Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Certainty of God's Judgment

But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.                                  2 Peter 2:1-3  NKJV
Our subject last week was the warning we receive about false prophets appearing in the end of the age as part of the apostasy which will occur in the Church just before the return of Jesus for His bride.  Considering the seriousness of the offense, and the damage that will be done, it is natural to wonder what God has planned for these people in light of their offense against Him.  Also, it goes without saying that if we are concerned at all with the “what” God has planned for them, we are more than likely rather impatient for the ‘when” as well.
One of my favorite writers in the New Testament concerning the time of the end of the age is the apostle Peter. You may recall some of my past writings on Peter and his letters to the Church, and I referred to them as his “last words” because of his awareness that his death was quickly approaching.  I believe that because of his knowledge of what was to shortly occur, his concern was for the future of the Church and the problems it would encounter.  In this passage from Peter’s second letter to the Church, we are told in no uncertain terms that their judgment is guaranteed.
In this chapter Peter begins by telling us that not only will there be false prophets as we approach the return of Christ, these people will receive the judgment they richly deserve just as God has judged others in the past.  Although it might seem to us at times that God could have forgotten because these individuals are not judged immediately, Peter makes the point that our Father never forgets.  He then goes on to remind us of three examples of God passing His judgment on those who have done something to deserve His wrath.
For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly; and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)—       2 Peter 2:4-8  NKJV
From the way that Peter words these verses, it almost seems certain that he is responding to the question of “when” will God judge?  I believe either some in the Church were asking the question already, or Peter understood that it would be asked.  Being impatient to see God judge sin is a common theme throughout the scriptures with many examples we can find of His people crying out “how long”?  God will even hear this in heaven from those who have been martyred for His names’ sake.
And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”                         Revelation 6:10  NKJV
When we see someone doing something we know is contrary to God’s laws, it is natural to desire to see justice applied.  However, at a time where believers are becoming more and more the minority in today’s society, and many are experiencing some sort of persecution, the temptation to defend ourselves and attempting to somehow persecute those who persecute us is strong.  We are told in no uncertain terms, though, that it is not our place to do that but rather God’s alone.  Paul put it this way in his letter to the Romans;
Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.     Romans 12:19  NKJV
So it begins to make sense that if we are not to be the instruments of God’s justice, we are placed in a position of waiting on God to exercise His promise to judge.  This then, in light of our natural impatience, leads us to ask the question “when”?  This is where Peter surprises us by answering that question by reminding us of the event we are all eagerly watching for, the rapture of the Church.  Many have referred to this passage as an “if/when” argument to support the doctrine of the Pre-tribulation rapture.  By using the example of Noah and the flood, and Lot at Sodom and Gomorrah, Peter illustrates that God delivers His own before He passes His judgment.  Notice that Peter begins verse four by saying “if God did not spare” and follows up in verse nine by saying;
then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment,    2 Peter 2:9  NKJV
Do you want to know when God will judge?  Peter’s answer is that God is waiting to remove His own from harm’s way before He judges the world for their offense towards Him.  Never fall into the trap of believing that God has forgotten, or changed His mind, or any other of the lies Satan uses to excuse sinful behavior.  Peter addresses this in the next chapter where he tells his readers this;
knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.            2 Peter 3:3-7  NKJV
God will judge.  We have His promise on that.
Keep watching.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

False Prophets and Apostasy

“I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in My name, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’ “How long will this be in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies? Indeed they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart,      Jeremiah 23:25-26  NKJV
Are you familiar with the old saying about “taking the good along with the bad”?  The good in this case is the hope within all of us of our deliverance from this world by way of the rapture of the Church.  Without question, the vast majority of pastors and teachers, as well as those in the body of Christ, believe we are living in the season of the return of Christ and the end of this age.  The bad, unfortunately, is that it seems more and more people are making claims of knowing exactly when this is going to happen because they have received this “knowledge” by way of their dreams. 

Of course, if that in itself was not bad enough, rather than acknowledging their error when their dates come and go they simply have another dream and say God changed His mind.  Rather than admitting that quite often our dreams come from our own desires and not necessarily from God, they continue to share their “revelations” seemingly without concern for the harm they may be doing to the body of Christ.  This is why we as believers are warned repeatedly to watch for apostasy within the Church as a sign of the end of the age, and teaching something that contradicts what God has already said is most definitely apostasy.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.    1 John 4:1  NKJV

The following is an excerpt from a study on apostasy in the last days by Andy Woods of Sugar Land Bible Church.
“Of course, the command to “test all things” in this manner is replete throughout the Bible. This exhortation is as old as 1405 B.C. when Moses on the plains of Moab exhorted the Jews who were on the verge of entering Canaan not to believe every prophet. He explained, “If there arises among you a prophet or dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods which you have not known, and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet…” (Deut 13:1-3). Here, Moses explains that the test of truth is not an experience or even a miraculous manifestation from a prophet who “arises among you.” Rather, truth is determined by whether the prophet’s message is in conformity with prior divine revelation.”

When it comes to the subject of the rapture of the Church, I personally do not believe God could be any clearer about the question of the possibility of knowing the day or the hour of our departure.  By claiming that God has revealed such knowledge contradicts virtually every passage of scripture that relates to that event and in essence makes God a liar.  While protesting that they are simply fulfilling their role as “watchmen”, these individuals seem to forget that Jesus called on us to “watch” because we don’t know when this event will occur.
“Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. “It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. “Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning—“lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. “And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!”      Mark 13:33-37  NKJV

With these things in mind, the question we must answer is how should we respond to individuals who make these sorts of claims?  If we look to the scriptures for an answer we find God has already given us the steps to take in situations like these.
But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.    2 Thessalonians 3:6  NKJV

Our first response to someone who attempts to teach something we find to be contradictory to revealed scripture is to “withdraw” or pull away from contact with such a person.  In this internet age, it would mean simply that if you believe someone is teaching a position that the Bible does not support, you simply avoid visiting their website anymore.  If a situation arises on a more personal level and this occurs in your church or local assembly, you withdraw from contact with them.  If this seems harsh or spiteful I suggest you look closer at the admonition Jesus gives the church at Thyatira in Revelation 2.
And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.                                Ephesians 5:11  NKJV

The second thing we must do is to take a stand against apostasy by speaking out in a spirit of love to make known the error that is being taught.  It is our responsibility as believers to safeguard the doctrine which has been revealed to us in the Word of God and to make known in situations like these exactly what the Bible truly says.  This is not done in a confrontational way but rather in a simple explanation of what God has already said.  Personally I have always found it more convincing to let the Bible do the talking.
Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.    Romans 16:17  NKJV

Lastly we are told by Paul that we need to avoid these people.  If someone has chosen to proclaim doctrine or positions contrary to what the scripture has already revealed, it is a given that conflict will follow.  The easiest way to avoid the “divisions and offenses” that are a result of teaching apostasy is to simply avoid all contact with those who choose that path.  Rather than becoming part of the problem, by avoiding these people we become part of the solution.
John Macarthur, in his book on Romans explains it this way;.

“The right response of believers to false teachers, especially those who teach their heresy under the guise of Christianity, is not debate or dialogue. We are to turn away from them, to reject what they teach and to protect fellow believers, especially new converts and the immature, from being deceived, confused, and misled.”
As watchmen, one of the signs we need to watch for is the apostasy we are warned will occur as we approach the return of Jesus for His bride.  We do this by always comparing the claims we may hear with what God has already chosen to reveal to us in His Word.  If the message is contradictory, withdraw, expose, and avoid.

Keep watching.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Going Up?

A Song of Ascents. I will lift up my eyes to the hills—From whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel Shall neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; The LORD is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, Nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The LORD shall preserve your going out and your coming in From this time forth, and even forevermore.  Psalm 121
Everyone has their own particular way of approaching their study of God’s Word, and to be truthful I appreciate learning from others who do things a little different than I do.  Much of the time the topical subjects I chose to study are the result of being led by the Holy Spirit while studying  something completely different.  This week was no exception as while studying the subject of faithfulness, I somehow ended up in the book of Psalms, particularly chapter 121 which is the second of fifteen chapters called the Songs of Ascents.  Now when I saw the word ascents, my thoughts immediately went to the rapture of the Church and the idea of singing as we go up, and to be truthful, if we examine the reason for these chapters we might see that the idea of singing praises as we go up is not all that farfetched.

In the Hebrew, the word for ascents is ma`alah, which when translated means; what comes up, thoughts, step, stair step, stair steps (of sundial), stories (of heaven), ascent, song of ascent to the three great pilgrim feasts.  Many are familiar with the feasts of Israel, but if not, simply explained there are seven celebrations ordained by God for the nation of Israel to observe every year.  You can find those listed in the Old Testament  book of Leviticus, chapter twenty three.  Of these seven feasts, three were to be celebrated in Jerusalem which required everyone travel there from wherever they lived.
If you are not familiar with the geography of Israel, the city of Jerusalem is basically higher in elevation than the surrounding country, with the temple itself built on Mount Moriah.  This means that to travel there resulted in having to climb, or “ascend” to the city.  These Psalms were songs that the people would sing as they traveled towards Jerusalem, praising God as they walked.  I can just imagine what it must have been like to hear hundreds of thousands of people singing these songs of God’s faithfulness to His people as they approached the city of Jerusalem.

How often do you reflect on God’s faithfulness to us?  Do you ever just sit and consider the statements made in this chapter about how faithful God is to us, and allow that knowledge to lift and encourage you?  It is unfortunate that many of us only think about the faithfulness of God towards us when we are in trouble or hurting, and allow the cares of this world to overshadow our thoughts when things are going well.  How different would our lives be if God had that same attitude towards us rather than the one we as His children are fortunate to enjoy?
As I considered that thought, I had to reflect upon my faithfulness to Him, and question my own commitment to being what God Himself has described as a “good and faithful servant”.  After all, if we look closely at how faithful God is towards us, is it too much to ask that we imitate that example in our faithfulness to Him?  With that in mind, I want to share a few thoughts I had about that question in light of what Jesus had to say about being faithful servants for Him.

Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods.  Matthew 24:45-47  NKJV
His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.                                   Matthew 25:21  NKJV

The Greek word for faithful is pistos, which is translated; of persons who show themselves faithful in the transaction of business, the execution of commands, or the discharge of official duties.  After reading that, I looked for passages that would illustrate those three responsibilities and possibly help us to become the faithful servants God desires us to be.
Transaction of business

And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”  Luke 2:49  NKJV
Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions.   Luke 2:46  NKJV

What is the “business” we as believers are in?  If we choose to use Jesus’ example then it becomes apparent our business is actually the Fathers’ business, which, if we understand this passage correctly entails studying the scriptures and doing all that we can to increase our knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.                        2 Timothy 2:15  KJV

Execution of commands
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  John 13:34  NKJV

Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining. He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.                         1 John 2:8-10  NKJV
What are we as believers commanded to do?  Love one another just as Jesus loves us.  Seems simple enough until you meet someone you don’t especially like.  Yet isn’t that the worlds’ way?  Only love the ones you want and hate the rest?  By choosing to love everyone as the Father does, we demonstrate not only His love in us, we stand out as light in the darkness of this world because we are different from those around us. 

“Therefore by their fruits you will know them.  Matthew 7:20  NKJV
Discharge of official duties

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil.  Ecclesiastes 12:13-14  NKJV
Have you ever skipped to the back of a book to see how it all ends?  The book of Ecclesiastes is the last thing to be written by Solomon, described to us as the wisest man who ever lived.  As he sat and reflected on his life with all the good and all of the bad, victories and mistakes, he summed it all up in this passage.  The “whole” meaning of life is to “fear God and keep his commandments.”  Why?  Because the day will come when every man will stand before God and give an account of his life and the choices he has made.

If you are reading this today and have never made the decision to become a believer in God, and accept the gift of eternal life with Him provided by the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ, I encourage you to do so right now.  Simply pray a prayer like this one and confess your need of salvation to God and He will welcome you into the body with open arms. 
Jesus I know I am a sinner. I have sinned against you, but I know you loved me enough to send your Son, Jesus Christ to die for my sins and then rise from the dead so that I may live forever with You. Lord forgive me of my sins and come into my life and help me to begin to live for You. In Jesus' name, Amen.

As He has told us;
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:9  NKJV

Keep watching.

Sunday, January 5, 2014


When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.     Mark 8:34  NKJV
Last week I introduced you to the four women we find listed in the genealogy of Jesus given to us in the first chapter of Matthew.  I also suggested that there must be a very good reason for this to happen as women were never mentioned in a Jewish genealogy in those days.  We also found that while you might be able to understand mentioning a woman of desirable character, the four women mentioned all had issues that a Jew would find highly objectionable.  As we know that Matthew was written specifically to the Jews as a defense of Jesus of Nazareth being the prophesied Messiah, we have to wonder what exactly God intended when He told Matthew to include these women.

Thinking about this question may be one of those times where we find that there are many different reasons we can come up with which make perfect sense as to what God was trying to tell us.  What I want to do today is to simply give you a few that I have come up with, and then allow you to take the time on your own to think and consider the possibility that there are others which make just as good of sense as mine.  That said, as I read these names and wondered what the reaction by a Jew of that day would be, and what arguments he might put forth objecting to Jesus as the Messiah, I thought of this verse from Paul’s letter to the Galatians.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.      Galatians 3:28  NKJV

Now the reason this verse came to mind was that when I tried to look at these four women through the eyes of Jew of that day, the objections I saw were that first of all they were women, several obviously guilty of gross sin, and lastly not all were Jews.  Yet it seems these three arguments were exactly the ones Paul chooses to attack in the passage from Galatians.  So let’s look at these three “problems” which might have concerned the Jews of that day.
Male and female

So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.  Genesis 1:27  NKJV
I think most of us understand how women were treated at this particular time in history, especially in the culture of the Middle East.  Women were simply a possession, with no rights to speak of and no voice to be heard.  Yet if you look closely at this passage from Genesis, it certainly seems as if God is telling us that we are all made in His image and in His eyes equally deserving of His love and grace.  Where a Jew would object to giving any sort of status to a woman, by listing these four women by name in a genealogy God says they are just as important in His eyes as anyone else.

Jew and Gentile
For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.  Romans 10:12  NKJV

The animosity that existed between the Jews and the Gentiles was as old as the history of the Jewish nation itself.  Yet as time went by, it seems that although the Jews were in fact the “chosen” people, they seemed to have forgotten exactly why they were chosen.  You see, God chose the nation of Israel as a means to reveal Himself to the unbelieving world around them, and as time went by the people of Israel seemed to be forgetting that and instead began to look for a Messiah who would come to save the nation of Israel.  By listing these women who were not Jews, I think God might have been reminding them that He sent His Son to die for all.
Slave or free.

“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?” Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.                           John 8:32-34  NKJV
If you were to live in that day, and understand the class distinctions that were important to Jews, right after the difference between men and women would come the difference between servants and free.  Maybe this goes back all the way to being slaves in Egypt as well as the captivity in Babylon, but it the difference between slave and free was important to a Jew.  When the objection would be made that these women listed in the genealogy were sinners, it seems to me the point God was making is that we are all sinners; and not just sinners but slaves to sin needing to be set free by the price paid by the death and resurrection of His Son.

As I said, you might discover other reasons you feel God wanted Mathew to include these four women in his genealogy, but I think the bottom line is that God wanted to get the attention of the Jews who would read this, and break down the bias that existed in their hearts and minds which would interfere with their acceptance as Jesus of Nazareth being the Messiah they were looking for.  Jesus died for all, and “whoever” desires to accept the salvation He offers may do so.
Keep watching.