sin-in-the-camp“But there was sin among the Israelis. God’s command to destroy everything except that which was reserved for the Lord’s treasury was disobeyed. For Achan… took some loot for himself, and the Lord was very angry with the entire nation of Israel because of this.”  (Joshua 7:1).

This has become one of the most archaic and avoided terms in the Pentecostal church: “sin in the camp.” The actual term is developed from Joshua chapter 6-7. It was early in Israel’s military campaign against the land of Canaan. Israel just experienced a tremendous victory against Jericho. God instructed his people that after the battle there were certain things were to be left in Jericho they were not to be brought into the camp of Israel.  Those things were to be devoted to destruction, they were cursed by God and taking them would bring destruction upon Israel (Joshua 6:18).

The Bible goes on to say, “But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the Lord was kindled against the children of Israel.”  

Notice what it says Israel committed a trespass. Israel betrayed the Lord. It did not say the double-dealing Achan sinned but it said Israel as a nation sinned because one person sinned. Israel did not even know about this.  In many ways this was not the nation of Israel’s fault.

Yet, we should point out that Israel went to battle against Ai without seeking the Lord. If they would have prayed God would have spoken to them about this issue. But they saw Ai as a small easily defeated city but God wanted to make it clear to them that all their victories came from him not by their swords. So because of their arrogance and their ignorance their battle against Ai was a miserable defeat and thirty six men died. Then of course, they prayed and that is when God revealed to Joshua that Israel sinned (Joshua 7:7-13). So Joshua examines all the families of Israel one by one and Achan confessed to the crime. He stole a Babylonian robe, 5 pounds of silver, and 20 ounces of gold and buried them.

Without reading much into this it would seem that only one of these items-the Babylonian garment was under the ban of God. The other things were silver and gold they were of value but the point was is that he took them for himself instead of setting it aside for the Lord’s treasury (Joshua 6:19). So Israel had to exterminate him and his family and everything he owned and God’s anger was extinguished against Israel. It was an awful price he paid for his sin.

So this is what the Pentecostal teaches that sin in the camp is: one individual’s unrepentant sin brings open defeat to God’s people.  Sin in the camp is referring to someone who is practicing a sin that is unknown to the church body. It is a sinful practice or false doctrine that is affecting the community of the church spiritually and hindering its ability to fulfill their call in operating in the gifts of the Spirit, worship and reaching the lost. I believe this is why so many Christians and churches are frustrated and lacking today and it makes me weep.

We are not talking about a person who struggles with sin or some thing in his or her life that he or she is attempting to get help for. This is not talking about a person who is grieved over their sin and desires freedom.  Galatians 6 tells us what to do with such a person. We are to help them, encourage them bear their burdens until they are able to walk maturely in the Spirit on their own. But in the church of today there are many people who have no understanding of how their actions affect the testimony of the people of God (1 Cor 12:25).  WE ARE TO HAVE A GOOD WITNESS IN THE SIGHT OF THE WORLD.  God is serious about the corporate purity and unity of his people and the Bible says, “If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” (1 Cor. 3:17).   People should realize that what they do as individuals they do as a church.

In Bible days, people claiming to be Christians were visiting the temple prostitutes in Corinth. Paul reprimands them, “Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? For two, saith he, shall be one flesh.  But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own.  For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Cor 6:15-20).  The church has failed to insist continually and dogmatically that we do not belong to ourselves. We belong to Christ and his body, the church.  The church is made up of individuals that are not islands to themselves (1 Cor 12).

It is important especially during the time of the Lord’s Supper that the church prepares and examines the mettle of  their hearts corporately. God offers forgiveness and healing through the celebration of the Lord’s supper.  THE LORD’S SUPPER IS ONLY FOR PRACTICING CHRISTIANS. It is an opportune time to have people embrace in love their brethren and check their hearts. But like any principle, this can be abused by overcritical legalistic, fault finders and we want to avoid that. But it is my firm belief in the scriptural teaching of the apostle Paul that people should be banned from the Lord’s Supper or asked to leave the fellowship of Christians (after a proper careful application of Matthew 18) until they are willing to repent for their sin. Then they are restored without question.  This is not referring to the uncommitted unsaved person. Paul says there is no other choice! Anyone who calls themselves a Christian and refuses to repent of open sin even after the hard work of others lovingly and patiently confronting them should be expelled from the community of believers. So there will no longer be sin in the camp and we can do our job as a Church.

inthehandsofthepotter-300x225If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.” (2 Tim 2:20-21).

God wants to use people.  In the past few years preachers have laid waste to this term “used by God” because of it’s lack of appeal (like they have done with many truths).  The idea of being “used” by anyone, is not an attractive premise at all because people fear being manipulated, exploited and  exhausted: used.  That is not the case! This is not what is meant by the word, “use.”  The word “use” is not only pronounced differently in the text but is (euchrestos) which loosely means easier to use. 

To be used by God is to be of use to God.

It gives us the understanding that as a practice God utilizes and employs people for his purpose. God wants to use you my dear Christian friend!

Isaiah said, “LORD, thou wilt ordain peace for us: for thou also hast wrought all our works in us.” (Isaiah 26:12).

Notice that he has wrought all OUR works in us.

He is saying, “Lord, you deserve the credit for everything we have done-it was you doing it.”

When God uses a person he actually works through that person. So being used by God means He is working with you (Josh 1:9), in you (Phil 2:13), for you (Rom 8:31), and through you (John 7:38-39).  This should be our daily prayer.

The biblical pattern is that God saved us by the blood of Christ and placed his Spirit in us to make us a living witness to the grace and power of God.  Paul said it this way, “…for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.” (1 Tim 1:16).

We have been saved as examples of God’s power to save such wayward, rebellious sinners such as we were.  We who belong to God by his Sovereign Grace have the privilege of God doing his work through us.  It is no longer, “I” but “Christ” for that “Christ liveth in me” (Gal 2:20).

God’s will is that we “be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.” (2 Tim 2:21). A vessel had special meaning in scripture. A vessel, could be anything from a cup, dish, plate and utensil. God fashions shapes and moulds those that he uses. Isaiah said, “But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.”  (Isa. 64: 8).

God uses this analogy of people.  Paul was a chosen vessel or literally “a vessel of election” (Acts 9:15). He uses the phrase, “a vessel of honor” to describe how God uses people in this passage. He is the one who has the power to make us a vessel of honor or dishonor (Rom 9:21).  When God saves a person they become a vessel of honor in salvation. God calls some the “vessels of wrath” other the “vessels of mercy” (Rom 9:22-23).

This means that God can use anything or anyone for his purposes. Saved or unsaved, godly or ungodly-God can strategically move people into position to accomplish his plans. That is what we call God’s Providence.

But it is my firm conviction that God uses us in a way that the unbeliever could never dream about.

The reason for this is that the one whom God uses is committed to “purge himself from these…”  The Christian can be used because the Christian is clean. The word purge is where we get catharsis. It means to clean out thoroughly. In the context of this passage, Paul is reprimanding Timothy to break away from attachment with false teachers that destroy the faith of others. If he completely cleanses himself from them, then God will honor him, set him apart, and equip him for service. We will address this another time.

Believers are loyal to Jesus Christ as their Master so they desire to remove everything from the old life that would disease the new being intolerant of contaminating influences. God desires to use vessels that are clean before him and that take holy living seriously.

Paul compares the church and those in it to being a great house and there are various kinds of furniture, containers and utensils in it.  They all serve a purpose. Some have an everyday common use. But there are others that have an extraordinary, special use. Some are silverware and some are gold ware. God calls us to become vessels of honor or sanctification according to our text. He gives us the choice.

“Meet for the Masters use…” That leads into the concept of Christ being our Master. The word master (despotes) means “one who possesses undisputed ownership and absolute, unrestricted authority.”  We are Christ’s peculiar people or his particular possession (Titus 2:14). Our Lord Jesus has undisputed ownership and uninhibited power over us and he has a design to use us for his glory!

We are “prepared for every good work.” This describes the vessel God uses as fit, ready and prepared for activity. They are outfitted and equipped. They are primed for action because they are trained and rehearsed to do what God has designed for them. A vessel of honor is not only made but trained. After God sets us aside we set ourselves aside so that he might use us in a greater way.  It is an exciting thought to anyone who loves God for Him to employ them in his service to help others.

looking-at-map“My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray and turned them loose in the mountains. They have lost their way and can’t remember how to get back to the sheepfold.” (Jer. 50:6)

Jeremiah in his prophecy begins once again to lambaste the spiritual leaders of his day for misleading and abandoning God’s people. These men are supposed to be men who knew the truth and knew the right way yet still misled the people of God. They have the people of God so twisted up in knots that they don’t even know how to get back to the sheepfold or where a true fellowship is. A true place of fellowship is that group of people that has Christ as their center who believes in the power of God and its application to every need and they teach the scriptures incessantly. But like them we have lost our way.

People today really rely on navigation. GPS in the car we drive (Global Positioning System) is very popular whether installed by the manufacturer or after market devices. Being a glorified car jockey for a while I saw that this is a nice selling point. It’s a great invention and is a tool. Now practically all cars have navigation. I don’t think it will be that far in the future that our cars will practically drive themselves.  People don’t see the need for a paper map anymore.

I don’t want to betray my age complaining about “the way things used to be” but a whole generation is being raised up that wouldn’t know North from South or East from West. It used to be that you had the map out when you were traveling long distance and figure out those routes before you even began to travel.  Not so now. You just enter your address and there you go. But having a actual sense of direction I think is gone. We just don’t want to have to think about how to get to where were going. We would rather someone else do that for us or in this case some “thing.”  I’m wondering what would happen to a person who has no sense of direction if they got lost in another state or God forbid in another country. Maybe a person can figure out that the sun rises in the east and sets in the West but I wonder-what would they do they got really lost and were unable to rely on the technology of today? It would be pathetic.

A growing number of Christians have no sense of direction. I don’t care on how much they insist that they are led by the Spirit. They would much rather have someone do the thinking about directions when it comes to any of the challenges that they face in life. They would rather go to church and hear a person give them instructions on what to do about their marriage, finances, parenting, employment and spiritual life rather than read the Bible for themselves. They will insist once again that it needs to be practical and relevant, when truth is always practical and it is always relevant. Now, there is much to be said about good teachers of the word of God.  How much in this day in our do we need people who stick to chapter and verse of the scripture. Without it we have lost our way.

People are lost in the sense of being disoriented. How can I say that? Have you ever listened to an average Sunday with men and women preaching.  it always seems that they have “the message. ”  It’s gotten worse and worse.  Not that there are not great preachers. It just seems that they are all saying something different. But I cannot blame them. I think the people who listen to them are far more culpable. We criticize people for going to church is that have priests but it seems that we ourselves instead of relying upon our great high priest Jesus we have people in between us and him. We have a third-party relationship. When God himself has blessed us with his word. No one denies the gift of solid teaching both ancient and contemporary. But those who lead have a solemn responsibility to lead us to Christ.

The Bible is the word of God, the Bible is God’s voice to us God speaks to us and tells us what to do. The Scripture seems to indicate that when a person lives right, when they guard their hearts and they take captive their thoughts by pondering, studying and seeking to apply the holy Scriptures- that in of itself provides direction and guidance. I do not think this is an oversimplification.

But we are not immersed in the word of God. We have sinned in this matter. It’s a great sin. I see whole groups fighting to keep the public display of the 10 Commandments and yet the Christian of today seems to have a poor relationship with the Scriptures. We want so much to know God’s will but we don’t want to make the effort in reading his word. We have every excuse possible. We excuse ourselves from studying the word then complain about our losing our way. I think we deserve to be lost. It’s our nature to  drift, our propensity to get off track. We have lost our way.

People say, “I try to be good.”  But what’s the test of that goodness? Doing good and doing the right thing is always tainted by our own selfishness pride and evil desires. That is why we need the word of God. It tells us that the only way that we can deal with that base nature is first through trusting in Christ. Complete and total trust reliance and dependency upon Jesus. Without that we have nothing. Without that we are lost.

One time Jesus told his disciples that he was going to prepare a place for them.  He told them they knew where he was going. Thomas disagreed. He did not think that he knew where Jesus was going.  I have heard people praise Thomas for his question. People tell me there’s no such that is a stupid question. I don’t mean to be crass but I think Thomas Estes stupid question. But you have to give them credit for not being a hypocrite.

Why in the world would Jesus think they knew where he was going? Why because in some way shape or form he must have told them. Jesus has taught them that he would be betrayed he would be crucified and he would be raised from the dead. Jesus believed they knew. Why? He made it clear.  Jesus insisted, “I am the Way the Truth and the Life.”  now I know we take that Scripture and we plaster it in the faces of people who are of other religions who believe that there are other ways and other truths and another life. We insist on the definite article “the” way and “the” truth and “the” life.  But the bottom line is is he are only way our only truth and our only life.

The son of God would not have us lost. He is searching for people relentlessly as it were. His Father he said is seeking for worshipers. The Holy Spirit leads us in the direction that we need to go. God is not lost. We are the ones that get lost. Why? Because our focus is not on Christ. Our focus is not the word of God and I don’t mean some legalistic study of the word of God. I don’t refer to some method of man in how to study the word of God. I refer to the Scriptures as imbibing it like water consuming it like food. Just as Jesus said his words are spirit and life and that they are his flesh and blood. They must become our flesh and blood as we meditate upon the Scriptures. for without Christ being the sum total of all that we are, we will lose our way.

629_2gossipIn this day of bullying-gossip was the original bully.

The story is told of the woman who became conscious stricken because of her gossiping ways. She went to the preacher, confessed her sin of spreading malicious rumors about her neighbors; and after the preacher prayed with her for God’s forgiveness, she asked what could she do to repair the damage she’d done.

The preacher handed her a bag of feathers, took her to the roof of the building, and had her empty the feathers into the wind. Looking into her astonished face, the preacher then said, “I want you to go into the city and return to me every one of those feathers.”

“Why…that’s impossible,” said the woman, “the wind has scattered the feathers to who knows where. I’ll never be able to find them all.”

“I know,” nodded the preacher. “Now perhaps you can see how utterly impossible it will be for you to undo the damage performed by your wagging tongue. Even though God has forgiven you, the harm you’ve done cannot ever be totally undone.”

Don’t you just hate backstabbing gossip? Those who slander and defame you and don’t have the courage to face you? They are jealous and hateful people and they bear false witness and attempt to make themselves appear righteous. They do a lot of damage and God sees it all. The Bible says that “A man who bears false witness against his neighbor is like a heavy sledgehammer and a sword and a sharp arrow.”

God says he hates, a false witness that speaks lies, and he that sows discord among brethren. They shall not escape, be left unpunished, and they shall perish.

As also says the law, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor…Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness and if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother. Then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil away from among you…”

“How would your life be different if…You walked away from gossip and verbal defamation? Let today be the day…You speak only the good you know of other people and encourage others to do the same.”

Brother Stephen

Just my thoughts.

gideon-and-woolPentecostals believe that God allows them at times to “set out a fleece” or seek for supernatural signs to confirm his will so that they will be assured of their success in obeying Him.

The story of laying out a fleece comes from the story of Gideon in Judges 6:36 – 40.

Gideon knew God’s will but he needed assurance of victory. So he asked God for two signs using the fleece of a sheep. The first sign was to put a fleece on the ground and he asked that the ground be dry the fleece wet. God saturated that fleece. Gideon still was not convinced so he asked God for the ground to be wet and the fleece to be dry. God arranged that. It was enough (Judge 6: 36-40).

People unreasonably bash Gideon for doing this, yet Gideon is listed as one of the heroes of the faith (Heb. 11:32).  The bottom line is they have no room in their theology or lives for divine supernatural activity. They think it is evil of him to ask God for a sign and it is tempting God and will make him angry (Deut. 6:16; 1 Cor 10:9). Some even think it is only occultists who do this.

But the Bible does not condemn any person who just wants to double check on whether they are doing the will of God. God does confirm his word by signs and wonders and going an extra step to help our faith (Isaiah 44:26; Mk 16:20; Rom 15:8; Gal 3:17; Heb 2:2-4; 6:17-18). So, there you go.

They think it was so easy because God appeared to him and told him to take on an army against overwhelming odds. Yet, God had no problem in surrounding Gideon with signs to confirm his leadership (Judges 6:17-21; 7:9-15). God did not refuse his requests nor blast him with a rebuke for his concerns.

Seeking God for confirmation of his direction and promises is all throughout the Bible.  Abraham believed the Lord promises, but asked for a confirmation that he was to inherit the promised land (Gen 15).

Joshua had great faith and yet needed a sign of victory so  he told the sun and moon to stand still for a day and God honored it. That makes setting out a fleece nothing (see Joshua 10:12-14).

God told King Ahaz to ask for any kind of sign and the Lord would grant it. In his religiosity the King said “I will not ask, neither will I tempt the Lord.” The Lord was worn out with his lack of faith and yet gave him the greatest sign of all-Christ (Isaiah  7:11-14)

God even told his people to prove him by giving a tithe and he would overwhelmingly bless them (Malachi 3:10).

When God calls us to do something we can have many doubts. This was not twisting God’s arm and telling him what to do. Laying out a fleece is sometimes a reaction to something God has spoken to do in our hearts and we are not sure. We as people just need confirmation of God’s will in the fabric of our lives and doubts, anxieties and fears can be dyed in the wool of our lives. There are sometimes we just want “to know that we know, that we know.”

Gideon, “was a fearful man, fearful of God’s enemies, fearful of his own family and the people in his own town – and now God is calling him to do something that has seemingly impossible odds…be human when you’re thinking about him, put yourself in his own shoes and ask yourself: if you were going to do battle with 135,000 and you only had 32,000 on your side, what would you feel like, no matter what God had told you?” (David Legge).

s-ANCIENT-WALL-large“Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.” (Job 1:10).

Pentecostals believe that we can pray for and have a hedge or wall of protection from the attacks of Satan and his minions, sickness and physical harm. In Bible days, hedges were elaborate, dense thorn barriers that provided protection from animals or intruders that could destroy a vineyard or crops.  God’s people are compared to a vineyard (Isa. 5:5; Mk. 12:1) and the removing of the hedge (Ps. 80:12) would leave them vulnerable to attack. The scripture teaches, “For I, saith the Lord, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her.” (Zech 2:5). Notice what Zachariah says, the fire of God’s power is the the exterior, and the glory of his presence is the interior! Now that is his will for the church and the Christian.

Job was completely unaware of the elaborate divine security set around him against Satan’s hateful attacks. God shielded Job and his family and property from demonic intruders with this invisible hedge. That invincible wall was so strong against demonic attack that Satan hated that wall. He would walk around that wall and seethe with anger. He wanted that wall down. He believed that Job served God because of that wall. Once that wall was down Satan unleashed his venomous attacks against him. Thank God for his protection for his children.

It cannot be ignored that we have a “better covenant established upon better promises” than that of our Old Testament counterpart Job (Heb. 8:6). Some are confused by Job’s experience and seem to be unable to learn anything about the sovereignty of God as taught by his experience. God built the wall without Job’s request and he tore it down without Job’s permission. BUT this was in fact the ONLY TIME that we see God bringing down the wall-with no definitive explanation except that God had some sort of wager with the devil over one of his servants reputations (Job 1:8).  The only other reason for Job’s experience it that it is called his captivity or calamity (Job 42:10). It is unwarranted  to fear this wall of  protection coming down for any old reason,  because, “we are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Pet. 1:5). There is no need to be anxious for the child of God is under God’s protection and we are right to point out that, “the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.” (Job 42:10b) and no doubt that wall went up again and never came down!

This is a wall that God builds up in his sovereignty and grace, “call thy walls Salvation, and thy gates Praise.” (Isa. 60:18). There is no doubt that Lord protects his people with an impenetrable hedge. He loves his people and protects them. It is not we that build it, but he builds it and it is perfect security (Ps. 127:1). In and of ourselves we are no match for the invading attacks of the world, guerrilla warfare of the sinful nature and terrorist attacks of the Devil. So God has made a wall about us and that wall is Christ (Col 3:3) and he is a perfect gap filler and intercessor (Heb. 7:25).

At the same time, it would seem that this is a wall that must be maintained and guarded by righteous living and prayer (Ezek 13:5).  We edify ourselves by praying in the spirit and prophesying God’s word to others (1 Cor.14). The wall does not topple is not because of inconsistencies and our daily sins or flaws that we bring to God in humility and confess to him (1 John 1:9).  The wall only comes down because of continuing in unconfessed and a prolonged neglect of God. We are to be sober and vigilant (1 Pet 5:8).  We cannot be lazy or indolent! There is no guarantee of protection outside of God’s will (Ps. 91:1-3). God is gracious but he is no one’s fool-you harvest what you plant (Gal 6:6-8).  Jude says, “Keep yourselves in the love of God.” (Jude 21).

When “the hedge” was removed, except in the case of Job, it was a sign of God’s justice against Israel’s unrepentant sin (Ps. 89:40). That is why we repent and ask God to build walls around us (Ps. 51:18) so we will not form sinful habits again. I see whole seminars teaching on the book of Nehemiah on how to rebuild the walls and it would seem that it’s by some program or activity or agenda . That is not how they are rebuilt. They are rebuilt by genuine repentance and sincere prayer. Once rebuilt they must be guarded and we should not leave gaps. That serpent Satan looks to bite us if we break down that wall because of unconfessed sin (Eccl 10:8). We cannot be half-hearted as we put on the whole armor of God (Eph. 6:10-18) in order to experience the level of protection as promised in the Scripture. We should not build some flimsy wall and whitewash it. It will not stand the smallest enemy attack or storm! (Ezek. 13:8-16).  We should build on the foundation of Christ and his Word for he is our great Defender and Protector.

Lev_StrangeIncenseHe shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.” (Matt 3:11). 

Pentecostals believe that the scriptures teach that the Holy Spirit was given to believers after Calvary in the new birth experience (John 3:3-8) and then the subsequent experience of believers is empowerment for witness in the baptism of the Holy Ghost (John 7:39; Acts 1:8). Pentecostal preaching proclaims that the Holy Spirit always testifies of Christ in, “the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.” (1 John 5:8).  The preaching of the Cross, yes Christ himself, is always central to the heart of the Pentecostal message and is the “power and wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:23-24).

In Leviticus, there was fire on the brazen altar that was given from God (Lev. 9:24) that was to be maintained (Lev. 6:13) and never counterfeited (Lev. 10:1-3). The brazen altar was a type of Calvary. This is a symbol and type of the fire that fell on Christ at Calvary for the sins of his people. That fire of judgement has now become a fire of gracious purity in the heart and spirits of those that know the Lord.

The Holy Spirit’s fire is always connected to the blood of Calvary (Rom 5:5-8). No Calvary, no new birth. No Cross, no Pentecost. One man said, “Only bloody coals are allowed by God to send up fragrance to the throne of grace…any kind of work the Holy Spirit does He does only for those who have been to Calvary, those who have been washed in the blood. Any other fire is false fire; any other so-called gifts of the Spirit are false gifts of the Spirit.”(Hyles)

Incense is a type of prayer (Rev 5:8).  “Strange fire” (Lev. 10:1-3) or strange incense is a reference to was when the priests, Aaron’s sons and Moses’ nephews Nadab and Abihu offered fire to God that did not come from the brazen altar. This was a grievous error for which they were immediately sentenced to death and burned to death by God’s fire.  God did not allow Aaron even to mourn for his sons. The Lord said,  “I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified.”  God’s holiness is seen in all its glory and not to be trifled with.

First, for the Pentecostal, strange fire is praying amiss or with a disregard to the holiness of God (James 4:1-4) and sinful living (Isa. 1:15).  One man comments about Aarons sons, “They were priests who had become aliens to God because of pride and unforsaken sin.  It is what you are and what you have become that makes your prayer what it is: holy or strange! Unforsaken sin becomes a stronghold for Satan; and it corrupts everything you bring to God. What strange incense is pouring out of the lips of many compromising servants of the Lord today.” (Wilkerson)

Second, strange fire to the Pentecostal is any message that exalts humanism, the evil ways of this world system and age and anything manufactured by the sinful nature above the message of the Christ and the cross. Strange fire is anything that is a satanic counterfeit-of another Jesus, another spirit and another gospel (2 Cor 11:3-4). The genuine Pentecostal rejects the music, media, salesmanship, philosophies and cultural fluidity of this world and sees it having no place in the house of God or among the people of God.

Third, Pentecostals reject the worship of false gods, prayers to the saints and veneration of Mary, the occult, seances, tarot cards, astrology, witchcraft and yoga for all those things are an abomination to God (Deut. 18:10-12).

Fourth. they reject the beliefs of false religions such a Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and cults such as Scientology, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Freemasons, or Mormonism. Anything that rejects the biblical doctrine of the Trinity, the Bible as the inerrant Word of God, or salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone is strange fire.

Let me conclude in saying that on the day of Pentecost one hundred and twenty disciples were filled with the Holy Ghost and fire. They received those tongues “like as of fire!”  It was as if a body of fiery power descended upon them and then distributed itself to those first believers in Christ (Acts 2:1-4). The fire of the Holy Spirit is manifested as a purity of heart, a joyful zeal and an ardent love that burns in the heart of the child of God.  A person who loves the Lord is “on fire” for God and loves the truth of God’s Word and holiness.

Laodicea“I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” (Rev 3:15-16). 

Laodicea is the last stage of the church age before the Rapture.

We live in that day.

If it is not that day that I am distressed because could this form of Christianity get worse?  God help us if it does.  It is at an all time spiritual low like I have never seen.

No wonder he tells this church to, “be zealous…and repent.” (Rev 3:19). 

Jesus teaches that there are three spiritual states:  the cold, the lukewarm and the hot.  It is important to determine what condition they each indicate, in order to not interpret this passage incorrectly.  One thing is clear: these three conditions of spiritual life  relate to the church not the world. 

It is easy to see what the term hot means.  It is a state of spiritual intensity, passion and enthusiasm. It is a heart on fire for God and is filled and floats with the joy of God’s love and presence.

Christ hates lukewarmness. It is obnoxious and an abomination to him. When a person is Lukewarm the state of their heart has no zeal. They have no forward motion.

They are stagnant.

They may go to church but they would not know self-denial if it bit them in their blessed assurance. They do not fast, they do not pray or read their Bible. They do not strain, stretch or exert any spiritual muscles. There is no self-denial that costs them anything. There is no cross bearing for them, they never get a splinter. They feel no need to be a witness to others about Christ. They are vapid, bland and innocuous.

The old preachers used to say the devil does not even bother them because they are no threat to him at all.

But what is it to be to be cold? Does it indicate a state of corruption, wickedness or being an unbeliever. That is ridiculous. It is repulsive to think that our Lord Jesus would wish that anyone would be like this! “No state can be more offensive to Christ then that of the sinner in open rebellion and his heart filled with every evil.” (Smith)  It says of Christ, “Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity.” (Heb. 1:9).

Heat and cold are preferable to lukewarmness. They will be rejected if they are not hot or cold.

But what kind of spiritual state is indicated by the term cold? Cold would seem to be a spiritual condition where a person realizes that they are spiritually destitute.  They realize that they are “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” (Rev. 3:17) and they long to recover what they have lost!

The lukewarm are content where they are.

But the “cold” are alarmed that they are spiritually unfit, and seek to be restored. The Lukewarm person feels they don’t need any restoration and are just fine.

So it is easy to see why Christ prefers to see his church in a state would not be comforted, because they are not where they should be. You can’t stay cold long.

Cold people will seek out heat.

The lukewarm person is in great danger until Christ finally has to reject them as nauseatingly loathsome.

191 - Jesus Drives Out Demons“And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues.” (Mk. 16:17).

Pentecostals believe that a man or woman baptized in the Holy Ghost has the authority from God to set people free who are under the influence of demon spirits.

Christians engage in personal daily battle with the enemy (James 4:7; Eph. 6:10-19). The enemy does attack.  Yet, no genuine Christian can be possessed or demonized (Col 1:13-14) because they are God’s property (1Cor. 6:19-20).  If a person has demons, they are NOT saved. The Bible says, “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.” (1 John 5:18). 

The casting out of demons is part of gospel ministry. When we go and preach the message of salvation by Christ alone, especially about the blood and cross of Christ-the demons know and react. As we utter the name of Jesus (Luke 10:19; Acts 16:16-18)  and the wield the sword of the Spirit -holy scripture (Luke 10:19) we will encounter people who are under the influence of the demonic and need to be delivered.

The word for casting out is ekballo and carries with it the sense of eviction of demons but not just “throwing something out” but to banish evils spirits with such rapid, violent, overwhelming force that they have no more power over a person. The believer In Jesus Christ has been given the authority to cast out devils or demon spirits as they minister in the power of the gospel and the Holy Spirit (Rom. 1:16). As we preach the Lord works with us in signs and wonders  to confirm what we preach as the truth (Mk. 16:20).  Pentecostals believe what the Bible teaches that the every royal child of the King of kings has been given power (John 1:12) to evict and enforce the obedience of these rebellious spirits  (Mk 6:7, 12-13) to the Word of God.

Authority and power should be distinguished. Our authority comes from mighty name of Jesus (Acts 4:12) and the Holy Spirit empowers us against the devil (Mt 12:28).  Authority is the right to act. Jesus gave us authority over all the most fearsome, poisonous, venomous demons (seen as scorpions and serpents) and “all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” (Luke 10:20).  We also have been given authority and power against unclean spirits (Mt 10:1).

Authority is  freedom to act and  power is ability, One man says,  “It’s like electricity. The power company generates the power and delivers it to your house. It’s not your power, but it’s under your control. You don’t call the power company and ask them to turn the lights on. No! They won’t do that. They generate the power, but it’s under your command. You simply flip the switch on the wall and command the power to work. Does this mean you are the power source? Certainly not! You can put a light bulb in your mouth, and it will never come on. You aren’t the power source, but you are the one in control of what that power does. You can plead with the power company all you want, but they won’t flip the switch for you. You have to assume your authority and acknowledge the power is under your command.” (Andrew Wommack)

As we obey God in the Great Commission to reach the planet with the gospel we go not only teaching and preaching but healing and liberating those in need.  Our society is drunk on the occult and witchcraft.  Vampirism, casting spells, animism, zombie obsession is going to leave many people in the clutches of Satan and demonic slavery. Churches feel too refined to talk about demons and Satan.  We can gloss over sin for a while. The debut of evil is always as an angel of light.  Sin can seem like it is so empowering and pleasurable but eventually its true ugliness begins to form.   All the sophisticated theology in the world will be meaningless in these last days.  Only those simple folks who believe the scriptures teaching about the power of the blood and name of Jesus will be able to help people to be liberated from demons.

©2013 Soul Health Care Ministries. Feel free to post or publish this but, hey, give credit where credit is due!

966275223f“Being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” (Romans 5:9).

Blood has its massive theme in the scriptures. The scripture spends much time on the symbolism of the blood shed under the Old Covenant pointing to Jesus and his bloodstained old rugged cross on Golgotha’s hill. That is why the Blood of Jesus is always in the vocabulary of the Pentecostal. The Cross and what happened on Calvary is central to their faith and the basis of their salvation.

Why do Pentecostals talk so much about the blood of Jesus? Because the gracious act of his death on the cross is etched with laser heat in our minds and we are moved beyond expression as we read about the violence of the bloodshed of  Jesus on Calvary.

People ask, “Should we not phrase it another way? People will not understand.” God’s language is alien to ours but we should learn to speak it.  People should not come into the foreign country of Christianity just to be saved. But they need to learn its language and Bible words and concepts. They should become biblically literate not in, “the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth” (1 Cor. 2:13). We should teach them and explain it to them and not apologize to them for its truth.

Once a person starts reading the Bible as soon as they come into John chapter 6 they see how people misunderstood the blood and they still do not understand it now. yet, the scripture is insistent upon its wording concerning the blood of Jesus (Mt. 26:28; John 6:53; Acts 20:28; 1 Cor. 11:24-30; Col. 1:14, 20: Eph. 1:7; 2:13; Heb. 9:14; 10:19, 29; 13:20; 1 Pet. 1:2; 19; 1 John 1:7; 5:8; Rev. 1:5; 5:9; 7:14: Rev. 12:11: 22:14).  Blood is the scarlet thread (Joshua 2: 18-19) woven through its  pages. It is so important to God that blood is mentioned in the King James Version of the Bible, 447 times in 375 verses.

It was among Pentecostals that I first learned the centrality of the Cross and the phrase, “I plead the blood of Jesus!”

I heard people say it when they were praying for people to get the Holy Ghost. I saw them “plead the blood of Jesus” when they laid hands on the sick and saw them recover. I saw them “plead the blood of Jesus” when they were casting out devils. The Pentecostals taught me the importance of the blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins for all time. They taught me that His blood washed not just covered my sins.  I ate the Lord’s supper in awe of the blood covenant.  I learned that it was the blood of Jesus that was the ransom paid to buy us back from Satan’s power and paid our sin debt and brought us in favor and closeness to God. The blood is the plea or legal grounds of our justification (Romans 5:9).  We are justified by his blood. We are no longer helpless victims of the guilt, penalty and power of sin because of the blood of  Jesus Cross!

People take issue with the phrase, “I plead the blood of Jesus” or “Satan, the blood of Jesus is against you!” In their efforts to be theological sophisticates they rant that we should not treat the blood of Jesus as if it were “magical” or this phrase as if it were a magical formula.  Let me assure you, THERE IS NOT ONE Pentecostal that believes in magic or anything magical. The Bible teaches that there is a mystery in and with the blood of Jesus that I do not think anyone will ever come to understand. But I do know that the Pentecostals treated the idea the understanding of the blood of Jesus with fearful reverence.  The saw it as the blood of the new and everlasting covenant,  God’s own blood and the blood of the Lamb of God.

The devil hates the blood of Christ and will stop at nothing to prevent people from preaching and applying it!  At Calvary, Satan was defeated by the blood of Jesus (Rev 12:11).  He is defeated in its application over and over and over again.  We have rights as God’s adopted children (John 1:12) and should not let Satan take advantage of us.  Christ gave us authority over all the works of the enemy (Luke 10:19).  Satan is the greatest thief around and constantly engages in identity theft making people who are truly saved feel like they are losers, filling them with guilt and shame. But when the child of God looks to Calvary and sees what their Lord and Savior has done they begin to walk in the Spirit and say, “Satan, the blood of Jesus is against you!”

Jack Hayford says, “An attorney stands before the court and makes a “plea” on legal grounds, based upon a body of evidence. When you and I come before the court of heaven—and in every circumstance we face in life—we have the legal right, through the blood of Jesus Christ, to enter a plea and to lay claim to the evidence (His slain body, His shed blood at the Cross) which is proven to neutralize the power of sin, the power of affliction, the power of death, and the power of hell…”

The children of Israel in Exodus 12 slaughtered a spotless lamb, drained its blood into a basin and took a hyssop branch and applied it to the top and sides of the door of their homes.  God promised, “And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt…the Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.”  (Exodus 12:13, 23). When I read this scripture what comes out to me is the protection the blood of Jesus gives. the blood keeps us safe, the blood shelters us and the blood defends us.  HIS BLOOD GIVES US THE VICTORY! Glory to God!

We “plead the blood of Jesus” by declaring with our words the power of the blood of Christ (Mk. 11:23).  Many people wonder how they could apply the blood of Jesus to their body, home and family. The Bible says when we speak it is like an offering or, “the calves of our lips.” (Hosea 14:12). Paul taught, “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” (Heb 13:15).  In the New Covenant the words of our mouths in prayer in worship should agree with God’s Word. Declaring the truth of the gospel not only takes the place of all the liturgy and ceremony of the Old Covenant but declares the blood of the Lamb of God poured out on the cross for protection, healing, deliverance and salvation.

© 2013 Soul Health Care Ministries. I wrote this, not you-but feel free to share it and give credit where credit is due.

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