Saturday, March 11, 2017

These Signs Shall Follow

Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV)
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” 

What does it mean to “Believe” or to have faith?  Faith is the believer’s ability to see what cannot be seen with the natural eye, to hear that which cannot be heard with the natural ear, and to taste what cannot be tasted with the tongue.  Faith is a supernatural manifestation of God’s power that is birthed in the human heart when Gods Word is heard, received, accepted, and acted on – Faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit that is only available to those who have received the gift of the Holy Spirit through baptism and repentance. (see Acts 2:38 & I Corinthians 12:7-11)

It was faith that enabled Elijah to hear the sound of an abundance of rain when no rain had fallen from the sky in over three years, and it was faith that sustained a widow woman through the famine, her meal barrel wasted not and the cruse of oil did not fail until the Lord sent rain according to the word of the Lord by Elijah.

Faith is not a generic mental assent to the truthfulness of the word of God, anyone can say, “I believe in the strength of that bridge to support the weight of my car,” but it’s not faith until you are driving across it.

Mark 16:15-18 (NKJV)
15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.  16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.  17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they[b] will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

We had an incredible move of the Holy Spirit in my home church services last Sunday, it is not really that unusual at our church, but it got me questioning why we don’t see more of God’s power manifested in the lives of those who claim to be believers in many of the churches that I visit?

I believe that the answer lies in a misinterpretation of what Jesus meant when he said, “Those who believe.” In other words, many churches today have a distorted definition of “those who believe.”

The Church in America has raised a generation of “Christians” who attend church on Sunday, when it’s convenient, but are not “Believers.” They are intellectually in agreement with the Bible, but they do not have the power, and subsequently the faith, that comes from the indwelling presence of the Holy Ghost. They have become those that Paul warned Timothy to avoid, people who would arise in the Body of Christ having a form of godliness, but denying its power.

But from Jesus perspective believers are more than a financial base of supporters that mentally assent to the principles of the Church, they are “doers of the Word,”and that is why He said. “17 And these signs will follow those who believe:”

He didn’t say that these signs would accompany some believers and not others.  Jesus’ statement was emphatic, “These signs will follow…”

James 2:18-20
18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.  19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!  20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?

The Apostle James tells us that even the demons believe that there is one God, they know in their minds that God is a reality and it makes them tremble with fear, but devils don’t do any righteous works of faith.  The plague that has infected and weakened the Church of Jesus Christ is that of calling the agreement of the mind “faith,” and it is not!

According to the Word of God, faith has corresponding works, and without works it is dead.  That means that a true believer is not just someone who listens to the preaching of the Word and agrees that it is good, they change their life to conform to what they hear, they are a “doer.”

To agree that tithing is a biblical principle, that transcends both Old and New Covenants, does not make you a believer, it just makes you an assenter, and you can agree and not be a doer, but the minute you act in faith and trust God by giving, even when giving seems impossible – like when the widow used all she had left to make a cake for the prophet, you have become a biblical believer.  The same is true with praying, to agree to the great need of prayer in your life does not make you a praying person, but when you make the time to get into the presence of God on your knees, when you commune with God by faith in prayer, your life will see a change and “these signs” will begin to be manifested in your life.

To agree to Jesus words does not give you power over demons.  To agree to liberty of the Spirit to worship the Lord by praising, clapping the hands, shouting, dancing, does not make you a liberated worshipper.  To agree to Jesus words concerning self-denial and taking up the cross brings us no closer to resurrection power, we must be doers.  Believers are Doers. And Doers are Seers.

The reason so many churches don’t see more of the power and the glory of God, is because we have mistakenly accepted mental assent, an agreement of the mind for believing.  Many people say they believe God’s Word, but if they are not living by its principles, then they don’t really believe, they just agree.  When we really believe the Word of God, and the resulting faith leads us to repentance and obedience, we will begin to see the power of God manifested in our lives, not just on Sunday, but every day.  

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Word Says, Repent not Tolerate!

Text: John 7:14 – 38 (Suggested reading)

Jesus often acted in a manner that was inconsistent with the traditions of men during His life on this earth.  He challenged the man-made traditions of His day.  Much of the Mosaic laws in the OT had been perverted and tradition ruled, instead of God's Word.  Jesus, in this instance and many others, chose not to comply with the weak religious traditions and formalities of the Pharisees.  In the scripture passage above Jesus was attending the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles.  He used this opportunity to teach. 

The people there were amazed by His teachings because Jesus had no “formal” training from the scripture.  Jesus responded by pointing out that His teachings were not His own, they came from the one who had sent Him.  He pointed out to them that Moses had given them the Law, which Moses had received from God, and that none of them were obeying it.  Over the centuries, the traditions of the Pharisees had replaced the law, and what they were left with was what amounted to a religion that was based in tradition, not the principles of God's Word.  What they were left with was a dead religion that could not save anyone.  Paul warns believers against this in the book of Colossians:

“As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” – Colossians 2:7-9

Yet today, in much of Christianity, we see churches leaving the teachings of the Word and following after teachings that are based in the “spiritual forces of this world.”  Many today believe that they are serving God when they really serve traditions that are wholly satanic in nature. For example: "Judge not, lest ye be judged," has come to mean that we can no longer bring the sins of others into the light of God's holiness, and call them sin. Many in the Church today, have developed a live and let live theology, in the name of the satanic secular humanistic philosophy called “tolerance.” Today the worst thing you can be labeled, in the mind of the world and many Christians, is “intolerant.” Jesus never taught that! Jesus taught us that before we judge others, we need to take care of our own sin first. Jesus said, “First remove the plank from your own eye, then you will be able to remove the splinter from your brother’s.”

The Word of God does not teach tolerance, it teaches holiness and repentance. As Christians we need to be more concerned about what God thinks of our lifestyles, and not concerned at all about how intolerant we are perceived by the world around us. Tolerance won’t get you to Heaven, tolerance won’t save you from Hell, Only the blood of Jesus that washes us from all sin can save us, only holiness can keep us!

“These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgences.”  - Colossians 2:22, 23

Jesus uses this opportunity to direct them to a source of power that can not only save them, but would overflow from them and become a source of life for others, “Whoever believes in me, as scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

The church of Jesus Christ needs to stop seeking “political correctness” and get back to hunger and thirst for righteousness. Not everything that society approves of is beneficial, not everything man teaches is correct, in fact many of the things commonly accepted today are not “okay” with God.

This past week I watched a video of Phil Robertson, from Duck Dynasty, speaking at a church in California.  One of the first things he told them was, “I love you.”  Then he went on to tell them that all of us have sinned and need God’s help to cleanse us.  He didn’t say, “I’m okay, you’re okay.”  He told them, “I was a sinner who needed Jesus and so are all of you.” 

And for taking this stance the media and those who do not want to be reminded that they are drinking stagnant water, when a source of living, life giving water is available, jumped all over him to the point of what I would consider persecution.  But Phil’s in good company, they did the same thing to Jesus when He told them they were sinners, “at this they tried to seize Him…the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest Him.” – John 7:30, 32

Many have developed their own version of the church and their own form of religion.  A religion that cannot save them because it lacks the ability to rescue them from the very thing that is bringing about their own death.  Romans 3:23 makes it clear that, “all have sinned and have fallen short,” of the life that God has commanded us to live, and then in Romans 6:23 the Word tells us that because of this we have all earned death.  But the good news is that there is also a gift available to us if we believe and obey the teachings of Christ, eternal life.

In the OT Jeremiah, the prophet, warns of trying to imitate the living water, "For my people have done two evil things: They have abandoned me--the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all!”

A religion that does not address the true condition of man’s heart, cannot provide the life-giving power of Christ, they are meager imitations.  Our source of hope, our source of power to resist sin, and our only true source of life can only be found in Christ.