Tales From the Furnace Part 2

furnace3It is no comfort to know that everyone goes through trials (1 Cor 10:13; 1 Peter 5:8-9) unless you see that those trials melt us together to become one golden masterpiece. I love those who have melted in him, with me. The fellowship of his sufferings bring us together as Jesus prayed, “that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” (John 17:21-23).

 

You will be at your very worst and very best in trial. But when the futility of my own works is clearly seen I begin to feel after these trials as Job, “my soul chooseth strangling, and death rather than my life.” (Job 7:15KJV). I have grown weary with the ineffectiveness of my ministry. But I realize that God is doing a very deep work of humiliation and holiness in me. I hate these times. I do repent that I have despised the chastening of the Lord because if I despise it I deem him unjust and He is not. It is just everything is fire, smoke and I can hardly breathe.

 

I realize that the three Hebrew boys thrown into the furnace came out with no smoke, but they did have a flavor in them that they did not before. I cough, gasp, struggle for breath and cry for help. I am like a burning piece of wood, when will I be plucked from the flames (Amos 4:11)? All my pride is worthless, my heart naked, the varnish of my reputation stripped. All I hear and feel is a spiritual burning! My soul, mind and body melt in the crucible of God!

 

My soul is in prison and one can deliver me from his hands (Psalm 142:7). I am incarcerated, sentenced to these flames-he pours the liquor of heaven on me and set me afire so that somehow the taste of the brazen altar and its savor is in me! No one can remove me from this inferno, this purgatory! He looks the other way as I give my prayer performance in order to cause a diversion in his heart from being in this fire!

 

He has no regard to my Bible reading in hopes, reminding him of his promises and profession of faith in order to escape. I must go through the molten sanctification. The time has come that, “I must think of my sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get my own way. Then I’ll be able to live out my days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what I want.” (1 Peter 4:1-2 MSG).

 

“Even from eternity I am He, and there is none who can deliver out of My hand; I act and who can reverse it?” (Isaiah 43:13NASB). All the prayers of my friends leave me untouched, I am invulnerable to my enemies I am in the fearful place, in the hands of the Sovereign God-the all consuming fire. He has swallowed me up in the belly of his fire, to separate the useless things from me. The thing I cannot use, should not use and will not use. Because they are burned! Useless, worthless, there is so much in me that desecrates the temple, defiling pollution!

 

Before I am transfigured it seems I must be disfigured. Or have I always been disfigured? All the comeliness, the perfect beauty God bestows upon me (Ezekiel 16:14) is removed. “For my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength.” (Daniel 10:8).  It is a deathly pallor, or a face pale with death to self weakness, cowardice! There is only burning instead of beauty (Isaiah 3:24).

 

God is not an irresponsible parent. He beats me with his rod to deliver my soul from hell (Prov 23:14). Obedience is for my spiritual health and operating in wisdom to his intention and design in creating us and all around us we must use those things in the context he gave. If God sees an area in my life that refuses to respond in obedience and there are many he will resort to other measures that will cause “a quiet harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” (Heb. 12:11NLT).

 

God will not fight for me (Psalm 44:9) while he is fighting with me (Acts 5:39)! I try to fight him but he has beaten my resolve, my ability to fight as he turns my swords in to shovels, my spears into hoes-gardening tools (Isaiah 2:4). He uses that fight in me against me to accomplish his work of husbandry and farming! My life pours out of me like blood that he holds in his hands and absorbs like a cup.  I am like a sacrifice, a burnt offering on his burning altar (Rom. 12:1). Flesh and blood cannot inherit his kingdom! My flesh, my blood cannot do what his spirit and life can do! (John 6:63).

 

He does the deliberate work of sanctification exterminating the compound uselessness from my soul and unscrambling the useless wasteful abilities of my life-the ore of my life; refining, producing purity a nearly uncontaminated and a state suitable for his use. My filth pours out of me by this spirit of judgment and burning (Isaiah 4:4).

 

I cannot stand it any longer. “But who can endure the day of His coming and who can stand when He appears? For, He is like a refiner’s fire and like launderers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer to the LORD an offering in righteousness.” (Malachi 3:2-3NKJV). Don’t sing to me of this fire! There is nothing quixotic or romantic about it! “The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the LORD tests hearts.” (Prov. 17:3).

 

The crucible is not just the furnace-but the bottom of the furnace! It is why he must lift me up out of the scum and excrement of self will, rebellion for it is ugly and vile. It is the only way I can have hope of being a vessel useful for God. It is all dross. That archaic word means Take away the dross from the silver, and there shall come forth a vessel for the finer. (Prov 25:4KJV). In another version it says, “Remove impurities from the silver and the silversmith can craft a fine chalice.” (Prov 25:4). A chalice, an extraordinary vessel in my Lord’s eyes, a cup of communion! Oh I long to be lifted to the Lord’s lips as such! He communed with his Father and I was a horrible prospect (Rev 17:4). In a state where I desire not purity and embrace this fire he would rightly says over and over again, “Father let this cup pass from me!” (Mk 14: 36-39). But instead the Crucified one drinks from this weary cup as part of his Father’s will, the wrath of God against sinners, for my sake and drains it of all its impurity for he himself took on my diseased nature, sin sick nature and gave me his righteousness (Isaiah 53:4-5).

 

Now let him lift me to his lips as a chalice-a cup that the glorified Christ would drink from! He took the cup and if not mans eyes! Don’t preach to me theology about me difference between salvation and sanctification because if I am not cleansed eventually I would be lost-if I am his, really his I will bear fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” (Romans 6:22). Do not interfere with my beloved and I (Song 2:7; 8:4)

 

I must be holy in all I am and do! A life energetic and blazing with holiness! (1 Peter 1:15). He must make me holy even if he must teach me to resist sin with the surrender of my own life (Heb 12:4). To live is Christ to die is gain (Phil 1:21)! I cannot love my life, family, friends and dreams more than him or I will lose my life to sin and self’s destructive grasp (Mt 10:39)!

 

I know of his grace of his imputed righteousness but forgiveness is not enough I must find my fulfillment in doing the will of God, after that I have done the will of God I might receive the promise (Heb 10:36). Oh God strengthen me complete and perfect me and make me what I ought to be and equip me with everything good that I may carry out Your will while You Yourself work in me and accomplishes that which is pleasing in Your sight, through Jesus Christ! (Heb 13:21).

 

I can only rest in the Crucified One and somehow believe that, “My beloved is mine, and I am his” (Song 2:6).  It is amazing.  After a long study on the Song of Solomon and in the first chapter the Shulamite says, “I am weathered but still elegant, oh, dear sisters in Jerusalem, Weather–darkened like Kedar desert tents, time-softened like Solomon’s Temple hangings.” (Song 1:5MESSAGE).

 

Weathered- that is it! Weather beaten is more like it. How the trials of life can make us elegant is hard to comprehend. I feel ugly and useless. God erodes all our substances and our beauty (what we think is our beauty or righteousness) and softens us. It is when your heart is bruised, sore when you feel the stitches-God attempts to heal us after these spiritual surgeries. But like anything you have to be careful in your movements, if you do not rest or let it heal it bleeds all over again.  

 

If you find another way than by all means take it, though it I say that with much reservation. We all have a love hate relationship with the pressures of life and the squeezing of GOD’s hand to bring forth the juice of the fruit of the Spirit in us. When Paul visited Lystra, Iconium and Antioch he was “putting muscle and sinew in the lives of the disciples, urging them to stick with what they had begun to believe and not quit, making it clear to them that it wouldn’t be easy: “Anyone signing up for the kingdom of God has to go through plenty of hard times.” (Acts 14:22Message).

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Tales From the Furnace Part 1

furnace“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you. But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy…for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you.” (1 Peter 4:12-14).

 

We are saved by God’s sovereign grace alone, through faith alone by Christ alone for God’s glory alone. But we will go through a process of sanctification and be comformed to his image. What I am attempting to say is not email, voice mail or snail mail it is heart mail. I only know that in order to change and change I must, that the furnace can not be side stepped. Only when you grow sick and tired of your self and you will, then you of your own free will enter the furnace. You will cry for purging of your sin nature rather than pardon for your sins. The children of Israel were told, “But the LORD hath taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, even out of Egypt, to be unto him a people of inheritance, as ye are this day. (Deut 4:20).

 

Those are ominous words at first reading. Peter tells those persecuted Christians thousands of years ago that trials are fiery. This verse can say easily, “Don’t be amazed by the burning!”  I am amazed that this could happen to me. My present suffering is agony on fire and a trial by fire. It burns. It injures. It hurts so badly. My tears are like the crackling of the flames. When I am dumb with silence I just feel the steady heat, I have a steady glow as all the moisture in me is turned into a drought (Psalm 32:4). I am dehydrated. I thirst! My soul is a dry and thirsty land where there is no water and I thirst for God (Psalm 63:1-3)! Of course it burns, scorching fire is involved. If by chance you hear or read these words and you are experiencing pain, you are not unspiritual, it does not mean you are carnal because you are in pain.

 

There is dignity in this time even when you feel all your self-respect has been stripped away. People will accuse you or worse counsel you during this time. This is a matter of intimacy. Man’s opinion or man pleasing is the heart of all lethal religion. Of the Pharisees who refused the fire of Christ’s words it says, “All their works they do for to be seen of men!” (Mt. 23:5). Do you and I feel absolved from this sort of criminal act? The Message version says, “Their lives are perpetual fashion shows, embroidered prayer shawls one day and flowery prayers the next.” Man’s opinion of you must become fuel for the furnace or you will never benefit from this trial. You will be useless for the Master’s work. When you come to the realization of how many things you have done to be seen of men instead of God, it will break your heart!

 

You and I feel disfigured on the way to be transfigured. What you were, what you know does not matter at all in these flames. Self esteem and confidence-what are they in this furnace that incinerates all things?

 

A healthy view of self is not against scripture and impish false humility is loathsome to God but self hatred has its place as well. But everything is an issue to the flames including your identity and titles. Your history and good works are but dung if you would win Christ! (Phil 3:8). Nothing can douse the inferno. Man centered theology cannot help you. Don’t speak to me of psychology. Leave me and my Beloved alone. You cannot know. Only he can. What you and I know about God is tested and if it is worthless it is reduced to ashes as the fire licks at our mind and soul and removes it to where we have more questions than answers! 

 

If you are suffering, you are suffering like Christ did. To be like Jesus is the prayer of any child of God who has a sane understanding of what it is to be a Christian. I am stunned as I read that people “did not accept deliverance that they might obtain a better resurrection!” (Heb 11:35). What kind of mindset is that compared to what we hear preached in the pop theology of the emergent, church growth cults of today?

 

But could you look at him in the face, touch his nail scarred hands, the wound that was from a lance thrust in his side and look down art his nail pierced feet never having endured suffering and trial? Is Jesus in his suffering so disfigured in your eyes that you do not see the beauty he has? Paul prayed for “the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings!” (Phil 3:10). The Murdock translation says, “That I might know Jesus, and the efficacy of his resurrection; and might participate in his sufferings, and be assimilated to his death.” The effectiveness of his resurrection life can only be appreciated when you are personally involved with a suffering for Christ and are absorbed into his death! Is this suffering Jesus someone you avoid? It is a fellowship and companionship. Those who associate with him do suffer. But we suffer with him that we might reign with him. (2 Tim 3:12).

 

As hard as it is to accept, a radiance and splendor of his presence is going to be seen in you like never before. You are being integrated into all that Jesus is, in this furnace. The spirit of glory and of God will rest on you.

 

This trial is familiar yet unique. It is a test. Why now? Either things were going so well, or things are bad enough! Now a test comes! It is not a pop quiz, it is like a pop SAT. Trials are not strange. It is not an accident. This is not THE trial with no obstacles afterward. There are many ordeals in this life (James 1:2-3). God says “Don’t be confused. It is on purpose. You must be tested and proven.”  God is not after you he is after something in you. Like a dangerous glaucoma of pride, or the cancer of bitterness, any soul damning desires that lurk like a cancer that pretends to be benign when it actually can turn terminal in an instant.

 

But no matter despite what Peter our brother in Christ wrote to us, my first reaction to life’s complications is that they are strange and I am confused. I have been here before but it is a different scene.

DID GOD KILL ADAM?

expulsion1Hamartiology is a theological term that refers to  the study of sin.  Yes, I said the word sin and the word theology. This article will be heavy theology to some by wade through the waters if you can. I am just a student attempting to learn more about our Lord. 

Sin means to miss the mark of God’s standard and perfection. I know it is an unfamiliar word in some circles but it is the most dangerous influence in the universe. The truth about sin is an acquired taste and it is definitely unpalatable to this generation and in times past. Sin is breaking God’s law (1 John 3:4). The Bible calls it the plague of the heart (1 Kings 8:38). People do not, cannot and will not become conformed to the will of God because they are deformed in their nature because of sin. Sin is not just a habit or an illness it is the punishment that  has brought spiritual death. We need to study about the radical depravity of humans because unless we know about the  nature, origin and consequences of sin we can never genuinely worship God for his mighty power to save and free us from its penalty, power and presence. 

The book of Genesis records that God created our planet in six 24 hour periods or days (Gen. 1-2). God created human beings in his image and breathed life into them (Gen. 1:26; 2:27).  Adam was a man who had a body which served as an earthly exterior and he was given “the breath of  lives” and given a spirit and soul or heavenly insides. God made a garden paradise for them to live in (Gen 2:8).

Grace or Work in The Garden

Certain theologians insist that adhering to the belief that God and Adam had a covenant of works-based on the obedience of Adam to God’s command as a test of whether you really have pure doctrine.  But John Murray says,

“Towards the end of the 16th century the administration dispensed to Adam in Eden, focused in the prohibition to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, had come to be interpreted as a covenant, frequently called the Covenant of Works, sometimes a covenant of life, or the Legal Covenant. It is, however, significant that the early covenant theologians did not construe this Adamic administration as a covenant, far less as a covenant of works. Reformed creeds of the 16th century such as the French Confession (1559), the Scottish Confession (1560), the Belgic Confession (1561), the Thirty-Nine Articles (1562), the Heidelberg Catechism (1563), and the Second Helvetic (1566) do not exhibit any such construction of the Edenic institution. After the pattern of the theological thought prevailing at the time of their preparation, the term ‘covenant,’ insofar as it pertained to God’s relations with men, was interpreted as designating the relation constituted by redemptive provisions and as belonging, therefore, to the sphere of saving grace.”  (John Murray, Collected Writings of John Murray: 4, Studies in Theology, “Covenant Theology,” (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1982), pp. 217-18).

But there is too much evidence of  grace and mercy in the Garden of Eden  as God condescended to the first couple.  Adam was not left to himself without help and and just because his decisions or his will were unfettered from evil desires does not mean he did not need God’s life and communion. He was made to fellowship with God.  Because Adam fell was he more dependant on God for mercy?  I do not think so. Adam needed God’s presence and life just in his glorious state of perfection as well.  God was the Creator and He was still the created. Eventually, we see the root of his sinful pride was that he did not want to depend on God alone. But Adam, holy and innocent as he was stood out as a specimen of the Sovereign grace of God. His wife was a gift by grace. His home, work and title were all gifts of grace.  He owed his very existence to God’s grace!   The biggest problem with the Covenant of Works is that it misconstrues God’s dealings with Adam. Does God legally deal with Adam on the basis of his works and obedience and then make another covenant of grace later that deals with us in mercy apart from our actions?   What did Adam fall from anyway? It was an awful apostasy and breakdown from the life, love and communion he had with God.  He fell from grace!

Wanted: Adam Dead or Alive

Adam was  promised life for obedience and threatened death for disobedience.  He has to obey God or he could not enjoy fellowship with God. As many preachers point out that he was free to eat from every tree except that one. The emphasis was on God’s grace and Adam’s status. Adam was a representative or federal head of all human beings (Rom. 5:12-19; 1 Cor. 15:22, 47).  There is a biblical implication that God made a covenant with Adam but it was because of grace and steadfast love (Hosea 6:6-7). Then our first parents disobeyed God (Gen 3).  When he disobeyed things changed. When Adam sinned he died spiritually (Ezek. 18:20; Eph. 2:5) and He became a slave to sin (Romans 6:16; 2 Peter 2:19) and the sin he sinned and the death he died was transmitted to all of humanity (Rom. 5:12). Simply put, total depravity means human beings are dead in sin and sold out to its power. Death and total depravity are synonymous.

The idea of God giving Adam the death penalty for his crime had somehow slipped our minds.  But it is clear as day. God’s justice and mercy are woven through the tapestry of scripture. God sentenced Adam to slavery to sin and spiritual death. Was God unrighteous to enforce this penalty as Creator and Lawgiver? His perfection, holiness and justice are limitless! He hates sin. All sin is against God (Psalm 51: 4).  This must never be forgotten. Adam countered God’s goodness, kindness and glory with violating his law! Adam was made for God’s glory and to serve him and Adam betrayed the God of heaven with what R.C. Sproul refers to as “cosmic treason.” Adam deliberately rebelled against God and defected to serve Satan and his lies. That is why God inflicted capital punishment upon him and sentenced him to death, “in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die!” (Gen 2:17).  God takes vengeance upon Adam and repays him to the face for his deed with spiritual and eventually physical death and also slavery to the sin Adam loved so much (Deut 7:10; Rom 12:19).

Arthur Pink comments that man, “is like a murderer in the condemned cell awaiting execution…he is dead vitally, without a single spark of spiritual life. Thus he is totally dead to God and holiness, cast out of His favor, without any power to recover it.”  That is total depravity in a nutshell. Adam was put to death by God.  He was executed for his crime. The day he ate he died inside and he sat on death row until he died physically. The payback of sin is death (Romans 6:23).  Human beings are so entrenched in sin they cannot produce anything that is equal to God’s standard for heaven.  The heart and will are dead. This does not mean he cannot feel guilt or is unable to discern right and wrong. This does not mean they cannot make day to day decisions or feel affection for others. What this means is that men are incapable of loving God in and of themselves and in their mind hate the truth of God are defiant against it. In everything humans do is tainted with sin. This truth should humble us.

A Love-Hate Relationship

God was angry at Adam for what he did.  American Christianity will avoid talking about God’s wrath or deny God has anger at all.  They think  it portrays God having some fault or blemish in his character. But he detests, loathes and has an aversion to evil and hates sin. God does not separate that anger toward those who live in sin either. People will say that God’s wrath was an Old Covenant issue, not in the New Covenant. Ridiculous! Right now God’s wrath is revealed from heaven (Rom. 1:18).  There is a day of wrath coming (Mt 3:7; Luke 3:7; Rom 2:5). For people who do not believe in Christ God’s wrath is upon them (John 3:36), they are ominously called “the children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3).

God does love righteousness and hate iniquity (Ps. 45:7; Heb. 1: 9). Let us be clear: God’s hatred for sin and the God’s passion for justice  are divinely foreign and transcend human emotions and affections. He does not love as we love, he does not hate as we hate-He is perfect love and perfect holiness! Many people point out that God is love (1 John 4:8) but He is not all loving and all forgiving. He also is holy and just. There are scriptures that teach God hates the unrepentant reprobate (Hosea 9:15; Ps. 5:5; 11:5; Lev. 20:23; Prov. 6:16-19; Mal. 1:3; Rom. 9:13)!  Does this shock you? How could this be? I know it is a lot to think about. We have always been taught that God does not hate anyone.   The Bible teaches this in contradiction to much preaching today. This is the most difficult truth for anyone to swallow because the majority of people especially church goers under spin doctor preaching or pop theology want unconditional acceptance from God no matter what they do. God giving people over to their desires such as Romans 1:18-32 is another truth that sours in their spiritual stomachs.

They also think in humanistic terms because what they do is not as bad as others. Notice the comparison they use, “not as bad as others.”  We hate (tolerantly, politely and sometimes angrily) those who commit awful crimes. The molester, child abuser or murderer are an object of hostility, abhorrence and revulsion. Whereas we know we should not take the law in our hands but when justice is served upon awful criminals, molesters, murderers-we loathe them and want to see justice served.  Those who we appoint to represent us and to deal with crime, are called God’s servants,  “an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” (Rom 13: 4). But God’s wrath is free from anything tainted by sin and what are the sinful actions of we human beings contrasted with the thrice Holy God of the universe? Where angels since eternity involuntarily past spill out and never grow weary of crying out, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty!” (Rev. 4:8).  What sin ticks God off? All sin  whether in thought, word or deed (James 2:10). Even taking a piece of fruit in the Garden angered him, because He commanded Adam not to do it.

Christ is the Only Hope For Sinners

In Genesis chapter three Adam and Eve were unable to clothe themselves, hide themselves, excuse themselves and unable to save themselves. The flimsy leaves of their self righteousness could not clear them of their deeds (Isaih 64:6). I believe that God acted in mercy toward the elect first parents by slaying the animal and clothing them with animal skins. Sin had to be punished and at the same time he wanted to save his creation! But how could he justify the ungodly without violating his own laws (Prov 17:15)? Only Jesus, the eternal Son of God was the only One who could save them.  His sacrifice was the only act that could save us. For Adam and Eve, Abel and others those who saw the shadow of the cross across their path were saved retroactively (Heb. 10:1).

Christ removes spiritual death and the last enemy to be destroyed has already been dealt a death blow (1 Cor 15:26).  The God-man was the perfect once-for-all sacrifice (Heb 10:10). King Jesus, the Lord of glory (1 Cor. 2:8) left his throne above to come and die in the place of sinful men, to satisfy a God who was offended at the despicable acts of man. This was a type of what the predicted “seed of the woman” would do (Gen 3:15). He would be sacrificed to appease the anger of  God. That is the meaning of the word propitiation and atonement. Only in Christ can we be saved from God’s wrath (Rom. 5:9; 1 Thess. 1:10). 

Jesus Christ came into this world for lawbreakers and sinners (1 Tim. 1:15) and they can only be saved by the power of the Spirit of God drawing them to foot of Calvary’s cross (John 6:44).  Jesus died saying, “Father forgive them!” (Luke 23:34) in making covenant in his blood (Heb 13:20). he not only made the covenant but he  was the Covenant (Isaiah 42:6)  and he sealed these people as he died for them to give them eternal life (Eph4:30).  Jesus could look at  the people given to him by the Father and say, “because I live ye shall live also.” (John 14:19).  The last Adam was a life giving spirit (1 Cor 15:45) who came and resurrected the lost souls of his elect people by his own resurrection.  He is the first of the harvest of the resurrection (1 Cor 15:23). Jesus will resurrect human beings from their graves notonly physically (John 5:28) but he gives new birth to those whom he breathes on and speaks life to (John 3:5; 20:22; Eph 2:1, 5). He will give life, eternal life to believers, those ordained to eternal life (Acts 13:48).  He sees people in their dead condition and he says, “Come forth!” (Luke 11:43). 

Notice what Jesus says, “For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.” (John 16:27). “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” (Eph 5:25).  Jesus loves us, he comes as God’s answer not ours. He died in love for his church, “having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.” (John 13:1). He stooped down to wash their sins away and to remove the reason for God’s wrath against them!  He loves the justified sinner (John 14:21). The blood of Jesus Christ washed their sins away (Rev. 1:5). He lavishly, abundantly poured out the riches of his grace and forgiveness “in love” upon his own, those he has saved (Eph 1:4-7). We are rooted and grounded in that love (Eph3:17) and Christ is the sole hope of salvation.

Must God Kill Us?

Some of you bristle still at the fact that God executed Adam for his crimes and sentenced him to return to the dust. But there is a death we all must die that is not physical. It is through the conviction of the Holy Spirit that the Word of God must kill us (John 16:8; Heb 4:12).  God says to Israel, “I cut you in pieces with my prophets, I killed you with the words of my mouth; my judgments flashed like lightning upon you.” (Hosea 6:5NIV). Real biblical preaching  puts to death the pride of humans and exalts God! That is where surrender to God comes in the form of repentance. Why?  Repentance is the death to self that we all must die so that we come alive in Christ clothed in his righteousness not the tattered rags of our self righteousness. We must take up our cross and follow Christ.  Adam’s flimsy leaves, and taking cover behind the tree of his sins could not cover his sin.  Like him we cannot hide. All the church of today offers with its self improvement, motivational psycho-gospel  leaves us red faced and ashamed in the presence of the God whose piercing gaze cannot be bribed with the good works of man.  Humans must take on the robe of Christ and hide behind or in the rugged wood of the cross of Christ! 

Let me finish with the words of Charles Spurgeon:

“This downcasting and slaying is good for us. We take a deal of killing, and it is by being killed that we live. Many a man will never live till his proud self is slain. O proud Pharisee, if you are to live among those whom God accepts, you will have to come to the slaughterhouse and be cut in pieces as well as killed. “This is dreadful work,” saith one, “this dividing of joints and marrow, this spiritual dismemberment and destruction.” Assuredly it is painful, and yet it were a grievous loss to be denied it.  Alas, how many are so good and excellent, and strong and wise, and clever, and all that, that they cannot agree to be saved by grace through faith. If they could be reduced to less than nothing it would be the finest thing that ever happened to them. Remember what Solomon said might be done with the fool, and yet it would not answer–he was to be brayed in a mortar among wheat with a pestle,-pretty hard dealing that, and yet his folly would not depart from him. Not by that process alone, but through some such method, the Holy Spirit brings men away from their folly. Under his killing operations this may be their comfort that, if Jesus Christ rose literally from the dead (not from sickness, but from death), and lives again, even so will his people. “

Exposing The Beast of Man’s Praise

to_chain_the_beast “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” (Rev. 21:8KJV).  I want to focus on the word fearful or cowards. Are the fearful cowards those who retreat from war, those who abandon their homes and family, or civic responsibility? These may be included but it focuses mainly on those that apostasize or fall away from Christ on account of fear. A.T. Roberston says that it is an old word that refers to recanting or retracting your beliefs under persecution.

The Beast in the book of Revelation has many interpretations but I am using this as an analogy not eschatologically. I see Satan intimidating preachers by his growling Beast and the seductive woman that sits upon it. From Saddleback to Broken Back he will do anything to stop the preacher of the gospel of Christ! This Beast threatens them with the fear of the loss of  finances, congregation size, and reputation. On one hand Satan raises up external forces like militant homosexuals, violent Islamic extremists, liberal politicians in places of power to make the preacher back down. Internally, the Devil raises up recycled church hoppers full of rebellion and bitterness,  he strategically places unregenerate people on an elder board, or church goers who are into the latest and greatest spirutual fads.  He coerces them to downsize their doctrine, and be generously compromising in their orthodoxy- upgrading activities, programs and entertainment. Idolatry to say the least is entertaining. That is what makes the Beast come to life.

God help those who choose this path that serves the Beast called “the praise of man.”  This is a day and age where courage is needed the most, especially behind the pulpit. God has called men to preach the gospel and minister his Word despite the consequences without letting fear deter them from their calling (2 Tim 1:7). But many men have become ashamed of the gospel of Christ and ashamed of Christ himself! It is almost as if they have taken black highlighter and smeared it all over the Bible.

With that that being said, today there is a growing number of ecclesiastical Castrati.  We have men standing behind the pulpit today with absolutely no guts to speak the truth (if they know what truth is) especially, if they are part of the church growth cult. The church growth movement is anti-biblical because it rejects the purest teaching of scripture the Sovereignty of God in his purpose of election by grace. It is also a reinvention of the church. It is not supernatural and definitely unnatural. It is not “the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47) but a religious factory that employs empirical, social, scientific principles to build worship centers with entertainment, magic shows, and carnivals and a party like atmosphere that gives life to the image of their Beast so all will wonder (Rev. 13:15). 

Oh preacher friend take not the mark of such a delusive Beast! The Beast uses the fear of man to entrap many pastors. Your church must be built on the unique foundation of Christ! Appeal to people so you fill the building, building ideas and agendas on people make seem like there is spiritual life there but it is not. It is only the Beast becoming animated! It will make you  the lowest slave, subservient to the whims of people that change like the wind. But how seductive the praise of man remains batting its eyelashes, forcefully kissing and leading him away to the slaughter. Yet they love the praise of men more than the praise of God (John 12:43).  That is why all you hear is emaciated cheer-leading, unsubstantial motivational speaking and diet Bible sermonettes. It does not rock the boat. I am sickened by this limp wristed  “sharing.” Sure, every once in a great while they will preach something that touches the surface of truth and prick their congregation with a pin, or pinch them with a non specific message about sin but they are fearful to swing the sword of the spirit unless they gash of few of their large tithe payers. This is done at the cost of souls. How such preachers will spend eternity in hell for such cowardice.

You can see the fear of man in the content of preaching. They will say that they cannot preach about certain truths in the Bible. God did not call them to pick and choose!  They are to preach the whole counsel of God.  Then preachers play the psychologist. They concentrate on the many hurts and wounds of  church people. But God has not called them to invent medicine to heal them. Only God Word can help them. Only truths balm heals as its wine hurts.  Instead of exposing sin as the real culprit to save people from its power to hurt, they paint a pretty picture of their lives and fill them with false hopes and dreams (Lam 2:14).  Thus they breed and hatch a new kind of proselyte, manufactured of the flesh and not born of the spirit. It may seem shocking but Satan censors their preaching. How? Because they operate in fear and they engage in man centered, humanistic  pulpiteering .

American church structures  are so much like corporations they need motivational speaking the keep people working hard so they do not have time to be troubled about their souls. They make people feel as though they have  godlike potential and fill them the idea that their destiny is in their hands. It is despicable. They savour the things of men like Peter who for a moment rejected the idea of a crucified Savior (Mt 16:23). They set aside  the power of God for the attributes of man. They savour this christened humanism, they relish and enjoy it slowly! The message of the cross of Jesus Christ has been footnoted or made a deeper truth.  They have forgotten that all we preach is foolishness to the heart of an unregenerate person (1 Cor. 2:14) and it must be spiritually revealed. This is a heart condition that rejects the idea of a Supreme Deity!  The idea of an omnipotent God has no place in their hearts practically and eventually biblically. The God who decides in mercy who he will save and who in justice he condemns is seen as legalistic. They would rather pander to the felt needs of people rather than God’s glory. They have forgotten that every sermon should be holy and an act of worship not another commercial for agendas or new programs.

Truth is always subversive and shocking and pastors must not let the consequences that may come deter them  from their God given calling to walk uprightly according to the truth of the  gospel (Gal 2:14). While pastors must shepherd their flocks with love, compassion and understanding we still must speak the truth in love to a generation unwilling to receive the love of the truth (Eph. 4: 15; 2 Thess 2:10).  Oh that our fellowship was based on what John the apostle taught as we see our brethren as those we love in the truth! (2 John 1:1).  That preaching the truth would be seen as honorable, dignified and praiseworthy for men to blaze the truth of God from their pulpits and everyday lives that threaten the Beast of man worship. It is a frightening animal that tests the faith of every man or woman of God everyday. But it has been defeated in the lives of those who seek to do all things for the glory of God.

The Desert Awaits

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 “Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness leaning upon her beloved?” (Song 8:5). In this passage of Holy Scripture we have an allegory of the woman who is a type of the Christian and the king is a type of Christ. We see her in a posture of holding on to and leaning upon her beloved coming up out of the wilderness or desert.  The desert or wilderness seems to be a recurring theme in the Bible and in history with men and women who serve God. I understand that this is a strange idea in this day and age.

What is God’s purpose in drawing us to the backside of the desert (Ex. 3:1)? A desert is a very hot, dry place with no vegetation, water and the rainfall is unpredictable. It is an abandoned place, deprived of resources and lifeless. The picture of a desert is used often as a theme for men of God to separate themselves to hear the voice of God. Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist and our Lord Jesus Christ all spent time from days to years in the desert.  There they would see his glory and guidance in a place where all was barren (Ex 16:10) and be sustained by God’s care (Ex 16:32; 17:1). God brings you and I to this place in order that you and he will be on close terms in hearing his directions and voice in the scriptures. “And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, ‘Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.” (Acts 8:26).  It is a perfect description of when God calls a man or a woman to a place of surrender and abandonment.  It is a place where it is just you and God. There is nothing to do but depend on but God. No other resource will lead you out of this wilderness until you learn to depend on his strength alone, until you hold on to him for your life.

The desert transcends relationships, denomination, time and profession. It may have been a different job, home and even country. But it does not depend on location. It was not a monastic lifestyle; it was just a place far from their previous life, routine and schedule. It is a spiritual season and it is not based on outward circumstances although it may be reflected in trial. The desert has nothing to do with institutions such as Bible College and seminary. It is a place where God himself instructs you on his purpose and ways from his Word and that instruction can be conveyed to others. You can be married or single and be in the desert. You can be in pulpit ministry or a secular position and be in the wilderness. It does not matter your income or where you live. Time is not a problem because it could be months or years in the dunes of God.  It is a place where God works on his own to fashion his people as “vessels of honor” (2 Tim. 2:21) and he will complete his human project every time (Phil 1:5).

Here the Sovereignty of God is seen and understood. Here you are completely at God’s mercy. Hemmed in and shut up you cannot move unless he enlarges the room of your existence. You are face to face with the only one who can defeat your rebellion, sinful tendencies and liberate you from besetting weights that slow down spiritual progress. You will feel you must go to the sand and without question obey God. You cannot manipulate your way out. You cannot tell God by word-faith formulas to do anything. He will not relent. God asks, “Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counselor hath taught him? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding?” (Isaiah 40:13, 14). Your will is swallowed up in God’s will, your heart is his throne. We must be ready at all times to be at his disposal to learn his ways.

What he saves he will purify. The dross-like oxidation will come off the silver vessel to make a refined vessel and that which is worthless will be removed from our lives by his work in the desert (Prov. 25:4).  God sovereignly calls people away to pray and seek his face in total surrender all of their thoughts, emotions, words and abilities in order to grow and be trained for ministry. This is not when we attend a conference, retreat or even devote ourselves to extended times of prayer although it may happen parallel to those things. It is an act of Sovereign grace when he calls out, in his effectual call, “Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness.” (Ex. 7:16).  It is an unpredictable time when God calls us away with him in the desert or the wilderness of abandon. For those whom he will test and temper he will use in his service for his glory!

I have heard so many times that God’s people could have made it a shorter trip to the Promised Land, but that is just conjecture. I am not saying that they are incorrect in the distance from Egypt to Canaan but I question why people teach that we can shorten the time when God always has a set time for everything to perfect his work in our lives (Eccl. 3:1-14). We know that no one has ever made it to their promised land unless spending an extended time in the wilderness learning to serve God without the help of man. The journey in the desert was where those people must learn to serve God not in conflict with culture around them (Egypt) but the inner enemies of the heart, namely the flesh. It is not the outward world that is our problem but the inner world. In a day when we are appealing to the culture of the world in order to be more relevant we are neglecting what E.M. Bounds called the culture of the heart, “Our great lack is not in head culture but in heart culture, not lack of knowledge but lack of holiness is our sad and telling defect-not that we know too much but that we do not meditate on God and his word and watch and fast and pray enough. The heart is the great hindrance to our preaching. Words pregnant with divine truth find in our hearts nonconductors; arrested they fall shorn and powerless.” (Power Through Prayer, E.M. Bounds, Chapter 12 Heart Preparation Necessary, pg. 472 (c) Baker Book House Co.). The world will pass away and even Christ prayed that we would not be expatriated from the world but protected from the evil one because that salvation has made us aliens and even alienated from the evil world system (John 17:15-17).  Although the sinful nature has been defeated on Calvary by Christ’s sacrifice, it has a way of masquerading itself in religious activity.  It makes people appear to be something they are not, even like people who seem to serve God but do not (Isaiah 58:1-2). 

Sometimes it is hard to hear the voice of God in the scriptures with people coming and going. Religion is known for its noise and commotion. God is known for a stillness that reveals himself to listening hearts (Psalm 46: 10). Either Christ must still the noise by overturning tables and rattling cages, or he must call us away to learn with him. The noise and activity returns the very next day for those people were only stirred for a moment but their hearts were unchanged. Such is ego centered, religion fueled by the flesh. But Christ will say to his own, “Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while.” (Mk. 6:31) and he who was led of the Spirit into the wilderness and returned in the power of the Spirit will by his Spirit subdue all things he desires unto himself in our lives.

Remember when you first trusted Christ and were converted the way the Bible teaches. Matthew Henry says that, “a soul convinced of sin and truly humbled for it, is in a wilderness, quite at a loss and there is no coming out of this wilderness but leaning on Christ as our beloved by faith and not leaning to our own understanding nor trusting to any righteousness or strength of our OWN as sufficient but going forth and going on in the strength of the Lord God and making mention of his righteousness, even his only who is the Lord our righteousness!” You threw the weight of your whole soul on him and were saved! That is how you must live out the Christian life, “As you have received Christ as Lord so walk ye in him.” (Col. 2:6) and lean on him! Real faith lays all burdens and all the problems on Christ!  This is the place where we know our weaknesses but instead of excusing them or letting them cripple us we use them to rest on Christ by faith!  

helpingThe woman of the Song of Songs appears weak and unable to travel so she rests on her Beloved in this difficult walk and is able to come up and out of the wilderness in his strength. This woman does not just want the association with Christ or to have the name Christian and that is where it ends, she makes use of the strong arm of Jesus Christ takes hold of him and leans on Him!  Like John the Beloved she leans on Christ’s bosom for her security (John 13:23).  Jesus can bear the weight of your life; he is strong, so very strong to help you progress in your walk with him. We will never make it on our own. When we neglect him we experience problems that begin to crush us under their weight!

If you are hemmed in and have become the Lord’s guest or prisoner in order to learn his ways. He will take care of you and preserve you. “He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.” (Deut 32:10).  You will be overlooked, you will be unnoticed and humbled in the eyes of God and men and people will look upon you narrowly and with cynicism at times. It is a time that is so personal that no one will understand it but you, although you wish they cold. But they cannot. It is too intimate, it is to secret, it is too much for anyone to understand.

I think of Martin Luther in Wartburg Castle or at the Wartburg (1521-1522). He was an outlaw in where he lived incognito and in exile as Junker Jorge or Knight George for a year. He even grew his hair and a beard. He no longer looked like a monk, but he became if you will a knight as he translated the New Testament. The desert may seem like a prison sentence. “Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.” (Gal 3:23).  The law imprisoned people and revealed that unless they are set free by Christ and Sovereign grace they are slaves to sin and under God’s wrath. The desert makes this clear also to the regenerated person. God’s law is written on our hearts but we must time and again over and over be shown our weakness and utter dependence on God and that only trusting, childlike faith get cause us to grow and accomplish the task to which he calls us.

“The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned.” (Isaiah 50:4). It is a place where the disciple’s ear and tongue are trained. You must hear and then you must speak as he would bid you! This only happens by the discipline and training of God.  This time does not belong so much as to you but to God who desires to be with you in sweet communion before he takes you out to minister. After these times you can minister anywhere and at anytime because your soul has been tempered by the desert heat and the flesh has been baked dry by the desert sun until it has been weakened in order for you to be able to minister in the power of the Spirit. It was there it was said of John the Baptizer, “And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.” (Luke 1:80). God is calling you out of the fruitful, industrious places of man, the fruits of flesh and the byproducts of mans power to a place where you can only hear his voice.

It is time for you to realize that others are not the problem. You are. Don’t fight it, humble yourself under the mighty hand of God that he may exalt you in due time. Encourage yourself in the lord and wait on him and he will strengthen your heart. The Lords servants are the blindest at times they cannot see God working around them. But their eyes will be open even as the hobble to the pool of Siloam and wash their faces and see him who is the Son of man questioning them if they want to know him better. Oh it is the most precious time, embrace it. Let God take you to from dust to glory.

It is the wilderness that God shows his power and glory.  “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose…for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water…” (see Isaiah 35:1-7). God says his direction is found in the wilderness. “I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.  (Isaiah 43:18-21). The way to the wilderness is the way out of the wilderness. The trial is the trail. The wilderness of weakness may not change but you will flourish in power. The desert heart of anxiety cannot wither you because in your heart peace blossoms. Sandstorms of fear may scrape your mind and heart but fear will be sandblasted away. The loneliness and the wilderness may howl around you but the presence of your beloved comforts you as you hear his breath and his chest rises up and down in sacred breath!  How does this happen? You have learned to lean upon Christ and his strength.