Love Gone Cold

Psycho, a Greek word used once in the King James Bible in Matthew 24:12, translated to “wax cold.”  Strong’s in usage notes states: “to breathe (voluntarily but gently… by implication of reduction of temperature by evaporation) to chill (figurative) :- wax cold.”  Jesus uses this word one time to describe “the love of many” which would grow cold when things got really bad in the world (at a set time but any given time, really).

For years I thought He meant as things grew worse and the world became more deluded, self-seeking, godless and evil, that most people would become heartless, cruel and loveless. I did not give that interpretation a second thought, until not too long ago.  While that is what it may mean, and does often happen, I do not now think that is what Jesus meant it as.

I am convinced He is talking about OUR love growing cold; those of us who profess Christ, Christians.

How so?

First, it would not be something unexpected.  It is quite common for a general populace of any given place and/or time to become self-centered, cruel, ruthless and loveless when evil and immorality abounds (see Romans 1:18ff). Except, apparently, in Japan (research the lack of it when the tidal wave hit there a few years back) what city of any nation does not get looted, burned and generally pillaged during a crisis, natural or social? Such things bring out the worst in most people.  Jesus would not be saying anything new.

Secondly, He is giving this warning to His own disciples in an explanation about evil times yet future.*  In the context of Matthew 24, Jesus is warning about the rise of evil in the form of: 1) false Christs (24:5); 2) general warfare (24:6); 3) nature’s upheavals (24:7); 4) persecution of His disciples (24:9-10); and 5) false prophets (24:11).  His disciples of that time needed the warning, but so do we.

A young man in a store saw a lady he had known for a long time.  They had been friends of his, she and her children, and attended the same church.  Not having seen her in a long time, he approached her extending his arms to give her a friendly embrace. To his horror, she frowned, stepped back and turned away from him, unwilling even to speak, behaving as if he were leprous. He was crushed, naturally.  And she claimed to profess Christ.

She did not turn away because he had children out of wedlock, or because he had been divorced and remarried ‘X’ number of times without Jesus’ approval (i.e., an adulterer), or
because he was co-habiting with a girl or was a notorious slanderer or gossip; he was none of those.  No, she turned away because she knew he was homosexual.

It is remotely possible she shunned him as a fornicator or idolater which Paul commands us to do with erring brothers or sisters in Christ who will not repent (1 Corinthians 5), but I seriously doubt it. Doing that should be difficult and painful when we love someone dearly as family in Christ (2 Corinthians 2:5ff) but the frown revealed the only pain she felt was from disgust at THAT type of sin.  Besides Paul did not forbid communication.  Like some of us, she would have at least been cordial had he been one of the aforementioned sinners. No, her love for him went cold as ice because he was a certain type of sinner.

It is evident that this world is an evil place and getting worse all the time. But when it gets so bad that even saints refuse to love the lost, no matter what sins taint them, the mission of the church of Christ is doomed to fail.  The truth is we will never evangelize the world to Christ hating certain types of people, all of whom Jesus died for to save.

I am not telling anyone how they should feel. One has to change the way they THINK before they can change the way they FEEL. If our thinking remains hostile toward sinners, we will continue to feel hostile toward sinners (never mind that we sin also!) and our love will wax cold just as Jesus has warned. And without love, we are nothing and imperfect before God (1 Corinthians 13; Matthew 5:43-47).

Never mind the lack of love the world has – do not allow pervasive evil to put a chill on yours and mine.  Let die the pharisaical spirit that was none of Christ.

“The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” Matthew 11:19 (HCSB)

“While He was reclining at the table in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came as guests to eat with Jesus and His disciples.   When the Pharisees saw this, they asked His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  But when He heard this, He said, “Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do.  Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Matthew 9:10-13 (HCSB)

 

* Which some interpret as the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of its temple in A. D. 70 under the Roman general Titus and his legions, while others believe it is speaking to some degree also about the end of the world when Jesus returns or both. (I am not writing this to debate or discuss those points of view so please don’t miss the point I am trying to make).

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A Day that Lives in Infamy?

December 7, 2014.  Seventy-three years ago (also Sunday morning) in 1941, aircraft from the Imperial Japanese navy raided Hawaii and its surrounding islands.  They sank or disabled a dozen or more warships of the American navy at Pearl Harbor.  In addition, they destroyed hundreds of aircraft and wreaked havoc on military and civilian facilities, killing thousands of people, members of the armed forces of America and citizens alike.  Following this “dastardly attack” as he framed it, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan which it did.  Because the nature of the attack was so vicious, so damaging, against a nation not at war with them, President Roosevelt declared that December 7th, 1941, would be “a day that will live in infamy.”  To this day, we still have not forgotten what happened on that day because many Americans died so violently, so suddenly, never returning home to their friends and families.

There is another day, however, that seems to get the same reaction from people who should know better.

One Sunday morning, about two thousand years ago, the Risen Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, exited His own tomb as He promised He would through the power of God (John 10:11-18; Romans 1:4).  Through that single act of courageous self-sacrifice, offering His own Son’s blood, God through Jesus has reconciled the world to Himself, providing full pardon for the sins of mankind (2 Corinthians 5:17-19;Romans 3:23-26)   We have but to trust and obey Him to receive it personally (Hebrews 5:9).   In Christ’s act there is no infamy, only that Satan’s dastardly, foolish, attempt to thwart God’s eternal purpose in Christ, and humanity’s willing, as well as unwitting, complicity, was displayed (Colossians 2:13-15).

The only other potential infamy (evil reputation brought about by something grossly criminal, shocking, or brutal—Merriam-Webster) might be how those who should honor it dishonor Sunday morning, the  “Lord’s Day” (Revelation 1:10).  On on any given Sunday you will find Christians who shockingly, criminally, dishonor the God they claim to love, serve, and obey by willfully and deliberately excusing themselves from the assemblies of the Saints who are gathered to commemorate their erstwhile Lord’s suffering, death, and resurrection.  No, they had rather be at home, sleeping in from a hard Saturday night’s revelries or preparing to watch sports all day or planning and cooking meals, etc., that will keep them away, their minds pre-occupied and their hearts ill-focused.  Is that not infamous?  Is that not shameful?  How is it that we can remember the catastrophe of one Sunday and yet forget or neglect the victory of another—one that has life-altering implications for all of us?

Does Sunday live in infamy within your heart, Christian?

If you and I are willfully and habitually exempting ourselves  from the worship of the church and/or are not living every day of our lives in honor of that greatest of victories achieved centuries ago on another Sunday, maybe it does.

Let us review the record of our attendance and participation in church services, especially Sundays.  Therein lies the true answer to that question.

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They Changed the Formula

 “What if I told you…” began in a line of a movie where people thought they were living in the real world, but in reality were serving as mere batteries for machines which kept them servile.  The few who had been released from that system sought to tell others the lie they were living and it shook them to their core.  What if I told you that they changed the formula on salvation by faith in Jesus Christ?  It has been replaced by what is commonly called The Sinner’s Prayer a man-made invention the “earliest notion of which is less than 500 years old.  It was not formulated as a theology until around the time of Billy Graham.” (Steven Francis Staten).   And the concept of infant baptism is likewise not Biblical.  What the truth is, found only in the New Testament, is far, far different.  I urge you to consider what I am telling you about this.  The destiny of your precious soul depends upon it.

 WHAT UNINSPIRED MEN AND WOMEN HAVE TAUGHT, AND STILL TEACH, ON THE SUBJECT OF SALVATION BY FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST

 A BRIEF HISTORY OF INFANT BAPTISM

 Paul warned that the church would go into apostasy.  While some of that was on its way (2 Thess. 2:7) and he warned of more to come (2 Thess. 2:3-12), it began in earnest in the second and third centuries.  Infant baptism had its beginning in the second and third centuries through the efforts of men such as  Cyprian of Carthage and Origen.  It was part of the great apostasy.  It has NO documented evidence for use in apostolic times nor did Jesus or any Apostle EVER command it.  Men such as Tertullian opposed the idea – “Let them (children) come (to Christ) while they are growing up; let them come while they are learning, while they are being taught to what it is they are coming; let them become Christians when they are susceptible of the knowledge of Christ. What haste to procure the forgiveness of sins for the age of innocence. . . Let them first learn to feel their need of salvation; so it may appear that we have given to those that wanted” – (On Baptism, 18).

 THE ERRORS OF INFANT BAPTISM

 Foremost, it is not Bible baptism at all.  Baptize = BAPTIZO – to immerse or overwhelm. (Strong’s); Sprinkle = RHANTIZO – to asperse, sprinkle. (op cit.); Pour = EKCHEO – to pour forth, spill. (op. cit.).   Second, it does not involve faith on the one being immersed which is necessary – Mark 16:16 – “He that BELIEVES and is BAPTIZED shall be saved.”  Children have absolutely NO understanding of faith in Christ.  Furthermore, children would not need it anyway as they are sinless – Matthew 18:3.

 THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION

 Rejection of infant baptism produced a rejection of baptism itself as a human work of merit detached from belief in “faith alone” as justification for sin.  Baptism became an “outward sign of an inward grace” and relegated to an act that merely provides membership in a denomination after a church-wide vote of confidence is taken.

 FAMOUS PROTESTANT “EVANGELISTS” OF THE PAST INVENTED THE “MOURNER’S SEAT”

 1730-1740 – Eleazer Wheelock – ‘“As far as one can tell, he would target sinners by having them sit in the  front bench (pew). During the course of his sermon “salvation was looming over their heads.” Afterwards, the sinners were typically quite open to counsel and exhortation. In fact, as it turns out they were susceptible to whatever prescription the preaching doctor gave to them.  According to eyewitnesses, false conversions were multiplied. Charles Wesley had some experience with this practice, but it took nearly a hundred years for this tactic to take hold.” (S. F. Staten – The Sinner’s Prayer).  Men like Charles Finney, Dwight Moody and R. A. Torrence all added something to the mix which later became what is now the Sinner’s Prayer.

 FAMOUS MODERN PROTESTANT “EVANGELISTS” – The Three “Bills”

 Billy Sunday, Billy Graham, and Bill Bright all used the same basic methods for their “evangelistic” efforts leading to the finalized version of the Sinner’s Prayer.  “Billy Graham was converted in 1936 at a Sunday-styled crusade. By the late 1940s it was evident to many that Graham would be the champion of evangelicalism. His crusades summed up everything that had been done from the times of Charles Finney through Billy Sunday except that he added respectability that some of the others lacked. In the 1950s Graham’s crusade counselors were using a prayer that had been sporadically used for some time. It began with a prayer from his Four Steps to Peace with God. The original four-step formula came during Billy Sunday’s era called in a tract called Four Things God Wants you to Know. The altar call system of Graham had been refined by a precise protocol of music, trained counselors and a speaking technique all geared to help people ‘accept Christ as Savior.’

     In the late 1950s Bill Bright came up with the exact form of the currently popular Four Spiritual Laws so that the average believer could take the crusade experience into the living room of their neighbor. Of course, this method ended with the Sinner’s Prayer. Those who responded to crusades and sermons could have the crusade experience at home when they prayed, Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of the throne of my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be.”

     Later, in 1977 Billy Graham published a now famous work entitled, How to Be Born Again. For all the Scripture he used, he never once uses the hallmark rebirth event in the second chapter of the book of Acts. The cataract (blind spot) kept him away from the most powerful conversion event in all Scripture. It is my guess that its emphasis on baptism and repentance for the forgiveness of sins was incompatible with his approach.” (S. F. Staten – op. cit.).

 WHAT THE SCRIPTURES AND THEREFORE THE HOLY SPIRIT HAVE ALWAYS TAUGHT ON THE SUBJECT

 WE ARE SAVED OR JUSTIFIED BY FAITH, BUT WE ARE NOT SAVED BY FAITH ONLY!

 “Faith alone” shows up once in Scripture, but only when James states by inspiration that we are NOT saved by faith only – James 2:24.  If it were by faith alone, what place is there for salvation by grace?  By hearing?  By confessing Christ?  By baptism INTO Christ?  Faith must be understood as TRUSTING OBEDIENCE, not MENTAL ASSENT, to the facts of the Gospel.  Obedience involves ACTION on our part but is NOT a work of human merit!  See John 12:42; 1 Corinthians 13:2.

FAITH COMES BY HEARING AND HEARING BY THE WORD OF GODRomans 10:17.

It comes only after the Gospel of Christ is preached or not at all.  Faith is a matter of human choice.  Faith in Christ leads one to the completion of the commands of Christ for salvation.  It is the golden thread which ties all things together.  Without faith we cannot please God and therefore could not be saved – Hebrews 11:6.

 REPENTANCE, A CHANGE OF THE MIND AND WILL (DISPOSITION) TOWARD SIN MUST OCCURActs 2:38.

One must determine to make a clean break with whatever the Scriptures show is sinful living.  It is summed up in Jesus’ warning “SIN NO MORE” – John 5:14; 8:11.

THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST MUST BE CONFESSED (PROCLAIMED) AS DEITYMatt. 10:32; Romans 10:9-10.

This is NOT a public declaration of the details of a sinful life, exposed to the world.  HOMOLOGEO – to assent, acknowledge – to AGREE WITH the stated fact that Jesus of Nazareth is DIVINE.  This is done “unto salvation” like all the rest of the Gospel commands, NOT in exclusion of them!

BAPTISM CROWNS FAITH AND PLACES THE BELIEVER “INTO CHRIST”Acts 2:38; 22:16; Galatians 3:26-27.

 No other act can do this – only baptism puts us “into Christ”!  It follows if we are not baptized, then we are never put “into Christ.”  And if we are not “in Christ” we remain unsaved.  Baptism is by immersion ONLY and is for believers only.  It is NOT a work of human merit!  Like the baptism of John, it is of God (Matthew 21:25-26) and required for righteousness’ sake (Matthew 3:14-15).

 What if I told you they have changed the Gospel plan of salvation and what you have been told, and may even now firmly believe, is a lie?  Friend, that is EXACTLY what I am telling you.  Open your New Testament and read it for yourself.  Take off the blinders which have held you suspended in disobedience to God’s will.  Of course you may continue to hold on to what you believe.  It is a free country.  Your mind is your own.  But I have placed before you eternal life or eternal death so make your choice.

 I HAD RATHER YOU BE MAD AT ME FOR TELLING YOU THE TRUTH, THAN HAPPY WITH ME FOR TELLING YOU A LIE.

– Danny McCain

Note:  I am indebted to Steven Francis Staten for material on this important subject.  I am uncertain where we agree on other subjects, but he is quite on the mark with this.  For more information, please follow this link:  http://www.bible.ca/g-sinners-prayer.htm

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With God, the End is Better

“The end of a thing is better than the beginning; the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit” – Ecclesiastes 7:8

The inspired writer was taking into account the fact that finite beings cannot see all ends but Jehovah can.  He who knows when a single sparrow falls to the earth considers everything.  This is His universe.  This is His world.  Every particle of matter, atom, proton, neutron, electron; every strand of DNA, He created, set in place and motion.  Of all beings, He would know best where everything’s place is in His plan to redeem this world for His glory.  We cannot possibly understand nor fathom such a Mind.

“The kings of the earth set themselves and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His anointed, saying, ‘Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us.  He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall hold them in derision”Psalm 2:2-4.

He laughs at the dreamers and scoffers who, like gnats on an elephant, try to cut Him down to size, who think vainly they can match wits with Him.  Ashes and dust cannot compete.  Just let them try.  It’s like grasshoppers trying to master Calculus.

That is why we must learn to trust Him and cease trying to second guess His motives and actions.

“But as for me, I would seek God, and to God I would commit my cause – Who does great things, and unsearchable, marvelous things without number.  He gives rain on the earth, and sends waters on the fields, He sets on high those who are lowly and those who mourn are lifted to safety.  He frustrates the devices of the crafty, so that their hands cannot carry out their plans.  He catches the wise in their own craftiness, and the counsel of the cunning comes quickly upon them.  They meet with darkness in the daytime, and grope at noontime as in the night” Job 5:8-14

The end of a thing is better than the beginning when we leave God in charge of everything.  It is better because He knows to what end and purpose all things lead.  He never misses anything.  All His equations balance.  To us the world is chaos, confusion, pain and heartache.  It is also unity, order, thrill and joy.  It is a blend mixed by God who, in His eternal wisdom, has reserved all answers to Himself.  He does not answer to anyone nor ask advice; there is no need.

Therefore, let us learn to live with what God has given us.  We don’t have to like it, nor do we have to accept it to the point of not requesting improvement, but may we live with it until that time, or until the end of our earthly lives.

When I was a young man I worked in a machine shop.  I spray painted 10 pound water pump casings, picking them up out of huge metal bins to fasten them one at a time to hooks on a moving line.  I did this for hours on end.  I was 135 pounds soaking wet.  In the beginning, my arms looked like twigs.  I did it for probably a year, maybe less.  It was hot, slow, painful, work.  But from all that, I gained considerable stamina, “wiry” strength in my arms, and a grip of iron that still serve me in my old age.  The beginning of that was not pleasant, the end, however, has paid off handsomely.  The pain and sweat were worth it, not so much then, but now.

I do not know what burden you carry.  It could be worse or less than my own.  I do not know if you will ever, in this life, see complete relief from it.  Consider that your lot, if you like, that God has placed on you at least for the time being.   Pray for deliverance but be sure to tell Him that His will be done (Luke 11:2).  If it goes on, then believe it has purpose and let Him who sees the end from the beginning handle it and sustain you (2 Corinthians 12:9).  It is His working in us and on us to bring His sons to glory with Him which is where it shall all end if we remain faithful through it all (Hebrews 2:10).

“But He saves the needy from the sword, from the mouth of the mighty, and from their hand.  So the poor have hope, and injustice shuts her mouth. Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects; therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty, for He bruises, but He binds up; He wounds, but His hands make whole” Job 5:15-18

 

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Mothers’ Day

Today is Mothers’ Day, a special day to show our appreciation for all the women in our lives, especially our mother.  Living or not, we can honor them or their memory.  It may be that some have taken the place of our biological mother to become what a mother should have been to us.  If so, we should be grateful to God that He has provided us with someone who loves and cares for us perhaps even more than they do, or should have.  They are doing a very difficult job day in and day out often with little thanks along the way and maybe with far too little help and cooperation.  Reflect now upon your relationship with the woman/women in your life, especially the one you call ‘mother.’  How are you treating them?  If you are treating them badly, taking them for granted, criticizing them unduly, speaking badly of them, saying ugly and hurtful things, then repent and let them know you will do better.

God honors women with being the means by which new life, all human life, is brought into the world.   There may come a time when scientists are able to bring about live births some other way, but for now, and as far as God’s plan is concerned, women have that special distinction alone.  Except for being saved from sin and taking one’s place among the saints of God, there can be no greater blessing given to humanity.  For it was through the bearing of children that our Messiah, Jesus the Christ, came into the world to save us all from the doom of a devil’s hell (Genesis 3:15; Matthew 1:21).

Statistics are showing that birth rates are down, way down.  Due to abortion and other life choices, people are dying faster than they are being born.  By the millions, babies are cast out of the womb to become substance for hair conditioner (collagen) or for some other profit to those whose goals are to enrich themselves.  There are mothers who are part of this operation, who have besmirched the name and blessing God has given them.  This trend will no doubt continue if we do not make clear to our youth, boys and girls, that all human life is precious and sacred; that motherhood and parenthood is God’s arrangement for the family.  Culture and convenience must never be allowed to change that.  Mothers should nurture and protect their little ones, never harm them.

Someone went through great pain to bring us into the world.  She may have been in such a state for hours or perhaps days.  When we arrived, sent from God Himself as His little gift to her and the world, she smiled and held us close.  She fed us, clothed us, protected us, cleaned us, remedied our hurts, wiped our runny noses, shamed our enemies, tanned our behinds as needed, but always, always, loved us no matter what.

She was our mother.  We all have one (or more).  Remember them and honor them on this day.  It is a Biblical principle (Romans 13:7) and the right thing to do.

 

 

 

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By the Mercies of God

There are some who would advise me not to tell this story on myself.  Their reasoning would be sound; they believe others would think less of me.  They think if you relate details of your sordid past – the “knowledge is power” thing – you open up too much of yourself.  I take a different tack.  If I can tattle on myself (instead of other people which they likely prefer to do!) to convince others of the wrongness of something or to extoll the grace of God evidenced in a sinner’s life, my own, then it is worth the risk to me.  I’ll give someone else a break and stick my neck out.

In my younger days I was quite the heathen.  I could posit blame on my friends, relatives, parents or society at large as all were less than perfect.  Others surely influenced me but nobody put a gun to my head.  I made the choices and many were bad.  Please remember that.  Don’t blame others.  Don’t play the victim card.  “For all have sinned…” (Romans 3:23).  That means you and me.

It was dark and very late at night.  I was riding shotgun in an old flat-front Dodge 6-cylinder van heading toward Stuttgart, Arkansas down a deserted stretch of highway.  Me and the driver, a buddy of mine (I won’t name names) had been drinking and were planning to visit a friend of mine.  In a moment of inebriated stupidity, I laughingly suggested for him to steer between the lines in the road – the white ones mind you.  He, by nature disinclined to refuse any dare, obliged without hesitation.  Being a  good driver, even if a bit out of his head, we began playing “dodge-em” and he did pretty well for a few minutes.

Then he lost it.

The rear end of the van tried to come around which prompted him to over-steer.  He swerved sharply to prevent a skid but instead the van started to fish-tail badly.  This went on for a few seconds and we left the road on the right starting down a fairly steep embankment.  By then I had gripped the open window brace with one hand while holding on tight to a can of beer (remind me to tell you sometime about the lethality and stupidity of imbibing intoxicating beverages).

I looked out the front window and up ahead loomed a sawed-off telephone pole, a thick one, not one of those spindly things you see in town.  We were approaching it fast and it was centered squarely in the middle of the windshield.  I knew instantly there was no way on earth we were going to miss hitting it; we were going too fast, we were rolling over grass and my buddy still did not have full control of the vehicle.  Almost reflexively I put both feet on the dashboard and pushed against it to brace myself for the impact I knew was coming, still holding on to the can of beer with my other hand while what was left of its contents sloshed all over me.

I realized I was going to die.  There was no doubt about it.  I stared death in the face; the scythe was on the downward swing.  I was seized with a strange sense of pervasive calm, a kind of hopeless, peaceful, resignation.  I remember feeling a silent exhale of air as my heart fell, a surrendering sigh as if my very soul was preparing to exit my body.  The last thing I saw before closing my eyes was that huge pole, eight or ten feet tall, standing off the ground, dead center of the van, mere yards away as we rushed toward it and our doom.

Then we stopped abruptly, not because we had hit the pole but because we had ran up on an embankment from a road that bisected the highway we had been traveling on.

By the very mercies of God my buddy had missed the pole.

All we could do is laugh insanely until we saw another vehicle approach.  Thinking it might be a State Trooper we jumped out of the van and ran into some undergrowth.  The only injuries we sustained came from that idiotic decision – multiple and painful lacerations from hiding in a blackberry thicket.

I would love to say that episode changed my life, but it did not.  We got up the embankment and arrived at my friend’s house later that night.  I am sure I praised my buddy for his remarkable skill.

It took a lot more trouble for God to bring me around but He spared me long enough to wake up.

So when I read that verse, “I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God to present yourselves a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1), I think back on that night.  The mercy of God saved me not my buddy’s driving which actually nearly killed us both.  No one will ever tell me different.  By all rights I should have died that night and died as a fool dies.

But I lived to die and be reborn years later when I gave my life to the Lord Jesus Christ, dying with Him in the watery grave of baptism, therein calling upon Him to save me, having repented of my sins and confessing His name as deity itself as Scripture instructs.  I now intend to fulfill the rest of that – presenting myself as a living sacrifice daily until the day I leave this mortal coil behind.

Perhaps you have had a near-death experience.  Think back.  Let it teach you something.  View it as one of the many mercies of God.  He spared your life.  He gives you a perfectly good and acceptable reason to live.  So, for now on out, let it be for Him.

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The Measure of Our Effectiveness

We may know how successful we are by the vehemence of the attacks and quality of the invective brought against us by our enemies. It is easy to ignore small-time nuisances but when we are truly agitated we cannot help but take sterner measures. Usually, the greater our frustration with overcoming opposition, the greater our anger. Then, as anger gives birth to hate, civil dialogue disappears and all the attacks become personal and nasty.

This happened to Jesus. When the Pharisees and Sadducees could not overcome Jesus’ arguments against their traditions and man-contrived teaching; when they could not successfully outwit and outperform Him in civil discourse and debate they turned to hurling insults:

“Now when the Pharisees heard it they said, “This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons” (Matthew 12:24).

“Then the Jews answered and said to Him, ‘Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?'” (John 8:48)

For those out there who think Christians should just hide our heads in the sand on moral issues in any arena, including the political one, keep quiet, and “just be nice” you would do well to remember what Jesus said:

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household” (Matthew 10:34-36).

“For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38).

We are bound to be at odds with people who do not believe in Christ Jesus or who claim fellowship with Him but do not obey His will.

But if fear of reprisal, loss of friendship, timidity or sheer cowardice prevents us from standing up for what is right, speaking out against sin and religious error, we are liable to be counted among the ashamed and renounced by Christ.

Blessing those who persecute us (Romans 12:14) does not mean we say and do nothing more or nothing else. That passage does not sanction the muzzling of Saints against speaking out. If you think Jesus was meek and mild to the point of silence on issues, then why did He cleanse the temple twice during His earthly ministry (and thrash around with a whip of cords in the process)? Why did He pronounce woes on the hypocrites? Why did He verbally chastise His contemporaries for their error, turpitude, willful ignorance and rebellion to God’s plain commandments? Why did His enemies finally pin Him on a Roman cross? It was not because He was the kind of preacher who only wanted to make everyone around Him all “warm and fuzzy” when He spoke to them.

Soul-saving is serious business. We do not help anyone by holding back on what needs being said while sin goes on ravaging their lives. God’s grace is freedom from sin, not to sin. When sinful, impenitent, people go away believing they do well after hearing us preach then we have failed them, God, our mission and ourselves.  We have, unlike Paul, held back on declaring the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27).   And for what?  Popularity?  Peace at any price?

Be forewarned however.  If you won’t keep quiet, will point out error and stand unashamedly for what is right, you must expect to be hated and hammered by the opposition.  And do not be surprised that some of them, regretfully, will be Christians who mistake your passion for Truth as mere fanaticism. Take it in stride. Remember Jesus’ words:

“Woe unto you, when all men speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26)

“You will be hated by all nations because of My name” (Matthew 24:9b).

And He prayed to the Father, “I have given them Your word; and the world hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” (John 17:14).

If those who hate God and His Christ rounded up all those they considered their “thorns in the flesh” would you and I be among those arrested first or would our names be at the bottom of the list?  Would they be on the list anywhere?

We will know how effective we are in our preaching, in our living Christ and our support for the Truth by the measure of our opposition’s fury and hatred against us.  It will not be by our popularity.

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