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The Dead End of Sexual Sin
Unbelievers don’t “struggle” with same-sex attraction. I didn’t. My love for women came with nary a struggle at all.
I had not always been a lesbian, but in my late twenties, I met my first lesbian-lover. I was hooked and believed that I had found my real self. Sex with women was part of my life and identity, but it was not the only part — and not always the biggest part.
I simply preferred everything about women: their company, their conversation, their companionship, and the contours of their/our body. I favored the nesting, the setting up of house and home, and the building of lesbian community.
As an unbelieving professor of English, an advocate of postmodernism and poststructuralism, and an opponent of all totalizing meta-narratives (like Christianity, I would have added back in the day), I found peace and purpose in my life as a lesbian and the queer community I helped to create.
Conversion and Confusion
It was only after I met my risen Lord that I ever felt shame in my sin, with my sexual attractions, and with my sexual history.
Conversion brought with it a train wreck of contradictory feelings, ranging from liberty to shame. Conversion also left me confused. While it was clear that God forbade sex outside of biblical marriage, it was not clear to me what I should do with the complex matrix of desires and attractions, sensibilities and senses of self that churned within and still defined me.
What is the sin of sexual transgression? The sex? The identity? How deep was repentance to go?
Meeting John Owen
In these newfound struggles, a friend recommended that I read an old, seventeenth-century theologian named John Owen, in a trio of his books (now brought together under the title Overcoming Sin and Temptation).
At first, I was offended to realize that what I called “who I am,” John Owen called “indwelling sin.” But I hung in there with him. Owen taught me that sin in the life of a believer manifests itself in three ways: distortion by original sin, distraction of actual day-to-day sin, and discouragement by the daily residence of indwelling sin.
Eventually, the concept of indwelling sin provided a window to see how God intended to replace my shame with hope. Indeed, John Owen’s understanding of indwelling sin is the missing link in our current cultural confusion about what sexual sin is — and what to do about it.
As believers, we lament with the apostle Paul, “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me” (Romans 7:19–20). But after we lament, what should we do? How should we think about sin that has become a daily part of our identity?
Owen explained with four responses.
The reality that the world does not revolve around us is something we supposedly “outgrow” in our youth. And many of us think we have outgrown it. Yet our behavior often testifies against us that it is something we never escape completely, though we may overcome many of the obvious aspects of it. In truth, the idol of self is one of our greatest adversaries in this life. We all have desires and that in and of itself is not bad. It’s when we place these things over the will of God that it becomes a problem. Many of us will claim we do not blatantly do this, but I would disagree. How many times do we neglect prayer because we are distracted? How often do we fail to thank God for the many gifts He gives in any given day? How many times do we shake our fist at…
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Make no mistake. As a follower of Jesus Christ you are under attack. Constantly. Darkness came with the fall of man and it will loom as an ugly blossom until the second coming. But how do you protect yourself from spiritual attack? How do you battle?
Be warned that there are many false teachers out there. The range and scope of these men and women are enormous. The Bible teaches that they disguise themselves as sheep among us but that they are wolves. How do they pull you away from truth? Remember that they are not after unbelievers. Satan is content to let them wallow in their rebellion against God. These false teachers, leaders, book writers, sensationalists, fake watchmen are professing Christians. How can you know them? Test them. Test their fruit. What are they concerned about?
True men and women of God are concerned about the souls of others. They know that truth is found in God’s Word. They will keep in you the Canon. They will always speak wisely in the ways of the Lord and lead you to put on Christ’s righteousness.
False teachers will be after your money by selling countless books and DVD’s. When their false predictions do not come true they just write another book.
False teachers will lead you out of God’s Word by various means such as using non-biblical sources such as “hidden books”, Bible codes, ancient writings or reliance on mystical personal revelation or leadings. Many prophecy sites are notorious for these evil things.
One needs to stay in the Word of God which means an open Bible policy. (btw “The Message” is not God’s Word) Study scripture, meditate on it night and day, (read Psalm 119) and apply it to your life.
Today I present to you this article.
Source – Marsha West on Stand Up For the Truth
Some of the news headlines this past week gave me reason for concern. Here are a few of them:
- Satanic Temple Approved for [Florida] Capitol Holiday Display
- Legal group: repeal of D.C. amendment will have ‘severe impact on religious liberty’
- ‘We love Jesus!’ – Iraqi children proclaim love for Christ in face of Islamic beheading
- Court orders school district to pay $75,000 for denying boy use of girls’ restroom
- Rick Warren’s call for Christians to unite with Catholics, ‘Holy Father’ raising concerns
Satanism…religious liberty…beheadings…gender confusion…ecumenicalism. My tendency is to fret about such things, even though God reminds us in His Word:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:6-7)
Likewise, 1 Peter 5:7 commands believers not to be anxious but to lay all our worries on God because He cares for us. So is there any question that His people are to go to Him with the hard things, lay them at His feet, and trust that we can literally “let go and let God”?
Listen to the comforting words our Lord Jesus:
And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? (Luke 12:22-26 Also see Matthew 6:25-34)
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
What must the believer do when a black cloud forms over her head and follows her wherever she goes?
Finish article HERE
Finding Freedom From The Spirits Of “Revival”
Part 2: Being Established Through Repentance And The Word
By Ed Tarkowski
The blood of the Lamb of God has purchased you and you are His possession. You may fall for the wiles of the devil, but a true child of God will “hear” the persistent promptings of the Holy Spirit within and sooner or later realize he has taken a wrong road. Many believers who have stepped onto the road of deception have all had thoughts or doubts about what they were doing. They have thought thoughts like, “Something seems wrong though it seems so right” or “I am not sure about all of this. I need to be cautious.” In spite of these checks in one’s spirit, many persist and even go up for prayer during “revival” services. But, through it all, God is there, prompting one that something is wrong until the realization hits that this is not of God. When it does, he must gird up his faith that though he has committed a grievous offense in his ignorance, the blood of Jesus still avails for him:
1 John 1:5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:
7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
Notice the words “if we walk in darkness.” That’s what has happened to you when you were deceived into the “revival” and all it entails. You turned from walking in the light of God to walking in darkness. It may have looked like light, but it was darkness. It may have looked like truth, but it was a lie. It may have looked like God and His workings, but it wasn’t. It was darkness, and Jesus said,
Mat 6:23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!
This leads to another area of repentance and a turning to the word of God. Being deceived into the “revival” lead you into a fellowship that is totally contrary to the fellowship described in 1 John, yet Scripture says,
2 Cor 6:14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,
When you caught on to what you were following, you started to come out of what you were entering into. You started to return to the true fellowship God has ordained for His people, fellowship with Himself and His people. The blood cleansed your conscience from these dead works and the word in its proper context once again was the light that got you back on the narrow road.
As I stated before, some have a hard time getting free of what they have experienced, but not all do get out. I have run across four kinds of people concerning the current “revival”:
1. Those who get so involved, they are absorbed into it to the point where their “faith” will never be shaken. I believe Hebrews 6:1-8 can be applied to some who have fallen for the “revival” teachings, even though these verses in context speak of Jews returning to the Old Covenant:
Heb 6:1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,
2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
3 And this will we do, if God permit.
4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,
5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,
6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
7 For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God:
8 But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.
I don’t believe in judging whether God can turn a man from evil when he goes astray, but there are some powerful implications in these verses. I also believe God does all He can to pull a wayward one back to the foundation which is in Christ, but it is the man who has to chose to repent and return.
2. Those who leave because they have been hurt or damaged and consider true Christianity a farce and leave it altogether
3. Those who come out of it immediately because the light of God’s word and conviction by the Holy Spirit is so clear
4. Those who come out of it, but struggle to get rid of the oppression and experiences and feelings
Regardless, God’s mindset, if you will, is to bring all into a relationship with Himself. His forgiveness is readily available. He still wants to establish all in His truth and in Himself. Yet, it is the heart of the individual that limits to what extent God can work to fully restore them. But, know this: God wants to ESTABLISH you again in His truth and He has the total power to do so if you will return to the faith you once followed:
1. God desires to establish you again according to His gospel through your obedience to the faith it presents to you:
Rom 16:25 Now to him that is of power to STABLISH YOU ACCORDING TO my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,
26 But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:
2. God wants to establish you in holiness by ridding you of the deceptions you fell for:
1 Th 3:13 To the end HE MAY STABLISH YOUR HEARTS UNBLAMEABLE IN HOLINESS before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.
3. God wants to establish you in good works once again and deliver you from the works of darkness:
2 Th 2:16 Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace,
17 Comfort your hearts, and STABLISH YOU IN EVERY GOOD WORD AND WORK.
4. The Lord will establish you and deliver you from those who have not faith according to your faithfulness in doing what the word of God says. As you are faithful to His word, He is shown to be faithful to his word and will keep you from evil. Many think God will protect them from evil even when they are not responsible toward the word of God. He will certainly warn you, but He cannot force you to be faithful to His word. That is why when coming out of the “revival,” you must return towards a faithfulness to the word of God:
2 Th 3:1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:
2 And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.
3 But the Lord is faithful, WHO SHALL STABLISH YOU, and keep you from evil.
4 And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you.
5. As I said in Part 1, there are reasons to rebuke the devil, pray and fast, but what is crucial is your faithfulness to the word of God, to study it, meditate on it, and know Him in it in full reliance on the Holy Spirit because the adversary’s main goal is to get you to depart from the word of God in its true context. If you do depart from it in ignorance, know that that effort is the adversary’s work to destroy you spiritually. But, through it all, God is prompting and warning and disturbing you that something is wrong and you should immediately check things out in His word through reading the Scriptures and prayer. The following verses has to do with persecution and trials because of preaching the gospel, but they also apply in this case:
1 Pet 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
9 Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.
10 But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, STABLISH, strengthen, SETTLE YOU.
Notice: God WILL STABLISH you once again and SETTLE YOU. I say that because many get really unsettled when they realize what was happening to them. Notice, too, the meaning of the word SETTLE:
SETTLE 2311. themelioo, them-el-ee-o’-o; from G2310; to lay a basis for, i.e. (lit.) erect, or (fig.) consolidate:–(lay the) found (-ation), ground, settle.SETTLE 2310. themelios, them-el’-ee-os; from a der. of G5087; something put down, i.e. a substruction (of a building, etc.), (lit. or fig.):–foundation.
Notice the very last word in these definitions: foundation. God will return you to your true foundation, Jesus Christ, according to your response to His trying to save you from going too far down the road of “revival” to the point that you cannot hear Him at all.
I don’t totally understand why some have such a hard time getting free of the manifestations they submitted themselves to, but I do know that it is only through the truth of God’s word that they can persevere to the point of ridding themselves of them. Jesus said, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).
One final note for this Part is that many people struggle to get OUT OF what they have brought themselves into with very little vision of getting BACK ONTO something. For some, the effects have been so devastating that all they can see is what has happened and is happening to them and that is what they emphasize. What they need to do is to set their eyes on the narrow road they desire to start walking again and keep the emphasis there. There has to come a point where they do what Paul says:
Phil 3:13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
There is a life and walk and a call on the Christian and after realizing one’s waywardness, one should also keep his eyes on the following as he does all he can against the oppression and then stands against those evils. Those things are described in Ephesians 6:
Eph 6:10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
One word of caution here. I have heard many people say things like, “When I get up in the morning, I put on my armor. I pray, ‘I put on my righteousness and the belt of truth, etc.'” One gets the impression that this is just ritual and method and words rather than a realization of the realities of what the armor is. Check yourself out on this one and ask yourself if you do that, and then study what the following verses mean and that every one is a spiritual reality centered in Christ.
12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
Having returned to the word of God in its true context, you can now say you have “loins girt about with truth.” You have again placed your faith in the blood of Christ and your conscience is now clean. Hopefully, you didn’t go on and on confessing how wrong you were over and over again, and that you didn’t go on and on pleading the blood of Jesus. You only need to confess your sin once, and God said when you did, the blood did its work in your conscience. Don’t get hung up in trying to feel forgiven or feeling the blood cleansing you. It doesn’t matter how you feel. What matters is you simply believe God’s word concerning your confession of sin and the immediate cleansing of your sin.
Go over the basics of the gospel once again because what you’ve been through has placed teaching in your mind that sounded like the gospel, but wasn’t. Gird yourself with the basic truths of God’s word and God’s gospel concerning His Son. Realize, too, in God restoring you that the righteousness of Jesus Christ is yours, that Christ’s righteous is still yours through your faith in Jesus and His finished work. Such a realization gives great strength against the wiles of the enemy to accuse you and oppress you.
15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
Your going over the basics should be refreshing to your spirit, and it will help set your mind on one of the purposes God has for you: to present that message to others.
16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
The truth of God’s word is restoring you and your faith will increase as you spend time in it. I mentioned in Part 1 about going over, only as necessary, the steps which led you into apostasy so you can replace those lies with the truth of God’s word concerning who He is and what He does. This truth then becomes your shield against the fiery darts of the enemy.
17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
You are now on the road of maturity again, having left the road of apostasy. You are walking again in the truths of the gospel. You know what those truths are, having refreshed yourself in them. All the lies have pretty much been dealt with through the word of God, which has now restored your mind in the true knowledge of Him. The gospel and the lies you once accepted have now been destroyed and you realize that these things are the helmet of salvation, the truth of God’s word protecting you against the lies of the adversary.
18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
Prayer now becomes a very important part of your restoration to the truth, interceding for others caught in the trap of the evil one. You also persevere in prayer as you watch for the wiles of the enemy and pray for God’s wisdom, strength and truth to deal with them in patient and sure manner.
19 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,
20 For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
You are now realizing your freedom from that which had almost engulfed you, and you pray for boldness to be a witness to the true Gospel and the true Jesus Christ.
We have millions of believers who may have been saved decades ago, but are still acting like spiritual infants. They have not grown much, they have not progressed much in their walk with Christ, and their spiritual condition is rather anaemic and shallow.
They have not become genuine disciples in other words, and they are still stranded in a spiritual infancy. They can’t even handle the deep truths of God as revealed in Scripture. Indeed, many of them hardly even read their Bibles, barely pray, or engage in in-depth fellowship.
No wonder they are still floundering around as babies. They have not moved beyond the nursery. They are all stuck in day care. They are permanent residents of Christian kindergarten. Sadly this is so very widespread today in our churches.
As I said, there is a place for infancy. When you are a spiritual baby, then spiritual milk is of course quite appropriate. Peter speaks to this truth here: “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:2-3).
But all babies are meant to move on. No one wants to see a ten-year-old or twenty-year-old baby in the physical world. Nor is it fitting in the spiritual world. That is why Paul chews out the Corinthians in this regard. It is time for them to move on:
“Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3).
The writer to the Hebrews makes the same case: “We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity” (Heb 5:11-6:1).
The question arises here: just whose fault is this? I would argue it is the fault of both individual Christians in the pews, and the pastors in the pulpits. Regardless of what is being taught from the pulpits, believers have a responsibility for their own personal growth and development. They cannot blame the pastor or the church for their own unwillingness to take the necessary steps to achieve genuine spiritual growth.
We all know that regular reading of the Word, regular prayer times, and regular times of corporate fellowship and worship are essential in the spiritual development of any believer. Without taking the basic and essential steps of growth and discipleship, we will remain spiritual pygmies.
And far too many Christians feed only on spiritual junk food. Instead of proper Christian nourishment the regular diet of many is pop Christianity. Books about being a better you, having a nice self-image, and even losing weight for Jesus, make up far too many reading lists of emaciated believers today.
Complete article HERE
Except Ye Repent
By Dr. Harry Ironside
Chapter 3 – JOHN’S BAPTISM OF REPENTANCE
The New Testament opens with a call to repentance. The ministry of John the Baptist was pre-eminently devoted to emphasizing its importance. Sent of God in the spirit and power of Elijah to prepare the way of the Lord, he found a self-satisfied, self-righteous nation prating of being the chosen people professedly waiting for the promised Messiah, and yet utterly unready to welcome Him because of their low moral condition.
Like the Tishbite, he appeared suddenly and unannounced, a wilderness preacher, declaring to the abjects of Israel first, and then as others sought him out, to the self-righteous scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees the need of heart preparation for the reception of the Kingdom. His message was summed up in the pregnant words: “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” It was a challenge to face their sins and the true state of their hearts in the light of the holiness and righteousness of God. And we are glad to learn that the publicans and sinners hearing him justified God and were baptized in recognition of the judgment of self and the need of remission of sins.
For with the preaching was linked the rite of baptism. It was definitely declared to be a baptism of repentance for (or unto) the remission of sins. That is, those who submitted to his baptism were practically saying: ‘In this act I declare my change of mind, my new attitude toward myself, my sins, and my God. I own my unworthiness, and I cast myself upon the infinite mercy of God, looking to Him for deliverance, counting on Him to forgive my sins and graciously fit me for the reception of the King and a place in the Kingdom of the heavens.’
I do not say that all who were baptized entered into its full meaning, but I do insist that this was its true import. Baptism, of course, did not procure remission of sins. It was simply the acknowledgment of the need of such forgiveness. Those so baptized might be likened to debtors giving their notes in recognition of their indebtedness. When our Lord condescended to be identified with this remnant by Himself undergoing baptism He was, as it were, endorsing their notes, declaring that He was ready to meet all their responsibilities by fulfilling every righteous demand of the throne of God on their behalf. It was more than three years later that He said, “I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened [or pained] till it be accomplished.” Ah, the notes were fast falling due, and on the cross He must settle in bloody agony for them all.
How much of this John, the forerunner, saw it is not easy to say. But that he did have some insight into the great truth, that Jesus was not only Messiah but Saviour, was evidenced by his words, “Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world!” His baptism of repentance was with a view to the remission of sins through the offering up of the foreordained Lamb as a propitiatory sacrifice.
To the haughty, self-righteous leaders John said: “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance.” And then he warned them that natural relationship to Abraham would not save anybody, but spiritual kinship only; for faith alone makes one a child of the faithful patriarch. “Fruits meet for repentance.” That is, the changed life must evidence the changed attitude; otherwise there is no true repentance at all.
And then he declared: “Now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees: Every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” How different this to the ameliorative measures advocated by many who should know better! Some modern preaching might be summed up in ‘the axe is laid to the fruit of the tree.’ Cut off the bad fruit. Prune the tree. Spray it with a religio-philosophical mixture. Change its environment if possible. Attempt by ethical culture, by religious education, to make the tree produce good fruit — then all will be well. No need of repentance. No place for a second birth. But in spite of human reasoning, the divine principle remains unchanged. The tree is bad; that is why its fruit is corrupt. No use experimenting and trying to produce good fruit from so unwholesome a plant. Lay the axe to the root. Hew down the bad tree to make way for a new one of the heavenly Father’s planting.
Repentance is the recognition, the avowed recognition, of God’s estimate of the hopeless character of our hearts till renewed by the Word and Spirit of God. Grapes cannot be gathered from a thorn bush, nor figs from thistles. It is not the fruit that must be dealt with. The tree must be removed. To attempt to improve it is useless. God Himself has given it up. “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately [literally, incurably] wicked.” Therefore the need of a new heart and a new spirit.
It was thus that John prepared the way of the Lord. No matter with whom he dealt, he sought to expose the hidden evil of the heart and the need of self-judgment, which is just the recognition that, “in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing.” In order to make this manifest, covetous soldiers were commanded to be content with their wages, tax-gatherers to exact no more than their due. Herod, the King himself — who sought to patronize John, while living in vilest incest and licentiousness — writhed as he heard the stern preacher declare, while he pointed to Herodias, “It is not lawful for thee to have her.” A prison cell and later the executioner’s sword might silence the tongue of the preacher of repentance, but his words live on forever, rebuking still the self-indulgent, the self-righteous, the covetous, the lustful, to the end of time, who fancy they can in some way bribe an offended God to overlook and condone their iniquity.
John the Baptist has been described as “the last of the prophets,” and his ministry was certainly most intimately linked with that of the great prophetic brotherhood of the Old Testament. We have already seen how our Lord identifies him in spirit with Elijah; and to His questioning disciples, who were perplexed regarding the prediction in Malachi of Elijah’s return prior to the ushering in of the great and dreadful day of the Lord, the Saviour replies, referring to John, “If ye will receive it, this is Elijah which was for to come.” He came to break up the fallow ground that the word of the Kingdom might not be sown among thorns. Thus he was chosen of God as a voice crying in the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord and make straight in the desert a highway for our God. His was a leveling message. There were hills of pride to come down and valleys of degradation to be filled in by grace in order that the divine program might be expeditiously carried out.
In one sense his was a unique ministry which can never again be repeated, inasmuch as the same circumstances will never be duplicated. But there is a wider sense in which a similar message is always in order, for man’s heart remains unchanged and the King is still seeking those who will acknowledge and bow to His authority. Hence the importance of ever insisting upon the need of repentance, a state of soul which must always precede blessing.
The words of the holy Virgin, in the Magnificat, have an ever present application: “He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away” (Luke 1:52-53). This is the same leveling doctrine as that proclaimed by John. It is the “no difference” doctrine of the Apostle Paul. Yet how the human heart rebels against it. How men pride themselves on fancied distinctions which God’s eye does not discern.
“Must I be saved in the same way as my coachman?” indignantly asked a distinguished lady.
“Madam,” was the faithful reply, “you do not need to be saved at all. But if you ever are saved it will be on exactly the same ground as any other poor sinner.”
Years ago I was amazed to hear an eloquent French evangelist, Paul J. Loizeaux, exclaim, “Oh, how hard it is to find sinners! If only I could find one, I have a marvelous message for him.” A moment’s thought made his meaning clear. To be a sinner is one thing; to know it is another.
Faithful preaching of man’s responsibility will drive this truth home to the conscience. Repentance is the recognition of my sinnership — the owning before God that I am as vile as He has declared me to be in His holy Word. Until one comes to this place there is no further word from heaven for any man, except the sentence of doom. This truth does not in the least degree compromise the Gospel of grace. It rather prepares the sinner to know “the grace of God in truth” and to rejoice in it, reveling in the marvellous provision God has made to “satisfy the longing soul.”
Just as one may be hungry and not realize it because of a cloyed taste, and so fail to heed the dinner call, so one may be dying for lack of God’s gracious provision and have no sense of his lost estate, and therefore no appreciation of the message of grace. The call to repentance is designed of God to produce that soul hunger that will make the distressed one come with full appetite to the Gospel feast. Until one is thus aroused and made conscious of his need he will turn from the Gospel story with indifference and contempt. “The full soul loatheth an honeycomb; but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.”
Too often the earnest Gospel preacher dwells on the hopelessness of obtaining salvation by good works, when addressing men whose works are altogether evil and who have no thought of meriting life eternal but care only for the things of this godless world. We are warned against casting pearls before swine. Is it not possible even in Gospel preaching to do this very thing? We may make it all too simple, so easy that we quite misrepresent the God of all grace, who has in all ages first sought to show men their sinfulness and guilt, and then has offered the remedy to those who confessed to their dread disease.
I am persuaded revival would come to believers and awakening to the lost if there were more faithful preachers of the John the Baptist type, who would cry aloud and spare not, but would solemnly show the people their sins and call upon them in the Name of the Lord to repent, remembering that he who justifies himself must be condemned by God, but he who condemns himself will find complete justification in Christ, who died for his sins and who now is exalted to God’s right hand as a Prince and a Saviour, granting repentance and remission of sins to all who receive His testimony.
“I am not told to labor
To put away my sin,
So foolish, weak and helpless,
I never could begin.
But, blessed truth, I know it,
Though ruined by the fall,
Christ for my sin has suffered,
Yes, Christ has done it all.”
It will be seen that repentance is the very opposite of meritorious experience. It is the confession that one is utterly without merit, and if he is ever saved at all it can only be through the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, “who gave himself a ransom for all.” Here is firm footing for the soul who realizes that all self-effort is but sinking sand. Christ alone is the Rock of our salvation.
[Dr. Harry Ironside (1876-1951), a godly Fundamentalist author and teacher for many years, served as pastor of Chicago’s Moody Memorial Church from 1930-1948]
I have gotten to know so many of you well, because we have shared the same experiences together. We have struggled with the same deceptions or have helped each other as we grow and use our spiritual gifts to edify one another. One thing is clear. We know what strengthens us and helps us grow.
It is staying in the Word of God. His Written Word. The Bible. There are some helps along the way. A devotion can be encouraging. Commentary can help us unpack a passage from someone who the Lord has gifted with spiritual insights. But those who I have grown with the most, are those who scripture is shared with on almost a daily basis.
It is the staying in the Word, in the morning, during the day, and at evening that infiltrates the very soul with the Words of the Lord. It is easy for me because I write curriculum for my Sunday School class and the Lord has blessed me with a deep love for scripture, to be able to immerse myself into it and pull out applications and lessons for the children. Homiletic training didn’t hurt either.
I came across this Ephesians commentary from D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones when studying Genesis.
“The greatest benefactors that this world has ever known, the men who have brought the greatest good to this world has ever known, have been men who have emphasized most of all the importance of ‘seeing the unseen.’ One has but to read the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews to find proof of this. There we have a list, or a gallery as it were, of the greatest benefactors this world has ever known; that is why they stand out in history. And they are all people , we are told, who fixed their eyes not so much on this world as on the next….The ‘heroes of the faith’ of Hebrews, chapter 11, started with the unseen world, and then in the light of that, they applied themselves to the present world.” *
The church has become very involved with itself and its health, wealth, agendas, programs, conferences, publications, books, committees and men making names for themselves. As I think of the men and woman in Hebrews 11, a picture forms of those who really made a difference. Abraham never got to see the land filled with his descendents. Moses never got to cross into the physical Promised land, but they always walked in faith which carried the most importance of all. They had a correct perspective that changed the world. They were far from perfect but they are held up as men of faith. They cared about eternal matters instead of worldly matters.
Contrast walking in faith with worldly philosophy.
“What lies behind us and what lies in front of us pales in comparison of what lies within us.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
Quotes like this make me cling to 2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
I listen to those teachers who stay within scripture and use scripture to interpret scripture, because it is all the man of God needs.
* God’s Ultimate Purpose: An Exposition of Ephesians 1:1 to 23. pp. 381-382
We too need to walk in faith, and obey what Jesus said in John 14 three times. If we love Him we will obey Him and keep His commandments.
PROCLAIMING RELEVANT BIBLE TRUTH AND BUILDING UP THE BODY OF CHRIST
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
Can you imagine never being “anxious about anything?” It seems like an impossibility – we all have worries on the job, in our homes, at school. There are many times when the pressures and needs of life feel overwhelming and make it almost impossible to be happy. But Paul did not tell his readers to be happy. He encouraged them to “pray.” Surely there are many circumstances in which Christians cannot be happy, but we can always pray and rejoice in the Lord.
The busier we are, the easier it is to worry. If we want to worry less, we need to pray more. Prayer results in an indescribable and immediate sense of peace. Christ’s peace allows us to continue with what we need to do, in the confidence and assurance that God will work everything out.
Unlike worldly peace, the peace of God “transcends all understanding.” It is beyond man’s ability to comprehend. Like soldiers assigned to watch over a certain area, God’s peace “guards the hearts and minds,” that is, the emotions and thoughts, of His children. This peace is confident assurance in any circumstance (John 14:27).
True peace is not found in positive thinking, in absence of conflict, or in good feelings. It comes from knowing that God is in control. Our citizenship in Christ’s kingdom is sure, our destiny is set, and we can have victory over sin. With God’s peace, we have no need to fear the present or the future.
The most effective way any believer can prepare for the stress of the day is to begin with God. Spend time alone with Him and make your requests known to Him. Tell God the issues and concerns weighing you down. Anticipate the stressors in your schedule and ask God to give you peace in the midst of them. When stress comes, and it will, claim His promises.
Sin, fear, uncertainty, doubt, and numerous other forces are at war within us. The peace of God moves into our hearts and lives to restrain these hostile forces and offers comfort in place of worry. The end result of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives is deep and lasting peace. Jesus says He will give us that peace if we are willing to accept it from Him. If your life is full of stress, allow the Holy Spirit to fill you with Christ’s peace.
To break the habit of worry, Paul’s advice is to turn our worries into prayers. It is there that we gain the perspective and peace we need to handle the stress of life without sacrificing our relationships and health along the way. The heavier the burdens, the longer it may take, but when we give our worries to God, we will feel relieved and at peace.
Fleshly or Spiritual Leader—Which are You?
Recently I was having a conversation with a wonderful servant of God who has worked for several “high-profile” Christian leaders in the past two decades. This is a person for whom I have the utmost respect—an individual with a very gracious spirit, incredible gift mix, and true servant’s heart. And this is a person who has expended sacrificial service to the Lord with great poise and faithfulness. Yet, in our conversation, I was sad to discover the mistreatment and disrespect that this person had endured from a well-known evangelical leader. The conversation was brief, appropriate, and rather vague, but enough for me to see that this person had lost a lot of respect for someone once held in high esteem.
Flesh is powerful. Flesh is demanding. Flesh in leadership is ugly—really ugly. Flesh in leadership finds it easy to ride roughshod over people. Flesh enjoys “ripping face.” Flesh reasons that someone “deserves it.” Flesh enjoys dominance. Flesh finds fulfillment in being insulting—especially in a group. Flesh feels justified in giving a piece of its mind, putting someone in their place, and reminding everyone who’s really in charge. Flesh often reminds itself how stupid everybody else really is. Flesh loves to assert and reassert itself. Sometimes it masquerades as well-meaning. Sometimes it rationalizes the “ends justifies the means”—after all, the ministry outcome is for the Lord. But for those on the other end of the “flesh trip”—it always hurts.
The first sin the Corinthians ignored was lack of unity. A multiplicity of cliques each used the name of some Christian leader to split the church. This disunity had nothing to do with differences of doctrine. It was largely due to intellectual pride and a status-seeking spirit. Paul condemned these alarming dissensions and pointed out that all four cliques dishonored Christ Himself, for none of these human leaders had been crucified for them or gave them eternal life. However, these divisions and dissentions were but symptoms of a deep problem in the church–a kind of pride and dependence upon worldly wisdom as though eloquence, intellectualism, talents, or philosophical learning were to be grasped as an eternal good or means of power to win people to Christ. In response , Paul downgrades mere human wisdom without Christ and presents Christ and His cross as the true wisdom and power of God, which the Corinthians should seek above all else.
From the Acts of the Apostles
Notes lesson 19 BSF.