It happened in the vestibule
At ten one Sunday morn;
A haggard-looking church-goer
Sat plaintive and forlorn.
Then suddenly he rose and found
A hungry-looking Christian;
He took his hand, took him aside,
And asked him a straight question:
“You’ve read the Word; you know the Book;
The promises are clear.
But have you seen the living God?
Have you found Him here?
Have you experienced holy fire
The Spirit in His power,
A mighty wave, a rushing wind,
A flame that does devour?
Is there something more you’re seeking,
So high, so wide, so deep?
Do you find yourself frustrated?
Is church putting you to sleep?
Then listen well, your heart is ripe;
My tale I will tell.
This story is your story too,
And it’s your tale as well.
For thirty years I’ve been in church,
It seemed like a good show.
But now I’ve got to meet with God —
Do you know where to go?
I’m trapped in mundane worship times,
The praises have grown cold;
The preaching’s dry and dusty,
The teaching stale like mold!
Each service feels like a rerun,
The songs all sound the same;
The prophecies are so hollow —
Not worthy of the name!
Words, more words — they’re everywhere,
But oh there is a stink!
Words, more words — they’re everywhere,
But none to make us think!
We lack the heavenly Presence,
It’s clear we’re in a rut;
I’m desperate for revival —
It burns within my gut!
I’m love-sick for my Jesus,
So hungry for my Lord;
Just longing for my Savior;
God knows that I’m so bored!
Is there someone who can help me,
Who’s touched the real thing?
A man who’s heard from heaven —
With a word from God to bring?
Are there prophets burning with fire,
Servants who are ablaze?
Anointed and overflowing,
Appointed for these days?
Do they carry the Spirit’s burden,
And breathe the Lord God’s breath?
Are they set apart and holy,
Obedient to death?
I hear the words of the Master,
‘Come follow Me,’ He said.
If some Christians go their own way;
I’ll go with Him instead!
Oh please, don’t do as I have done,
And waste so many years.
Don’t wait and wait for endless months;
Move on! Outgrow your fears!
Forget the twelve step programs;
A seminar won’t do.
You need a touch from heaven,
To fill you through and through.
There must be change in your life —
A work of God that’s real.
Don’t fool yourself with worn clichés —
Don’t let the devil steal!
Don’t miss out on God’s presence
Or let these hours pass;
Don’t stop your soul from hungering;
Get out of the morass!
Dear friend, you are not crazy;
Dear saint, you are not mad;
There really is a problem,
It’s true, you have been had!
There’s more! There’s more! Believe it!
There is that place in God.
There are holy visitations,
New paths that must be trod.
Will you get up like old Pilgrim,
And seek that better way?
Will you go forth on that journey
No matter what men say?
Will you go out now and meet Him,
And leave the crowd behind,
Forsaking dead traditions,
If Jesus you will find?
It’s not in another meeting,
A nicely packaged hour;
Another harmless service,
Devoid of heaven’s power.
It’s not in another teaching,
Three points to fill your head.
The Word is always vibrant;
But this stuff is so dead!
We need God to send His Spirit,
To fully take control,
To transform every member,
To come and make them whole!
Enough with man’s religion;
Enough with earthly plans;
Enough with our new programs;
Produced by fleshly hands.”
Just then in strode the pastor
His calling to fulfill;
Just doing his weekly duty —
Then he became frozen still.
For astir was that parishioner
He grasped the preacher’s clothes,
And grasped the preacher’s soul as well —
And in that grasp he froze.
“Oh pastor, enter the prayer room
And shut yourself inside.
Be emptied of competition,
And crucify your pride!
Pray for holy visitations,
Caught up alone with Him,
Consumed with heavenly vision —
That’s where you must begin!
You won’t find Him in a textbook,
Buried on page twenty-two.
He is the living God who acts —
He wants to move in you!
It’s not only the ‘apostles’
He’ll bless and send and use;
He will saturate your own soul,
If you will not refuse.
So arise, get up, pursue Him,
Jesus your true best Friend!
He is worthy of devotion,
He’s faithful to the end!
Why should you starve on crusty bread,
And crawl along the ground?
Your Savior is your source of life,
Seek Him, let joy abound!
Renew your life, refresh your heart,
Press in, take hold, pray through.
Put first things first, make God your goal;
What else have you to do?
Your Bible schooling stole your zeal,
Church life has drained you dry;
You used to have such childlike faith,
Now budgets have your eye!
You used to be so passionate,
So innocent and free
Now you’ve become professional;
You’ll preach for a good fee!
Oh, set your sights on higher goals
And not on dollar bills.
Live in the light of Judgment Day;
Ambition always kills!
Let Jesus be your daily Guide,
Put Him where He belongs;
And soon His presence will arrive;
His praise will fill your songs!
Simplicity will be your style,
Devotion your new goal;
Communion will become your aim,
God’s life will flood your soul!
Oh, take your eyes off numbers,
Church growth can be a trap!
Go out and make disciples.
Go out and bridge the gap!
Pour your life out for broken lives —
Let God your heart break too.
Take up the cross, deny yourself;
Just live His will to do!
Wake up, be brave, be honest;
Today — oh hear His voice!
Be ruthless with your schedule;
Seek GOD. Make that your choice.
You won’t find Him in your planner,
No committee has the key.
You’ll find Him when your soul cries out,
‘There must be more for me!’
‘There must be more than building funds,
And sessions past midnight,
And endless talks with leadership,
Disputing who is right.
Somehow I know I’ve been misled;
The model doesn’t work.
I’m not called as an executive,
Nor should I be a clerk.
I’m called to be a man of God,
A man who’s Spirit led,
A healer of the sick and lame
Someday to raise the dead!’
And with that cry new life will rise,
Your heart will be revived;
Heaven’s light will flood your soul —
You will not be denied!”
The parishioner then turned his gaze
Away from flesh and blood:
He looked to Him who sends the showers,
To Him who sends the flood.
“Today, O Lord, do hear our voice,
And pour Your Spirit out.
Saturate the thirsty ground.
End this spiritual drought!
Revive us with Your Presence,
Renew us from above;
Touch the flock called by Your name;
Come fill us with Your love!
Do greater works in our day,
Than that which You have done.
Bring the fullness of Your rains,
And glorify Your Son!”
That old church-goer spoke no more.
Another voice was heard.
Yet not the voice of flesh and blood:
It was our Father’s word.
And if you listen closely,
Beyond this little rhyme,
You’ll hear Him speaking clearly:
“My children, it is time.”
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: faith, judgment, poetry, power, preaching, prophets, Revival, worship
On August 4th, 2009, George Sodini walked into a fitness center near Pittsburgh, PA and shot 12 people. Three women were killed, and Mr. Sodini himself committed suicide. The day before the murder-suicide, Mr. Sordoni wrote that he was going to “see God and Jesus” soon on his blog, saying:
Maybe soon, I will see God and Jesus. At least that is what I was told. Eternal life does NOT depend on works. If it did, we will all be in hell. Christ paid for EVERY sin, so how can I or you be judged BY GOD for a sin when the penalty was ALREADY paid. People judge but that does not matter. I was reading the Bible and The Integrity of God beginning yesterday, because soon I will see them.
The day after the shootings, Dr. Brown addressed the murder and these words on his Line of Fire radio show (the show is appropriately titled “A Once Saved Always Saved Murder?”). The audio is below, and provides a good overview of the situation and the doctrine in question:
Evidently, the gunman had been taught that because he had prayed a prayer asking Jesus into his heart at some point in his life, he would spend eternity in heaven with God, no matter what sins he committed or beliefs he espoused thereafter. Here are some thoughts on the subject I put together in an email shortly after the killings took place, and the news came out concerning the gunmen’s beliefs. I submit them for consideration:
I would venture to say that our life and faith in Messiah is in reality more about an organic, somewhat mysterious spiritual dynamic, than a doctrinal system that has as the main goal avoiding the bad place and going to the nice place upon death.
Of interest may be Richard Dawkins’ article after 9/11 that I reference in my Atheism article: where he says: “religion teaches the dangerous nonsense that death is not the end.”
Of course, his thesis has major problems philosophically (does not atheism teach the dangerous nonsense that our only punishment and reward are in this life?), but I actually AGREE with him that false and untrue religion is quite dangerous, and for people to blindly believe that they’re going to heaven the second they die, without feeling the need to have a bit of evidence that it’s true beyond the words of a religious teacher, is quite dangerous as well as perhaps a bit crazy.
But then, if as so many believe, we don’t need the tangible, objective, supernatural presence of God, nor as Mark Galli writes, any real difference at all in our lives from non-believers, to know that our particular doctrinal system is absolutely true, why should we expect people to not “misuse” a doctrine such as once-saved-always-saved, or believe a false religion like Islam? They believe what they believe for the same reasons we do, and with the same level of certainty.
All this to say, I wonder if the problem with this shooter was both an unbiblical belief and blindly believing something with no tangible evidence. Perhaps in his case a healthy fear of death and the judgment to come was in order, as well as a healthy skepticism.
If we require nothing of our religion, why should we expect our religion to require anything of us?
Is it any wonder that those of us in the Kingdom of God that are living and dying for the advancement of the gospel, spiritual revival, cultural reformation, and an increased depth in the Church find it so difficult to awake this “sleeping giant” (as Leonard Ravenhill called it), when so many of us in the Church require nothing of our beliefs beyond simply hearing them preached from a pulpit or reading them in a book?
Until men and women start taking seriously the question of why they believe what they believe, not only will they continue to subconsciously resist the leaven of the gospel from infecting their entire lives, but dangerous doctrines will continue to abound.
Posted in News, Philosophy & Science Tagged with: Blogs, doctrine, faith, gunman, Hell, judgment, Leonard Ravenhill, Mark Galli, mass murder, murder, pittsburgh, richard dawkins, the bible, theology
From the Christian Defense Coalition:
Do you believe 27 hours of prayer and worship can change history?
“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” -Jeremiah 29:12-13
On Sunday, September 13, at 7:00 P.M. Christians will be gathering on the West Lawn of the United States Capitol for 27 hours of intercession and worship. Believers will be crying out for God to intervene in the national health care debate and ensure that taxpayer funds and not used to pay for abortions.
This marks the first full week that Congress is in session after the August recess.
If public monies are used to pay for abortions, it would add at least 25 years in our struggle to end abortion in America because abortion would then become an entitlement. It would also place our nation on a collision course with God’s judgment because every citizen will be subsidizing the crushing of human rights and social justice by paying for abortions. In other words, Christians would now be responsible for the shedding of innocent blood.
The future of our nation is at stake. It is time for the church to rise up and be a prophetic witness and powerful voice for justice.
We do not have to be helpless bystanders as events unfold on the world stage. But through intercession and worship, we can help change and shape history.
These 27 hours can change the future of our nation forever and help ignite a sovereign move of God that will bring spiritual awakening and cultural reformation to America. As we gather on the lawn of the Capitol in repentance and passion we believe that the Holy Spirit will move in a powerful way.
We have already seen God do amazing things as Christians gathered on Capitol Hill at the end of July to pray for a delay on the Health Care vote until after the August recess. Against all odds, God answered that prayer in a dramatic way and the vote was delayed. The Holy Spirit is now calling us back to prayer.
We prayerfully ask you to consider coming to Washington, D.C. to be a part of this historic 27 hours. It is imperative that the Church step of their apathy and indifference and into the purposes of God for this hour.
Schedule for September 13-14, 2009
at the West Lawn of the United States Capitol:
Sunday, September 13:
Prayer and worship begins at 7:00 P.M on the west lawn of the Capitol and continues until Monday at 10:00 P.M.
Monday, September 14:
Prayer and worship all day on the west lawn of the Capitol until 10:00 P.M.
11:00 A.M. on the west lawn of the Capitol
We will gather to walk over and pray for the 435 members of
the House of Representatives.
1:00 P.M. on the west lawn of the Capitol
We will gather to walk over and pray for the 100 members of the Senate.
For more information call:
540.538.4741 >> 540.538.3762 >> 202.547.1735
27 hours is sponsored by:
The Christian Defense Coalition, Bound for Life, The Fredericksburg Prayer Furnace, Generation Life, Survivors, Grace Church of Fredericksburg, Operation Rescue, Pro-Life Unity, The National Black Pro-Life Union, Faith and Action, The Network of Politically Active Christians, and the Family Research Council.
Make sure to take part if you’re in the D.C. area!
Posted in Law & Politics, News Tagged with: abortion, Abortions, Bound4Life, christian defense coalition, House of Representatives, judgment, pat mahoney, prayer, repentance, worship
Lutheran leaders have approved a statement that has been described as being a move “toward a more welcoming view of homosexuality.” According to the AP:
Delegates of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, meeting in Minneapolis, approved a “social statement on human sexuality” that acknowledges differing views on homosexuality. It says the ELCA is strong enough to accommodate such differences.
The session discussing this statement was set to commence at 2pm on August 19th. Just at this time, a tornado touched down in Minneapolis and hit the convention center and church at which the ELCA was meeting. According to Fox9:
The Minneapolis Convention Center has sustained approximately 1,800 square feet of roof damage and has some water damage. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America was holding its national convention at the center at the time of the storm. About 2,200 people were registered for the convention. People inside the Convention Center were taken to a safe location, and there were no reports of injury.
Pastor John Piper, who lives in Minneapolis, shared some controversial thoughts concerning the tornado in his blog entry from August 20th. He starts by setting the stage for the meeting of these two seemingly unrelated entities (the tornado and the convention):
A friend who drove down to see the damage wrote,
On a day when no severe weather was predicted or expected…a tornado forms, baffling the weather experts—most saying they’ve never seen anything like it. It happens right in the city. The city: Minneapolis.
The tornado happens on a Wednesday…during the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America’s national convention in the Minneapolis Convention Center. The convention is using Central Lutheran across the street as its church. The church has set up tents around it’s building for this purpose.
According to the ELCA’s printed convention schedule, at 2 PM on Wednesday, August 19, the 5th session of the convention was to begin. The main item of the session: “Consideration: Proposed Social Statement on Human Sexuality.” The issue is whether practicing homosexuality is a behavior that should disqualify a person from the pastoral ministry.
The eyewitness of the damage continues:
This curious tornado touches down just south of downtown and follows 35W straight towards the city center. It crosses I94. It is now downtown.
The time: 2PM.
The first buildings on the downtown side of I94 are the Minneapolis Convention Center and Central Lutheran. The tornado severely damages the convention center roof, shreds the tents, breaks off the steeple of Central Lutheran, splits what’s left of the steeple in two…and then lifts.
After then laying out the scriptural case for the importance of the issue the convention was discussing and God’s sovereignty over nature and seemingly random events, he concludes:
The tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin. Turn from the promotion of behaviors that lead to destruction. Reaffirm the great Lutheran heritage of allegiance to the truth and authority of Scripture. Turn back from distorting the grace of God into sensuality. Rejoice in the pardon of the cross of Christ and its power to transform left and right wing sinners.
How remarkable! John Piper, one of the preeminent voices in Evangelicalism today, soberly pronounces a natural event to be a warning from God concerning the goings-on at the convention! Could this be true?
A speaker at the convention joked concerning the tornado’s timing, “we trust that the weather is not a commentary on our work.” Rather than joking about it, perhaps time should be spent in prayer to the God who actually listens and actually (in reality) acts in our current time and space, seeking His divine will and voice.
The larger question here is worth pondering. While the scriptures clearly portray God as sovereign over His creation, speaking through natural means, modern day thought both in and out of the church has relegated God to the sidelines. Reggie Kelly said it well when he stated concerning the Tsunami Disaster from a few years ago:
The ready explanations of modern geological science seem more plausible than the biblical view of nature as an agent of moral judgment under an unlimited divine sovereignty. After all, it is well known that seismic activity of this kind is a commonplace in the greater history of the planet, and is especially predictable in the area around the Pacific Rim known as ‘the ring of fire’. So is the recent tsunami disaster of the Indian Ocean simply another instance of blind brute nature ‘acting up’ according to well known natural laws? Such naturalistic explanation may appear to exonerate God from implication in the seemingly undistinguishing carnage of ‘nature’s fury’; but it would be a loss far greater than the tsunami disaster if the world-view of ‘scientific naturalism’ should prevail to rob the modern world, and particularly the church, of the significance and impact of such a costly judgment and prophetic statement of greater judgments to come.
What does God have to say about these and other issues? Have we as a church “graduated” from seeking His counsel and expecting Him to speak through some means, to going our own way, confident in our own understanding? Have things so substantially changed in the last three thousand years, that God no longer controls the weather, nor does He speak through it?
Whether or not the sovereign Lord was speaking through this particular natural occurrence, let’s hope Mr. Piper’s words serve as a gut-check to all of us that God is in fact in charge even of the wind and the sea, and his message to all is (as it always has been) … repent.
Posted in News, The Kingdom of God Tagged with: America, convention, creation, evangelical lutheran church of america, God, homosexuality, john piper, judgment, lutherans, Reggie Kelly, science
“…. no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of the human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” -2 Pet. 1.20-21
Please hear this remarkable word from Nathaniel West:
In the hour of affliction we learn more of God’s word, and God’s way, than in a whole age of sunshine and prosperity, and it is well to remember that the prophecies were spoken first in that moment when Israel’s night was the darkest. Paradoxical indeed, it was then that the light was the brightest, the promise the sweetest, and the devotion the deepest. So will it be again. Israel will be able to say, when emerging from the last great tribulation, as when returning from Exile to build the Temple:
“The Lord hath chastened me sore,
But not abandoned me to death.
The Lord is God. He hath given us light;
Bind the sacrifice with cords,
Even to the horns of the altar!”
Affliction, Light, and Consecration, these are the best handmaids of a true interpretation.
(Nathaniel West, The Thousand Year Reign of Christ; Kregel Publications, p. XVI)
It is often said that we form our theologies and interpret the Scriptures based on the lens through which we look. Depending on the stream of our religious upbringing and our experiences in life, we often interpret passages with our own particular presumption and bias.
It is also said that we often interpret the Scriptures based on the level of willingness we possess to truly hear what they require and promise. In other words, we find in the Word what we want to find, and discard that which demands a higher call to the death of the self-life. We see what we want to see, and no more.
Nathaniel West wrote that “Affliction, Light, and Consecration” are the greatest and most necessary helpers for a true interpretation of the Scriptures.
What do we know of affliction? West is speaking of Israel’s affliction under judgment and exile, but is there an affliction that we willingly give ourselves to, and that would make way for a better interpretation of Scripture? I believe, in at least one aspect, that our self-made value systems, bumptiousness from familiarity, and “know-it-all” attitudes must be afflicted before the Light of interpretation can be opened. We’ve got to crucify our own wisdom, and lay our souls low before the same Spirit that moved the prophets. Are you reading the Scriptures categorically and robotically, or are you turning away from your own frozen knowledge and facing the burning bush that the Scriptures constitute?
Next, there is the element of light. When our own wisdom has been afflicted and set aside, then we are postured inwardly to receive the Light of God through the Scriptures. We must receive Light from the Spirit of God, or else the Bible is an impossible book to engage, enjoy, and receive from. If the same Spirit who rested on and moved the prophets does not rest on us, we will not gather from the Scriptures what the Lord has desired to give. We must ask the Spirit to come with His own Light, otherwise we will not be reading rightly. Therefore, dear saint, we ought to pant for the presence of the Spirit in the midst of our reading, so that Light may come, and our reading may itself become an act of Communion with God.
Lastly, the element of consecration. If we come to the Scriptures with no true intention of consecrating our lives to the Light that He gives us, we are not likely to come into a true interpretation. The Scriptures were not merely given for the formulation of eschatological ideas, the constructing of Doctrinal charts, or any such thing. They were given so that the Eternal God, and His great purpose, would be exposed to Israel and the nations, and that men would come into the reality of what He has always intended; namely, the revelation of Himself, and the glorification of His ways.
If we are unwilling to consecrate our lives to the Light that He gives, we will invariably miss what He is speaking. But if we come to the Scriptures in the same Spirit by which they were written, all the glories of His nature and will become intensely available to us.
“Affliction, Light, and Consecration, these are the best handmaids of a true interpretation.”
Posted in Scripture Tagged with: affliction, Christ, communion, consecration, God, judgment, Knowledge, Nathaniel West, prophecy, prophets, Reality, sacrifice, the bible
Editor’s Note: Originally published on TownHall.com, used with permission. Frank Turek is a speaker and author, and a leading Christian apologist. Learn more at his website www.CrossExamined.org
At least one lesbian is not happy with me for the case I made last week against same-sex marriage on our TV program. She wrote me this ALL CAPS e-mail with “VERY JUDGEMENTAL” in the subject line:
ONLY GOD CAN JUDGE ME AND I AM A CHRISTIAN LESBIAN AND HAVE BEEN FOR ALMOST 20 YEARS. STOP JUDGING AND MOVE ON!!! I AM SO TIRED OF ALL YOU UPTIGHT, DO RIGHT, SINNERS JUDGING PEOPLE.
I wrote her back asking her why she was judging me for judging. It seemed like a fair question. After all, if I am not to “judge” her, why is it OK for her to judge me? And if she’s a Christian, doesn’t she know that God has already judged homosexual behavior as immoral? I mean, I didn’t make the judgment that homosexual behavior was wrong. God is the standard of morality, not me.
But the main point is that my lesbian pen pal did what most liberals do when they are faced with arguments they don’t like—they misuse Jesus’ apparent command not to “judge” in order to shut you up. So if you oppose their behavior or their attempt to get the nation to endorse their immorality (i.e. same-sex marriage), you’re sure to hear “Thou shalt not judge!”
As with most slogans shouted by the left, the truth is exactly opposite to what they claim. Liberals take the judgment statements of Jesus out of context because they want to avoid any moral condemnation for their own actions, and they don’t want you to notice that they are making judgments too. Let’s take a look at what Jesus actually said:
Do not judge lest you be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Mt. 7:1-5)
Notice Jesus isn’t telling us not to judge—Jesus is telling us how to judge. He actually commands us to take the speck out of our brother’s eye—that involves making a judgment. But he also commands us to stop committing the bigger sins ourselves so we can better help our brother. In other words, when you judge, do so rightly not hypocritically.
Jesus expressed this same idea when he said “stop judging by mere appearances and make a right judgment” (John 7:24). Jesus would never tell us to stop judging– that would be suicide! Just think about how impossible life would be if you didn’t make judgments. You make hundreds, if not thousands, of judgments every day between good and evil, right and wrong, dangerous choices from safe ones. You’d be dead already if you didn’t make judgments.
What does this have to do with politics? Every law is a judgment about what’s best for society. Homosexual activists are making a judgment that same-sex marriage would be the best law for society. It’s a wrong judgment as I’ve argued in this column before (Gay Marriage: Even Liberals Know it’s Bad), but it’s a judgment nonetheless.
So in addition to being self-defeating, the belief that we “ought not judge” is completely impractical and even dangerous. Making judgments is unavoidable both personally and politically. If you want to meet a sudden and premature demise, just stop making judgments.
Unfortunately, liberals are propelling our society toward a premature demise by making the disastrous judgment that we ought not make judgments about their behavior. They, of course, can judge our behavior as immoral when we oppose same-sex marriage or the killing of the unborn. But we are not to judge their behavior. This is exactly the kind of hypocrisy that Jesus warned against. The passage they quote actually convicts them!
For folks so concerned about the “separation of church and state,” it’s amazing how fast liberals quote the Bible when they think it helps their case. Don’t let them get away with that. If they believe the Bible when they think it condemns judging (which it doesn’t), then ask them why they don’t believe the Bible when it certainly condemns homosexuality. If they want to use the Bible as their standard, then they will be judged by that same standard.
Posted in Law & Politics Tagged with: homosexuality, judgment, liberals, Matthew, politics, Scripture
At the funeral of a family member recently, the pastor of the church at which the funeral was held recounted how in the last weeks of the deceased man’s life, he had met with and preached the gospel to him. The man was literally dying of alcoholism, and it was apparent he had only a little time to live. After weeks of rejecting the evangelistic offerings of the pastor, the man finally answered the pastor’s question of “How do you know you’ll be in heaven when you die?” with a response acknowledging that he had asked Jesus to be his savior. A few days later he was dead.
The story was encouraging, knowing the sinful and God-rejecting life my family member had lived, however, the pastor’s proclamation following the account gave me pause. He told the people at the service that because of the man’s profession, he was now in heaven, and that if we wanted to meet him after our death, that we needed to accept Jesus as well. Perhaps it was because I had been intensively praying and studying on the subject of Hell at the time, but the declaration the pastor made rang in my ears. He wasn’t simply sharing his religious beliefs… he was making a prophecy! And a very bold prophecy at that, considering the way the deceased had lived his life, and the lack of evidence of authentic conversion and repentance. (Did Paul not say that drunkards will not inherit the Kingdom of God?)
I asked myself, did this pastor really know that this person was in Heaven? Had he with fear and trembling searched the scriptures and received revelation from Heaven that he was accepted in God’s sight? Or was he simply following his particular denomination’s statement of faith, noting that the man had performed the correct religious ritual to attain salvation? What a profound and ultimate prophecy we utter when we pronounce judgment on what a person’s fate will be at the great resurrection of the dead, I hope and pray it is taken seriously.
When we share our faith with others, are we simply giving our or our denomination’s opinion on the matter? Or are we declaring with authority that which we know to be true? Some church movements advocate having flexible “conversations” rather than proclaiming our beliefs to people as truth, and surely this is the best approach to take if we are not sure we are right on a particular subject. However, if we are not absolutely sure about core faith issues such as the resurrection and return of Jesus the Messiah, then whatever we may be, we are not the Church that Jesus and the Apostles founded, and should not identify ourselves as such. (Perhaps philosophical social club would be a better word?)
So, if authentic faith in Jesus requires the proclamation of the good news as fact rather than opinion, what is the manner in which it should be proclaimed? I would like to propose a paradigm shift in evangelism away from sharing our beliefs, and to proclaiming a prophetic gospel. Consider the following account of Paul in Athens:
Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols. So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present. And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. Some were saying, “What would this idle babbler wish to say?” Others, “He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities,”–because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is which you are proclaiming? “For you are bringing some strange things to our ears; so we want to know what these things mean.” (Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.)
So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. “For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD ‘ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.
“The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ “Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man.
“Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”
Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, “We shall hear you again concerning this.” So Paul went out of their midst.
— Acts 17:16-33, NASB
In the midst of a people that loved to hear about new ideas, Paul proclaims He who is the ultimate end to what they had been searching for. Rather than submitting his beliefs into the mix as one more idea to consider, perhaps hoping for his message to be considered more logical or more attractive than others, he supersedes all other ideas by declaring to know and speak on behalf of the creator of all ideas. The god that was unknown to the Athenians was no longer unknown to them, Paul was proclaiming to them who He was, and in the process was showing the Athenians who they were. Are we missing part of the real and authentic gospel, if we retreat from speaking with such authority and conviction?
Paul ends his appeal with a startling prophecy. A day is coming in which all men everywhere will be raised from the dead for the purposes of judgment, God has proven it by raising the one who will do the judging from the dead already, and they therefore need to repent of their ignorance and sin and believe in this man of judgment. Rather than merely a doctrinal point to be studied, this was a startling prophecy that had real application to the people he was talking to. Either he was right or he was wrong, but the men hearing the prophecy didn’t simply “appreciate” it as a “beautiful religious belief”… he was either a lunatic or a man to be taken very, very seriously. Both responses can be seen in the text.
When we preach the gospel, it is both the fullfilment of prophecy and prophecy itself. Every word of God is precious, and just as there is a grave need to jealously guard our speech with regard to individual prophecies and revelations we give, we need to guard the universal prophecies that the Body of the Messiah has been given stewardship over in this time, the premier one being an expectation for salvation through Jesus both now and at His returning. As we guard it, let us also proclaim it in the spirit in which it was first given, when the gospel was by its very nature prophetic.
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: Athens, denomination, Hell, judgment, Paul, prophecy, prophets, religious beliefs
Over 1900 years ago Paul warned Timothy that, “the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Tim. 4:3). That time has come. We are witnessing it in our day. So few want to hear the truth anymore!
The Church of today is like Israel of old: “They say to the seers, ‘See no more visions!’ and to the prophets, ‘Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!’” (Isa. 30:10-11).
“We’ve heard enough of this judgment message” — but the judgment is now at the door! “We’re tired of hearing so much preaching on repentance” — but you still have not truly repented! “We’ve had it with this holiness emphasis” — but the holy God dwells in our midst!
So many of us in leadership today are guilty of telling the people what they want to hear. We feed them what they think they need. What parent in their right mind would ever do such a thing with their child? Yet many leaders do it with their flocks and faithful supporters. “We don’t want to lose any of our members, do we?” Or, “This message will never bring in the bucks. It will hurt our ministry income!” Or, “If I tell the truth the people will get offended!” Yet we are willing to offend the Lord!
Remember, it was the people of Israel — not Babylon, not Assyria, not Canaan, not Egypt — but God’s own chosen nation that “made the Nazirites drink wine and commanded the prophets not to prophesy” (Amos 2:12). They told those who were set apart as holy to the Lord to lower their standards, to quit being extremists, to give up their separation to God. “Just be one of the gang! All of us are children of the Lord. You’ve taken consecration too far!” They told the prophets to shut up. They didn’t want to hear from heaven. “Give us good news and blessings. Tell us the future is bright.” But the prophets had bad news and curses. The future was dark and bleak. Israel wouldn’t repent. How could God shower them with grace?
King Ahab had itching ears. His “prophets” were yes-men and liars. They told him to go and make war against Ramoth Gilead, “for the Lord will give it into the king’s hand” (1 Kin. 22:6). Four hundred prophets agreed. But Jehoshaphat wasn’t satisfied. “‘Is there not a prophet of the Lord here whom we can inquire of?’ The king answered Jehoshaphat, ‘There is still one man through whom we can inquire of the Lord, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad. He is Micaiah son of Imlah’” (1 Kin. 22:6-7). He had the word of the Lord!
The king’s messenger went to get Micaiah: “Look, as one man the other prophets are predicting success for the king. Let your word agree with theirs, and speak favorably” (1 Kin. 22:13). What an incredible line! “Micaiah, tell us we’ll win! Tell us we’ll be victorious!” — even if God knows we’re doomed! How deceived itching ears really are! The four hundred prophets were wrong. The king and his court were wrong. The armies of Israel were wrong. Micaiah alone knew the truth: “So now the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The Lord has decreed disaster for you. . . . Mark my words, all you people” (1 Kin. 22:23, 28). Hours later, Ahab was dead, an enemy’s arrow lodged in his chest, and Israel was defeated and fled.
Sooner or later — by God’s grace may it be sooner! — we are going to have to learn that “where all approve, few profit” (John Wesley). The preaching of the cross does not always please the crowds. They reject a God who has standards and laws. They cast off His yoke as a burden. “He’s an old-fashioned kill-joy,” they say.
And some even fall further than this. They hear and agree but do not take heed. They ask for God’s message and ignore what it says. “My people come to you [Ezekiel], as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice” (Ezek. 33:31-32). Those with itching ears really don’t want to hear. Never cater to them.
The road to destruction is still broad and wide, and the highway to life is as straight as it ever has been. Our big-hearted God has a very narrow mind when it comes to righteousness. We must tell our people the truth! “Ministers are not cooks, but physicians and therefore should not study to delight the palate, but to recover the patient” (Jean Daille). Compromise is cowardice. Flattery is foolishness. Man-pleasers are God-insulters. When will we get our priorities straight?
We have many who tickle the ear, few who prick the heart; many who soothe the grieving mind, few who search the guilty conscience; many who put the people to sleep, few who make them mourn and weep. Where are the prophets of God? We are strong on comforting the sorrowing sheep but weak on confronting the sinning saints; strong on building up what God has not established and weak on tearing down what man has embellished. Our hearts are caught up in this world. We need a blast from heaven.
How many of today’s radio and TV preachers are bringing a challenging, convicting, life-shaking message from the Throne? How many preach the cross and make the flesh uncomfortable? Who is waking up the slumbering church? Who is warning our nation?
Someone is going to have to tell America that she is sick and dying. Someone is going to have to tell her that the party is over. Someone is going to have to prepare her — including the church within her — for radical surgery. The time of pruning is now!
Enough with our feel-good gospel. Enough with our self-serving message. It’s time for the fire to fall — and wherever it falls it will scorch. Do our people smell the smoke in the air, or like Nero, will they fiddle their lives away while America (today’s Rome?) burns to the ground? The collapse of our society looms near. Will we be watchmen — or will we be wimps?
What an indictment it will be against countless pastors, prophets and preachers when their people stand up and say, “But you didn’t tell us the truth! You didn’t give us warning in advance! And we thought you were watching for our souls. You must not have really cared.”
Will that be the charge against us?
Posted in Revolution & Justice Tagged with: holiness, judgment, prophecy, prophets, repentance, seers, visions