Posts Tagged ‘sin’

There is  a storm coming. And not many are prepared. Not a physical storm like what we’ve seen lately with rain and hail and tornados and floods; but a spiritual storm. One that will be more devastating than any tornado or flood.

The people of Judah had rebelled against the principles upon which their nation had been founded on. Judah had turned its back upon God and rejected any attempt by those sent to call her back. As promised, God withdrew His protection from her. He had warned that if His people became faithless that He would employ a pagan power to conquer them and lead them back into captivity. He had led them from Egyptian bondage 800 years before, and now, because of their infidelity, He would allow them to return to bondage—this time in Babylon.

They had refused to believe it could ever happen to them. They found their own false prophets to tell them that everything was fine. They ridiculed Jeremiah and others who warned of the devastation to come. The Lord spoke through Jeremiah and put it this way; “Behold, I will send and take all the families of the north…and I will send Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon…against this land and against its inhabitants…and this whole land shall be a desolation and a horror, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.” (Jeremiah 25:9-11)

But the false prophets told them that God would never allow this to happen because they were God’s chosen people. They were insisting that God loved them and that He only wanted to bless them. But it wasn’t true!

Today we have the modern counterparts of these false prophets. Some promise that God will bless you if you send them money. Some say that God will not bring judgment against Christians because they are God’s chosen people. They say that God loves them and that He only wants to bless them. They claim that the world’s problems are a direct result of sinfulness in the “world”—But if we elect someone with “Christian values”,  America will be great again.

They have forgotten that God is the one who exalts leaders into office: (Psalm 75:7; Daniel 2:21) So what if, because we have turned our back on God and instead placed our trust in man and rejected any attempt by those He sent to call us back, God also removes His protection from us?

There are many today who cry out, “God bless America!” But how can God bless America when we allow children to be beaten, raped and killed? How can God bless America when we refuse to allow our children to pray and criminalize those who do? How can God bless America when we ignore the suffering of the poor and destitute while we indulge ourselves on the luxuries we have accumulated for ourselves.

William Booth embarked upon his ministerial career in 1852, desiring to win the lost multitudes of England to Christ. He walked the streets of London to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to the poor, the homeless, the hungry, and the destitute. Booth abandoned the conventional concept of a church and a pulpit, instead taking his message to the people.

He once related a vision he had concerning the lost. He saw a dark and stormy ocean. In that ocean he saw myriads of poor human beings plunging and floating, shouting and shrieking, cursing and struggling and drowning. But what puzzled him most was the fact that although all of them had been rescued at one time or another from the ocean, nearly everyone no longer seemed troubled by those who were downing—nor did they even seem to care about the poor perishing ones who were struggling and drowning right before their very eyes—many of whom were their own husbands and wives, brothers and sisters and even their own children!

The primary aim of the Salvation Army was not to provide charity, but to win souls from the devil. Booth stated that “what was important was not whether a man died in the poorhouse but if his soul was saved.” (‘The Salvationist in a Secular Society’— p29)

And yet today the Salvation Army is a human organization more interested in the needs of the flesh, rather than the needs of the soul. Is it possible that God had given William Booth a vision of the “future” Salvation Army and Christianity as a whole?

The Church today reminds me of a poem I read years ago written by Howard Clinebell:

The Little Lifesaving Station

On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occurred, there was once a crude lifesaving station. The building wasn’t much more than a small hut, and there was only one boat. But the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea, and with no thought of themselves, went out night and day tirelessly searching for the lost.

Many lives were saved by this wonderful little station. So much so that it became famous for its rescue efforts. Some of those who were saved and various others in the surrounding area wanted to become associated with the station and give of their time and money for the support of its work. New boats were purchased and donated to the station and crews were trained to improve the rescue operations of the station.

As the little lifesaving station grew some of the members were unhappy that the building itself was so crude and poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided for those who were rescued from the sea. So the members raised funds for the station and replaced the emergency cots with beds and placed better furniture in an enlarged building.

Soon the lifesaving station became a popular gathering place for its members. They decorated it beautifully and furnished it so exquisitely that it became sort of a club. The lifesaving station’s logo still prevailed on the wall above the fireplace and its name was still used to raise funds,  but  fewer members were now interested in going out to sea on lifesaving missions. They even hired lifeboat crews to do the work that they used to do themselves.

About this time a large ship was wrecked off the coast and the hired crews brought in boatloads of cold, wet, and half drowned people. These people were dirty and sick. And some of them were foreigners who couldn’t speak English. The beautiful club was thrown into chaos. The property committee immediately had a shower built outside the club building with an attached closet filled with clean clothes so that the victims of shipwrecks could be cleaned up and dressed properly before coming inside.

At the next club meeting there was a split in the membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s lifesaving activities because it was unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal social structure of the club. Some members insisted that the lifesaving operations were the primary reason for them being there and pointed out that they were still called a lifesaving station. The latter were finally voted down and were told that if they wanted to save the lives of all the various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters they could start their own lifesaving station further down the coast. That’s exactly what they did.

As the years went by, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old one. It evolved into a club and later another lifesaving station was founded.

History continues to repeat itself and if you visit that seacoast today you will find a number of exclusive clubs along its shores.  Shipwrecks are frequent in those waters, but sadly, most of the people there drown.

“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth…But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:1-7, 14-15)

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“Behold the Lord’s hand is not shortened that it cannot save, nor his ear heavy that it cannot hear, but your sins have separated you from your God and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he will not hear.” (Isaiah 59: 1-2)

There are many Christians today that excuse their sin by claiming that because we are human, we do not have the capacity to stop sinning. Isn’t that the reason that Jesus died and was resurrected? “We are no longer under Law but under grace.” they say. There are some in AA circles who have even referred to sin as “character flaws” or “allergies”. But it is the power of Jesus in us that REMOVES our character flaws! And even when one has an allergy to something, they CHOOSE to partake of it or refuse it. It’s not that it is impossible for us to NOT sin, it’s that we CHOOSE to sin.

But to have victory over sin will involve a total daily surrender of Self, (Our own desires, will, and selfish nature) to God. Surrender to God simply means acknowledging to Him that all things you desire; personal as well as spiritual, good as well as bad, by His grace and by the power of His spirit, you agree to give up in order that He might be glorified. You also have to acknowledge that in your flesh, (that is, in your own strength) this is impossible to accomplish.

Self is an impossible force to deal with on our own. It is the foundation of all sin and all the problems that have plagued societies and civilizations since the fall of man. Everything from lust, to murder, to war are all sins derived from Self. Wars are being waged simply because someone has something that the other wants and cannot have. Neither side will compromise, so they go to war. (James 4:5-6)

Sam Shoemaker, (December 27, 1893 – October 31, 1963) is considered one of the best preachers of his era, whose sermons were syndicated for distribution by tape and radio networks for decades, Shoemaker served as the rector of Calvary Episcopal Church in New York City, the United States headquarters of the Oxford Group during the 1930s, and was a significant influence for the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous. http://aa-history.com/samshoemaker.html Shoemaker wrote over thirty books, about half of which were circulating before A A’s 12 Steps were first published in the Big Book in 1939.

A year after his death, Shoemaker’s daughter, Helen Shoemaker-Rea, compiled a collection of Shoemaker’s writings for the book, “Sam Shoemaker-at his best EXTRAORDINARY LIVING FOR THE ORDINARY MAN”. They first appeared in, Faith At Work Magazine, New York, N.Y.

The following are excerpts from the chapter called, “Victory Over Self” of that book:

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“We are at war today as surely as we were in the ‘40s and are in the midst of making the same mistakes again… We fight with force against the enemy without because we have not learned to fight with faith against the enemy within. The real war is within. What we need today, more than anything else, more than victory in the war against aggression, are weapons, manpower, and strategy to win the war against selfishness. We need, and must have, victory over ourselves, before any outward victory will mean anything more than a temporary cessation of human conflict….”

“Let us face at the outset how many Christians are not victorious, but defeated. Defeated by circumstances, defeated by other peoples’ natures and wrong-doings, defeated by the down-drag of the flesh, defeated by loss, by pain, by suffering, by worry. Instead of saying with confidence, “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith,” they have to say in honesty, “This is the defeat that has been caused by the world, even our self-centeredness.” That is the opposite of faith. Unbelief is not the opposite of faith; self-centeredness is—being centered in self rather than in God.”

“Victory over sin. This victory begins in the life and death of our Lord himself—in his life, because “he was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin”—in his death, because there he took upon himself the sin of the world, suffered in our stead, made redemption possible for us. We need to be redeemed from sin first, to have salvation put in its place by our Savior. Then we need to claim his power over our sins, one by one. Most of us fight a dreary battle for character, or else give it up entirely, and just give in to the desires that assail us—desires to coddle and indulge the body, to please and amuse the mind, to fritter away the life with trivial pursuits, to win out over somebody else, to “get ours.” The way to deal with sin is not to try to hate sin more, but to love Christ more.”

“All the victory of which we have been speaking is a derived victory. We can win the victory only because Christ won it long ago. We participate in his victory by faith.Faith is like a wire, along which he sends the power, the love, the guidance, that enable us to share in his victory. Faith is not just a belief of the mind; faith is the set of the whole personality God-ward. It doesn’t begin with beliefs, but obedience.”

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If only people could realize that by surrendering Self to God and living by principles taught through the Holy Scriptures wars would cease, crime rates would go down and divorce would be all but non-existent. But as long as people refuse to surrender Self to God, all of these things will continue to plague the world and will increase in its intensity over time. That’s why we must rely on God to give us the grace we need that will allow us to surrender Self to Him. God promises in his Word that if we’re honest, admit that we’re powerless in our own nature to surrender, and humble ourselves before him, he’ll give us the grace we need to do it.

There are some who will still be convinced that it is impossible for one not to sin. But listen to what God says:

“For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.“ (Deuteronomy 30:11-14) [Emphasis mine]

The apostle John wrote in 1 John 5:3, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” (Burdensome)

But it is only by God’s grace that we can accomplish this. To some surrendering Self to God will become as easy as shedding a winter coat in Spring, while others will struggle daily to accomplish it.

The apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 how he struggled with what he calls his “thorn in the flesh”. Some have suggested that Paul struggled with some physical malady, while others are convinced that it was spiritual in nature. We may never know until the resurrection what it was, but we do know that God gave Paul the grace to endure it.

Grace is not a replacement or an excuse for sin. Paul himself said, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2)

Before becoming Navy SEALs, candidates are put through some of the most mentally challenging and physically demanding training in the world, commonly referred to as “hell week.” Very few candidates successfully complete the training. I recall hearing a story about the last day of training. Just after completing a rigorous exercise, the instructor told the candidates to complete another 1000-yard swim with fins in 20 minutes or under. Two of the candidates staggered over and rang the bell, signifying that they could not physically complete the task. The remainder of the candidates immediately received their SEAL Trident, designating them as Navy SEALs. You see, the instructor wanted to see who was WILLING to go the extra mile.

We too, need to be willing to do what it takes to have victory over sin. So with the help of God’s grace, we must decide to die to self and follow Christ no matter what.

“Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will. And I know that I will not be put to shame.” (Isaiah 50:7)

The early Church in the Book of Acts were making people angry by preaching the truth. Some of them were martyred, willing to die for the cause of Christ. After hearing the gospel message many who had been involved with the occult brought their “curious arts” and burned them in a bonfire. (Acts 19:19) The worth of the books and items were 50,000 pieces of silver. (hundreds of thousands of dollars in today’s value) The local idol makers were so enraged at Paul, that the other believers had to keep him from the angry mob waiting to tear him to pieces. (Acts 19:30)

This is what happens when people begin to live according to the truth of the Bible. Because it reduces the profits of beer companies and taverns, drug dealers, godless Hollywood film makers, strip clubs, pornography and prostitution. It causes women to keep their babies instead of murdering them and therefore decreases the profits of the abortion clinics and its providers. Praise God, when Jesus returns he will put all these evil people out of business for good!

Please notice that the early believers didn’t just preach a salvation message. They also spent much time speaking against sin and warning of being deceived by it. (James 4:17, Romans 6:23, 1 John 1:8-10, 1 John 3:4, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

But most preachers today only preach a “feel good” salvation message. They don’t preach against sexual immorality, idolatry, drunkards, or swindlers. They don’t expose the corruption and lies of the world and rarely preach about spiritual zeal and fervor. Most of what is taught in churches today is an “I’m okay, you’re okay, because we’re covered in the blood of Jesus gospel”.

I remember soon after I was saved, going to renew my driver’s license. It took me several minutes to convince the woman at the DMV that the photo on my old license was really me. You see, my countenance had completely changed so much that my “old self” didn’t even resemble who I had become! I was literally a new person!

And yet many Christians today are taught that they are “just sinners saved by grace”. But is that what the early Church taught?

A scripture that would appear to agree on this point is from the Apostle Paul: “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:15-16)

Because of Paul’s present tense use of the phrase, “worst of sinners” he makes it sound as if it were applicable to him at the time he wrote it. But if we look at this anomaly more closely, I’m sure you’ll see that the unusual use of verbs is Paul’s writing style and is/was a common Hebrew way of writing.

In the Preface to Youngs Literal Translation of the Holy Bible, the translator tells us of two principles to understand about Hebrew writers. (even though they may be writing in the Greek language)

  1. That the Hebrews were in the habit of using the past tense to express the certainty of an action taking place, even though the action might not really be performed for some time.
  2. That the Hebrews, in referring to events which might be either past or future were accustomed to act on the principle of transferring themselves mentally to the period and place of the events themselves, and were not content with coldly viewing them as those of a bygone or still coming time; hence the very frequent use of the present tense.

Apparently, that is what Paul did. He placed himself in the past as though it were the present. Similar to what Daniel did as he confessed his sins and the sins of his country to God in Daniel chapter nine.

Are Christians Called Sinners In Scripture? 

The first scripture that comes to mind is Romans 5:6, 8:

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. . . . But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners Christ died for us. (All emphasis added is mine and is not in Scripture)

First please note that Christ died for the ungodly (vs. 6) and then Christ died for sinners. (vs. 8) Paul equates the ungodly with sinners. Christians are never characterized as ungodly. Next note that the past tense is used  while we were still sinners. That clearly implies a change of status. While we were still sinners is a prior status of being sinners, different from what the recipients of the letter were as Paul wrote to them. Who were the recipients of the letter? Paul described them: To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints. (Romans 1:7) Paul did not address his letter to sinners saved by grace, but to those called to be saints!

There are 28 uses of the word sinners and 13 of the word sinner in the New Testament Scripture. None refer to people who have come to a saving faith in the Lord Jesus.

Jesus also made a distinction between sinners and the righteous:

Jesus revealed that the purpose of his coming was to save sinners:

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Mark 2:17 — See also Luke 15:7,10 and Matthew 9:12-13)

Many are taught that we all sin hundreds of times every day, and all we have to do is confess our sins and God is faithful and just to forgive us. But if we read 1 John we discover what the Apostle said about the relationship to God and the people who continue in sin:

No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.” (1 John 3:6) “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him.” (1 John 5:18)

According to the Apostle John, if someone is sinning hundreds of times each day he is not living in Christ Jesus and does not have a true saving faith. Twice John says Christians do NOT continue to sin.

The writer to the Hebrews addressed the issue of deliberately continuing in sin. His warning is frightening:

“If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” (Hebrews 10:26)

It would appear that those who have received the knowledge of the truth but thereafter deliberately continue in sin are in a terrible position. They are called enemies of God.

But in our 21st century, it is politically correct to have a tolerant attitude toward almost everything. That seems to include sin. There is not an abhorrence of sin, of seeing it through Gods eyes, nor a recognition that continuing in sin will prevent a person from inheriting the kingdom of God. Not concerned about being politically correct, Paul wrote:

“But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.” (1 Corinthians 5:11)

Paul warns that a person who continues to habitually sin (a sinner) but who calls himself a Christian brother, is dangerous to the health of the body and should be shunned. From Johns’ writings we know that such a person is not a true believer even though he may profess to be a Christian.

None of us who are Christians with a saving faith should ever call ourselves a sinner. It is not appropriate to try to claim common ground with unbelievers by saying that you also are a sinner. Scripture says otherwise. Christians are not sinners. If you are a sinner, one who habitually sins, you are not a true believer. In that case you can properly call yourself a sinner. Please note the distinction: Christians do occasionally sin. A sinner habitually sins. The Christian (should) immediately repent and seek Gods forgiveness. The sinner does not.

A Christian can properly say, I was a sinner, but I have been saved by grace.

Sinners hate to have their sin exposed. It was true in the days of the early Church and is still true today. When you tell someone who likes to party and get drunk that what they are doing is a sin, they will become angry and belligerent. If you try to explain why abortion is a sin to someone who supports a woman’s right to an abortion, they may become combative toward you. And if you point out the sin of homosexuality, people will accuse you of hate speech and may even physically attack you. (Which has happened often lately) So much for tolerance.

But this is how it has always been. And we are warned that as our days in this world are numbered, it will only get worse.

“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5 )

Until Christ returns, we are responsible to stand against the evils of our day. (Psalm 94:16) The truth will make some people angry. But the truth will cause others to come to God in repentance. The truth is emotional. The truth demands an answer. The truth cannot be ignored forever. The truth is the truth!

Why am I so adamant about standing against sin? Because Jesus was beaten, humiliated and crucified because of sin! God hates sin. And so I too must hate sin. (Psalms 5:4, Psalms 45:6, Hebrews 1:8)

I know that there are many who wish that I would just tone down my rhetoric. That I would talk more about the good things. I don’t like to talk about bad things, but people need to know the truth. So I must speak the truth!

But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot. (Jeremiah 20:9)

So I will not go quietly into the night, I will continue to fight the good fight until my life is done or until Jesus returns.

It would appear to be indisputable that same-sex marriage and the open celebration of homosexuality is quickly becoming a part of the global cultural agenda—and responding to the rise of the homosexual agenda is a teaching that is permeating even the Christian world, claiming that since Jesus never mentions homosexuality nor does He specifically condemn it, homosexuality must be legitimate in Jesus’ eyes.

This is not a judgment against those who maintain a homosexual lifestyle. I have always maintained that we are not to judge those outside the Church, but we are told to judge those inside the Church—those who claim to be followers of Christ but live a life not consistent with God’s Word. (1 Corinthians 5:9-13)

This is a very important issue for the Church. For if there is no accountability to God, then the secular worldview would have us to believe that homosexual marriage is a completely legitimate issue. Pedophilia and bestiality would not be out of the question either, should the prevailing secular worldview deem these lifestyles to be acceptable and the “new norm.” The biblical worldview, however, is grounded in the unchanging tenets of the Word of God. This is where the loudest cultural clash occurs and the two worlds collide.

So, did Jesus condemn, speak of, or even mention homosexuality? As it turns out, yes, he did. As a matter of fact, he spoke very clearly and directly about the issue. Let me begin with Matthew 19:4. Here Jesus is answering a question from the Pharisees regarding divorce. However, his answer is very telling concerning the entire issue of sexuality, marriage and the proper form of marriage. Here are the words of Jesus:

“And He answered and said to them, ‘Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning “made them male and female,” and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” (Matthew 19:4)

Here Jesus upholds male and female procreation as a part of male and female marriages, and the sanctity of male and female sexual relationships within male and female marriages. His answer tells us that since creation anything outside God’s standard for sexuality and marriage is a perversion. This truth cannot be legitimately explained away. And yet many pastors and religious leaders are teaching just the opposite! In the words of Billy Sunday, “What a spell the devil seems to cast over the Church today!”

We read in Galatians 5:19-21, “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division,  envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

Jesus came to seek and save the lost. (Luke 19:10) We would expect, therefore, that while the Son of God was on earth, he taught much regarding sin. Indeed he did, and we would profit from a humble reflection on some of the sayings of Jesus about sin.

Some of the Lord’s remarks about sin have been misapplied. For example, when a woman was taken in the act of adultery, she was brought to Jesus for judgment. He dispersed the multitude by stating, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (John 8:7) The verse is loved by many who hope that its recitation at just the right moment, will free them from judging or being judged.

Note the following: First, Christians should judge one another (1 Corinthians 5:12-13; John 7:24). Second, the Lord did not condone this woman’s sin. He commanded her to “go thy way; from henceforth sin no more.” (John 8:11) Third, Jesus revealed the hypocrisy of the accusers who were more interested in ensnaring the Lord than preserving holiness in their community. (cf. Mark 7:1-13) And where was the MAN who also was caught in the act of adultery? (cf. Leviticus 20:10) Fourth, Jesus respected the Mosaic law that prohibited adultery and the punishment that the law prescribed. He also regarded the laws of accusation and testimony, which may not have been satisfied in this case. And lastly, the response to this situation by Jesus was not designed to insulate wicked and unrepentant individuals from rebuke or discipline in the Christian Age.

Other sayings of Jesus teach us regarding the nature of sin itself. Sin is a master to whom we become enslaved to. (John 8:34) Sin is blinding. (John 9:39-41) Only the truth will set us free. (John 8:32)

By joining with the secular worldview on sin we have become spiritually blind. Only complete submission and sincere obedience to Jesus Christ and God’s Word will remedy our spiritual blindness.

When the Lord was criticized for eating with sinners, he revealed the purpose of his coming by responding, “They that are in health have no need of a physician; but they that are sick. I am not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32)

But if there is no unrighteousness and no need for repentance, then there was no reason for Jesus to come and his death and resurrection was meaningless.

One of the most memorable sayings of Jesus on sin is found in Matthew 26:28. It reminds us of the purpose for which Jesus was born, suffered, died and was risen from the dead. Jesus said, “For this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many unto the remission of sins.”

This ought to enlighten us regarding what Jesus taught about sin. Sin is so horrible that only the spotless blood of Jesus can atone for it. His love for the sinner is so deep, he was willing to pour it out for them. Thanks be to our Lord for teaching us the truth about sin and providing the ransom.

There have been few things more damaging to the church’s witness than how it has handled moral failure among its leaders. Not simply that there has been moral failure – that is damaging enough – but how it is then handled by the church. Too many times it has simply added to the pain and disdain. Whether pedophiles, serial adulterers, or those who misuse church authority and discipline, headlines and blogs are filled with outrage and indignation over not simply the acts, but the church’s response. So why do so many churches bungle moral failure among leaders?

Many churches today are experiencing numbers that are declining and conflict within itself because its leaders exercise a level of authority over the members that Jesus himself urged not to be so. This has resulted in members becoming frustrated and apathetic about their role in the body of Christ.

A wise man once said, “If you’re a leader and no one is following, you’re just out for a walk.” Success rises and falls with leadership. A church leader must be involved with his or her people. If involvement does not take place, the Church will not grow. I have seen too many instances where leaders have become more concerned with authority, power and control than how they can be a servant and true shepherd to the people who are a part of their flock. Members become frustrated; they don’t really feel that their opinions really matter because they have no say in what happens.

The most dangerous leader in churches is the person, who by reason of insecurity or lack of leadership skills, demands a particular level of authority and control over the church that was never intended. In fact, Jesus prohibited the use of this kind of authority. Anytime you hear people talk about “not speaking against God’s anointed,” watch out! Just because a person is a church leader does not qualify them as God’s anointed! If you have used those words, please consider what it might mean. God may very well call a man to a special office and give him a special anointing to carry out that office. But the role of the pastor is to be a shepherd who leads, and not one who drags the flock, or pushes them. Yes, they may need to spiritually prod according to God’s Word, but never are they instructed to Lord over the flock. (I Peter 5:3)

Who’s voice are you listening to?

True leadership is about influence, not authority. As Jesus said, “The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” (John 10:3-5)

When sheep hear a shepherd’s voice they know it will lead them to cool waters, green pastures and his protection at night. They know their shepherd “goes on ahead of them.” He doesn’t drive them like cattle. It’s interesting that right after Jesus said those words in John 10 about shepherding, John commented on the fact that “Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.” (v6) Sadly, too many leaders today don’t understand it either. If you’re a pastor and wondering why you seem to be embroiled in constant conflict and your members don’t seem to be following you, Jesus gives the answer: “They don’t know your voice!”

We need to know Him

There are two Greek words for “know”. The word “ginosko” speaks of a surface knowledge, a simple understanding. But the other word “horad” speaks of a deep, intimate knowledge. I have many friends and neighbors who “know” (ginosko) me, but my wife really “knows” (horad) me. She has a deep, intimate knowledge of me that very few other people have.

The first century Church had this deep, intimate knowledge of God and grew at breakneck speed. Yet at the same time, the level of personal care and love for their fellow believers grew also. “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. ” (Acts 4:32-35)

Can the same be said of the Church today? Are we growing, both spiritually and numerically, as the early Church did? Sadly, in most cases, no. So back to my original question, “What has happened to the Church today?”

The problem is that too many people have only two ideologies about the Church today. If your ideology is worldly, you’ll have a set of core values that are probably pretty warped, and focused on the pleasures you can receive in life, reflected in your beliefs, actions and experiences.

The other option is having an ideology of the Church as an institution. For too many people their ideology of the Church has changed from the Church as the body of Christ, to the Church as an institution. If your ideology is the Church as an institution, the core values that you develop will eventually lead to overpowering controlling leaders, negative atmospheres, declining numbers, maintaining the status quo and uninvolved members who are content to sit through stiff and lifeless worship services. You’ve seen it. You might even be experiencing it right now.

So what’s the answer? We need to get our focus, our ideology, back to Jesus, our Messiah. When we do, our core values will change. We will begin to value serving others, living to please God, and understanding that we have been uniquely gifted for ministry. We will begin to see the Church as one body, and not as just belonging to our own particular denomination. Our worship will take on a whole new meaning, our involvement will become a natural expression of our desire to please God, and our leadership will become focused on shepherding a body of believers rather than managing them.

Once our focus comes back in line where it needs to be, our churches will no longer be a diverse group of denominations, but we will truly be on our way to true revival and becoming the Church that God intended!

This has nothing to do with those outside the Church. This is only directed at those inside the Church-those who profess to be followers of Jesus.

 
A pastor by the name of John Pavlovitz recently wrote an article on his blog entitled, “If I Have Gay Children: Four Promises From A Christian Pastor/Parent”.  http://johnpavlovitz.com/2014/09/17/if-i-have-gay-children-four-promises-from-a-christian-pastorparent/

In the article he suggests that as Christian parents, we should accept our homosexual children as “okay”. This is what is wrong with the PC church today! If my kids told me that they thought that they were gay- yes, I would still love them as I always will, no matter what. But I would be honest and tell them that it is sin. I would pray for my children as they struggled with this, but I would NEVER accept it as being okay any more than I would accept adultery, lust or pedophilia as okay. That not only goes against God’s Law, but would give my children a false sense of salvation!

One cannot live as an unrepentant homosexual and be a follower of Jesus any more than an unrepentant pedophile can. Many have been taught that repentance means to “turn from sin”. Others believe that repentance means to be “sorry for your sins”. But neither is completely accurate. The full biblical definition of repentance is to change our heart and mind about sin that results in a change of action.

Repentance and faith are very closely related. Trying to separate the two is like trying to separate water and oil.  It is impossible to place your faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior without first changing your mind about who he is and what he has done. Whether it is repentance from willful rejection or repentance from ignorance, it is still a change of heart and mind. Biblical repentance, in relation to salvation, is changing your mind from rejecting God and His commandments to faith in Jesus our Messiah.

Sexual sin has become rampant in our world and is glorified in movies and television. Sadly, the Church is not immune from its temptations. But  Jesus and the apostles were never politically correct when it came to addressing sin in the Church. Read how the Apostle Paul dealt with sexual sin within the Church: “I can hardly believe the report about the sexual immorality going on among you—something that even pagans don’t do. I am told that a man in your church is living in sin with his stepmother… It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning. God will judge those on the outside; but as the Scriptures say, “You must remove the evil person from among you.” (1Cor. 5:1; 12-13 NLT) As Christians, our lives should be a reflection of Jesus himself. And with so many in the world watching us we should be even more careful to watch what we’re doing.

 

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

Researcher George Otis Jr. writes in Charisma Magazine.com: “Of the nearly 800 cases of authentic, transforming revival in the last 15 years, only two were in North America.”

So why has it been so long since the Church has experienced a true spiritual revival like those in the 1800s? Because our need for a true spiritual revival will always be determined by our true condition. The question of whether we will actually experience revival depends on how we perceive our condition. But until there is a conviction of need, there will never be a desire for change.

I find it interesting that so many Christians quote 2 Chronicles 7:14 as a formula for revival in the land. But they totally overlook verse 13: “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people…” And then concludes with verse 14.

Why do so many Christians purposely overlook verse 13? Possibly, like Israel of old before they were exiled to Babylon, Christians today refuse to believe that God would purposefully bring adversity to us. (See Jeremiah 29:1-14) If all Christians in America would heed God’s warning and do what this verse says, I believe revival would come, but so far it hasn’t happened–Mainly because most Christians in the land have not repented.

Throughout history nations have fallen because people forgot God and did what was right in their own minds. (Judges 17:6) One only has to examine the fall of the Roman Empire to see that this is true. Unfortunately, we haven’t yet learned from the mistakes of our ancestors. The major causes for the fall of the Roman Empire were:
• Antagonism between the Senate and the Emperor
• Decline in Morals which led to the Gladiatorial Games
• Political Corruption
• Constant Wars and Heavy Military Spending
• Failing Economy
• Unemployment of the Working Classes
• Decline in Ethics and Values

Sound familiar?

There is much talk in Christian circles these days about “taking back our cities for God”. And there is no shortage of books and evangelists who promote strategies for transforming everything from our neighborhoods to Hollywood to Washington, D.C. But God has not called us to win the so-called culture war. He has not called us to change the world, but to overcome it. But how do we overcome the world when we have become so much like it?
I recently read an article that listed U.S. companies that were considered to be religious.
Yahoo Finance

Many of the companies were listed simply because they print Bible verses on their products or claim to begin meetings with prayer. But quoting a Bible verse or starting a meeting with a prayer does not necessarily make you religious. Jesus said, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.” (Matt. 7:15-18)
What are the fruits some of the so called religious companies listed in the article?

• Forever 21 – Sells skimpy clothing for young trendy girls.
• Tyson Foods -The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a complaint against Tyson Foods, Inc. for violating the Federal Trade Commission Act after it was revealed that workers routinely abused animals.
• Jet Blue airlines – Lowest rated airline since they stranded passengers for hours in 2011.
• Carl’s Jr. – Uses racy videos with scantily clad women to sell their unhealthy menu.

An even better Old Testament passage than 2 Chronicles 7:14 concerning revival can be found in Psalms 85:6: “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” King David, who was a man after God’s heart, knew that the purpose of revival was so that people would rejoice in God. Revival is not to be used bring glory to a program or a denomination or a person, but to God.

This verse places the origin of revival in God and not man. It is God who must quicken us that we may be changed to a people that rejoice in the Lord. If God is the one who sends revival, then He is the one we must plead with. We must ask Him to send revival on the land. We must cast ourselves on His mercy and ask that He send what we do not deserve. We deserve judgment as a nation for our sins, but we must intercede with God to have mercy upon us and to turn us around by His mighty power. We need God’s mercy toward us in this hour that He might turn us around that we might be a people who will acknowledge Him and rejoice in Him.

We need to pray as the prophet Daniel did: “Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land…Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.” (Read Daniel 9:1-19)