Widespread Apostasy: A Call For Unity

The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John 17:22-23 ESV)

We are living in an time of widespread apostasy in the Church of Jesus Christ. Many of us have fallen away from actually living the life of discipleship in our private lives. We have been transformed into the image of the world, instead of growing in the likeness of Christ. Even those of us, that have spoke out against the “prosperity gospel” of the west, live as undisciplined consumers, for the most part.

I feel that God is issuing a wake up call to the Church through this presidential election, in the United States. The leaders of Christian demonstrations, and movements, that still believe in the authority of Scripture, and the Lordship of Christ, should call for repentance and unity in the Church. Our love and unity is the greatest evangelistic strategy, to reach a lost and dying world.

If you are a part of the Reformed, Orthodox, or mainline Evangelical Church that values the authority and inspiration of Scripture, you need to reach out to the Pentecost/Charismatic believer down the street from you. They too have a high view of Scripture, even if we might disagree on some secondary doctrines, that don’t pertain to salvation.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (Ephesians 6:12-13 ESV)

It’s time to wake up and see the real enemy in our society, it’s Satan and his evil hierarchy, in the unseen realm. These demonic beings are causing division in the Church, and creating chaos and causing havoc in society. The Church that lives in unity, will be an overcoming Church, and be able to stand against darkness. But first we must allow God to remove the darkness from us.

As my friend D. G. Spillman wrote to me recently, “There is an inner health and beauty that comes from the cross-pollination of spirit-based perspectives among those sold out to the Lord. I say, find as many sources as you can from hearts you trust, because we all, like brother Paul, are working out our own salvation with fear and trembling . . .”

A Christocentric Mysticism

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!

Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! 

(Psalm 34:8 ESV)

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
(John 15:4-5 ESV)

All followers of Jesus are called  to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” The person who thinks on Jesus and embraces the cross-centered life, puts themselves in a place to experience God’s presence more fully. A mind focused on the exalted Christ, who is seated at the right hand of the Father in heavenly places, will attract the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Spiritually feasting on God’s word, and drinking of his Spirit, releases the benefits of truth to our souls. Joy and peace can’t be learned or earned, they can only be experienced. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11 ESV)

Our calling is to abide in the Vine, so that we can “bear much fruit.” The fruit of the Spirit can only come from being connected to the river of life. Our growth in the Spirit comes from the throne of God, and it is the result of Gods grace. We can’t earn God’s presence, we can only position ourselves spiritually to receive Him.

Some warn against meditation and contemplation, and rightly so, because it’s possible to fall into error, if our minds are not informed by truth, and sound doctrine, But, meditating on the truth of Scripture, and praying it back to God, as opposed to emptying your mind is a safe passage into the presence of God.

We are called to have “the mind of Christ” and we must remember that Jesus is our source of power, and the cross is his instrument to change us. The power of the cross is trans-formative to our nature, when it is embraced.

Unseen Realties

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.  

(2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV)

The emotional and physcial pain we are experiencing in our natural bodies is temporal and will eventually come to an end. In heaven, God’s transforming power will change us more than we can presently comprehend. True spiritual realities are unseen and eternal. God is Spirit and must be experienced in the invisible realm of the Spirit.

Even though our bodies are affected by the aging process our inner person can be renewed on a daily basis meditating on God’s word and prayer. Our spiritual activities, or lack of, form us into the likeness of Christ, or into self absorbed creatures, that fall short of God’s best. This unseen world is full of angels, demons, principalities, powers. It’s a world of great spiritual conflict over the souls of all humanity.

Everyone is in the process of either being transformed into darkness or light. Even the most intense suffering of a Christian is considered only momentary light afflictions, compared to the future glory God has prepared for his people.

We must renew our minds so that we can experience God’s life and presence and character transformation in this age so that we can prepare for the age to come. Even though our bodies are breaking down our spirits are growing stronger every day.

Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:8 ESV)

And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. (Revelation 12:11 ESV)

Jesus Christ came into the world as a human being to destroy the works of the devil. He, being fully God and fully man was and is the only qualified person to take back that which Satan had stolen from mankind. The cosmic battle in the spiritual realm was won by the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world. His Kingdom is active in the world today although not fully seen or understood at his time. When he returns to the earth he will take over. At that time he will lock Satan away, and restore the earth back like it was before the fall of Adam and Eve.

Until the return of Christ we are engaged in a life and death struggle with Satan and his demonic hordes. These unseen forces are behind  all of the evil throughout the history of the world. As followers of Jesus we overcome Satan by the blood of the Lamb (Christ death and resurrection), by the  word of our testimony (Scripture), and we love not our lives unto death (sacrificial living).

Prayer and God’s word are weapons we use to defeat Satan’s lies and false religions and ideologies, that he uses to keep people in spiritual darkness. Without the belief in the absolute truth of Jesus and his gospel, Satan uses his lies to build demonically inspired strongholds in the minds of people. The devil’s strategy has always been to cast doubt on the Word of God. When people change the meaning of Scripture to suit their lifestyles, they have fallen prey to the powers of darkness.

The question we must ask ourselves is: Do we really believe in the authority of the Bible, and if we do will we place ourselves under it?

Be On Guard

Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living.  (Romans 6:18 NLT)

For those who live according to the flesh have their outlook shaped by the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their outlook shaped by the things of the Spirit. (Romans 8:5 NET)

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. (I Peter 5:8 NLT)

The Scripture is clear, we are either slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness. It’s important to remind ourselves that we have been set free from sin, (we are not sinless but its’ dominance has been broken) or we will drift back into our old sinful patterns. Living life by the Spirit is the only way to overcome sin. Having the mind of Christ is the result of Spirit empowered living, that obeys the truth that God has revealed through his Word.

As learners, Jesus’ disciples are in a life long process of spiritual interaction with our Teacher. Learning from Jesus requires the mind being illumined by the Holy Spirit, which happens if we approach the Scripture with a humble, repentant heart. We must allow God to heal our brokenness from the past, or our spiritual growth will be stunted. It’s important not to let dark spirits influence us and set up strongholds in our minds. Asking Christ into our lives and submitting to his Lordship is the first step in an ongoing process of obtaining spiritual freedom.

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; (Ephesians 6:16 ESV)

The Spirit dominated life should be the normal way to live for the Christian. The Apostle Paul commands us to “be filled with the Spirit.” He also warns us of the spiritual battle we are in as followers of Jesus. This conflict requires diligence in the face of a hostile, dark spiritual forces. Our ancient foe shoots flaming darts at the mind of Christians, through all forms of temptations, through media, and political ideology. We must be on guard at all times.

Paul’s Passion

We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. (Galatians 2:15-16 ESV)

…my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you. (Galatians 4:19-20 ESV)

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1 ESV)

The Apostle Paul lived for the glory of God alone. He preached the Gospel with prophetic zeal to reach the world for Jesus. Paul’s passion was to see the life of Christ fully formed in his spiritual children. That involves being freed from demonic oppression and delivered from seeking to establish our own righteousness, by our good works. Paul sought to free people from oppressive religious observance and systems that do nothing to deliver believers internally.

The Gospel frees us from being controlled by what he called “elemental principles or spirits” of the world. Jesus came to set both religious and irreligious people free. His death and resurrection  redeems us from spiritual slavery to adoption into his family. As God’s sons and daughters we can now cry out, “Abba! Father!” by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Paul describes his passion for the spiritual maturity of believers as a woman in childbirth, which speaks of excruciating pain. And as one mother pointed out, “he couldn’t think of anything else!” The key to our spiritual  maturity is dependent upon our grasp of our adoption into the family of God, not just keeping rules and regulations. This reality can only be revealed to us by the Holy Spirit.

Those that revert to law based religion seek to justify themselves based on good works apart from Christ. And they miss the point of the Gospel.

Follow Jesus

While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. (Matthew 4:18-22 ESV)

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:57-62 ESV)

When we begin to embrace heavenly realities, our earthly existence is transformed. The harsh realities of life do not disappear, but our perspective shifts from this present age, to the age to come. When we begin to embrace discipleship as Jesus taught it, we begin to be awakened to the shallowness of  much of western Christianity. Many churches that people attend today seem more like pep rallies, than places of worship. The emphasis is on a surface level reading of Scripture, a good pep talk from the pastor, and a focus on the felt needs of the congregation. If you have a pastor and elders in your Church that model the life of Christ, and call you to do the same, count yourself blessed. There are signs of a spiritual awakening in some Churches today. I see many young people who are being challenged to think through hard biblical texts, and the implications of walking them out.

At this present time much of the church in the western world is too distracted by self-improvement programs, politics, and personal prosperity, to grasp the call of Jesus to “follow me.” Regardless of what many popular American preachers are saying, the call to follow Jesus is a radical commitment that may very well cost us some of our health, and our wealth, and yes, maybe even our lives. Then again it may not. God gives wealth to those to whom he sovereignly chooses. But health and wealth are given for the glory of God, and the advancement of his Kingdom, not to fulfill our personal lust.

God cannot be manipulated by taking his word out of context. Healing and material provision are “the children’s bread” but the Apostle Paul went through seasons of both poverty, and prosperity, but experienced contentment just the same. Maybe we should start a contentment movement as opposed to a prosperity movement. In the eyes of much of our seeker friendly, materialistic, comfort driven Church culture, the Apostles would be considered failures in our day. They walked away from successful business, and in Paul’s case, religious prominence, and respectability.  But in God’s economy they were highly successful students of their master, Jesus Christ.

Blue Collar Apologetics: The Authority Of The Bible

The Gospels we read today are the most reliable documents available from the ancient world. The fact that thousands of copies of the original New Testament were spread all over the ancient Mediterranean world, with only slight variations in the text is significant.We can be confident that the Bibles we read today are accurate. Even if we only had quotes from the early Church Fathers, we would have over 90% of the New Testament available to us.The fact that there are variations and accounts that seem to contradict, shows that there was no attempt by the early Church Fathers to change the story.  The way that the writers of the NT wrote the gospels was consistent with the times, in which they lived. One writer might add or leave out certain details. These variations do not change any New Testament doctrines.

When the early Christians got a letter from the Apostles they made copies of the letters and sent them to other Churches. “And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.”
(Colossians 4:16 ESV) . 

C. S. Lewis, one of the great Christian thinkers of the 20th century was an expert and avid reader of mythology. When he read the gospels for the first time, he realized that they were not written like ancient myths but as biographies. You may ask, Why were books such as,” the Gospel of Thomas,” “the Gospel of Peter,” and “the Acts Of Pilate left out of the New Testament?” The answer is that they were not written during the apostolic age. These and many other so called gospel accounts, did not fit the criteria to be added to the what we know as the New Testament today.

Below are some of the notes (not word for word) I took from a recent lecture from Dr. Michael Licona:

  • The Gospel of Luke is referred to as Scripture. (I Tim. 5:18)
  • Paul’s letters were referred to as “Scripture.” (2 Peter 3:16)
  • In A.D. 125 Polycarp (probably a Disciple of John) quotes Ephesians twice and refers to it as part of the “Sacred Scriptures.”
  • Justin Martyr (c. AD 150) Spoke of the “memoirs of the Apostles.” He quotes the Gospel’s numerous times but never quotes the Gospel of Thomas or any other Gnostic Gospels.
  • Irenaeus (c AD 180) Wrote about the “Fourfold form” of Gospel. The Church was looking at the 4 Gospels, Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John. Although other “gospels” were available.

Recommended reading: Holman Quick Source Guide To Apologetics by Doug Powell.

Everlasting Dominion

“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14 ESV)

Jesus is the King of an indestructible Kingdom. America may fail, or cease to be a nation as we know it, but God’s Kingdom will stand forever. The Kingdom of God will have dominion over the entire earth, and the great leaders of nations will cower at his appearing. Jesus demonstrated the superiority of his Kingdom over Satan’s at his first coming, during his ministry on earth. And at his second coming, he will destroy all darkness, moral chaos, and establish his kingdom rule and order. Until that day we are called to do the works of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in Jesus name.

Jesus invaded human history through a teenage virgin girl, and was born in a humble stable in Bethlehem, and lived a life of simplicity, submitting to The Father. His next appearing will be as a warrior King, who will make every wrong thing right, and end all injustice on this planet.

Followers of Jesus have access to the power of the Holy Spirit, and can live in the reality of this Kingdom now. Even though we can’t experience perfection in this age, for the most part, God’s people are settling for less than he is offering. His offer is an overcoming life, lived in the presence of God. And to empower us to live in light of eternity now, as co-heirs with Christ.

God offers us a heavenly perspective as we watch “the nations rage” and the “Kingdoms shake.” The Father imparts spiritual transformation and the experience of living life, “from one degree of glory to another,” for those that choose to participate in Kingdom living. Disciples of Jesus are called to be over-comers in this life, so that we can demonstrate the power of the gospel, and to lead others to experience in part, the age to come, now.


The Mind Of The Spirit: Part Two

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

(Romans 8:26-27)

For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:6 ESV)

In order to know the mind of the Spirit we must immerse ourselves in the Word of God. As we offer up ourselves as “living sacrifices” we are better able to discern what the Holy Spirit is saying. In the school of the Spirit we learn to follow Jesus down the narrow path of life. When I’m living contrary to my new nature in Christ, I often find that I have no sense of direction, and the Spirit of God is grieved. I lose my sense of peace, when I veer off the path of holy living. That’s when I realize my utter dependence on God the most.

We are like God, in that we were made in his image, and he created us as eternal spirit beings. We must learn conformity to God’s will and his words, and it’s not something we can do without supernatural assistance. Denying the flesh dominated life, is the only path to true peace. When we practice submitting to God and resisting the devil, we become fruitful, and more easily led by the Spirit. To have the mind of the Spirit is to surrender our will to the will of the Father, just like Jesus did.

To have a Spirit dominated mind we must engage in deep meditation on the Scripture, and be a person of prayer, and worship. To effectively posture ourselves before God, we must learn the art of  solitude. The place of silence and solitude before God is the most contested place we seek to inhabit. This is where the world, the flesh, and the devil seek to distract us. Solitude is where we allow God to examine us as we embrace his nearness. It’s a scary place for most of us, because we feel vulnerable before this great God, that knows us through and through.

The Father desires to make his presence known, and to reveal things to us in that place  of silence. He may not speak at that moment, or in the way we might think. His communication to us is always in his timing,  and in the way that he determines. The point is that being alone with God changes us over time, and makes us more sensitive to the Spirit. And it puts us in a place where we can as Jim Hylton says, “think with God.”

The Mind Of The Spirit: Part One

“To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
(Colossians 1:27 ESV)

To feel at home in heaven we will need to have the mind of Christ now. Many of us allow our bodily appetites, and bad thinking to dominate our inner person. We are spiritual beings with physical bodies. And until we allow the Holy Spirit (who is in all believers) to dominate our thinking, we will live a life ruled by carnal and negative thoughts, which produces less than desirable behavior in our lives.

Our outward behavior is a reflection of our true spiritual condition. If we are true believers, then we have been justified by our faith in Jesus Christ, which means we have been made right with God. But God wants more than reconciliation, (which is just the beginning) he wants a living, active relationship with us. So, we must allow Him to correct our thinking. Repentance is giving up our thoughts, and opinions, and replacing them with God’s thoughts, and his truth.

True repentance results in a change of behavior. But this is an ongoing process, so we have to live a life of repentance, which is life lived according to the Kingdom of God (the rule of God). I’m not talking about the repentance that leads to our initial salvation experience, but to that which leads us to greater intimacy with God, on a daily basis.

Many in the Evangelical Church seem to neglect the reality of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Without a good theology of the work of the Spirit, and our ongoing communion, and fellowship with God, we tend to become legalistic, and spiritually dry. It’s vital to the life of the believer, and the life of the Church as a whole, to rediscover the third Person of the Trinity.

“Christ in you, the hope of glory” does not make us little “gods” in the way that new agers perceive themselves. We must acknowledge that we are not divine, but are in desperate need of the life of God inside of us. And God has given us access to that life, through the Holy Spirit.

The two excllent books that I’m presently reading on having the mind of Christ are:“Being At Ease: Thinking At Ease-Lessening Disease” by Jim Hylton, which is deeply thought provoking, and an academic, but readable book, “The Mind Of The Spirit”by Craig S. Keener.