Forever Grateful 

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, chapters one and two, believers are given some glimpses of deep realities of the depths of God’s love for us countered by the realities of our depravity and utter helplessness. Regarding His love for those who are His, take note of some strong words, full of meaning, used to describe God’s activities on our behalf.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ. ~ Ephesians 1:3-9

Two common mistakes I think many Christians make are, 1) thinking they actually understand the concepts of  God’s choosing us, predestination, adoption, and redemption; and 2) either dismissing or changing their meanings. These mean exactly what they say, despite the depths are beyond human comprehension.

One’s redemption, cleansing, and salvation were God’s ideas and initiatives, not ours. We could neither dream of a God loving us so much that He would suffer for us nor that He would lavish such profound love, grace, and forgiveness so richly and freely. Furthermore, as we will see from chapter two, apart from His initiatives, we would not have desired these to begin with.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air [the devil], the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. ~ Ephesians 2:1-6

Like zombies, we appeared to be alive, but we were dead; made insane as we were driven by sinful passions and godless pride, following the current of the world and the rebellion of the devil. Like bucking, untamed horses, we kicked against the sacred and holy. By grace we are saved—and only by grace.

Again, a couple of common mistakes I think Christians make are, 1) thinking one was/is better than he really was/is; 2) thinking we didn’t follow after Satan in his rebellion; and 3) thinking that some inkling of goodness of our own contributed to our salvation.

The debt Christ paid with His own blood was a price we could never have paid. The humiliation and shame He endured was so we could be delivered from our own, making us acceptable to God. We sometimes forget just how serious our situation was. We were both separated from God and bound for a hell of our own earning and deserving. Jesus will forever be deserving of our awe, praise, worship, surrender, and gratitude. May we be forever grateful.

The Celestial City

In this world, Jesus tells us plainly, we will have tribulation. Tribulation is a period of great trouble or suffering. He goes on to say, “But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33) Whenever people say that God simply wants us “to be happy” or that faith brings us “health and wealth,” they really need to study the Scriptures. The people of God will experience trials, problems, and persecution (2 Tim. 3:12; James 1:2-3: 1 Pet. 1:6-7). Before His crucifixion, Jesus knew that afterwards, He would not only be resurrected but He would return to the Father. He gives this promise to His disciples,

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. ~ John 14:1-3

What will this place be like? The book of Revelation gives us some glimpses of this glorious place, the Celestial City. 

First, it will be a place of pulchritude; that is, a place of incredible beauty. Its beauty is compared to that of a beautiful virgin bride.

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. ~ Revelation 21:2

The beauty of Heaven is not haphazardly slapped together thoughtlessly. It is designed and prepared by God Himself, with such deliberate thought as a bride prepares and adorns herself for her wedding day

The Celestial City is a place of peace. This world is in constant turmoil and pain. Never, since the fall, has our world ever been free of violence, war, and abuse. Every generation must experience sickness, loss, grief, and death. We don’t get used to these, because we’re not supposed to. But the redeemed are given this promise:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” ~ Revelation 21:3-4

Life will be to the fullest. Persons will not simply exist but truly live. God will no longer be approached in faith but the redeemed will dwell in His presence. Furthermore, persons will not be sitting on clouds playing harps. It will be a place of genuine love, joy, laughter, and belonging. There will no longer be sadness, rejection, depression, anxiety, or loneliness.

Our world is polluted and intoxicated by sin. Everything humanity touches is somehow defiled by selfishness, greed, lies, abuse, and perversion. The Celestial City will be a place of perfection

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.” … And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 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, 23-27

“God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). All that corrupts and defiles is prohibited from the Celestial City. Those who are not redeemed and regenerated by the atoning work of Christ will not find entrance. The destructive power of sin will not exist in the heavenly city. There will be no crime or violence, no greed or corruption, no immorality or perversion, and no lies or deception. The City will be completely safe for it’s redeemed citizens.

Finally, the Celestial City is a place of proposal. To many, it sounds mean that so many won’t gain entrance, but people are extended an invitation through Christ, who paid the penalty for our sins. Through faith in Him and repentance of sin anyone can find mercy, new life, and citizenship to the Celestial City, but the majority of people stubbornly refuse. It’s not for no reason we are told,

Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy…. The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. ~ Revelation 22:11, 17

The invitation is extended to any and all who are willing to come through Christ. But those who love evil will cling to their evil. Those who love their perversion will hold fast to their perversions. Mockers will continue to mock and scoffers will continue to scoff. Although the invitation is extended to all, it is rejected by many. Have you responded to God’s invitation, and will you be among the citizens of the   Celestial City?

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” Jesus says, and “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 14:6; 6:37). Is the pig slop of temporal pleasures really worth giving up the eternal delicacies provided by the King of Glory?

Washed, Sanctified, Justified—and the Inner Struggle

Some people, after reading some of my posts, think I’m too negative and expect Christians to be perfect. However, to come to this conclusion is to miss the point of what I’m trying to communicate. Yes, I try to signal warnings often, but the intention is like that of a lighthouse trying to keep sailors from becoming shipwrecked. So much of what passes as “Christianity” today is far from what was intended by Jesus and the apostles, but there is real struggling within true believers.

We have such corny terms like “conservative Christian,” “liberal Christian,” and the list seems never ending. I’ve even heard of persons claiming to be “Christian socialists” (which is practically the equivalent of claiming to be a “Christian atheist”). Jesus never intended to come simply as an interior decorator or a landscaper. Rather, He came to demolish the old, set a new foundation, and build something totally new. He certainly did not come to promote political affiliations, but declares Himself to be Lord and King over all lords and kings.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17-18

Jesus gives His people an entirely new identity. God’s people are told,

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. ~ Ephesians 2:1-6

Elsewhere, we are told,

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 Peter 1:9-10

For many of us, if we are honest, were quite the rascals and scoundrels. We were selfish, hedonistic, blasphemous, and depraved in our thoughts and behaviors. The apostle Paul, writing to one of the churches, says,

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. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. ~ 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Did you catch that? “And such were some of you”—past tense. We are no longer who or what we were. In Christ we have a new identity, we are adopted into a new family (see Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:5; Eph. 1:5),  and we are given a new purpose which transcends living for ourselves and destructive passions. Let us not miss the importance of the words washedsanctified, and justified. Each of these have great significance for the follower of Christ. Washed means exactly what it says. We were washed and made clean.

And since we have a great priest over the house of God,  let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. ~ Hebrews 10:21-22

They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. ~ Revelation 7:14

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:7

If we were washed, then it means we were dirty, and if we were dirty then we were defiled and unacceptable before God. Regardless if you were immoral, greedy, a thief, a liar, mean-spirited or a gossip, each of us were dirty, defiled, and were on death row (see Rom. 3:10-23).

Sanctified is a religious term, and its significance must not be ignored. It means to be made holy, set apart for God’s purposes. We are given an excellent example of what this looks like practically:

For all nations have drunk the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living.” Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. ~ Revelation 18:3-5

In the Old Testament God condemned the people who made no distinction between the holy and profane:

Her priests have done violence to my law and have profaned my holy things. They have made no distinction between the holy and the common, neither have they taught the difference between the unclean and the clean, and they have disregarded my Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them. ~ Ezekiel  22:26

The apostle Paul, in separate letters illustrates what sanctification looks like when put into practice.

For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction…. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God. ~ 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5, 9

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God. ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5

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. ~ Titus 2:11-14

Justified, a vital concept woven throughout the New Testament, is a judicial term, meaning to be absolved of guilt, to be declared righteous. Mind you, this is not that our guilt is ignored. Far from! Rather, the person who looks to Christ in faith understands that He bore the penalty—death—for our sins and guilt.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. ~ Romans 5:1, 9

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:21

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. ~ Hebrews 9:11-14

We must not dismiss the significance of these words and their meanings. To do so comes with severe ramifications. Understand, we had once been on death row, but Christ bore our penalty and set us free from sin’s prison and condemnation. If a person on death row, today, was to receive pardon, common sense tells us the expectation is for the person to abstain from the criminal and lawless activities that led him there. Likewise, Christ did not die in our stead just to give us liberty to indulge in the sins which held us imprisoned, waiting for eternal condemnation.

Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more…. What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? ~ Romans 5:20; 6:1-2

So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. ~ Romans 6:11

Although we are to consider ourselves, to treat ourselves, dead to sin, each of us knows that sin does not go down humbly, willingly, or politely. While there is victory we have over sin, through Christ, many of us know that it waits to sucker punch us any chance it gets. In other words, although we are washed, sanctified, and justified, we are not perfect. Here we experience a paradox.

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. ~ Hebrews 10:14

In Christ, we are sanctified and made perfect; yet the Scriptures, and life, shows us we not perfect and are in the process of being sanctified. Many of us know the bitter sting of failure, the stumbling and falling on our faces and dirtying our garments. This inner battle is real, and even though for reasons we don’t understand, God permits it to prune us, purge us, to humble us, and to grow us. Of his own experience, the 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. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. ~ Romans 7:15-19

Elsewhere he writes of the inner battle each of us is aware of.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 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. ~ Galatians 5:16-17

There are battles won but others lost. There are times a genuine believer is permitted to fall and hit the ground hard. But we must not blame God (e.g., “God made me this way” or “He put me in this situation”). We are told plainly,

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. ~ James 1:13-15

But hope is not lost for the true sons and daughters of God, born again by His Spirit and redeemed by the blood of His Son. God allows us to stumble and fall, but He will help us back up. He might allow us to be broken, but He will repair us in due time. He will discipline us to correct us so that we will not be condemned with the world.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. ~ Romans 8:1

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. 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. ~ 1 John 1:8-2:1

In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. ~ Hebrews 12:4-11

To those who say my writings are “too negative,” I’m trying to warn those who are growing lax in, simply playing with, or outright defying the ways of God. To those who accuse me of thinking I’m better than others, I’m not better than anyone. I am a man who, too, struggles against the sinful nature. But regardless of what you think of me, examine what I say with the Scriptures. Is what I write true or not? But for those who are struggling, I encourage you to look, and cry out, to the Savior. His grace, forgiveness, and cleansing go deep. If you’ve fallen, His grace can lift you back up. If you’re dirty, His blood will cleanse you. If you’ve totally blown it, He can restore. If you are genuinely His, regardless of your past and present struggles, you are washed, sanctified, and justified. But yes, the inner struggle continues and is real. But remember who you belong to and your true identity in Him.

Leaving the Sheep and Lambs Vulnerable 


[Note: There are many good, Christ-centered pastors who are committed to Him and the Scriptures; however, there are also many who are drifting away from the Scriptures, and therefore also from Christ. This article is simply a warning of our need for discernment to know the difference in these turbulent times.]

There is an extremely dangerous trend that has been going on for a number of years. Men and women, trusting in their own wisdom and concerned about their own vanity, calling themselves “pastors,” yet neglecting to nourish and protect their flocks. Professing to have God’s heart for the lost, they cater to dogs, swine, and predators, leaving mere crumbs for the sheep and leaving the lambs as helpless prey. Professing to be “shepherds, they dismiss the Word of God to build “their” churches and bank accounts.

These so-called shepherds will say what they will, defending their practices and ways, but they have no defense before the living God who does not change. This departure from God and His Word is nothing new. The prophet Isaiah cries out against such persons of his day,

His watchmen are blind;  they are all without knowledge; they are all silent dogs; they cannot bark, dreaming, lying down, loving to slumber. The dogs have a mighty appetite; they never have enough. But they are shepherds who have no understanding; they have all turned to their own way, each to his own gain, one and all. ~ Isaiah 56:10-11

I know of a church whose previous pastor retired. Now, as they “reconstruct,” by their own admission in an ad seeking a worship “pastor,” one who will cater to younger people, “woo people to Jesus” through their worship production, and draw people to the church by their great music. The new “pastor” of this church is now discouraging and forbidding Bible studies to take place in the facilities (mind you, this is a large building) because he wants only things promoting “outreach.” Outreach for what? The Gospel? The true Gospel is founded on, and rooted in, the Word of God. 

I know of another church whose pastor has not only been deceived by some wolves, but permitted the flock to be left vulnerable and scattered. I know of some, personally, who have been deeply wounded in the process, as these wolves have come in promoting lies and sucking life and finances like worthless parasites.

Many churches throughout America are more concerned about appeasing popular culture and growing their numbers, rather than honoring Christ and nourishing His people. My bringing up such issues is not popular. Some people think my writings are too negative. But my desire is to see Christians and churches return to the teachings of the absolute truth of God’s Word and to stop depending on their feelings,as well as to stop being guided by their deceitful and desperately sick hearts. But how will this happen when sick seminaries are vomiting out so-called pastors who do not believe in the trustworthiness of the Scriptures, therefore refusing to yield to the authority of God’s Word and, instead, vomit out worthless ideas and opinions onto the congregations?

Jude advises believers to contend for the faith which has been once for all handed down to us, then warns of false teachers who have “crept” in to promote damnable teachings advocating sensuality (v. 3-4). And Paul, who declares that the very grace of God “trains us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions,” and that Jesus Christ “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness” (Tit. 2:12, 14). What can be said about many churches today? Is the very faith of which Jude tells us to defend, and the grace of which Paul tells us that trains us in godly self-discipline, truly being adhered to? If we are honest, do not many churches essentially teach the popular teaching of those who practice Wicca, “Do what thou wilt, but harm none”?

In many churches today God is not truly viewed and revered as being holy, holy, holy. Many so-called pastors cast doubt on both the Scriptures and the exclusivity of the penal substitutionary death of Christ, despite the fact Jesus fully endorsed the Scriptures’ trustworthiness and His being the only means of salvation. In many churches greed and covetousness are not condemned but endorsed, although Paul equates these with idolatry—the worship of false gods. Many show their approval of various forms of immorality, although the Scriptures condemn all forms thereof. (Yes, Jesus does touch on these, as He declares that from the very beginning God ordained marriage as being the unity of one man and one woman [see Matt. 19:4-6]). Although many like to claim that “we’re set free from the Law,” Paul tells us, 

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” ~ Galatians 5:13

Although many churches will profess having the “faith of our fathers,” many of these churches have jettisoned the faith a long time ago. As guilty as churches might be, mark my words that pastors who are falsely so-called will give account for misleading people, whether it was intentional or not.

The priests did not say, “Where is the Lord?” Those who handle the law did not know me; the shepherds transgressed against me; the prophets prophesied by Baal and went after things that do not profit. ~ Jeremiah 2:8

For the shepherds are stupid and do not inquire of the Lord; therefore they have not prospered, and all their flock is scattered. ~ Jeremiah 10:21

Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the Lord. ~ Jeremiah 23:2

And this is the real point of James’ teaching on taming the tongue, for he begins by saying, 

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness…. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. ~ James 3:1, 5-6

How many churches and lives are ablaze because of hellish flames of the false doctrines of people’s man-centered theologies and ideologies? Preachers, say what you will, but Jesus tells us plainly,

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. ~ Matthew 7:13-14.

Furthermore, Jesus warns us,

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. ~ Matthew 7:21-23

If you’re reading this and the Holy Spirit is convicting you, then now is not the time to resist and make excuses. Rather, the Spirit commands to repent. Preacher, are you feeding the sheep and lambs the Word of God or are you giving priority to your agendas and the beasts of the wilderness? Take heed, for God loves His flock, and He will punish those who starve, mistreat, and scatter them.

My Best Friend and Our Anchor

As I write this, my wife and I are celebrating another wedding anniversary. Marriage is not always easy. It consists of two imperfect persons having different strengths, weaknesses, and temperaments together facing various—and sometimes unexpected—situations and trials.

Before giving my wife her card and a couple small gifts, I pulled up on my phone, “You’re My Best Friend,” by Queen. Some of the lines in the song are, “Ooh, you make me live, whatever this world can give to me,” “In rain or shine, you’ve stood by me girl,” “Ooh, you make me live whenever this world is cruel to me I got you to help me forgive,” “Oh, you’re the first one when things turn out bad, you know I’ll never be lonely,” and “I’m happy, happy at home, you’re my best friend.” These words are descriptive of my wife. She has stood by me through some really difficult times.

Yet, we also have the Lord to give thanks to. Again, marriage is not easy. In fact, there are times it can be extremely difficult. In life, faith, and marriage, we have this hope and promise:

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. ~ Hebrews 6:19-20

Aside from any opinions of Ray Boltz (or Queen, for that matter), there is still truth in the words to his song, “The Anchor Holds.” 

“The anchor holds / Though the ship is battered / The anchor holds / Though the sails are torn / I have fallen on my knees / As I faced the raging seas / The anchor holds / In spite of the storm.”

There are times when storms seem to thrash us around and hope begins to seem dashed on the rocks. But through prayer, an anchor that holds, and commitment, we are still together. We’re still going to have bad days and get on each other’s nerves, and there are still more storms to come. But my wife is my best friend, and Jesus Christ is our anchor of hope. 

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.

8 Lessons (of Many More) We Can Learn from the Seven Churches of Revelation 2-3

There are those who believe the seven churches of Revelation represent seven “church ages.” While I’ve considered this possibility,  I’m not convinced. I believe these seven literal churches represent the struggles and pitfalls churches continually face throughout the entire church age (singular) until the return of Christ. I think each of us would be wise to prayerfully and honestly read Revelation 2-3 and let the Holy Spirit reveal to us the unpleasant realities of our own hearts and the awful conditions of many of our churches. We’d be wiser still if we repent of all sin He reveals.

The words to the churches are instructions, warnings, and encouragement for us as much as they were to them. Of the seven churches, only two received complete commendation. Two received only rebuke, while the rest received both. Most of our churches fall into the latter groups. May we take Jesus’ words to heart.

  1. Jesus walks in our midst. This truth, if churches really believed and understood this, would challenge attitudes, thoughts, words, and behaviors. Jesus notices every detail going on in churches, whether it’s during services, meetings, or behind closed doors—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Behind the talk, the actions, and the motives, everything is perceived by His scrutinizing eye.
  2. Love is as important as sound doctrine (and vice versa). Which is more important, love or sound doctrine? The question is like asking which is more important, air or water? Neither is more important but both are vital. The church of Ephesus was commended by Christ for holding firmly to sound doctrine but sternly rebuked for losing love for Him. The church in Pergamum was commended for holding fast to His name but sternly rebuked for permitting false teachers and their teachings. For churches to be healthy and truly Christ-honoring, sound doctrine and fervent love for Christ. To surrender one is like giving up air or water—too long without either is fatal.
  3. Suffering does not equal God’s displeasure. The church in Smyrna was highly commended by Christ with no rebuke, although it had to endure tribulation, poverty, and intense suffering. This truth goes directly against the heresies of the modern “prosperity” gospel and teachings that God’s favor is evidenced by the comforts of this world.
  4. Jesus will judge idolatry and sexual immorality if not repented of. Jesus doesn’t turn a blind eye to idolatry, immorality, perversions, or the seduction of His people into such practices. The churches in Pergamum and Thyatira were severely rebuked by Christ for permitting idolatrous practices and sexual immorality. Jesus commands repentance and threatens severe consequences for those who refuse to repent. This should sound an alarm to churches today who permit idolatrous teachings (e.g., yoga, goddess worship, pluralism, etc.) and sexual immorality of various kinds or who turn a blind eye to sexual abuse. Jesus’ command of repentance is just as valid today as back then.
  5. Jesus searches the mind and heart, not just actions. To the church in Thyatira, “the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire” (2:18), declares, “All the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works” (2:23). Jesus not only sees the works and actions, but He also sees the motives, lusts, and ambitions behind all the pretensions. He threatens tribulation and commands repentance. For all who refuse to repent, the consequences only become more severe. Jesus is not speaking to the world here, but to His church. 
  6. Having a reputation of being alive does not mean God is pleased. Many churches appear to be thriving today. They have large numbers of people and programs. From all accounts they appear alive and hopping. The church in Sardis had a reputation of being alive, but Jesus says it was dead and lethargic. Seeing is not always believing, and perception doesn’t necessarily capture reality.
  7. Jesus honors love and faithfulness to Him. Of the seven churches, only two received only commendation. All the others received rebukes of some kind. So Jesus had some grievance against over 70% of the churches. Very few churches possess the caliber of faith and loving devotion as Smyrna and Philadelphia. Although such churches usually face trials of different kinds, Jesus promises His faithfulness and reward for these churches.
  8. Our perception can differ greatly from God’s. Just as suffering doesn’t necessarily mean God’s distance or displeasure, affluence doesn’t necessarily mean God is pleased. The church in Laodicea was rich and prosperous, but Jesus rebuked it, saying, “You are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (3:17). Churches can be presumptuous, thinking God is pleased because attendance has grown and the cashflow is coming in. Ironically, these can be evidence that things are severely wrong.

May we, today, have an ear, and hear what the Spirit says to the churches today.

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.