A Falling Away

Most evangelical Christians seem to believe the end of the age is upon us, that Christ’s second coming is just around the corner. I’ve found this common in bible-believing circles since the late 70’s … I’ve seldom met an earnest believer that felt otherwise. Evidently, Christians have been feeling this way ever since Christ departed, nearly two millennia ago.

Yet Paul begs us not to expect Messiah’s return prematurely. (2Th 2:1-2) Have we been overlooking something basic? Perhaps a little gullible in our exuberance?

LightedCastleGod’s told us there’ll be a vast change in humanity prior to His return, a wickedness like nothing we’ve ever seen … what He describes as “a falling away.” (2Th 2:3) A city He calls Babylon the Great will rise to supreme dominance in world affairs, the cornerstone of global economic and political power, as well as the epicenter of a new global occult religion. These kinds of things don’t generally happen over night; as of now, she’s nowhere in sight.

Yes, the world’s wicked (1Jn 5:19) and bad things happen: economies grow and collapse, global powers rise and fall, deadly new diseases appear, social norms drift and natural disasters disrupt it all … and it’s always been this way. (Mk 13:7-8)

Let’s be sane in the midst of it all, no longer giving occasion to the world to mock God’s people by claiming Christ’s return is near. Let’s walk in wisdom, in hope, delighting in the goodness of God, knowing He’s sovereign and faithfuljoying in Him and edifying one another.

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Root of Bitterness

Robert Charity: Smoky Mountains
Robert Charity: Smoky Mountains

When things aren’t going our way, and we’re praying for God to come through for us … and He doesn’t, it’s tempting to doubt His goodness, to question His justice, to become resentful and angry. It’s called a root of bitterness. (He 12:15)

Bitterness steals our joy and hope; it can spread quickly into others suffering with us.

Giving in to bitterness is accusing God of being unfaithful, unjust, missing a precious opportunity to glorify Him in faith when all seems lost. But why is this so tempting for us? What good ever comes of it?

No suffering is easy, but sinning in our pain always makes it worse. We’re saved by hope, so when we’re seeing rock bottom let’s do as David did: “But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” (1Sa 30:6)

Nothing’s too hard for Jehovah; every promise He’s ever made He’ll keep. He is perfectly just; He only allows evil in order to glorify Himself, and He will right all wrongs. (Is 4:4-5) Let’s count on His faithfulness and rejoice in Him, especially when it looks hopeless … that’s His specialty.

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Your Father Knows

In giving perspective in prayer, Yeshua grounds us in the fact that we aren’t informing God of anything: He already knows what we need. (Mt 6:7-8) So it isn’t the form or quantity of our prayers that matters; the key is in our motivation. (Ja 4:3) Prayer is God inviting us into His work. (Ep 1:11)

Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park, Brazil
Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park, Brazil

Given this, it really makes no sense to recite prayers unless our hearts find honest, sincere expression in them. Just think how anyone else would feel if we scripted conversation like that!

Similarly, neither does praying in tongues, apart from our understanding and will, make any sense — using our bodies as passive conduits rather than expressing our hearts. (1Co 14:14-15)

To pray apart from thoughtful passion is to think wrongly of God, that He’s disinterested in our hearts, that He’d rather partition and fragment us than engage intimately with our entire being. (1Jn 5:14-15) It treats Him more like a vending machine than a loving father, like a robot responding to command stimuli, regardless of motive or source. It’s a pagan view of God.

While God delights in engaging us in His work and transforming us through prayer, He’s not limited by our ability to pray, or even our lack of prayer. (Da 4:35b) He’s actually the One moving in us to pray according to His good pleasure (Php 2:13); and when we don’t pray like we should, or don’t know how to, He is praying for us Himself according to His own will. (Ro 8:26-27)

So let’s pray like we breathe … organically, intrinsically, continuously (Ro 12:12) … telling Him everything, moving in and through Him with every pulse of our being. (Ep 4:6) Dial Him first thing in the morning, and never hang up.

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What If God?

Why does God allow so much evil, pain and suffering in the world? We know instinctively that He could stop it … but He doesn’t — so we’re tempted to doubt His goodness. What could be His motive?

Well, what would it be like if God never allowed anything bad to happen? Sure, there’d be no sin or suffering, but what would we know about God or ourselves?

We’d never know He was preventing evil and suffering … would we? We’d never FireyTreeexperience His mercy or patience; we’d know nothing of His sacrificial love or His willingness to suffer with us, or of His justice, wrath and holiness … or of our own selfishness and depravity … and very little of His wisdom and power. It would be pleasant for sure, but rather dull … uninteresting … boring. There’d be no contrast.

By allowing evil God has been revealing both Himself and everything outside Himself; this is actually His motive in Creation: the more evil He allows the more we know about Him and ourselves. (Ro 9:22-23)

Will knowing God intimately be worth it all in the end? Evidently, God thinks so … and He’s already there (Is 57:15) … bringing forth unspeakable beauty from all the brokenness. (Is 61:3, 1Pe 1:7)

The truth is, God hasn’t responded to most of the evil in the world yet, but He will one Day. (Ac 17:31) Just because we haven’t seen full justice doesn’t mean we won’t. And if the little we’ve seen of His response so far is any indication, it will be utterly amazing, glorious beyond description. (Re 20:11)

Meanwhile, God has shown us enough to help us rejoice in Him, to trust Him implicitly and confidently, and to glory in Him alone. (Je 9:23-24) Let’s do so, believing He will never break a promise, be unfaithful, or a disappointment in the end. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1Co 2:9)

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Eternal Salvation

When Jesus Christ died on the cross “he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him.” (He 5:9) He does not offer a temporary salvation, but an eternal one.

By definition, salvation from Hell must be eternal, for if one ever ends up in Hell there can be no real sense in which one has ever been saved from it. In other words, a salvation that can be lost is no salvation at all.

Yet many complain that eternal salvation –  the once saved always saved kind –MountainBalloonRays means we can “get saved” and then live like the devil. But this is not salvation at all; God saves from the dominion of sin as well as from its penalty, such that the saved obey Christ as new creatures, with a new nature. This renewing of our hearts is not by the will of Man (Jn 1:12-13); it is the work and gift of God. (Ro 4:5)

If salvation can be lost, the question to ask is, “How good do I have to be to keep it?” The question has only one safe answer: “Be perfect.” (Mt 19:20-21) We dare not presume a lower standard, and there is no higher one … yet it implies we can never know we have salvation.

But those who trust in Christ know they have eternal life. (1Jn 5:13) Those who don’t have an eternal salvation have not yet grasped the significance of the cross; Christ’s work is an efficacious, limited atonement for all — He did not merely make salvation a possibility for all, He also infallibly saved all who believe.

Give diligence to make your calling and election sure.” (2Pe 1:10) Once Jesus Christ pays your sin debt, you will never be condemned … ever. (Ro 4:6-8) Once we see the power of His cross we cannot doubt its efficacy, and we come to understand the only salvation there is … an eternal one. (He 7:25)

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Edify One Another

Why go to church? I find hiking in the mountains and looking at sunsets more worshipful; I can listen to uplifting music and sermons any time, and I learn so much more about God from just reading my Bible.

As I see it there’s only one reason to go, yet I can’t find a single church set up for it! I think we’ve totally missed God’s purpose for church and it’s hurting us all. I go and make the best of it, but I’m afraid these aren’t the churches Jesus is building (Mt 16:18); I long for His design.

TreeGod’s churches are living beings, spiritual families of brothers and sisters regularly assembling for one unique purpose: to help each other follow God. (1Th 5:11, He 10:25) It’s an extension of God Himself on Earth. (Ep 5:30) I think the early Christians got this, and it’s why they were powerful.

If we started meeting for the right reason we might find we need to change a few things … lose the fancy buildings, stop hiring musicians and pastors to entertain and sermonize us … and diluting the message so we can get people who aren’t seeking God to help pay for it all.

Maybe we’d start building relationships with people who challenge us to grow, who love us enough to humbly confront our sin … and invite us to humbly challenge theirs. Maybe we’d come to meetings with more of a sense of responsibility, more prepared to give than receive. (1Co 14:26)

Maybe we’d start teaching each other about things that matter … how to overcome sin and walk joyfully with God. Maybe we’d pray for and comfort each other more, and ask for prayer more, and maybe we’d think more soberly about our salvation, eternity and holiness.

Then maybe we’d even find God Himself living in and through our churches like He used to, showing up in our meetings and filling us with faith and power to glorify His name. (1Co 14:24-25)

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None Good But One

When Christ is called, “Good Master,” He responds, “Why do you call me good? There is none good but one, that is God.”  (Mk 10:17-18) This is helpful: God is good, and only God is good.

So, Man is not good; Man is bad. Man has free will: God gives Man freedom to SunTreechoose, and in choosing freely Man always chooses badly. (Ge 6:5)

We should not be surprised that people are evil and that God’s angry — it’s a miracle that any at all are good … indeed some are (Lk 1:5-6), a mystery hid in God constraining evil. (Pr 16:1,9)

God can make us good, and only God can make us good. If He can make anyone good, then He can make you and me good, by replicating His nature in us.

Do we want to be good? This is the beginning of goodness, itself the gift of God, working in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure. (Php 2:13)

I seem to need a constant reminder that my hope is not in politics, or in religion, or in my family, my friends, my job or my country … or in myself … but in a sovereign God Who always does according to His own purpose and will … which is always good. (Ep 1:11)

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The Voice of God

Many of us long to hear the whisper of God’s Spirit guiding us in life’s journey. Wouldn’t life be so much simpler if God would just tell us what to do? Perhaps we need to learn to quiet ourselves, wait on the Lord, and listen to the voice of the Spirit for supernatural guidance.

Yet Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow PathToLightme.” (Jn 10:27) If we belong to God, He says we will hear His voice and follow Him; Christ never says this is something we need to learn. In fact, the idea that God’s children will miss doing His will because they don’t hear His voice seems to me foreign to scripture. (Jn 10:2-5) Perhaps we don’t yet understand the spiritual realm and what it’s like to hear the voice of God.

Following God seems to me simpler than we think. (Mt 11:29-30) As we walk in the light, He wills in our wills, speaks in our thoughts, and works through our acts. (Php 2:13) It isn’t complicated, yet most of us who call Christ Lord aren’t doing what He said (Lk 6:46): hiding His Word in our hearts and seeking to know wisdom as a manner of life. (Ja 1:5) If we aren’t even doing the basics, is it any wonder we’re struggling? In my experience, when we are obeying what He’s already told us that hunger to hear a supernatural voice is fully and completely satisfied.

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Lest Any Man Fail

Having my heart established with grace is a goal in which I am making progress daily, looking to ensure that my heart is stabilized only in and by the power of God. I am no longer content to live unsettled and uneasy, nor in smug self-confidence; perfect peace in God is my daily objective.WoundedSoldier2

Yet even as I grow here, a related command in Hebrews intrigues me: “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled. Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.” (He 12:15-6)

What does it mean to establish grace in community? Am I to discern if another is failing in the enabling power of God? And if I do, what is a godly response? What is a root of bitterness? And help me understand … profane person. And how are these symptomatic of failing of grace? What is God calling us to here? How do we go about it?

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Established With Grace

I have been meditating on what it means to be “established with grace.

The particular text of interest is, Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not lighthousesafewith meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.” (Heb 13:9) There are many other great verses which might also be helpful here.

What is grace? What does it mean to be established with something? How can we live this out in God? What does it look like, and how do we get there?

My thought: being established with grace is more than knowing God’s love and forgiveness, more than resting in Christ’s unconditional acceptance; it is having supernatural confidence that God is transforming me into the image of Christ, creating His likeness in me, enabling me to love and obey Him. (2Co 9:8) Through the power of the Holy Spirit I access grace by faith … that is, I rest in Christ’s utter sufficiency and faithfulness, delighting in Him, being filled with all joy and peace in believing, abounding in hope. (Ro 15:13)

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