Iron Sharpens Iron

Proverbs 27:17 (NIV) As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

I am sometimes in a quandary, perplexed about how to respond when I hear the Scriptures mishandled. Not wanting to be labeled with a critical spirit, I often simply pray for the one who has not divided the Word of God rightly. We’re talking glaring errors here, not “differences of interpretation.”

Is praying enough? Do I need also to speak in love to those who err? Is this a situation where iron must sharpen iron, where the Spirit must speak through a brother or sister to the one in error? Paul writes to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:15 (NASB) “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” Paul is iron, and he is sharpening Timothy. If we cannot speak to one another in love, bringing truth, how will anyone grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ Jesus?

Here are some examples of what I’m talking about:

I’ve heard Romans 8:19 used to call men to “step up” in their Christian walk: “For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.” (NASB used here.) Is that a correct use of the Word of God, or did the person speaking take a verse out of context to make a point? The “sons of God” spoken of here are the saints, both male and female, and the passage refers to the church of Jesus Christ being fully revealed when all is concluded. Could misusing such a Scripture cause harm? What if a new female believer heard it and believed  she is not a “son of God”?  Maybe I’m crazy, but I think we’re supposed to handle the Word of God very carefully and never, never use it out of context. I grieve at the twisted gospel preached in many churches today, the sad result of  preachers  lightly esteeming the Word!

In the same way, I have heard prison ministries teach that we should go into prisons to give the gospel message, using Matthew 25:36 as a text. But it is His brethren that He is speaking of: “The King will answer and say, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” (NASB, my emphasis.) I am not saying, “Don’t evangelize in prisons.” My husband and I did that for three years! But we surely didn’t use that Scripture to prove why we should go. After all,  In 1 Peter 3:17 (NASB), the the Spirit-inspired Peter writes,  “It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” Are those who do evil brothers of Christ? And just two verses before that, in 1 Peter 4:15 (NASB), he writes, “Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler, but if anyone suffers as  Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.” Those who profess Christ and land in prison for committing a crime should be ashamed of their sin, but we must go to give them (and the lost among them) the Good News that there is a Savior who will not only save them from their sins but from the sin nature that keeps them captives of sin. If the Son sets them free, they shall be free, indeed!

My friends, my colleagues, my brothers and sisters in the Lord, I beseech you to treat the Word of God with the reverence it deserves, rightly dividing it, handling it accurately! I do not want any of us to be ashamed before Jesus Christ when He examines our work.

Consider Your Ways

Haggai 1:5  Now, therefore says the Lord of hosts, “Consider your ways!”

Dear church,

Consider your ways! No effort you’ve made to improve or strengthen yourselves has worked. You continue to be a laughingstock (and it is not a  joy to say that about those I love). You continue to be powerless. Why has God not answered you? Why have you not been able to rebuild the church to its former glory? Why have  you experienced a famine for the Word of God, and why have you not seen the latter rain of the Spirit for which you pray? Consider your ways!

Are you expecting to be made holy by “feeling the presence” or “having an anointing” of the Lord in a church service? Do you think that being externally touched by the presence of Him is sufficient to make you holy? Can a holy God even descend into a congregation full of those who lie to God and each other about their spiritual condition? Know that, as the Lord says through Haggai, touching something holy does not make you holy. The LORD of hosts asks the leaders of the church these questions (Haggai 2:11ff), just as He did Israel when He brought them back from exile:

(Verse 12) “If a man carries holy meat in the fold of his garment and touches bread with this fold, or cooked food, wine, oil or any food, will it become holy?” The leaders of the church say, “No.” They think, “That’s obvious. We know that something unholy is not made holy by that which touches it.” Really? Then why do you cry out, “God is here, His presence is here, His anointing is here, He is blessing us,” when there is much unholy activity, not only in your own private life but in the lives of your worship team and your congregation members? You allow unconsecrated people to be on the platform with you because they are good musicians or singers, and think nothing of it. You yourself spend virtually no time in the Word and prayer, too busy babysitting your congregation. In your own life, you do things you should not do, look at things you should not see and say things you should not say. You tell your congregation it’s sufficient to be “somewhat holy.” We either are, or we aren’t, my friend. If the presence of God is truly evident in your services, great repentance and weeping will break out. Waves of emotion do not indicate God’s kabod has come into your service. When God’s holiness enters the scene, the evil in men’s hearts is exposed and weeping, wailing and cries for mercy result.

(Verse 13) Then Haggai said, “If one who is unclean from a corpse touches any of these, will the latter become unclean?”

Our church leaders say, “It will become unclean.” If we are unclean, unholy, profane, whatever we touch will become tainted with uncleanness. So it is with the people of the church and this nation, in the presence of the LORD. “and so is every work of their hands; and what they offer there (in the sanctuary) is unclean.”

Look at Ezekiel 22:26, my brothers and sisters, my fellow leaders of the people, “Her priests have done violence to My law and have profaned My holy things; they have made no distinction between the holy and the profane, and they have not taught the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they hide their eyes from My sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.”

You profane the Lord. Repent now. Clean up your life. Be filled with God’s holiness by the Holy Spirit. Surrender to Him now. Then hold high the standard of God’s holiness and do not compromise. Teach  your people that they cannot become holy by feeling “the presence,” but must be made holy by the fullness of the Holy Spirit indwelling them. It’s not an option but a necessity. Stop pretending. The hour is late and we don’t have much time to do God’s work. Darkness is coming. A great shaking is coming. Forget about popularity contests. Put your self-interest on the Cross and die so you may live. Let Him fill your temple, and the temples of your people, with glory.

Stay With the Ship!

Jeff and I pray on Friday nights, asking the Lord to revive His church. We pray always for revival, but this is a more formal time. He and I look separately at the Word, seeking a lead from the Lord on what Scripture to pray.

Last night, my Scripture was from Acts 27, verses 6-44. I meditated on it for a while before our prayer time, praying for revelation from the Spirit. When we prayed together, I read a paragraph or two and then stopped to pray out what the Lord showed me. Here it is:

In verses 6-10, I see that Paul represents the Holy Spirit and those who are Spirit-filled who are in the church. The ship is the church. We know that if the church makes decisions contrary to the advice of the Holy Spirit and the wisdom of God, damage and great loss, even loss of life occur. This is the precarious position of the church right now. She is, by and large, off on her own, making plans and doctrinal changes that are contrary to the Spirit’s lead and God’s wisdom. We grieve for her and intercede on her behalf. Let’s go on.

In verses 11-13, I see that the centurion (a type of pastors in the church) are persuaded by captains and pilots (a type of those above them in leadership positions) to do what is contrary to the Spirit’s instruction. There are many reasons why leaders do this: a desire for more people in the pews, or greed, or because they really think they have a better idea than the Lord (spiritual pride). The church has thus launched out into a storm, contrary to the Lord but in the strength of man’s wisdom. I see that she is in the midst of the storm even now.

In verses 14-20, I see that in the storm, the church continues to use man’s strength to try to secure the ship which is the church. They expend much energy and money to shore it up against the storm, but nothing seems to work. The ship continues to be imperiled. There will come a time when all hope of saving the church will be abandoned. Some in the church already feel that way.

In verses 21-26, I see that the Spirit is reminding the church that He warned her against going out in her own wisdom. She has now incurred damage and loss. What’s more, food is running out. We already have experienced a famine for the Word of God in thousands upon thousands of churches in the U.S. and around the world. Just a few crumbs or some milk (snippets of Scripture that tickle the ears) are offered, rather than the sumptuous banquet that should be taught and preached, the feast that grows Christians up in the Lord and makes them hungry to be filled with righteousness, even filled with the Holy Spirit. But look! God is compassionate and full of mercy, gracious and slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness! Those filled with the Spirit have seen a vision. God has spoken to us supernaturally, saying He has granted to us all who are on the ship. We believe God, that it will turn out exactly as we have been told. But we know the church must run aground at a certain point. All of those man-made plans and doctrines must come to an end, and God will do it.

In verses 27-32, I see that some are afraid that the church will run aground, even though in verse 36, we saw that the Spirit says she must. They continue to try to use their own strength to keep from being wrecked. Some, seeing the impending shipwreck, are trying to secretly escape. But be careful! Unless we remain with the ship, we cannot be saved. This is a warning to those who want to flee the church. Do not go; you’ll imperil many if you do. Believe the Spirit, for He says God has granted life to all who stay with the ship! Let the ropes down and let your means of escape fall away. [

In verses 33-36, the Holy Spirit calls those in the church to take spiritual sustenance, for their preservation (the Greek soteria, which means physical or moral rescue, deliverance, salvation). They must eat the Word so they will be strengthened. Not a hair from the head of any of us will perish. Let us take the Word in. Let us begin to eat in the midst of the storm, in the midst of what seems like a hopeless situation. Take and eat, just as those on board the ship with Paul took and ate! You will be encouraged!

In verses 37-44, I see that the end of the journey is nearing. Now it is time to discard anything unnecessary. We have eaten, we are satisfied. Let us cast aside whatever would hinder the journey’s conclusion. It’s time to make for the beach! The church will run aground and will be wrecked; the Spirit says it must (again, see v. 26). Satan will seek to kill us so we cannot escape to the shore and freedom. But pastors will recognize that the Holy Spirit’s instruction was wise and that leaders’ ideas were unwise. They will keep Satan  from his intention. They will guide some to reach safety because they are spiritually equipped to do so, and will provide pieces of the church upon which others will float to the safety of the beach, which is the ultimate destination of the church — the true Promised Land.

What happens next? Look at the first part of Acts 28. Before the end of things, I see revival, healing, empowerment and the church’s full use of her authority to trample on serpents and scorpions and over all the power of Satan.

NOTE: Please do not interpret this as me saying we are saved through the church or a denomination; we are saved by believing in Jesus Christ. But I see that many are abandoning ship (church as we commonly know it here in the U.S.) these days. I believe we need to continue meeting together as Hebrews 10:25. I do not believe we are to continue with a church if it is in obvious theological error. But don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater! Find a church that is dividing the Word of God rightly.

Jeff was in 2 Samuel 6. Here again, Jeff sees that the Spirit speaks of not following the Holy Spirit’s instructions. Even out of love for God, the church goes off on her own to bring His presence into our places of worship. Disaster ensues for Uzzah and for those in the church who believe they must help bring in God’s presence in their own strength. The plan is shipwrecked, as it were. Then the church follows the Spirit’s instructions and successfully brings God’s presence into her midst. The joy of those bringing His presence will be outrageous, and some will scorn it. But beware — those who scorn will be barren all of their days.

Take what you will from this word; we believe it is from the Lord. May it outrage, bless and encourage, just as the Lord desires.

A Pastor’s Dilemma

It is every Spirit-filled pastor’s dilemma — what do I do about the vast number of people who are willfully sinning against God? Here’s a Bible study/commentary I wrote last year when Jeff and I pastored a church:

1Cor. 5:1-2

Paul is incredulous now. He has actually received a report (!!) that the Corinthians are practicing immorality. The Greek word translated as “immorality” is porneia (4202), which means harlotry, including adultery and incest. Lest we think that we’re off the hook as long as we don’t cheat on our spouse or have sex with family members, the Expositor’s Bible Commentary identifies porneia as meaning extramarital relations of any kind. 

This particular kind of immorality is especially loathsome to God, though we must remember that ultimately, sin is sin to God. The immorality noted here is that a man “has” his stepmother. That means he is having marital relations with her. There is no indication that he has actually married his stepmother. Neither is there any indication that the man’s father is dead, in which case she would be released from her marriage vows to him. She is still identified as “his father’s wife.” This sin is unheard of in Corinth, even among the riotous unbelievers who live there!

The Corinthians should be mourning (pentheo 3996), grieving over the sin of the man. Note that there is no mention of his stepmother sinning. Paul writes that the responsibility for the sin lies with the man, “the one who had done this deed.” It may be that he is having or has had relations with his stepmother against her will.

Rather than grieving, the Corinthians are boasting about the whole matter. How? The text doesn’t say. Some commentators say they boast by tolerating the sin. Expositor’s Bible Commentary says this: “Paul again alludes to the pride of the Corinthians. This time it was a pride that, rather than cause them to mourn over the shocking sin, allowed them to tolerate such a sinner in the congregation. Paul presses his judgment of the case by saying that he is with them in spirit and has already passed judgment on the offending person.” I have a hard time disagreeing with the EBC. Where does the pride element come in? We’d rather have a congregation full of sinners than empty pews.

But it may be that the Corinthians’ boasting is associated with the Gnostic teaching that we can sin like crazy in the body, because the body is sinful, but that our spirits remain holy despite the body’s sin. I don’t know the answer to this, but I am really uncomfortable every time I approach this Scripture. Are we to be a hospital for sinners, or a haven for saints that removes sinning Christians until they come under conviction and repent?

How does this Scripture compare with the defeat of Israel at Ai, because of Achan’s sin (see Joshua 7)? How does this Scripture compare to Jesus Christ’s instructions in Matthew 18, where He says if a sinner remains unrepentant (that is, he keeps sinning even after he’s been counseled), he should be treated as an unbeliever?

I am very uncomfortable with allowing unrepentant sinners to be among us, and Jeff has come to agree. We see that we must preach truth to those who are sinning. How do we do that if they are not allowed to come to church? My only answer to that would be to create a penitent band (see paragraph below), and invite our whole congregation to go to it rather than Sunday worship.

Then I think of Jeff and me, after we were saved but before we were purified and cleansed and filled. We were sinning against God and going to church every Sunday. What if we had been “put out” by the congregation? Would we have gone away from the church rather than go into a penitent band? If so, our blood would not be on their heads.

What should the Corinthians’ response have been? Paul goes on to say that they should have disciplined the sinner, removing him from their midst. Let’s discuss this. Why should sinners be removed from the church? Isn’t that where they learn not to be sinners? ( I am being facetious; the Bible clearly identifies Christians as those who have recognized they were sinners, asked the Lord’s forgiveness when they came to faith, repented from their sinful ways, and are in the process of sanctification until they are filled with the Holy Spirit, after which the process continues, but there is no longer willful disobedience against God after the Christian is filled.) Paul clearly teaches here that sin is not to be tolerated. My discomfort increases now.  Our church would be empty if we put out the sinners, for we have gamblers, immoral people, and coveters in our midst, as well as those who refuse to forgive. Jeff and I admonish such people privately, and preach against their sin publicly, without naming names. But Paul says “Put them out!” But as the NICNT commentator says, if an American church puts out a sinner, that sinner might just move on to the church down the street that tolerates sin. So, he reasons, what good does it do to put them out?

John Wesley’s answer to this dilemma was to create “penitent bands,” which I have alluded to. Wesley took the sinners out of the congregation, but placed them in a small group of fellow sinners. The band was led by a Spirit-filled leader. The sinner remained in the penitent band until he came under conviction and turned from his sin. These bands provided a way to continue to admonish those who are disobedient to God. If they turned from their sin and repented, they were accepted back into the congregation, but not until  they underwent a period of monitoring to see if the repentance was truly from the heart, and not just lip service.

1Cor. 5:3-5

Paul has already judged this man, just as if he were present. What? We aren’t supposed to judge, are we? Doesn’t Jesus teach that? When Jesus taught in Matthew 7, He was speaking to the hypocritical Jews who had logs in their eyes. Let’s go there. So we see that we indeed are to judge sin, if we are not ourselves sinning. How are the Corinthians to deal with the sin of the man who has his father’s wife? Publicly, when they are assembled. They are to publicly ban the sinner from the congregation. What will that accomplish? The congregation will have a healthy fear of God, as in the case of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. Let’s go there and watch Peter judge sin.

In Corinth, the sinner Paul is commanding them to expel will be without the protection of the Lord, once he is banned. Satan will sift him like wheat, and Paul believes that the man’s carnal, sinful nature will be destroyed in that process. All of this, which seems so “mean” and “heartless,” is done to save the sinner from hell, in the day of the Lord.

What does Paul’s judgment and words do to the doctrine which is taught in many churches, that we are expected to continue to sin against God? How about the argument that we are all sinners and thus may not judge sin? Paul would not tolerate such an argument! As Christians, we are no longer to sin. We are to have dominion over sin. We are to be cleansed and purified and filled with the Holy Spirit. Then we are able to judge the sinners among us, because we are filled with the Spirit, filled with the love of God, and have Christ’s mind and God’s heart.

Why does Paul require the Corinthians to publicly ban the sinner from the congregation (v. 5:4, “when you are assembled”)? Well, if one sin is “allowed” with no evidence of discipline toward the one sinning, why not another, and another, and another? Or if one sin is “allowed,” then someone else might decide to do that same sin. This is what has happened in the American church today. Frankly, I would establish a penitent band immediately at our church, and there would be no one at our worship services until those sinners stopped sinning and turned away from their sinfulness.

1Cor. 5:6-8

In our own church, one man’s sin led another man to think we think it is  OK to live together outside marriage. One woman’s sin led another woman to think we think it’s OK to gamble. One man’s taking his girlfriend to Beano led another man to think we think it’s OK to take his girlfriend to a place where she can sin the sin of gambling. One couple thinks it’s OK for their daughter to cohabit with another person, that God doesn’t care about that any more, and she uses the fact that we have a cohabiting member of our flock to support the validity of her belief.  Do you see where sin among the congregation can lead? We pastors say, “Do not sin,” and yet we have people sinning in our congregation. We admonish them in private, but publicly, the impression is that we tolerate the sin because the sinner remains among us. Beloved, we can’t have leaven in our dough, for it will spread through the whole lump.

Oh, that those who are sinning would repent, so that we would be able to celebrate what the Lord Jesus Christ has done, assembling as an unleavened body, no sin in our midst! I believe the Lord would move mightily among us then, and there would be no sick among us. Oh, that we would worship together in sincerity and truth, rather than in malice and wickedness. Lord, help me to know what to do with our flock that willfully sins against a holy God, despite our teaching, our admonition, and our warnings to cease sinning immediately and repent!

1Cor. 5:9-11

This is evidence that there was a letter that preceded 1 Corinthians (“I wrote to you in my letter”). It seems that Paul has been exhorting this disobedient group for some time.

Again, when Paul writes of not associating with immoral people, he is not talking about the immoral unbelievers in the world, those who covet and swindle and worship all kinds of idols. He wrote to them not to associate with those who say they are Christian and yet are immoral or covetous or idolaters or revilers or drunkards or swindlers. They are not even to eat with such a one! What does that say about those who sit in the pews in our churches in America? Not only are we not to worship with most of those who are in the pews, but we are not even to eat with them. There is to be no evidence, even to an outsider, that we tolerate sin, even from our infants in Christ.

1Cor. 5:12-13

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary says of these verses, “Here Paul teaches that though it is logical for the church to exercise spiritual discipline over members in its fellowship, it is not for the church to judge the present unsaved society. Paul now concludes (v.13) on the basis of the preceding argument that the wicked man . . . must be put out of the church. This he commands by quoting somewhat loosely from Deuteronomy 22:24 (a context of adultery) and from Deuteronomy 24:7 (a context of stealing). The strengthened form of the negative (ouchi, “Do you not (ouchi) judge those within the church?”) is used with the indicative verb in this question. This arrangement of negative word and verb means Paul expects a positive response: ‘Are you not to judge those inside [the church]?’ ‘Yes [we are to judge them]’ is the expected reply.”
Paul repeats his remedy for this particular problem at Corinth. He has done this five times:  Verse 4 “remove;”  Verse 5 “deliver such a one to Satan;” Verse 6 “clean out;” Verse 11 “not to associate;” and Verse 13. “remove.”

There is a sinner among them, contaminating the rest of the congregation and blaspheming the name of the Lord by his actions. The Corinthians have been reluctant to deal with the sinner, and are therefore tolerating him. Or perhaps they are boasting in their “freedom” to sin. Whatever the case, Paul says they must judge the sinner and expel him. Outsiders are under God’s judgment already. But as for this man who calls himself a Christian and yet sins, he should be removed. His removal is the discipline required so that he may eventually be saved. What? Paul considers that the sinning “infant in Christ” is in the same state as an unsaved man at the moment, though he is a church member! Do we not tremble at such words?

Compelled by the Love of God

What is it that keeps us from being sounding gongs or clanging cymbals? Agape, the very love of God poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Does our God’s-love compulsion mean our message will always be welcomed? Alas, I am afraid not. Witness Jesus, who was labeled a heretic. And Paul, whose apostleship was questioned by the flesh-driven Corinthians. Let’s focus on him for a bit.

Paul spent about eighteen months at Corinth (Acts 18:1-18). After he left, sin cropped up from the infants in Christ there. 1 and 2 Corinthians (and probably another letter in between along with a visit or two) resulted. This Spirit-filled apostle was positively seized and compelled by the love of God (2 Cor 5:14) to bring people not only to Christ for salvation, but to bring them to maturity, even to the full measure of the stature of Christ.

The modern/post-modern church is not accustomed to the direct and sharp words that Paul used in his letters to Corinth (nor could we stomach a message from Wesley, Finney or Ravenhill). The kind of language used by Jesus Christ and Paul and Wesley and the rest is God’s true “love language,” beloved brothers and sisters. If the Corinthians had been left to their sinning ways and Paul had said, “Well, I’ll just let the Spirit convict them eventually,” what would have happened to them? Their very salvation was in danger. Paul had a godly jealousy for them, to present them to Christ as part of His blameless and spotless bride. Oh, his love for Christ was Christ’s actual love in his heart, and he loved the church as Christ loves her! It is out of that love that Paul spoke and wrote the Holy Spirit’s strong words. It was no fun for him to be attacked by a church he loved. But that didn’t stop him. He was compelled, he was jealous for them. That’s God’s heart, even for today’s church.

I, too, am absolutely compelled and seized by the love of God, praise be His holy, holy name. It is not my own doing, but because of Him I am what I am. I have used strong words from time to time. Did everyone receive them? Those who were my disciples took them in and were changed. They weren’t my words, after all. I am convinced that they were the Lord’s, because they were from His Word — woe to me if I editorialize! I have far too great a fear of God for that. I tremble when I speak the words His Spirit gives me! Who is adequate for these things (1 Cor 3:16)? But my adequacy is from God (1 Cor 3:5).

Paul was harassed and accused by many in the church at Corinth. But he continued to love them – God knows he did (2 Cor 11:11)! And so do I, dear church for whom I most heartily pray, and whom I exhort and reprove! I’ll add another post, and it will be my great dilemma from 1 Corinthians 5. I pray all who read it will detect God’s love in it.

Dying for Revival

O Lord, I am dying for revival! I don’t just want to read about it; I want to see it truly happen! I weep for Your church, Lord Jesus, her powerlessness and sinfulness. I weep at my own seeming lack of Your power compared to the Book of Acts. Either I have offended You, which I would most heartily ask you to reveal so I may repent, or the unbelief around me (and in me? I pray not!) makes Your church like Nazareth for You. Only a few came to You in Your hometown, and you marveled at their unbelief. Is that why we are powerless? Unbelief? Is it lack of the fear of You? Is it the sin in the church?

I just can’t bear it, Lord! I am so in need of more of You, more power, more faith, more love, whatever it takes, Lord. I must become so on fire that I am a light in this extreme, palpable spiritual darkness! I will agree with whatever You say I need to do, whatever You see. I am desperate, Lord, for the ability to bring You glory!

Take out all that hinders so that You may be glorified. Break me a thousand times so that You may be glorified. Lord Jesus, You are worthy of my dying to all that I am and dying to all of my life. I have died and You live in me, yet I would die again if it would bring revival!

I have come to You, I heard Your call, I know You intimately, I abide in You and You have made Yourself real and clearly seen by me, just as You promised in John 14. Now, Lord, please fulfill the rest of the promise, that I may do what You have done and may do even greater things, with no other motive than Your love in me and no other desire than to glorify You forever! Hear my cry, O Lord!

Lord, Give Us Revival!

I can scarcely read Ravenhill’s “Why Revival Tarries” without many tears (and Ravenhill penned his book in 1959!). My heart weeps for the state of the church of Jesus Christ in 2010, for I love her. Tears run down my cheeks in torrents. We placate sinners and sympathize with those who do not trust in God. We are social workers and secular do-gooders, instead of Spirit-filled, sacred God-workers. What have we come to? I am grieved, and I believe the Spirit is grieved.

Rejection is the church’s response to those of us who can’t help but speak the truth of a glorious gospel, bathed in the blood of Jesus Christ, that says we can be set free, indeed! It seems we would rather stay mired in our sin and unbelief than truly receive and take into our hearts the truth of the Word. Christ came that we may be forgiven our sins but also to set us free from the sin nature (see John 8:31-36). I’ve heard many people use John 8:36 apart from its context. Christ is not talking about setting us free from slavery to the rebellious deeds we do against God –– that would make no sense at all! But He says that if we are truly His disciples, we will continue in His word and we will know the truth and the truth will set us free. We will learn that Christ wants to crucify the “self,” our rebellious sin nature, the root of the sin problem, and replace it with His nature. “I am crucified with Christ; I no longer live, but Christ lives in me,” Paul cried! That’s the “indeed” part of free! Glory to God! He delivers us from our “selves” so He may use our cleansed, purified and fully submitted vessels to deliver others! Woe to me if I do not preach Christ’s gospel!

What hope do we have, given the careless laxity of the church today, the winking at sin and the scoffing at the idea that the Father disciplines His children, even sending them into exile until a whole generation dies out! Today’s church says, “God allows things into our lives; He does not cause them.” YHWH most certainly chose Nebuchadnezzar as His servant to mete out punishment to sinning Judah; the devil had nothing to do with God’s punishment of His people. It was all God. It is no wonder that no one fears God these days; we have reduced Him to a kindly grandfather who wouldn’t hurt a flea!

We attribute all of our personal problems to the devil these days. “Satan is mad at us and so he lashes out at us,” we say. But we deceive ourselves. Satan has nothing to fear from the church today; he mostly leaves her alone in her foolishness and sin, or snickers at the hordes who follow the ear-tickling false prophets of the day. We are entrapped by our own lusts, per James 1:14-15. All Satan has to do is dangle the carrot, and we greedily bite.

I ask again, what hope do we have? Only Christ Jesus our Lord can rescue His church, and He declares that He will prepare her. He will do so, thank God, using brave souls who will declare that He comes to fully deliver us. He will bring revival, that He may have a bride without spot or wrinkle, all glorious within. Lord, give us revival!