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There is Only One Gospel – It Produces Love

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel— not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1: 6-9

The apostle Paul wrote this warning to the churches of Galatia close to 2,000 years ago.  I firmly believe that this same warning also applies to Christians today, and was not just a one time warning unique to the situation that Paul was addressing at that time.  I believe that there are Christian teachers and church leaders today who “pervert the gospel of Christ” in a similar manner, to varying degrees, as was being done at that time.  Historically, there has been a tendency for Christian organizations to digress from the core elements of the gospel, focusing on “religiosity” rather than producing true Christian character and love.  Even today there are many Christian churches that would be considered spiritually dead.  This letter to the Galatians addresses the cause of this problem that leads to death.

If you read the entire letter that Paul wrote, you will see that he is essentially saying that there is no other means of restoring our relationship with God, no other way to remove the curse from Adam and Eve’s sin, no other way of salvation from this present evil age, no other way to become spiritual, no other way to be transformed to walk in love, and no other Messiah sent from God for this purpose, but only the Gospel message that Paul had previously preached to them about the Lord Jesus Christ, the true Messiah, and what He had accomplished on our behalf through His death and resurrection, and which is only attained by us through faith as a free gift from God.

I thought that it would be valuable for us to look at the main underlying components that support the Gospel so that we can protect ourselves from unknowingly turning to any other proposed “different” gospel.  Paul touches on these components throughout his letter to the Galatians.  Let’s consider some of these:

The Truth

“You were running so well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?”  Gal. 5:7

The Gospel is based upon the truths that have been revealed in the Bible.  We must be very clear about how we establish truth in our minds or the Gospel can potentially become compromised or even abandoned.  Truth should be established through recognizing the authority of God’s revelation in the Holy Scriptures.  The writings of the Bible are not mere writings of men, but are revelations inspired by the Holy Spirit.

“And we also have the more sure prophetic word, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation (or origin), for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Peter 1: 19-21

We must remember that there are very few things in this life that we can rely on as being absolute truth.  We cannot trust the teachings of men as being absolute truth, although they may perhaps contain some portion of truth that may apply to some circumstances.  At best, any truths coming from men are limited in their scope to this physical realm, as well as limited to our recent time frame; anything beyond that is guess work and unreliable.

Many of us are able to hear from God by listening to the still, small voice that speaks to us for guidance and encouragement.  Although I encourage this type of communication with God, I also must caution you that this is not the same type of anchor for our soul as the absolute, authoritative truth that comes from the Scriptures.  Our natural minds often interfere with our ability to hear the Holy Spirit’s communication and therefore we must always check our understanding of what God is speaking to our hearts against the Biblical truths which are absolute.

As a side note, I recently read a beautiful story about a Christian woman who saw a homeless man outside of her grocery store and wanted to buy some food for him.  The Holy Spirit spoke to her and said she should buy him bananas and some protein bars.  She wanted to buy him some fried chicken instead, thinking it would warm him up, but she listened to the inner spiritual voice and didn’t get the chicken.  When she gave the man the bananas and protein bars, he was very grateful.  Immediately after giving them to him, there came another woman with some fried chicken for the man, much to the original woman’s surprise and joy, bringing her to tears.  She though how great it was that God had a concern for this homeless man in this way.

It is beautiful thing to be able to hear from God directly, but we must not use it for determining the absolute truths that establish our understanding of life and that anchors our soul.  Only God’s Word, the Bible, can be the authoritative source for our truth, and the source for the Gospel message.  Be warned that following your heart or the teachings of men without the guidance of Scriptures can lead you astray into the error of false gospels.

True Faith

“Now it is evident that no person is justified (declared righteous and brought into right standing with God) through the Law, for the Scripture says, The man in right standing with God [the just, the righteous] shall live by and out of faith and he who through and by faith is declared righteous and in right standing with God shall live.  But the Law does not rest on faith [does not require faith, has nothing to do with faith], for it itself says, He who does them [the things prescribed by the Law] shall live by them [not by faith].” Gal. 3: 11 – 12 (Amplified Bible)

The situation that Paul was confronting at Galatia was about religious Jews who were attempting to recruit the Galatian Christians to Judaism and to follow the Jewish religious rituals and practices, focusing on the Mosaic laws.  The problem with this, as Paul pointed out, is that being “religious”, that is, focusing on keeping a set of regulations and adhering to ritual practices, does not require faith.  In other words, a purely “religious” person’s “life” comes from following religious regulations and practices; this is what gives them satisfaction and comfort, relieves their guilt, and makes them feel like they are accepted by God.  Unfortunately, when we focus our lives on keeping religious rules, rituals and regulations, it puts us into bondage because there is no resulting spiritual growth produced from this activity.  The bondage is a result of remaining focused on our “flesh”; only true faith can take us out of our fleshly focus.

In contrast, when we put our faith and trust in Jesus, and the promises of God, we have spiritual growth and are free from the bondage of the flesh.  Our “life” comes from the reality of being true children of God and heirs of His kingdom.  This is where our satisfaction and comfort comes from: knowing that our relationship with God has been repaired, our sins forgiven, and our future home in heaven is secured for us and waiting.  We look forward for the final return of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ, who will establish the final Kingdom here, including us with our resurrected, immortal bodies.  This is the true faith that causes us to be born of the spirit and sets us free from the bondage of the flesh.

Be advised that any proposed gospel message that does not require faith and that keeps our focus on this physical world, and the material things within it, is an erroneous, false gospel.  We will need discernment to recognize this because the proponents of these false messages will surely make the claim that the focus is spiritual and that faith is involved, but we must look deeper into the reality of true faith and true spirituality as defined by the Scriptures.

I believe that there are many “Christian” churches that have shifted the focus of their message to regulations and practices and have de-emphasized the need for true faith.  It may not be explicitly stated in their doctrines and preaching from the pulpit, but it is communicated by other means, requiring the congregation to focus on church attendance, donations, volunteer work, participation in church functions, etc, rather than having the main emphasis and focus on true faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  We need to be careful not to fall back into flesh based activity, but rather remain in a place that focuses our affections on spiritual things, requiring our faith to be strong.

Hope

“But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian; for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” Gal. 3: 25-29

The truth of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ  has as its main focus the hope that we have in the future promise of eternal life in heaven with a resurrected body, living in the glory of the kingdom of God as His children with an inheritance waiting for us.  This hope allows us to shift our affections from this physical world, which feeds our flesh, to the spiritual world that causes our spirit to come to life.  Being in Christ means that we have removed ourselves from this physical world in our minds and hearts, having put our flesh to death by dying with Christ.  This is the true power of the Gospel message; no other message is needed since this blessed hope with its transforming power is fully available through Jesus Christ as proclaimed in the Bible.

“Now we, brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise.” Galatians 4: 28

Love

“For through the Spirit, by faith, we wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love.” Galatians 5: 5-6

In the above two verses in chapter 5 of Galatians, Paul reaches the climax of his letter, culminating his warnings and arguments with the fact that what really matters is “faith working through love”.  So we see that if we embrace the truth of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, and place our faith in what has been promised to us as children of the living God, our hope is then established, our flesh no longer rules our lives but rather we shift to becoming spiritual beings, new creations, with the realistic power to walk in love.  Love is the goal; if we are not able to love then something is wrong – something is missing.  In that case perhaps we need to re-examine the gospel that we have accepted to make sure that it aligns with the true Gospel as revealed in the Bible.

A few verses later, Paul again reinforces the concept of love. He shows them that the essence of the law is really about love:

“For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’. Galatians 5: 14

In the amplified Bible, the word “fulfilled” is replaced with the phrase “complied with”, which I think better explains that we can’t just ignore the law completely, but rather, if we are truly walking in love we will be complying with all the precepts of the law.  Again I say that the problem with the law is that if we focus on the law by itself and pursue abiding by its precepts without true faith, then we will not, and in fact cannot, become spiritual, and therefore cannot walk in love.  Without true faith we cannot adhere to the law.

“For if a Law had been given which could confer [spiritual] life, then righteousness and right standing with God would certainly have come by Law.” Galatians 3: 21b (Amplified)

For Christians the key is to become spiritual; if we are spiritual we will be able to walk in love with the law written on our heart.  In his letter to the Galatians, Paul explicitly states this need for spirituality in our battle against the desires of the flesh that hinder our ability to love.

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would.” Galatians 5: 16-17

When he says “doing what you would” I believe that equates to walking in love.

Be warned though that you must make sure that you have the correct biblical definition of love (not the world’s definition), and likewise, the correct biblical definition of being spiritual.  Many religions use the term spiritual and love to describe their activities, but these do not align with God’s meaning as revealed in His Scriptures.  Seek Him to help you gain the true understanding of these!

I encourage you to prayerfully read the entire book of Galatians for there are many other truths brought out in this letter that can help us in our walk with the Lord.  I hope you have found these insights helpful.  God bless!

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Root Problem: Misplaced Hope

“Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.” Matthew 13:22

This is part 5 of a series of essays about a fundamental problem with Christianity in our western culture.  The “foundation” is weak and therefore the entire “building” is at risk of collapsing under pressure. I’m hoping that the Lord will place this series of warnings into the hands of Christians who are aware of the situation but have not found a solution.

I believe that there are many, many Christians who have either left the organized churches or who remain in a church but are disillusioned and turned off by what they see, but stay in the church out of obligation or perhaps thinking that leaving would be worse than staying.

I’m sure that there are still some good churches with good pastors.  If you have found one and the Lord has directed you to stay, you certainly should stay.

In my last message, I discussed the problem of Christian believers having shallow roots as described in the parable of the sower.   It is my observation that shallow roots are the result of an initial shallow conversion, and that an incomplete, faulty Gospel is at the root of the problem.

I also flagged the issue of Christian leaders and pastors focusing more on attracting new people to their organizations than on helping Christians to become spiritually mature.  It has been my observation that this unscriptural focus on numbers has influenced the quality of the Gospel message.  Whether this observation is correct or not is not as important as the recognition of a problem with the current Gospel message and the results of Christians having shallow roots.  There are other contributing factors that have influenced the content of the Gospel message, but I feel that the desire for increased numbers is a major one.

I will mention here again that ultimately the best solution to all of these problems is for individual Christians to seek the Lord directly, one on one.  They need to study His Scriptures and hear His voice.  They need to pray and read the Bible, and communicate with the Holy Spirit, asking for wisdom and guidance in this wicked age.  We live in a spoiled society and we are used to having things handed to us with someone else doing the work.  These issues involve eternal life and the salvation of your soul; it’s worth doing the work to find out the truth for yourself or to know enough of the truth to guard against the lies.

The quote above at the start of this message is also from the parable of the sower.  In this portion of Scripture, Jesus described a problem that is the same as a plant growing among thorns, that is, that the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches cause a problem that results in a lack of fruit.

It has become apparent to me that the problem of “shallow roots” is closely related to this problem of “growing among thorns” and producing no fruit.  In my last message I concluded that new converts are not shown clearly that they need to die to this world, and to no longer love their temporary life here on earth, resulting in having shallow roots.  New converts should instead be directed to consider themselves to be dead to this world, and to set their focus and affections on the next world, that is, on heaven and eternal life, resulting in an internal change that is the equivalent of having “deep roots”. Similarly, this problem of being among “thorns” defined as allowing the cares of this world or the riches of this world to choke out the spiritual fruit, has to do with having a focus on the things of this world rather than on heaven.

The only real difference between these two problems is the timing of when the problem occurs.  If the Christian with shallow roots is exposed to tribulation or persecution they immediately fall away, but if not, then they continue to grow, but, like the plant among thorns, bear no fruit.  The underlying cause is very similar or the same in both cases, but the resulting problems manifest at different times depending on the surroundings.  In our western culture there is very little severe persecution or tribulation, at least for now, therefore, I would suspect that more Christians would have problems like the plants among thorns, resulting in no fruit and immaturity.

We must realize that it is a very serious thing for Christians to not produce any fruit.  The fruit being referred to here is the spiritual fruit that is defined in Galatians 5:22: Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, gentleness and faith.  A living faith produces true, Godly love that includes or results in various good works.

Realize also that any fruitless plant is at risk of being uprooted and destroyed by the owner; in other words, the Lord will deal with fruitless Christians, and the result could potentially be similar to the shallow roots that fall away.

“And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Matthew 3:10

Fortunately, we do have a loving heavenly Father and “vinedresser” who is able to remove the thorns and restore the fruit in our lives if we allow Him.

Let’s look closer at the problem of allowing the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches to choke out your fruit.

The word translated as “the cares” in the original Greek is “merimna” and can also be translated as anxiety.  It comes from a root word that means to divide, and it literally means to be drawn away in a different direction.  These “cares” are the earthly things that draw us away from the things of the spirit, draw life from us, and cause us anxiety.  Worries and anxiety are the opposite of trusting God.

Jesus also explicitly addressed the worries and anxieties of this life:

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor your body, what you will put on.  Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing.” Luke 12:22

“And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind.  For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.” Luke 12:29-31

We worry about many, many things in this life.  We worry, get anxious, and fret about our jobs, our futures, finding a spouse, losing something we want and think we need.  We even worry about other people’s needs and issues.  All of this worry and anxiety will choke our spiritual fruit!

How do riches, and their deceitfulness, choke our fruit?  The pursuit of riches takes our time, energy and emotional life. Riches never satisfy and we never seem to have enough.  Riches can also be gone over night; stolen by thieves or destroyed.  Most importantly though, riches will occupy the focus of your heart, and this will be destructive to your spirit.  In the end, we leave this life naked, so all of the riches that we accumulate have no eternal value.

Jesus taught us about the rich fool:

“And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’  So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich towards God.” Luke 12:19-21

“Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Luke 12:33-34

You may just say, “Okay, got it.  I just need to not allow the cares of this world to distract me, and not let riches deceive me or take too much of my attention.”  Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as deciding or using your will power not to let those things happen.  This is the same mistake that the Israelites made when they attempted to keep the law by using their willpower alone or just making the decision to keep the law.  No, there needs to be an internal change that will give you the power to be free from the cares of this world and will not allow riches to deceive you.  A carnal, fleshly minded man is powerless against these “thorns”, but a spiritually minded man will be victorious.

“For to be carnally (or fleshly) minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.  So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” Romans 8: 6-8

“For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Romans 8:13

This portion of scripture in Romans chapter 8 gives us much understanding about the difference between being carnal and spiritual, but the key to understanding the difference between being carnal and being spiritual is in verse 5:

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, (set their minds on) the things of the Spirit.” Romans 8:5

It is critically important that we have our minds (or hearts) set on the things of the Spirit, and not set on the things of the flesh!  This change in our mind is the internal transformation that gives us the power to overcome the bondage that the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches have on our lives.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2

And this brings us to the root of the problem: what we set our minds upon is directly related to where we have placed our hope!  Yes, our hope determines the focus of our minds and hearts, and this is extremely critical.

The original Greek word that is translated as “set the mind on” is phroneo which is a verb that can mean “to savour” or “to set the affection on.”  This would indicate that we need to be extremely aware of the things that have become the focus of our affections.  We need to ask ourselves, “What do I long for?”, or “What am I coveting?”   These feelings or emotions are directly associated with where we have placed the hope of our lives!

Remember what Jesus said, that where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (quoted above).  We have been promised a treasure of extreme value as a free gift of God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  We have been promised eternal life, a resurrected, spiritual body, a mansion in heaven, an inheritance as a child of God.  As Christians, the hope of our life has been set on this promise, and therefore, our hearts and minds should be set on this hope.  It is critical that we keep this hope at the forefront of our daily existence.  Our thoughts should be anchored by this hope.  Having this hope, and the internal change of thinking that occurs as a result of treasuring this hope, is the distinction between Christians and everyone else.  It is also the power that allows us to overcome anxiety and worries, and also keeps us from being deceived by riches!

On the other hand, if we keep our hope focused on earthly things (even if they are “good” things), we will be powerless over the distractions, anxieties and worries that soak life from us and keep us carnally minded.  If we place our hope on earthly things we will be dissatisfied, disappointed, discouraged and it will carry with it the burden of anxiety and worry.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when desire comes, it is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12

I need to say this bluntly: If the hope of your life is not 100% set on the promise of eternal life and the future of heaven that will become a reality upon the second coming of Jesus, than you are carnally minded and you will be in bondage to the earthly things that you have set your hope upon.

The hope in the promise of God should be the source of your happiness; if it is not, than something is amiss.  In other words, if you become unhappy, depressed, anxious, or discouraged, than you have placed your hope on something in this world.

“Base your happiness on your hope in Christ.” Romans 12:12 (J.B. Phillips)

I am not saying that you will never be unhappy, depressed, anxious, or discouraged.  I’m saying that if you are, you know the root cause.  This is the battle that we fight every day as Christians, to keep the focus of our hope on heaven, to set our affections on things above, to set our minds on the things of the spirit, and resist the constant barrage of distractions from the world that attempt to draw our hearts down to the things of this world, to care about them instead.

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” Col. 3:1-4

This focus on the hope of future glory with Jesus is also our power to get through the trials and tribulations of this life.  Recognizing that this life is temporary and short, and offers nothing of lasting value compared with our future hope can be a source of strength during times of suffering:

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” 1 Peter 4:12-13

“Therefore we do not lose heart.  Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.  For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Cor. 4:16-18

I must mention that I believe it is a deceitful ploy of the enemy, or possibly a deception of our own flesh, to think that some earthly things are “spiritual” and therefore okay to set our hope upon.  Things like building Christian ministries, or establishing God’s kingdom here and now, or working miracles, or contributing to solving the world’s problems like hunger, abortion, human trafficking.  If any of these items become the main focus of your hope, then your hope has been misplaced.  God could call you to do these things mentioned, but it must be secondary to the main hope of heaven.   If not, they will become a “care of this world” and will choke out your spiritual life and leave you without spiritual fruit.

Our faith, if properly directed towards the promises of God that were presented through His Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, will give us a living hope to replace the dead hope that we had from the false promises of this world.  Having our hearts set on this hope in heaven, that is, treasuring the spiritual things of heaven, will produce an internal change in us that will result in true, godly love.  Praise God!

In summary, it is extremely important that we have established in our hearts the living hope that is based on the promise of eternal life and glory with Christ Jesus and that we are storing our riches in heaven and awaiting His return when he will make our hope a reality.  We must be careful on a daily basis to not allow our hope to be shifted back to the earthly things that cause anxiety, discouragement, depression and unhappiness resulting in the absence of spiritual fruit.  We should exercise our faith to re-establish our hope when we find ourselves in a state of unhappiness or anxious or any of the above mentioned symptoms.  This hope is not only a source of power to free us from the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches, but it will also take us through our trials and sufferings.  Our Christian lives are mostly about patiently enduring as temporary residents here on earth awaiting Christ’s return.  We may be called to other work or ministry, but it must be secondary and aligned to our focus on this main heavenly hope.

In the future I would like to talk more about how this hope is a part of a deep Christian conversion and how it is related to our faith.

I leave you with this Scripture quote from Romans regarding our attitude towards our hope:

“For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.  For creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.” Romans 8:19-25

 

The Problem of Shallow Roots

“But he who received the seed on stony places (or on rock), this is he who hears the word (of God or of the kingdom) and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles (or falls away).” Matt. 13: 20-21 (see also Luke 8:13)

The above quote is from the explanation that Jesus gave for His parable of the sower. In this parable, Jesus compares the spreading of the truths of His word to planting seeds and the plants that spring up from the seeds.  One problem that He defines is a plant that has shallow roots, and therefore when the sun comes up the plant is scorched and dies because the roots are not deep enough to supply moisture.  The analogy is that Christians too who have shallow roots will not survive when difficult times are encountered.

In my previous blog post I pointed out that many churches are not focusing their ministries on increasing or enhancing the spiritual maturity of their members, but rather, they are concerned with attracting more people.  They are measuring success by the number of people they “convert” and/or become members of their church organization. One of the major problems that I believe is the result of this false focus on attracting people is what I call “shallow conversion” that results in shallow roots.

New converts are not presented the full picture of the Gospel message and therefore do not understand the full cost of their decision to follow Jesus as His disciple. This approach of presenting only a partial Gospel message is likely to make a conversion shallow resulting in a weak foundation.

Let me first make it clear that the Holy Spirit works with each individual differently and reveals truths to them through various events in their lives.  Eventually though, people reach a place where they are ready to hear and receive the Gospel message and it is the responsibility of the Church (and individual Christians) to deliver this message.  It is important that these people receive the full message in a very clear manner so that they can make the deep, serious decision needed to follow Jesus as His disciple with “deep roots” and a firm foundation in place that can be built upon.  Paul the apostle mentions this foundation in one of his letters:

“For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.  According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it.  For no other foundation can anyone lay that that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” 1 Cor. 3:9-11

It is my view that unfortunately there are very few wise master builders who can lay the proper foundation that can be built upon with confidence so as to make it through the stress of a storm or flood, or that will produce the deep roots needed to endure difficult times.

Historically, there came a point within the last century that evangelical preaching was reduced to a formula, or a quick recipe for conversion.  There is first a message about how we all have “fallen short and have sinned” and are in need of a savior.  Then the message that God loves us and sent Jesus as the savior who has died for our sins, and we need to put our faith in His forgiveness and realize that He has paid the price for our sins.  The conversion, where we are “saved”, is presented as occurring when we recite a “sinner’s prayer” where we admit that we have sinned and are in need of a savior, and that we accept Jesus as that savior, believing that he died for our sins and has given us a fresh, new start in life.  The new Christians are usually assured that God loves them and has a plan for their lives.  Some include that once they have said the “sinner’s prayer” they are “saved” and are now a part of the family of God and will go to heaven when they die.

There are many evangelists on television and with worldwide crusades who have made this approach popular, boasting of preaching to billions and having multiple millions of people who came forward at evangelical meetings or responding to radio and television shows and movies, who have recited the “sinner’s prayer” for conversion.  It would stand to reason though that there is a disconnect between the number of supposed converts and the impact this would have on society if all of these conversions were legitimate and were showing forth the fruit of a true, deep conversion.

I am not saying that all evangelists in our modern western Christian organizations are false teachers who are purposely misleading people.  I must assume, though, that they see quantity, or the number of respondents, as a measure of success and design their method of communication and presentation to increase these numbers.  It would seem, whether their motives are sincere or not (God knows), that the result is that the Gospel message is changed to be more of a “sales pitch” with any offensive elements removed so as to result in the most respondents.

It appears also that this shallow, non-offensive Gospel message has been propagated for so long and by so many that it has become accepted as the proper approach to evangelism.  Many preachers and evangelists, I suspect, are not even aware of the problem with the message.

I am also not saying that all of these conversions through these evangelist’s efforts are not Christians.  God is able to work in people’s lives regardless of their exposure to truth or lies.  I say again, my point is that many of them had or may still have shallow roots or a weak foundation that leaves them vulnerable.

You may be saying, “What’s wrong with the Gospel message that was described above?”  Well, as I stated earlier, there is nothing that is blatantly false.  The problem is that important parts are missing, creating an improper shift of focus and areas that are not addressed.  The fact that the message contains many truisms is what causes confusion.  Again I emphasize that a message that is true but incomplete can be just as problematic as a message that is totally false.

The problem with this current faulty Gospel message is that it typically leaves the new Christian with the impression that the main goal of their new faith is to improve their lives here on earth.  Their focus remains on their earthly existence, thinking that now with God on their side they can prosper, be happy, have any negative situations and events removed from their lives, and have the power of God at their disposal.  I have seen this message presented in the same way as other “self-help” or “self-improvement” methodologies or philosophies.  In other words, living the Christian life becomes just another wholesome way of living, and a means of improving a person’s current situation, including  getting out of jail, or recovery from addiction, or healing from physical problems, or a way out of poverty, etc.

The confusing part is that Christianity does bring about all of these improvements, but there is a paradox in the true Christian message, and it is this: If we love our life we will lose it, but if we lose our life we will gain it.  Here is how Jesus said it:

“He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”  John 12:25

The true, full picture, Gospel message shifts the focus of the new convert onto eternal life, removing their focus from the temporary life here on earth.  This may not seem to be too important, but it is an extremely critical component in the conversion act.  This shift of focus from this life to the next life is radical and extreme.  The Scriptures compare it to a death experience, and what could be more extreme than death?  We are told that we should consider ourselves as having died to this world, and we should live the rest of our lives as temporary residents here on earth with our future hopes and desires set on the eternal life we will have with Jesus in heaven.

“Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations – do not touch, do not taste, do not handle, which all concern things which perish with the using – according to the commandments and doctrines of men?” Colossians 2: 20-22

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  Set you mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” Colossians 3:1-4

I have been criticized by some Christians for presenting the Gospel message in this manner for the following reason: they say that new converts cannot absorb this idea of dying to this life and living for the next, and that it should be presented later in the Christian’s walk when they are ready for it.  I disagree – the thinking behind this criticism is carnal thinking, using the natural mind and not considering the power of the Holy Spirit to work in people’s hearts.  I also see it as disingenuous to present the Gospel without this context, only to later extend the requirement for discipleship.  How will the potential convert weigh the cost of discipleship without knowing the full extent of what is required of them?  Jesus made this very clear when He spoke of becoming one of His disciples:

“Now great multitudes went with Him.  And He turned and said to them, ‘If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.  And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.  For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it, lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, “This man began to build and was not able to finish.” Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace.  So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.’” Luke 14: 25-33

It is critical for Christians to understand the commitment that they are entering into upon deciding to follow Jesus as His disciple.  They need to understand that they are no longer a part of this world system in the same way that they had been.  True faith understands that this world and everything in it is temporary and pursuing these things is vanity.  True faith also understands that this world has been cursed and is under the influence of Satan, and will not change until the Lord Jesus returns at His second coming to destroy the devil and his work. True Christians are patiently enduring through this life, proving our loyalty and commitment to Jesus, trusting Him in all circumstances not matter where He sends us, and allowing His Spirit to purge us through various trials and hardships to transform us into vessels of honor to bring glory to Him.

Unfortunately, Christians who initially hear an incomplete message about salvation are never filled in on the full message later, at least that has been my observation.  Older Christians become resistant to the message of dying to this world, or to not loving their life here on earth, and desire to continue in their immaturity.  Once the poor foundation has been laid and build upon, it becomes much harder to correct the misconception, very similar to attempting to repair the foundation of an existing building.  It’s much better to build it correct in the first place.

Obviously, this true Gospel message that I just described is very different than a self improvement approach to our life.  It is very different than seeing Christianity as a way to better one’s life that also removes guilt and has heaven as a bonus guaranteed at the end, like some ticket you previously acquired that will assure entrance to heaven, but you have stored away and don’t need until that time.

I once had a conversation with someone who claimed to be a Christian and when I mentioned our hope in heaven, his response was, “Heaven, oh, I have that covered.”  I was confused and asked what he meant.  He said, “I took care of heaven when I got saved.  I don’t have to think of it anymore.”  He meant that since he was “saved”, he was assured of heaven and therefore he didn’t have to think or worry about it anymore since it was taken care of when he first came to the Lord. My response was, “How can you not think about heaven if you have placed you hope there, unless your hope is still focused on the earth?  How can you store up your treasures in heaven?  Are we as Christians not instructed to set our affections on the things above, where Christ is, and not on earthy things?”  I don’t think that his attitude or thinking was unique, but rather, I think it is a common result of our modern faulty Gospel that leaves out the important principle of shifting our hope from what this world offers to the eternal hope that we have in heaven.  We are clearly instructed by God’s Word to stop loving our life in this world, but to instead cherish our eternal life, and to place our full hope and focus on the eternal, permanent, spiritual things of heaven.

“Do not love or cherish the world or the things that are in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh [craving for sensual gratification], the lust of the eyes [greedy longing of the mind], and the pride of life [assurance in one’s own resources or in the stability of earthly things] – these do not come from the Father but are from the world [itself].  And the world passes away and disappears, and with it the forbidden cravings (the passionate desires, the lust) of it; but he who does the will of God and carries out His purposes in his life abides (remains) forever.” 1 John 2: 15-17 (The Amplified Bible)

True Christianity requires that a person makes a drastic change in their life.  They must no longer love the life that they have in this world, but rather they must put it to death.  They must consider themselves as dead to this world, and recognize that their life is in Jesus Christ, that is, that they will have eternal life with Him if they continue in this mindset. They must no longer seek the things that this world offers like success, wealth, prominence, security, or happiness.

The paradox is that when we seek after the things that the world has to offer, we never really get the full satisfaction that we really desire but we end up empty and still wanting, even after we attain them.  When we turn from these things and look towards heaven, we are free from the bondage and experience a true satisfaction that come from our spirits.  We attain the fruit of the spirit, that is, love, joy, peace and more.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Galatians 5:22

In summary, a major root cause of the immaturity and carnality of modern western Christians, and what has caused a shallow root or a weak foundation, is the faulty modern Gospel that is presented with partial truth and results in a shallow conversion.  The Gospel message must include a clear statement regarding the prerequisite for discipleship that involves a shifting of focus from this temporary life here on earth, and the things that this life offers, to the permanent, eternal life promised by God through the redemption of Jesus Christ.  True Christian converts become pilgrims on a journey, only passing through this life as temporary residents.  This shift of focus, that can only occur as a result of a deep, sincere faith, will cause a deep change to take place in a person’s heart and mind, constituting a “deep root” in their lives.  A transformation will then begin to take place with a renewing of their minds, no longer conforming to the worldly ways of thinking and perceiving their surroundings and circumstances. The result will be maturity and spiritual fruit.

Christians like to use the term “Born again” to describe their experience.  In order to be truly born again of the spirit, you must first put to death your life in the flesh.  The old nature that was based on the flesh and this physical world system must die and be replaced with a new nature that is based on spiritual things.

In the future I want to discuss more about the Scriptural basis for my conclusions and other complication that result from this error. I would like to look deeper at what it means to be spiritual, and also look at the importance of hope in our lives, or more specifically, that we should live with our lives with our hopes set on the promise of heaven.  If the Lord wills and allows, I’ll continue this discussion in a future post.

Warning! The Foundation of Modern Western Christianity is Weak (part 3)

“But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?  Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like:  He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great.” Luke 6:46-49

I have been working on a series of posts that deal with the exposure of a weak foundation in the western Christian churches and the causes of this weakness.  This post is a continuation of this discussion.

In summary of past messages, we looked at the symptoms of this weakness or  the “bad fruit” in many churches including sexual issues such as pornography and adultery, immaturity such as dissension and strife within congregations caused by carnal issues like envy and jealousy.  We also pointed out issues like depressed and despondent Christians on anti-depression medication, and erroneous teachings such as materialism or “prosperity” teachings, “Kingdom Now” teachings, and candy-coated, positive thinking teachings, all linked to the symptoms that point to a weakness in the foundation.  We also discussed the need for Christians to determine the truth and separate out the lies, looking also at some of the deceptive ways that lies are promoted.  Similarly, shifting the Christian’s focus to the wrong things can be difficult to detect, but will cause serious problems.

Let’s look closer now at the problem of having the wrong focus and the specifics of this problem in today’s western churches.

I first must ask the question, what should be the focus of the Christian ministry?  What is the main goal? As I look at western churches (looking at their actions, not so much their statements), it appears that the overwhelming answer for them is what they would call evangelism or winning souls, but it really equates to increasing the number of people associated with their organization.  The success of the Christian ministry is measured in the size of the congregation, or the number of converts that have been gained through their outreach.  For most churches the main thrust of the ministry is to get more people to come to the church services and get them more involved in church activities.  Individuals are encouraged to “share their faith” with others and then encourage them to come to church.

Evangelism is important, but it should not be the main goal or main focus of the Christian ministry.  And it certainly should not be the measure of success for a Christian ministry.  Yet it would appear that many churches are making their important decisions about how the church functions based on their desire to attain this goal.

A good example would be the worship time of many churches.  The music is geared towards attracting more new people to the church. Worship services have become more like viewing a musical performance than a time for the congregation to focus their hearts on praise and worship of the Lord. Even the musical “key” (how high or low of a pitch the music is played in) chosen for the songs to be sung is for the benefit of the “performers” in the musical band up front on the stage, rather than for the congregation to join in the singing.

I would not say that having a mini Christian rock concert every Sunday is necessarily evil per se, but it is my judgment that it is wrong if the motive for doing so is to attract new people who want to be entertained, and if it replaces the important time of worship, praise and interaction that follows the admonition of the Scripture regarding the use of music:

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Col: 3:16

Or this:

“…but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.” Eph. 5:18-21

My experience in the past was that this time of worship was a valuable time of learning, singing hymns and songs from the Scriptures that either taught or reinforced some truth to the congregation.  Also, it was during this time that the entire congregation was focusing their hearts on the Lord and offering up sincere praise and thanksgiving to the Lord, that the Holy Spirit moved; prophecies came, people were touched and moved to tears and repentance, people came to the altar for prayer.  I don’t see the current atmosphere of extremely loud music and songs intended to entertain being conducive to the moving of the Holy Spirit.  We have put aside this valuable time of unified praise and openness to the Holy Spirit in order to have instead a “concert” for the purpose of attracting more people.

Another example of churches that are basing their success on the increase of people in their services are churches that go deep into debt to greatly increase their building size to assure that they can accommodate many more newcomers.  They also go into debt to make sure that their church is modern looking and comfortable, and to have the latest sound and video equipment.  They may even add additional “attractions” like a lobby with a coffee shop or a fun room.  In some parts of the world, Christians have no meeting house at all and meet under a large tree, but this does not hinder their spiritual growth. My point is that too much time, money and effort are being directed towards the wrong things.

None of these above mentioned things are evil in themselves.  Their presence does support my claim that the focus of the churches is to attract people and keep them involved in the church organization.  There is one thing that I do consider to be evil: when the Gospel message is compromised to reach this goal of greater numbers, and I will be looking deeper at this serious problem later.

Some Christian leaders might say that the Scriptural support for this goal of increasing numbers is found in the portion of Scripture known as “the great commission” found in Matthew.  Here is the quote:

“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” Matt. 28:18-20

You will notice that this directive from the Lord Jesus is to “make disciples” and to “baptize them” and “teach them to observe” His commandments.  I would consider directive to fall more into the category of discipleship than evangelism.  Evangelism is about preaching the message to those that have not heard it.  Discipleship is about turning those who have accepted the message into mature Christian disciples.

Notice too that it is assumed that if you are going to baptize a person, that you will be explaining the significance of the act to them, and not just going through some form of initiation ritual.  The outward action of immersion represents an inward, spiritual change that the Christians who are baptizing are responsible to make sure that the person being baptized understands.

The modern western Christian churches have used the directive of “the great commission” to justify their emphasis on getting more people into their churches and involved in their organizations.  This has caused problems.

It is clear throughout the New Testament that the focus of the Christian ministry is to produce holy, sanctified, spiritually mature, strong Christian disciples.  Even a casual reading through its books will support this claim.  Of course, evangelism is an important prerequisite for discipleship, but it is not the focus or end goal.  In other words, we should never sacrifice quality for quantity.  Anyone who takes an honest look at modern western Christianity will see that this sacrifice is being made.

Here is a clear, direct, portion of Scripture to support this view (I like the way that J.B. Phillips translated it):

“The ultimate aim of the Christian ministry, after all, is to produce the love which springs from a pure heart, a good conscience, and genuine faith.” 1 Tim. 1:5

Here is the same verse from the Amplified Bible version:

“Whereas the object and purpose of our instruction and charge is love, which springs from a pure heart and a good (clear) conscience and sincere (unfeigned) faith.”

The context of this verse is that Paul is directing Timothy about people who had lost the main focus of their Christianity and had drifted into other teachings or distractions. Here are the verses immediately before it:

“that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrines, not to occupy themselves with myths and endless genealogies which promote speculations rather than the divine training that is in faith” 1 Tim. 1:3-4

We see from these verses that the true goal is to develop in the nature of each Christian a true, spiritual, godly love, and that the root source of this love is a pure heart, a clear conscience, and sincere faith.  Christian ministries should be making sure that their efforts are focused on attaining this goal of having Christians who can truly love, and that the root sources that produce this love are being supported and built up in their congregations.  Sadly, I don’t see this happening; the fruit of this labor is not present.

“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Cor. 13:13

At the core of the Christian ministry is a unique responsibility that no other organization in the world can accomplish.  It is to prepare the bride of Christ.  It is to foster and foment a transformation in a person that will result in a deep, sincere, and abiding faith, a living faith, that will produce holy and blameless saints, with pure hearts that are focused totally on obeying their Lord and Master Jesus Christ, and whose consciences are clear and spotless, who have the mind of Christ and are patiently waiting for His return.  The church is responsible to work with the Holy Spirit to develop spiritual people who can truly love one another, in fact, they should be known for their love for one another.  This is the core of the Christian ministry and no other goal, no matter how beneficial or benevolent, should supersede it.

When Christians are truly changed and are walking in the spirit and walking in love, they will produce the good works like feeding the hungry, or helping the widows and orphans, visiting the sick or imprisoned, and it will happen naturally because it will be a part of their nature.  Each individual will respond to these needs as they encounter them.  They won’t need to be organized and managed, and they won’t need fundraising or advertising to make it happen.

When Christians attempt to do the good works without being transformed, but being still in their flesh, immature and not in tune with the Holy Spirit, functioning in their own carnal minds, the results are worthless.  The apostle Paul warned about functioning without this core character of true, deep, spiritual love. He warns that any work you do will profit you nothing!

“And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.”  1 Corinthians 13:3

Another way of looking at this erroneous shift of focus onto the wrong things is to compare it to putting the “cart before the horse”, as the old saying goes.  Obviously, this is a foolish approach, so either Christian leaders don’t understand the importance of focusing on love, or they mistakenly think that love is already in place. Some churches are possibly assuming that their congregation is spiritual and mature, but they aren’t examining the fruit.  Or perhaps they have changed the meaning of spiritual to something that’s not scriptural, like someone who uses a lot of “Christian speak” words and claims to be hearing from the spirit.  I would like to spend more time later looking more closely at what it means to be spiritual, but for now realize that the proof of spiritual maturity is in the fruit.  There must be the fruit of godly love in a person’s actions.

I have heard some Christian leaders and pastors indicate that the Bible sets a “high bar” of love that is essentially unattainable for us, but only Jesus could walk in this type of love.  We are told that we are “only human” and “not perfect, but forgiven”.  This is not true!  We are expected to walk in the type of love that is defined in 1 Corinthians 13.  And this is the fruit that should be tested to determine if a person is spiritual or in the faith.  If the test fails, there needs to be serious actions taken to correct the situation, not just an “oh well, I’m not perfect” attitude.

This “cart before the horse” focus error can also be applied to those who focus their ministries on manifestations of the spirit.  What does it matter if there are great moves of the Spirit if the mature, spiritual, character of love is missing?  We can’t just assume that if the Spirit is moving, then everything else must be in order.  This is not the case; if it was we wouldn’t have a need for this warning from Jesus, that comes right after His instructions to examine a person’s fruit to expose false prophets and teachers:

“Therefore by their fruits you will know them.  Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.  Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me you who practice lawlessness!’” Matt. 7:20-23

This verse is also followed by the parable of the house built on the rock that stands against the flood waters (I quoted a parallel verse from Luke at the start of this message).

Paul also gives a similar warning in his letter when discussing the need to focus on love as a goal, or to properly place “the horse before the cart”:

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. “ 1 Cor. 13:1-2

I will be continuing this discussion in the future, Lord willing, by looking deeper at other problems that are hindering maturity and attaining true love in Christians.  I will leave you now with Paul’s definition of true love as found in his letter to the Corinthians (and inspired by the Holy Spirit):

“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophecy in part, but when that which is perfect (or complete) has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child, but when I became a man, I put away childish things.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.  And now abide faith, hope, love, these three, but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Cor. 13: 4-13

Warning! The Foundation of Modern Western Christianity is Weak (Part 2)

“But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?  Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like:  He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great.” Luke 6:46-49

In my last blog post I introduced my view regarding the weakness of the foundation of modern western Christians and the resultant vulnerability they will have to future pressures that may come upon them either as individual conflicts or large scale catastrophes such as religious persecution, economic collapse, or even war.  I also presented what I see as symptoms of this weakness manifested in Christians in the form of sin and worldliness, to support my premise.  I now want to look at the source of the problem.

In a broad sense, this weak foundation is the result of Christians not knowing and understanding the truth.  All the truth that we need can be found in God’s word, the Bible, but like a precious metal that must be dug out from deep in the earth, it takes work to mine out the truths of God’s word.  Time is required to read, study and meditate.  We must also learn how to receive guidance from the Holy Spirit, who can lead us into this truth.

But this valuable truth is often substituted with lies.  Falsehoods and lies can be presented for years, and once they are accepted as truth, they are unknowingly or unintentionally further propagated.  Whether wolves in sheep’s clothing or misinformed Christian teachers with good intentions, the results are the same, and correcting the root problem by exposing the false and presenting the true is my goal.

Satan is the father of all liars and his goal is to propagate these lies in whatever means possible.  I think it is important that we are aware of his tactics. Understanding the nature of lies and lying will help us to better detect the truth.

As I write this, the United States is going through a presidential election.  For this election it seems that we have hit a new low in the quality and character of the candidates that are running.  Even the most positive and patriotic citizens are becoming disillusioned with what has become a media circus.  The reason I mention this election is because I see a similarity in the tactics of politicians and the tactics that the enemy (Satan) uses to deceive people to make progress on an agenda that would not be acceptable if shown in the light of the truth.  Seeing how a politician works will make it easier to see the similar ploys that the enemy uses on Christians.

One of the popular jokes about politicians is asking the question, “How do you know if a politician is lying?” and the answer: “Their lips are moving.”  The point is that lying and deception are major tools of the trade for many politicians.  Of course, they have to be skilled with these tools and very shrewd in order to be acceptable to the masses.  Therefore, they use what is known as prevarication or equivocation, which is a means of purposely misleading or manipulating the listener by speaking mostly truth, but leaving out important facts, or by using words that could have multiple meaning or a meaning that is slightly changed or shifted to purposely deceive or mislead.  In other words, they will not blatantly and directly lie, but they will speak what is mostly true, and then add what may be technically true, but purposely misleading.  An example of this would be ex-president Bill Clinton’s response to the media’s questioning about his relationship with Monica Lewinski (an intern that he had sexual contact with).  His famous statement was, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”  The key word here is “relations”.  Technically, he could say, if pressured regarding this statement, that by “relations” he meant intercourse, but he knew that many Americans would or could take the word “relations” to mean any sexual contact with this woman.  Of course it came out that he had very intimate sexual contact with her, but just short of intercourse. Technically, this statement was not a blatant lie, but obviously it was an equivocation, or purposely misleading.

The word equivocate means to use a word or phrase that has two or more interpretations in order to mislead.  The lesson here is for us to be extremely accurate with our definition of words, looking closely at their Biblical definition and their context in order to fully understand the truth and then compare it to the message being presented by preachers, teachers and evangelists, for validation.

In addition to this, we must realize that having most of the truth, with a small part of the information being untrue or misleading, is as faulty as having none of the truth.  In fact, it is more dangerous because the lie is hidden when surrounded by truth.

I would also like to point out that subtle lies and misdirection are intended to shift the focus from what is critically important to something less critical.  I like the phrase “majoring on minors” to describe this error.  When this happens it becomes very challenging to correct because the “minor” item is still important, but just should not be the main focus.  We tend to see things as dichotomies where it is either good or bad, so when we are challenged about a focus on a “minor” item, we think the challenger is saying it is a bad thing, and therefore we reject the challenge.

False teachers, just like dishonest politicians, will mislead and deceive by slightly changing the meaning of words, or using words in a way that can have multiple meaning.  Or they may leave out important information, telling only partial truth.  They will also attempt to slip in a falsehood in the midst of solid truth, so as to be undetected.  These surrounding truths usually “tickle the listener’s ears” by being what is known to be desired by the listener, feeding their emotions.  The result is a misunderstanding of importance or a shift of focus that leaves the foundation weakened and vulnerable.

Realize also that not all preachers, teachers or evangelists who have presented faulty messages had set out to deceive or mislead people.  They may have initially been sincere in wanting to help people and serve the Lord.  Eventually though, they have let some carnal desire to impact their message.  It could be the desire to be seen as successful, so they make compromises to their integrity.  They may be looking for money, popularity, material gain, etc., and compromise the message to increase numbers or “sell” it more successfully.  Satan will take advantage of any weakness and use it to further his agenda.

Some of these errors are inherited from previous teachers, so some are just parroting what they have already heard, not realizing that there is an error.  It is critically important that all teachings are validated by the Scriptures.  Any teacher of the Gospel who is not presenting their message along with the supporting Scriptures should be seen as suspicious.

As Christians, especially new Christians, we desire to do what is right.  We want to be trusting and listen to those who are older in the faith.  It is difficult, if we are looking at the person who is teaching or preaching, to be seemingly judgmental towards them.  We must look beyond the person, though, and examine the message.  Many times, in today’s world, we are not exposed to the character of the person speaking, especially if we only see them on Sunday or if we only see them speaking on television or read their ideas in a book. It is our responsibility to examine what is said and compare it to the truth that is found in the Bible.  We must know the meaning of words in the Bible, looking up their definition in the original language (Strong’s concordance is available online for free).

Here is Paul’s advice to Timothy (inspired by the Holy Spirit and therefore it applies to us also):

“But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Tim. 3:13-17

Both Paul and Timothy were leaders in the Christian community of that time, but don’t think that knowing and understanding the Scriptures is only for the leadership elite and not for the common Christian.  That is another ploy of the enemy to keep the truth hidden, like during the past dark ages, where only the so called “church leaders” could know and interpret the Scriptures and the common people couldn’t directly read the word of God but had to get their understanding through the “priest” or “bishop” who was the “expert” with the authority to “hear” from God and understand.  In fact, for a long time the Scriptures were only translated to Latin, until Martin Luther and others came along and the reformation happened, putting the Bible translated to the local language into the hands of the masses.

We should follow the example of the believers that Paul and Silas encountered in Berea:

“Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded (or noble) than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, ……” Acts 17:10-12

For now, please consider these ideas and in the future I will drill down into the specific problems.  My hope is that readers of this message will be challenged to go deeper into the Scriptures and begin to question for themselves if what they were taught is aligned with the truths of the Word of God.  Having a deeper knowledge and understanding of the truth is the only real defense against falsehoods.  Hear and absorb the truth, and then put it into practice.

Here is more of Paul’s exhortation to Timothy in his second letter (I will leave you with this):

“But know this that in the last days perilous times will come; for men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power, and from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.” 2 Tim. 3:1-9

Warning! The Foundation of Modern Western Christianity is Weak!

“But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?  Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like:  He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great.” Luke 6:46-49

I am putting out this warning to all who will listen.  Please don’t shrug this off or think that this doesn’t apply to you.  Anyone who has been a convert to Christianity in this western culture is very likely to have a foundation that is weak and that will not stand firm when the storm and flooding comes, but will collapse.

We have been spoiled in our society for a long time now, but it will not last forever and it could change quickly.  The storm could come in the form of persecution, or maybe war, or economic hardship.

I am not referring to the foundation of the Christian organizations.  I am talking about the foundation of individual Christians who have been influenced or raised by modern western Christianity.

In the verse quoted above from Luke 6, Jesus offers the solution for having a weak foundation that I want to emphasize from the start, and that is, to go to Him, hear the truth that He has established, and then align your life and put into practice these truths.  This requires that Christians must spend the time to go to Him and hear what He has spoken.  We must take the time to seek His face and know His voice.  We must read and study the Bible, His words, and meditate on their meaning, and work to establish the associated truths in our life in the way that we act and the way that we think. This work of studying the Scriptures must be done prayerfully, communicating with the Holy Spirit, and looking to Him for clarity and guidance.

It is my observation that this work of studying the Scriptures is not being done by Christians.  Instead, they want someone else to spoon feed them. Not that it is wrong to listen to Christian teachers or preachers, but it is wrong if this is all that we listen to, to the exclusion of directly hearing from the Lord and studying the Bible ourselves. It is obvious that Christians don’t know the truths of God’s word because, if they did, the western Christian churches would not be in the state that they are in.

Let’s look at some of the fruits of today’s western Christianity to see if you agree with my observation of its current state.  Regarding individual Christians and their fruit, remember that in order for Christians to continue in their Christian organizations and activities they must clean up their exterior actions to be acceptable, it is the interior, unseen sins that they allow to continue in their lives.  Therefore, we won’t see as much of those readily apparent sins like alcohol or drug abuse, rape, theft, murder, profanity, verbal abuse, etc., being an issue, but it is the hidden, or less visible and more socially acceptable sins that are the real proof.  Jesus pointed out this same condition in the religious sect of His time called the Pharisees:

“Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.  Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe to you Scribes and Pharisees, Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear  beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are fill of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” Matt. 23:25-28

I have read that the percentage of Christian men who are involved in pornography is very high, even among ministers and church leaders.  With the simple access and privacy of the internet, this sin is too easy for Christians to participate in under the radar, undetected by other Christians.  I have come across a number of Christians with this problem, enough to confirm that the high percentage suggested is true. In a similar area of sexual immorality, there is apparently a large number of Christians involved in adulterous relationships. I wonder too, since so many people in our society are involved in extra marital sex, how much of this has infiltrated the Christian community.  Regardless, I see a large “red flag”  indicating bad fruit in this area of sexual immorality and promiscuity, indicating that there are deeper issues with the foundation that are the source of the problem.

Another area of concern and clear indication of the existence of bad fruit in the Christian churches of the west is the rampant occurrences of divisions and strife that are rooted in envy, jealousy and other carnal causes.  Chances are high that if you have been a member of a Western church for any length of time that you experienced a church split.  Of course, these Christians say that these types of division are a part of life and a part of living in the real world, but this is not true; these displays of carnal fruits should not be part of the Christian church.

I believe that some church splits have righteous roots based on a need to come out of a bad ministry that becomes apparent after some time of involvement.  This is different.  I am speaking about the contentious and strife riddled situations that are obviously carnal in nature and driven by pride, envy, jealously, etc.

I am also concerned about what I see as an unhealthy number of Christians who are depressed or disillusioned with their life in Christ.  Many are on anti-depression medication to deal with it.  I can understand that these situations may exist if individuals have developed conditions while in the world, before coming to Christ, that requires medication to remedy.  As Christians though, we have the means to be anxiety free, and should be displaying the fruits of the Spirit that will eliminate the root cause of these negative conditions that require medication.  I am convinced that the high number of depressed and disillusioned Christians is a result of a root foundation problem with modern western Christianity.

I must also mention the display of bad fruit in these modern western churches who are applying worldly methods to their ministries.  They are measuring success by the number of people who are involved in their ministry, apparently not considering the quality of these people.  I see a clear indication in the Scriptures that the Lord desires quality and does not see success as a result of increases in quantity.  Yes, the Scriptures have stated that it is God’s desire to have all men come to the knowledge of the truth, but success is not measured by the number of people that come to a Sunday meeting.  Success should be measured by the number of “fruit bearing”, mature Christians that a ministry has produced.  Instead, I am seeing the use of worldly methods that sacrifice maturity to achieve numbers.  Is this not the main reason that churches are focused on entertainment to attract people to their services?  Or the mega church approach that uses large, fancy buildings with coffee café’s and large campuses to attract people?  Churches seem to be more concerned about appearances, i.e. looking “cool”, than the quality of their message and the effectiveness of their discipleship.  They seem to go out of their way to not offend anyone by telling them the whole Gospel message as revealed in the Scriptures.  Instead they candy coat the message with emphasizing the “positive” and “blessing” part, and not mentioning judgment, dying to the flesh, taking up the cross, or any other negative, but necessary parts of the message.

I am appalled that some ministries are focused on material gain, wealth, prosperity and worldly possessions.  These ministries suggest that your life should be free of hardship and problems, and if it is not, there must be something wrong with your faith.  This view is not scriptural, but is erroneous, again, using parts of the truth and omitting other critical parts. If Christians were reading and studying God’s word and in tune with the Holy Spirit, these types of ministries would not survive.

Likewise, the message of Christian dominance in our society or “Kingdom Now” is erroneous and not in line with the Word of God. Any approach that places a Christian’s focus on this world and not on our future place in heaven is fatally flawed and will cause the foundation to collapse when the flood waters rise.

I must also question the motive and wisdom of those Christian ministries who have placed their focus on manifestations of the Spirit, i.e., on miracles, or healings, or angels appearing, or whatever else is considered a physical display of the Spirit. I am very supportive of miracles and healings, but I do not think that it should be the focus of a ministry, but rather, it should be a matter of course as a ministry is going about doing the work of spreading the truth of the Gospel message and making fruit bearing disciples.  If the motive and goal of the ministry is to build a strong “house” of “gold, silver and precious stones” rather than “wood, hay and stubble” on a solid foundation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, than the focus on miracles is not the best approach.  Consider that of the ten lepers that Jesus healed, only one returned to thank Him, and that all the miracles that were shown to the children of Israel when departing Egypt were ineffective in giving them the faith they needed; instead they fell in the desert due to unbelief.

My main point here is that if you look at the general condition of most of the modern western church you know in your heart that most of them will not fare well when the flood waters rise and put pressure on their foundation.  If increased persecution would come to the west, like there is in many other parts of the world, many would be overcome, with their foundation failing and their building collapsing.

I recently read a letter written by Corrie Ten Boom, who was a survivor of the Nazi concentration camp.  She and her sister were Christians who had helped a Jewish family and therefore were sent to the camp. Her sister died there but Corrie persevered as the only Christian in the camp and survived, and continued afterwards as a Christian minister preaching the Gospel around the world.  The letter was written in 1974 and was a warning to Western Christianity at that time that they were not prepared for the persecution that was coming and had already started in many parts of the world that she had experienced firsthand.  If anything, our circumstances have worsened with regards to our preparedness.   Corrie had related how Christian leaders in the areas where persecution had begun, like in Asia and Africa, were remorseful that they had not prepared their congregations for the hardships that awaited them.  Instead, they were telling them that no hardship would come to them, and that Jesus would come and take them up in the rapture before any tribulation would come upon them.

I will say again that we have been very much protected and spoiled in our materialistic and pampered society.  Many of us do not know real suffering or persecution.  All of this can change drastically very quickly.  We need to be prepared.  As I said earlier, the main part of the solution is to get into the Bible and find out for ourselves the powerful message of the Gospel and use it to find strength now in preparation for the needs of the future.  Please heed these words.

Here is a portion of Corrie Ten Boom’s letter, with her advice to remedy our unpreparedness:

“How can we get ready for the persecution? First we need to feed on the word of God, digest it, make it a part of our being.  This will mean disciplined Bible study each day as we not only memorize long passages of scripture, but put the principles to work in our lives. Next we need to develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Not just the Jesus of yesterday, the Jesus of History, but the life-changing Jesus of today who is still alive and sitting at the right hand of God.
We must be filled with the Holy Spirit. This is no optional command of the Bible, it is absolutely necessary. Those earthly disciples could never have stood up under the persecution of the Jews and Romans had they not waited for Pentecost. Each of us needs our own personal Pentecost, the baptism of the Holy Spirit. We will never be able to stand in the tribulation without it.
In the coming persecution we must be ready to help each other and encourage each other.  But we must not wait until the tribulation comes before starting.  The fruit of the Spirit should be the dominant force of every Christian’s life.
Many are fearful of the coming tribulation, they want to run. I, too, am a little bit afraid when I think that after all my eighty years, including the horrible Nazi concentration camp, that I might have to
go through the tribulation also.  But then I read the Bible and I am glad.
When I am weak, then I shall be strong, the Bible says. Betsy and I were prisoners for the Lord, we were so weak, but we got power because the Holy Spirit was on us.  That mighty inner strengthening of the Holy Spirit helped us through.  No, you will not be strong in yourself when the tribulation comes.  Rather, you will be strong in the power of Him who will not forsake you.  For seventy-six years I have known the Lord Jesus and not once has He ever left me, or let me down.
“Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him”, for I know that to all who overcome, He shall give the crown of life. Hallelujah!” From “ESCAPE TRIBULATION? -WRONG!”-Corrie Ten Boom 1974

For now, absorb this.  In the future I would like to write more about the issues I see with the Gospel message and how we need to repair the foundation so it will stand firm when the flood waters begin to pound against it.