The Paralyzing Power of Fear(Part 2 of 3)

The entire narrative contained within the Bible focuses on a spectacularly all-encompassing Love Story of Redemption where God graciously extends salvation towards rebellious human beings. Within this broken world, only God’s boundless and exceedingly rich love extended through Christ Himself is capable of perfectly casting out fear in our fragile lives. Not only did Jesus Christ model the perfect example of what it means to love one another, but He also lived a perfect live of obedience to God, the Father. Therefore, those who place their full, unbridled trust and surrender in Jesus alone making Him the Savior and Lord of their lives, will be saved from the dominion of sin in their lives. In a similar way, Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that “God made Him Who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God”. Jesus paved the only way(John 14:6) for perfect reconciliation between us and the Father. Until we are made right before God through being justified by the blood shed by Jesus, we will continually be at enmity with God being under His righteous judgement.

The Christian Church today is under siege by false teachers who masquerade themselves as apostles of Christ(2 Cor. 11:13) whom are in control of many of the world’s largest religions(some of which operating under the guise of
prosperity-gospel“Christianity”
) . To many of you reading, this probably doesn’t strike you as strange considering the vast growth and popularity of the Prosperity Gospel within the West, even being exporting to other countries around the world. What I feel compelled to share and expose is that fear-based religion, whether it functions under the Christian label or not, is not of God, nor is this what God has ever designed for His redeemed people. This is purely of man, and it is basically a repackaged form of the way the Religious Leaders(Pharisees, and other Experts of the Law) of Jesus’ day sought to oppress and enslave the people of this time. Astonishingly, those who adhere to any form of fear-based religion are in greater danger of perishing than those without any religious affiliation, like the atheists, agnostics and/or those who have not yet heard the full Gospel message. Allow me to explain by quoting from part 1 of this series below:

However, the church is always one of the most dangerous places you can be if you ignorantly fool yourself into thinking that you are saved when you are really not. Essentially, you have not only become a hypocrite without even realizing(or through suppressing it) but once you are within the clutches of religion, it is exceedingly difficult to escape because the enemy has cunningly fooled you through using religion as his choice of weapon.

I don’t think that I need to remind everyone that Jesus also reserved the sharpest rebuke for the hypocrites who, ironically, were those within the religious community of this time. Therefore, it is critically important that we examine ourselves to see whether we are in the faith as Paul prescribes in 2 Corinthians 13:5 saying, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you–unless, of course, you fail the test”. There is no such thing as a lukewarm, half-committed Christian contrary to popularly held opinion. We are either true Christians, or merely impostors–it is as simple as that. This also is why we need to be continually growing in our faith walk by pursuing the Lord daily and putting to death the deeds of the flesh(Rom 6:11-13), otherwise we will be drawing further away from Him.

One of the strongest indicators that you belong to a fear-based religion is that those who are placed in leadership seek to control you. We will term this, the “spirit of control”. Usually such people have been prematurely respected and therefore placed in positions of leadership in churches and ministries before their character can be clearly confirmed. This spirit of control will eventually lead to destruction if it is not stopped immediately. The distinction between God’s Holy Spirit and this demonic spirit of control is that the Holy Spirit liberates while the spirit of control imprisons. The Spirit-led person cares solely about being controlled by Christ, as opposed to the spirit of control which focuses on manipulating people. The main cause of someone with the spirit of control is almost always because they have not yet completely surrendered to Christ. When someone like this is ignorantly placed in leadership within a church, the consequences are wide-reaching and far-extending. These ripple effects are opposed to the work of the Holy Spirit, and tragically those who follow such leaders will replicate their hypocritical example.

spirit-filledThis is why spiritual discernment is absolutely essential for every believer which comes from being in God’s Word and leading a Spirit-filled life through surrender. Our spiritual walk is greatly contingent on the level of discernment we possess as believers. Isn’t it interesting how the majority of the followers of the religious cults of today are almost always those who lack Biblical Literacy? There is an unseen spiritual battle in our midst which is why we need to always be alert, and continually equipped with the entire armor of God(Eph 6:10-18) wielding the sword of righteousness which is the Word of God. It can only be effective if we keep it sharpened which comes from actually reading, meditating, and living out God’s Word. Otherwise, we as believers are extremely vulnerable and destined to fall away from the faith. False teachers prey upon the naive and the ignorant. They hope that they know the Bible better than you and I in order that they can exploit and manipulate us for their personal gain. One of the biggest lies “progressive Christianity” teaches is that once we are saved, we are free to live however we like because of God’s abundant grace. This heretical teaching has already been soundly debunked by Paul in Romans Chapter 6 and consistently throughout the entire book of Galatians. Rather than an easy-believism, seeker-sensitive, man-centred false gospel of health and wealth, the true Gospel must always be preached in its entirety. Being a real disciple of Jesus requires more than just attending church on Sundays and going out for brunch with some friends afterwards, it requires dying to self daily through continual repentance. The true Gospel message does not end at salvation. Salvation is like the first side of the coin which is like the first step in the Christian’s walk of faith. The second side is repentance through surrendering every single area of your life to Jesus so that the old self can die in order that the new self may live(see Galatians 2:20).

Those who reject the necessity of repentance within the Christian Walk were probably never saved in the first place, despite fooling themselves into thinking that they somehow were. Such people are in grave danger and they are really at the mercy of fear-based religious institutions which help to propel this false sense of security. While many fall into this category, there are still those who have genuinely accepted Jesus as Savior but not as Lord of their lives through repentance, thereby quenching the supernatural power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Since the Holy Spirit drives the whole engine of the Christian life, we need to be Spirit-filled and Spirit-controlled in order to walk in the fullness of God’s Plan. This can only happen through humility and dying to self. Indeed, fear will consume and paralyze the Christian when they do not live Spirit-filled lives through this daily surrender and repentance. The source of any kind of fear is not of the Father, nor can it ever be, it is of the flesh, primarily coming from the irrational fear of man. Those who are saved and living the Spirit-filled life are not only thriving spiritually and being used as instruments of God’s mercy and grace, but they are free from fear itself because of Christ Who dwells inside them through the Holy Spirit. In Luke 12:4-5 Jesus teaches,

“I tell you friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has the power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him”

Because Jesus has conquered the world and overcome death itself, His followers are liberated from the fear of man. The only fear we should ever have is the Fear of the Lord consisting of a reverential and holy fear because of God’s omnipotence and His supremacy over all things.

May God Bless everyone! Stay tuned for the last part of this series where I will share some practical steps to overcoming fear in your life through the power of the Cross and armor of God.

Father, I pray that You can use this blog entry to remind of us of who we are in Christ while re-orienting our attention to the Holy Spirit, Who is often the most neglected Person of the Trinity. Father, remind us of the need to lead a Spirit-Filled life in order to be victorious in the ongoing spiritual warfare we face and to be fruitful for furthering God’s Kingdom. Demolish any strongholds set by the enemy and as you perfect us by Christ’s love, I pray that the fear of man may also be eliminated!

In Jesus’ Name, I pray, Amen.

Reference: http://www.godfactor.com/blog/are-control-freaks-killing-your-ministry

 

The Mark of a True Christian

I have been very fortunate to grow up in a healthy home with loving and supportive parents who raised me well. The importance of being obedient to my parents and respecting their decisions was instilled within me at a young age. My parents were stricter than most and at times I felt like I was missing out. I even recall being ridiculed by some of my peers for supposedly living too sheltered of a life. Admittedly, there were occasions where I was inclined to agree, particularly with the severe forms of discipline I faced when I made poor decisions. In retrospect, I am very grateful for the way in which my parents raised me because of the person that I am today.

In a very similar way, the Scriptures reveal to us that God not only desires our obedience but He commands it. In John 14:15, Jesus pointedly tells us that “If you love Me, you will obey-god-in-loveobey what I command”. He later expands on this by saying, “If anyone loves Me, he will obey My teaching, My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching(John 14:23-24). Without reservation, Jesus declares that obedience is required within the Christian Walk as we follow Him. In effect, the love which we have for God through Christ results in obedience to do what God has asked and called us to become. In John 14 verse 23, we are also told that as we obey God’s teaching that the Father will love us and that They(we) will also make Their home with us. Jesus is referring to when the Holy Spirit resides within our souls in our bodies which have now been transformed into holy temples through Christ’s perfect atoning sacrifice on Calvary.

I am about to digress a little here but I assure you that is for good reason. What I find alarming and disconcerting about the way in which the Gospel is preached today is that there is an imbalanced emphasis on salvation by grace with little to no mention of the need for the now-saved-sinner to pursue continued repentance. I understand that the work on the Cross is finished however this does not preclude the absolute vital need for repentance through making war with sin by the power of the Holy Spirit. When the Gospel is preached while neglecting the essential repentance aspect, a half-truth Gospel is being spread which is really no Gospel at all(Galatians 1:6). What I have seen is one of the results from this twisted gospel message is people ignorantly presuming on God’s grace, thinking that they have a licence to sin because the need for repentance is either minimized or forgotten altogether. The other dilemma is that the majority of this time the person is not genuinely saved, though they falsely think that they are. This half-truth Gospel falsely portrays Jesus as a sort of functional savior where nothing is required from the sinner after accepting Jesus. Jesus Himself warns and advises us to count the costs of following Him. He demands our full allegiance and this will require sacrifice and our unbridled commitment. 

I need to provide some basic Christian theology of justification in order to bring things full circle. Being indwelt by the Holy Spirit initially occurred when we believed in Christ alone for our salvation, in turn making Him the Savior and Lord of our lives. Now God declares us as justified before Him. Amazingly, when God looks at us He sees us clothed in the righteousness of His Son, Jesus. The mark of a true Christian is not that we are now perfect, or not going to stumble, rather, it is derived from true repentance.     

I believe that it would be helpful to establish a working definition of repentance in order to ensure that we are all on the same page. Easton’s Bible Dictionary defines repentance as:

an actual hatred of sin (Ps. 119:128; Job 42:5, 6; 2 Cor. 7:10) and turning from it to God…and a persistent endeavour after a holy life in a walking with God in the way of his commandments. The true penitent is conscious of guilt (Ps. 51:4, 9), of pollution (51:5, 7, 10), and of helplessness (51:11; 109:21, 22). Thus he apprehends himself to be just what God has always seen him to be and declares him to be. But repentance comprehends not only such a sense of sin, but also an apprehension of mercy, without which there can be no true repentance (Ps. 51:1; 130:4)”.

Repentance is all about turning away from the sin which formerly held us captive through taking off the grave clothes and putting on the grace clothes. As believers in Christ, we now possess this power to be victorious over any and all sin because its stronghold and grasp over us has been destroyed. True believers in Christ are sealed with the Holy Spirit by God. Therefore, the Holy Spirit is not something that comes and goes within real Christians. However, even as believers, our flesh is very weak and we are ourselves are incredibly prone to go astray. That is why it is indispensable that we walk in obedience by following God’s commands, especially when it comes to daily repentance and putting to death the deeds of the flesh(Romans 8:13). As Jesus continues speaking in John 14 about obedience, He becomes more direct about what He meant in verse 23 when says, “we”. In verse 26 Jesus says, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you”. We need to be continually filled by the Holy Spirit in order that we may be led and controlled by Him so that God becomes the Lord over all entire lives…not just on Sundays. As I see it, this only happens as an overflow of our love for God through active obedience to God and His commands. Even the smallest, seemingly insignificant day-to-day decisions make the biggest difference over time. CS Lewis put it this way,

“Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible(CS Lewis p 132).

The Holy Spirit drives the whole engine of the Christian life, therefore when it is grieved or quenched by our disobedience, we stumble back into our sinful and comeholyspiritfleshly tendencies. Herein lies the danger of disobedience. Although believers are indeed indwelt by the Holy Spirit, God does not remove our free will. This means that we have the choice each and every day to either obey God allowing our souls to be filled with the Holy Spirit or to disobey God thereby quenching the Holy Spirit. The former way enables God to work in and through us where He works mightily enabling us to be all that God has designed and purposed for us to become. The latter way leads to an unfruitful and strangled Christian life where instead of thriving we end up merely surviving.

Like loving parents who know what is best for their children, we can rest on the ironclad promise that God knows what is best for us. Even though there are times when we feel like we know better, we need to trust in God and His perfect timing for all things. He is our good Father and He will withhold no good thing for us as we lovingly obey and walk rightly with Him (Pslam 84:11).

The importance of obedience to God is instrumental for living a fruitful, God-honouring, Christ-exalting, kingdom-furthering Christian life. The Old Testament contains numerous examples of those who stepped out in faith to pursue what God was calling them to do. Comfortable Christians cannot change the world. It is not until we leave our comfort zones that God is able start to work through us in ways which you and I cannot begin to imagine.

Lord, I pray that this blog post may serve to help embolden Your Church to courageously pursue opportunities where we are being called even if they make us uncomfortable. I also pray that we delight in following You and Your commandments because of our pure love and devotion to You. Help us to live real Christian lives marked with repentance and an unceasing passion to reach the lost. In Jesus’ Name, I pray, Amen.

References:

Easton’s Bible Dictionary by Matthew George Easton

Mere Christianity by CS Lewis

 

What Does God’s Word Say?

What is Happening Today

Within the West today, we are experiencing a rapid decrease in the number of genuine, faithful, practicing Christians. The influence of Eastern World Religion has been continually on the rise and it has permeated much of the culture in which we live today. We only need to look at what is on the best-selling book list to see hundreds of self-help books proposing new ways to unlock our full potential from within. In addition, life-hacking techniques are merely a web click away teaching us ways in which we can supposedly live our best life now with the least effort expended.  I don’t think we have ever lived in an era with such a myriad of leaders, gurus, mentors, and coaches who somehow all profess to have the key(s) to help us live our most successful life. To make matters worse, Biblical Christianity has even begun to absorb these adverse effects through becoming re-packaged into a sort of “Convenient Christianity”.

When Supplements Turn into Substitutes

“Convenient Christianity” has strong ties with the Prosperity Gospel Movement which focuses on gaining health and wealth, rather than salvation and forgiveness from our sins. We have so many material resources in the West and, if we are not careful, this will lead to complacency deterring our faith walk with God. Even within the Christian subculture, there are numerous resources which we can utilize to study God’s Word such as: podcasts, songs, articles, books, devotionals, study Bibles…just to name a few. Our Bibles themselves are full of commentaries, cross-references, and study guides of various kinds. We barely need to put forth any effort when it comes to understanding the Scriptures since this work is seemingly already done. While on the one hand this is super convenient and helpful, on the other, this is extremely dangerous because it relegates the quality of our Bible Study time. Not only are we depending more on the individual to tell us what God has said(which belittles God’s authority), but the richness and intimacy of unpacking God’s Word is pointedly reduced. Plus, God’s Word is unable to have the full intended impact within the affections of our heart. What is initially perceived to be a shortcut actually turns into a major stumbling block towards our spiritual growth and maturity.

Certainly, there are benefits and value towards supplementing our Bible-reading time with Christian resources. The keyword is supplement though! We cannot allow these supplements to turn into substitutes. The moment that this happens is when we risk committing idolatry because we are in effect telling God that we place greater value in what the theologian, for example, is saying over God Himself. The Scriptures are God’s Gift to us and they are truly the sword of the spirit within our armor of God(Ephesians 6:17). However, the sword of the spirit is only effective if we equip ourselves with it and this only comes from studying and knowing God’s Word. This can only help through intentional time spent studying it.

Practical Advice

In my own life, I confess that I have been spending an inordinate amount of time with supplementary resources, particularly with podcasts and Christian literature of various kinds. Sadly, even during my personal Bible devotional time, I have sometimes given too much authority to the study commentaries. I find that it is very helpful to pray before reading the Scriptures through asking God to provide us a fresh perspective and to speak to us through His revealed Word. Then we should read through it slowly, unpacking what the author is trying to convey about God and His character within the overall Gospel Narrative. We need to soften our hearts so that God’s Word will have their full transformational impact on our affections as the Holy Spirit does His work within us. This approach to Bible-reading helps make our experience direct, personal and intimate during the time in which we encounter God face-to-face through His All-Powerful Word.

Implications from Biblical Illiteracy

On a macro level, what I believe we can in attribute the dwindling influence of Christianity primarily towards is Biblical Illiteracy. We are living in an Information Age. Biblical-IlliteracyKnowledge has never been so widely and easily accessible to us as it is today. With this comes various disadvantages, like the ease by which uncredible sources have platforms to disseminate misconceptions and falsifications of Christianity. Christian Cults holding onto heretical teachings have even emerged which propagates confusion all the more. In modern society, Biblical Christianity is viewed as anything but the answer because we have strayed so far from orthodoxy. Nobody knows what truth is anymore and culture is experiencing moral-decay because it has become morally-relativistic. The media keeps pumping out lies upon lies, and people are believing them because they have no discernment. This should be no surprise for unbelievers, but what is striking about this is that even believers are falling prey to some of these lies. The Church is being disestablished as we speak and we as a Church are being paralyzed by fear and comfort. I contend that at the core of all this is Biblical Illiteracy. People do not know God and His purpose for them because they do not know their Bibles. The Bible reveals Who God is and what we are called to be as partakers of His Redemptive Plan. Without staying in God’s Word, we will continue to be deceived by the lies of the world and tossed about by the wind. Worst of all, we will be ineffective and unproductive for God’s work. John 15:6-7 tells us the following about remaining in Jesus,

If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.

These are harsh words from Jesus Himself and they should serve as reminders of the absolute importance of remaining in His Word, otherwise we will face these devastating circumstances.

Lord, I pray that you help us rise up against complacency and spiritual-laziness through returning to the roots of Biblical Christianity through Your Holy Word. Teach and equip us to be the courageous men and women of God You have called us to be on this spiritual battleground!

In Jesus’ Name, I Pray Amen.

 

“Take off the GraveClothes and Put on the GraceClothes!”

The enemy has always had a propensity to offer cheap substitutes in exchange for the glorious hope which can be found only in Christ Himself. The fleshly desires which have plagued Contentment in Himhumanity since the Fall do not satisfy simply because they cannot satisfy. The desires of the flesh are unquenchable and they will continuously demand more and more. Interestingly, the more that we feed these desires, the more that they will hunger and thirst to be filled. True, soul-satisfying contentment is not found in more money, a bigger house, a faster car, a more lucrative career, a better education, partying it up, a more attractive spouse or even religion for the matter. You will literally go insane chasing after these empty pursuits because you will always come up short! Feelings of disappointment and disillusionment will ensue every single time. There is unequivocally nothing under the sun which is capable of ever providing our hearts with full and lasting satisfaction.

Our God is certainly a compassionate Father abounding in patience desiring for all of us to come to repentance, however I do believe that there is a point of no return that deserves to be mentioned. Dabbling in sin, particularly habitual sin, is extremely dangerous territory for the Christian. A prime example of this in found when Esau sells his birthright inheritance for a single meal, directly disobeying God. Upon desiring God’s blessing, Esau is unable to repent despite the fact that he sought it earnestly.

Hebrews 12:15-17 tells us:

15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.

When it comes to sin in our own lives, particularly with respect to repeated, intentional and habitual sin, I fear that too many believers mistakenly believe that God’s grace somehow provides a licence for them to remain in this sin. In Romans 6:1-4 Paul reminds believers of the following:

1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

The enemy is very cunning and deceptive with the strategy and the tactics he uses to lure us into committing sinful behaviours. What I have learnt from books as well as personal experience is that if we are not actively pursuing the Lord, then we are in effect drifting away which quenches the indwelling Holy Spirit. One of Satan’s primary weapons is to do whatever it takes to persuade us to compromise away No Compromiseour Christian convictions. It always starts with something seemingly small and innocent. As time progresses, we begin to rationalize and justify why this sin is not actually sin at all, falling prey to the enemy’s lies. Moreover, we begin to build up a threshold of tolerance where we our flesh demands more of a “buzz”. At this point, the seemingly innocent sin evolves into an addictive sinful pattern progressively pulling us further and further away from God. Our formerly high sensitivity to this sin gradually depletes and unbeknownst to the Christian, he or she has strayed so far away that it becomes exceedingly challenging to repent.

This concept of reaching a point of no return is quite controversial however I do believe that it merits discussion because Satan is constantly prowling around like a roaring lion looking for whom he may devour on sight(1 Pet 5:8). 1 John 5:16-17 talks about sinning unto death below:

16 If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.

GotQuestion.org defines the “sin unto death” as “willful, continuous, unrepentant sin”. This specific passage is exceedingly complicated to interpret, however it should underscore the reality that we are living in a spiritual battleground where we need God every second of every minute of every hour of every day. We need to be consistently growing and maturing in our faith through being in God’s Word and living out an authentic Christian Life in joyful obedience to Him. We should be so filled with the Holy Spirit that we need not even entertain the very thought of committing any sin which formerly held us captive.

In a like manner Ephesians 4:17-19 says,

17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.

It is completely illogical to re-visit our former sinful ways because of this infinitely precious and glorious gift we have in Christ Jesus Who imputes His entire righteousness onto us when we humbly believe and trust in His atoning work on Calvary! We need to crucify those old fleshly desires and “…put on the new self created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness”(Eph. 4:24). Jesus already paid the price in full and destroyed the power which sin formerly had over us(Romans 7) so let’s embrace this glorious freedom we have in Christ!

New in Jesus

Reference: http://www.gotquestions.org/sin-unto-death.html