marxism, Planned Parenthood, etc. Paul warns, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Col. 2:8). The world and the kingdom of God—and the teachings of both—are like oil and water. Many attempt to make these compatible (but they are not) and wind up having their faith shipwrecked in the end. We must guard our hearts from any and all teachings which would draw us away from the truth of Christ and the Scriptures.
  9. Thinking sin doesn’t have repercussions. Moses warned the people of his day, and this warning echoes through the corridor of time to us, “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Num. 32:23). This warning is not empty. All sin has consequences and is injurious. One might feel its negative effects immediately or years later, but let us be sure that our sins will eventually find us out. In the New Testament, we are further warned, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:7-9). If one sows to his flesh (i.e., for his own selfish pleasures), he will eventually reap a harvest of corruption and death. It is the one who sows to the Spirit who reaps eternal life. God is not mocked, persons will reap what they sow. The seeds of sin being forth poisonous fruit, regardless how sweet and pleasant the taste might be, and poison is always harmful, if not fatal.
  10. Doubting God’s good character and motives. There are many mysteries which escape our understanding. For example, why were we born in our particular time, place, and circumstances? Some are born surrounded with love and security, while others are born in the midst of turmoil and hostility. Still, in a fallen world not everything is as it seems. Affluence often hinders persons from true blessings. Pain and heartache can develop character and compassion. Regardless, each of us grow in different circumstances in which we must make choices. Yet we are told, “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27-28). Still, our environments present various temptations and vices. One can travel a dark, dangerous path if he begins blaming God for his temptations and failures, for this brings into question God’s benevolence. But we are told, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:13-17). When one begins to question God’s goodness, such a person falls for the same lie that led to the Fall.
  11. Thinking one is religious but not bridling his tongue. Here, “religious” is used in a positive sense, such as devoted, pious, and faithful. James says a lot about the misuse of one’s tongue, and declares that it is a world of evil. With the tongue persons boast, blame God, speak falsehood, and curse people who are made in God’s image. He writes, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:26-27). The great boasts of the tongue, even in the things of faith, are quite deceitful if one’s heart and life are contrary to God’s character and Word.
  12. Thinking one can practice unrighteousness and be of God. One of the grave deceptions of our day is the teaching that, because Jesus died for our sins and we are saved by grace, we can therefore live however we want, believe how we want. But the apostle John writes explicitly, “You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:5-8). Many who profess to be Christ’s are carrying on the works of the devil, practicing unrighteousness all in the name of Christ. The darkness of this deception is deep, indeed. “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isa. 5:20). The apostle Peter says this of those who genuinely belong to Christ, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Pet. 2:9-10).

Many will dismiss the warnings and continue on in deception, but the further one goes the more entangled he becomes. God gives us warnings for our good but will not force our hand. The signs warn of danger, and those who disregard them do so to their own—and other’s—harm. If you realize you’ve passed a warning sign, stop and turn around (repent). Let the Lord guide you back onto safe paths.

A King and His Kingdom (Part 2)

We have lost much of the concept and truth of kings and kingdoms of old. These were not democracies or republic. A king’s edict was not to be trifled with or trivialized. His commands were not a smorgasbord to choose from. The power of life and death were in their pronouncements. Consider Esther and Nehemiah. Living in different times and places, yet both were understandably afraid of entering the presence of their kings. They knew such an action could be their death sentence.

Jesus is known as King of the Jews. His kingdom is not a democracy or republic. Neither is it run by arrogant aristocrats or corrupt bureaucrats. His is an absolute and eternal monarchy established on righteousness. Paul declares that one day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord (Phil. 2:9-11).

The common misperception—and misrepresentation, I will add—is the portrayal of Jesus being meek, mild, and timid. Indeed, Jesus is marvelously gentle with those who are repentant and incredibly patient with those being sanctified by His truth and grace; however, all one has to do is read through His teachings and parables to know He is a King not to be dismissed or disregarded.

The psalmist writes,

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” … The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. ~ Psalm 2:1-3, 7-12

Jesus, in one of His parables, commends those whom He finds faithful when He returns. But He continues by saying, 

But if that wicked servant says to himself, “My master is delayed,” and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. ~ Matthew 24:48-51

Elsewhere, Jesus says the wicked and righteous will be separated like goats and sheep. “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matt. 25:46).

Again, Jesus teaches about the separation of the wicked and righteous, the hypocrites and the true:

The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. ~ Matthew 13:38-43

In Revelation, we are told of events to come:

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. ~ Revelation 19:11-16

Notice, in righteousness He judges and makes war. There are many who scorn His judgment, feeling they are unjust. However, King Jesus came into our world with grace and truth  (John 1:14). Displaying His coming in peace He rode a donkey (Matt. 21:5), but when He returns He will be displaying His sovereignty and victory, for He will be riding a white stallion (Rev. 19:11). Although He came in peace, the world mocked, spat on, tortured, and crucified Him. After being raised from the dead, He continues to send His messengers and ambassadors for the sake of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:19-21), yet the world still shows itself to be cruel and unworthy.

The King reveals explicitly the reason the world is so hostile towards Him. In John, after explaining that He came into the world not to condemn it but to save all who put their trust in Him, He goes on to explain the condemnation:

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. ~ John 3:18-19

Later, He again declares the reason for the world’s hatred toward Him, saying, “The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil” (John 7:7).

The King continues to extend His offer of peace and reconciliation to all who repent and believe on Him. Yet, many will scorn His invitation and reveal the wickedness in their hearts through the vile things they say and do. The judgment to come is completely just, because the unrepentant reveal they love darkness rather than light, evil rather than good, and enmity rather than reconciliation.

A King and His Kingdom (Part 1)

Imagine a powerful and just king in history, of Babylon, Persia, or England, let’s say (although such kings as we know were not always just, but simply imagine). During His reign he sends out an edict listing certain behaviors and requirements of his citizens. These citizens consist of persons who were either conquered or rescued, but each are treated honorably. Fifteen years or so pass and there is division among the people. Some of the people profess allegiance to the king, but disregard his edict, casting doubt as to whether he issued it. Others, professing allegiance to the king, declare that certain parts of the edict are either outdated or need to be properly deciphered. Still, others professing allegiance to the king refuse to break ties with their old country. They claim to not miss it, but they still keep its flag neatly folded and kept in a drawer.

Some who profess to be citizens and loyalists join the ranks of groups outside the kingdom who are openly opposed to the king. They align themselves with customs and thoughts going directly against the king’s edict. Claiming to be devoted followers of the king, they stand in unison and raise the banners of those who despise the king and who would assassinate him if they could. 

What would have happened to such individuals? Would such a king honor such subjects, throwing for them a feast for their bravery and loyalty? Would he not instead have sent his army for such betrayers, and upon finding them have them executed for treason? If truly a good and just king, would he not have been justified?

The kingdom of God is , indeed, a kingdom. This kingdom has a powerful and just King. The true subjects of this King have been rescued from the tyranny of sin and the devil, and His citizens have been conquered by His love and grace. Although this King is humble in heart, He is true to Himself and will not share His glory with another (Isa. 42:8). This King is fiercely loyal to truth and righteousness. The King is just, and the time will come when He will punish the wicked and all who oppose Him (Matt. 13:36-43).

This King has, indeed, issued an edict. The citizens of His country are not warranted to select and choose according to their tastes and opinions. And the opinions and ideologies of non-citizens aren’t to bend the loyalties of the kingdom’s citizens. The King has laws and standards which are not to be trifled with. 

There are many who profess that He is their Lord, Savior, and King.

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” ~ Luke 6:36

“If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear?” ~ Mal. 1:6

Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. ~ 1 John 3:8-9

Today, there are many who profess to be citizens of the kingdom, claiming to be loyal to the King, yet they either cast doubt on the King’s edict or else disregard parts they disagree with or find distasteful to them. Many join the ranks of groups and align themselves with movements that are antithetical—even hostile to the kingdom. Although such persons profess loyalty to the King, they see no contradiction in raising rainbow flags beside the banners of the King. They see no distinction between the foundation of Black Lives Matter or Critical Race Theory with the Gospel, when there is an irreconcilable gap, indeed. One cannot be loyal to Black Lives Matter and to the Kingdom of Christ. The two are antithetical. To disregard BLM does not make one racist, but to reject a godless, Marxist ideology. One cannot be loyal to CRT and to the Gospel of Christ, for these stand in opposition to the other. CRT simply redirects racism, continuing to devalue persons based on color. The Gospel recognizes all people, regardless of color, as sinful persons although made in the image of God. The Gospel offers redemption to all people. CRT continues to divide person groups, putting value on some more than others.

There are some who profess to be of the kingdom, but they critique and scorn the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ, even penning it as “divine child abuse,” but this doctrine is the very heart of the Gospel and Christianity. For if Christ did not die in our stead, substituting His life for our, bearing the wrath for our sins, then why did He die? Why would we need a Savior at all! 

There are others who defy the King’s edict of purity, urging others to cast off any and all sexual restraints. Such persons, although supposedly proclaiming “grace,” they seek to shatter into pieces the true meaning of grace. Jude says of them, “Ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (v. 4). Biblical grace is not license to do whatever we want, fulfilling our base lusts; rather, it teaches and helps is learn self-control and lifestyles that are honoring and pleasing to the King. Yet these supposed citizens of the kingdom betray the King by joining the rebellion of the kings of the earth, who speak of the Lord and His anointed (the Son), saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us” (Ps. 2:3).

The Giver of Life who commands to let the children come to Him, for the kingdom belongs to such as these—what treachery that some see no problem with the ruthless mutilating of children unborn or leaving one who is born to starve alone in a corner.

Still, there is a would-be king of many. Although lifeless and powerless, yet like a hex—an enchantment—gaining control over them, many trade their hearts and devotion to it. Claiming to be citizens of the kingdom, they serve another. But Jesus says,

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” ~ Matt. 6:24

And Paul wrote of some, 

But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. ~ 1 Tim. 6:9-10

Such persons profess allegiance to the King, but like the rich young ruler, they would soon rather part with the King than the wealth they obtained and the little empires they built.

Oh yes, and all this which has been written is true of those who see a president, whether Republican or Democrat, as a savior of a people. 

I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior. ~ Isa. 43:11

There, indeed, is a King and He has a kingdom. He is a King of truth and righteousness, and He will not compromise these for the sake of peaceful existence. He will not make treaties with the wicked and He will not shake hands with the treacherous. He knows who His true  subjects are, and He knows the hearts of those who hate Him.

No doubt, at the name of Jesus every knee will now and every tongue will confess that He is Lord, but not all will partake of His kingdom. He will separate the wicked from the righteous, the lost from the redeemed. Those who are not truly His subjects will be cast out into the darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

One is not a citizen of the kingdom just because he says he is. Someone will argue, stating the issue of grace. Yet Paul, the champion of the doctrine of grace, writes,

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. ~ Tit. 2:11-14

Elsewhere he writes,

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. ~ 1 Cor. 6:9-10

If we profess that Jesus is our King and we are citizens of the kingdom, where is our loyalty. If He is our King, is our loyalty divided? If He is our King, can we truly slice apart His edict, keeping only what appeals to us. What does it mean to call Him King? Are our lives filled with treason? If so, let us return to Him with single-mindedness, and repent of our treacherous double-mindedness.

All hail the King!

6 Warnings of Living in the Last Days

The Bible warns of a time of growing confusion and tribulation, as a chapter in human history comes to a close. Like a great novel or movie, evil will intensify and seem to have the victory; however, the final chapter will reveal that good will prevail. Nevertheless, the devastation (considered by the wicked mere collateral damage) evil will leave in its wake is, and shall be, real and horrible.

The Bible gives warning to believers to not be taken by surprise or swept away by the foretold events of the last days. We are exhorted to be alert, and given instructions to watch for certain happenings. While we don’t know the time of the Lord’s eventual return, we do know we are in the last hour (1 John 2:18). We are drawing ever closer to the hour when all hell will break loose throughput the world. As we consider the following things the Scriptures tell us to watch for, we might be closer to the hour than we realize.

  1. A world of mounting turmoil, lawlessness,and confusion. Jesus says to watch for a time when there are wars and rumors of war, famines, and various earthquakes—but these are only the beginning. John MacArthur notes that these “have always characterized life in a fallen world … Jesus indicated that things will get notably and remarkably worse at the end of the era.” [1] Persecution of Christians will increase to a global scale. Presently, around the world there is a growing hostility toward Christianity on all fronts, and many are abandoning the faith even within churches. Of natural consequence, since people’s hearts bend toward sin, false prophets arise to speak what people want to hear and people increasingly throw off restraints. Hollywood has always been a haven for sensuality of all kinds, but many politicians are nothing less than criminals, guilty of extortion, blackmail, prostitution/human trafficking, and all sorts of deception. Around the world we are seeing evil applauded as good and good condemned as evil. It is not surprising that love will grow cold where hearts cannot be warmed by genuine love’s flames.
  2. Perilous times. The apostle Paul, being guided by the Holy Spirit, writes, “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people” (2 Tim. 3:1-5). Is this not descriptive of much of what we are seeing today? Can we deny the three great loves of the day is self, money, and pleasure? We see much arrogance and abusive speech, the resistance of any kind of authority. Even the natural affection of a mother for her child is cast off as persons literally celebrate after having abortions. Many persons of the cloth, having the pretense of servants of God, are nothing more than wolves gratifying themselves. Genuine Christians must beware of this and not turn a blind eye.
  3. Itching ears. Paul later writes, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound[a] teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth” (2 Tim. 4:3-4). The apostle urges pastors to preach the truth of God’s Word, although the time will come when people will refuse to listen to it. Many will continue to be “religious,” but they will find preachers who will condone their sinful behaviors and won’t offend them with sermons on the Cross, Christ’s exclusivity, God’s offense against sin, and the like. It is no exaggeration to say many seminaries are nothing more than breeding grounds for snakes and many churches are nothing more than a refuge for the vile, where the Lord and Christ of the Bible is not truly welcomed.
  4. The falling away. Paul, again guided by the Holy Spirit, writes, “Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed” (2 Thes. 2:3). Before the Antichrist comes onto the scene, there must be a preparation for his coming, a conditioning before people are willing to accept such evil incarnate. There are many today who unashamedly renounce Christianity. The last couple of years this has become in vogue.
  5. Scoffers. The apostle Peter, also guided by the Holy Spirit, writes, “scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming?’” (2 Pet. 3:3-4). There was a time when theology was considered the loftiest of the sciences. Today, universities have become hostile towards true theology. Many scoff with such disdainful arrogance. William MacDonald notes that Christians “should not be bowled over by the arrogant and blasphemous denials of these men. Rather they should see in them a definite indication that the end of the age is nearing.” [2] Often it seems the most aggressive against Christianity are wicked men in defiance of God and the Christians’ warnings of hell. MacDonald writes, “What they really say is this: “You Christians have been threatening us with warnings about a terrible judgment upon the world. You tell us that God is going to intervene in history, punish the wicked, and destroy the earth. It’s all a pack of nonsense. We have nothing to fear. We can live as we please.” [3] An irony is many godless individuals who are adamant about there being no God—thus, no moral Law Giver—are ones who talk about evil in the world. Strangely, many of whom are indulgent in their own passions, be it in sexuality or cruelty. We witness much condescending scoffing in our day.
  6. Antichrist spirit. John, another apostle guided by the Holy Spirit, writes, “it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:18-19). John wrote this approximately two thousand years ago. If it was the last hour then, how much more now? There is an antichrist spirit that has taken hold of politics, education, ideologies, and entertainment all around the world. There is a growing acceptance of the most despicable behaviors, yet a louder outcry against the sacred and holy. This is no less true within modern Christendom. Every major mainline Christian denomination has been severed by those with itching ears wanting sins and ungodly behaviors to be condoned and treated on par with what is sacred. Let true believers stand true to the Scriptures which are “God-breathed.” John writes that we are in the last hour. Even today, many have gone “out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.” 

The Scriptures are given to us for a reason. They’re not meant to confuse us but to guide us, as well as to help us discern between what is false and what is true. But the only way the Scriptures will benefit us is if we are first willing to yield to its authority. If not, then we greatly risk being swept away by the deception and wickedness of the last days.

[1] John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2005), 1172.

[2] William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary, 2nd ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 2399.

[3] Ibid., 2400.


For further reading:

4 Prerequisites for Spiritual Revival and Awakening

Revival, spiritual awakenings—great moves of God when God pricks the hearts and awakens their consciences, drawing people to new life through His Son Jesus Christ or rekindling embers in hearts that have grown dim. These cannot be manufactured by the gimmicks of men but are done by God alone. Although we cannot produce these, we can acknowledge our need, ask, lean into God, and confess our sins. In His great grace He might respond and do what only He can do.

  1. Acknowledge the need. A sad and tragic reality is that much of those who profess Christ are unaware of the dire need for revival and awakening. Many churches are so busy either trying to build their programs and numbers, or else just simply trying to survive. Sadly, the people of Ezekiel’s day can be descriptive of the church today: “And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none” (Eze. 22:30). There are many who deny the realities of the wickedness of sin and God’s judgment of it. As a result, there is a blindness to the desperate need for revival and awakening.
  2. Be committed to prayer. Throughout history no revival or awakening has occurred apart from prayer. “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:1-4). Are we willing to pray?
  3. Dependence on God. Churches today put so much stock in programs, trends, skill, and education but where has honest dependence on Christ gone? Our lack of prayer and crying out to Him betrays our unwarranted self-confidence. Jesus tells us plainly, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5).
  4. Confess personal sins and sins of community/nation. There are numerous variables to a nation’s peril and calamity, and God’s people are not necessarily guiltless. Nehemiah’s prayer offers some  valuable insight as to how we should pray. “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses” (Neh. 1:5-7). The church must confess her own sins as well as society’s. “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins” (Ecc. 7:20).

There should be no doubt about the church needing revival and our nation needing a great spiritual awakening. Presently there’s not much difference between the world and much of the church. God only knows what He might do if the church got serious about her own sad condition, the dreadful condition of the world, the holiness of God, and the price Jesus paid for our redemption.

7 Hindrances to Prayer

Sound theology teaches us that God is both personal and the Sovereign over the world He created. This being the case, it should come as no surprise that prayer is personal and comes with certain stipulations (as do all relationships). Furthermore, because God is the Sovereign One, He is to be approached as such. This being said, there are several hindrances to prayer to keep in mind.

  1. Sin. God is a God of holiness, purity, truth, love, and justice. Sin betrays these. Unconfessed  sin will hinder one’s prayers. “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear” (Isa. 59:2).
  2. Unbelief. One of the greatest hindrances to prayer is unbelief. Unbelief is an affront to God’s existence, character, or capabilities. We’re told that Jesus “did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief” (Matt. 13:58). And James writes, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (1:6-8).
  3. Selfish motives. Prayer is to be more about God’s kingdom and human intercession than self promotion and advancement. James addresses this hindrance explicitly: “You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (4:2-3)
  4. Outside God’s will. Sometimes one’s requests are outside of God’s will and plan. For example, Paul prayed three times for God to heal him of his “thorn in the flesh,” yet God denied his request each time, saying, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Cor. 12:9). God was using this “thorn” to humble and further develop the apostle.
  5. Self-righteousness. Pride has always plagued the human heart, creating the desire to one-up and trample upon others. God abhors such self-adulation and condescension of others—especially wrapped in religiosity. Jesus tells a parable about a self-righteous religious leader and a tax collector praying. The former was thankful he was not like sinners such as the tax collector. The tax collector, however, wouldn’t look up, but beat his chest, asking God to forgive him, a sinner. Jesus explains it is the tax collector who left the temple justified (Luke 18:9-14).
  6. Dishonoring your spouse. This is specifically directed to husbands. The apostle Peter writes, “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Pet. 3:7). Men, being disrespectful of your wives and treating them in an un-Christlike will hinder prayers.
  7. Spiritual Warfare. Some hindrances to prayer are spiritual in nature, opposition from the evil one. We get a sneak peak of such a situation in the life of the prophet Daniel (chap. 10). He was a very godly man who had taken time to pray and fast. We learn their was opposition in the spiritual realm.

Persons can pray but this doesn’t mean anything is happening, much like a person shadow boxing. He is beating the air but nothing more. Some have given up praying, saying, “It doesn’t work.” However, prayer is powerful if one follows the instructions and purposes as laid out in the Manual—the Bible. May we approach the living God appropriately and on His terms, and may we remember the true and deeper purposes for prayer. We just might see more incredible moves of God if we do.

10 Major Teachings of Christ Being Ignored in Many Churches

  1. The absolute truth of God’s Word. It has become all too common for seminary professors, preachers, and authors to question the validity of the Scriptures, therefore causing others to question the trustworthiness of God’s Word. The Scriptures of Jesus’ day (the Old Testament) were copies of copies, yet He completely trusted God’s sovereignty over the giving and preserving of His Word. Jesus taught the accounts of Adam, Eve, Moses, and Jonah as historical facts (Matt. 19:3-5; 12:39; 8:4). Furthermore, Jesus  declared the solidarity and authority of the Scriptures when He says, “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matt. 5:18), and He teaches that all the Scriptures point to Him (John 5:39). And when praying over His disciples just prior to His passion, He says to the Father, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). Jesus also states His words are equal in authority as the Scriptures (Matt. 7:24; 24:35). For a person to cast doubt on the integrity of the Scriptures is to trust one’s own opinion above that of Jesus’.
  2. Repentance. The exclusion of this teaching can be subtle but the effects are not. All too often the Gospel is presented as simply turning to Jesus and believing on Him, but nothing more. However, to not teach on the necessity of repentance is to not preach the whole Gospel or Christ’s teachings in their entirety. Many churches so stress Jesus’ teachings on love, but to neglect repentance is to neglect the true aspects of  love. Sin, whatever kind, is rebellion against God and is harmful to ourselves and others. Jesus’ first instructions for people when He began His earthly ministry is, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17). Twice in Luke 13 He stresses that unless people repent they will perish (13:3, 5). Some will say, “We are not saved by works,” but repentance is not a work. It is, in part, what it means to walk with love, and to abide in Christ (John 18-24; 1 John 3:4-10). Churches do not benefit others by neglecting this vital doctrine. In Matthew, Jesus tells a parable of the great wedding feast. In it He tells of a fellow who did not come to the feast prepared but was inappropriately dressed. “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen” (22:11-14). The point is we are to repent and come into the King’s presence appropriately.
  3. Self-denial. Dietrich Bonhoeffer rightly notes, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Oswald Chambers notes, “The surrender here is of my self to Jesus, with His rest at the heart of my being. He says, ‘If you want to be My disciple, you must give up your right to yourself to Me.’” Such teachings are not popular in American Christendom, as many pulpits are nothing more than pep rallies on how to better one’s self and not on how to become a better disciple and servant. Yet, while many are striving to become well-known leaders for Christ, what is often set aside is Christ’s teaching, “The greatest among you shall be your servant” (Matt. 23:11). Added to this is the desire for vain glory (popularity, big church buildings, etc.), Jesus says, “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26). Much of the church in America has adopted a consumer mentality focused on one’s own preferences, needs, and amusement. Consumerism is never about self-denial.
  4. Salvation exclusively in and through Him. Pluralism, ecumenism, and even universalism have infected many churches. Each of these ideologies blatantly go against what Jesus teaches about salvation and the way to Heaven, as well as trivialize the whole purpose for which He died. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns that the path to life is narrow and few will find it, while the path to destruction is wide and broad and many will travel it (Matt. 7:13:14). Many are familiar with His famous words in John 3:16, but He says in verse 18, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” He also declares that those who do not believe who He says He is will die in their sins. Yet, He states His exclusivity most explicitly when He says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). For persons and churches to claim Jesus is just one way to Heaven is not only to minimize His death on the Cross, but also to call Him a liar.
  5. The kingdom of God. Much of Jesus’ teachings centered around the kingdom of God/Heaven. Jesus began His ministry with the command, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17).  The Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) is instructive of what kingdom living looks like, consisting of genuine godliness, purity, honesty, faithfulness, humility, and integrity. Many of Jesus’ parables in Matthew are revelations (i.e., “revealings”) of the secrets of the  kingdom (13:10-11). With complete seriousness He says, “For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand” (13:12-13). In other words, those who receive and obey the teachings of Jesus and the Scriptures will receive more understanding from the Holy Spirit, but those who trivialize Jesus’ teachings and the Scriptures, or who treat them as a smorgasbord of one’s own choosing, will simply be carried away by their own delusions. Although the kingdom is worth giving up everything for (Matt. 13:45-46), the kingdom has enemies, including ones who infiltrate the gatherings of God’s people here on earth (Matt. 13:37-43). It is vital to have an understanding of there being two very distinct kingdoms in opposition, and there is no middle ground or walking the fence. 
  6. False teachers. Although Jesus (as well as the New Testament writers) repeatedly warn of false teachers and false believers, such warnings are rarely proclaimed from many pulpits today, lest one appears judgmental or anyone is offended. Yet, Jesus instructs plainly, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:15-16). He warns of the increase of false teachers who will lead many astray, even performing wonders (Matt. 24:11. 24). In one of His parables, Jesus warns that the evil one will plant false believers among true believers to spread destructive teachings (Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43). Elsewhere, Jesus warns against having the appearance of being a person of God, but inwardly having a godless and corrupt heart (Matt. 23:1-36). A passage that should terrify each of us is when Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matt. 7:21-23).
  7. Separation of the wicked and righteous. The old negro spiritual correctly says, “Everybody talking’ bout heaven ain’t a goin’ there.” There are many persons who attend church and do nice things but who are going to be separated from the righteous and redeemed. Jesus is not silent about the last day when there will be the separation of the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats, the evil from the righteous (Matt. 13:24-30; 25:31-46; 13:47-50). The assumption of many is they will one day be welcomed into Heaven, despite the profanity and unholiness of their hearts and lives.
  8. Divine judgment. Perhaps no other teaching of Jesus today is downplayed than that of divine judgment and eternal damnation. “Jesus teaches us to love,” people say, as though love disregards offenses and justice. Indeed, Jesus offers every person grace and life through Him, but declares that apart from Him persons will be judged. For those who refuse to listen to the message He gave His disciples to proclaim, He says, “Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town” (Matt. 10:15). Later, He warns that at the day of judgment everyone will give account even for every careless word spoken (Matt. 12:36). He warns of eternal torment for those who are not redeemed through Him (Matt. 25:41). He urges people to strive to enter through the narrow door, lest they are cast away to a place of “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Luke 13:22-28). Jesus is not only the Savior of the redeemed, but He is also the Judge of the condemned (John 5:22-29). Men can choose to deny divine judgment against sin, but Jesus warned repeatedly to repent or be condemned.
  9. Watchfulness. Another greatly neglected teaching of Jesus today is that of being watchful. Being watchful has at least three aspects: being watchful of lifestyle, false teachers and their teachings, and preparedness for Christ’s return. While it is true one is saved by grace through faith and there is security in Christ, these do not nullify or make void Jesus’ teachings. He warns, “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth” (Luke 21:34-35). He says to watch and beware of false teachers (Matt. 7:15; 16:6). These instructions tie into the warning to keep alert and prepared for Him. Jesus sternly warns against following the practices of the world and casting away one’s vigilance. “Who then is the faithful and wise servant,whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 24:45-51). Jesus is not speaking rhetorically, and we would be wise to take heed.
  10. The Holy Spirit. The misunderstanding of the Holy Spirit can—and does—lead many churches awry. Jesus clearly reveals that the Holy Spirit is part of the Godhead (Matt. 28:19), but He reveals much of the character and work of the Holy Spirit in the Gospel of John. First, the Holy Spirit is a Person who indwells the true followers of Christ, but not those of the world (14:15-17). Jesus refers to Him as the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, and Helper (14:17, 26). The Holy Spirit will bear witness about Jesus (15:26). Jesus says of the Holy Spirit, “And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” and “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (16:8, 13-14). The work of the Holy Spirit will always be in accordance to the truth. Furthermore, His purposes are to convict people of sin and to draw people to Christ. He does not seek to draw attention to Himself. Churches are in error whenever they focus on the Holy Spirit and treat Him as though He is some circus animal who is to cater to their whims. If people are being carried away from the clear teachings of the Scriptures (truth), if people are not being convicted of their sins, and if Christ is not the focus, then it is highly doubtful any workings persons claim to be happening is truly of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth.

To dismiss and ignore Christ and His teachings is to no longer have the Christian faith. Many who profess to be Christians, in fact, are not Christians at all. Jesus, quoting Isaiah, says, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:8-9). In many churches, the prevailing views of culture override the teachings of Christ and the Scriptures. To do so is to declare that the world is Lord and not Christ, and this is to betray Christ who is Lord over His church. And His church consists only of those who are truly redeemed by His shed blood.

When Temptation Comes Our Way

Let’s face it, each of us experiences temptation, and each of us has succumbed to it from time to time. This comes with being sinful humans in a fallen world. However, in Christ we can experience victories over temptation, and we don’t have to be defined by our sins and failures. The following list contains several things to consider when temptation comes our way.

  1. Temptation is not sin. Sometimes persons will beat themselves up for feeling tempted to do something wrong and immoral, but temptation is not sin. Temptation is merely an attempt to seduce and get us to sin. The writer of Hebrews says of Jesus, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (4:15). There is a great distinction between being tempted to sin and yielding to sin.
  2. Temptation promises more than it can deliver. Temptation always offers big promises to bring fulfillment, but it never follows through. This is not to say there is never an immediate pleasure, but it’s only temporary. When it comes to sin, one will always pay more than what the pleasure is worth. Ultimately, when it comes time to pay, the pain and regret will always surpass the amount of pleasure. Moses understood this. We read of him, “By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Heb. 11:24-25)
  3. The breeding ground for sin is the entertaining of temptation. As mentioned, temptation is not sin. However, to dwell on and entertain the temptation can certainly lead to sin. One needs to squelch temptation early on. If not, the temptation will increase in strength and eventually lead a person into sin. James writes, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (1:14-15). In other words, the temptation caters to a person’s desire. As the person continues to entertain the desire it only becomes stronger until he no longer resists. The result is lethal in various ways.
  4. The inner battle is real. The inner struggle with temptation and sin is real. Even the great apostle Paul writes, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Rom. 7:15). We are bombarded with various kinds of temptations to disregard God and His Word in order to do our own thing and to fulfill our desires in illegitimate ways. Elsewhere, Paul writes, “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other” (Gal. 5:17). The purpose of temptation, as seen in Genesis 3:1-5, is to get us to doubt God’s Word and His goodness, and to seek to find fulfillment apart from Him.
  5. Resist, flee, and submit to God. The Bible refers to Satan as the tempter. Satan plants seeds of temptation in our minds, but he also uses ungodly people to tempt. I’m either case, we are to resist temptation, in some cases we are to flee from it. In all of this, these are to be done in yielding ourselves to God. James writes, Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you’” (4:7-8). Paul tells the Corinthians, “Flee from sexual immorality,” and “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Cor. 6:18; 10:14). To Timothy, the apostle writes, “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22).
  6. Take sin and temptation seriously. Sin is applauded, condoned, and trivialized by the world and in some churches. However, sin’s devastating effects are far reaching, and its impaling goes deep. Jesus teaches our dealing with our temptations and sins must be severe. “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell” (Matt. 5:29-30). Jesus also gives strong warning to those who lead others to sin: “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!” (Matt. 18:6-7). In Genesis, God warned Cain, “If you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it” (4:7).
  7. If you sin—confess and repent. The apostle John is honest about the reality of sin in our lives. He writes, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10). He goes on to urge us to not sin, but notes that the true follower of Christ has hope through Him. “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins” (2:1-2). Jesus bore the wrath of the Holy Father against our sin on the cross, satisfying His holy and just righteousness. This does not give license to sin, but should help us understand the severity of sin.
  8. Sin has consequences. “I’ll sin now and just confess later.” “There is security for the believer.” How many Christians have said things like these to talk themselves into sinning? These statements are true, but even for the forgiven saint sin has unpleasant and painful consequences. King David, a “man after God’s own heart” is a prime example. By all rights, and by Old Testament law, David should have been killed for his adultery and murder. Yet, he was honest and repentant of his sins, and the Lord forgave him. Still, the Lord allowed David’s reputation to be tarnished and his once peaceful kingdom to be filled with unrest and revolt—even by his own son. David was forgiven, but there was a limp and deep pain in his heart he bore for the rest of his life. It isn’t for no reason Paul warns us, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Gal. 6:7). Jesus gives dire warnings to those who refuse to turn from sin and come to Him for salvation. “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:2-3). Revelation tells the fate of all those who choose to love unrighteousness and ungodliness, and who refuse to repent of sin and turn to Jesus in faith. “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death” (21:8). Jesus describes the second death as a place of darkness, fire, and of weeping and gnashing of teeth (see Matt. 8:12; 22:13; 25:41). To reject Christ is to reject the very Source of life, light, joy, peace, holiness, justice, equity, and love. Eternal separation from Him is the tragic consequence of rejecting and renouncing Christ.

Hopefully the church in America will recapture the understanding of the seriousness of sin, and that each of us will see more clearly all that is at stake when temptation comes our way. An ounce of pleasure isn’t worth the price of a hundred pounds of pain and regret—or worse.

8 Truths About Biblical Faith

Faith is a vital element in Christian life. In fact, without faith there is no salvation or pleasing God. The following are eight crucial elements  of biblical faith.

  1. Faith is the conviction of the unseen reality. Biblical Christian faith (belief) is neither abstract nor simply intellectual consent. The writer of Hebrews notes, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (11:1). He then goes on to explain by using an example, “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (11:3). Faith is like a mortar, binding and holding together what God reveals He has done, who He is, what He is like, what He is doing, and what He is going to do. Although our physical eyes cannot see the reality, faith has “eyes” that see what God reveals, and this becomes a conviction which leads action.
  2. Faith is not passive. God is not interested in people’s rumps sitting in pews, mindlessly and heartlessly singing songs and rushing about in religious activities. Genuine faith is vital, and it consists of pursuing and trusting God. The writer of Hebrews notes, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (11:6). Apart from genuine faith, it is impossible to please God, despite and religious or good works. Genuine faith is a response to God and His Word, and actively pursues Christ in trust and obedience.
  3. Faith trusts God and what He says. We are told that Abraham believed God and He “counted it to him as righteousness” (Gen. 15:6). God had told Abraham that he and his wife would have a biological son in their elderly age, and this son would be Abraham’s heir. The real test of his faith came later, after Isaac his son was born. God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son. Some people get stuck on God’s command, but He wasn’t going to allow Abraham to kill his son. However, Hebrews reveals the depth of Abraham’s faith: By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back” (Heb. 11:17-19). Genuine faith believes God, whatever He says. What He reveals in the Scriptures is who He is, what He is like, what He has done, and what He’s going to do—even when one does not fully comprehend (which shouldn’t surprise anyone, since we are finite and God is infinite. As God says to us, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:9).
  4. Faith responds approximately to God’s instructions and warnings. Genuine faith responds appropriately to God’s character and ways, to His love and holiness, His promises of blessings and warnings of judgment, to His words of comfort and His words of rebuke. The writer of Hebrews writes of Noah, “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith” (11:7). Isaiah, when he got a glimpse of the glory of God, cried out, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isa. 6:5). And Jesus says, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words” (John 14:23-24). 
  5. Faith is anchored on Jesus Christ. Faith is centered around, and anchored on, the person and work of Jesus Christ. One’s salvation and acceptance is because of Christ’s death and resurrection (Rom. 5:9). The Christian’s identity is rooted in Him (Eph. 1 and 2). One’s good, acceptable works are wrought through Him (John 15:4-5). And His teachings are what give a person a solid foundation (Matt. 7:24-27). If one separates faith from Christ, he doesn’t have Christian faith. Jesus Christ is the very focal point of the Scriptures. Jesus says, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39). “No one who denies the Son has the Father” (1 John 2:23).
  6. Faith is accompanied by good works. A person is saved entirely by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8), and not a single work or effort contributes to this. However, genuine faith will grow in love and kindness, which will result in good works that are both acceptable to, and wrought by, God. An unloving Christian is a contradiction in terms. When a person is truly by the grace of God, this grace will manifest itself in his life in various ways, albeit not perfectly. James writes explicitly, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good[b] is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (2:14-17). Paul writes, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). And Jesus our Lord says, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). Good works, then, do not contribute to one’s salvation; however, the evidence of true salvation includes good works and acts of mercy.
  7. Faith looks and sees beyond the temporal. The writer of Hebrews observed that God called out men like Abraham, making wonderful promises. They did not witness all the promises come to fruition while on earth, for the promises were not for this temporal world only.  “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (11:8-10). Genuine faith holds loosely to this world and fixes its gaze on the kingdom of Heaven.
  8. Faith endures hardships. One of the great perversions in American Christendom is the popular teaching of faith being a means of attaining wealth, having a “good” life, and being free of problems. Such teachings are a gross departure from authentic Christianity. The prophets, apostles, and Jesus were persecuted. Many of them were not affluent. The writer of Hebrews notes that while many persons of faith witnessed mighty workings of God, some “were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earthAnd all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised” (11:35-38). Paul tells us, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:12-13). And Jesus says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt.10).

Faith is far more than a religious word. It is an anchored and active lifestyle fixed and founded entirely on Jesus Christ. To get this wrong is to have the whole structure collapse  (1 Cor. 15).