October 17th, 2011 by Michael L. Brown

In the midst of the lively and sometimes heated discussion about Mormonism in recent days (Is it a cult? Is it not a cult but still heretical? Is it part of mainstream Christianity?), there is one question that no one seems to be asking: Do Mormons believe that Christianity is a cult?

Let’s remember that Mormonism did not begin as a reformation movement within the 19th century Church but rather as a repudiation of the Church of the day. According to the Book of Mormon itself (1 Nephi 14:10), there are only two churches, “the one is the Church of the Lamb of God and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore whoso belongeth not to the church of the lamb of God belongeth to that great church; which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth.”

For the first Mormons, the devoted followers of Joseph Smith, there was no mistake about what this meant: Those who adhered to their faith, who were part of the Church of Latter Day Saints, belonged to “the Church of the Lamb of God”; everyone else belonged to “that great church; which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth.”

As explained by early Mormon leader George Q. Cannon (1827-1901), “After the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized, there were only two churches upon the earth. They were known respectively as the Church of the Lamb of God and Babylon. The various organizations which are called churches throughout Christiandom [sic], though differing in their creeds and organizations, have one common origin. They belong to Babylon.” (See his Gospel Truth, p. 324.)

To this day, if you are a baptized Christian and you join the Mormon Church, you are told that you need to be baptized again as a Mormon, even if you were already baptized as an adult believer in Jesus. Obviously, your first baptism doesn’t count in the eyes of the LDS Church. What does this imply? And if Mormons accept the validity of another Christian’s faith, why are they proselytizing that person?

According to the Documentary History of the [LDS] Church, “Nothing less than a complete apostasy from the Christian religion would warrant the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” (Introduction, xl) Precisely.

Why else did Joseph Smith allegedly receive his revelations? It was because all the other churches had departed from the faith. As stated in Joseph Smith History 1:19, in response to Smith’s question to the angelic beings about joining a church, “I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt . . . .”

That’s why Mormons have additional books they call scripture, grouped together in the Book of Mormon, which claims to be “Another Testament of Jesus Christ.” In contrast, other reformation groups that arose within the Church have simply argued for a reinterpretation of the Bible itself as opposed to claiming to have new, additional books of revelation, equal to the Bible.

According to Brigham Young, “The Christian world, I discovered, was like the captain and crew of a vessel on the ocean without a compass, and tossed to and fro whithersoever the wind listed to blow them. When the light came to me, I saw that all the so-called Christian world was grovelling in darkness.” (JD 5:73)

These were clearly the views of the first generations of Mormons. As expressed by Mormon apostle Orson Pratt (1811-1881), “The Roman Catholic, Greek, and Protestant church, is the great corrupt, ecclesiastical power, represented by great Babylon. . .” (Orson Pratt, Writings of an Apostle, “Divine Authenticity,” no.6, p. 84). Yes, “Both Catholics and Protestants are nothing less than the ‘whore of Babylon’ whom the lord denounces by the mouth of John the Revelator as having corrupted all the earth by their fornications and wickedness.” (Pratt, The Seer, p. 255)

In recent decades, LDS missionaries have presented themselves as fellow-believers as they reach out to Christians, and in some ways, Mormons seem to be moderating their views. But the question they must answer is this: Do they believe that mainstream, historic Christianity is a cult (or, at the least, a departure from the biblical faith)? If so, let them declare it. If not, why does anyone need to leave their church to join the Mormons?

(My appreciation to Dr. James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries for directing me to the quotes cited here.)

Dr. Michael Brown is the author of A Queer Thing Happened to America and the host of the nationally syndicated talk radio show The Line of Fire on the Salem Radio Network.

Posted in Religions and Cults Tagged with: , , , , , ,

May 20th, 2011 by Guest Writer

Editor’s Note: Guest article from Bert Farias, of Holy Fire Ministries.


Jesus said that His Word would judge everyone (John 12:48). His Spirit is like a fire that burns the present hour speaking of His Word into hearts.

Rev 2:1-5 is such a word. This message of returning to your first love is an end-time theme and one the church so desperately needs.

The church at Ephesus possessed some noble characteristics. Jesus commended this church for many things. By today’s standards this church would be thought of as a strong and even dynamic church. They had doctrinal and moral purity, labored without growing weary, were active in the affairs of the church, had exercised patience and perseverance etc. etc. etc. but there was one thing Jesus had against it; they had forsaken their first love. Jesus called it a fallen place or in today’s terminology, a backslidden state. What a lesson to learn that Jesus, the Head of the Church, does not see as man sees.

What does the Lord of glory see in today’s churches? What of those who boast in great attendance, occupy large buildings, and have dynamic programs for their members? Jesus does not esteem things as a man esteems them. Jesus so often least regards things that men esteem highly. On the other hand, those things that men often esteem lowly, are so highly regarded by the Master. You see, it doesn’t matter what size building, attendance, or organizational powers and abilities a church possesses. If first love has passed, then it is a fallen church, and one in danger of having its lamp-stand removed from its place (Rev 2:5).

The lamp-stand represents the church (Rev 1:20). Every church ordained by God has an angelic covering that symbolizes the power and anointing for that church to operate.  The lamp-stand being put out represents the angel leaving and being assigned elsewhere.  There are churches that still exist today whose angel left 100 years ago; sad, but true.  There is no longer a covering or an anointing for that church to operate. They lost their love for Jesus. Over a period of time religion had hardened their human spirits and not touched the hidden placs of their hearts. Thus, intimacy with Jesus was lost, and the church failed to make the adjustment, and lost her power.

Religion is the crowning work of Satan. He works to steal the love from our lives where everything we produce comes out of works not born of love, but of duty. The spirit of religion always causes us to produce outside of the new nature, which is love. This always results in a form without the power. Falling in love with Jesus and staying in love with Jesus is your sure foundation for protection against the deception of having a form
without the power.

The apostle Paul’s heart cry to know Jesus (Phil 3:10) was like the loaded gun he carried in life and ministry. He called it a prize to be won. Here is a man who had come to visions and revelations, some not to be uttered…he had come to a place of great power in ministry where handkerchiefs were taken from his body and placed on the sick and demon possessed, and the diseases and demons left them…angels had visited him…mighty churches were raised up by him…and nearly two-thirds of the New Testament written by him. Yet, Paul’s chief aim was for the prize of knowing Christ, and having a privileged seat next to Jesus for all of eternity. Do you want that seat?

Not all believers will enter into the holy city. This beloved city is the Bride of Christ, called the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:2), and reserved for first love lovers. The wise virgins will enter therein, but everyone else whose spirits and nature have been born again will be stationed on the outer fringes of our eternal home, having safely arrived but removed from the greater glory manifested nearer the throne of God in the New Jerusalem. No wonder Paul was so passionately consumed with being a first love lover of Jesus. Within the realms of that love is an eternal position and ranking, which shall never be taken away.

First love lovers are those who have stayed close to the heart of Jesus thereby keeping their vessels full of oil and their lamps burning bright. Their first love produced first works that translate into gold, silver and precious stones, which are in turn, used as building materials for our eternal home. The New Jerusalem is an ongoing construction project being built from the works of those who lived surrendered and consecrated lives to Jesus. Thus the reason for the call to the church of Ephesus to repent and return to herfirst love so that she might do her first works (Rev 2:5). Are these words burning in your heart yet?

Foolish virgins will not enter the holy city, but they will have a lesser degree of glory, position, and ranking. Thank God they made heaven, assuming those who were left after the rapture of the church endured the great tribulation, but there will be sorrow and regret for the wood, hay and stubble that was burned up. Their works, when tested by fire, were found wanting. What would Jesus find today in many of our prominent churches and ministries across this globe if all our works were exposed? With fear and trembling we must serve the Lord. Jesus is at the door.

The mountaintop Christian life is one of first love. Anything short of that is a fallen state (Rev 2:5). From that heightened place of first love flow all first works. This is a great position of power. It is a place of sometimes almost silly but such pure delight. This is such a lovely place to be, a place of continually beholding the face of Jesus, of seeing His glory with the eyes of your understanding, of blessed rest where nothing un-nerves you.

You can buy this place with no money. You can pursue it without any earthly skill or ability. It is not a place exclusive to anyone above another. It is purchased with your heart only. It is purchased with a spiritual hunger for living bread, and thirst like a deer that pants for the water. It is a place available to the lowest status human being on the earth as well as the rich who will encounter difficulty in pursuit of this prize. Can you
count the cost as Paul did? Count all things dung for this holy knowledge? Cast aside all other pursuits? How much is it worth? To follow the Lamb wherever He goes throughout eternity (Rev 14:4)? Do you want that seat (Mat 20:21)? Will you enter into that holy city (Rev 21:2)?

Behold the Bridegroom cometh!!! Are you His bride in patient waiting? Do you long for His face? Is He your first love? If not, remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the first works. If true repentance works its course, in the end the glory revealed shall be so much greater than any of your present sufferings.

All the love of our glorious Bridegroom is backing the pen of this ready writer. May He bless these words to your ears.

 

Bert Farias is the founder of Holy Fire Ministries, a ministry committed to carrying the spirit of prayer and revival all over the world. Visit his website at holy-fire.org.

Posted in Featured Articles, Revival & Prayer Tagged with: , , , , , ,

March 13th, 2011 by Public Domain

Editor’s Note: The text below was written by Basilea Schlink in her book My All For Him, published 1971.

Jesus is a true Bridegroom; this is His very nature. That is why He calls Himself Bridegroom in the Scriptures. His great love desires a bride, a bridal soul. He longs fervently for her love. He looks for her to see whether she is about to come to Him, to see whether she longs and yearns for Him, to see whether she really wants Him alone.

Jesus is a true Bridegroom; this is His very nature. He wants to give us His love; but He is also waiting for us to return His love. Jesus is a true Bridegroom. His love is a jealous love. He wants you, your soul, completely. He is jealous when you give your love to other people and to other things. He is jealous when pay more attention to them, when you give them more time, more of yourself, than you give Him. Then He stands beside you, grieved. Then He is hurt and wounded, because He loves you so much.

Jesus is a true Bridegroom. He does not force you to love Him. He asks: “Will you give Me your love?”, and He gets what He wants when you do this. Only one thing will satisfy Him – your love. All else is too small for Him: that you believe in Him, that you obey Him, that you come to Him for forgiveness. He is not only your Physician who heals you. He is not only your Redeemer who delivers you from your bonds. He wants to be your Bridegroom, and as Bridegroom He gives you His great, His tender, His most intimate love. Now He is waiting for you to give Him your love. He who loves wants to be loved in return.

Because Jesus is the Bridegroom, He can be wounded if you take up self-chosen crosses, choosing the way of poverty and resolving to make sacrifices simply for ascetic reasons. Certainly He wants you to follow Him on the way of the cross. But His heart is filled with grief and sorrow if it is not love that impels you. You should not take the way of the cross for your own sanctification, but rather – as He repeatedly said while He was on earth – “For My sake you should lose your life, for My sake you should forsake houses, brethren . . .” Out of love for Him, out of love alone you should choose obedience, lowliness, humility and disgrace. Only the dedication which springs from love will make Him happy. Indeed, this is the only dedication which He will accept. Nothing else. All else is insufficient. Anything else would be more likely to wound Him, because it is simply pious deceit; we seem to be going His way, but it is really for our own sake.

Jesus, the Bridegroom, is the Man of Sorrows. He suffers to this present day. He is seeking a bride who will share with Him what is in His heart. His heart is filled not only with love, but also with suffering – past and present. He is seeking a bride who will really live out the bridal state, whose heart will beat with His, who will bear things with Him, who not only suffers through her own afflictions, but also suffers His afflictions with Him, who in reality enters into the fellowship of suffering with Him. Only she is a true bride who is concerned about His concerns – about the needs of His people and His Church and the things which hinder His dominion among the peoples.

For Him the bride is the soul who suffers with Him and who is prepared to do everything to alleviate His sufferings. She seeks ways through sacrifice and prayer and does her utmost to ensure that the things which trouble Him may be changed. She labors so that He may be honored where He is not now honored, that He may be feared where He is not now feared. She strives to lead back to God the people who are not living according to His commandments and statutes, and so she comforts His heart and makes Him happy. She spends her life for Him and suffers until she has loved souls home to Him by whom they can be saved, until people set themselves under His dominion and begin to love Him. Not until her Bridegroom is comforted will she be satisfied. The bride keeps asking Him: “How can I comfort You?”, and in the quietness the Bridegroom will tell her what grieves Him. She will go with Him to comfort Him.

Jesus is a true Bridegroom; this is His very nature. That is why He is not satisfied when we simply set ourselves under His dominion and give Him slavish obedience. He wants more – He wants our heart, our very hearts blood. As the Bridegroom, He asks: “How much am I worth to you? How much can you sacrifice for Me? Can you give Me your beloved children? Can you give Me father and mother and friends? Can you give Me your home and your native land out of love if I ask for these? Will you go anywhere I call you to serve, and lead to Me the souls for which I hunger? Can you sacrifice your honor, your strength, your longing to be loved, your deepest secret wishes for Me?”

Jesus is a true Bridegroom; this is His very nature. He waits for His bride. He does not seek to force love; it must be spontaneous. He knocks softly on the door. He waits until someone opens it. He stands behind the door and looks to see whether His bride will open up and come out to Him (Song of Solomon 5:2). His eyes follow her sadly if all day long she is busy and in a hurry, if she goes about everything quickly and vigorously and yet spiritually is becoming estranged from Him, because she is completely engrossed with her work and earthly business.

Jesus is a true Bridegroom; this is His very nature. His ardent concern is to impart His likeness to His bride so that she too may radiate divine beauty and be adorned with many virtues. He works with specials care, loving care for His bride. He guides her and leads her along paths of chastisement, for this will bring her to where His is. He dreams of the full beauty that shall be hers. He loves her too much to suffer her to have any “spots” or “wrinkles”, because she is His bride. Full of pride and joy, His loving eyes beholds her as though she were perfect. Through the power of His blood He, the Almighty, can bring her to the perfection of divine beauty.

Jesus is a true Bridegroom; this is His very nature. So He stands as a Protector besides His bride. He is intent upon protecting her from all who may want to harm her. He strives on her behalf. To be a bride means that one is no longer alone. It means that one has an intimate partner who lives for his bride, and to do everything that he can for her. So, Jesus, the Bridegroom, lives to do everything for Him bride, to help her in every situation, in every need, in every impossibility. She is no longer alone. Jesus is true Bridegroom; this is His very nature. He is waiting in heaven for the day when His bride will come to Him so that He can be united with her for ever. He seeks her in unending love.

I will betroth you to Me forever; I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, In steadfast love, and in mercy. I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness; And you shall know the Lord. (Hosea 2:19-20).

 

Basilea Schlink was a German writer (1904-2001) and co-founder of the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary.

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March 4th, 2011 by Eric Gilmour

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God…”
~Romans 1.16

As it is commonly known, the word gospel means “good news.” What “good news” was given to you? Was it the power of God? The Scriptures tell us that the gospel isn’t a matter of clever speech but of “demonstration of the Spirit and power” (1 Cor. 2.4).

There is a reason for this. “So that, your faith would not rest upon the wisdom of men but on the power of God (1 Cor. 2.5).”

This shows us, that some people’s faith can rest and does rest upon the wisdom of men. What does this mean? Some people believe because it was cleverly explained to them. And after they weighed out the religious options and benefits, they chose Christianity. People search for a religion and when they find whatever one seems right in their eyes, they “sign up” and change their lives accordingly. They live somewhat happy having satisfied their religious itch. But they fail to realize that Christianity is not a change of life, but an exchange of life.

This does not and will not lead to a life that actually possesses power. It is the mere following of religious teachings, systems of forgiveness and rules, while professing hope in an afterlife. All of which, most religions emphasize.

When you have received the gospel as the power of God in your life, then you really have life in Him. “He who has the Son has life (1 John 5.12).” It is undeniable. Your devotion is not to a change of life catering to Christian teachings. Your devotion is that a higher quality of existence has entered into you and you now have a hatred for sin and a real love for Jesus inside of you. Colossians 2.6 tells us that, “as we have received Him, so walk in Him.” Our relationship with God is based upon our receiving of Him through the power of the Gospel. We walk in the same continuous power.

The gospel is the “power of God”. It is not “like” the power of God. It is not “the way to” the power of God. “It is the power of God.”

How can a message be the “power of God”? The message is power simply because the message is a Man. Jesus Christ is the gospel of God. The gospel is not merely about Christ, it is Christ (Hebrews 1.1). He is the Word of God. He is the message of God to the world. The good news of Jesus Christ is that deliverance and power, forgiveness and peace, hope and love are found in a Man, not a thinking pattern. Jesus said, “I am the truth.”

Notice that the Apostles didn’t preach about Christ. They preached Christ Himself (Acts 5.42;17.3;2Cor. 4.5). As T. Austin Sparks noted, “God speaks Himself.” This is how men are born again. They couldn’t possibly be born from above by a nominal belief system or by adherence to correct thinking patterns. Doctrine has never saved a person. Salvation only comes by the power of God, who is Christ, God’s speaking, coming into you by faith or your surrender to Him. Paul told Titus that God, “manifested His Word (Jesus) through preaching…” (Titus 1.3). The gospel is the manifestation of Christ. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness, made His light shine in our hearts to give us the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Cor. 4.6).”

Christ is the light (John 8.12), giving us a relationship with God by divine enlightenment.
Christ is the life (John 14.6), giving us an eternal quality of existence.
Christ is the way (John 14.6), revealing not only the route to the Father, but also the way of life for those born of the Spirit.
Christ is the truth (John 14.6), the perfect wholeness of life and existence.

To preach Christ is to bring men into contact with Him who is power! It is the reconciliation of God and man. It is impossible to meet Him without fatal damage to your old life. He is power! Freedom is in a man, not a belief system, religion or an attempt to make a life change. The gospel is the power of God, for it is the meeting of man and God, in Jesus Christ, to all who will cast themselves upon Him in absolute (which is to say genuine) faith.

 

Eric Gilmour is an Associate Editor for Voice of Revolution, overseeing Revival & Evangelism.

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February 1st, 2011 by Bryan Anthony

“Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress;
My eye is wasted away from grief, my soul and my body also.
For my life is spent with sorrow
And my years with sighing;
My strength has failed because of my iniquity,
And my body has wasted away.
Because of all my adversaries, I have become a reproach,
Especially to my neighbors,
And an object of dread to my acquaintances;
Those who see me in the street flee from me.
I am forgotten as a dead man, out of mind;
I am like a broken vessel.” -Ps. 31.9-12

The element of human weakness in the Psalms is a great provision for the Church, for the moment we come onto the grounds of flowery religious cliche, we at once come to unreality, and God will not work with us along those lines. It is noteworthy for us to consider that the sweet-singer and priestly King of Israel, David himself, had seasons where his soul was overcome with grief and confusion, paranoia and weariness, fear and hopelessness. This does not make him an insignificant figure in the history of the faith, but is rather a testament to the faithfulness of God, Who is able to save “to the uttermost” all who call upon His name.

The Psalms are filled with David’s inner turmoils and wrestlings, and he was not afraid to sing of them in the Tabernacle of old. He did not think of his spiritual image before men, for he was pre-eminently concerned for the presence of the heavenly King. He knew that the One Who had formed the world and knit him together in his mother’s womb, was well acquainted with the actual condition of his life. He felt no need to perform spiritually, but to come to God on the grounds of truth, bringing to the Lord the whole of who he was, “warts and all.”

This is a great call for our nip-and-tuck, fashion-obsessed, image-dominated society. We unfortunately bring the unreality of worldly thought into our experience of religion, and most of us can be found putting up the self-image of our choosing; that which looks most presentable to men. But God has ever and always been eager for the reality and truth of our condition, for it is only on those grounds that we meet with His mercy and transforming power.

We would be quick to accuse, and even quote a verse at David if he were to pour out his soul to us as he did in Psalm 31. His pleas with the Lord were often antithetical to the boisterous, Dominionist views of many modern souls in the Church. We might think of his song as a bad witness, a complaining rant, or a sign of his weak spirituality. But how was it that David became such a precious figure with such favor from God? How is it that when Jesus comes He will restore the “tabernacle of David,” that He will sit on “David’s throne,” and that He did not wince when He was called “the Son of David” by the blind man?

God is not ashamed to be identified with David because David cried out to Him from the ground of reality. And it is David’s pursuit of God from the ground of weakness, in grief, in sorrow, even in iniquity, that made him a “broken vessel” who is still “blessing the families of the earth” today. His weakness is the condition of all humanity, but out of that low place, he continued to cry out to the One who is “high and lifted up,” and we are still feeling the reverberations of his life in God in our generation. Am I pursuing Him from the ground of reality, or have I got some image to uphold before men?

When I come to Him from the ground of my own brokenness, at once I am touched by the only One who has the power to cleanse, heal, and restore my soul, and to bring me into alignment with the reality of Himself. And to live in the reality of God Himself, walking circumspectly before Him in all His glorious light, is to be “free indeed.”

For I have heard the slander of many,
Terror is on every side;
While they took counsel together against me,
They schemed to take away my life.
But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD,
I say, ‘You are my God.’
My times are in Your hand;
Deliver me from the hand of my enemies and from those who persecute me.
Make Your face to shine upon Your servant;
Save me in Your lovingkindness.” (vv. 13-16)

Posted in Featured Articles, The Kingdom of God Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

December 28th, 2010 by Bryan Anthony

“…. thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.” -2 Cor. 3.14

The greatest triumph is not in the establishment of an impressive organization, the saving of my reputation, or the performance of some great spiritual feat before men. The greatest triumph is led by God Himself, and it has to do with wringing out my personality and aura until I am a broken vessel through whom He shows forth “the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.”

Though I have adapted to the niceties and expected behaviors of Christian culture, though I know how to act around the right people, though I have “stopped doing what I used to do, because now I’m a Christian,” I may yet be bound by self-conscious spirituality. The life of faith does not have to do with conforming to external expectations in relation to the Christian subculture that I’ve been inducted into. It has to do with an ultimate inward surrender to the Lord of history, “who always leads us in triumph in Christ,” over every earthly influence and power. When we are so conscious of the Lord that we are able to love our enemies, resist the lusts of the flesh, and we are no longer moved inwardly to seek glory from men, only then is it evident that we are following the Lamb of God in His holy triumph.

If I am not emanating the fragrance of Jesus Christ, I must still be bound by self-consciousness in some way or another. When the light of heaven shines upon me, it may yet be seen that I am still concerned for my own glorification. The evidence of this is that I am not yet “broken bread and poured out wine”; I am failing to emit the “sweet aroma” of Jesus Christ. When “the least of these” come into contact with me, are they coming into contact with the vitality of the Son of God, or something that smells too much like the work of man?

When we have soulish ties to men, to this earth, or to our own religious ideals and presumptions, rather than a total jealousy for God’s glory, it becomes impossible for us to “triumph in Christ,” and we are incapable of manifesting His “sweet aroma,” which is His very character and nature. His fragrance is always antithetical to our self-conscious attempts at spirituality. I may need to ask myself some questions along these lines.

When challenging or rebuking another saint, am I abiding in the kindness of Jesus Christ? Would the Lamb of God deal as abrasively as I have when addressing that child or that struggling brother? When complimenting or encouraging someone, am I using flattery to gain some end myself, or am I actually expressing His own encouragement? When correcting some faulty doctrine in another brother, am I exhibiting my own knowledge and correctness, or am I speaking out of a true jealousy for the glory of God and the good of that soul?

I may claim to be radical for the Lord, carrying the cross and going against the tide of this age, but am I emitting the very fragrance of Jesus Christ in the process? If I am not, it may well be that the “tide of this age” is still sweeping me away, except that I am blanketed in Christian phraseologies and ideas. The only solution to self-conscious spirituality is God-conscious living, and Jesus has rent the veil that we might abide with Him in that holy place. From there we triumph in Christ, and manifest the sweet aroma of the knowledge of God “in every place.”

You are not required to pass through a religious maze to “manifest” the fragrance of the Lord. There is no puzzle involved, no trick up His sleeve, no riddle to unpack. To experience the depths of Christ, you need only to go down into death, taking up your cross and following the Lamb wheresoever He goes. He will inevitably lead you on paths that will wring out your personality and press His glorious image into your person. You will still be unique as an individual, but you will exhibit the wisdom and power of the age to come, which is “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

We do not triumph in Christ by boasting in a meeting, seeking favor from men, or finding our way onto some platform of religious fame. We triumph in Christ when the power of self is broken from our lives, and the very fragrance of Jesus flows from our being. When He leads us in triumph, we will bring to bear the knowledge of God Himself upon a world that is perishing for want of that great Light.

Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,

September 16th, 2010 by Bryan Anthony

“For a little while your people possessed your holy place, but now our enemies have trampled down your sanctuary.” -Is. 63.18

This passage speaks of the holy place and the sanctuary in Jerusalem itself, but there is much to be drawn from it for our spiritual enlargement.

If, on New Testament terms, Paul has declared that we are the “temple” or the “sanctuary” of the Holy Spirit, then we also have the high privilege of possessing our own souls and sanctifying them unto the Lord. He longs to dwell in the midst of His people, revealing Himself to us, and expressing Himself through us. This is something more than spiritual performance, religious playacting, or learning the proper words to say and the proper faces to make. Our appearance and reputation matter not one jot or tittle if the “holy place” of our hearts has been invaded by the spirit of the world, and “our enemies have trampled down” the sanctuary of the inner-man.

The writer of the proverb has instructed us along this way: “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” (4.23)

There is an intensity with which we must guard the inner-man, for the holy place of our heart is a tender place, and it can easily be trampled and flooded. It is our own responsibility to continually sanctify ourselves before the Lord, and to see to it that we are preferring His own life above our own. When at once you sink into your own wisdom and fail to possess and keep your heart before Him, the tenderness begins to harden, until eventually you have lost all touch with the reality of truth and love.

When our souls are dispossessed by untruth, when we cease to abide in the love of God, immediately the spirit of this age prevails and tramples the inner-man. This occurs not only in the overt moral failings of pornography, murder, and thievery, but also when we give ourselves over to a counterfeit kind of rest that is not the rest of God Himself. When we cease to guard that tender place of true union with God, we become brash towards others, speculative and suspicious, self-conscious, loose in speech, over-indulgent with money, entertainment and food, and many of the more subtle forms of compromise take the dominant place.

Our lives take on a cheap and synthetic nature, and the “springs of life” are replaced with something much more inglorious than that which the Lord has desired to give us. We may look Christian still, we may know how to put on a religious show, but we are giving up the holy place and allowing it to be trampled by the enemies of God. Our lingo may be correct, but anger, fear, and strife will have possession of our souls. Brethren, this is not the purpose of the Lord.

This trampling of the soul is the plight of all men without grace, but in the Gospel we are privileged and called to a life of abiding in the Son of God. You may only possess the holy place “for a little while,” but this is not your inheritance in Christ. Do not let your soul be trampled by the influences of this age, the lusts of the flesh, and the pride of life. Do not surrender your days or evenings to the enemy, dear saint. Let your heart be stilled before Him morning, noon, and night, and He will enlarge His own character and nature in your soul. The purity, tenderness, compassion and power of Jesus will become Your witness, and God Himself will be your portion and joy. Watch over your heart then, child of God.

Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

September 2nd, 2010 by Bethany French

Author’s note:  This is the first article in a mini-series of articles reviewing Almost Christian by Princeton professor Kenda Creasy DeanAll quotes without direct links are directly from the book’s first few chapters.  To hear Dr. Brown’s review of this book, click here.

A large-scale departure from a biblical understanding of what living as a follower of Jesus looks like in the lives of modern adults has brought about an epidemic of young people whose basic concept of religion is centered around a sense of enhancing their own, and others’ emotional well-being, which has almost created a new religion, though its “followers” still outwardly identify with the name of an existing religion.  Kenda Creasy Dean, a professor at Princeton’s theological seminary, published a book called  Almost Christian: What the Faith of our Teenagers Is Telling the American Church that explores the emerging ramifications of the lack of passion and faith in God in previous generations.  This book is based on the National Study of Youth and Religion by Christian Smith and Melinda Denton which gave this new religion the name of moralistic therapeutic deism:

As described by Smith and his team, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism consists of beliefs like these:

1. “A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.”

2. “God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.”

3. “The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.”

4. “God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.”

5. “Good people go to heaven when they die.”

These recent studies testify to the fruit that decades of a consumer-driven, therapy mentality have brought into our churches.  Dr. Michael Brown’s books, How Saved Are We and The End of the American Gospel Enterprise, point to a very similar attitude that was already entrenched in the American Church over twenty years ago:

The American Church at the end of the twentieth century is experiencing a crisis. For years we have preached a cheap gospel and peddled a soft Savior. We have taught salvation without self-denial and the crown without the cross. We have catered to the unsaved and compromised with the world. Now we are paying the price.  (How Saved Are We.)

Our contemporary gospel has bred complacency instead of compassion, success instead of sacrifice, prestige instead of Prayer.  We no longer ask what we can do for Him, but rather what He can do for us.  (American Gospel Enterprise.)

Dean says there are four things that deeply religious teenagers, whose faith affects their day to day lives have in common:

Dean says committed Christian teens share four traits: They have a personal story about God they can share, a deep connection to a faith community, a sense of purpose and a sense of hope about their future.

Recapturing a passionate, articulate faith in teenagers and young people requires not simply a new “method” to reach them, but rather a revitalization of faith and devotion in the day-to-day living of adults.  According to Dean,

Since the religious and spiritual choices of American teenagers echo, with astonishing clarity, the religious and spiritual choices of the adults who love them, lackadaisical faith is not young people’s issues, but yours… So we must assume that solution lies…in modeling the kind of mature, passionate faith we say we want young people to have… We have successfully convinced teenagers that religious participation is important for moral formation and for making nice people… Yet these young people possess no real commitment to or excitement about religious faith.

What is the one thing that truly differentiates faith from religion?  Dean says this:

Faith is a matter of desire, a desire for God and and a desire to love others in Christ’s name…Love gives Christianity its purpose and meaning.  Religion functions as an organized expression of belief… Yet Christianity has always been more of a trust-walk than a belief system…Faith depends on who we follow, and that depends on who we love.

John Wesley, whom Dean quotes, experienced in his own life a time when he called himself “almost a Christian,” while living with the same kind of approach many do today:

I did…good to all men; constantly and carefully using all the public and all the private means of grace…and…doing all this in sincerity… Yet my own conscience beareth me witness in the Holy Ghost, that all this time I was but almost a Christian... The great question of all, then, still remains.  Is the love of God shed abroad in your heart?  Can you cry out, “My God, and my All”?… Is he your glory, your delight, your crown of rejoicing?

Another crucial question is this: how can we experience this passionate love of God if we have not seen the man Jesus tortured, bleeding, dying, and abandoned because of the depths of sin in our own hearts?  The only true knowledge of the incredible love of God that evokes such devotion can come through a changed heart which has been wrung by a deep conviction of sin and repentance, and has seen the cost God afflicted on Himself in order to rescue us from the power of sin and bring us into fellowship with Himself.

Dr. Michael Brown reviewed the first few chapters of Almost Christian on his Line of Fire Radio show, and here is a quote from his closing remarks:

We are fundamentally off: with much of our preaching, with much of our emphasis…we’ve been in the wrong direction for years. We have soft-peddled the gospel, we have by-passed the cross.  We haven’t preached a faith which is glorious and wonderful, and a savior who is so extraordinary, who delivers us from a wrath which is so terrible, that we JOYFULLY give up everything to have Him!

Changed hearts in the church as a whole is the only way to see the transformation that so many adults in the church have said they desire to see in their children, as Dr. Brown stated in The Jesus Manifesto:

The dawning of the 21st century finds the church of America in a moral and spiritual crisis. Decades of self-centered living and worldliness have taken their toll. Years of compromise and toothless gospel preaching have had their effect. And now we have reached the moment of truth: Either we wake up, stand up, speak up, and act up, or we run the risk of becoming a mere historic curiosity, an irrelevant religious sideshow, an entertaining, harmless spectacle. Something must change, and it must change now. There is no other choice.

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