A Spiritual reality check
Last Sunday, after the service, a brother in the LORD sitting next to me showed me a book written by the well-known evangelist Ray Comfort. The book was titled; “God Has a Wonderful Plan for your Life,” “The Myth of the Modern Message.” On the cover it showed a picture of the stoning of Stephen. I reflected on how could the stoning of Stephen be part of God’s wonderful plan for his life? In much modern evangelism this phrase is used but do those who use it really take into account what being a follower of the Lord Jesus entails? Earlier this week I downloaded the PDF of the book and read it all the way through. Its main emphasis was on the trend in modern evangelism which leaves out the real need of man which is righteousness, a life that will make a person fit for heaven, a righteousness that man cannot obtain by his own will power, religious observance or good deeds.
Facing up to God’s law
It also addressed the realities of coming judgement, hell and the ultimate lake of fire for all those who do not turn from all sin and by faith alone turn to God for mercy and pardon and salvation through the blood and merits of our Lord Jesus Christ. The book also touched on the fact that God’s plan for our life not only produced His peace His joy and forgiveness of course but also included suffering, persecution, and rejection by the world and for some even martyrdom. Ray also emphasized the need to face up to what God’s Law says about our sin. He clearly mentioned that the Law was our schoolmaster to bring us to the Lord Jesus Christ that we might thoroughly repent and turn to Him for mercy, pardon, cleansing and forgiveness for our wilful rebellion against the Law of God. Basically the book is a spiritual reality check.
If the world hates you
The Lord Jesus also said; “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.” (John 15:18-21)
Today we are seeing persecution and martyrdom on a scale unequalled in history and it is going to get worse before the Lord Jesus comes back. Sadly many ministers who profess to believe the Bible are only preaching one side namely the love of God but not preaching about the Law of God and the consequences of those who persist in their sinful living or about the persecution that is coming to the western democracies and seeking to prepare their congregations for the tough times ahead. For many ministers and preachers it is all about a ‘cosy’ Christianity and churches filled with; “chocolate soldiers” as C.T. Stud would often say. The Lord Jesus was saying that if we really love Him and want to imitate Him them we should expect that the world will hate us, and reject us and withdraw from us because they love and prefer darkness rather than light. Added to this many ministers avoid Biblical Eschatology and replace it with Kingdom Now, Kingdom Dominion doctrines. When you look at the exhortations to holy living in the New Testament many of them are directly related to the Day of the LORD and to the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let’s be honest, when you consider the seeker friendly approach to the unsaved in such courses as Alpha and Purpose Driven it is not so much what they are saying but what they are failing to say. After reading Ray Comfort’s book you will realise that the seeker friendly approach will often produce false conversions. Nowhere in scripture do we see the apostles sitting down over a cup of coffee asking people to take of leave the claims of the Lord Jesus Christ. On the contrary we see the apostles preaching God’s command that men everywhere repent because He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the Man He has appointed, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 17:31) The apostles pleaded and exhorted people to repent and as Peter said to those needing to be saved; “save themselves from this crooked and perverse generation.” (Acts 2:40) What was ‘seeker friendly’ about that? Peter went for the spiritual jugular vein! Men’s eternal destiny was at stake!
Repentance comes first
Repentance always comes before refreshing and renewal by the Spirit of God. The Bible says; “Repent, then, and turn back, so that your sins may be wiped away, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus, the Christ, who has been appointed for you.” (Acts 3:19-20) It is never the other way around. While God’s goodness leads to repentance we must first repent as God will not do the repenting for us. Repentance always came first with the message of the prophets, the Lord Jesus and with the apostles. They did not seek to produce some sentimental feeling or to supply a ‘felt’ need as such but plainly told the unsaved that they should repent and have an earnest and heartfelt desire to seek first the Kingdom of God and the righteousness that comes from Him and to have that holiness without which no one shall see the LORD! (Matthew 6:33) (Hebrews 12:14) On the Day of Pentecost after Peter had preached those listening who were convicted about their sin and pricked in their hearts cried out; “Men and Brethren what shall we do?” Likewise the Philippian jailor cried out; “Sirs what must I do to be saved?”
First the Law and then Grace
What Ray Comfort is saying is not new but the Bible way of evangelism not only used by the Lord Jesus and the apostles but by men such as C.H. Spurgeon, D.L. Moody, Charles Finney, William Booth, Charles Wesley, George Whitfield and others whom God used to see sinners convicted first and foremost about their sin and need of God’s righteous standards. God used these champions of His unchanging Word to save ‘sinners’ and to sanctify saints! ‘Sinners’ had the law preached to them first before they had grace preached to them. What God needs to day are overcomers, those who are able to overcome the world the flesh and the devil and to stand their ground against the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life which it is very hard to do in the current climate with the media bombardment of our minds and senses with ungodly, Immoral and hedonistic lifestyles.
A good testimony
The Lord wants those who will resist Satan and give a good testimony to the saving and keeping power of the Lord Jesus Christ! In these last days things are rapidly escalating in a downward spiral morally ethically and spiritually. The world is out of control with the threat of Nuclear War once again looming on the horizon and famines, earthquakes, disease and above all spiritual deception all rampaging across the globe. Christianity in the western democracies is in crisis today, not to mention the general state of the world! This world is under the judgement of God and totters like a hut in the wind because its iniquity is great. The only hope for anyone is repentance towards God and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ for salvation from the power and penalty of sin and deliverance from this present evil age.
Electrifying the fence!
As Paul the apostle wrote; “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.” (Galatians 1:3-4) One of the evidences that we really belong to the Lord Jesus is that we are being saved out of this present evil age. Either we are being conformed to the Lord Jesus Christ or to the pattern of this world that is squeezing us into its mould. There are many “fence sitters” today in Church but God is going to electrify the fence and those who are trying to live in two worlds (if that is really possible?) will have to jump one way or the other. Either we are bond-slaves of the Lord Jesus Christ or bond slaves to the devil, we cannot be both!
Times are tough!
Times are tough and are going to get tougher as this age comes to a close. As the Lord Jesus also said; “There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves (nations in turmoil), men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”(Luke 21:25-28)
Only those who are the overcomers will be able to straighten up and lift up their heads in anticipation of the rescue coming from heaven! The Lord Jesus also said that because of lawlessness the love (agape) of most Christians will grow cold. (Matthew 24:12) He wasn’t speaking about those who are not saved but believers who have known the agape of God shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5) but who,through embracing lawlessness, have lost their first love for the Lord Jesus and His Word and are in danger of falling away from the faith. One of my favourite lecturers in Bible College Lazenby once said well over 40 years ago now; “When a Christian begins to backslide everything seems greased for the occasion!” If those “falling away” are not really saved in the first place then what are they falling away from? Many will fall away in these last days. The apostasy has started and is soon to come into full swing making way for the Antichrist. (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4)
Can persecution be God’s will?
God is not one who willingly wants His people to suffer but suffering in the will of God is part and parcel of being a follower of the Lord Jesus. The apostle Peter understood this when he wrote; “..And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should entrust their souls to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” (1 Peter 4:18-19) Even the best of saints will at times experience suffering to a greater or lesser degree and at such times they are to entrust their souls to their faithful creator and continue to do good. Satan will cause us to suffer to get us to give up or to compromise our faith and commitment to the Lord Jesus. When you consider Job and what he suffered he was able to say; “He knows the way that I take and when He has tested me I shall come forth as gold.” Job’s faith and patience was greatly rewarded in this life and undoubtedly in the life to come. God in His loving benevolence knows how much we can take and He will always say to the devil; “So far and no further!” as he did for the sake of Job. Our Lord Jesus also spoke about persecution and suffering for His names sake when He said; “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another.” (Matthew 24:9-10)
In the Book of Revelation the apostle John tells us about those who will overcome in the last days. What are the marks of the overcomers that will be a conspicuous feature just before our Lord Jesus comes back? In the context of Revelation chapter twelve it is when the persecution of the Antichrist’s beast empire is at its worst. When you look at what ISIS have been doing and what happens to faithful Christians in ther Muslim world today can the Antichrist’s empire do any worse? And so we read about the overcomers… “And they overcame him (Satan) because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.” How did these precious saints overcome Satan? These saints not only represent faithful believers down through history but also the saints in these last days just before our Lord Jesus comes back. Satan knows that his time is short and is turning up the heat on faithful believers all over the world today. How then can we as bond slaves of the Lord Jesus Christ overcome Satan in these last days? There are three things we can see from the Word of God…
1. They overcame Satan by the Blood of the Lamb
“And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb” As believers we must never underestimate the power and effectiveness of the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. It has power to atone for sin (1 John 2:2) and to cleanse from the deepest stains of sin (1 John 1:7-9) and to protect us in the day of God’s wrath upon sin. (Romans 5:9) Added to this it has power to get down deep on the inside of us and to purge the conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (Hebrews 9:14) Today in many churches the ministers never mention the blood and there are many of their church members who do not know or experience the power of the blood of Jesus to keep them clean from defilement of flesh and spirit and to give them power over Satan.
Make much of the blood of Jesus
We can never make too much over the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ through which God sets us apart to Himself through the Holy Spirit applying the blood of Jesus to the doorposts of our hearts and lives. We need to see afresh that without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness. (Hebrews 9:22) Satan hates the blood of Jesus and you will find that those who are into the occult and worship Satan mock the blood of Jesus in their covens. Actually Satan and his minions from hell and those under his power are frightened by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and tremble when they are faced with its power! If we do not know by revelation of the Spirit what the blood of Jesus can do for us in our war with Satan then we are spiritually at a disadvantage and susceptible to Satan’s attacks.
2. They overcame Satan by their word of testimony
“…and because of the word of their testimony.” Confession with our mouth is part and parcel of being saved. (Romans 10:9-13) The Bible does not say anywhere that the followers of our Lord Jesus are to be silent about their faith. In fact when the faithful followers of the Lord Jesus were persecuted we read where; “those who had been scattered (through persecution) preached the word wherever they went.” (Acts 8:4) In fact the one conspicuous feature of the New Testament, especially in the Book of Acts, the believers testified continuously to the Word of God and preached repentance and faith to all they could. There were no ‘silent’ Christians. No ‘seeker friendly’ stuff but bold and powerful preaching that saw ‘sinners’ saved and saints sanctified. They testified to the power of the blood of Jesus.
Taking the blood out of the bowl
On the night of the Passover when the destroying angel passed through Egypt the Israelites were to kill a sacrificial lamb and put it into a bowl and then splash it liberally on the doorposts for protection from the coming wrath of God upon Egypt. The blood was not effective until it was taken out of the bowl and splattered on the doorposts. We can know about the blood of Jesus and what it can do and this is like having it in the bowl. However, when we confess to what the Bible says the blood of Jesus does for us is when it becomes effective. Our tongue is the trigger that releases the power of the blood! It is like the Israelites taking the blood out of the bowl and applying it outwardly for all to see. When we confess what the Bible says the blood of Jesus can do for us and others Satan trembles and the foundations of hades shake!.
3. They overcame Satan by not loving their life in this world even when faced with death.
“…and they did not love their life even when faced with death.” In the last two centuries more believers have died for their faith than in any other past century sice the New Testament times. We have seen the demise of the Middle-Eastern Church at the hands of Islam over the centuries which really started when Mohammad and his predecessors persecuted Christians and Jews. The churches in the western democracies are yet to face their hour of crucifixion. What happened to the Lord Jesus in His last days will happen again to His Body the faithful Church in its last days. Satan will be cast down and will be wreaking havoc on the earth. We have seen nothing yet. What kind of believers will we see in this day when all hell breaks loose in the western Church as it has done in the Middle-Eastern Church? The apostle John tells us that those who believe in and confess what the blood of Jesus does for them will also be empowered by the Holy Spirit to live for the Lord Jesus as His bond-slaves and not be conformed to this present evil age.
Entrusting our souls to our faithful creator
Not every believer will be called to martyrdom but many will suffer in other ways such as rejection by their peers and colleagues and family members, loss of job opportunities, being dragged into court because of their witness, being imprisoned for offending others because of preaching Jesus as the only way of salvation and supposedly promoting religious intolerance. Seeking persecution is not normal and we are told by the Lord Jesus that when we are persecuted in one city that we should flee to the next and of course take the gospel of the kingdom with us. However, if this is impossible then we should entrust our souls to our faithful creator and continue His work while we can.
Sharing in His suffering
If we have to give up our lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus then we must be prepared to do this. We have His assurance that He will empower us at such times and be with us in a special way to strengthen us in our hour of martyrdom. The apostle Peter wrote; “…But rejoice that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed at the revelation of His glory. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” (1 Peter 4:13-14)
Not a hair on your head will perish
Our Lord Jesus also said; “But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake. It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony. So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute. But you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, and you will be hated by all because of My name. Yet not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives.” (Luke 21:12-19)
When the going gets tough the tough get going!
Corrie Ten Boom said that when she was a little girl and knew she was to take a ride on the train her father always gave her the ticket when it came time to board the train and not before! We may not see how we will go if we are faced with martyrdom. Can we accept that it is all part of the wonderful plan God has for our lives? It has eternal rewards beyond human imagination! The things we have to endure in our everyday lives are preparing us for the tough times ahead. There was a song on the hit charts many years ago now and the lyrics went something like this; “When the going gets tough, the tough get going!” May we who love the Lord Jesus and His Word be His bond slaves for the rest of our days on this earth and be those who at the end overcome Satan by the blood of the Lamb, by the word of our testimony and by not loving our lives even unto the death. As the late Ken Craig, a retired Missionary always said; “Its not how you start but how you finish that counts!” May God’s grace enable it to be so for us!
Shalom. Brother Raoul