STOP AND LISTEN!

“Stop and Listen. Stop and LISTEN! In the ancient days does not the scripture say that God’s eyes were upon the land of Israel? Was it not the land which the Lord thy God cared for? A land flowing with milk and honey. It was the land of promise. He gave it to Israel and they were to conquer that land and all its inhabitants and possess houses and lands that were not theirs and He did not to fail keep His promise. He warned them that they were to drive out the inhabitants of the land or they would be thorns in their eyes and eventually would become a snare to them.
 
He has saved HIS people. He has promised them victory. He sees their hearts and lives like they are the land of promise. The land he cares for. He would have them flowing with the milk of His life giving Word and honey of His Spirit! But after years they are irritated and ensnared by old sins. He hears them confessing the sins from which HE would deliver them but they live with those sins as if they should be natives to their heart. He cannot forgive a people who do not repent. To repent is not only sorrow for sin but to stop that sin!
 
Sin was a native to the heart before God saved them, but NOW it is an alien that must be expelled. It is an enemy that must be attacked.  God’s people are not aggressive enough with their sins. Like Moses rod that struck the Sea, like Ehud’s knife that was plunged into the fat enemy king, like David’s sling that struck down Goliath, so is the cross of Christ. It will take what was a giant and so overshadow it, the giant will become as nothing. The cross must strike the Red Sea of sin in our thoughts and part them so God’s Word can flow freely in our mind. The cross must be plunged into the fatness of our hearts and be lost in it so it will circumcise the foreskin of our hearts. It must be like David’s sling when the rock thrown at the giant it will be guided by the Spirit to hit specific sins and bring them down by faith. By simple faith it will be done. By simple faith, the complicated is dealt a death blow with ease. Like the people who could by inherit the land because of unbelief my people are in danger of falling short of the rest of evidence that secures their inheritance. They need to take by faith my promises. God’s promises do not fail. They need to see all their sins as not only forgiven but dead and buried, the trophies of a war won for them on the bloody hill of Calvary.”
 
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Can You Hear Me Now?

The Galatians were saved. How were they saved? Paul asks, “Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (Gal. 3:2).  They were saved by the hearing of faith, they sincerely believed what they heard about the message of Jesus Christ.  Hearing was a gift. Faith was a gift.  The Holy Spirit was a gift. This is because the Bible says we were dead in sin and it is by God’s gift of grace we are saved (Eph 2:8-9). Simple enough. They heard the message of the gospel of Christ and believed and were saved.

It is also wise to note that dead people do not hear anything.  There is no awareness of sound in the grave. After a loved one has died talking to them at their grave site may be psychologically beneficial for you but really they can’t hear you. Why bring that up? Because God had to give us the ears to hear what he was saying by raising us from spiritual death to life.  A person must be born again first then they hear, believe and repent.  The Bible teaches, “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise.” (Eph 1:13). God gave us the hearing of faith after regenerating us and brings us back from the dead spiritually and then we heard the word of truth and then received his Spirit!

But can we hear him now? Are we listening to God now? Yes, there is a difference between hearing and listening, just ask my wife. In fact, James insists that we should be, “swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” (James 1:19). Notice the idea of being swift to hear and being prepared to listen to God’s Word, with the readiness that cultivated soil has to receive seed. Hearing or listening is a heart issue.  It tells us whether we are living in error or not.  God spoke though Isaiah, “I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear: but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not.” (Isa. 66:4).  Hearing was connected with the act of obedience, disobedience was seen as not hearing.

Real listening brings prompt obedience. We have so much to repent for. The Christian should praise God everyday for what Christ did on the cross, and justification by faith through grace or we would truly be lost, just for the fact we drag our feet to obey when God tells us what he demands.  We should feel crushed at  how slow we are to obey.  Jesus rebuked his disciples saying, “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken…” (Luke 24:45). God wants us to pace ourselves with his Word. In an unagitated manner, in a peaceful heart  be ready to receive the Word. “I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.” (Ps. 119:32NIV). No delays, let me run in the path of your commands. He who has the liberty to obey, being set free by Christ liberating power should run as fast as they can to obey.  

The Apostle James states that we should, “lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.” (James 1:21 italics mine).   The word used for filthiness here can refer to a filthy garment and several commentators agree that it actually means “wax in the ear that plugs up the sound.”  Spiritual ear wax, imagine that.  Ears are one of the parts of the body that adults forget to clean, they also have to be careful how they clean them.  But this is not hygiene we are talking about.  The people here are not listening, they have so much sinful wax build up, they have neglected their spiritual walk and are deaf to God.  

I have had to shout and still was not heard with people who have “ear-buds” listening to their MP3’s.  I even see it in some churches where kids instead of listening to the message sit in church “plugged up.” It is like that. Imagine the Pastor attempting to preach with everyone in his congregation with ear buds inserted.  They are playing games, listening to music or watching a video. They cannot and will not hear him. They can smile, throw in an amen and hide their yawn, but they are basically deaf. As preachers we cannot really tell who has heard our message every time we preach. Even Isaiah asks, “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?” (Is 53:1). We cannot visibly see the evidence of the hearing of faith, it only be seen in the fruit of people character. I am sure there is many a preacher who would like to tap his microphone and ask, “Can you hear me now?”

Any time we are unable to hear the voice of God in the scriptures,  that is when the flesh takes over and masquerades as religion and spirituality.  Sadly, we do not realize that we are stunted. What is worse is that we begin to listen to “voices” other than the Holy Spirit through Scripture.  It is not an intellectual issue, or being locked up in a room and being tortured and brainwashed by heretics. It is frightening how easily this can happen. We do not even notice our deafness and suddenly when we need to hear him most-we cannot! God open our ears! Teach us to pull out the weeds from the garden of our hearts. Teach us to change our spiritual oil and maintain a clean heart. As Christians we must make a lifetime commitment to throw off the whole network of evil and malice, the remnants of sin in our lives so that we can hear the Word. 

The Spirit brought us into union with Christ so we might hear his voice. He who breathed on the disciples will not shun from whispering to us through the scriptures. But when we develop or are taught human ideas about what pleases God, or it can cause confusion, and deafness or we become sluggish, slow, lazy and begin to do stupid things because we are “dull of hearing” (Heb 5:11). That is legalism.  The most dullard thing to do is depend on our strength rather than the Lord’s mighty power. When we are plugged up our love for God and others, our joy and our peace is completely based on what we do rather than on who Christ is and what he has done. For without the Word the Christian is  frustrated and discontent. How many times in the beginning of the New Testament did Christ say, “ye have heard, but I SAY?’   We have heard so many man centered things. It is nauseating. Oh that we would shut our ears to all men and be locked in with the scripture. The sad condition of many who have professed Christ is that they are walking in defeat and self worship because all they hear is opinion and bad teaching. They are agitated, anxious and angry.  They need to rest in Christ who says, Come unto me all ye who a weary and heavy laden.” Can you hear me now?

Many people  just do not listen to God anymore. They have shut their ears to the scriptures. “But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear.” (Zech 7:11). They listen to MAN and his teachings and their worship is empty (Mk 7:7).  We need our hearing checked.  How can you test your hearing? We need be careful about the content of what we hear that it lines up with the scripture. “For the ear trieth words, as the mouth tasteth meat.” (Job 34:3). If it is not scriptural reject it and move on. There is no perfection on this side of heaven but there are things which are most surely believed among us as Christians and we should adhere to those things and those things alone. Jesus said, “Take heed what ye hear…” (Mk. 4:24).  

Then the way in which we listen should be adjusted.  How am I listening? I should be asking, “Did I hear you right?  Let go back to the above illustration of ear wax and I won’t dwell on that too much because it would be way to wierd, but let me note ear wax or cerumen can be beneficial against bacteria, fungus and insects.  God obviously wants us to protect our hearing,  “to discern both good and evil.” (Heb. 5:14).   We should not listen to anything that we have not tested to see if it matches up with the scripture and the confessions of the church. He says to  “test everything; hold fast what is good.” (1 Thess 5:21ESV).  If sin is in our hearts we cannot hear correctly. We should take an inventory before we hear the word like we are taking inventory before the Lord’s supper. We should examine, test the mettle of our hearts and motives, and be in an open prepared state to hear the Word of the Lord in the scriptures. Once again Jesus teaches us to, “Take heed how ye hear…” (Luke 8:18). How we need to tune in to what he is saying and adjust the frequency of our hearts.

If you long to hear and obey Jesus said you will have clarity and peace. “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” (John 7:17). If you are but willing and the Spirit of God has ignited in your heart and fire to hear Christ Words he will teach you and receive you to himself. You will be where he is and walk with him and speak to him as a man speaks to his friend.

He will say, “Can you hear me now?” Good!

Shot Down By Christ!

sword_spirit“Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the kings enemies whereby the people fall under thee.”  (Psalm 45:5).

Why does the Psalmist employ the metaphor of arrows and war?  It is because Christ is the ultimate conqueror!  Does that startle you about Jesus Christ?  How can he be the Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6) and at the same time be “a man of war” (Exodus 15:3). Christ “is Faithful and True and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.” (Rev. 19:11).  This is not war like we see in the world today. He does not use man made weapons, nor is he interested in real estate since he has a rightful claim to own all the earth (Ps. 24:1; Isaiah 66:1-2).  But he chooses on conquering the human heart and he uses spiritual arrows.

The scriptures use the picture of warfare because the bloodiest fighting  in all history was waged upon Mount Calvary where Jesus died for sinners (1 Tim. 1:15)!   The Bible says, “His “robe is dipped in blood and his name is the Word of God” (Rev. 19:13)! The living personified Word of God proclaims his sacrifice for sin, in the symbol of “his robe dipped in blood.” In war the enemies blood is spilled, but in this war Christ spilled his blood and became victor. The blood stained banner of the Cross is the flag of victory.  There is not a day that goes by where The Son of God whose  does not engage the human heart and mind to win it to himself and save them from destruction. No one comes to Christ easily! 

The Lord Jesus Christ fights in a sitting position (Ps. 110:1)  to save those inwtj_throne_ls_1 danger of losing their eternal souls  and he exacts justice upon those who stubbornly refuse to change (Isa. 42:13). In the time in which we live, Christ redemptively subdues the hearts of the men and women of this world. He will overthrow sin through the message of gospel. The Bible states that he waits expectantly until his foes become his footstool and his worst, his most hated enemy will be saved for the final coupe de grâce –death (1 Cor 15:25-26; Heb 10:13). 

The Bible says that these arrows “are sharp.  They are not blunt but exact, precise and intentional. They are able to cut through the excuses of people by razor sharp grace and power.  Through the teaching of the scripture the Spirit of Christ shoots down the root issues of argumentation, twisted thinking and barriers to the truth of God. The minister of the gospel acts like a  “crossbow” preaching the cross of Christ and he  launches the message of the gospel out of the quiver (the case that holds arrows) of the scripture. 

How important it is that the preacher must have weight in his message and force in his words! He has an incredible arsenal at his disposal-in the word of truth, the scriptures. The pastor must be like Jonathan and shoot arrows that send a precise message (1 Sam 20:18-42)! When someone begins to understand the Cross they will be cut to the heart with its truth.

When a courageous man preaches the message of the cross it is a gospel arrow that is shot into the deepest part of a person as the only means to awaken and regenerate that dead soul. You will know when a man is preaching the scripture by its character and disposition. It is a two edged sword (Heb 4:12) and God asks,“Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?”   If it is not like that, it is not the Word! Look, the human heart is not a soft target. The heart is so hard before it comes to Christ it must be struck hard by a gospel hammer in order to be broken. The heart is so rigid it must be melted by fiery preaching.  The gospel is an act of compassionate aggression to fight for those who are “against themselves” and oppose their own spiritual welfare and salvation (2 Tim 2:25). Oh,  I pray that if you do not know Christ as Savior and Lord that the Spirit of God would slay the bondage of sin in your life by the power of his word!

christ1The problem with many preachers today is that they want to do not want to cause any pain in the hearts of people by the scalpel of the word so they medicate them with messages that numb their symptoms. Let us weep in prayer before God and ask his mercy that the Holy Spirit would not only operate in our church gatherings but perform operations on the hearts of those who hear the man behind the pulpit and the remove the malignant sin that has killed them and regenerate their souls that they might repent of sin and turn to God. “Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds.” (Hosea 6:1NIV).

They are also shot “in the heart of the King’s enemies.”  Who are these targeted enemies?  People who do not know Christ are called the enemies of God and are hostile to God and prove it by their thinking and actions (Col 1:21).  The worldly mind hates God (Rom 8: 7). Christ loves these enemies, like Saul of Tarsus, who was rushing headlong to destruction (Acts 9),  he must stop them by Sovereign Grace and this involves the launching of these Divine arrows!  He shoots at close range and the arrow strikes with force that is point blank and they enter into the very core of the human being.  Sinner interrupted! He aims a spined arrow that cannot be easily removed! Oh how people need to be convicted of sin, struck through with the sharp arrow of the accurate gospel as Charles Spurgeon says, “Whether for love or vengeance, Christ never misses aim, and cause{s}… a wound which only he can heal.” 

Whereby the people fall under thee.   Christ causes people to fall. His message brings fallout. There are those, how sad, of whom the Bible says, that Christ is “a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.” (1 Pet. 2:8).  Oh, how fearful it is to fall into the hands of the living God! And there are those who will fall in line with Christ, who will be enlisted by his call to follow him as disciples of Christ.

But Christ’s arrows will cause people to fall. He is Lord of heaven and earth and how ominous are his words in the Gospel of Luke, “Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” (Luke 20:18). Those who come must be broken of all their ideas, all their rebellion, they must be regenerated and given new life and God will be near to them as they repent and are contrite in spirit. But others will have the stone fall upon them and will be crushed! Oh I am sorry for you if you do not repent of your sins! Christ can by no means clear the clear the guilt of those who refuse to embrace Him as Lord of everything! They will be crushed to dust and blown away by the wind like stubble! Eternity is a moment away, will you not turn to Christ for salvation?  Is the arrow he has launched into you, stinging with pain enough to make you turn to him for healing?

cornerstone02 Christ comes into the human heart and exposes the real enemy: sin and then he shoots at it by the message of the cross! The arrow causes the human soul to seek the forgiveness and deliverance of Christ from a life dominated by sin as if it were a lethal disease that he needs to be cured from.  They must go to Jesus by whose wounds they can be healed (Isa. 53:5).

“For by fire and by his sword will the LORD plead with all flesh: and the slain of the LORD shall be many.” (Isaiah 66:16).  There is the fire of God for condemnation and the fire of the Spirit for sanctification. There is a sword that brings salvation and there is a sword that brings damnation. No matter, in the end God will get the glory! Either your old life will be slain and you will be given a new life or you will be slain in the “second death” of the Lake of fire! Christ never misses those he aims at whether for salvation or damnation.

The message of the cross of Christ is the most sharp instrument that demonstrates the love and justice of God (Rom. 3:25-26; 5:10).  When Christ and his accomplishments are lifted up he draws with irresistible grace all those he effectually calls!  Obviously, it is threatening when we see Christ shooting at people!  It may be seen by some in an negative light because Christ shoots in justice against sin, but if we understand it  in terms of God bringing back to life the human spirit and saving their soul from eternal hell it is good news!  Whether people seem near to coming to Christ or far from God as they can it does not matter! Be encouraged and warned! No one is out of his range and you are never far from his reaching, saving hand! But sin no more unless a worse thing comes upon you and you fall unable to recover.