Posted in immutable, purpose, rick warren, spurgeon

Finding God’s will for your life

By Elizabeth Prata

I’m on vacation. What was I writing about 9 years ago today? About finding God’s will for your life, always a timely topic! Enjoy this essay from the past which in my opinion is still current!

True Christians are consumed with obeying God and serving Him, because we love Him so much. That’s why so many people say they want to “find God’s will for their life.” Finding God’s will is at the top of their list of ways we want to serve Him. Christians ache when they feel that they are missing out on doing service for God, and they fear. ‘What if I’m not finding it?’ they wonder. ‘What if He wants me to be a missionary in Burma and I haven’t read the signs correctly and I’m just here in Dayton, not doing much?’

Rugendas, c. 1820, “Village of Christianized Tapuyos indians”

The book Radical by David Platt touched on this invisible fear among many Christians. The book Radical is, according to Kevin DeYoung, “an all-out assault on cheap grace, easy-believism, consumer Christianity.”

And is against the Christian laziness that comes with it. I agree that those things should be avoided and denounced. But despite the softening language, Platt’s overall tone is that we should throw it all over, sell all our stuff, and run off to Burma as a missionary.

DeYoung admires Platt but has five concerns of the book, and mentions this fourth: “I worry that radical and crazy Christianity cannot be sustained. If the message of Jesus translates into “Give more away” or “Sacrifice for the gospel” or “Get more radical” we will end up with burned out evangelicals. Even when Jesus said his hard saying (and he said a lot of them) it was not his basic stump speech. His message was repent and believe in the gospel (Mark 1:15). When Jesus challenged the crowds to count the cost or let the dead bury their dead it was to make clear that following him was not all about miracles and wonders, it was about giving him the preeminence. The emphasis was doxological first and foremost. Worship Christ. Believe in Christ. Walk with Christ. And therefore, before you follow Christ be prepared for opposition.”

I don’t worry for David’s theology, but I worry that some young Christians reading his book might walk away wondering if a life spent working as a loan officer, tithing to their church, praying for their kids, learning to love Christ more, and serving in the Sunday school could possibly be pleasing to God. We need to find a way to attack the American dream while still allowing for differing vocations and that sort of ordinary Christian life that can plod along for fifty years. I imagine David wants this same thing. I’m just not sure this came through consistently in the book.

Rick Warren, Source

The book was a catalyst for the lurking doubt that rests in many Christians that they aren’t doing enough. That they are missing their purpose. (thanks a bunch, Rick Warren). So what is the answer?

The Bible. God wrote down about Himself, what He wanted us to know about Him. He also put in there by the inspired Holy Spirit what He wants us to do and not do, and to take comfort in His promises. His purpose for us is in there.

He has several purposes for us all. ALL.

God wants us to believe. That is our primary purpose in life. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15. Also 2 Peter 3:9 & Acts 22:16).

After belief, we are to be a witness, teaching and making disciples. That is the Christian’s purpose in life. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

Our chief purpose in Christian life is to glorify God. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). This next part is from MacArthur’s outline from his essay “How to live for God’s glory”

  • Confess Your Sins. (1 John 1:9)
  • Bear Fruit. (John 15:8; Colossians 1:10)
  • Give Praise to God. (Psalm 50:23)
  • Be Content. (Philippians 4:11)
  • Pray According to God’s Will. (John 14:13)
  • Proclaim God’s Word. (2 Thessalonians 3:1)

In the past, God made it clear to those whom He chose as to what their purpose was. Moses was to be His prophet. Jeremiah was to preach repentance. David was to be King. He spoke through a burning bush, a cloud, a still small voice, and even a donkey. He said what He said clearly and definitively- and directly.

Just because he isn’t speaking like that any more does not mean He isn’t speaking. Or, rather, has not spoken. Hebrews 1:1-2 says that God’s final word is through His Son–

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.”

His Son is the Word and His word can be found in the Bible. That is where we find our purpose.

“But what if I am to be called as a missionary? Or a preacher? Or to do a certain work in a certain place as a layperson? How will I know if there is a specific purpose, then?”

Do we think that just because He doesn’t come down to us and speak directly through a burning bush, that we cannot understand that if He has a specific call for our lives that He can’t or won’t make it clear? He is powerful! As Spurgeon praises Him in His power so eloquently,

“He changes not in his attributes. Whatever the attributes of God were of old, that they are now; and of each of them we may sing “As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end, Amen.” Was he powerful? Was he the mighty God when he spake the world out of the womb of nonexistence? Was he the Omnipotent when he piled the mountains and scooped out the hollow places for the rolling deep? Yes, he was powerful then, and his arm is unpalsied now, he is the same giant in his might; the sap of his nourishment is undried, and the strength of his soul stands the same for ever.”

He has the power to instill in you the burning desire to be a preacher. As He did Paul, 1 Corinthians 9:16, or Jeremiah in Jeremiah 20:9.

Has He given you the gift of teaching? Do people remark on your teaching or preaching, whether you have done it impromptu or in formal settings? (Ephesians 4:11).

Even if we have submitted to His obvious working of circumstances in our lives so that we are now beginning to understand the specific purpose, He will also still sovereignly work to guide you within it! See Paul in Acts 16:6-8,

Mosaic, ‘Man of Macedonia appearing to Paul’

“And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas.”

In the next verse Paul received a vision of where He was in fact to go. Though we do not receive direct visions anymore like this, do we not think the Spirit isn’t still working and guiding us within our lives to HIS purpose? Of course He is.

Because that is what it is all about, God’s purpose, not our purpose. We believe, submit, and serve. He guides and organizes the rest. Do we believe that God is so timid that our busy lives can block Him out, and that it is even remotely possible for us to miss a specific purpose He has outlined for us?

No.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Romans 8:28-30)

Queen Esther – Andrea del Castagno, c.1450

God had a purpose and He wanted Queen Esther to be a part of its fulfillment. Esther’s uncle Mordecai was talking to her about doing it. It seems that Esther already had an inkling about what she was to do. Mordecai cemented it. We usually focus on the last part of Mordecai’s answer, “for such a time as this” but what about the first part?

“Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14-15)

‘If you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place’. So you see, God providentially works all things to the good, and we are not so powerful that we miss His call, and He is not so tenuous that it all falls apart if we refuse it.

God has a purpose. If you know what your purpose is- and you will, because God makes it clear, and you refuse the call to be a missionary or preacher or whatever, God will still fulfill what He wants to fulfill. His plans are immutable.

Our purpose is to believe, witness, make disciples, and glorify Him. We all have that purpose. In addition, He sent the Spirit to dispense Gifts as He wills, so that His purposes will be executed through us and by the fruits we bear by His Spirit’s power. If we are to have a specific call, He will make it known. Moses was 40 years old when we learned he killed a man, and he waited another 40 years until God used him for his last 40. Moses was used by God from age 80-120. So even one of the great patriarchs of the Bible was not called to a specific purpose until late in life. However, Moses’s entire life was used of God’s purpose! Moses just didn’t know it. It is the same with us.

Not everyone has a call to run off to Burma or to preach to the masses. Most of us, I dare say, are simply operating in our mundane spheres, planting seeds and bearing fruit. If we have a call to perform a specific purpose, we will understand it when it comes. Until then, rest secure in His providence and His power. It’s not our purpose in life that is the point, but His purposes.

Posted in colossians, discernment, false teachers, lloyd-jones, spurgeon

Don’t let anyone disqualify you from the prize!

By Elizabeth Prata

One of the most surprising things to me after my salvation was that there were people claiming to be Christian who would try to draw me away from the truth. I had been relieved to enter the kingdom, and I felt literally like I was stepping into a safety zone, an oasis of calm after having lived in turbulence and chaos for 42 years. It was a jolt to my system that though peace reigned between me and God, turbulence between false professors and true believers was abounding.

False professors are people who profess Christ but do not possess the Spirit. I.e., false believers.

Colossians is a tremendous book. Of this verse in Colossians, let’s first focus on the first five words, Paul’s warning, underline mine-

Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, (Colossians 2:18, NASB).

Other translations say let no one disqualify you from the prize.

There were some spiritual elites going around Colossae, intimidating the new believers there. They threatened them with disqualification from the faith, and the newbies were buying it. Now, a true believer can never actually be separated from Christ, but the elites claimed the newbies were under a threat of failure in the faith if they did not believe and practice things in addition to Christ. This is what the book of Colossians is about- Paul re-teaching that Christ alone is sufficient.

Christ was not all-sufficient to these elites. They said the new believers must also practice one or more of three things: self-abasement (humility), worshiping angels, and visions.

True humility is a true virtue. The elites in Colossians were not practicing it though. They evidenced a prideful humility that pointed to themselves. Which isn’t humility at all, of course. They delighted in their humility, in effect, saying, ‘Look how humble I am! I’m sooo godly! I’m sooo faithful!’

Secondly, worship of angels in Colossae was an issue well into the fourth century. Worship of angels destroys the one thing believers are commanded to do: “worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.” (Matthew 4:10b).

And visions. Oh, my, let’s talk about visions. They were a problem in the first century and they are a problem in the twenty-first century. People who are errant in their beliefs and know there is no biblical support for these beliefs, (if diligent believers go looking) the false professors instead try to buttress their beliefs with experiences and visions.

John MacArthur preached,

What is he [Paul] saying? “Don’t let anybody tell you you’re disqualified from attaining the prize of spirituality because you haven’t reached the level of self-abasement, you haven’t understood the worship of angels, you haven’t had the right visions.” … They’ve said, “It’s Christ plus my visions; plus my experiences with the angels; plus my deeper experience, my higher experience.” (MacArthur, “Spiritual Intimidation, part 1“)

No. Just…NO. Christ alone. Satan’s wiles have always been to sway a believer from the path to Jesus feet, and bundle belief with other beliefs, actions, rules.

Spurgeon said in his excellent sermon on the verse titled “A Warning to Believers“,

THERE is an allusion here to the prize which was offered to the runners in the Olympic games, and at the outset it is well for us to remark how very frequently the Apostle Paul conducts us by his metaphors to the racecourse. Over and over again he is telling us so to run that we may obtain, bidding us to strive, and at other times to agonize, and speaking of wrestling and contending. Ought not this to make us feel what an intense thing the Christian life is—not a thing of sleepiness or haphazard, not a thing to be left now and then to a little superficial consideration?

These elites have “fleshly minds” as the verse indicates. They were puffed up with their visions and boasting of humility and spiritual pride of ‘knowing more’ (mysticism). They had no reason to be secure. Their minds were flesh, not of Christ.

There is a tendency in human nature to move from objectivity to subjectivity-to shift the focus from Christ to experience. This has always intimidated weak believers and threatened the church.” (MacArthur, Commentary on Colossians & Philemon.)

False doctrine is not only a corruption in the church, it does damage to you individually. One way false teaching and false teachers harm you is that following them even temporarily and certainly for a longer period disqualifies you for the prize. It is the false teacher’s intent to try and disqualify you. Even if they make you doubt, they have succeeded. Even if they make you wander, thus diminishing your effectiveness for a time, they have succeeded. That is why Paul wrote such a strong warning.

For the strong believer, what is inferred is a stronger believer’s responsibility to our brethren who are following a false teacher. How will it be when they are judged, when told to give an account of themselves (Romans 14:12, 1 Corinthians 3:11-15) and we hear Jesus say that a friend has lost some prizes because they followed a false teacher and thus were disobeying Jesus, while we knew all along and never said anything.

Jude says, But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, “In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.” These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.

Catch that. They are devoid of the Spirit. This means they do not possess the Spirit. i.e. unsaved. But Jude goes on in Jude 1:22-23,

And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.

This means, snatch them from wandering, grab them to prevent disqualification, help them understand in love and in discernment the person they are following will lead them AWAY from the prize.

Let’s end where we started. Don’t let anyone defraud you of the prize. The ultimate prize is Jesus, His faith, His comfort, faith in Him and Him alone.

EPrata photo
Posted in asclepius, brazen serpent, moses, spurgeon

How to make an idol in three easy steps: Exhibit A- The rod of Aesclepius

By Elizabeth Prata

In around 1400 BC, Moses led the Israelites into the wilderness. They had been released from slavery by powerful acts of God, including ten plagues and parting the Red Sea to aid their escape. (Exodus 1-15)

However, it wasn’t long before the Israelites grumbled. They were sick of manna, they wanted an easier life, they wanted to get there. (Numbers 20:4). So they grumbled some more, against Moses and against God.

God heard their grumbles.

Continue reading “How to make an idol in three easy steps: Exhibit A- The rod of Aesclepius”
Posted in olivet discourse, prophecy, spurgeon, tribulation

Has your love for Christ gone cold?

What word in the New Testament is used only once, in Matthew 24:12?

First, the scene.

“Olive Trees”, Vincent Van Gogh

The disciples had asked Jesus about the Temple, the times, and when His return would be. His answer is the longest discourse in the NT after the Sermon on the Mount, and the longest answer to any question the disciples asked. It comprises the entire chapters of Matthew 24 and goes on to Matthew 25. The response, given on the Mount of Olives and thus known as the Olivet Discourse, is about the Tribulation period. The Time of Jacob’s Trouble, when Jesus pours out His wrath on the unbelieving world, and punishes Israel for the final 7 years of time, three and a half of which are called the Great Tribulation. (Revelation 12:14, Daniel 7:25; Daniel 12:7).

Continue reading “Has your love for Christ gone cold?”
Posted in discernment, heaven, heaven tourism, macarthur, spurgeon

Heaven tourism books are bad; some heaven books are good

“Heaven tourism” is a phrase I believe was coined by blogger Tim Challies, picked up and used frequently by teacher and lecturer Justin Peters. It is a phrase indicating that a person has had some sort of trauma like a car crash or medical issue, or perhaps was in desperate emotional state, and in the unconscious portion of their trauma, they claimed to have visited heaven.

When ‘coming to’ they remember their alleged visit or vision, and write it down, later to become a book or a movie.

None of these visits are real. No person has gone to heaven and returned, (John 3:13; Deuteronomy 30:12) with the exception of the few persons in the Bible such as John, Paul, Ezekiel, or Isaiah and having subsequently written inspired text. John Gill’s Commentary says of the John 3:13 verse:

And no man hath ascended into heaven,…. Though Enoch and Elias had, yet not by their own power, nor in the sense our Lord designs; whose meaning is, that no man had, or could go up to heaven, to bring from thence the knowledge of divine and heavenly things; in which sense the phrase is used in Deuteronomy 30:12

John MacAthur’s sermon says of the John 3:13 verse,

You either take what Jesus says, or you’re a fool because, you can’t ascend into heaven and find the answers for yourself.

And yet these books keep coming. it is part of the demonic delusion and apostasy that satan, god of this world, instills in the vulnerable, ignorant, or hapless.

A new book is out by a man named John Burke. You see in his summary below that he did the typically wrong approach to biblical interpretation. He collected man’s stories and experiences, affirming them as true and credible, and then compared them to the Bible. He is in effect saying that the experience, simply because it occurred and mimicked something from holy text, that it must be true. The blurb says, their ‘experiences point to the heaven promised in the Bible’. Well, it’s the Bible that points to heaven, and as a matter of fact, the Bible’s version of anything is the only credible word on anything, because it comes from God, who cannot lie.

Imagine Heaven: Near-Death Experiences, God’s Promises, and the Exhilarating Future That Awaits You

Burke shows how the common experiences shared by thousands of near-death survivors–including doctors, college professors, bank presidents, people of all ages and cultures, and even blind people–point to the exhilarating picture of Heaven promised in the Bible.
This thrilling journey into the afterlife will make you feel like you’ve been there, forever changing the way you view the life to come–and the way you live your life today. You’ll discover Heaven is even more amazing than you’ve ever imagined.

We should be exhilarated at the glorious future awaiting us not because John Burke said so. We should be exhilarated by our glorious future not based on the flimsy experiences of man but by the word of God as revealed in the Bible. These heaven tourism books, like the one above, are specifically saying to you, “Never mind what God said about heaven, John Burke’s version will exhilarate you! Joe Schmoe’s tale will really get you going!” Blasphemous, isn’t it.

The Bible says we never look to experience first, it can be faulty. We look to God’s word first. Even the Apostles who were privileged to see a vision of Jesus transfigured along with Moses and Elijah, said that they do not preach their experience but test all things against the word of God. If that was the Apostle’s approach, men whom the Lord chose to carry His first message and were personally taught by Him, and who later wrote His words by Spirit-inspiration, would have preached their experience. But none of them did.

How much more important would it be for us today to follow their command and avoid preaching our experience? More to the point, how much more prideful and narcissistic is it to reject their commands and do it anyway? (2 Peter 1:20).

Do not preach your experience. Here is an excerpt from an essay written by Dr Bob Luginbill from the University of Louisville titled Scripture versus Personal Experience. I’m not familiar overall with the teaching of Dr Luginbill, but everything I read on this page discussing scripture vs. experience is explained well and accurately from the Bible.

In reality, of course, God is the One who determines how and when He communicates to us, and as it says in the book of Hebrews, “in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son”, even though before the incarnation He had spoken to us via prophets “at many times and in various ways” (Heb.1:1-2 NIV). So it is Jesus who is the Message; and He is “the Word of God” (Rev.19:13). We now have the whole written word of Him who is the Living Word, and that is the place to which we are now to direct our attention, namely to the truth of the holy scriptures. And we can certainly do so, because not only do we all have Bibles, and not only is the Body equipped with teachers who can illuminate it for us, but we all also actually have the Holy Spirit indwelling us for illumination, and He is “the [very] Mind of Christ” 

It certainly made sense for God to speak directly to, say, Enoch, before the Bible existed in any form. But if He really were communicating directly to believers in a verbal way today, wouldn’t that undermine the authority of the Bible, and all pastor-teachers, and in fact everything anyone else might say or have said to us except this special person – because after all the person with that special channel would be getting it directly from God. But the Lord has established His Church for a reason, and the mutual support we give each other for learning the truth is a very large part of what we are supposed to be about – this service is a large part of the basis for our eternal rewards. If there were a direct channel, we wouldn’t need each other much at all.

I do not recommend the Burke heaven tourism book or any of the books in this panorama below, many of which I have read myself and have found them to be unbiblical.

If you want to read books that are based on the Bible’s presentation of heaven, please consider some of the following. I’ve read all of them.

John MacArthur: The Glory of Heaven

A quick look at a list of bestselling books and you’ll see that heaven is a hot topic. After all, who doesn’t wonder and long to know more about the place you’ll forever live in the presence of God, untouched by sorrow, pain, and fear. What will it be like? What will you do in heaven? How will you recognize and relate to loved ones there?  

The problem is, runaway books about heaven are selling—and misleading people—by the millions. They are filled with fabricated, fictional accounts that claim to tell the truth about heaven. John MacArthur critiques those claims—and offers an in-depth, biblical explanation of God’s eternal city—in a fully revised, new edition of The Glory of Heaven. You’ll discover what the Bible really teaches about your glorious future home.

Erwin Lutzer: One Minute After You Die

“One minute after you die you will either be elated or terrified. And it will be too late to reroute your travel plans.” 

Death comes to all, and yet death is not the end. For some, death is the beginning of unending bliss, for others, unending despair. In this latest edition of the bestselling book One Minute After You Die, Pastor Erwin W. Lutzer weighs the Bible’s words on life after death. He considers: Channeling, reincarnation, and near-death experiences; What heaven and hell will be like; The justice of eternal punishment; Trusting in God’s providence.

Randy Alcorn: Heaven

What will heaven be like? Randy Alcorn presents a thoroughly biblical answer, based on years of careful study, presented in an engaging, reader-friendly style. His conclusions will surprise readers and stretch their thinking about this important subject. Heaven will inspire readers to long for heaven while they’re living on earth.

Randy Alcorn/Charles Spurgeon: We Shall See God- Charles Spurgeon’s Classic Devotional Thoughts on Heaven

Some of Spurgeon’s most powerful sermons were those that he preached on the topic of Heaven. … Randy Alcorn has compiled the most profound spiritual insights on the topic of eternity from these sermons and arranged them into an easily-accessible highly inspirational devotional format complete with his own comments and devotional thoughts.

The Bible is the only reliable source regarding heaven. Honor our Jesus, who descended from his abode in glory to live as a man on an earth whose ground had been cursed, absorbed all God’s wrath meant for us, died a horrible, humiliating death, and was buried in a borrowed tomb. His life of preaching and teaching and the Spirit’s subsequent inspired texts should be honored as the first and the last word. If you would rather look at heaven through Joe Schmoe’s eyes and not through the Spirit’s truth, you have a serious problem.

——————————–

Further reading

LifeWay abandons heavenly visitation resources

A Justin Peters video teaching: Heavenly Tourism (one hour)

Tim Challies on the topic of Heaven Tourism

Posted in colossians, discernment, false teachers, lloyd-jones, spurgeon

Don’t let anyone disqualify you from the prize!

Puffed up in visions they have seen

Colossians is a tremendous book. Of this verse in Colossians, let’s first focus on the first five words, Paul’s warning, underline mine-

Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, (Colossians 2:18 ESV)

Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, (Colossians 2:18, NASB)

Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,” (Colossians 2:18 KJV).

The word disqualify/defraud/beguile here in context refers to an umpire. Strong’s defines it,

“to deprive” refers to discouraging (misleading) believers, diverting them from their full potential for receiving their unique glorification.

Paul uses the same metaphor with the result being the prize in Philippians 3:7-14. In the MacArthur commentary the prize is explained. Now, be assured that no one can deprive you of the ultimate prize, salvation. Of that, Jesus said “and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:28-29).

Spurgeon said in his excellent sermon on the verse titled “A Warning to Believers“,

THERE is an allusion here to the prize which was offered to the runners in the Olympic games, and at the outset it is well for us to remark how very frequently the Apostle Paul conducts us by his metaphors to the racecourse. Over and over again he is telling us so to run that we may obtain, bidding us to strive, and at other times to agonize, and speaking of wrestling and contending. Ought not this to make us feel what an intense thing the Christian life is—not a thing of sleepiness or haphazard, not a thing to be left now and then to a little superficial consideration?

Though you can’t be disqualified for the ultimate prize, an umpire can sideline you. Or, he can make calls that affect the other players in the game around you, diminishing your effectiveness. MacArthur said of the umpire metaphor,

The false teachers claimed a mystical union with God. Paul exhorts the Colossians not to allow those false teachers to keep defrauding them of their prize. It was as if the heretics assumed the role of spiritual referees and disqualified the Colossians for not abiding by their rules. ~MacArthur Commentary on Colossians & Philemon

False doctrine is not only a corruption in the church, it does damage to you individually. One way false teaching and false teachers harm you is that following them even temporarily and certainly for a long period disqualifies you for the prize. That much is clear.

What is inferred is our responsibility to our brethren who are following a false teacher. How will it be when they are judged, when told to give an account of themselves (Romans 14:12, 1 Corinthians 3:11-15). Service to Jesus and our works for him while in the flesh is examined, as well as conscience, words spoken, and how well we overcame the flesh, in addition to other things. We will cringe and cry when we hear Jesus say that a friend has lost some prizes because they followed a false teacher and thus were disobeying Jesus, while we knew all along and never said anything.

Christ’s soldiers are striving for the prize

And will that be counted as sin against us? A sin of omission is just as bad as a sin of comission. James 4:17 says,

Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”

Pursuing evil is sinful (sin of commission) and avoidance of doing good is also bad. (sin of omission) What, then, as we see a sister sliding into the influence of a false teacher and we fail to warn, even as Paul warned the Colossians? We are supposed to build each other up. (1 Thessalonians 5:11, Romans 14:19). What will Jesus say to us regarding a sister we let down?

As for the rest of the verse, I listened to 4 sermons and read 4 different commentaries, just on Colossians 2:18. It’s a powerful verse and has within it portents, warnings, and explanations. It’s dense and difficult. But here is the master of logic, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who made it so clear. I enjoyed his sermon on the verse best. (Although Spurgeon’s was a close second).

In this portion of his sermon, “The Danger of Error“, Lloyd-Jones is talking about the ones who were upsetting the Colossians, the Gnostics. He said they were people who are false, and in that falsity have a striking characteristic which gives them away. It’s not the only characteristic, but it is one you’ll see often. As you read this transcribed part of the sermon, see if this doesn’t bring anyone to mind. Of course, listening to the sermon is preferred because his accent, inflections, and word emphases bring the piece to life.

[Of the cults and false religions]…don’t they always give you an impression they are much more zealous and enthusiastic than you are? Always talking about it, always advocating it, always urging you to go to their meetings. They’re tremendous in enthusiasm, and zeal, and activity. Now the scriptures teach us that it’s always a characteristic of such people. It is one of the great errors of course, that the devil always makes, he always overdoes what he’s trying to do. He produces therefore this carnal excitable zeal. The Apostle doesn’t hesitate to use the term like “delusion.” He says let no man beguile you with enticing words. Yes! It is a beguiling. It is a form of delusion. And the result of such a delusion always is that you get this…excess. This overplus, somehow always overdone.

Let’s be clear about these things. Oftentimes this very enthusiasm is the thing that that attracts innocent Christian people. “Look at their zeal, they can’t be wrong! Look at what they’re prepared to sacrifice, look at the time they give to it! They must be right’, says the innocent Christian. The NT has much to say about this. They have itching ears to start with, then they’re carried away by this false zeal.”

Here is Spurgeon on that excitable zeal the false mystics put forth to beguile you:

A notion is abroad that if you are but earnest and sincere, you will be all right. Permit me to remind you that if you travel never so earnestly to the north, you will never reach the south, and if you earnestly take prussic acid you will die, and if you earnestly cut off a limb you will be wounded. You must not only be earnest, but you must be right in it. Hence is it necessary to say, “Let no man beguile you of your reward.” “I bear them witness,” said the Apostle, “that they had a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge, but went about to establish their own righteousness,

Don’t let their mystical visions beguile you!

Keep thinking about who teaches falsely with zeal and enthusiasm, so much so that many others are confounded by their energy, as Lloyd-Jones says, believing that so much zeal must stem from a Godly source.

Lloyd-Jones concluded by offering some practical tests to see if someone is false, these mystical ascetics, puffed up with visions-

Here are the tests:

1. Keep Christ and your relationship to him central
2. A way to test any teaching is this: does it make you think better of Christ? Does it magnify Him? Does it exalt Him? You’ll find with these other things, my friends, that they don’t do that. You’ll be praising their teaching.

Keep thinking about those false teachers who inspire impassioned defenders, saying that he or she is great, rather than how he or she pointed them to the Great One.

Keep thinking about them that go on and on about their messages from God, their visions, dreams, personal revelations delivered to them in the bathroom or a cabin in Wyoming or half-asleep in bed, and check your mind and heart to see if you don’t think they are a little bit more mystical and theologically higher up than you are because of it. Or worse, if the false teacher himself or herself thinks they are higher up than you poor saps who don’t get the regular direct deliveries … but they’ll humbly share them with you anyway.

Let’s end where we started. Don’t let anyone defraud you of the prize. The ultimate prize is Jesus, His faith, His comfort. Spurgeon said,

Let no man deprive you of the present comfort which your faith should bring to you. … Let me just for a few minutes have your attention while I speak upon this. Dear brethren, you and I, if we are believers in Christ, are this day completely pardoned. There is no sin in God’s book against us. We are wholly and completely justified. The righteousness of Jesus Christ covers us from head to foot, and we stand before God as if we had never sinned. Now let no man rob you of this reward. Do not be tempted by anything that is said to doubt the completeness of a believer in Christ. Hold this, and, as you hold it, enjoy it. Let no man beguile you of the reward of feeling that you are complete in Christ.

Lars Justinen, Robe of Righteousness
Posted in encouragement, sift, spurgeon

"Satan, like a drudge…"

Charles Spuprgeon’s Morning Devotional for June 20

“For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth.”
— Amos 9:9

Every sifting comes by divine command and permission. Satan must ask leave before he can lay a finger upon Job. Nay, more, in some sense our siftings are directly the work of heaven, for the text says, “I will sift the house of Israel.” Satan, like a drudge, may hold the sieve, hoping to destroy the corn; but the overruling hand of the Master is accomplishing the purity of the grain by the very process which the enemy intended to be destructive. Precious, but much sifted corn of the Lord’s floor, be comforted by the blessed fact that the Lord directeth both flail and sieve to his own glory, and to thine eternal profit.

Spurgeon, C. H. (2006). Morning and evening: Daily readings (Complete and unabridged; New modern edition.). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.

LOL, “Like a drudge”. That’s all satan can do before God, do with whatever crumb God allows him to have. Always remember the great truth in this devotional: “the Lord directeth both flail and sieve to his own glory, and to thine eternal profit.”

I thought this devotional was comforting in its word-picture and its implicit explanation of Providence. If you are being sifted right now, may this encourage you.

Posted in olivet discourse, prophecy, spurgeon, tribulation

Love gone cold in a world gone cold: Spurgeon and "A Prophetic Warning"

What word in the New Testament is used only once, in Matthew 24:12?

First, the scene.

Olive Trees With Yellow Sky and Sun. Van Gogh 1889

The disciples had asked Jesus about the Temple, the times, and when His return would be. His answer is the longest discourse in the NT after the Sermon on the Mount, and the longest answer to any question the disciples asked. It comprises the entire chapters of Matthew 24 and goes on to Matthew 25. The response, given on the Mount of Olives and thus known as the Olivet Discourse, is about the Tribulation period. The Time of Jacob’s Trouble, when Jesus pours out His wrath on the unbelieving world, and punishes Israel for the final 7 years of time, three and a half of which are called the Great Tribulation. (Revelation 12:14, Daniel 7:25; Daniel 12:7).

Jesus lists the conditions that will be on earth during the time, synopsis of the lengthier descriptions of the judgments of Revelation 6-18, which parallel Matthew 24 and 25. Jesus said one of the conditions on earth will be:

And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. (Matthew 24:12)

The “many” here means the “majority.”

Jesus means lawlessness in the spiritual sense. The Tribulation will be a time when Jesus asked if He would even find faith on the earth, so few will real believers be, (Luke 18:8) compared to the numerous population that will revel in a false religion of the global deception that the antichrist will perpetrate. The Greek synonyms for lawlessness in this verse are disobedience and sin, the end-result of a negative influence on a person’s soul.

iniquity is especially injurious to the growth of love.
~Charles Spurgeon

It is an interesting metaphor, the love gone cold. We often think of love between a man and a woman or husband and wife, in romantic terms as fiery, hot, the spark between us, a fire is kindled. When love dims between unsaved people, the songsters sing of love cold as ashes, the fire is gone out, the heat is gone. Of course, the songsters and poets mean sexual love and romantic love, but it is a common metaphor, love is hot or cold.

The unusual word Jesus uses uniquely here in Matthew 24:12 is psuchó. Psucho is used this one and only time in the NT. Strong’s Concordance defines it:

originally, “to breathe out,” cf. J. Thayer) – properly, “to blow, refresh with cool air” (figuratively) “to breathe cool by blowing, to grow cold, ‘spiritual energy blighted or chilled by a malign or poisonous wind’, used only in Mt 24:12.

Here Jesus means the love of Christians will grow cold. Love will be cold for Him, and love will be cold for each other (the two greatest commandments).

What could not be accomplished by persecutors outside the Church and traitors inside, would be attempted by teachers of heresy—“Many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.” They have risen in all ages! In these modern times they have risen in clouds till the air is thick with them, as with an army of devouring locusts!

These are the men who invent new doctrines and who seem to think that the religion of Jesus Christ is something that a man may twist into any form and shape that he pleases. Alas that such teachers should have any disciples! It is doubly sad that they should be able to lead astray “many.” Yet, when it so happens, let us remember that the King said that it would be so.

Is it any wonder that where such “iniquity abounds” and such lawlessness is multiplied, “the love of many shall grow cold”? If the teachers deceive the people and give them “another gospel which is not another,” it is no marvel that there is a lack of love and zeal.

Spurgeon, sermon #3301, A Prophetic Warning

Spurgeon spoke more as to the specifics of what causes love to grow cold, as the Strong’s definition interestingly shows us from this basis, “spiritual energy blighted or chilled by a malign or poisonous wind'”. Spurgeon poetically and theologically describes just how spiritual energy is blighted-

Iniquity is naturally opposed to Grace, but it is most of all injurious to the Grace of love. If sin abounds in a Church, it is little wonder if the love of many should grow cold. Young members introduced into the Church after a short time find that those whom they looked upon as being examples are walking disorderly and using lightness of speech and of behavior. Those young people cannot be very warm in love—they are led to stumble and are scandalized. Older saints who have for years held onto their way in integrity, and by Grace have kept their garments unspotted from the world, see those around them who have come into the Church who seem to be of quite another race, who can drink of the cup of Belial and of the cup of the Lord, who seem to follow Christ and the devil, too! Seeing this evil, these godly men and women gather up their garments in holy indignation and find it difficult to feel the love of purer days.

Oh, Friends, if the frost of sin rules in a Church, every tender flower is injured and nothing flourishes! Love is a sensitive plant and if it is touched by the finger of sin, it will show it. The lilies of Love’s Paradise cannot bloom amid the smoke and dust of unholiness!

I was reading the passage this week and thinking deeply about the theological definitions and implications of love gone cold (and Revelation 3:15-16 also). I was also reading the ‘Christian” headlines and noting the devastating apostasy abounding, the acceptance of gay marriage in the church, the refusal to draw doctrinal lines between believers and unbelievers, the refusal to rebuke false teachers, the refusal even to recognize them, the seeking after pornography, the ridiculous church services that are mere entertainments for the goats…and I noted finally the weather.

I could not help but notice the rapid apostasizing of “Christians” and the rapid cooling of the world, especially Israel and America. The word psucho and its definition, “to breathe cool by blowing, to grow cold”.

Love gone cold in a world gone cold
Niagara Falls, frozen over. Photo: Lindsay Dedario/Reuters

Chill wind gives cardinal bad hair day. Mary Reed Runyon photo
Snowflake. Mary Reed Runyon

Blizzards sweep Middle East, blankets even Negev, rare.

The army has put tracked vehicles on standby to help civilians in the least accessible areas after the latest blizzard. In neighbouring Jordan, most roads were blocked, including those in the capital, Amman. Authorities broadcast warnings to people not to leave their homes. Lebanon also saw heavy snowfall, with schools closed across the country and some mountain roads blocked. “There was heavy hail in Beirut, and snow has fallen from 200 metres above sea level,” said Wissam Abu Hashfeh of Lebanon’s Meteorological Service.

Snow in Golan Heights

A rare snow in the Negev Desert. Source JPost

Siberian Express Grips Midwest, Northeast, South; Four Cities Set All-Time Record Lows

120-year-old record low broken in D.C., one of many today and in the past week

source

‘Ice volcano’ forms at New York state park

The arctic conditions have turned a fountain at a state park in western New York into a five-story-tall “ice volcano.” The pressure-fed fountain is in a pond near the Glen Iris Inn at Letchworth State Park, which straddles the Wyoming-Livingston county line 40 miles south of Rochester. Days of subzero temperatures have formed a solid cone of ice several feet thick with water still spouting out of the top. Park officials tell local media that the formation dubbed an ice volcano is at least 50 feet high.

Great Lakes most ice since recorded time

“Great Lakes ice is now running ahead of last year and ice will increase with more brutal cold coming,” says meteorologist Joe d’Aleo. “We are likely to have the most ice since records began.”

O church, where are you? Spurgeon said that a boat is fine even when waters storm outside it. But when the waters breach and stream inside the boat, the boat is in danger. It is the same with the church. When the world stays outside, no matter how they rage and storm, the church is OK. When the pollution of sin streams inside, there is the danger. Picture a boat frozen fast in the ice. Perhaps Shackleton’s The Endurance…

As long as the mighty ship bounded over waves she was OK. It was what she was built for. But once she became stuck in the ice and no longer moved, the ice built up. It built up and climbed over the top of the masts. It pressured, and pressured, and pressured against her, until one day, the icy cold broke a plank. The frigid water streamed in, and once it did, it formed more ice. The heaviness of the icy weighed her down, eventually thwarting her ability to move. She was completely stuck.

Shackleton looking down as the ship lists

As plank after plank broke and the water breached, she sank.

The final sinking

So you see the cycle. Love grows cold, and that is because sin abounds. If not dealt with, the icy sin’s fingers reach more hearts, and the ship of the church grows heavy and stuck. Sin unaddressed allows more sin, and eventually the pressure of so much sin breaks a plank and the world streams in. As it streams in, the ship of the church grows heavier, and eventually the pressures within and without sink her.

Of course the true church will never sink, but listen to Spurgeon’s pleas from his sermon A Prophetic Word, Matthew 24:12

As all the water outside a vessel can do it no harm until it enters the vessel, itself, so outward persecutions cannot really injure the Church of God. But when the mischief oozes into the Church and the love of God’s people grows cold—ah, then the boat is in sore distress! I fear that we are much in this condition at the present hour. May the Holy Spirit bless the alarming prophecy now before us to our awakening!

And how much more applicable is the urgency at this hour, over one hundred years later!

Go to your Master and ask Him to fan the fire within you to a great heat, that if there should be cold everywhere else, there may be warmth in your bosoms! The Lord help you to do this, dear Friends, for Jesus Christ’s sake! Amen.

Posted in God, immutability, spurgeon, unchanging

Charles Spurgeon on "The Immutability of God"

The IMMUTABILITY OF GOD – defined,

The unchangeability of God. In biblical theology God is described as unchanging in His nature and in His character. This includes God’s being (essence), purposes, and promises.

Psalm 102:25–27 contrasts God’s unchanging nature with that of the created order. Numbers 23:19 and 1 Sam. 15:29 indicate that God changes neither His plans nor His actions, for these rest on His unchanging nature. James finds assurance of God’s future blessings in that there is in God “no variation or shadow cast by turning” (James 1:17 HCSB). After referring to His constant patience, long-suffering, and mercy, God concludes with a general statement of His immutability: “For I, the LORD, do not change” (Mal. 3:6 NASB).

Source: Johnson, W. (2003). Immutability of God. In C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen, & T. C. Butler (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (pp. 810–811). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

Since God never changes, we like to think more about His unchanging nature as expressed in endless patience, constant mercy, persistent protection, etc. We love to ponder the ‘good’ outflows from His immutability. In his Sermon #1 delivered at New Park Street Chapel, Southwark in 1855, Charles Spurgeon chose to preach on the immutability of God. After an introduction of extolling what immutability means in terms of the outflow of His other ‘positive’ attributes, Spurgeon said, “But now comes one jarring note to spoil the theme.”

I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” (Malachi 3:6)

To some of you God is unchanging in his threatenings. If every promise stands fast, and every oath of the covenant is fulfilled, hark thee, sinner!—mark the word—hear the death-knell of thy carnal hopes; see the funeral of thy fleshly trustings. Every threatening of God, as well as every promise shall be fulfilled. Talk of decrees! I will tell you of a decree: “He that believeth not shall be damned.” That is a decree, and a statute that can never change. Be as good as you please, be as moral as you can, be as honest as you will, walk as uprightly as you may,—there stands the unchangeable threatening: “He that believeth not shall be damned.” What sayest thou to that, moralist? Oh, thou wishest thou couldst alter it, and say, “He that does not live a holy life shall be damned.” That will be true; but it does not say so. It says, “He that believeth not.”

Here is the stone of stumbling, and the rock of offence; but you cannot alter it. You must believe or be damned, saith the Bible; and mark, that threat of God is an unchangeable as God himself. And when a thousand years of hell’s torments shall have passed away, you shall look on high, and see written in burning letters of fire, “He that believeth not shall be damned.” “But, Lord, I am damned.” Nevertheless it says “shall be” still. And when a million ages have rolled away, and you are exhausted by your pains and agonies, you shall turn up your eye and still read “SHALL BE DAMNED,” unchanged, unaltered. And when you shall have thought that eternity must have spun out its last thread—that every particle of that which we call eternity, must have run out, you shall still see it written up there, “SHALL BE DAMNED.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Further Reading

Joel Osteen talked about Jesus how many times?

Joel Osteen likes God, he just doesn’t like Jesus

The Shocking Word that Joel Osteen has almost never Tweeted

Posted in dark, encouragement, spurgeon, wicked

The Hindu smashed the microscope!

In his wonderful sermon, “Pride the Destroyer”, Charles Spurgeon preached,

A prideful person “does not seek the Light of God. You can often notice that if a man has a high opinion of himself, he is extremely good and excellent and does not need to be saved by Grace. He does not want to be told too much about himself. He likes to go to a place of worship where they prophesy very smooth things and if he ever strays in where there is very plain talk, he says that the preacher is too personal. The Hindu thinks it is wicked to kill an insect, or to take life of any kind—and that he will surely not enter into his happy paradise if he does. When the missionary showed a Hindu, by means of a microscope, how many living creatures there were in a single drop of the water which was in a glass on the table, in order to convince him of the impossibility of avoiding the destruction of life if he drank the water, what did the Hindu do? Why, he smashed up the microscope! That was his way of answering it! And so, sometimes, if the Truth of God is put very plainly so that men cannot escape from the force of it, not wishing to know the uncomfortable Truth, they turn upon their heels and find fault with the preacher and refuse to hear any more from him!”

We are the microscope. We show the truth of the hidden manna. We point the eye toward the hidden kingdom. Some will not even look through the lens! Others who dare to peer, will react as the Hindu did, and smash the Christian. Why is this?

For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. (John 3:20)

In 1845, American Preacher Daniel A. Clark said,

Wicked men hate the light, because it exposes his vileness. When the cellar has been shut up for years is first laid open, by the opening of knows and doors, it presents a disgusting sight. We wonder how so much filth could have accumulated there. So the dark and wicked heart of man seems unutterably vile and loathsome when God’s Word and Spirit enters into it.

Wicked men hate the light, because it shows the necessity of a better character. The soul in love with sin is agonized with an apprehension of the necessity of reformation. Sinful habits let go their hold with a wonderful reluctance. They cry out, “let us alone,” and they are expelled, just like the demons who were driven out by our Savior. The contrast which exists between good and bad men is painful to the wicked just as it is perceived.

(source, The American National Preacher, Volumes 19-22, 1845)

But there is good news too. John 3 continues from verse 20 to verse 21,

“But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”