It took a while, but an Audiobook version of our book Whole Bible Christianity is now available. It’s about 15 and a half hours, narrated by Bruce. You can get it free if you sign up for a trial membership at Audible.com. You get a free audiobook when you first sign up for the service. After the first month it costs $15.00 per month but you get one free book per month too.
If you click this link to view the print version, then click on the Free with your Audible Trial button and stay with Audible for two months, not only do you get two free audiobooks (for $15.00 the second month) but we get a $50.00 bonus! You can exchange any audiobook you decide is not for you, and your credit for one free book rolls over to the next month if you don’t use it. Even if you cancel membership after a while you can keep all your audiobooks.
What a great deal! Whole Bible Christianity, Blessings Pressed Down and Overflowing audiobook for free, a bonus to us, and you get more free audiobooks.
There’s also the print version of the book, and Kindle version for a pretty low cost. The Kindle and audiobook versions do not have the Scripture Index with almost 1,500 entries from every book in the Bible, and the audiobook doesn’t have the footnotes, but still you can listen on the way to work and back or read on a Kindle at your leisure. Get all three and get it all.
The rock band Queen had a song I liked called “One Vision.” It’s got a nice sentiment involving one voice, one heart, one vision, one race and so on. They express the desire of a lot of people that either we are presently “one” and just need to realize it for paradise on earth to be established, or that we need to become “one” so people can make a paradise. “If we could just realize that we are all one then all the problems would be solved” to summarize. It’s a nice thought, and I long for it too. It’s going to happen hopefully soon.
Trouble is it’s not going to happen the way most people envision.
This sentiment is not a new one. About 4,500 years ago the people of the earth had one language and a large group settled in the land of Shinar. This group decided to build a city and a tower with its top in the heavens to make a name. They wanted to stay “one” and avoid being “dispersed over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11). Their desire was to take the oneness of all the people of the time and presumably make a paradise on earth. Sound familiar?
In Genesis 11 we read that “The Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built.” He was impressed, from our perspective. “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing they propose to do will now be impossible for them.” This might be puzzling to some. Why would God have a problem with unity?
The implication was (and is) they wanted to be one without God. He knows this is impossible, because our natures, without Him, tend towards destruction. He is the source of light, life and love and anyone that wants to be apart from that cannot establish it. He is love; anything less is hate. The very idea of existence without the Source is repugnant to Him. He knows it means death. All that nice sentiment and wishful thinking from musicians, movie stars and politicians will not work without God. God knows it and gives us the choice – if you really want it come to Him.
God said, “Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand on another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city (Genesis 11:7-8).
The tower the ancients built we now call the Tower of Babel. All talk of oneness without the presence of God is just so much babble. It’s not just words either. It’s also the way we think. For all the talk of unity and oneness we remain scattered because our thoughts drive us away from each other. Without God to gather us together on His principles and character we will never be able to have one flesh, one bone or one true religion. Oneness will continue to elude us as long as we exclude the author of all things pure and clear. There’s no way we will experience love and oneness and paradise without the person who connects us all together in goodness and holiness.
Jesus the Christ was killed as the ultimate expression both of God’s love and human hate. We had the chance at paradise, brotherhood and all those nice things in the songs. We blew it at the Tower, and we blew it at the cross. We’re going to blow it again if we don’t accept Him, His ways, and His Spirit. He’s coming again to establish paradise. Paradise is in, around and through Him and His love. Reject the Christ and you reject all hope of oneness. There is no other way to build it. Believe God and follow what He says. Dedicate ourselves to build His kingdom or keep trying in vain to rebuild our own tower. We’ve got one more chance. The time is now.
I read the headline on Drudge with amusement: Americans More Skeptical of God than Ever Before. I had to laugh. And laugh. And chortle. And maybe even snicker. All these surveys measuring human belief in God, and not a single one measuring God’s belief in humans.
According to the article in vocativ.com, in previous studies it was assumed that people were losing trust in organized religion, but were still pretty spiritual (whatever that means) in private. Now the researchers are thinking that people’s faith in God is declining, public or private.
I don’t have any trouble believing that people are fading. Selfishness is at an all time high, judging from observation. We buy Bibles at record rates, but our actions indicate we must be using them to prop up a broken couch leg or to hold our porn collection more securely on the bookshelf. We aren’t reading it, and we certainly aren’t doing what it says either.
Which begs the question: what does God think about us? We know He’s a God of love, or at least we hope He is, even to the extent that we hope He will always love us no matter what we do. So we keep doing it. But I don’t think that He loves unrighteousness at all. And for those who practice it He has a very dark, hot place all prepared.
Is this the falling away or rebellion that is spoken of by the Paul (2 Thessalonians 2:3)? The whole world knows about God, but doesn’t know God? Without a doubt, in my opinion, yes.
I think we have turned God into a cosmic sugar daddy, and if He doesn’t deliver the goodies we turn away. Many of us only worship Him because of what they think they can get (health, wealth, etc.) and when they don’t get it they throw a temper fit. They wonder why God allows evil to continue, never questioning their own part in refusing to obey His Laws and causing the evil in the first place.
God doesn’t want anyone to perish, but at the same time He knows many will insist. He is losing His patience, I think, and for the sake of those who really believe in Him, evidenced by actions consistent with His Word and Law, He will be cutting things short very soon. Just because people lose faith in Him doesn’t mean He will leave those few who don’t out in the cold. But He’s very skeptical about those who are falling away.
Do unbelievers matter to God? I’ve got to say, I don’t think they matter very much to God at all.
The congregation at Thyatira in Revelation 2:19 seems to be doing everything right according to Jesus.
“I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first.” (Revelation 2:19, ESV)
There was apparently nothing to fault in their faith and service. However, the one glaring problem was that they tolerated a woman called Jezebel.
But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.(Revelation 2:20, ESV)
There might’ve been an actual woman whose actual name was Jezebel. More probably, it was a woman like Jezebel. Jesus was most likely calling her out by her actions, which were in keeping with the original Jezebel. Queen Jezebel was the wife of Ahab king of Israel, daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians. The Sidonians were one of the nations left by God to test Israel (Judges 3), but Israel failed time and again by marrying the daughters of these nations, following after their gods instead of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Jezebel’s claim to fame was in using the usual tools of her Canaanite people to recruit followers for Baal notably sexual immorality (sex outside of marriage as God designed it, divorce, homosexuality, sex with animals, sex with close relatives, prostitution, and so on). Elijah had a famous battle with her priests and prophets (1 Kings 18) and wiped them out.
This woman in Thyatira was using similar methods to move people away from the worship of God alone. An interesting part of the charges by Jesus against Thyatira was that Jezebel allowed or encouraged “eating food offered to idols.” How could this be a bad thing when all the “ceremonial” laws were eliminated (according to the modern church)? The answer is obviously that all of the Laws were in fact still in effect.
So Thyatira was doing everything right, except they tolerated Jezebel’s teaching that sexual immorality was okay. Anybody see where we are doing the same thing today? The church wants to be “tolerant” of sexual immorality by “loving” homosexuals and transgenders and God knows what else. Love has been redefined to allow sexual immorality. The church is teaching that we should tolerate it. They allow unrepentant sexually immoral persons into their congregations. The more things change the more they remain the same.
The congregation at Thyatira is no longer with us. The followers of Jezebel were given time to repent, but apparently did not. Jezebel was thrown onto a sickbed, and those who committed adultery with her were thrown into great tribulation and were killed. It seems obvious to me that Jesus was not really talking to just that particular congregation at that particular time. He was talking to all of those who claim His name (“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the congregations” Revelation 2:7; 2:11; 2:29; 3:6; 3:13; 3:22). If we have ears, and hear, we will repent of the same things that others were told to abandon. We shouldn’t be embracing these unrepentant sexually immoral people. We shouldn’t be tolerating the woman Jezebel in our midst. Cast her out, disavow her teachings, cast her children out of our congregations and hold fast what we have until He comes. Otherwise we will suffer the fate Jesus warned would come upon all those who tolerate those same teachings. Amen. Even so come Lord Jesus.
I’m sorry. Every time I think about this subject, or read about someone who has positively identified The Beast, I crack up. Or at least chuckle a little. The reason it’s so humorous is that the methods used for identification, and the results of the methods, are mostly based on personal feelings. Or perhaps what I call newspaper exegesis (interpreting by newspaper headlines). I haven’t seen a result yet that comes from an understanding of the Bible. The best method of identification is right there in black and white. Or black, white and red. Or whatever fruity colors are used in your version.
The Beast is the coming ruler spoken of in the Bible who will sway nearly the whole world to follow his lead. As a token of appreciation, he will cause all who do so to receive a mark on the hand or forehead, without which no one can buy or sell. His helper is the false prophet, one who looks like a lamb and is called the anti-Christ or ‘instead of’ Christ. This helper of The Beast is the one who causes all to receive the mark. These two will be backed by the serpent or dragon, also called the deceiver and Satan. This unholy trinity will unite much of the population in a rebellion against God and His Christ. They will not succeed, but while they have their run there will be much death, destruction and wrath poured out from God. The wrath part is why I think this is still future, though others think it has already happened.
The Beast has been identified as Hitler, or rulers/kings like him. Some have pegged President Obama as The Beast. This is funny to me because as bad as Obama is he isn’t a pimple on the butt of The Beast. Various other leaders from time to time have been sometimes hysterically identified as the Beast. At one time people in the Calvary Chapel denomination along with many others were all excited about a computer in Belgium (early ’80’s) that was called the beast (at the time it could have numbered every person on the planet). Lately some are pointing to a smooth-talking atheist in Greece that has got them worried.
The problem with identifying The Beast comes in when people look right past the obvious. Especially the church. We will look everywhere except in the mirror. We are so blinded by men’s teachings, traditions and philosophies that we don’t recognize an important fact:
The Beast will be just as acceptable to the church as to the general populace.
Yes I know. That will be a shocking statement to those who think that the “church” is taken away in a rapture before all the really bad stuff starts, like a fairy tale princess in a flying pumpkin coach. However, the rapture without question is appended to the resurrection, and that resurrection clearly doesn’t happen till the end of the Tribulation. See our video Whole Bible Prophecy: The Rapture for more explanation on this.
So “the church” will be here during the tribulation. That’s the first boo boo in the whole identification process. There will be many who don’t even realize it at first, and many who will be upset when they find out they’ve been lied to by their leaders.
Some people point to the absence of ‘the church’ in Revelation 4 through about 19 as proof that the church is gone. But here’s a fun fact for you: there is no church in the Bible. At all. It exists only in translations. The ekklesia (the Greek word translated by the English word ‘church’) is simply an assembly or congregation, and is found throughout history in the Word. A group of people. Ekklesia is used of Israel in the Septuagint translation, but isn’t translated as ‘church.’ It is just translated as congregation or assembly. So technically ‘the assembly’ is much different than ‘the church’ and includes all believers everywhere and everywhen. This explains the absence of ‘the church’ in Revelation. Especially the modern church. It was never there in the first place.
The typical church-goer can’t (or will not later) properly identify The Beast because they are not grounded on the Word, do not read it except for a few favorite verses, and refuse to do what it says. Instead they have crafted for themselves a seeker-friendly social gospel that only vaguely resembles anything biblical, with a hippie flower-child Jesus letting everyone behave as they choose. We have leaders telling us that hell doesn’t exist, parts of God’s Word are old and irrelevant, men’s traditions are the new covenant, and sexual immorality is really okay. If this doesn’t sound like “tolerating that woman Jezebel” or allowing the teaching of Balaam and the Nicolaitans (Revelation 1-3) I don’t know what does. The church has watered down the message of God for themselves so much that it isn’t even recognizable as God’s. By and large they have removed the whole nutrition of His Law from the message, and are therefore not grounded on the Rock.
For these reasons and a few others I believe The Beast will look a lot like a mega-church pastor, and teach many of the same things. He will be so very acceptable to the majority of the church because He will look and act just like they do. The church looks the same as the world, acts the same, and believes the same except for a little different Jesus flavoring. The Beast will bridge the (very small) gap between the world and the church very easily.
That might sound hard to some of you. But truth is only hard to the hard-hearted.
It is written that The Beast has blasphemous names on its heads and is given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words (Rev. 13). If you do a comprehensive word study you will find out that blasphemy is, at the bottom, either attributing evil to God’s works or attributing the works of God to evil (Satan, the Beast, or the anti-Christ get the credit instead of God). I think this means The Beast will claim that he is the author of works that are God’s, and will blame God for evil he and his two buddies do and the evil that is in the world in general. Right will be wrong and wrong will be painted as right.
The lack of grounding in the Bible for the majority of self-named Christians will contribute to the acceptance of The Beast. The blasphemy practiced by the Church (calling God’s Law irrelevant for instance) along with sexual immorality (adultery, divorce, fornication, homosexuality) and watered-down teaching from the Balaams, Jezebels and Nicolaitans among us will combine to allow easy acceptance by stone-hearted people.
11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 ESV).
Hey. I’m not saying this. I’m getting it right from the Bible. Read the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 1-3 if you don’t believe me. The people described in negative terms there have always been around and always a part of the so-called church. The door that Jesus is standing at and knocking is the door of the church. It’s just that in modern times a greater percentage of wolves in sheep’s clothing are present and the corruption is more prevalent than in the past. See our video The Whole Picture: Who Put the Church in Charge? at http://youtu.be/3dkxJTQCriI for more on this.
A part of identifying The Beast is helped by figuring out who is spoken of in Revelation 17. There we see a woman riding on The Beast who has a name of mystery on her forehead that is “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.” She looks pretty, dressed in purple and scarlet (the colors of ruling or royalty), with jewelry to match, but her main claim to fame is sexual immorality and murder of God’s people. She is seated on many waters picturing peoples, multitudes, nations and languages, so this woman is everywhere on earth. She is riding The Beast but he and the kings who give him allegiance (the horns) hate her and destroy her.
The Catholic Church has been identified as mystery religion Babylon, but that is too limited. Catholicism has only been around for about 1,800 years, and has not covered the planet that thoroughly during those centuries. This mystery religion has been around at least since the time of the tower of Babel (Hebrew meaning gate of the deity; Babylon is Greek for the same city/kingdom), which is where we see the record of the first idolatrous behavior (although there was probably much before the flood too). I think it is more likely that this woman is all religion that leads away from God with idolatry, sexual immorality and blasphemy. This includes all paganism, all idolatry, all witchcraft and voodoo and the like. It can even include the church (otherwise Jesus would not be warning the seven churches of the teachings of Balaam, Jezebel, and the Nicolaitans). Idolatry is cheating on God, with or without a statue. The modern church is certainly cheating on God, which will put them right in the same chariot with Babylon on the Beast. The Beast tolerates the false religion for a while, but he wants the first place of worship so he destroys Babylon because she’s in the way. It’s like that movie The Highlander. There can be only one. The Catholic Church certainly is pagan and idolatrous, and part of the mystery religion Babylon, but does not carry the whole burden by itself. There are many other churches and synagogues that are joined to her in immorality.
So identifying The Beast is kind of an exercise in futility for the church. You can’t very well find his hiding place when you’re looking everywhere but in the church building. Inside, this guy will indeed be a ravenous beast, but on the outside he will appear as a fluffy little sheep. He won’t appear to be the big bad wolf that most people are expecting. He will speak beguiling words; words that are close to God’s but just a little bit off at first. Just like the words of most church leaders and followers of today. He will say things that sound good and appeal to our self-seeking pride, and because the average Christian will not be grounded in the Word of God they will be willing to accept him and his instead-of-Christ prophet even to receiving the mark. They will “believe in him” so much they will gladly do whatever he says. They will be enamored of his teachings on sexual immorality, tolerance and unconditional love because these teachings will mirror their own. He will be able to quote the Bible better than most Christians, albeit with his own twisted slant and matching almost word for word the text of many sermons. He will mix science with sorcery and probably claim to be the next evolutionary step for all mankind. The image fashioned by the anti-Christ could very likely be a clone who will speak as the serpent did in the Garden, offering a path to be “like God.”
Believers will need to be filled with the whole of the Word, have patient endurance, reject the teachings of Jezebel and her ilk, and hear what the Spirit says to the congregations that make up the Body. Start tuning your eyes and ears to see Him and listen for His instructions by taking in all of His Words and doing them. Now. While there’s still time. Repent, go through the open door, buy from Him gold refined by fire and white garments to cover the shame of nakedness along with some salve to anoint your eyes. Be zealous and repent.
In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. (Job 1:22, ESV)
The book of Job can be puzzling, especially when trying to compare the commentaries with the actual words being spoken. It helps if we realize that these events probably happened around or just before the time of the patriarchs (Job might’ve been a distant neighbor of Abraham or perhaps just before Abraham’s time). For one thing Job lives 140 years after these events (Job 42:16), and he had to have been upwards of perhaps 60 or 80 years or more to have what he had (10 kids, huge flocks and herds). That kind of life span was evident just before the time of Abraham.
The book seems simple enough on the surface. God thinks Job is doing a good job of following God, but Satan says Job worships God only because he is paid (has a hedge of protection). So God gives the okay to test the theory. Of course, true to his nature, the Satan hits Job with every bad thing he can think of. He never hits with good stuff, does he?
Job has his children and possessions taken away, and eventually his health. The verse above is inserted after he loses family and home, but before his health is taken away. After his health is hammered he still keeps his head though.
Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (Job 2:9–10, ESV)
As he’s sitting in misery he has four friends come to visit. They are appalled at his condition and spend some time just sitting with him.
Soon enough, however, they begin a discussion of the causes of the misery. Job’s argument boils down (you should know by now how much I like puns) to a protest that he is righteous and should not be treated this way.
You say, ‘I am pure, without transgression; I am clean, and there is no iniquity in me. Behold, he finds occasions against me, he counts me as his enemy, he puts my feet in the stocks and watches all my paths.’ (Job 33:9–11, ESV)
The first three friends think he must’ve done something wrong against God. Both groups miss the point: there are reasons for suffering other than our lack of righteousness. The fourth friend (Elihu) is younger and stays quiet until towards the end of the book (chapter 32). Then he pops his cork because the three older friends can’t adequately answer Job’s protests of innocence. Elihu’s arguments center around the wisdom of God, and the fact that Job’s wisdom doesn’t even come close.
“Behold, in this you are not right. I will answer you, for God is greater than man. Why do you contend against him, saying, ‘He will answer none of man’s words’? For God speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it. (Job 33:12–14, ESV)
This dovetails with God’s response which at it’s root says the same thing. God has reasons for doing things that usually go way past what we know. He formed everything, and many of His plans for it we can only guess at. The main point of the book (and many other exchanges between man and God) is that God doesn’t do anything wrong (as our verse at the start of this article states so eloquently).
Of a truth, God will not do wickedly, and the Almighty will not pervert justice. (Job 34:12, ESV)
As Elihu speaks, a storm moves in and he uses some of the visuals to make his point. Pretty quickly we see that God is in the storm and speaks to Job from a whirlwind. Job (and the three friends) are rebuked quite strongly, with God telling them that all they know is not all there is. He shuts them all down with a series of questions the answers of which demonstrate His unequaled wisdom, power, and love. Job hastens to repent.
‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:3–6, ESV)
As I said, the key to this book is that we don’t charge God with wrong. Sometimes we suffer because we did something wrong. Sometimes we suffer because we did something right. And sometimes we suffer for reasons that go beyond our knowledge to fathom. In all things we do not question the wisdom of God to order things as He sees fit. He is good, there is no shadow of turning in Him, and all things work together for good to them that love Him back. We turned from Him in the Garden and our counsel is darkened without Him to shed light. We might be saved, but we are still under the curse until He makes all things right. In the meantime we do not charge Him with wrongdoing, instead accepting His wisdom in both good and bad events of our lives. We look forward to the revelation of more of His wisdom and love in our final redemption at the establishment of His throne on earth through His Son our Messiah Jesus the Christ.
A pastor at Apologia Church in Tempe, Arizona, Jeff Durbin gives a great presentation on some general apologetic approaches. I like his energy, his use of Scripture, and his willingness to be bold. He’s also got a lot of excellent points you could incorporate into your own conversations. Even if you are not as bold as he.
I don’t agree with all his positions. He misses the point of the Law, and tends to question Christian orthodoxy while holding on to many of it’s tenets with “closed hand.” But he still seems to have a great deal good to say; worth listening.
Not long ago I had an exchange on Facebook with a man who posted this little tidbit.
“WWJD. We can’t be perfect like Jesus so in addition to ‘What Would Jesus Do,’ we need to be like ‘what would Jesus have me do given my current situation and given what He did for on the cross'”.
It’s a fairly typical comment coming from a fairly typical church educated person. Not unusual at all, really. But I have a little different view of the subject so I asked him, “So what then do you do with the words of Jesus?”
“Your therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48, ESV).
His response was “We strive to be perfect like Him but never can because of sin. At least not here and now.”
It went on from there with him getting typically more and more upset as I presented more and more biblical evidence to support Jesus’ statement, and equally typically ended with him removing me as a friend. This happens a lot when church Christians are confronted with the Bible they claim to follow. Give ’em some truth and they fold up their tents and run away. Instead of practicing the love they claim, they practice anger and pride and cut themselves off from the truth.
The standard church teaching is that we cannot be perfect. The Bible teaching is that we can. How do we resolve this conflict? Either Jesus was telling us to do something well within our grasp, or He is a harsh taskmaster asking us to do something beyond our ability. He clearly tells us to be perfect like God. There is no ambiguity. Seemingly it’s a tall order. But perhaps not so hard when we realize exactly what biblical perfection really means.
The word perfect literally means lacking in nothing. It also means “complete.” (Compare 2 Timothy 3:17 in both the AV and the ESV for instance.) Sometimes it can mean mature (compare Ephesians 4:13 in the AV and ESV). So when Jesus says be perfect as God is perfect, He means exactly what He says. We have the Word, the Spirit, and a new heart of flesh. What else do we lack? We are complete, lacking in nothing.
“And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:4, ESV)
So here’s the difference. The church says we cannot be perfect, which is a hopeless state of affairs. According to this teaching, we are locked into permanently displeasing God. They are saying that we cannot do better. We will never be able to please God. It is a subtle difference, and depressing, but it is also counter to what the Bible teaches. Jesus says that we certainly can do better. He is optimistic and encouraging. We have power in the Spirit. We have a love of God, and His Word to guide us. We can confess and repent and be forgiven. We can indeed be perfect.
We may not be “mature” all the time, but it is not because we CANNOT be mature. It is because we WILL NOT. We have it within our ability to perfectly follow everything God says, but we do not always choose to follow. This is the big difference. If we do not do something perfect, it is because we choose not to. We don’t like this, because our pride gets in the way.
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:7–10, ESV)
But it really isn’t a big deal, because we can rectify it as soon as we realize what we did. We can humble ourselves, confess and repent. We also keep working on taking in God’s Words and moving toward greater maturity. The standard church teaching of “cannot” robs us of motivation. It is a hopeless teaching. Jesus on the other hand is hopeful. His teaching encourages us; His Word provides all that we need. Thank Him that we have what we need to be “perfect,” and can get out of the rat race of imperfection easily. We just have to want it with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. (Philippians 3:12, ESV)
This is a sobering thought. It doesn’t make the average human very happy, because instead of sitting in our comfortable mud pen of complacency we have to move out of the pen and wash ourselves clean with His Word. We “cannot” use the excuse of “cannot” to stay comfortable and complacent. Well we CAN, it’s just not really an excuse that God will buy. We have a goal. We can do better. We can bear more fruit, and practice the fruit of the Spirit better than we do. It is not comfortable, but it is doable. Of course it is doable. Jesus said we could do it.
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John 17:20–23, ESV)
“ ‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ ” (Revelation 3:15–22, ESV)
The “I stand at the door and knock” phrase is frequently directed at the unsaved as an invitation to be saved. But notice that the door Jesus is standing outside of is the door of the church. Why is He outside?
Will we argue that this is just the church of Laodicea, and doesn’t relate to today’s church? It relates if we do the same things. If we act like Laodicea, then we ARE Laodicea. Can anyone deny that our works are lukewarm? Can anyone deny that the huge buildings, the expensive cars and designer clothing, and the lush interiors of our homes and meeting places fairly scream “I am rich, I have prospered, I need nothing?” Compare the modern church to the church right after Peter unleashes the Word of God in his first powerful public sermon.
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42–47, ESV)
It is the church that needs to answer the door and invite Jesus back in. It is the church that is wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. It is the church that has locked out His Word, His Law, His ways and statutes and commands. We reject the hot and yet are not fully cold. The words of Jesus are rejected, and as His words go so goes He.
The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.” (John 12:48–50, ESV)
Therefore be zealous and repent. Buy gold from Him refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.
In Genesis 18 around verse 16 or 22 (depending on the version) there is a subtitle in the ESV, the NKJV, and the NIV84 that reads “Abraham Intercedes (Pleads) for Sodom.” This is not correct, according to the text.
The scene is after a BBQ Abraham put on for two angels and Jesus (the LORD), where a son has been promised to the happy couple (okay, they were laughing anyway). The men leave, but as Abraham is walking with Jesus the LORD stops to tell him that it looks like Sodom and Gomorrah are going to be toasted. Abraham intercedes, not for Sodom, but for the possible righteous living in those cities. Abraham asks, “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” (18:23). He starts off with the number 50, and bargains God down to 10. Jesus says if He can find 10 righteous He will not destroy the cities.
This is important because current modern sentiment would have us believing that we are to run around asking God to forego judgment on wicked people. “Love the sinner, hate the sin,” is a popular summary of this idea. Sometimes this text is cited for proof. But the sentiment is biblically out of whack. Judgment is not only for the recipient, but also for any others around watching the proceedings. God’s judgment on sin is part of God’s love. It is why Jesus had to die. Abraham is not concerned with the cities. He is concerned that the righteous be not condemned with the wicked. He does not argue for postponing judgment, he only wants the righteous saved (probably thinking of his nephew Lot).
It’s true that we shouldn’t wish for God’s judgment to fall on anyone. His judgment is awful and final. We want to pray for the conversion of our enemies, and ask God for His mercy. He is, I think, happy to grant it, but the key is to repent. The repentant sinner is welcomed with open arms, but the unrepentant stay locked on the path of judgment. So biblically we would say, “Love the repentant sinner, and hate the sin.” Too many in modern times want to stretch the mercy of God to cover wicked people assembling with them or residing in their homes. This is a misunderstanding. We are not to approve, accept or tolerate the sinner.
Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:32, ESV)
Removing the unrepentant sinner from our midst is about the best thing we can do for them. It is the ultimate gesture of love. A little bit of judgment now that might help the sinner repent is much better than a whole lot later when it is too late. By isolating them (a very tiny gesture of judgment) we hope they will see the folly of their ways and repent. Then they can be restored to full fellowship. Letting them go on and on down the path of death because we are afraid of “hurt feelings,” the loss of friendship or the loss of family members is an act of hate. I know of a Messianic synagogue who had a key elder announce a divorce to his wife on Yom Kippur. They did not boot him out of the congregation. As a result in my opinion, the divorce went ahead. Later, the congregation split over this and other things. I think the lady is better off, but that is not the point. I know the temptation was to “love the sinner” but what they did was “love” him right into wicked behavior.
Peter seems to tell us that God does not want anyone to perish. A reasonable idea, and perhaps close to the mark. However, a closer reading will give us insight more in line with Abraham’s intercession for the righteous.
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9, ESV)
See how the Lord is patient “toward you?” (believers – see verse 1:1). He does not want any of His children to perish, but that all should reach repentance. Full repentance is not reached until death. We have to repent, and stay repented (or repent again if we fail). We help each other to repent by any means available. Believers have to keep believing. Not all who call Him “Lord, Lord” will be with Him in the kingdom.
The only intercession we can make for the wicked is that they would take advantage of the patience of God and repent. We, like God, would love it if they would do so.
Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:4, ESV)
So repent already. It’s easy now. Later, not so much.
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