The Need For Religious Books

May 16, 2014

The Need For Religious Books

“If religious books are not widely circulated among the masses in this country, I don’t know what is going to become of us as a nation. If truth be not diffused, error will be; if God and his Word are not known and received, the devil and his works will gain the ascendancy; if the evangelical volume does not reach every hamlet, the pages of a corrupt and licentious literature will; if the power of the Gospel is not felt throughout the length and breadth of the land, anarchy and misrule, degradation and misery, corruption and darkness, will reign without mitigation or end” (Daniel Webster, 1823).


The Real Fear of the Lord

July 29, 2013

I have heard many pastors and Bible teachers talk about the fear of the Lord being not a dreadful fear, but one of reverence and respect.  I know that for those who have an agenda to get what they want, they know how to give proper respect to those in authority only in leaning towards the act of deception, in order to fulfill their evil desire.  And they know how to do this with a smile.

Is this not true of those who accept this false notion of the fear of the Lord?  They believe that God is not looking for you to fear the possibility of being wiped off the face of the earth if we sin, be it deliberately or unintentionally.  They believe that when God’s Word says, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), that God does not really mean death, but something else.  Is it not safer to believe that when we sin against God, he only sees it as a soft touch instead of a severe blow?  Because if we saw God as one who is wrathful, furious, and judgmental towards his people, he would be unlikable, unapproachable, and undesirable.

What God are we talking about here?  I tell you that this god is an illusion and a figment of your imagination.  That god could not last one minute on this planet if he tried, because his own creation would eat him up alive, and spit him back out with the snicker of mockery and conquering.

Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”  It is in the proper fear and trembling of God that you revere and respect him.

We are always being tempted to take God lightly so that we won’t have to see the seriousness of the violation of sin against God.  We are tempted to look at sin as if it is something that God really can’t get offended at.  Did God really say that you cannot do this, or say that, or take of this forbidden fruit?

We must fear not fearing God!  It was Moses who said to God’s people, “God has come to test you so that the fear of God will be in you to keep you from sinning” (Exodus 20:20).  God knows that it was the lack of the fear of him that caused his people to take him lightly, and eventually sin against him.

We must be a people who not only fear God, but fear losing the fear of God in our lives. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom – when you speak, when you look, when you listen, when you act.  It will keep you from sinning in all these areas of your soul.


The All Importance of Motive

July 22, 2013

By A.W. Tozer

Christus im Hause des Pharisäers

The test by which all conduct must finally be judged is motive. As water cannot rise higher than its source, so the moral quality in an act can never be higher than the motive that inspires it. For this reason no act that arises from an evil motive can be good, even though some good may appear to come out of it. Every deed done out of anger or spite, for instance, will be found at last to have been done for the enemy and against the Kingdom of God.

Unfortunately the nature of religious activity is such that much of it can be carried on for reasons that are not good, such as anger, jealousy, ambition, vanity and avarice. All such activity is essentially evil and will be counted as such at the judgment. In this matter of motive, as in so many other things, the Pharisees afford us clear examples. They remain the world’s most dismal religious failures, not because of doctrinal error nor because they were careless or lukewarm, nor because they were outwardly persons of dissolute life. Their whole trouble lay in the quality of their religious motives. They prayed, but they prayed to be heard of men, and thus their motive ruined their prayers and rendered them not only useless but actually evil. They gave generously to the service of the temple, but they sometimes did it to escape their duty toward their parents, and this was an evil. They judged sin and stood against it when they found it in others, but this they did from self-righteousness and hardness of heart. So with almost everything they did. Their activities had about them an outward appearance of holiness, and those same activities if carried on out of pure motives would have been good and praiseworthy. The whole weakness of the Pharisees lay in the quality of their motives.

That this is not a small matter may be gathered from the fact that those orthodox and proper religionists went on in their blindness till they at last crucified the Lord of glory with no inkling of the gravity of their crime. Religious acts done out of low motives are twice evil, evil in themselves and evil because they are done in the name of God. This is equivalent to sinning in the name of the sinless One, lying in the name of the One who cannot lie and hating in the name of the One whose nature is love. Christians, and especially very active ones, should take time out frequently to search their souls to be sure of their motives. Many a solo is sung to show off; many a sermon is preached as an exhibition of talent; many a church is founded as a slap at some other church. Even missionary activity may become competitive, and soul winning may degenerate into a sort of brush-salesman project to satisfy the flesh. Do not forget, the Pharisees were great missionaries and would compass sea and land to make a convert.

A good way to avoid the snare of empty religious activity is to appear before God every once in a while with our Bibles open to the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians. This passage, though rated one of the most beautiful in the Bible, is also one of the severest to be found in Sacred Writ. The apostle makes the highest religious service and consigns it to futility unless it is motivated by love. Lacking love, prophets, teachers, orators, philanthropists and martyrs are sent away without reward. To sum it up, we may say simply that in the sight of God we are judged not so much by what we do as by our reasons for doing it. Not what but why will be the important question when we Christians appear at the judgment seat to give account of the deeds done in the body.

(From The Root of the Righteous)
(Photo: Christ in the House of the Pharisee by Tintoretto)


“If you love me, you will obey what I command.”

July 15, 2013

“If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15).

Can you or I love God without having to obey him? This would be a very confusing task, because we are declaring an allegiance to God, yet somehow assuming that it is not necessary to obey him. If this were possible, what would it look like? It would show that devotion does not necessitate action to follow.  Do I just say that I love, and that is it?  Do I just hold affection in my mind and that is good enough?

I believe that there would be a great depression in a marriage if on his wedding day a husband promised that he would love his wife “till death do us part,” and for the rest of his marriage not once show it in some manner.  How would you feel if this was your husband or wife? Would you be satisfied with just one day of I do’s, and afterward receive no sign to affirm it?  Would you be okay with this kind of so-called love? Or would you demand that the one who said “I do” show that he or she really does by the way they reflect their love to you?

How much more is this true of God? Do we seriously think that we owe any less devotion for God?  Do we really assume that he has too much on his plate to pay attention to little ol’ me? Or do we just use this as an excused to justify our lack of commitment towards the one we said “I do” to?

How horrible it is to know that although we would not appreciate it if our spouses lacked in reflecting their love toward us, we fail time and time again to show God the commitment that he deserves.  How could we do such a thing to him? There is no other way to love God. To love God is to obey God! Don’t make excuses.

Father, God, Lord, my first true love, please forgives us for foolishly thinking that we can say that we know you an yet not obey you. Please give us a jealous love for you, God, that we may be always focused on pleasing you and honor you in all that we do, for you are a jealous God.

 

 


Made in the Image of God

July 8, 2013

The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology defines the image of God as, “The doctrine that humanity is in certain respects created in the divine likeness.”[1]  In short, everything that in man that shows God’s qualities and characteristics are included in this image.  As God created, so man is able to create. As God can use his senses, so can man.  As God can see, hear, and smell, so can man.  Man is semi-transcendent and has a soul that is not confined to this physical world.

When God created man in his image, he created him perfectly.  The problem of the soul is that sin has corrupted it.  Therefore the problem with man is not his humanity, but what corrupts his humanity.  Now that image of God has been marred.  Now man thinks, reasons, understands, feels, desires, and rationalizes his behavior in his own misguided view.

This impacts the way I minister the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in two ways.  First, it impacts the way I view myself; and secondly it impacts the way I view the person I am ministering to.

I have been set free from the power of the sinful nature thought the blood, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ – the Gospel.  “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).  I have been spiritually restored to that which I was created to be, holy and pure in the image of God.  “For it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:16).  The Gospel makes it possible to be everything that God has called us to be.  “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (2 Peter 1:3-4).

I examine myself through this lens.  Do I reflect God’s holiness?  Do I reflect God’s righteousness and blamelessness?  How can I minister the Gospel of salvation to anyone if I have not met its standard?  How can I tell others that they need to be saved from Adam and be born again into Christ if I myself am not found in Christ?

Secondly, I view the individual as someone who is either in Adam or in Christ.  If they are in Adam, they are still under the control of the sinful nature and the image of God is still corrupted in their soul and in their life.  If they are found in Christ, are they living up to the holiness that he gives?  If they are living a holy life, are they also ministering as they should?

Ephesians 4:11-13 says, “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”  My purpose is to build others up to this same standard – the fullness of Christ in all holiness, and maturity in faithfulness to him.

Sometimes people have accused me of being arrogant in my position.  To that I respond that there is a difference between being arrogant and being confident.  I do not take pride in myself as if I have made myself holy or somehow saved myself.  But I know the God who I serve, a holy God who desires the same for all his creation.  God does not create junk.  He created man perfect, and he desires this for his elect.  He has given us the way to be restored to his image and have full relationship with him.  “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

This knowledge of holiness is key, because it determines who we set out to become when we come to Christ.  Whose image are we being restored to?  What does that image look like?  It was A.W. Tozer who said, “The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of him.”[2]  If we do not view God as holy, and do not recognize that God wants to restore us to that image of holiness, we have committed to worst of idolatries.  Then we have chosen to reject who God has created us to be, creating instead a god in our own image, and a gospel of our own desires.

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:19-24).

(918)

 

Bibliography

Henry, C.F.H. “Image of God.” Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001

 

Tozer, A.W. The Knowledge of the Holy. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1961


[1] C.F.H. Henry. “Image of God.” Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 591.

[2] A.W. Tozer. The Knowledge of the Holy. (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1961), 3.


What Comes to Mind

July 8, 2013
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us” (A.W. Tozer).

The most important attribute of God is his holiness.  I say this because God’s holiness is pure light in the face of the darkness of sin, and pure life to those of us who have been snatched out of the darkness and given new life in Christ.  Everything about God’s character is a reflection of his holiness.  Everything that we are called to be in Christ is also a reflection of God’s holiness, because in Christ we have everything that is true of Christ.  Everything that is true of God, because the Lord Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. 

What comes to your mind when you think of God?  This will impact everything about your relationship with God, and everything about the way you live your life in Christ.


Pulpit Force – A Warning

January 2, 2011

The article quoted from is “Pulpit Force” by Robert Hart, From Touchstone, June 2007, page 5.

“It is not the duty of the clergy to blunt the sharpness, to soften the hammer, to quench the fire. Woe to the preacher who protects the people from the Word that kills, because he protects them also from being made alive – truly and forever alive.  Woe to the preacher who acts as a buffer, deflecting the force of the Scriptures to soften the blow, because in protecting the people from the stroke, he prevents their healing” (Robert Hart).

This is a woe that cannot be misunderstood. We’re not talking about preaching. This is talking about proclaiming. And what’s being proclaimed is the very Word of God.

We read in the book of Ezekiel, Chapter 2, how the Lord God himself challenges Ezekiel in this same manner:

“1 He said to me, “Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.” 2 As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me.

3 He said: “Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their fathers have been in revolt against me to this very day. 4 The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says.’ 5 And whether they listen or fail to listen—for they are a rebellious house—they will know that a prophet has been among them. 6 And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious house. 7 You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious. 8 But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.”

9 Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out to me. In it was a scroll, 10 which he unrolled before me. On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe.”

We notice the similar warnings between Mr. Hart’s words and what the Lord proclaimed over 2000 years ago in the book of Ezekiel. The warnings are similar in the sense that they challenge the speaker to not hold back what needs to be said; to not be complacent in the words that need to burn; and to not be afraid of the fire that comes out of his mouth.

“Woe to preacher who acts as a buffer, deflecting the force of the Scriptures to soften the blow.”  This is the reason why the prophet must never look to speak for his own interests but for the interests of God.  For the Lord said to Ezekiel, “You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious.”

“If his labors in the pulpit amount to a lifetime of standing between the people and the word of God, reducing its effect, taming it and making it polite, presentable, and harmless, he will have nothing to show for it in the end but wood, hay, and stubble, instead of gold, silver, and precious stones” (Hart).

This second paragraph of the article takes me directly to Ezekiel 37. Here we will see a bridge that is very much built of the same message that Mr. Hart is saying.

“1 The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. 3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

I said, “O Sovereign LORD, you alone know.”

4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! 5 This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.’”

7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.”

Oh the sadness of the man who spends hours in prayer and meditation, seeking the Lord for a word to his people, and the moment he receives it he assumes to be ready for the task.  He prepares the passage, he sets the time and the hour where he will bring this word of God. He waits for the introduction. He’s brought to the altar of God behind the pulpit.  And instead of releasing the sweet fragrance and aroma of sacrifice to the living God he brings the sacrifice of Cain, that which in God’s eyes is despicable and not accepted.  And we look among the congregations of today and the dry bones of the valley are no more alive after the man has stepped down from failing to offer the proper sacrifice.  And the Lord says to him as he said to Cain, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?”  The goal of God is that the word of prophecy should do exactly what the word did when Ezekiel proclaimed it. “Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones and say to them, “Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.”‘  So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.”‘ So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.”

“He will have nothing to show for it in the end but wood, hay, and stubble, instead of gold, silver, and precious stones” (Hart).

“If the passages that have been read speak of life and death, then elaborate on life and death.  If they speak of repentance, then preach that men should repent.  When they encourage faith, proclaim faith.  When they warn of hell and the judgment to come, then blow the trumpet as a faithful watchman on the walls.  When they comfort, speak as a pastor who feeds the sheep” (Hart).

This third section of this message is clear as the Word of God says in 2 Timothy 4:

“1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”

The reason the Lord God Almighty commands us not to mask the words that he puts on our tongues, not to put flowers on them and make them sound sweet and delightful, is because of the warning of what is yet to come. Verses 3 and 4 say “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” God is making it clear that this will happen in the last days.  He warns that foolish, sweet-talking, delightful expression are the very thing that people are going to want to hear.  Sad to say they are already doing it. Their itching ears have been scratched for them. And the church is responsible for doing it.

“Let the meaning of the Scriptures be expounded to their full effect; proclaim from them the truth that affects the eternal destiny of the souls in your care.  It is far easier to preach if a man will ride the Scriptures like a wave, letting them make their own point and arrive at their own destination” (Hart).

And finally, how is it that the prophet or man of God should carry out the proclamations that God has put on his tongue? The Word of God is very clear. 1 Corinthians 2:6-16 says:

“6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written:

‘No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love him’—

10 but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. 14 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment:

16 ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord
that he may instruct him?’

But we have the mind of Christ.”

And the reason it is important to ride the wave of the Word of God, it is for God to expose the man who has not the Spirit of God. “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (v. 14). And in this day and age it’s sad to hear and to even say, that it’s no longer the listener who suffers from not having the Spirit of God. It is the speaker that has failed to have it and to receive it to begin with.


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