The Church’s Need to Press Into God

This is not intended to slam the church, but the time has come for Christians to stop “playing” church and start being the church. It’s time to jettison the numbers game and to start getting serious about authentic discipleship. It’s far past time for treating churches like businesses and trend-setters, and to start getting serious about Jesus Christ and His Great Commission—adhering to Jesus’ instructions instead of sinful men’s ingenuity.

For the past several decades the church has pressed more into the world, learning from its practices, ways, and examples to try to woo persons to Jesus, instead of pressing into God in prayer, proclaiming the true gospel, and trusting the work of the Holy Spirit to convict people of sin and drawing them to Christ in truth. However, what has happened instead is the church has become, by and large, impotent, ineffective, and irrelevant. In the meantime, the world is rapidly changing—and not for the better. Spiritual deception is running rampant, the world’s powerful elitists (including the Pope—who is not an ambassador of Christ) are pushing for a one world governance, which the Bible says will be demonically orchestrated and will give rise to the evil-to-the-core Antichrist. A secular, godless world is already being conditioned to embrace such a horrific leader to be its pseudo-savior.

Sadly, many preachers are more concerned with building megachurches, and many who profess to be Christians are more interested in feeling warm fuzzies, playing religious games, and slithering in and out of services without any commitment, rather than becoming genuine disciples and ambassadors of Christ, and being ready at any time for His return.

It’s high time for Christians to get serious about sin and repentance, and for so-called “backsliders” to stop feigning an empty faith and get right with God. We are entering a time when we can’t afford to play and mess around. Governments around the world are becoming increasingly corrupt, and it seems godless Marxism is is increasingly taking root. These, and the globalist elites do view Christianity with hostility. There is a strong storm brewing, and those who are not truly building their faith on the solid foundation of Christ and His teachings are in for a terribly rude awakening.

It’s timed or the church to press into the holy God, and to stop trying to appease the world. It’s time to return to proclaiming the true gospel and to warn of the wrath to come (1 Thes. 2:16). Indeed, we must speak the truth in love, but it’s high time to stop cuddling people in their sins. It’s true, they might choose to walk away forever from the grace offered them, but it’s their choice to make (Matt. 19:21-22). But this is better than cradling them in their sins and lying to them, giving them a false hope—which is exactly what it is when we try to say God accepts us and our sins or to simply deny something is sin that the Bible does call sin.

I wonder, when the storm comes, how many persons have genuine faith in Christ and His gospel that they’re not going to be swept away by the tides of deception and persecution? I’m both saddened and angered by how many are called pastors, but who are nothing but mongrels who have no business being behind the pulpit. They do not preach the whole counsel of God, they do not truly disciple and equip believers for kingdom living, but simply spin sermon lullabies, keeping persons lackadaisical. Many of them offer “gospels” which are not gospels at all, worthless teachings of temporal prosperity and a sense of belonging, but void of the true Spirit of Christ.

I’m not simply being unnecessarily critical. The Bible warns that in the last days deception and lawlessness will abound, and there will be a great apostasy (i.e., a falling away from the faith). Furthermore, we are warned: “But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” (Rev. 12:12). This dragon’s rage against the people of God is going to intensify, and he is going to give his authority to a man someday who is going to deceive many. This time might be closer than we think, if our world succumbs to a global governance. Eventually this is going to happen, but church, must it be now? Are we really to be like drunken or sleeping sentries who are oblivious to the forces of evil standing at the gates and ready for battle? Are the faithful to be left defenseless simply because so-called pastors are afraid of people leaving their churches because of truth or simply trying to make a name for themselves, rather than exalting them name of Jesus? Understand, every one of us will one day give account, and not everyone who says of Jesus, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 7:21-23).

The church can no longer afford to “do business as usual.” We must begin pressing into God. First, we need to confess and repent of our religious games, idolatry, and apathy. Second, we need to plead for God’s protection from the storm to come, which might be closer than we think. Third, we need to plead for  divine discernment in these times, for lies and deception are all around us and are growing increasingly worse. Our nation and world have entered a downward spiral of which there is no recovering from except for the mercy of God in response to the prayers of His people. But the question remains, will we cast off our obstinance and pride to press into God for healing and restoration?

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

Hello, my friends, I hope your week may be off on a good start and finish likewise. In my last post I was talking about the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount. I am continuing on the subject.

The Beatitudes of which Jesus teaches are an internal, progressive work of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life. After all, by nature we are not meek, pure in heart, or merciful. We do not hunger and thirst for righteousness or mourn over sin. The Sermon on the Mount begins with the Beatitudes, which require the inner working of the Holy Spirit, because only when these are activated within a person can the rest of the teachings begin being applied. Understand, Jesus’ teachings are not a list of do’s and don’ts to try to live by. Jesus is not interested in religious behavior. No, He is interested in redemption and transformation. And these we are completely dependent on Him and His Spirit, for we cannot accomplish these.

In the second Beatitude Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn.” Some translations read, “Happy are those who mourn,” but I think the word favorable is more accurate than happy. In any case, what is Jesus saying, that it’s good for people to be sad? No, not quite. He is building upon the first Beatitude, which is “blessed are the poor in spirit.” The poor in Spirit are those who recognize they are completely incapable of paying their sin debt before God, that no amount of “good deeds” can cancel their guilt before God. Those who mourn are those who recognize the wickedness of their sins and are not only remorseful, but repentant before the Lord. Such persons will be comforted because these are the ones who will find mercy and justification. A prime example of this can be seen in Jesus’ following parable:

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. ~ Luke 18:9-14

Three unfortunate, yet all too common, responses to sin—even in modern Evangelicalism—are to get angry when someone exposes our sins, to simply deny the sinfulness and seriousness of sins, or deflect in order to expose others’ sins to get attention off of ours. Sadly, all three of these inappropriate responses are representative of many churches. 

The first response can be seen in those who get upset with the pastor, “Preacher, you went from preaching to meddling! How dare you!” The second response can be seen in statements like, “Everybody is welcomed here! God loves you as you are!” No, God does not love us as we are. He loves us, yes; but He hates our selfishness, meanness, pride, immorality, hatred, etc. Then the third response is all too common in conservative churches, as the sins of society are highlighted and condemned, while all the pride, hypocrisy, partiality, division, anger, and the like are ignored in the lives of the “faithful.”

Is it not strange how easily sin can be detected in others but not ourselves? And when it is our sin, well, we have a justifiable reason (whereas others do not). For example, one’s child comes home from school with a bad attitude. How dare they behave that way! Yet, Dad comes home and slams the door, kicks the dog, and yells at his wife. “Well, I had a bad day,” he says. As if children do not? Young people today face a lot of stress triggers that didn’t exist when I was in school. At a deeper level, persons can judge the various behaviors of society, all the while ignore the arrogance, apathy, greed, lust, and hypocrisy swirling around within their own hearts.

When I was a child, I remember times getting in trouble with friends or family. “What about them?” I would ask. “You are in trouble for what you did,” I’d be told. In Jesus’ parable, notice the Pharisee’s deflection. “God, thank you I’m not like sinners, but I tithe and ….” But elsewhere, Jesus says of the Pharisees,

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others…. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. ~ Matthew 23:23, 27-28

But notice the response of the tax collector in Jesus’ parable. He did not observe the Pharisee’s hypocrisies and such, nor did he mention the sins of others. However, he was very aware of his own sins, and was grieving over them. He could not even lift His eyes, but simply looked down while beating his chest, saying, “God, forgive me, a sinner.”

As Christians, we can all too easily decry the sins of society, but what has happened to our mourning over sin—our sins? How can we curse the darkness if we are guilty of blowing out our candles? 

At a personal level, God will deal with others and their sins in His own time. But the Lord asks of me, “Geno, what about your anger, unkind words, and those sinful thoughts entertained in your head? What about your own lack of compassion and laziness when some things could be done?”

Why are we afraid of the Lord’s light exposing us and our sin when He offers forgiveness? Yet, you and I need to take the Lord’s teachings seriously. We are not justified in decrying everyone else’s sins. We find comfort and justification only by turning to Him, and dealing honestly with our own sins. If we would return to genuinely mourning over our own sins, we could maybe see real revival throughout our land.

The Humility and Sacrifice Love Requires

Hello, my friends, I hope this finds you well in these crazy times in which we are living. I am sure you are well aware that there so many things to stoke anxiety and fear within us. Like a chain reaction, fear fuels anger, anger ignites hatred, and hatred results in a lot of disunity, destruction, and unhappiness. All one has to do is turn on any news program or social media to find a myriad of reasons to be afraid, angry, and even hateful. In fact, there are certain individuals, groups, and organizations whose ambition is to propagate these in various forms.

Recently I began reading the Gospel of Matthew again. I have been stuck re-reading and reflecting on the teachings found in the Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7 and Luke 6). These teachings are not about what one is to strive to become, but what one will increasingly become as he or she surrenders to Christ and His teachings. Yet I admit, I posted on Facebook, “I’ve grown a lot, but the Beatitudes remind me I still have a lot of growing to do.” See, the Beatitudes are the seeds that must begin sprouting before the rest of the Lord’s teachings can become fruitful in one’s life. Have you read the Beatitudes lately? Blessed are:

  • the poor in spirit (spiritually destitute and acknowledge such)
  • those who mourn (for their own sinful wretchedness)
  • the meek (humility + gentleness + self-restraint [e.g., not reacting in anger, etc.])
  • those who hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness
  • the merciful 
  • the pure in heart
  • the peacemakers 
  • those persecuted for Christ’s sake

Meekness, God’s righteousness, mercy, purity of heart, peacemaking, and persecution without retaliation are made possible through humility and the sacrifice of one’s own agendas and sense of entitlements; and these become possible through genuine love. Many of us like to think of ourselves as these incredibly loving individuals, but how many of us handle it well when our spouses, family members, or friends humiliate or upset us, let alone strangers or foes? How well do many of us handle other drivers? Yet, check out what Jesus teaches:

But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you…. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. ~ Luke 6:27-28, 35

Did you catch these? Love your enemies; do good to them; bless them; pray for them—all without expectation. Our adversaries might not ever change, but we are called to still do good, extending goodness. Now, this does not mean to ignore justice. For example, if a man murderers or violates another, love does not turn a blind eye for the sake of “forgiveness.” This is not love. But love does not delight in cruelty, torture, and for its foes to die a thousand deaths and suffer the flames of hell. These are the traits of hatred. Love, on the other hand, desires redemption, restoration, and reconciliation.

Our society talks a lot about love and justice, but these go hand in hand. Yet, are you seeing the difficulties? Love is both patient and kind, and it delights in the truth; it is neither envious nor resentful; it does not demand its own way (see 1 Cor. 13:4-8). Do you and I see these being lived out in society? 

Love must begin with humility. When going back to the Beatitudes, the poor in spirit recognizes he is no better than anyone else, and he knows he, too, is in need of mercy. The one who mourns grieves over his own sins rather than simply hark on others about theirs. The meek refrain from retaliation, even though their blood might be boiling. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness desire what is right, and they know that man’s anger does not produce the righteousness of God (see James 1:20). Love extends mercy rather than seek to distribute retribution. The pure in heart does not view others as objects or pawns, nor does he pursue his own agendas at others’ expense. The peacemaker is willing to extend a hand instead of a fist, to let bygones be bygones and try to find a way to live in peace without compromising principles.

A practical description of love is shared by the apostle Paul:

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 12:9-21

“I’m not going to show them honor!”  “I’m not going to pray for them!” “I’m not going to live in harmony with them!” “Eye for an eye, baby!” If this is our attitude, then why bother talking about love or justice?

A passage that is often taken out of context is when Jesus says, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” Jesus is not saying to never make judgments, but rather cautions us as to how we judge. Jesus tells us to get the board out of our own eye before we try to get the chip out of another’s eye. Is this not one of our major problems today? We want to demand people to get the leaves out of their pools while ignoring the sewage and toxicity in our own? Only as we begin dealing with our own will we gain compassion and proper perspective in helping others. Indeed, we must make judgements, wrongs and evils will always be wrong and evil. But we must begin with dealing with the wrongs and evils creeping in our own hearts, and only them can we properly judge others with mercy. Jesus says, “and with the measure you use it will be measured to you” (Matt. 7:2).

You and I can talk about love all we want, as well as our devotion to Christ, but only to the extent we are willing to humble ourselves and surrender our rights and agendas do we really mean business. Contrary to popular belief, love is not for sissies. Genuine love is difficult, painful, and costly. Love is easy to talk about, but not easily demonstrated and lived out.

“Liking” Jesus but Not the Church

There is a book entitled, They Like Jesus but Not the Church, (note: I do not endorse the author or the movement he is part of). Certainly the church is not perfect—far from! However, is the author correct? Jesus is not at all concerned with whether people like him or not. We are told in the Gospels:

But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man. ~ John 2:24-25 (ESV)

People are fickle. They can like a person one day and betray him the next. Or they can be infatuated for a season only to have the infatuation replaced by the coldness of winter.

What does Jesus say about people’s thoughts about Him and His people? He tells His disciples (men who struggled with ambition, pride, anger, prejudice, fear, etc.),

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. ~ John 15:18

Elsewhere, He explains:

The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. ~ John 7:7

A common complaint is churches are “filled with hypocrites.” As opposed to what? Politics? Hollywood? Realms where people are applauded and idolized—in spite of blatant hypocrisy! Furthermore, while hypocrites exist in many churches, there are also many wonderful, godly, honest, humble, and compassionate persons (but no one wants to give any credit to these). Yet, it is these that are just as much irritants to those who supposedly “like” Jesus. Notice what Jesus said, the world hated Him before it ever hated His people. And why does it hate Him? Because He testifies about it and its evil practices.

The apostle John declares,

We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. ~ 1 John 4:19-21

And Jesus says plainly,

If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me…. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. ~ John 14:23-24; 15:12

Jesus’ call has never been to follow His followers. Rather, He bids each of us to pick up our cross and follow Him. For someone to say he “likes Jesus but not the church” is merely a smokescreen concealing rebellion against the very One he claims to “like.”