Spirit, Soul and Body

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I have been a Christian for a very long time.  But 40 years ago, when I first gave my life to Jesus and accepted Him as Lord and Saviour, I knew very little about the mechanics of my belief.  Later, when I began attending a Baptist church around the corner from where I lived, I was still hazy about what I really believed.  I was very immature, eager to learn and yet the church I attended did not teach the basics of my faith.  The preaching focused on bible verses or stories from the Old Testament which contained morals or facts about God and how we are to live as Christians, but I was not informed about things like the differences between soul and spirit, or soul and body and how these three interact.

Recently I have been doing some bible study.

I have come to a very important understanding which I wish I knew 40 years ago.  And it all seems to be predicated on two little verses, Romans 12:1-2.  They say this:

Romans 12New King James Version (NKJV)

Living Sacrifices to God

12 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

These verses have been with me for a couple of years.  I just can’t seem to get away from them.  They are powerful, all consuming, and seem to sum up the life of the Christian.  If my mind is renewed, I am transformed. But if I don’t first of all sacrifice myself, reject the world and all friendship with it then I won’t be able to be renewed, transformed and be able to prove the will of God.

I have been learning that our spirits are made whole, are saved and sanctified, are filled with the Holy Spirit and it is through our spirits that we hear the living Word.  Yes, the bible is an important book, it is the Word of God also, and the living Word who indwells us always agrees with His written word.  To do otherwise would be to be something less than who He is.  So, our spirits are the most important part of us.  If we can get our minds filled with the Spirit, to have the mind of Christ, and to understand the mysteries of God as Paul encourages us in 1 Corinthians 2, then the rest of us will be transformed.

Let me give you a practical illustration.

This morning I was praying.  A thought came to me, I won’t say what thought but it was very destructive.  The thought told me something that I started to believe.  Before I knew it, the thought had produced a stirring in my soul, and my emotions began to bubble and stew and create such anguish and pain that I knew I had to do something.  I had to act, in order to counter the reality that this thought presented to me.  I began to think of what I could do to change my imaginary circumstances.

I sat down to have breakfast and opened up the Bible as I often do.  I began to read in 1 Corinthians 2 and 3 and while I was pondering the Word of God, I realised, I had allowed my carnal mind to inform my whole existence.  I had allowed a stray thought to change my emotions which then caused me a great deal of pain which compelled me to act in order to change my circumstances.  I figured if I could change my circumstances, I would feel empowered, instead of victimised, as the thought told me I was.

After reading the word for a short time, my mind became renewed on this topic.  And interestingly the verses I was reading didn’t actually relate at all to the issue at hand.  All it did was enable me to focus on the Word of God instead of the lies of the Devil.  All of my thoughts, emotions and plans evaporated, and I realised how foolish, and sinful, I had been.  Yet, this situation taught me a tremendous truth.  All that I had been learning about Spirit, Soul and Body was becoming a reality!  If I had taken that thought captive to Christ and allowed His mind to inform me, I would have saved myself a morning’s worth of anguish and foolishness.

Another practical application of this related to a discussion I had with my daughter about wanting to change something about herself at a moment’s notice without considering what was driving her.  We talked a bit about it, and much later after focusing on the Word, and talking about the things I am discussing here, she realised her desire to change herself physically came about because of a thought that she had about herself, that she was unloved and unacceptable.  This was a lie!  Yet the lie stirred up her emotions, and then caused her to want to act in a way which would have ended up being very unsatisfying.  The root cause of her dissatisfaction wasn’t physical at all. It was believing a lie about herself instead of focusing on the truth that God not only loved her but His Spirit dwelt in us to bring life to our mortal bodies.  (Romans 8:11)

Psychology tells us that our emotions are a result of outward circumstances.  Somebody says something offensive and we are immediately hurt.  But in fact, what somebody says to us means nothing if we have did not already believe that about ourselves.  If somebody mocks you and tells you that you are ugly, and you are not, then the slur is like water off a ducks back, in fact it can be kind of amusing.  However, if you actually believe you are not only ugly but  unlovable because of it, the insult hits at the lie we believe and causes the sore spot to flare up and create huge emotional waves. It can drive us to despair.

Our thoughts dictate to us and our souls and bodies.  Then we act on those thoughts and feelings and often our bodies are the recipients of some fairly horrible consequences. At a superficial level, we can tattoo, pierce, and surgically alter ourselves but at a more dangerous level we can fill our bodies with drugs or other substances which provide relief from painful emotions, and even in extreme cases, abort children or commit suicide because our thoughts tell us not only are our lives irrelevant but our bodies are not affected by our actions.  Neither of these lies bring life.  They literally in some cases produce death, not just to us but to others.

A friend of our family attempted suicide last year.  She was not a Christian and was in a coma for weeks.  We prayed for her, because she had four children, the youngest was only about 7 years old, her oldest was just about to get married. Apparently this woman had a history of depression and had used medication to deal with it.  But at the root of her problems was the belief that her life was irrelevant..  It could not have been further from the truth.  Our family prayed for her solidly for a month. But I remember taking this issue to the Father who told me sadly, ‘She has made her decision’.  We don’t want to believe anyone could do such a terrible thing, but in fact, if you believe a lie, not only will your soul be affected but eventually your body will be treated with contempt.  If nothing matters and your life is worth nothing, then it doesn’t matter what you do.  But if everything matters, and your life is not your own but you were bought with a price, then you will see yourself and everyone around you as worthwhile people who deserve to be treated with respect regardless of who they are.  Human lives mean something, but Satan, who is the destroyer of our souls and bodies wishes to make us believe we are worthless.  He is a liar.

Proverbs 23:7 tells us that as a man thinks, so is he.

23 When you sit down to eat with a ruler,
Consider carefully what is before you;
And put a knife to your throat
If you are a man given to appetite.
Do not desire his delicacies,
For they are deceptive food.Do not overwork to be rich;
Because of your own understanding, cease!
Will you set your eyes on that which is not?
For riches certainly make themselves wings;
They fly away like an eagle toward heaven.Do not eat the bread of a miser,[a]
Nor desire his delicacies;
For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.
“Eat and drink!” he says to you,
But his heart is not with you.
The morsel you have eaten, you will vomit up,
And waste your pleasant words.

These verses talk about deceptive words from gluttons and misers.  In their heart they are against you, but outwardly their actions try and convince you that they are your friend.  Our actions begin in the heart, or mind.  Our mind thinks a thought which immediately produces emotions, usually negative ones, although this can work positively as well, but our carnal minds are often the source of a great deal of anxiety.  We create dramas in our own imaginations which then lead us to take action in ways which we never would if we believed the truth. This is why faith is substance and evidence.  It is not JUST a thought or belief.  Thoughts produce actions, faith produces works. So many believers get confused about James’ letter thinking he is talking about works producing salvation. That is NOT what he said.  He said what you believe will change how you act. Your belief in the gospel will cause you to do works which are the result of that faith. Thoughts produce action, either to the glory of God or the glorification of the flesh.

It is possible to have an intellectual assent to God’s truth, but unless you actually believe that the Holy Spirit dwells in you, you won’t act on it.  Today, I acted on a lie which produced death, then later, I acted on a truth which produced life. My works, my actions, were a result of what I believed, my faith.

God is truth.  He speaks the truth always.  So as we immerse ourselves in His Word, and allow His Spirit to speak to us through the Word, we will begin to think as He thinks.  We will have the mind of Christ.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1

10 Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment

Our minds are to be united to Christ’s, just as our minds together as brothers and sisters should be united so that there be no divisions amongst us.  On a wider level, most church splits have come about because of divisions which arise when one person speaks one thing and somebody else disagrees with them, and the thoughts give rise to emotions which cause actions and those actions can produce acrimony and dramatic tensions which inevitably become grave estrangements from one another as Christians.  This is how different sects and denominations have formed.  Not because God wills it. Some might suggest that because Paul and Barnabas disagreed it is OK to have disagreements which create splits in churches.  But this isn’t the kind of disagreement they had.  They were still of one mind regarding Christ and the gospel, they simply disagreed regarding the fate of one individual who happened to be related to Barnabas.  And later in Scripture you will read that this was no acrimonious split, Paul and Barnabas were still relating to each other.

Our minds have a great capacity to create imaginary scenarios which we believe to be true.  We may not necessarily be deceived, but we don’t sit down and think things through. More importantly, we don’t take everything to the Lord in prayer and wait on the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom. We can hear from the Lord, scripture tells us so. Romans 12:2 is a classic example of this.

We need to take every stray thought captive to Him, and ensure that we are focusing our minds on Him throughout the day.

You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.
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The Jonah Defence

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Nineveh (modern-day Mosul, Iraq) was one of the oldest and greatest cities in antiquity. The area was settled as early as 6000 BCE and, by 3000, had become an important religious centre for worship of the goddess Ishtar.(http://www.ancient.eu.com/nineveh/)

The first sentence of the book of Jonah is God’s direction to his prophet to tell Him to go to the city of Nineveh and preach repentance because their great wickedness had come up against Him. God had a plan for Nineveh which involved their salvation and not their destruction. Although he told them he would destroy them in 40 days if they didn’t repent, He also knew they would repent, as did Jonah. How did Jonah know? He was a prophet, he loved God, he knew God, he had spent time living and walking with God. Yet, as close as his relationship with God was, he still chose to reject the call and go his own way. How often do we, his people, likewise choose to secure our own comfort and go our own way rather than follow Him? Even after years of relationship, it is still possible to allow our flesh to dictate the terms. Worse, it is possible for us to decide to block our ears to God’s call and refuse to obey for the simple reason that it doesn’t fit with our world view.

I have found that the closer you get to God, the more your mind is renewed (my favourite passage Romans 12:1-2). The more your mind is renewed the more you see the greater picture from God’s perspective, and sometimes, we don’t like what we see. It is unfamiliar. I think God allows us to travel through countryside which we at least have some understanding of for a while. Then when he knows we are ready for it, he lifts the veil from our eyes a little more and we see the greater picture. Jonah was shown the greater picture and he had a meltdown. It’s easy for us to look at him and scoff. We of course would never behave this way because our maturity is much greater than his. Yet, Jonah was in the know. He was privy to God’s counsel regarding the biggest city in the then known world. It would be as if one of us had been shown what would happen to New York, or London, or Tokyo, before any of the disasters which have been visited upon those towns over the years. Would you be able to deal with that? Would you be able to cope knowing you were the one called to prevent the destruction? And what if one of those cities had been your country’s sworn enemy? Would you want to be the harbinger of doom? Sure, if God was going to follow through. Maybe it would be kind of fun. You would get the fame of being connected with God’s great power and judgement. But Jonah knew, he just knew, God wasn’t going to destroy Ninevah, he knew God’s heart, and he knew God was going to spare them. So Jonah went nah-ah. I am NOT going to be the one to be the bearer of good news to my enemies.

Jonah’s response was the equivalent of going on the witness protection programme; change country, change your identity, fade into obscurity. Joppa harbour was a well known international maritime destination, located north-west of Jerusalem on the Mediterranean sea. Jonah decided Spain looked good this time of year and set his sights on Tarshish. David had pretty much settled the question that you cannot escape from God in Psalm 139; “where can I go from your Spirit, from your presence where can I flee, if I ascend to heaven there you are, if I descend to Sheol, there you will be”. Yet Jonah was not in the mood for discussion.

So, Jonah finds a vessel, goes down into the hold, curls up in the foetal position and waits it out. A foetus, or baby, is curled up because he is in cramped living quarters. They don’t start out cramped. We begin as tiny curled creatures and become larger over 40 weeks. This is by the way an interesting connection with a time of confinement and constriction as God forms and disciplines us. Yet, when as adults we choose to go ‘back to the womb’ we are showing a desire to want the safety comfort and above all lack of responsibility that we are called to as adults. An adult cannot go back to the womb. Remember Nicodemus’ concern when he spoke to Jesus about being born again? It is physically impossible. But psychologically, by hiding, choosing unconsciousness (or ‘un-knowing’) we can make an attempt to cease to be while the world unfolds around us. It is a rather cowardly act, and I speak as one who has chosen this form of ‘un-knowing’ many times.

An unusually fierce storm arose. The sailors were experienced, but they were becoming more and more desperate and started praying to their idols in the hope that somebody’s god might have mercy on them. The captain finds Jonah down in the hold and asks him what on earth he is up to? Surely Jonah must have a god reasons the captain, so he too should pray to Him and ask for mercy. Since nobody’s god seems to be answering and they cannot decide whose fault the storm is they decide to draw lots. God ensures that Jonah gets the short straw . Immediately, they begin to question him explicitly about who he is and where he is from. Jonah tells his story and in the process preaches the gospel to these men. Even though he is in self-imposed exile, the gift God has placed upon his life, that of a prophet, is exercised. Here, he is also fulfilling the gifts of teacher, and evangelist as in the process of telling the sailors who he is, he tells them who God is, and why the storm has arisen.

Now while these men are superstitious, they are clearly a kind-hearted lot as none of them want to do as Jonah suggests, and throw him overboard. They know that it would be a quick and sure death. Yet as the storm gets worse, they decide that maybe, since Jonah did offer, they should do what he suggested. Reluctantly they throw him over, and the storm immediately abates. So profoundly affected are they by the resulting calm that they sacrifice to God and make vows. I believe this means that they would have essentially changed allegiances from their false gods who had forsaken them to the One True and Living God. So, not only could Jonah not outrun the long arm of the Lord, but God used Jonah to convert these sailors despite his rebellion against Him. God truly does work all things together for good to those who love Him. And Jonah surely loves God despite appearances.

Those who regard worthless idols
Forsake their own Mercy.
But I will sacrifice to You
With the voice of thanksgiving;
I will pay what I have vowed.
Salvation is of the Lord.”

Jonah 2:8,9 (NKJV)

I find it interesting that Jonah goes from voluntarily taking the foetal position as his defence to being forced into a foetal position in the belly of the fish. He refers to his plight as being in the ‘belly of Sheol’ and ‘in the pit’. Since Jonah seems to enjoy being hidden from sight and sleeping in order to avoid his responsibilities, he is forced to stay in that position for three days and nights. Noah’s time in the whale is marked by repentance and worship of God, and after those three days, he is vomited out onto dry land and given a second chance. He takes it

I am reminded of a visit by Barry Maguire at my local church when I was in my early twenties. He preached on Jonah, and he gave a compelling yet amusing verbal illustration of the scene where Jonah, having spent three days in the pit of a fish’s stomach, his hair and body bleached from the stomach acid of the fish (do fish have stomach acid?) crawls and stumbles into the city gates of this massive city (the equivalent of New York probably in today’s parlance since it was three days walk across) and screeches out “repent”. He would have looked like ‘the thing from outer space” and the guilty Ninevites would have fearfully repented.

Ninevah was a city which, like the city of Ephesus worshipped a demonic entity. Ishtah is linked to to the Greek goddess Artemis which is also linked to the Egyptian goddess Isis and all of these are linked to the title ‘Queen of Heaven’ which is also another name for Jezebel. Essentially we are looking at a form of high goddess worship which had overtaken the ancient world and held them in bondage. God wanted them to be free from their links to these demonic idols so that they could worship the one true and living God. Now Jonah’s obedience to God, however churlishly he carried out this obedience, caused that great city to repent from their wickedness and to cry out to God. The king himself caused the whole city, along with the animals to be covered in sackcloth and ashes. Interestingly, God’s compassion extends even to the animals as he mentions them at the end of chapter four. This is the kind of compassion which I see Jesus extending to the woman who was bent over for 18 years. He tries to reason with the Pharisees and asks them to consider her plight, in the same way he tries to reason with Jonah. “Think of It” he urges them. Only a man, and God, moved in his heart and mind to the plight of this woman would encourage the hard-hearted Pharisees to try and put themselves in this woman’s shoes. “Have empathy” he cries to them.

15 The Lord then answered him and said, “Hypocrite![a] Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it? 16 So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound—think of it—for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?” 17 And when He said these things, all His adversaries were put to shame; and all the multitude rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him

(Luke 13:15-17 NKJV)

This is the same cry he gives to Jonah.

10 But the Lord said, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?”

(Jonah 4:10-11 NKJV)

Jonah has pity on himself, but does not pity a city of millions of people for whom God has great mercy and empathy.

So this is really a story of a man who is not willing to do the will of God because of his own personal proclivities. Eventually he recognises God’s sovereignty and again cries out to Him for mercy. Yet when God shows mercy to a city of non-Hebrew human beings because they likewise have cried out to God, he becomes angry and believes he has a right to be angry.

Jonah’s hostility and tantrum throwing in chapter 4 is quite a different response to his fear of commitment in Chapter 1. His first instinct is to hide, his last to blame God. I believe these two apparently different reactions are actually seated in the same problem; rebellion. A man who makes excuses for himself (which actually sound very spiritual and humble) such as “Oh, I couldn’t do anything like that, I am not qualified or experienced enough” is really saying “I don’t want to do that”. This may not be what we want to hear, but I know from my own bitter experience that this is in fact the truth. I have chosen to say ‘no’ to God in the past because I didn’t think I was cut out for that kind of work. I have run away, hidden under a rock and decided it just wasn’t me.

Incidentally, hypochondria is another manifestation of this little mind game. Proverbs 22:13 tells us that the lazy man complains he can’t go out because there may be a lion in the streets and he will be killed. We come up with all sorts of other ‘serious’ reasons why we can’t do what the Spirit asks us to do. “I am too weak”, “I am not well enough”, “I am not experienced enough”. You fill in the blank. In fact, we rarely say “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). It is amazing what the human mind can invent when we are confronted by our deepest fears. Jonah was called by God and suddenly developed a pressing need to visit Spain. Had he been there before? Was it the climate, the food or the fact that it was very far away in completely the other direction? I imagine a modern day Jonah going to the nearest international airport, looking up at the arrivals and departures board, picking a destination which he has never even heard of and sounds pretty foreign and lacking in modern comforts and going there.

Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!”

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Not only was Jonah in the pre-natal frame of mind in the first chapter of this book, but in the last chapter he still wants to opt out of life, this time by death. He wants God to take his life. I have never heard such melodramatic twaddle before! Oh wait. Yes I have. That was me. This is another form of blaming God. You made this happen. I didn’t ask to be born. You have to now kill me so that I don’t have to face the humiliation of having my reputation tarnished by all these Ninevites becoming believers! How embarrassing! What would the other prophets think!

I believe that we in today’s church often choose our own interpretation of God’s work for us rather than wait on God and hear his word. Some of us would like to be prophets, but we are really not gifted that way. Many young men, and now perhaps even some women, go to bible school, get trained as church leaders and then go out and start churches, many without a direct word from the Lord to do so, yet their elders and leaders lay hands on them and ‘send them out’ with their blessings but have not spent the necessary time in prayer to find out whether these ones are actually so called.

How important is it for us not just to assume a position but to know God’s call on our lives. How much more important is it for those who have been called not to run from that call, but to follow it wholeheartedly. And for those who have been functioning in their calling (and God bless those who do, it is a narrow and hard road), even that history does not preclude you from the influence of our flesh which would rise up and say “Did God really say?” Which as we know is the means Satan uses to cause us to not only question what we think God has said to us, but to question the loving caring Heavenly Father as well.

A true believer doesn’t want to grieve the Holy Spirit. We all have times when we struggle with God’s direction for our lives. Yet, if we are honest, we will know that when God calls us, he also gives us a desire to follow. The call God placed on Jonah was a huge task. Ninevah was probably the biggest city in the known world at the time, and Jonah was being asked to proclaim the word of God to them in person. Was he ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Or was he just more concerned about his reputation? Whichever it was, we will never know how the conversation ended in chapter 4. I hope and pray that we will know better how it will end in our own hearts.

God Commands All Men Everywhere to Repent

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Acts 17:22-31 says;Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; 23 for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:

TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.

Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: 24 “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. 26 And He has made from one blood[c] every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ 29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

It amazes me that in our day and age, we as ‘God’s People’, can read these verses in Acts 17 and yet so easily pass over this verse, the one I have highlighted in blue.

I have been a believer in Jesus Christ for over 30 years, well over half of my life, and I can still remember the first time I heard this portion of scripture. It was on the night I got born again.

The grey headed old man who sat there in a Christian coffee shop in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, one Saturday night back in November of 1984 spoke those words to me.

That is not where it ended though. He went on to speak to me for about an hour about the love of God in Jesus Christ and the provision of a Redeemer for all of mankind. This man knew the gospel and more importantly, he knew Jesus.

That night Ed presented the gospel to me in no uncertain terms. Ed presented what he knew. He presented the truth, or should I say, he presented The Truth.

Then the Holy Spirit stepped it up a level and said this through Ed, ‘This is a command, we are commanded to repent. This is not an invitation, there is a big difference. If it were an invitation by God to us we would be well within our rights to decline that invitation without any consequences.’

But it is not an invitation. God has spoken clearly through the mouth of Paul and has said the same to every man, woman and child on the face of the earth through-out all of history, REPENT.

In doing so, the Holy Spirit left no room for me to side step what God Himself was saying to me through a mere mortal. God used a man to present the gospel to me. I had to make a decision there and then on the spot.

Paul the apostle was inspired by the Holy Spirit to speak these words in Acts 17 to a group of learned philosophers. These guys were no dummies. They knew their stuff. They spent all day every day talking about all sorts of new ideas that were coming up all around them. Paul called them ‘very religious’.

Here was Paul, standing in the midst of a lot of spiritual darkness, in a city that was known for its idolatry, the writer says that ‘his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was given over to idols.’ Acts 17:16.

We read in Deuteronomy 32:15-17

But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked;
You grew fat, you grew thick,
You are obese!
Then he forsook God who made him,
And scornfully esteemed the Rock of his salvation.
They provoked Him to jealousy with foreign gods;
With abominations they provoked Him to anger.
They sacrificed to demons, not to God,
To gods they did not know,

And again Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:18-22,

‘Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything? Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?’

These are just a few of the many scriptures I could point out that detail how there is demonic activity behind every idol, whether it is a physical object or an idol in our hearts.

We are told that we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities etc. Paul knew exactly what he was talking about. He had had first hand experience in the demonic realm.

So, Paul is standing in Demon HQ on Mars Hill in Athens. Greece. These people were given over to idols. These entities ruled the lives of those who worshipped them. You only need to look at the world we now live in and see for yourself what is going on.

We become like the thing we worship. If we love and worship God we will become like him. If we love and worship men over God we will become like those people whom we set up to be more important than God. If we worship false gods/demons we will become like those demons. This is plain and simple. It is spelt out clearly in the scriptures.

Psalm 135:15-18 emphatically teaches this principle:

The idols of the nations are silver and gold, made by the hands of men. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear, nor is there breath in their mouths. THOSE WHO MAKE THEM WILL BE LIKE THEM, AND SO WILL ALL WHO TRUST IN THEM.” (Emphasis added)

Paul stood on Mars Hill and preached one thing, Repentance. This was not an invitation, it was a command.

John the Baptist preached repentance, ‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Matt 3:2

Jesus, from day one, preached repentance, ‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’

And what did Peter preach on the day of Pentecost, repentance!

Acts 2:36-38

36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”

38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent…”

Let me make it plain and simple, the gospel with out repentance is not the gospel.

There are many churches out there now who have left out things like repentance, sin, the Blood and hell. There are many supposed world renown speakers and teaches who no longer preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They are preaching a watered down version of the message that Christ himself set out for us.

Seeker Sensitive, Emerging or Purpose Driven, Universalist, Dominionists and so on. All of these groups in one way or another have changed the gospel. What they now preach is not what Paul preached.

Look at Galatians chapter 1, God was very clear about this issue as He inspired Paul by the Holy Spirit to pen the following:.

6 I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. Emphasis added

This is not an Old Testament warning, it is Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and speaking to the early church.

How is it that we think we can get away with it now? Has God’s Word to us changed? No, it has not. This warning still stands today as a reminder that we do not add to or take away from God’s Word.

Who are we to change the message? Who are we to think that we can come up with a better gospel than that which was delivered to us by Jesus, John Baptist, Peter and Paul?

Who do we think we are to say to God that the message that was given to us by God is just not good enough?

Who do we think we are? Are we better or smarter than God himself?

All who call upon the name, that Holy Name of Jesus Christ need to search their hearts and allow the Holy Spirit to shine His light into our lives and deal with us if we have gone down this path

.On that day there will be many who will stand in the presence of the Holy God who cannot look upon sin and they will say, ‘Didn’t we do this in your name and that in your name? Didn’t we preach the gospel and tell people to follow Jesus and all their problems would be solved?’

By then it is too late.

And what of the many who supposedly come into the kingdom on such a message?

They may have seen the kingdom but I doubt they have entered. Yes, I know, only God knows who will make it in and you are right to say this but scripture is very very clear, entry into the kingdom is by one way only, Repentance.

God commands all men everywhere to repent.

Repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

Blessings,

Steve.

How Can I Know I am Deceived?

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It is something of a paradox.

You can only see deception before you get into it.  Once you are there, deception makes it almost impossible to know whether you are deceived. In fact, one of the hallmarks of being deceived is the conviction that you couldn’t possibly be deceived.  It is always possible. Moreover, false teachers are mentioned in the New Testament by everyone including Jesus.

You need discernment, and discernment comes from the Holy Spirit. Even though some more mature Christians could tell from the outset that somebody is preaching or practicing error just from their own experience. Sometimes it is hard even for them to tell the difference between false and true.  That is why you need God himself to give you the ability to tell the difference. If you fall into the sin of pride and believe that it is not possible for you to be deceived because of all your experience, you are then in the greatest danger of deception because you are deceived already. Nobody is immune.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon has famously said “Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right”.

And as anyone who has had to try and tell a fake from the original would know, most counterfeiters will go to great lengths to make their version appear true to form. They always manage to make some tiny mistake which tells you that this is not the genuine article however insignificant it may seem at first. Of course some scam artists are not that concerned with making perfect forgeries.  They are aware that the general public aren’t looking too closely at that designer handbag or expensive perfume.  They make it look almost correct and that is usually good enough. Fortunately, or not, false teachers are not that good at faking it any more either.  They don’t need to be.  Most Christians don’t bother to check the labels on their new pastor or their exciting guest speaker, they just go with the flow.

In order not to be deceived, you have to be on the lookout for deception. Jesus told us that in the last days, there would be many false teachers and He even said that there would be many false Christs.

3 Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”4 And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. (Matthew 24)

Now there are those who claim to be Jesus, but most genuine believes would of course recognise these men as insane straight away. The ones to look out for would come in His name, and we know for sure that many false teachers claim to be believers. Yet the Christ they claim to be or rather teach is a false Christ, for of course there is only one second advent and that hasn’t happened yet.

We have been deceived before. We belonged to a small church in Brisbane whose elders listened to false teaching without their theological thinking caps on. The message was about unity. So they were deceived even further when a religious cult which also preached unity wanted our church to join them. However, this cult’s version of ‘unity’ was – they were the true church in our city, everyone else had to come and join them, moreover, everyone had to come under the leadership of their ‘apostles’. Well, you know you are in a cult when you are flattered, cajoled and deceived into joining a group, but as soon as you do the knives come out. Everyone who has left this cult has done so under duress. Anyone who leaves it according to them is now going to hell, because they are leaving the true church.

While you are being deceived, it doesn’t seem like deception. When you are in the midst of the deception you can’t know that you are deceived because you would swear black and blue that you are not. Have you ever had a conversation with a cult member?  Maybe a Jehovah’s Witness is at your door and you mistakenly think all you need to do is show them the truth from scripture and they will see the light?  It isn’t easy to talk to them, they are literally brainwashed.  Their minds run a particular course, they are taught how to respond to the people they ‘witness’ to. It is like talking to computer software.  They only know one type of response, the one they are programmed with. Cults are an extreme example, but in fact the problem is the same regardless of whether people are in a cult or not.  Deception creates people who repeat what they are told.

In fact, one of the best ways you can tell if somebody, or a group of somebody’s are deceived is if they keep quoting their favourite teacher, take any and every opportunity to spruik that teacher’s words, and in fact keep using the same language that their teacher uses.  One group I can think of off hand that we had to deal with kept using the term ‘Father’ instead of our Father when referring to God. “Father says this, or Father wants me to do that”.  This may not seem to be that much of a sign people are deceived, but it is the way they say it, the number of times they say it and the fact that everyone is using the same terms without picking up that they are simply repeating somebody else.  In short, there is no sign of independence of thought, simply a reiteration of the teacher or teachers.

 It is only people who can question what they believe and weigh the evidence who know they are not deceived. A deceived person, in my experience, neither knows nor is able to question the deception. When we were presented with the foregone conclusion that our church was going to join this other larger cult church, half of our congregation refused to join and left. The rest of us, who were mostly in our twenties with not much experience of churches in general other than the one we belonged to, trusted our pastors and let them lead us into a destructive and deceiving cult. We realise now of course if we had not been so lazy about our walk with Jesus, nor so trusting of men, we would have stopped and checked things out. But let me just say this. If you follow men, you won’t bother checking them when they fall into error. You will believe that these teachers love you and wouldn’t willingly lead you into false teaching. But if they themselves are deceived, and they then lead you into deception, it will be the blind leading the blind and we did fall into a very deep ditch.

The antidote to this is not to follow men, but to be in Christ. That way, when error comes, and it will, the Holy Spirit will be able to speak to your spirit and warn you that something is not right. You don’t even need to be a theologian, just awake to the voice of your Lord and God, the true Jesus.

Now, this is a tricky business. Paul called false teachers twice accursed, and he asked the Galatians ‘who has bewitched you’. (Galatians 1) Deception is like being under a spell.

Look at Eve in Genesis 3. It was only after God spoke to her and asked her what had happened that the spell was broken and she was able to say “I was deceived”. Nobody who is actually within the spell of the deception is able to see that. Eve sinned and partook of the punishment that was meted out to both Adam and herself, but she was able to recognise the source of the lie. Adam however is not recorded as ever having recognised Satan as the deceiver. He actually blamed God for giving him the woman who gave him the fruit. In fact, he, the keeper of the garden, allowed Satan to get in in the first place, stood idly by while his wife was being manipulated and then took the fruit which he was told not to take. And for centuries Eve and subsequently all women, have been made the source of all temptation and evil by both unbelievers and believers. Manifestly, Satan is the source of all evil, and deception. Yet Eve was called ‘the mother of all living’. It was also Eve who was the first to announce that God was her ‘Lord’ when she gave birth to Cain. I think those who have woken up from deception, repented of it and dealt with the sin of pride which precedes deceptions are probably in the best position to recognise error in the future.

I say pride is the source of deception because Satan himself, who was the greatest of all living creatures God had made at that point, decided it wasn’t enough just to lead the worship of God, he wanted to be like God and sit in the place of God. This of course is not just pride, it is insanity or psychopathy at the very least. It seems impossible to us as earthbound humans from whose eyes God is hidden that Satan who stood before the throne of God would actually think that he could be God himself. I don’t know what went on in his brain, but I do know that ever after this, he has tempted human beings to do what he did. He deceived Eve into believing that God had not given her everything she could ever need. Eve was perfect! She had a perfect relationship with God! As Satan used to. Yet he convinced her that the fruit of this tree would ‘make you wise’ knowing good and evil. Eve forgot that she was already perfectly wise, she knew God what else was there to know? Satan’s knowledge is corrupt, gives death not life, and is in fact not knowledge at all, it is a corruption of the truth, and is in fact all lies. There is no knowledge that Satan has which is not a counterfeit of God’s eternal truth. It may seem novel and exciting when men sell everything they have to attain it, but for centuries all Satan has done is lure men to their deaths, simply because that is his nature. He is profane, wicked, evil and sadistic and hates all life.

If we succumb to lies, to deception which lies are, then we will taste something of Satan’s kingdom. Make no mistake, deception, theological error, false teachers, are cursed simply because they are undermining the gospel of Jesus Christ. They are presenting a false Christ, and therefore they are leading others from the true Jesus of Scripture.

How do you know if you are deceived? If you can’t question what you believe, check it out against the Bible, do some research and look at your leaders and teachers and see if these men have been accused of heresy by other Christians, then you are probably under deception. If you have already checked out what is being taught to you against scripture and know for sure that you can defend what you believe sincerely and without hostility there is a good chance you are not deceived.

But even I can’t tell you that you are not deceived. Only the Holy Spirit can show you. Our hearts are deceitfully wicked and can lead us into error even in our own minds. We can believe we are without sin, but only God can show us that to be true, because only God is perfect. This is why it is so important for us to continually pray, commune with God, read His word and even listen to others when they tell you might be wrong. There is nothing wrong with having a conviction of truth, in fact we are told not to be double-minded. There are many Christians who at one time or another have listened to or believed falsehoods. It is the Christian who follows the teaching and practice of liars and frauds and then defends that teaching without checking to see if it is true who are deceived to the point of deadly error. If these ones don’t change their ways, they will be counted as wicked as the teachers they agree with.

It is a serious thing to fall into error, but it is not the end of your spiritual life. We know in our own lives that the Holy Spirit continually spoke quietly to us that all was not well. Our cult leaders were destroying peoples marriages, controlling people’s lives and telling everyone if they didn’t obey them they were not saved. It isn’t rocket science. Anyone could have told us that we were in a bad place. But we didn’t see it. Scripture tells us that you are a slave to the one whom you obey. Once you are a slave, you have to wait for Jesus to free you from the prison you have locked yourself into. I still remember praying that prayer, very simple, but from the heart one day in my bedroom. “God deliver us”. I knew straight away that God had heard that prayer. I knew something was wrong and woke up much faster than Steve did. Within two years, God had engineered our circumstances so that they were so bad, so difficult that Steve was forced to admit that we were surrounded by enemies, and that we needed to escape. It took 15 years all up. And then a couple of years after that of dabbling in emerging church error and other bad theology before the Holy Spirit taught us to stand on our own two feet and do our own bible studies and research and find out what is the difference between right and almost right.

God can save anyone, and the effective fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Do not give up on anyone in a cult. But don’t be deceived yourself. False teachers, especially false teachers who have been plying their trades for decades and destroyed many other Christians will have to pay for their sins. If they don’t repent, they will go to hell. For these ones are not saved. It is doubtful they were even saved to begin with. There are many who profess to be Christians, who even know exactly how to preach the truth, or what sounds exactly like the truth, yet who are not in the body of Christ. Pray for discernment, use wisdom and do your research.

May God keep us all from deception and false teachers.

A Two-Edged Sword

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I had something of a revelation this morning.

After working on the previous post yesterday regarding the inerrancy and efficacy of the scriptures, I was in a conundrum.  There is a particular physical issue I have prayed about over and over for the last two years asking God to heal me.  During that time I had to go back to the scriptures and pray. I really wanted to know what God said about healing. Does God heal today?  Is God not unchanging and without a shadow of turning? Did Jesus ever turn away anyone who came to Him for healing with an “oh it’s not God’s will that you be healed right now”?   After many months I came to the conclusion that I do believe God heals, I am not a cessationist and I know because the scriptures tell me God heals and nowhere does it say that God has stopped healing.  I read many testimonies from various Christians, some from a more extreme Charismatic background and others who were not extreme at all. I even read a testimony from a guy who used to be cessationist but had a friend who believed God healed and gradually changed his mind on the subject simply because his friend was so unflinching in his belief, yet so joyful in his faith.  So in the end, it was the scriptures coupled with the testimony of the saints which caused me to know in my heart that Jesus heals.

But if I did not have the scriptures to give me historical accounts of what Jesus actually did on earth, and what His people experienced and testified to in the years after his ascension, I would have nothing but other people’s stories.  Our testimonies are important, scripture tells us we overcome the enemy by the blood of the Lamb and the testimony of the saints (Rev:12:11). But if all we have are subjective stories, you can be tossed too and fro by other people’s contradictory accounts.  One person has prayed and never been healed (like Joni Earekson Tada) others have prayed and been instantly healed, others slowly over time etc. How do you account for such things?  You will never know what God thinks about this subject unless you go the scriptures.  If you don’t believe the scriptures are inerrant and that God’s spirit has inspired the words and that they testify of God, then you have nothing left. I mean literally nothing except feelings and stories, yours and other people’s. There has to be an authoritative source which tells us what God’s nature is, and how He intervenes in people’s lives.  Jesus healed when He was on earth, He heals now. Steve has been to India and spent a number of months on two separate occasions.  He worked with the people there, helping to build an orphanage, and also preaching the gospel. He saw the signs following; salvation, deliverance from demons, physical healings, the same things that happened when Jesus walked the earth.  There were no weird manifestations, nothing different from the biblical account.  Jesus heals.

Yet I was struggling this morning with my faith on this matter of healing despite the fact that God has given me dreams, words from others, words from Scripture and the scriptures themselves testify that God heals.  I was getting panicky and wanting God to give me another sign.  It was an attack of the enemy, but at the time, I was overwhelmed and not thinking straight.  Finally, I sat down in at the coffee table and my eye was caught by the bible in front of me. Of course!  I realised, the bible tells me over and over again that God heals.  His word says he came to heal the brokenhearted.  Jesus said that this was His ministry.  Not only does He heal the broken heart, but he heals the bodies of the brokenhearted and their souls as well.   But He doesn’t change, His word never changes and is sharper than a two-edged sword. I have it here in black and white.  A book of God’s laws and God’s nature and God’s commands.  So if this book is not what Jesus said it was, then Jesus is not who He said He was and it all just implodes.  You have nothing left. So when I am not sure, when I doubt God’s word to me, I go back to the black and white version and I read what Jesus said.

It is one thing to disagree over the meaning of certain scriptures while both parties still believe that the Word of God is in fact God’s word.  However, to cast doubt on the scriptures or to claim that they are not inerrant or even make outrageous claims that what is contained in the Word of God is in fact not true at all in any part, and is all ‘symbolic’ or worse is completely sadistic.  If you don’t believe, keep it to yourself, don’t cause other people’s faith in the Word of God, or in God himself to be shipwrecked simply because you don’t share it or have succumbed to an attack of the enemy yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preach The Word.

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2 Tim 3:10 – 4:5

10 But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance,

11 persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystrawhat persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me.

12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.

13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.

14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them,

15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,

17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

4:1 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:

2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.

3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;

4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.

5 But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

This morning there was a post that came up on my Facebook news feed and it went something like this:

EVERYBODY THINKS I AM CRAZY.

THEY SAY, ” YOU TAKE THE JESUS THING TOO SERIOUSLY.”

WELL, I DON’T KNOW ABOUT THAT, WHEN YOU CONSIDER THAT CHRIST TOOK ME PRETTY SERIOUSLY WHEN HE DIED ON THE CROSS.

I freely admit that I take my walk and life with Jesus very seriously. My relationship with Him is more important than anything else on this planet or anything this world or physical life can offer. What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul?

I felt strongly this morning that I needed to read Paul’s exhortation to Timothy again.

Paul wrote some very strong words to his son in the faith. Here he speaks about what Timothy needed to do in the face of opposition and or persecution, he points out to Timothy this:

‘But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, long suffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra – what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me.’

Paul started by commending Timothy for taking note of what had been going on, but more than that, Paul says that Timothy had been watching him as a role model and that his life was being influenced by what Paul himself had been through. Paul said to the Corinthians and I am sure at some stage to Timothy, ‘Imitate me as I also imitate CHRIST’ 1 Cor 11:1. Paul was acting as a roll model to Timothy.

Paul then goes on to warn him of potential trouble:

v13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.

Paul warns Timothy to be aware of these ‘evil men and imposters’ who could come in and deceive.

How does Paul encourage Timothy to proceed? He reminds him to ‘continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures.’

Paul exhorts Timothy to go to the scripture for therein is his safety and protection.

Earlier in this letter Paul had said to Timothy:

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

The Old King James puts it this way, ‘study to show yourself approved unto God’.This is all about studying the scriptures, being able to rightly divide the word of truth. It is scripture and scripture only that we are encouraged to study, why?, because in the scriptures we have the Word of God.

Look at chapter 3:16,

“16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life.’ Jesus is the Truth.  Jesus is the Word of God. Paul says to Timothy, ‘Preach the Word.’ How could Timothy preach the word if he did not KNOW THE WORD. The Word is life, it is bread to feed on,

John 1:1- 14

“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God……

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us….”

John 6: 35

“I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst…”

John 6: 53 – 58

“Most assuredly , I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on me will live because of Me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not as your fathers eat the manna and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”

True life and sustenance comes from feeding on the Living Word, Jesus.

Why were the scriptures given? “That the man or woman of God may be complete”.

Paul was pointing Timothy to the Living Word.

Have a look again at the portion of scripture I started with from 2 Tim. Smack in the middle of two warnings to Timothy Paul writes, ‘Preach the Word’.

Warning number one is in verse 13 of chapter 3, keep an eye out for evil men and then in chapter 4:3 – 5, he warns Timothy of a time when men will no longer endure sound doctrine but we heap up for themselves (other) teachers and will turn away from the truth.

Chapter 4 starts out saying, and may I remind you that there were no chapters and verses in the original letters so this next verse is still part of the theme Paul is addressing in Chapter 3, ‘I charge you, therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ…….

I remember when I was at bible college one of the lecturers saying that whenever you see the word ‘therefore’ used you need to ask yourself, what is the ‘therefore’ there for?

In this case Paul is pointing Timothy back to the previous verse and saying that If men are to be fully equipped for every good work and made complete, they need to be hearing the preached Word of God. Paul says to Timothy, he must preach the Word.

Paul tells him/us to be ready in season and out, in other words, when it suits and when it doesn’t suit. Be ready, preach the word, convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and teaching.

These are tough words from Paul. He is not pulling any punches. Why? Because the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires (lusts), because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth.

We are in days like this. Have a look at chapter 3:1-5,

‘But know this, that is the last days perilous times will come; For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, u thankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.

Hello? We are in those times now and Paul was not talking about the unsaved here. He was talking about believers, those who were considered christian but betrayed by their own actions.

Paul said to Timothy that there was only one way to deal with this issue,

PREACH THE WORD.

This dear friend is for all of us.

Are you doing the work of an evangelist? Are you fulfilling your ministry? Are you preaching the word? Or are you hiding behind a world driven doctrine called political correctness?, having a form of godliness but NO POWER?

We must stand up and preach the word because one day we will all give account as to what we did with Jesus Christ and the gospel that has been entrusted to us.

Amen

Steve Brady

Dan’s Discourse

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The Prodigal Son – The Sacrifice for the Repentant Man

20 “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. 23 And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; 24 for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.”

Luke 15:19-24

The parable of the prodigal son is one that is very well-known, and consequently is used very often by those standing at the pulpit today to warn against the perils of greed and selfishness. It speaks very clearly about what happens to those that turn away from a loving and generous Father, and seek to buy up for themselves all that this fallen world has to offer; essentially, that they will eventually find themselves bereft of all the things that they once sought after (friends, prestige, money, power, etc.), end up on the bottom of the heap, and have absolutely no-one else to blame but themselves and their own self-interest.

However, this is not the true meaning of this passage; at least, it isn’t the entire story. True, we will face the consequences of our actions should we be foolish enough to want to pursue the lusts of the flesh over residing under the care, protection, provision and blessing of our Heavenly Father, who knows our needs before we even know ourselves. And yes, we also eventually come to the conclusion that we are far better off with our Father than without, and we are all welcomed back into out Father’s embrace with joy and celebration by the heavenlies when we repent and ask for forgiveness for our stupidity. But this isn’t all Jesus’ parable has to offer in terms of teaching.

If you look closely at Scripture, you will find constant references to the penalty for sin: death. You will also find that, because the people in Scripture were unable to pay this penalty themselves, they had to have another way of atoning for the sin that God is unable to bear in His holy Presence. God provided them with a solution; the sacrifices of old, the burnt offerings presented to God for the remission of the sins of the people. This was so all throughout the Old Testament, right up until Jesus came into the world. In fact, these sacrifices persisted until the Final Sacrifice was made to atone for all sin; past present, and until the Last Day. Jesus’ crucifixion on the cross paid the price of blood that was simply too much for us puny humans to be able to pay and still remain pure before a Holy God.

The shedding of blood is a very solemn thing throughout the Bible. It demonstrates the debt that all men must pay to answer for sin, and yet were unable to. It is also cause for celebration, just as it was in the parable. It shows that God has forgotten our sins; that we have been washed anew by the shedding of blood and have been welcomed back into the centre of God’s holy Presence – pure, cleansed, and redeemed.

This is what is revealed in the parable of the Prodigal. The image of the overjoyed father running to meet his son (which no rich, self-respecting landowner would have been caught dead doing in those times), heedless of the filthy, stinking vagabond his child had become because of his sin, is one of our Beloved Father welcoming us back into His house after having asked for forgiveness. The robe, ring and sandals all signify the return of the son to his place as a son, and demonstrate the all-encompassing compassion and forgiveness of our Father in Heaven accepting us as His children after we repent and turn away from our wrongdoing.

Make no mistake; the son had to realise that he was the cause of his own misery, and that he had sinned in walking away from his father, and be willing to ask for forgiveness without any expectation of receiving anything in return, to have any chance of being welcomed back into his father’s house. We cannot simply roll around in the muck of the world and then just expect to be able to waltz right back into God’s house without any consequences.

The symbol of the killing of the fatted calf is the most important. It signifies the shedding of blood for the sins of the son, and in so doing cleansing him of his error and allowing him to be able to stand in his father’s presence without shame or guilt of his previous mistakes. And so it is for us and the shedding of Jesus’ blood, the Blood of the Spotless Lamb of God, as payment for our sins. There was great celebration in the father’s house when his son returned to him, once dead, now alive; once lost, now found. Again, this is the same for us also. Because the blood of the Lamb was spilt on our behalf, we can now turn away from our sins and repent, be cleansed by Jesus’ blood, and return to the Presence of the LORD our God with great joy and happiness.

We have had our fleshly selves put to death with all sin, and have been brought alive, new creations, into the embrace of the Lord. We were once lost, swallowed up by the darkness of this fallen world, and are now found by the Light of the World, who was offered up on our behalf so that we might live.

Praise be to our Almighty Lord in Heaven!

Dan Brady