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Twenty-plus years ago, I was doing AA and I remember being told that if I hungout in a bar (not to drink), but to minister alcoholics, they would most likely get me drunk before I got them sober. Here was my take away: these battles are best fought on our turf, not theirs.

So it is with saving the spiritually lost -going into the lions den is dangerous. Having said that, if we’re thrown into a pit, we can trust Jesus to bring us through the trial, but to enter them voluntarily, without the prompting or annoiting of the Holy Spirit is to risk getting eaten alive.

Lot the Righteous.

The Bible tells us Lot was a righteous man, but as a full-time resident of Sodom, his soul was vexed day-to-day by their unlawful deeds. What affect did that have on Lot? The Genesis account implies that Lot was not very influential in his ministry to the Sodomites – God sent two angels into the city, and after 25 years of Lot’s ministry, or lack thereof, they could not even find ten righteous people.

Why is that?

It would seem that Lot, although a Godly man, conformed to, or was broken by, a filthy world and thus lost his light and saltiness. Perhaps God’s will, and Lot’s ministry, would have been better served if he stayed in a tent on the outskirts of town, making occasional visits or better yet, inviting the lost to his dwelling as they ventured beyond the city walls. Just a thought on my part, but clearly establishing his roots in Sodom wasn’t working out too well

It bears repeating…

Many are called to such a ministry, but let’s be very clear on the issue: they are affective because they were compelled by God to do so. Lot did not have such a calling on his life, at least the Bible does not record one, nor does it record any fruit from such a calling.

As it pertains to life in general, I’ve always taught my children that if they ‘hangout’ in a barbershop, eventually they will get a haircut. The axiom holds true for those who have been set-apart for Kingdom purposes. We’re called to be in the world, maintaining holiness in unholy places, living as aliens, not denizens, among natural men.

This takeaway is clear:

“…[B]y the mercies of God…present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
(Romans 12:1-2)

We Are the Aliens

As much as we might want to identify with people (friends or family) in the unbelieving world, they will never fully accept us unless we abandon or compromise our faith. If and when we do exercise our spiritual values, it brings conviction, and they often distance themselves or disown us entirely. In thinking we can find common ground through compromise, we are the ones who are fooled.

Lot is our example.

In Genesis 19, he begs for the lives of two angels quartered inside his home, “Please, my brothers,” he begged, “don’t do such a wicked thing.”

“Stand back!” they shouted. “This fellow (Lot) came to town as an outsider (an alien), and now he’s acting like our judge! We’ll treat you far worse than those other men!”
(Genesis 19:7 + 9)

Lot calls them brothers, thinking them his friends, but they call him an alien.

So it is when we are friends with the world in a compromising manner. When that moment of clarity comes and we attempt to regain our spiritual footing, we will be summarily rejected. Truth be told, we ARE aliens and we should never pretend we are something other than that.

“Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy…I warn you as ‘temporary residents and foreigners’ (aliens) to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.” (1 Peter 2:10-12)

“(Jesus) personally carried our sins in His body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By His wounds you are healed.”
(1 Peter 2:24)
This promise of healing is like our promise of salvation, in that we receive both this side of Heaven by faith, knowing that the transaction will be actuated in Heaven upon our arrival. All the while we grasp that we are not healed or saved yet, but the promise of both is so sure, we can claim both with certainty. We’ve been dragged and secured into God’s lifeboat, but we’ve yet to come ashore. Our inheritance has been written into His will, we’ve seen it with our own eyes, and it was probated, i.e., it has been tested and found to be true, by Christ’s resurrection from the grave. This healing is promised and it is permanent.
Another Healing
God also heals our bodies this side of heaven, but these healings are not promised, nor are they permanent. They are not promised and for reasons not fully understood by the church, they aren’t for everybody. God chooses to heal or not heal this side of Heaven to bring Himself honor, glory, and praise, and as a sign that may draw non-believers to Christ for the purpose salvation, keeping in mind that God will also use the strong, faithful testimony of the unhealed saint to get His glory! Regardless, all of these miraculous healings are not permanent. Those who receive them will eventually lose them to declining health and/or death.
So while we’re encouraged to pray for healing for our earth-bound bodies, and often receive them, we must emphasize the importance of the permanent and promised healing that’s to come in Heaven, especially to the unchurched and unsaved souls we encounter. Let us be compelled to share this critical information lest we sow seeds of discouragement to a lost soul who was not healed as he or she had expected. These same folks need the Gospel more than they need short-term wellness.
“But (Jesus) was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

God’s primary method of communication to His children is through His word, the Bible. Nevertheless, God does speak to us personally. For me God’s voice is not audible, nor does He speak to my heart; God (by means of His Holy Spirit) invades my thoughts, and mostly when I am in prayer or in His Word.

How do I know they’re God-thoughts?

Well for the most part, these thoughts are not something that I would have come up with on my own. My thoughts are typically egocentric, self-serving, and oft-times sinful, while God-thoughts are polar opposites. They are good, perfect, loving, and true.

More importantly, these Divine impressions do not contradict the Word of God, nor do they add or subtract from Scripture.

Thirdly, they must pass the smell test from my brothers and sisters in Christ. If I share a thought (which I often do), the saints will be quick to point out a Biblical error or proffer an appropriate ‘tweak’ so that the message is properly conveyed. If we’re not willing to submit to peer-review, our thoughts may not be of God.

Finally, it has to pass the T.H.I.N.K. test:

T: is it biblically TRUE

H: is it HELPFUL
I: is it INSPIRING
N: is it NECESSARY
K: is it KIND
The one true religion; the components that make up the Christian faith, are not for the atheist, the agnostic, or for followers of other false religions. The Christian religion is only for those who have repented, believe and follow Jesus Christ, and desire to know Him better. The Christian religion does not save a person; our religion is comprised of God-given commandments, doctrines, and directives for the born-again Christian; that is, the person who recognizes Jesus accomplished all the work on the cross and has received by faith Christ’s merciful and gracious salvation. Our religion is the means by which we learn about Jesus, His will for us and the Church, and the method by which we mature in our faith through submission and obedience.
So if the Christian religion is not for the non-believer, what should we be doing?
We should be sharing the Gospel Message and nothing else. If we’re caught up in other biblical topics, we should always aim to bring the discussion back to the Good News. Once they understand (and accept) their sinful condition, grasp how they are separated them from God, recognize their need for a Savior (Jesus Christ) in order to restore that relationship, and once they repent from their sinful ways and receive and believe by faith in Jesus Christ, then they are born-again Christian believers and are ready to partake in the God-given (not man-made) doctrines, rituals, commandments, and assorted teachings of the church.
So should we invite them to church?

I submit to you that unless the Gospel message is going to be preached, the bad news with the Good News, they are not going to comprehend or appreciate the elements of our religion, in fact they might be turned away by them. I believe those who [errantly] teach that Christianity is a “relationship and not a religion,” have suffered to one degree or another of having religion crammed down their throats before hearing and receiving the Gospel, very often for long and sustained periods of time.

Consider 1 Corinthians 2:13b-14

“[W]e speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths. But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means.”

In other words, non-Christians do not have the Holy Spirit residing inside of them. The King James version refer to these folks as ‘natural men.’  Therefore, the spiritual truths of our religion are foolishness to them. However, the Holy Spirit comes alongside the non-believer for the sole purpose of understanding the Gospel Message! So, while they may scoff at our Bibles stories, our rituals, and our doctrines, they have, by the accompaniment of the Holy Spirit, the capacity to understand their need for a Lord and Savior in their life. Once they take that step of faith, they’ll receive the Holy Spirit within, and can begin to understand, bit-by-bit like the rest of us, God’s Holy Bible and the religion He has provided us.

What is the Gospel?

Go here to learn more.

Question: Does this mean we should not send our children to church?

Of course not, but I also believe that our Sunday School lessons should emphasize the Gospel Message more so than Bible stories. There will come a time that these children will have to make their own decisions and we want those decisions to be based on the full understanding of the Gospel message and nothing else.

We need to remember that the religious happenings inside our churches are primarily for equipping the saints. Sure, non-believers are welcome, but at the same time it could be likened to inviting a mathematical-illiterate to your calculus class. Unless your professor is going to pause and teach this visitor basic arithmetic, what they hear in that classroom will be mostly foolishness to them, much in the way the 1 Corinthians passage demonstrates.

 

Perfect Love

In order to define ‘perfect love‘ we need to ask the right questions, but If we’re starting off with, What is perfect love?” rather than, Who is perfect love?” we are on the wrong track and may come to an errant conclusion.
 
“Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwells in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but PERFECT LOVE casts out fear: because fear hath torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:15-18, emphasis mine)
 
Perfect Love
 
Perfect love is Jesus. When we grasp this, the burden is no longer upon the Christian to reject fear, but rather to yield to the only One who can cast fear out, Jesus Christ. Our passage also says ‘fear has torment,’ in other words, those living in fear are tortured by it. Think about that: there are Christians in our midst being tortured not by men, but by emotion.
 
In contrast we see the images of Christians actually being tortured; heads being violently tortremoved, bodies drowned in cages, tossed off building tops, or burned alive. These videos often show us characteristics that one would not typically associate with fear, but reveal a calm and peace that surpasses all natural understanding that can only be attributed to God’s indwelling presence. There is no doubt a burden involved with these horrific events, but I submit to you it is a light burden because of Jesus, the Perfect Love that casts out tormenting fear.
 
“For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30)
 
Christianity is Hard
 
There are of course Christians who struggle with the notion of yielding to Jesus in order that He can cast out fear. Perhaps many of us wrestle with it to one degree or the other, myself included. However, those who struggle with the doctrine, but then pronounce, “Being a Christian is hard!” have crossed a triple line: they’re distrusting God, adding to the Bible, and calling God a liar. In a word, it is blasphemy.  This sort of blasphemy won’t keep you out of Heaven, but it will make your Christian walk miserable.
 
“All who believe in the Son of God know in their hearts that this testimony is true. Those who don’t believe this are actually calling God a liar because they don’t believe what God has testified about his Son.” (1 John 5:10)
 
Choose to Trust
 
Rather than making the erroneous and discouraging remark [that] being a Christian is hard, choose to take God at his word.
 
“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
 
If you are tempted to fear, or are facing any temptation, trust God that He will show up at the precise moment of your need and reveal to you the way to escape, remembering that your ability lies not in your flesh, but in the Perfect Love, Jesus Christ, who dwells within you.
Everyone must submit to governing authorities. (Romans 13:1a)

God calls us to submit to our leaders and the laws of the land, assuming that they do not violate God’s ordinances. We are blessed in that our forefathers established laws whereby the citizenry can arm and protect themselves, and if need be, overthrow their leadership if they should become corrupt beyond repair. In other words, and as it would pertain to Romans 13:1-7, Christians need not feel guilty about owning a gun and/or having to use it.
 
So while it is true that [O]ur battle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places,’ (Ephesians 6:12) and that we’re called to love and pray for our enemies,’ (Matthew 5:44), it is also true that every once in a while, and thankfully not that often, deadly force is both required and permissible; we are not required by law to wait for a well-trained militia or policing agency to defend ourselves. We can [wait] if that is our desire, but we do not have to. 
 
Every violent situation is unique, but you get the picture.
 
All that is to say, if you’re a follower of Jesus Christ, and you’ve exercised your right under our laws and leadership to own a weapon for the purpose of defense of life or nation, do not for one moment believe God is displeased with that choice. It is possible to love an enemy, pray for an enemy, and yes, kill an enemy if the situation warrants such action.
 
In such a situation would there be sadness? I would say that undoubtedly there would be, but being sorrowful is not akin to being sinful under these circumstances.

There is plenty more to say on gun ownership, gun laws and safety, prayerful preparation, and the like, but we’ll leave it there for now.

 
“Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience. Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do. Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority.” (Romans 13:1-7)

Our Days Are Numbered

Job 14:1-6 and Psalm 139:16 teach us that God has determined and numbered our days before we were born. In other words, God knows exactly when we’re going to die, which begs the question, “Is there anything we can do to change or prolong that date?”
 
I believe there is and I’m slightly dogmatic about it because God has said that if we walk in obedience and keep His decrees and commands, He will give us a long life (1 Kings 3:14) and if we honor our parents, we may live long in the land (Ex 20:12). When we consider that God is omniscient, knowing the beginning from the end, we can trust that He has factored in our obedience, or lack thereof, before He chiseled our obit day in stone.
 
Taking it a step further I believe we can prolong our lives if we stop smoking, doing drugs, and abusing alcohol, and start exercising, eating right, and taking care of our bodies, because God, again knowing all future events, has factored in both our harmful and beneficial behaviors, before we were born. That is to say, our favorable activities and obedience to God are not merely things that may improve the quality of life in the time we have been allotted, but rather things that God has considered in determining the length of our lives.

Of course we must also remember that God considers things we know nothing about that may result in a long or short life, and Godly obedience and healthy living are not the sole factors that decide how long we live.

Don’t Be Law-less

When we are sharing the Gospel we must include the Law in our conversations. Our listeners need to see their guilt, their helplessness, their depth of sin, their opposition to God, and their only solution in Christ Jesus. They also need to know the consequences of their sin, but we will leave that for another post.
 
The Law and it’s Purpose
 
1) GUILT: “The law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God.” (Romans 3:19)
 
2) HELPLESSNESS: “For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.” (Romans 3:20)
 
3) ANTI-GOD: “Everyone who sins is breaking God’s law, for all sin is contrary to the law of God.” (1 John 3:4)
 
4) SIN-FILLED: “Well then, am I suggesting that the law of God is sinful? Of course not! In fact, it was the law that showed me my sin.”(Romans 7:7a)
 
5) SOLUTION: “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (Galatians 3:24)
 
Do not make the mistake of sharing a squeaky-clean Gospel – merely saying that Jesus died for our sin is not enough. People need to know what sin is, accept their guilt, learn the consequences, recognize their inability to do anything about it, and acknowledge that Jesus is their only solution for their sin problem. I have seen data that shows that when we omit this information, 80% to 90% of people who received Jesus eventually reject Him and return to their sinful ways.

Can You Handle This?

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
 
When you are in the midst of a trial, have you ever heard someone say, “God won’t give you more than you can handle!” You want to smack them, don’t you. The truth of the matter is that quaint expression is not in the Bible. People think it is, and they will quote 1 Corinthians 10:13 as their proof text, but they’re only presenting half of the passage, “God…will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able,” and they omit the second part.
 
But There’s a But
 
And an important but it is. The rest of the verse reads,

“But will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
 
Who makes a way to escape? God makes the way to escape and if God didn’t make the way to escape, we would not be able to handle the temptation. Therefore, a more accurate rewording of the passage would be,

“God won’t give you more than HE can handle!”
 
What Would Paul Say
 
The Apostle Paul would never have uttered, “God won’t give me more than I can handle!” How can we be so sure? Because he said this instead:
 
“And (God) said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”
(2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
 
And again Paul comforts us,
“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
 
If we were able to handle trials and temptations in our flesh, Jesus would not have told us to deny ourselves and pick up our crosses. (Luke 9:23). And did our Savior ever say, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; YOU have overcome the world.”

No! He declared that He has overcome the world! (John 16:33)

 
Fact: God wants humility and desires that we present ourselves as empty vessels. King David understood the principle, for he wrote:

“But I am poor and needy: make haste unto me, O God: thou art my help and my deliverer; O Lord, make no tarrying.” (Psalm 70:5)
 
So let us abandon this foolishness that God won’t give us stuff we can’t handle. That notion is ridiculous and contrary to Scripture. When we find ourselves in a trial or a temptation, look to God for He alone has provided the escape!
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