The Consuming Fire

Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make you a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, which the LORD thy God hath forbidden thee.For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God (Deuteronomy 4:23-29).”

“Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:For our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12: 28-29).”

The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings  (Isaiah 33:14)?”

Modern Man has not been taught the true nature of the God of the Bible. In that vacume he has constructed a god of his own making, a warm fuzzy god who looks more like an indulgent grandfather than a Sovereign King. When there are biblical references to God, they are cherry picked to make Him more comfortable and comforting. “God is your friend,” we are told. “God wants desperately to bless you and prosper you.” “You should believe God to bring out the awesome potential that resides in you,” and the mantra goes on and on. Millions of people are deceived by this pandering to the flesh and millions (shall I say billions) of dollars fill up the bank accounts of the false prophets who preach this message of human potential.

“The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so:  (Jeremiah 5:31).”

The people who buy this faulty theology never seem to think to check the Bible to get the real picture of the God it reveals. God told Moses that no man could see His face and live. That is, no man could come into His unhidden Presence and survive the experience. He would be completely consumed by God’s holiness. God is a consuming fire. Until mankind sees his utter bankrupt condition and understands the kind of God with whom we have to do, there is not the slightest hope that he will be saved but will in the end perish eternally (no matter how good he feels about himself).

There is One however, who can endure the eternal burning of God’s holy Presence. It is Christ Jesus the Lord, the resurrected Son of God, who is Himself God and yet, became a man.

Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen (1 Timothy 6:16).”

It was the dictate of kings of old that before you could gain entrance into their presence or have audience with them you had to have someone to present you to them. You had to have a friend at court. If that was true of earthly rulers how much more true is it of the Eternal God of the ages? If it was true of mere men how much more true is it of the One who is a Consuming Fire?

Who can approach this Fiery God? Only Christ… and those He brings with Him. Who can approach this one who consumes all in His Holiness? Only those who have a Friend in His court. Only those who belong to Jesus. There is no other way to have standing in that place. There is no other way to gain access to God. For our God is a Consuming Fire!

But God who is rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4-7) went to eternal trouble so that sinful men could have this access to Him. It is the very reason God became a Man. It is the reason for the virgin birth. It is the reason for the spotless life of our Lord. It is the reason for His suffering, His enduring the cross. It is the reason God raised this Man from the dead, never to suffer or die again. He is forever glorified as the GodMan. Jesus Christ the crucified One is Jesus Christ the resurrected One, before whom every knee shall bow and to whom every tongue will confess that He is Lord to the Glory of God the Father.

God went to eternal trouble to give His people access to Himself. We the filthy ones now have been made clean by the blood of Christ.

“Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate (Hebrews 13:12)”

We the outcasts and enemies of God are now the accepted ones. Through Christ we now have access to this thrice Holy God.

“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:1-2).”

We who had no right at court now are told to approach God boldly.

“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16).”

The very purpose of Christ coming was to bring us to God.

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God . . . (1 Peter 3:18).”

He suffered for sins…He who was perfectly righteous, for those who were wholly corrupted…so that He might usher us into the Presence of this Great God who is a consuming fire. Were it not for Christ, and God’s eternal purpose in Him, all of humanity would have been blasted into an eternal hell long ago.

How different this is from the tame god of modern religion. How different this message is from the soothing message of the self improvement peddlers, the prosperity panhandlers. This message disturbs…and it should. Without an intercessor, without a go between, without someone to usher us into the Presence of God there is no way to approach Him. And without knowing one’s own wickedness and our own ragged dirtiness we will never seek the cleansing blood of God’s perfect Lamb. We will never feel the need of coming into the Presence of the Holy God through the intervention of Another.

And so millions make their way to a dark and terrifying eternity, feeling good about themselves, never knowing that they have received a lie instead of the truth. Never knowing that the God of the Bible is a God who is a consuming fire. They never learn that they cannot come to God unless He extends to them the scepter of mercy through Jesus Christ the Lord.

But there are some upon whom God bestows special mercies. These are they that are given a new heart to see their sin and to see God’s remedy for sin, the crucified Christ. The merciful Lord has given grace to some who have heard the the truth, the gospel of our salvation. They have been drawn by the Spirit and have been born from above and who have made their garments white in the blood of the Lamb.  These are the people who have turned from the anemic god of modern Christendom and are now called “the Lamb’s wife (Revelation 21:9)”, the Bride of Christ.

The question begs to be asked, which are you? Are you part of the multitude of sinners who are themselves deceivers and being deceived? Or are you one upon mercy has been extended and for whom a Friend at court has been given? The Gospel offer is universal.

Are you thirsty for God? Do you see yourself bankrupt before Him?  Will you listen? There is hope. There is a way into God’s joyful presence.

“Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? Hearken unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David (Isaiah 55: 1-3).”

“I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.

And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely (Revelation 22:16-17).”

Jesus Christ is God’s feast for the hungry soul. He is a fountain of living water to all who thirst for Him. He is our Friend at Court, the Friend of sinners, who gladly ushers us into God’s Holy Presence. Come to Him. Seek this Christ. Turn from yourself and your way and come to Jesus Christ, God’s only way into the Presence of the One who is a Consuming Fire.

The Deepest Need of the Human Heart

Many churches are spending vast sums of treasure and tears trying to be relevant. That means being enough like the general culture to make people feel accepted and comfortable when they attend the services. The thought of being sidelined, or made not to matter to the larger culture, is unthinkable. The mantra is that unfamiliar words and concepts must be laid aside so that people will be able to relate to the messenger and thus (it is theorized) will accept his message. The trouble is that the message is so often lost in the beat of the music and the casual dress (read denims with ragged knees and bleach spotted bottoms here). Add to that the nightclub atmosphere and you have a situation where the message no longer matters, just so the whole event is considered cool. Cool equals rowdy music, lots of people and a short talk (again about something that is perceived as “relevant”).

Here is the problem. Human culture is a false reality (oxymoron intended). Do you get that? It is important. Fallen humanity constructs a false reality. It is based on the false premises and false assertions of a fallen race. People begin to assume premises and assertions are true, and order their lives accordingly. Advertising is based on this principle. Say something loud enough and long enough and in enough places and some people will believe it is true regardless of the facts.

Now think with me just a little further. If our goal in the church is to be relevant, and relevance is interpreted to mean we must look, sound, and act like the culture around us so people will feel comfortable, then what we are really doing is making the church reflect a false reality. WHEN WE TRY TO BE RELEVANT BY REFLECTING THE CULTURE AROUND US WE ARE REFLECTING A FALSE REALITY!

The deepest need of the human heart is not to feel comfortable. It is not to be accepted. The deepest need of the human heart is to be forgiven by God. We are a guilty race. Our sin is deep. God’s holiness has been violated, His name has been slandered, His righteousness has been ignored and His wrath has been despised. Humanity has sinned, and then flaunted that sin to the highest heaven. He is guilty.

When this guilty sinner walks into a church service that is designed to make him feel comfortable and accepted one of two things happen. He either walks away in disgust because he knows a fraud when he sees it (and young people are turning away from the church in droves today), or he is sucked into a false perception of God that bolsters his pride and confirms him in his rebellion. These false professions make the perpetrators of these lies seem successful and an aberration of Christianity emerges that is built on hype and emotion. When the hype and emotion is gone the professors fade away like a late spring snow on a warm day.

What humanity needs at its deepest level is forgiveness. A real forgiveness for its sin.

But I have good news. God has provided a way for high handed rebels to experience forgiveness. It is called The Gospel. God forgives sinners based on the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross. His wrath is completely quenched in the blood of Christ. Jesus died to take God’s wrath in the place of sinners. That’s good news. That’s the best news. That is the only way for the deepest need of the human heart to be met.

Ephesians 1:7 “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.”

Therefore the church is not set in the earth to reflect fallen human culture but rather to reflect the culture of another world. We are to reflect a world that is occupied by a Holy God but a loving God. A world that is ruled by a righteous Father but a gracious Father. The Apostle Peter said that we are strangers and pilgrims, those who are not natives but those who are going home. It is desperately important that we reflect the culture of where we are going rather than the culture from which we have come. Only then will the church become truly effective.  Only then will the church be truly relevant.

Who Is God?

The essence of unbelief is to believe everything. If everything is true, or has the potential of being true, then everything is false and has the potential of being false. If there is no objective truth … if all truth is subjective…based on “feelings,”  then there is no one standard for truth, and chaos reigns.  That is one of the main reasons Western culture is in a suicidal tailspin. Some of the most influential people of our day have imbibed this post-modern / post-Christian philosophy.

As an example, notice Western news journalism. When some catastrophic event takes place, reporters rush to the scene to ask an eye witness the all important question, “How do you ‘feel” about what just happened?”. Our culture has shifted the focus from “just the facts ma’am” to “How do you feel about these facts ma’am?”.

Which brings me to the question of God. Who is God, or more to the point, who is your God? There are several from which to choose. You could choose the myriads of gods that Hindus worship. You could choose the solitary god of the Muslims or the non /god of the Buddhists. You might think you want to serve the God of the Bible, but if you do, you will be forced to part with your post/modern, feelings based philosophy.

The God of the Bible is not One among many. He is not Allah for Allah does not have a Son. He is not just a Force in the universe into which you can blissfully be absorbed someday. He is an objective God who has eternally lived and acted in human history.  He is Himself the very source of all life. He is Trinity. The Doxology says it like this, “God in three Persons, blessed Trinity”. The Old Baptist 1646 Confession of faith said:

I.The Lord our God is but one God, whose subsistence is in Himself; whose essence cannot be comprehended by any but himself, who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light, which no man can approach unto; who is in Himself most holy, every way infinite, in greatness, wisdom, power, love, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth; who giveth being, moving, and preservation to all creatures. 1 Cor. 8:6, Isa. 44:6, 46:9, Exod. 3:14, 1 Tim 6:16, Isa. 43:15; Ps. 147:5, Deut. 32:3; Job 36:5; Jer. 10:12, Exod. 34:6,7, Acts 17:28; Rom. 11:36.

II. In this divine and infinite Being there is the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; each having the whole divine Essence, yet the Essence undivided; all infinite without any beginning, therefore but one God; who is not to be divided in nature, and being, but distinguished by several peculiar relative properties. 1 Cor. 1:3; John 1:1, 15:26, Exod. 3:14; 1 Cor. 8:6I (http://www.reformedreader.org/ccc/1646lbc.htm)

Notice how the statements of this confession are validated by biblical references. Those who wrote this statement of faith did so out of the conviction that the Bible was verifiably true and was sound in its revelation of who God is.

If they are correct, then the objective truth is that all men should bow before this God and give Him glory. If they are correct, then everyone of us must deal with this Reality called God. (I am resisting asking you at this point how you feel about that!).  It means that God is Three in One, that His essence cannot be worked out by Human reasoning, that He is an Essence that is One, revealed as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. My point is that the distinguishing facet of the biblical God is His eternal trinitarian Being. He cannot be the Allah of the Muslim faith and be the God of the Bible at the same time. He cannot be one of the gods of the Hindus and be the God of the Bible simultaneously. He is not the patriotic folk god of modern conservatism or the social justice god of the liberation theology adherents. He is above all of that. He is God over all.  Every other so-called god is either a demonic impostor or the figment of human imagination.  And you must deal with that truth whether you feel like it or not. To hide away in a post-modern shell and smugly assume that it is superior thinking to believe that truth is subject to the whims of human preference, is blatantly self deceiving.

So I return to my questions. Who is God? Or more directly, who is your God?

Duck Dynasty And Satan’s Losing War

I have never seen Duck Dynasty. We don’t have A&E with our Dish package. :>) From what I can tell I would not agree with this family’s view of salvation. There seems to be a lot of talk about Jesus among them but baptism seems to be necessary for salvation as well. If that is true, then they preach a works salvation. Paul classified that as “another gospel.”
Having said all of that, the uproar caused by Phil Robertson’s comments come directly out of the PC/liberal/homosexual/ lesbian community. What we have is a political movement, for the first time in American history, saying that it is morally wrong for professing Christians to categorize things as sin, that the Bible categorizes as sin. It is a strong push to make biblical Christianity illegitimate and ultimately illegal. They (meaning the homosexual/lesbian community) happen to be a sexually oriented group who have organized politically and are exercising their political muscle.

The Bible condemns homosexuality in every form therefore it is necessary for those who believe and teach the Bible to say so.

And please! Don’t give me the drivel about homosexuality being no worse than any other sin. The minute someone says that I know they are throwing up a smoke screen. The argument isn’t about “how terribly sinful” homosexual/lesbian behavior is. We aren’t talking about the comparisons here. Jesus wouldn’t let that float. If looking on a woman with lust is the same as adultery, (as Jesus said) then the issue of which of the sins are worse in God’s eyes is gone.

The issue is not that homosexuality/lesbianism is such an awful sin (It is…all sin is awful), but it that IT IS A SIN! And that is the issue that the politically organized homosexual/lesbian community despises (and liberal leaning politicians and many libertarians also). In fact I would venture to say that the entire idea of “sin” itself is abhorrent to these people. And that is where the free speech issue is about to go. If men of God (Phil Robertson aside) cannot expound the texts that label certain activities as sin, then the very reason for Christ coming to earth in the first place is undermined. He came to take our “sins,” remember? And “sins” are made up of individual acts of sin. Take out rebuking sins, and the need of a Savior to bear the judgment for those sins, and the Christian faith has lost its identity.

I heard a man say the other day that it was fine for someone to have their own opinion and faith (he was speaking about bible believing Christians), but that they should keep that faith out of the public forum.
What? And disobey the direct command of Christ to go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel? Oh, preach the gospel they say but just don’t mention sin or “sins.” But that is what the Gospel is about. “For he shall save His people from their sins (Mat. 1:21).” If there is no sin for His people to be saved from there is no Christ to save them. And at bottom, that is what all of this is about. It is another salvo in Satan’s losing war against the Almighty Christ!

Learning Better the Love of God!

 

Some of us have our roots in a type of Christianity that emphasized Law instead of Grace. Many of those dear preachers who influenced me early, knew God personally in ways that I still admire and seek to emulate. They were mighty in the word and afraid of none, but, to a young preacher, back then, the message I heard seemed to be “you better get right with God or else.”  My view of God was one of a God who certainly loved me, and who had given His Son for me, but who also required me to walk on eggshells because, “The eyes of the LORD are in every place beholding the good and the evil (Proverbs 15:3).” I was constantly being reminded of my evil. The everlasting love of God was mentioned and sometimes rejoiced in, but hardly emphasized because it was thought that if you talked much about the love of God you might lead people to think that God was “easy.” Speaking too much about the love of God might lead someone to believe that they could get away with sin. And we all knew that what separated the liberal preacher from the Bible believing preacher was that the liberal always preached on the love of God and never on God’s wrath. We Bible believers felt it our obligation to remind people (especially church folks) that God was watching them and that they had to be careful to dot every “i.”

As I have grown older in the Lord, and I hope wiser in the things of God, I have come to realize that the most sanctifying thing in heaven and on earth is the love of God. God’s love never gives permission to wander into forbidden fields. God’s love never allows us to discount holiness or give vent to our fleshly lusts. The experienced love of God ever draws us into closer fellowship with Him. It draws us with a sweet attraction and wins our affection through a constant courtship until our greatest desire is to please Him. The love of God teaches us to love our Bibles and to love our neighbors and it teaches us to love our God supremely. We love Him because he first loved us (1John 4:19).

The Law needs to be preached. Sinners need to know how much the Law condemns them. Sinners never feel their need of a Savior until they feel their offense to God and know the lostness of their souls. But when they are translated out of the Kingdom of Darkness into the Kingdom of God’s dear Son, they need to see how much God loves them and wants to be with them. Saved sinners are His delight. Saved sinners are welcomed into His Presence and saved sinners are changed into His likeness as they gaze on Him. Saved sinners are the very fabric of sainthood. A sinner who, by the grace of God, quits loving his sins and starts loving Christ, moves from condemnation to salvation, and from the realms of the damned to being the very delight of God.

God has completely freed us to enjoy Him and His Love. As the catechism asks and answers: What is the chief end of man?
Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever (emphasis mine).

So often we sing better than we preach. I say amen to the old Hymn by P. P. Bliss

Free from the law—oh, happy condition!
Jesus hath bled, and there is remission;
Cursed by the law and bruised by the fall,
Christ hath redeemed us once for all.Chorus

Once for all—oh, sinner, receive it;

Once for all—oh, brother, believe it;

Cling to the cross, the burden will fall,

Christ hath redeemed us once for all.

 

There on the cross your burden upbearing,
Thorns on His brow your Savior is wearing;
Never again your sin need appall,
You have been pardoned once for all.

Now we are free—there’s no condemnation;
Jesus provides a perfect salvation:
“Come unto Me,” oh, hear His sweet call,
Come, and He saves us once for all.

Children of God—oh, glorious calling,
Surely His grace will keep us from falling;
Passing from death to life at His call,
Blessed salvation once for all.

I am so blessed that God loves me. Not just in a general sense but particularly. He loves me, and that means He wants to be with me and wants me to want to be with Him. The demands of His Law have been perfectly satisfied in Christ. I am in Christ. My sins are gone and my heavenly Father loves me with the same love with which He loves Christ.

Never be afraid of God’s love. Trust it and you will find that you are fellowshipping with Him. Lowly sinner/saint that you are, you are reveled in by the Lord of glory! Revel in Him and in His love.

 

Face To Face

It is a bright Christmas morning. A mother is busy in the kitchen preparing Christmas dinner for her family. She glances out the window to the street and sees a taxi pull up in front of her house. Her son, who has been away for several years in the military, gets out of the back seat, pays the driver, and turns toward the house. The mother, with tears streaming down, wiping her hands on a dish towel, rushes to the front door to greet him with joy, calling out to the rest of the family as she goes, “Tom is home, Tom is home.” It was not enough to stand and gaze at him through the window. The sight of her son in the window only makes her more anxious to feel the embrace of his arms and see him face to face.

The music sounds and the bride walks down the aisle accompanied by her Father.  She is gorgeously arrayed in white with a glorious train flowing behind her, and a thin white veil covering her face. The audience stands in awe as they gaze at her beauty. At the altar her husband- to- be waits with the minister and the rest of the wedding party. As the father and bride pause at the altar, the question comes, “Who gives this woman to this man?” and the answer is given “Her mother and I.” The father places the hand of his daughter into the hand of the waiting groom and steps back. The bride and groom stand before the minister and exchange their vows. At last the minister says, “I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss the bride.” With trembling hand the groom reaches out to lift the veil and kiss the lips of his wife. Before, all had been anticipation, but now they are face to face.

The birthing room is cold and the hour is late. The dad holds his wife’s hand and whispers encouragement and love to her as she struggles in childbirth. The moment arrives. The first lusty cries fill the air. A child is born. It’s a girl. They have felt her kick and have seen her picture in the womb. Mom has burned with pain in birth. But the baby is here. She is healthy and she is placed into the waiting arms of her mother. So long they have waited to see her. They have imagined and anticipated, but now their joy abounds because now they are face to face.

What I am saying relates directly to a believer’s relationship with God. There is so much about Him that we do not know.  All of Him has not, and cannot, be revealed to us in our present condition. The finite cannot contain The Infinite and imperfection cannot appreciate Perfection.  The crude can never really enjoy beauty and the ignorant can never comprehend the All Wise.  Yet, for believers, there has been enough revealed of God in nature and in the Bible and in our hearts, to cause us to love Him intensely. “Whom having not seen, ye love; in Whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory (1Peter 1:8).” We love Him having not seen Him.  Only we do see glimpses of Him behind the veil. We see Him  as the Shulamite  girl saw her lover through the lattice (Song of Solomon 2:9), and  we see Him, according to the Apostle Paul “…through a glass darkly (1Cor. 13:12).”

We see God most clearly in the face of Jesus Christ. “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2Cor. 4:6).”  His words are the life of God. His actions are the works of God and His sacrifice is the only one that satisfies the justice of God. His resurrection and enthronement in heaven is the testimony of God, that He is the perfect Son of God; the God-Man, and that God has accepted His sacrifice as the atonement for sinners.

And yet even Christ must be seen by the eye of faith. We do not see Him in the flesh. We cannot now touch His pierced hands or feet. We cannot now touch His thorn scarred brow. But the hope, the joy, the anticipation of the believer is, one day…one glorious day, we shall see Him face to face. On that day all other joys will fall into forgetfulness. “When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe; … . (2Thess. 1:10).” I am thankful that  this anticipation, this longing to see Him and to admire Him and to glorify Him is in my heart today.  “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: … .” Oh what joy! Oh what a day that will be! Come quickly Lord Jesus. Amen.

Is that your ultimate desire? Do you long to see Him? Has God so worked repentance in you that you have turned from self and sin? Do you trust Christ now as your sin bearer and intercessor and do you know yourself to be accepted by God because of Christ? Do you love Him? Do you long to see Him? Then be thankful child of God. You will see Him  when He comes and you will see Him face to face!

A Word For Suffering Saints

2 Corinthians 1

1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia:  2 Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;  4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

Seldom do you read or say the word ‘suffering’ without anxiety. Suffering carries the idea of prolonged pain. Unbelievers are angered and embittered by it. Believers are often surprised by it. And yet suffering is a vital part of our earthly lives. Here are some of its benefits.

1. At conversion God separates us from the world and our soul is cast wholly upon Him. Suffering reminds us of that separation and keeps our reliance on Him.

2. Suffering is a means of working holiness in us (Hebrews 12:1-10).

3. Suffering reminds us that our joy and peace come from a totally different source than the pseudo joy and peace of this world (John 16:33).

4. Suffering makes us look forward to the promised moment when God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes and all suffering will be forever in the past (Revelation 21:4).

5. Suffering is the birthmark of every child of God. God chastises every son He receives (Hebrews 12:7-8).

6. Suffering gives us kinship of experience with Jesus. The church that worships the slain Lamb of Revelation 5 is the church that has come out of great tribulation.

7. Suffering, for the child of God, is not haphazard or arbitrary. Every pain is designed specifically for us as individuals and perfectly suits our case because God knows us as individuals (Psalm 139).

8. Suffering is a school in which the child of God learns things about himself and his God that cannot be learned any other way.  In the school of suffering we learn about sustaining grace. We learn about the tenacity of our Father as He works to root sin out of our lives, and we learn of his tenderness as He holds us in the dark hours as no one else can. We learn to trust Him when the family can’t help, and the doctors fail and there is no remedy in this world. It is in those moments that deep calls unto deep and God is our refuge and hiding place.

I think it is a sick mentality that seeks suffering for suffering’s sake, but when it comes to us, as God’s children, there is always a purpose in it. Look to your Lord suffering saint. You will find your Father can sustain or deliver in ways that will amaze you. And while you wait before Him, remember what Jesus said about you.

“Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows (Matthew 10:29-31).

The Loser

Are you a loser? Have you lost your purity? Have you lost your self-respect? Have you lost your purpose in life? You are totally empty on the inside aren’t you? You live from day to day with no hope of ever being anything but the sinner you are now. Your life is lived totally for yourself. There is no one you won’t hurt to feed that burning lust to satisfy yourself.

When is the last time you thought of God?  He is a joke, right?

Maybe you have aborted your baby or talked your partner into killing her unborn child. Maybe you are porn addict. Maybe you love to play video games where you go on a killing spree and love to see the blood spew as you kill the people on the screen. And the problem is, you can’t quit. You are trapped.

There have been times when you decided to do better.  You have moments when your conscience bothers you and you decide that your going to change. But it never works does it? It will never be different for you. You will end up dead and in hell soon and there is NOTHING you can do to change that. There is no hope for you. All you have to look forward to is more of the same kind of misery you have brought on yourself and everyone around you.

You’ve even thought about suicide but deep down you know that is not the answer. If there is a God, if there is a life after this life then suicide would only lock you into a hell worse than the one you are living in now. It wouldn’t end it all. It would just put you in a place of torment that never ends (Matthew 13:41-42 “…and they shall gather… all things that offend and them which do iniquity and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”)

You can’t suicide out of Hell!

There is absolutely nothing you can do to change your situation.

If you have read this far there might be one slim hope for you. That hope is only found in God’s pure mercy. Don’t doubt it. He doesn’t have to have mercy on you. He would be perfectly just and good if He put you in hell today.  It is what you deserve. But He has shown mercy to others.

Here is why God can rightfully show mercy to sinners.

God at His very core is love. But, God at His very core is also holy. God loves sinners like you but He knows that He must also judge their sins. If God does not judge your sin He would not be holy! So God made a way that your sin could be judged without Him punishing you personally. He sent His perfect Son to this earth. Jesus lived without sin. He totally pleased God. Then God delivered up His perfect Son to die on a cross. Why would God do that? Because, He was making a way for you to be forgiven and changed. When Jesus Christ died on the cross it wasn’t just the Jews and the Romans who killed Him. It was God! The Bible says in Isaiah 53:10-11 “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him. He hath put Him to grief: when thou shalt  make His soul an offering for sin…He shall of the travail of His soul and shall be satisfied. … for He shall bear their iniquities.”  

When Jesus died, God took all the sins of all the people who would ever believe on Him, and He put them on Jesus’s account. It was just as if Jesus had sinned those sins Himself.

For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin;. . .  .( 2 Cor. 5:21)

“(Isaiah 53:5) But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: The chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with his stripes we are healed. . . The Lord hath laid upon Him the iniquity of us all. (verse 6).”

God laid on Jesus 0ur sins and punished Him for them all. God remained holy. He did not give up His righteousness to save sinners. He punished our sins in Jesus, who did not deserve to be punished. Having punished our sins in Jesus, God can now show mercy to those who don’t deserve it. That is you and me.

Then God raised His Son Jesus from the dead and made Him Lord of everything. 

God commands sinners to turn from their sins and come to Him based wholly on the sacrifice of Jesus.

Turn from your sins. Quit making excuses for you sins. Quit trying to say you are good person and turn from yourself and all your own ways.

(Isaiah 55:1-3) “Ho everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat; yea, come …Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread: and your labor for that which satisfieth not? …Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear and your soul shall live; I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.”

Are you convinced that if you died today you would end up in hell? Do you want God to have mercy on you and change you and give you a new life? Then you must confess your sins to Him. You must throw yourself on His mercy, hiding nothing , and trust Him to accept and love you freely because of what Jesus has done.

I can say all of these things to you because I too was once lost like you. I was selfish, immoral and full of sin. I was a loser. But God had mercy on me. He is a God of mercy. Jesus Christ is called The Friend of Sinners. He can have mercy on you and save you.

Here is what to do.  Cry out to God that He would have mercy on your soul. Ask Jesus to be YOUR Lord and Savior. Plead with God to give you a new heart. See the filthiness of your own sins and ask God to forgive you because of what Jesus did on the cross. Ask God to change your desires so that you want to live for Him.

Believe God when he says,

“A new heart also will I give you, and a new Spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.  …and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. I will also save you from all your uncleanesses (Ezekiel 36:26-29).”

Do you believe God? Will you throw yourself on the mercy of God right now and accept His forgiveness?

Acts 13:38 Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man (Christ Jesus) is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses. The Bible says, “Behold, now is the accepted time: behold now is the day of salvation (2Cor. 6:2). Come to God now through Jesus Christ. Turn from yourself. Turn to God. Come to Him right now.

 

Life Out Of Death

The Lord makes a promise and then often makes us wait for the fulfillment. He does this so that no one will get glory but Himself. Abraham received promises from God concerning a son. God waited until Abraham and Sarah were physically unable to make that promise come true in themselves. Then the Lord acted to fulfill His promise and Isaac was born. Even then Abraham had to give Isaac back to the Lord in sacrifice for the ultimate fulfillment of the promise to be accomplished. How could a burnt sacrifice produce a nation ? There was only one way. Abraham had to believe that God could and would raise Isaac up from the ashes in order to keep His word. The life of God was displayed out of the death of Abraham’s ability.
The young Joseph had dreams that amounted to promises from God but the way to the fulfillment of those promises was through the hatred of his brothers, through being cast into a filthy pit, then being sold into slavery. As a slave in Egypt he was put in prison on trumped up charges and waited for years for God to fulfill His word. But out of that dying came the savior of Egypt and the savior of Israel.
Moses, though he was raised as a son of Pharaoh, was nurtured at his Jewish mother’s breast during his most formative years. During those years he learned who he really was, and realized that his place in God’s plan was to deliver his brethren from Egyptian bondage. Yet his first attempt met with total disaster and left him a fugitive from justice on the backside of the desert. For forty years he died to his own ability in being Israel’s deliverer. Then God stepped in and out of the death of those forty years Moses rose to be the very one to take Israel to the edge of Canaan land.
David was anointed to be the king of Israel as a young shepherd boy. He proved his valor and zeal for the honor of God when he challenged and killed Goliath, the Philistine warrior. Yet, he spent years hiding from the jealous Saul and felt the pain of his situation even to the point of despairing of his life. Then God stepped in, and out of the death of that struggle God brought David to the throne.
Lazarus literally died physically. There is no doubt that that complaint of his sisters was valid. Had Jesus chosen, he could have come to Lazarus’ aid and healed him before death took its hold. Yet he tarried until Lazarus no longer needed healing. He waited until there had to be a life out of death miracle. Coming to the grave four days too late to heal, the Lord Jesus arrived there at God’s appointed time to raise the dead. And he that was dead came forth. What a miracle. It was life out of death.
Life out of death is one of the foundational principles of the Christian life. Paul said in Philippians 3:10  “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; … .”
There are many of us who want to know Christ in the power of His resurrection who never consider that the only way to do that is by fellowshipping with Him in His sufferings, and by being brought personally to conform to His death. We want the glory without the gore. We want the power without the pain. Resurrection power does not work that way..
What has the Lord promised you? Are you literally dying to yourself in relation to the promise? It is a requirement that all self dependence, self expectation and self ability be crucified that Christ might get the whole credit for the fulfillment of the promise. He alone is worthy of the glory and He has chosen a people that He literally brings to fellowship with Himself in His sufferings and death in order to do them ultimate good. Believe God when every avenue of natural fulfillment is dead. That is when God really shines.

The Book of Revelation and Apocalyptic Literature

The book of Revelation offers unique challenges when it comes to interpretation. One of the mistakes people commit when trying to  interpret this book is that they begin from a wrong perspective.

Many people consider the book of Revelation a guide book for their future. They believe that the primary purpose of the book is to reveal who the anti-Christ is, what will happen during “the great tribulation” and how to get ready for the rapture (the catching away of the church)  which they fervently believe, will occur before the terrible events this book speaks about. But I believe that perspective is wrong. The book of Revelation is not about us or our experiences. The book of Revelation is the the unveiling of Christ! The first phrase of the book says, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.” He is the central Figure of the book. He is the Star of this drama. If you don’t interpret the book of Revelation from that perspective you leave yourself open of all kinds of speculation and deception.

The second major problem with interpreting The Revelation is the literary form that John used. I believe in the literal interpretation of Scripture.That is, I believe that the Bible should be taken at face value and is absolutely true in every word. At the same time I understand that the Bible is filled with different kinds of literature.

1. There are historical portions of the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments and there are certain rules you must follow if you are to interpret them correctly. Historical narrative simply records facts and many times gives no indication as to the appropriateness of the things recorded.

2. There are poetic portions of the Bible and you must interpret them in accordance with the rules of poetry.  The Song of Solomon is an example. If you described your bride using the same words Solomon used to describe his love, she would probably be highly offended. And if you take his description of her literally rather than poetically then you have the description of someone who is rather grotesque!  “Your eyes are like doves behind your veil.” “Your hair is like a flock of goats.” (Try that one on your wife!) “Your temples are like a piece of a pomegranate behind your veil.” Here’s one, “Your neck is like David’s tower built for an armory, whereon a thousand shields hang, all the the shields of the mighty men. If this is taken literally is sounds like a bad case of eczema! But it is not to be taken literally but poetically and was perfectly acceptable in Solomon’s culture.

The point I am making is that there are different kinds of literature in the Bible and each passage must be interpreted according to the rules that govern that literature.

The book of Revelation is prophetic, apocalyptic literature and must be interpreted that way.

By coming at the book from the correct perspective (it is the unveiling of Christ) and by approaching it using the rules that govern apocalyptic literature, I believe we can come to John’s purpose in writing, and receive the blessing promised to all those who read this book. “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep the things that are written in it, for the time is at hand. (Rev. 1:3).”

God willing in my next post I will deal with some of those rules that should govern interpretation of prophetic, apocalyptic literature.