Category Archives: The Gospel of the Kingdom
I’ve known some really good people in my life. In fact, I have known some “non-believers” who were more pleasant to be around than some who profess Christ. Problem is, how good is good enough? The Gospel of Luke tells the story of Jesus encountering a young man who inquired of Christ, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
As Jesus talked with this young man (Luke 18:18-27), we find that this man was far more “good” than anyone I have known in my 53 yrs of life. He confessed that he had never committed adultery, murder, stolen or lied, and has always honored his father and mother! (Who among us can honestly say that we have been that good?!? Personally, sadly, I am 0-5 on that list.) But Jesus said that was NOT good enough. In fact, we see in the opening of this passage that this fella also confessed Jesus was both God & Savior – I surmise this because 1) he asked of Jesus a question about eternal life… This strongly suggests to me that he knew Jesus was the Savior sent from God; 2) he knew He was God, for he called Him “Good”.
But, alas, confessing Jesus was both God & Savior, was not good enough either.
Lastly, Jesus essentially says to the man “You want eternal life? Then allow me to be Lord & King of your life, ruling and reigning over even your most prized possessions.” In this, the man walked away sad, for he was willing to admit Jesus was God; willing to admit Jesus was Savior; willing to live a “good” – even very good – life; but not able to surrender the throne of His life to The Christ.
Isn’t that our problem really? We want a Savior (for heaven); we want a God (in heaven); we want to be pretty “good” so we can feel good about ourselves (a little heaven on earth); but it all comes to a grinding halt when we are faced with the reason the Savior came… To make a way that we might return to know His rule and reign in our hearts and lives; knowing intimacy with our Father; and knowing the indwelling of the Spirit – i.e.: “thy Kingdom come”
So, here is what every person (including the rich your ruler) wants: “a list of rules for inheriting eternal life!”
- Acknowledge Jesus is God
- Acknowledge Jesus is Savior
- Do not commit adultery (or even lust); do not murder (or even hate); do not lie or steal; honor your mother and father.
- Surrender wholey to the Lordship of Christ without reservation into all aspects of your life that He might, by the indwelling of His Holy Spirit, and His sovereign regeneration of your life, bring His Kingdom to rule and reign in you…. (grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone).
Sorry, I realize #4 kinda destroyed “my list” – but after all, isn’t that the point…
Let him who has ears, hear.
“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and you be caught by surprise like a trap. Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Excerpts of Principles Spoken by Christ, from Luke 21:34-36 NASB)
I am no prophet… moreover, some of my dearest CHRISTian brothers and sisters would struggle or even oppose my suggestion that I have a “Word from the Lord” regarding the new year: 2015. Others of you would think nothing of that phrase or suggestion, and eagerly read on to see what I sense the Spirit is speaking. For those who might struggle in any regard with this, let me assure you that I am not “making prophetic predictions” nor am I in some way attempting to “add to the fullness of the revelation our Lord” given us in the Scriptures. Let simply say, I am prompted to encourage the Body of Christ with the following thoughts and words for the coming year.
First, there are multiple references throughout scripture to the principles that direct the “Ecclesia” (the called out ones of God) to be “vigilant”, “alert”, “sober-minded”, “on their guard”, “prepared”, “diligent” and the like. It is with these general Scriptural Truths in mind, that I share the following thoughts for 2015.
Let me say as well, as my predominate awareness and experience is with the “church in the west” (or Christendom in America), that this is the primary audience that I have in my heart, as I write this. Let me clarify regarding this phrase: “Christiandom in America” – I am including here a group of individuals that range from those who would check “Christian” as the answer to the question “What is your religious affiliation?” – to those who would most assuredly, but humbly, say of themselves, “I have experienced a life altering encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ and have been redeemed, regenerated and restored to relationship with my Heavenly Father” – and everyone in between. Within this group, I believe, is found the True Church of Jesus Christ… the Ecclesia, as He called it – His called out and chosen ones – the “Sons of the Kingdom.”
In The Year Of Our Lord, 2015. It takes little effort – whether on Cable News Networks, or Internet News Feeds, or Cell Phone Breaking News Alerts – to witness that our entire planet is experiencing dramatic changes – as the pains of Child-birth. In some ways, we have never seen greater days! In other ways, there is so much hurt, pain, loss and devastation, that it seems we are in humanities worst condition in modern history.
Around the globe, CHRISTians are being martyred at an alarming rate. (The Center for the Studies of Global Christianity in the United States reports: “About 100,000 Christians die every year because of their religious beliefs.”) Persecution of CHRISTians around the world is alarming, and become far more blatant and commonplace. (Voice of the Martyrs reports that “The Christian Faith is illegal in 53 countries around the world”.) And here in the west, particularly America, we are quickly losing any hope of leaning on our “constitutional rights of religious freedom” that Our Lord has allowed to protect us for the better part of 225 years. There is no rational denial that we are seeking an increased rapid decay in Judeo-Christian morals – both globally and domestically – and we are fast approaching a day when “things will be different” than we have ever known in our lifetime, even here in the west. The assault on “Christian Religious Freedom” in America is rapidly on the increase – both from freedom to practice our faith, and freedom to speaking publicly (or privately for that matter) regarding our convictions of faith and belief.
Deceptive doctrines taught by false teachers is becoming rampant – and clearly taking on more of a “perversion of truth” than an the outright cultic foolishness of years gone by. Truth mixed with lies, and palatable intrigue, lead the list of deceptions – while taking Truths foundational to the Christian Faith and perverting them, as to both lead astray, and mock the very essence of their principle counsel.
Say what you will, but there is already a “great falling away” that is taking place in our midst, as the faith of many is being shipwrecked & derailed, with these perverted and deceptive doctrines; accompanying that, is a gospel message that is weak, fruitless and ultimately, inadequate to save.
“You know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. Blessed is the man who perseveres in temptation [trial, testing], for when he has been proved, he will receive the Crown of Life that he promised to those who love Him. (James 1:3, 4, 12 NASB)
It is my personal conviction that this coming year will be a time of great trial and testing for Christendom in America. The time is near that we will begin to see greater persecution of those “true to their CHRISTian faith”, here in these very United States. To the Saints among us, I plead that we get established in our faith now. Settle your matters and affairs of assurance, trust and allegiance – for when then testing comes, it will be too late. If you are not grounded now in your faith in Christ – when hard times come, you will certainly sell your soul for a loaf of bread, or a bag of rice.
Be prepared. Be Alert. Be vigilant. Take time in prayer now to insure that you have oil in your lamps, and plenty of “oil to spare”. There will come a time when it will be too late to acquire more. I am NOT talking of stockpiling in the natural – but, rather, stockpiling in the Spiritual. There are 4 places the Holy Spirit will cause this to happen:
- in Scripture,
- in prayer,
- in true worship, and
- in godly, committed, accountable relationships with other faith-filled Saints.
We have, for the most part, experienced years of plenty, years of ease and years of comfort. If we are not solid in our faith – rooted and grounded in who Christ is, in whom we trust, and where we are placing our allegiance – then there is little chance that we will get solid when the times of trial and testing come. For it is in trial and testing that our faith is proven – it is in Christ, thought the Holy Spirit in us – in Scripture, Prayer, Worship & Fellowship – that our faith is built and established!
Won’t you join me now in falling before our Lord & King and crying out to Him to generously & lovingly, cause our individual faith to be rooted & grounded, solidly, in Christ as the one whom each of us trusts with all our heart, and pledge our sole allegiance to? And should storms of trial and test indeed come our way in the west in this year, 2015 – we who are the Ecclesia of Christ, indeed stand firm and honor our Lord & King!
If I am mistaken – you will have lost nothing, and still gained everything!
May it be so, Maranatha, Lord Jesus!
John 6:53-69 reads:
53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. 54 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.”
59 These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.
60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? 62 What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would [j]betray Him. 65 And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”
66 As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?”68 Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.69 We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”
Though the reading of the Gospel accounts, it is clear that there were 4 types of people that typically encountered Jesus:
1) Those that opposed Him
2) The massive crowds that came to see Him
3) The thousands that followed Him
4) Those that were His Disciples (Not just “The Twelve”)
In every town, there were massive crowds that came out to see Jesus. But when he left, they went home – anxiously awaiting his next “tour date” in their hometown. There were also those who followed Him, faithfully, from town-to-town, enduring much, to hear his next public teaching, and to see His next miraculous display. Among those the followed Him, were those who made up the group commonly referred to as the disciples – this group would have included several women – likely His mother Mary, the other “Mary’s”; his half-brothers; and from time to time, Lazarus, Martha, and several others. But then still, there was the inner circle of disciples, often referred to as “the twelve”.
Now, probably no one would suggest that “the crowds” were “saved” (however, I bet if they were asked on a modern-day survey what their “religious affiliation” was, they would say “Christian”.) But in reality, they were more like modern day “fans” of a rock band – looking forward to the annual “show” in their area, talking about them, and making reference to them, as if they know them personally – but they don’t.
A step of commitment beyond, was that of “the followers“. Indeed this is a title we often give ourselves when we speak of our “Christian Experience”, but that too takes a turn for the lesser in this passage, as clearly not all who were in the “crowds” were “followers”, and not all who followed were counted among His disciples, though they clearly exhibited a sacrificial determination to get closer to Jesus – but what was their motives, really? Many among us would call ourselves a follower, and rest well with that distinction, proclaiming ourselves to be a “saved Christian” – yet, hold on… Jesus makes yet another, seeming final distinction.
The Lord went on to call some of these followers, “disciples“. There can be no argument, that not all who came to hear were followers; and not all who followed, were disciples – and certainly to be a disciple, is a far more committed role in the “Christian Experience” than that of just a follower, as we see from the passage above, and many others in Scripture. Clearly those who were disciples – and maybe many of us – rest confident in being called and numbered among this “elite” group of devotees.
Think of it… I am a “disciple of Jesus”! Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it. I am an apprentice of the Savior come from Heaven, being taught at the feet of the master Himself – being privy to parables explained and mysteries revealed. But wait… there’s more! Look carefully at the beginning of verse 64: “there are some of you who do not believe” – some of who? The crowds? The followers? No, the disciples!! Look at the verses just prior to this, and the one immediately following (60, 61 & 66): “Therefore many of His disciples,” – “His disciples grumbled at this” & “many of His disciples withdrew.” As frightening as it may seem, even being a disciple, does not appear to be adequate for salvation!
So if being among the crowd who hails Jesus as the best motivational speaker in the region – those who never miss hearing Him when he comes to town is not enough… if being so “inspired” by His teachings that you make great sacrifice to follow Him from town-to-town, is not enough… if committing to sit at His feet, and be listed among those crazy disciples is not enough… then the question begs to be asked “What in the world does this Jesus want from us anyway?!?”
Verse 64 provides the answer: “believe”.
It seems we have it backwards. We call folks to first “believe” (thereafter pronouncing them “saved”), then tell them to follow Jesus all the days of their life. And, if you really want to get carried away, you might consider becoming a disciple – but we treat true discipleship as if it is optional, and only for the “extremists” among us. However, the Holy Spirit teaches us in this very passage, that many among the crowds will begin to follow Jesus, and some among the followers will become disciples, and few among the disciples will become *believers*.
Is this not what our Heavenly Father is seeking… *True Believers*? Not casual fans – not even committed followers – nor just extreme disciples! He is looking for those who will be satisfied with none of that – remaining hungry for more – and willing to cast aside all caution – BELIEVE the radical, life-changing, history-altering message of the King, come to earth, to save His own from themselves, that they might return to Him with desperate, reckless, selfless, passionate abandon – surrendering fully to all His seemingly foolish and outrageous words, and yielding the throne of their lives, to His rule and reign, in their hearts, for all their days.
And when these *True Believers* emerge from the ranks of those being discipled to Jesus, then – and only then – will the watching world look at them, and with pointed fingers, with a bit of mockery – and, as they did in Antioch (Acts 11:26) – call them “Christians” – for in this way, they have become just like that crazy Jesus guy!
Reader, it’s time for some soul searching… what role does Jesus Christ really play in your life? Is He really nothing more that “favorite motivational speaker”? Or have you committed to following Him – yet still at a distance – offended at some of His audacity, and ready to “walk” as soon as He gets too close? Or, are you among those who would proudly wear your “Jesus is my homeboy” t-shirt, since, after all, you number yourself among the inner circle… but in your heart, do you believe all His outrageous and extreme claims – really? He is calling you to believe! Believe with all your heart! Believe without reservation! Believe with reckless abandon that “Jesus alone has the words of Life, and that He is the Holy One of God”! Believe!
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“Sin is not harmful because it is forbidden; it is forbidden because it is harmful!” Thank God that Grace doesn’t just “cover my sin”, but by His Spirit indwelling & inhabitation my life – and by a *grace-driven* surrender & yielding to His Life – Grace empowers me to be RID of sin, to His Glory!!!
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4 things that we need to have/be to experience “Deeper” in Christ: 1) Humility, 2) Childlike Faith, 3) Determination, & 4) Unashamed. Consider both the woman with the issue of blood, crawling to Christ & Blind Bartimaeus, crying out without regard. (Inspired by Blake & Perri at Everburn 8/10/12)
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“Heaven is not a place for people who do not want hell; heaven is a place for people who love God.” ~ Matt Chandler
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“The characteristic of a man who has come to God is that you cannot get him to take anyone seriously, but God.” ~ Oswald Chambers
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The Gospel of The Kingdom is likened unto this: The front walkway, the front steps & the front door are of first-most importance to entering the domain of another. In fact, it could be said that they are the ONLY WAY to lawfully gain entrance. However, the purpose of them, is not themselves alone, but to ALLOW entry to the domain of another, where the Owner of that domain resides. If we only admire, accept, or otherwise embrace the “entry” alone – never utilizing them as a means of entrance – we render them of no effect! So is it with the Death, Burial & Resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Let him who has ears to hear, hear. ~ Grrr
1) A proper understanding of Grace – Grace is multi-faceted. It didn’t start and stop at Calvary. It predates Eden, and it will last beyond the New Jerusalem. Grace’s premier moment was Calvary, but it was the very Grace of Calvary that made a way for the Grace of Pentecost, which demonstrates a Grace never seen or know in this age: Christ IN US. Grace can be God doing FOR US, or God doing IN US, or God doing THROUGH US. Yes, it is all “GOD DOING” – but it is multi-faceted for certain, and He desires, even commands that we experience and participate in all facets of His Grace!
2) A proper understanding of Faith – Faith is far bigger than belief as we understand it, and it requires more than we realize. Faith starts with “Hearing the Living, Breathing & Active Word of God.” Without this (Rhema), we CANNOT have faith. Faith “consummates” with “our doing” – yes, there is both the “hearing of faith” and the “doing of faith”. In your heart, believer, God speaks His Word to you. Always in line with His Written Word, faith is our acting upon what we have “heard” our Lord speak to us. Without action, our faith is dead. Without the “hearing” our faith is legalism. Neither will lead to Life.
3) A proper understanding of Repentance – Repentance is foundational. And a proper understanding of repentance is vital. Repentance always bears fruit – visible fruit – in our lives. Repentance is coming to a place in your heart where we surrender to the truth that our way in a matter, is not God’s way; our thoughts on a matter, are not His thoughts. When we yield to His ways & thoughts on each and every matter, this is repentance! If you deal with the fruit (outward manifestations/sins), without dealing with the root (wicked, selfish, evil heart), then you have not repented, you have just practiced behavior management. God is calling us to repentance. To surrender our rule and reign over the ways and thoughts of our lives, step by step, to His rule and reign. Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.
4) A proper understanding of Salvation – Like Grace, Salvation is multi-faceted. We sell ourselves short when we limit salvation to a prayer at an altar experience. Scripture teaches that we “are saved”, we are “being saved”, and we “will be saved”. What we typically call “salvation” (getting saved), is just the “Staring Line” of a journey “in Christ”. True “salvation” begins with a supernatural conversion or regeneration of our life, in our spirit and heart. We call this being born again – this is the “justification” facet of salvation. But then we move to “being saved” – a partnership between our “new man” and the Spirit of God within us – a lifelong process of growing to be like Jesus in Holiness, Purity, Selflessness, Love & Humility. This, we call the “sanctification” facet of salvation, and takes place primarily in our soul. Lastly, in an age yet to come – oh glorious day – we “will be saved”, when this old “earth suit” (physical body) is “made new” as God the Father has planned, to bring Him the fullness of His Glory in mankind. This we call the “Glorification” facet of salvation.
So, just some thoughts on Grace, and Faith, and Repentance, and Salvation.
In Part 1, we summed up “Saving Belief” as “a belief of the heart that comes from being born again to new life in Christ, with new things having come and old things having passed away, manifested in a life of repentance, immersion & saturation with the life of Christ, by the Holy Spirit, and an unmistakable visual lifestyle that displays righteousness.”
In Part 2, we will look at the most foundational aspect of this “Christian Journey”: “Saving Repentance”. A term once so commonplace to “Christiandom”, “repentance” has become a lost concept in many “seeker sensitive” congregations, and our culture of easy-believism. However, Repentance is both central, and foundational to the Christian faith. It has been called: “The first word of the Kingdom.” Both John the Baptist, as the forerunner to the Christ, and Jesus Himself, in the first “red letters” of His public ministry, said: “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at Hand.”
What is this repentance, and why is it necessary?
All my Christian life, I was told that “repentance” was a “180 degree turning” – and although that is in no way a “wrong” definition, I have found that defining repentance with this simple 3 word phrase does two things. 1) it falls short of giving us an understanding of the truth of repentance, and 2) it seems to suggest an action that is “easily accomplished” in our own efforts. And, though repentance is a turning, and it does require effort on our part, I have found that to have “saving repentance” in our lives, we need more that just a 3 word definition.
My journey in Christ was revolutionized with 2 scripture passages regarding “repentance” – the first was Matthew 4:17: “From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ ” I figured that the first recorded words of Jesus’ public ministry in the New Testament had to be of significance, and then even more, the first word: “Repent”.
A quick word study on the Greek word for Repent, and its use in this passage was more than eye-opening. First, the word repent does mean “to turn” but it means more than that, it also means “to change your mind” or, “to change your perception (or your way of thinking)”. This is significant, and will prove to be even more so with the second passage below. But, before I get ahead of myself, let’s look at the “implications” of the use of this word in this statement: “the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” This passage literally implies that “if there is not a change in perception (your thought process), you will miss the Kingdom of Heaven all together”. Those Jesus was speaking to didn’t need to make a 180 degree turn physically – they were face-to-face with the Kingdom of Heaven in Christ Himself – what they needed to do was make a 180 degree (or complete) change in their way of thinking, or the Kingdom of Heaven – though right in their midst – would pass them by, as they would not even perceive that it had come!
Now, to explore the second passage, found in a strange place, and it doesn’t even include the word repentance as such. Isaiah 55, verses 8 & 9: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.” There was a moment in time in which the Spirit of God illuminated this passage to me, and spoke two things to me. 1) This passage is foundational to your (Christian) journey; 2) This is the essence of repentance.
I have discovered that my mind (my thought processing) is one of the largest, if not the largest, obstacle to my ability to “enter the kingdom”. That is to say, if I insist on processing The Word of God using “my mind” (thought process), I will get hung up at every apparent contradiction, every teaching that is contrary to my logic, and every action of Jesus and the Prophets that just doesn’t make sense. Establishing a commitment to “Isaiah 55:8 & 9 Repentance”, as I call it, is the only way that we can progress forward in our Christian Journey without getting hung up or derailed at every turn. And there are many, unexpected twists and turns upon the narrow road.
If you can grasp the revelation of this deeper insight into Repentance, it will revolutionize every aspect of your Christian journey into the Kingdom of God.
Addendum, “The morning after…”
The depth of repentance that I propose, “saving repentance”, is this: “Father I acknowledge and embrace that my thinking, my perceptions and my ways, are not Yours. I repent, that is I turn from my way of thinking, acting & my perceptions, to Your way of thinking, acting and perceiving. Renew my mind to the mind of Christ, that I might see and receive your Kingdom, in all areas of my life.”
Other Scripture to consider:
Romans 8:6, 7 – “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so.”
Romans 12:2 – “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
1 Cor 2:14-16 – “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment: “For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.”
Next up in NoSpectators’ “Wake Up!” series? We will dissect “Saving Sanctification” by looking into Spirit, Soul, Body & Heart, and how the understanding of it plays out into our journey from sinner, to saint – kingdom of darkness, to the Kingdom of God!
True Biblical Faith begins in the heart – however, faith of the heart alone is dead faith; while faith of the feet alone, is legalism; neither, by itself, is saving faith. It takes God’s Grace to have ‘The Faith of Son of God’ in the heart; and Grace alone can make that faith manifest in your feet.
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless, I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” – Gal 2:20“For by grace are you saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” – Eph 2:8“What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” – James 2:14, 17
May our prayer be: “Father, grant by Your Grace, that the faith of my heart, might be the faith of Christ, and allow the Grace of your Holy Spirit to strengthen, empower, compel and cause me to have faith of the feet!”“I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.” – Ez 36:27“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in Heaven.” – Matt 5:16″So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the [living & active]word of Christ.” – Rom 10:17Lastly, in this story that Jesus told, consider that both heard, it could even be said both had faith of the heart; but only one had faith of the feet:“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.” – Matt 7:24-27
(This will likely be my shortest blog ever.)
Ponder these scriptures, and ponder my conclusion…
- Scriptures says in Romans 10:17 that “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing from the word (Rhema) of God.”
- Scripture teaches in Hebrews 11:6 “Without faith it is impossible to please God”
- Scripture says “Anything that is not of faith (ie: produced by, a product of), is sin.” (Romans 14:23b)
- The Scripture tells us that “Jesus was perfect, without sin”. (Hebrews 4:15)
- And… “We are to be like Jesus” (1 John 2:6)
- Lastly, Jesus said of Himself: “I only say what I hear the Father say”, and “I only do what I see the Father do.” (John 5:19; 12:50)
So, anytime we “say” something that the Father hasn’t said, or “do” something we don’t see the Father doing – what we are saying or what we are doing, is, therefore, not a product of faith, and is must be sin.
So next time I am tempted to ask “Is this sin?” or “Is this evil?” or “Is this wrong?” – the simple answer becomes “did I hear the Father say to say it, or did I see the Father do it?”
It “no”, then it is not “of faith”, it is therefore “sin”, and the Father is not pleased.
This is why sin should grieve the Christian. Not because we have broken a rule on a list – but because we have failed to please the Father.
The primary difference in the “sin(s) of a sinner”, and the “sin(s) of a Saint”, is that the Saint is grieved, ashamed, convicted and disgusted by their sin(s), which though likely frequent, should be, by-and-large, accidental, not premeditated. The sinner loves their sin, and find themselves typically, deliberately and naturally, comfortably at home with their sins, proud of them, and not at all convicted by them.
Christian (Saint): When you sin, are you proud or ashamed? Are you convicted or comfortable? Are you in love with it, or disgusted by it?
Again, the question is not, “did I break a rule on some list?” The question, for the Christian, is “Did I act displeasing to my Father?”
(Or, subtitled: The concern I have with the “Gospel” that is being preached now a-days, can be likened unto road work.)
Imagine if you will, a terribly rough, worn, pothole-filled road, with shoulders eroding away, and the lines faded to disappearance – too narrow, like one of those one-lane bridges. One day, after much complaining, many accidents and repeated troubles, the transportation department comes in and completely tears up the road, grinding, shoveling, and destroying it, completely removing all signs of the asphalt, curbs and surface, till there is nothing left but bare dirt. This is the Gospel that most preach! Hallelujah, the awful road which caused me so much pain, worry, hurt and trouble has been removed and dealt with. We run onto the dirt surface with zeal and happiness, emotional stirred by the removal of the old road, and the new dirt path left behind. Dancing with excitement, we tell everyone “the nasty old road is gone”! And herein, with the old road gone, we spend our lives, rejoicing that the old road is gone, and we are so pleased with the dirt road, though somehow insufficient, hoping and believing that one day, in that great by-and-by, when we die, we will then have a new road, all to ourselves! Meanwhile, our excitement wanes over time, as the dirt road becomes muddy at times, proves very unsafe with no lines or proper shoulders, and there we remain, reconciled to be content (though miserable) with this new, inadequate road – most days wishing we had our old road back (at least it made sense to us) – and hoping that one day, things will again, get better.
But alas, one day a stranger comes to visit, he asks about the strange dirt road that you are firmly, but miserably sitting upon. He tells you that his road was once a dusty, muddy mess as well. They he explains a deep truth to you, a “Gospel” that you have not been told before. He explains that this destruction and removal of the old rough, worn & pothole-filled road, was indeed absolutely necessary, and of first most importance to the project to be performed, but that the project was not just the remove of the old, but an immediate installation of a new road. He asks, “Didn’t you sense that there was more?” You respond that you thought maybe there was more, but no one told you, and you were so very excited to have the old road gone! You suddenly recall an old, but vague memory of other heavy equipment, different from the rest, that arrived immediately after the old road was removed, but in your hast to dance with excitement and emotion in the middle of the dirt road, the equipment remained in the distance, and eventually, it went away.
Then the stranger explains that the destruction of the old road was not done so that a new dirt road – sure to get muddy in the rain, dusty in the wind, still without lines for safety, and strange indeed compared to other roads – could be its result. No, no! This was done that a newer, greater, more effective road could be out in its place. A new “superhighway”, with the greatest of all safety features for your travel – a road with a new destination. It is wider, safer, sturdier, and better in every way. It is not a revision of the old, but a brand new road, better than ever, made perfectly for you. And on this road you are to begin a new journey, to a new destination. To your amazement, it also comes with a brand new vehicle designed for your travel; and as a bonus, this road comes with your own personal travel guide for the journey. And best of all, you don’t even have to drive – your new guide, will also be your chauffeur! This is good news indeed – this is a “Gospel” worth getting excited over – this makes sense!
All you have to do is “yield” to the equipment that is creating the new road, and “surrender” to the absolute wisdom of your guide and chauffeur, and then become an “active participant” in the journey of a lifetime, wherein God’s power and strength, becomes, in a mystery, your enablement to journey to places once unknown, for His Name Sake, and His Glory, in all the earth.
Jesus’ work in His passion, with the 3-day work of death, burial & resurrection, is the destruction of the old road. Therein He has removed the penalty of your sin, and freed you from its power – however, for 3 years prior, Jesus taught and demonstrated the “new road”. That is, His Father’s Kingdom. A kingdom in which all things become new, and though our “yielding” to His Lordship, our “surrender” to the absolute leadership of the Holy Spirit, and our necessary, thought “paradoxical participation” in God’s work of Grace in our lives, we experience the fulfillment of the “Gospel of the Kingdom” from which the “Gospel of Salvation” purposed us to go. Our Savior, become our King!
So, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a road. Destroyed, and rebuilt anew – providing all that is needed for life and godliness – in Christ Jesus. The unfortunate Truth is, the dirt road will never get you to where the new road is designed to take you. So move aside, and ask the Father to send the equipment to put in the new road (your new heart), and to provide your new vehicle (your new spirit), and to give you the guide and chauffeur (His Holy Spirit), and pour our His Grace on you and in you, for the journey!
Let him who has ears to hear, hear!
2 Corinthian 5:17
John 14:16-17, 16:7
1 Corinthians 15:3-4
(“WAKE UP!” will likely be a 4-5 part blog…)
What do you call yourself? A Christian? A lover of God? A follower of Jesus? A Child of God? The Bride of Christ? The Church? The People of God? All of these “titles” should mean the same thing. Yet, there is an astronomical variance between these titles, and the reality of what they mean to the person that “claims” or “bears” them or declares this to be “who they are.”
No one would disagree that many, maybe even the majority of people who “wear” these titles, are not actually truly living a life that is in keeping with the title they claim. Now, yes, for some, it is immaturity – for others it is ignorance. But, there are those among these who are not immature, nor ignorant, but rather are either “playing games” or are “in rebellion” to the whole truth that comes with such a title. To keep it simple moving forward, I will use the term “Believer”. After all, when it all comes down to it, we are talking about “being saved” aren’t we? All the key scriptures we have learned from the beginning of our “Christian Journey” tell us that to be saved, we must believe. Right?
- Romans 10:9 – “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
- Acts 16:31a – “And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shall be saved”
- Mark 16:16a – “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved”
Let’s establish up front that I am not talking about intellectual “belief”, nor am I talking about “acknowledging the existence of”. To better define the “believing” that I am talking about, let me use two examples. The first, from scripture: “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” (James 2:19) The demons believe, but their belief is not “saving belief”. Secondly, a historical example. I believe in Hitler. But I don’t “embrace”, “adhere to” or am otherwise “impacted” & “convicted” to “change” in my life by his teachings. Likewise, belief in Jesus without being impacted and convicted to “change”, is not “saving belief”.
So, how then do we know what type of belief Jesus was speaking of, is the belief that results in being “saved”? After all, there are many “followers” who are not believers – yes, it’s true:
- Read this passage. John 6:60-64:
“Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him.”
Did you catch that? Read it again… speaking to “many of His disciples” Jesus said: “there are some of you who do not believe.” And then in verse 66 it says: “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.” This is sobering to me! There are/were disciples who do not believe with the belief that is necessary to be saved!!
Jesus here, and in throughout scriptures, is talking about “belief of the heart” – apparently a belief that many who claim to be “Christian” or “Followers” seem to have in short supply. How do we know this belief? Does it have evidences? Is the “Fruit” to this belief? 2 Corinthians 5:17 reds: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” In Acts Peter is recorded as saying in chapter 2, verse 38 “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” And even our verse above in Romans chapter 10, which begins in verse 9 saying: “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;” continues on in verse 10 to read: “for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”
So in our first passage (Corinthians) we see that the “Born Again” (Conversion/Regeneration) experience is inseparably linked to the saving belief. And with being born again, comes a “New Creature” and this new creature is accompanied by new things, with old things having passed away.
Then, in Acts, we see this saving belief being mandatorily linked to the attributes of “Repentance” and “Baptism” yielding the promises of forgiveness of sins & the “gift of the Holy Spirit”. These are no small things to be lightly accepted or dismissed. If we have “saving belief” we will become “people of repentance” and “people immersed and saturated” in our new life, and be granted the “power” to let Christ’s Life reign in our new man as the power of God unto salvation by the indwelling Holy Spirit of God.
Lastly, we see “saving belief” unmistakably resulting in “righteousness”! Not some impersonal righteousness, but the Righteousness of Christ physically manifested in and through our lives! This passage which promises salvation by believing, unmistakably teaches that the belief that saves will be visibly seen in our lives by others, and it will look like a life of righteousness!
So then, with these passages all in mind, it can be said: Saving Belief is a belief of the heart that comes from being born again to new life in Christ, with new things having come and old things having passed away, manifested in a life of repentance, immersion & saturation with the life of Christ, by the Holy Spirit, and an unmistakable visual lifestyle that displays righteousness. If these things are not taking place in your life in increasing measure, I encourage you to get on your face before God, and check your spiritual pulse to see if you have indeed come to a place of “saving belief” in the Lordship of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Coming next on “NoSpectators”? What is this repentance that is linked to “Saving Belief” and what does the resulting Righteousness look like, in layman’s terms?