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.

A King and His Kingdom (Part 3)

As mentioned previously, every kingdom has its own unique culture and ways. The kingdom of God is no exception. In His Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7), Jesus describes the culture and customs of His kingdom. The foundational aspect of the kingdom is repentance and surrender to God. Jesus says, “Blessed are: 

  • the poor in spirit,
  • those who mourn, 
  •  the meek, 
  • those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, 
  • the merciful,
  • the pure in heart, 
  • the peacemakers, 
  • those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, 
  • are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account (Matt. 5:3-11).

The first four Beatitudes represent recognition and sorrow for sin, and the desire for God’s mercy. The remainder of the Beatitudes show the inner work of sanctification, which results in the scorn and persecution of non-citizens. 

In the remainder of the Sermon Jesus explains further customs of His kingdom: the upholding of God’s Word, purity/fidelity, peace, truth, integrity, mercy/compassion, and the like. Towards the end of His Sermon, Jesus notes that very few will truly become citizens of His kingdom (7:13-14). Furthermore, many will give pretense of being citizens, but their words and behaviors will betray them. The issue isn’t the imperfection, but the very lawlessness and the refusal to surrender to God of the unregenerate (7:18-23). Many want the delicacies of the kingdom but not its ways or it’s King, but to scorn the latter is to be deprived of the former. 

A synopsis of the Sermon on the Mount can be seen in one of Paul’s letters:

By the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect…. Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. ~ Romans 12:1-2, 9-21

The kingdom of God is established upon absolute righteousness. In this world, it is true, no one is perfect. No one measures up to the King’s high standards. However, persons are permitted to become citizens of His Kingdom by coming through the only entrance:

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber…. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. ~ John 10:1, 9-10

To enter through the Door, one must come humbly, repentant, and a willingness to be changed by the inner workings of the Holy Spirit. There are many who profess to be of the kingdom but they are not its citizens, for they refuse the King’s terms. They want a treaty with a world that is hostile towards Him and His holiness. They want a duel citizenship, not understanding neither kingdom accepts this. Jesus tells a parable describing such individuals who will be utterly shocked when they are called out for their refusal of His terms.

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. ~ Matthew 22:11-14

The expectation of the citizens of the kingdom of God is to be clothed in the righteousness of Christ, which is provided by Him. To refuse His providence is to reveal one’s contempt, like that of Cain (Gen. 4).

The King reveals His kingdom in further detail, as we receive glimpses of the splendor of Heaven—the New Jerusalem. Yet, let us be very mindful of what we are told within the descriptions:

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…. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. ~ Revelation 21:8, 27

There are many who bulk at such revelation, but this does not reveal any injustice or malignity within God. Rather, this reveals the truthfulness of God’s Word when it reveals humanity’s corrupt and unrighteous nature because of sin. When persons are shut out of the kingdom of God, it is not because of hostility within God. He has long offered peace and reconciliation. No, but the fault lies within people, for:

The light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. ~ John 3:19-20

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:

Whatever Happened to Truth?

There was a time when truth was more valued. This isn’t to say people didn’t ever lie, but is was a shameful thing to be considered a liar. There was a time when, for many, a handshake was a good as one’s word. Today, many people’s word is as useless as a flimsy handshake.

The Bible says a lot about truth. We are told in Proverbs 23:23, “Buy truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding.” To buy, here, does not mean to purchase but to acquire, to obtain. Just as in the case when Jesus tells the church in Laodicea, “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen” (Rev. 3:18). The Lord was not telling them to purchase what only He can give, but to receive, to trade in, to obtain what He is graciously willing to give.

But do we see much desire for truth today? Is not our day much like Isaiah’s, a time when, “Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter” (Isa. 59:14)?

Deception is considered a valuable tool and virtue to many politicians, the press, and education system. Oh, they will not necessarily openly declare this, but they don’t need to. Many have built their entire careers on lying and “bending the truth.” The press has, for many years now, been propagating instead of journaling. The education system feels no shame in “reconstructing” history, and very few are compelled to examine the actual writings of our forefathers to glean truth.

Even much of the populace is fine with being lied to, as many applaud those doing the lying . Lies, deception, and twisting truth is acceptable if these will accomplish the desired goal. I’ve observed such behaviors even among some who profess to be followers of Christ. Underhanded tactics and turning a blind eye, acting as if Christ condones such deceptive polity done in His Holy name.

Jesus declares, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), and of the Father’s word, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). Yet, how many who profess His name so easily chuck the truth, lest it offends or makes one feel uncomfortable. Sadly, very few pastors are willing to preach the whole counsel of God (truth), lest they lose popularity or members of their congregation. So many parishioners simply want to be encouraged and patted on the back, not to be convicted and challenged so that they might become better persons. And many churches are endorsing ideologies that are grounded in falsehood, but again, the compromise of truth is deemed acceptable if it supports their desired goal.

The jettisoning of truth, however, comes with a cost. We are left with only cargo containing falsehood, and God is not to be found in what is false or deceptive. The Bible warns, “Let no one deceive you in any way. For [the day of the Lord] will not come, unless the rebellion [i.e., the apostasy] comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed” (2 Thes. 2:3). Before the Antichrist ever comes onto the scene, there will first be a great apostasy—a departure from solid, orthodox faith.  This must be so, for there must be a populace ready to embrace this false, deceptive, evil messiah. This great deception will come as a consequence, and judgement, of people’s trampling of truth for the embracing of falsehood and unrighteousness. “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thes. 2:9-12). We must not think unrighteousness merely includes rapists and murderers. No, but it includes religious people—even those who call themselves “Christian”—but who do not love the truth but believe and take pleasure in what is contrary to the truth.

So, what has happened to the truth? It has not gone anywhere. People can choose to abandon truth, but it can never truly be escaped. It might be beneath people’s feet and trampled with the dust, but no further. But make no mistake, when God comes for this priceless jewel and takes it away from a world that’s unworthy of it, how dreadful when all that’s left for the world is the fool’s gold it had so loved, embraced, and cherished. 

Be Careful Little Eyes and Ears

Perhaps you’re familiar with the children’s rhyme, “O be careful little eyes what you see.” The second verse says, “O be careful little ears what you hear.” We might consider these nice words for a children’s song, but these are profound wisdom for adults. As Christians, we live in a culture immersed in godlessness. Music, movies, and literature glorify immorality, vice, violence, and sacrilege. Politicians use lying and deception for their advantages in power and wealth, and because of smoke and mirrors—and some blackmail—many get away with all sorts of crimes and sordid behaviors behind the scenes. Educational institutions vigorously promote secular humanism, where everything is permissible and/or rationalized—except for Jesus Christ and the truth.

For the person who truly desires to draw near to God and grow in his relationship to Christ, “be careful little eyes [and ears]” takes on deeper significance. What we choose to allow our eyes to see, ears to hear, and minds to entertain will affect our hearts and behaviors in one way or another. The Scriptures have much to say about these.

Jesus knows how visual men are and how prone we are to entertain lustful glances and thoughts. So serious is this matter, He says, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 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” (Matt. 5:28-29). Although He speaks hyperbolically, He is stressing to men, “Be careful little eyes what you see. Do what you must to protect yourself from what enters.”

The apostle Paul says we are to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). This responsibility is made more difficult if one takes into his eyes, ears, and mind those things which are sinful and anti-Christ in nature. 

Elsewhere Paul writes, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil. 4:8). In another letter he warns, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy [i.e., ideologies and shifting human reasoning] and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits [or principles]of the world, and not according to Christ” (Col. 2:8).

Consider what you are allowing your  little eyes to see and little ears to hear. What affect are they having on your thoughts, and what’s funneling down to your heart? Are the things you’re allowing your eyes to see and ears to hear drawing you closer to Christ or pulling you away? Are you allowing pictures and videos to arouse insatiable desires within you? What about the music you listen to? Is it feeding sensual desires or emotions of anger or despair? What about the teachings you’re listening to and the literature you’re reading. Are they amplifying the Spirit’s promptings or muffling His convictions? 

“O be careful little eyes what you see.” Are these just words for children? No, but these are words inviting us to partake of the wellsprings of life. But do we have the ears to hear and the eyes to see?

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.

5 Vital Works of the Holy Spirit Neglected by Many Charismatics

From the outset, while I am not a Charismatic, neither am I a cessationist. I believe God still heals and uses various spiritual gifts according to His purposes. However, I must stress that I do not believe so much of what is promoted as moves of the Holy Spirit are necessarily such. Many Charismatics put undue emphases on what the Holy Spirit had done in Acts to fuel the early church that they disregard the very teachings about Him spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ. While many Charismatics put unwarranted emphasis on the Holy Spirit, spiritual gifts, and emotional experiences, Jesus explains the true purposes of the Holy Spirit. Spiritual experiences can be extremely deceptive, especially if one is not willing to let the Scriptures be the blueprint to understand the appropriate perimeters. While some will say, “You can’t put God in a box!” God, who is infinite, does have perimeters. He who is holy cannot go beyond into practices which violate His holiness. He who is Truth will not involve Himself in what is deceptive. And the God of order is not the author of confusion and chaos. Isaiah writes, “To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn” (8:20). The apostle John commands, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1). And the apostle Paul warns, “For even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:14-15). 

While many churches are crediting the Holy Spirit for tongues, strange behaviors, wonders, and persons prostituting the Gospel, in these spiritually perilous times may we truly keep in mind the following teachings about the Holy Spirit from the lips of Jesus Christ the Lord.

  1. The Holy Spirit will be our Helper. Jesus teaches us that the Holy Spirit is our Helper. The New Testament reveals that the Holy Spirit comforts and encourages is in our trials and advocates for us. How shameful that in some circles persons give credit to the Holy Spirit for convulsions, seizures, behaving, literally, like animals, and chaos. How disgraceful to give credit to the Holy Spirit for inducing behaviors of which Jesus delivered persons from, ad is recorded in the Gospels. We do not even read of such madness in Acts. So where does such thinking come from?
  2. The Holy Spirit comes to convict the world of sin. Jesus says the Holy Spirit will come to convict the world concerning sin and righteousness (John 16:8). Does it not stand to reason if He convicts the world of sin, then He would certainly bring conviction to those within the church? Yet, many churches and movements claiming moves of the Holy Spirit are not being convicted of sin. Instead, there is a condoning of pride, sensationalism, homosexuality, greed, love for the praises of people, and various expressions of idolatry. Regardless of any signs or wonders happening, is it truly the Holy Spirit at work if people are not being convicted of sin and repenting of them?
  3. The Holy Spirit brings to our remembrance Christ’s teachings. An irony of so much said to be “moves of the Spirit” is much of it goes against the very teachings of Christ, and there seems to be a spiritual amnesia when it comes to such. Jesus says the Holy Spirit  “will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26). One chilling truth of Jesus that is cast aside is the truth that signs and wonders are not proof of the Holy Spirit. Jesus says plainly in the Sermon on the Mount, “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. 7:22-23). Elsewhere He warns, “For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect” (Matt. 24:24).
  4. Guiding Christ’s people in the truth. Similar to the previous point, Jesus says the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of truth (John 14:17)—“will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13). Later, while praying to the Father, Jesus says, “Sanctify them [His people] in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). The Holy Spirit guides the followers of Christ in accordance to the Scriptures. The Scriptures are our blueprint to Christian living and our map for spiritual wanderings. It is by the Scriptures we are to “test the spirits” and to discern between truth and error.
  5. The Holy Spirit bears witness about Christ. One of the chief works of the Holy Spirit is to direct people’s attention to Jesus Christ. Jesus states, “He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:14). The Holy Spirit never seeks to draw attention to Himself, but to drive us to Jesus. Yet, in many Charismatic circles the focus is on the Holy Spirit and the supposed works of Him. This focus is unbiblical, for He seeks to direct us to the Cross and to the risen Savior. Even in Acts the purpose of the moving sand giftings of the Spirit were to direct people to Christ. If one’s attention is not being directed to Jesus, the works are certainly not of the Holy Spirit but some other spirit.

This post is not at all meant to criticize my Charismatic brethren. I know of some who are very godly individuals who strive to be anchored on God’s Word. Yet, I have also witnessed the abuse of spiritual gifts, persons separating believers as the “haves” and have nots.” Such prideful exhibitions are the very attitudes Paul condemns in his letters to the Corinthians. The gifts differ amongst believers and are always meant to build up one another, not to be showcased like children during show-and-tell. Furthermore, I’ve come across individuals who have outright denied the very Gospel message, saying that if a person does not manifest certain gifts then he is not filled with the Holy Spirit, and thus is not saved. But such heretical teachings go directly against the clear teachings of the New Testament—including Acts—that persons are saved by grace through faith and believing on Jesus Christ who died for our sins and was raised from the dead. The evidence of the Spirit are not in the gifts but the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:16-24).

Churches must return to the teachings of Scripture or else face dire consequences. While it is true we do not ever want to attribute true workings of the Holy Spirit to the devil; however, we must also beware of attributing works of the flesh and of devils to the Holy Spirit. Both errors are fatal.

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.