The more I talk about Christ with others the more I’m made acutely aware that our society’s hang up with faith is not at all a failure to believe in God. Nearly all people acknowledge, or are at least open to, the existence of God. Where our culture stumbles is in believing in personal depravity. We can all recognize that we have fallen far short of perfection, that we sometimes make poor choices, and that we sometimes hurt others. But we refuse (and adamantly do not want) to believe that these imperfect and hurtful actions are sins, that they are wicked, and that place us in rebellion to God. By failing to believe that our own wicked decisions and actions have placed us at odds with our creator, we can see no need for salvation, and no necessity for a Savior.
Of the 50+ postings I’ve made on TruthByGrace.org, the runaway most-read post remains the “Top 5 Most Misquoted, Misused, and Misunderstood Bible Verses.”
Given the preoccupation with misused Bible verses, I want share what I find to be, by far, one of the most intriguing, and perhaps unrealized, modern misquotations of the Bible. In a 2004 poll, Samuel L. Jackson’s misquotation of Ezekiel 25:17, in Pulp Fiction, was voted the fourth best movie speech of all time.
I’m sure many of you are familiar with the scene. Jackson says,
“Do you read the Bible, Brett? Well there’s this passage I’ve got memorized – sort of fits this occasion. Ezekiel 25:17.”
Then Jackson goes on to deliver what appears to be a tremendously dramatic Bible exhortation:
“The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.”
*The following video contains violent content not suitable for all viewers.
The thing is, the quotation above is not at all a proper rendering of Ezekiel 25:17. The actual verse reads as follows:
Ezekiel 25:17 And I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall lay my vengeance upon them.
Sure Jackson’s quote finishes along the same lines as the Bible verse, but the preceding lines in Pulp Fiction’s rendition appear nowhere in the Bible, and certainly not in Ezekiel chapter 25. Additionally, there are a couple of theological inconsistencies present in the Pulp Fiction monologue. Admittedly, Quentin Tarantino, the writer and director of Pulp Fiction, dreamed up this quotation as a re-imagining of several Biblical themes, and reworked them as a monologue that he believed best expressed the drama intended for the movie scene.
Pretty much all of the themes Jackson’s passage incorporates are found in different places in the Bible, but they are all re-workings, not true to the original text. The portion of the monologue about the tyranny of evil men is inspired by Ezekiel 34. The portion about the valley of darkness refers to King David’s words in Psalm 23, and the portion about being one’s brother’s keeper refers to the first human death, occurring in Genesis 4, in which Cain, after murdering his brother, asks the LORD, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
It should be noted that this post is neither an endorsement of Tarantino’s re-rendering the Bible, nor of the movie Pulp Fiction as a theological guide. I would hope that much would be obvious. But, what I do find most interesting, and want to point out, is that often over-looked in this incredibly popular film is the salvation story of Samuel L. Jackson’s character Jules Winnfield. Toward the end of the movie the savage bounty hunter experiences what clearly seems to resemble the effectual calling of the LORD.
Winnfield, who seemed to have always had a passing fascination with the way the words of the Bible sounded (rather than what they actually meant), comes to confess that in the context of (his rendition of) Ezekiel 25:17, he has always been “the tyranny of evil men.” But by divine revelation (or as he called it, “a moment of clarity”) he has come to the realization that he must denounce his wicked ways and strive to ”be the shepherd.” Jules Winnfield has experienced what Ezekiel 36:26-27 tell us is a regeneration of the heart.
Ezekiel 36:26-27 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
*The following video contains language not suitable for all viewers.
As the end of the movie nears, this enlightened Jules Winnfield, rather than kill a man that he previously would have, says this about (his rendering of) Ezekiel 25:17:
“Now… I been sayin’ that *** for years. And if you ever heard it, that meant your ***. You’d be dead right now. I never gave much thought to what it meant. I just thought it was a cold-blooded thing to say to a ***** before I popped a cap in his ***. But I saw some **** this mornin’ made me think twice. […] See, now I’m thinking it could mean you’re the righteous man and I’m the shepherd and it’s the world that’s evil and selfish. And I’d like that. But that **** ain’t the truth. The truth is you’re the weak. And I’m the tyranny of evil men. But I’m tryin’, Ringo. I’m tryin’ real hard to be the shepherd.”
And for that reason, rather than kill Ringo, Jules shares this brief testimony and gives Ringo his wallet (which Ringo was trying to steal). In doing so he begins the process of repentance, turning from his prior way of life.
Lost in the melee of the artistic brilliance and grunge that Pulp Fiction truly is, lies a beautiful, realistic, and moving depiction of God’s sovereign grace in the redemption of lost men. See, God demonstrates His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Nothing we have done on our own qualifies us more than another for the saving grace of God. It is of no advantage to a person who feels they have lived more righteously than another if they are without faith in Christ. The Bible is explicit in telling us that separate from being reborn in Christ there is no one who does good, not even one (Romans 3:12). But the good news is that God wishes to show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us through Jesus Christ, and by grace God saves the wicked through their faith. This faith is not anyone’s own doing; but it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:7-8.) This is the gift Jules Winnfield, in Pulp Fiction, is experiencing. You see, in sending Christ to die on the cross, God made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God. This is how wicked people, incapable of consistently doing the right thing, incapable of controlling our thoughts, incapable of controlling our mouths, and incapable of always acting rightly (guys like Jules Winnfield…guys like myself, and each and everyone of us)…this is how Christ brings us to reconciliation with God the Father. Jules Winnfield had his “come to Jesus moment.” By his faith he was made new. Maybe you’ve never picked up on that part of this movie before…maybe you have. But by your faith in the Lord, you can be forgiven. God will put in you a new heart, and give you a fresh start to live in right standing with Him. You need only repent and believe in Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).
**I would like to add that this post is not an endorsement of the graphic content or unrighteous themes of the movie, Pulp Fiction, nor is it an endorsement of the movie as a theological guide. Rather, this post is an attempt to shine the light of Biblical Truth amongst movie fans that might otherwise not hear the gospel and choose to remain in darkness, continuing to view this movie quote as nothing more than (as Jackson’s character would say), “a cold-blooded thing to say to a ***** before I pop a cap in his ***.”
***Download Full PDF Version (The PDF version is a more thorough, technical, reworking and elaboration on the contents of the original post further incorporating feedback and input from the comments section below. I chose to include this PDF as a separate document rather than editing the original post for fear of tampering with the effectiveness of the original post or damaging the integrity of the ongoing dialogue in the comments section. If you enjoy this post I do hope you will appreciate the PDF as it has additional content.) ***
Chad W. Hussey is an average Jesus loving iconoclastic non-conformist neighborhood hope dealer – a husband, father, urban missionary, community group leader, Master of Divinity student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Community Life Intern at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, KY.
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1 Corinthians 13:12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.
1 Corinthians 2:9 That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”
Hebrews 10:35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.
Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Do good…share what you have…sacrifice in faith.
This life is not the reward…but tomorrow…
And the Lecrae song, “Sacrifice”
Lecrae, whose last album Gravity debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200, released his new mixtape – Church Clothes 2 featuring Paul Wall, Bun B, BOB, David Banner, etc. – for free download today at 1:16 Eastern (Romans 1:16 – For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.) This is a BIG DAY as Christian Rap crosses over to mainstream and reaches a huge new audience of non-beleivers. Listen and download the mixtape below.
If you’ve ever questioned the depth of God’s love or the measure of His patience, you truly need to watch this video. This short film, produced by the teaching team at Irving Bible Church (led by E. Andrew McQuitty and including Dallas Seminary professor Barry Jones) is a deeply emotional, beautifully directed, contemporary portrait of the book of Hosea. Hosea tells the story of a prophet’s deep love and unfailing commitment to his unfaithful wife. This is the allegorical depiction of the unfailing covenant love of God for His people.
CLICK “PLAY ALL”
Here is a brief selection of verses from Hosea chapters 1-3 which tell the story of Hosea’s unfailing commitment to his wife.
1:2 When the Lord first began speaking to Israel through Hosea, he said to him, “Go and marry a prostitute, so that some of her children will be conceived in prostitution. This will illustrate how (God’s people have) acted (adulterously) by turning against the Lord (making other pursuits their priority, idolizing temporal earthly gain, and) worshipping other gods.”
2:2 (Hosea tells his children) “Plead with your mother, plead…that she put away her whoring…and her adultery…3 (otherwise I will) strip her naked and make her as in the day she was born (publicly exposed and helpless)…5…she…has acted shamefully. For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers, (and sell myself to them to attain all I need)’ 7 She shall pursue her lovers…but shall not find (happiness, nor her needs met by) them. Then she shall say, ‘I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now.’ 13 And I will punish her for…she…adorned herself with her ring and jewelry, and went after her lovers and forgot me…”
14 “(Then), behold, (I will forgive her) I will allure her, (I will show her mercy) and speak tenderly to her (and win her back). 15 And there I will give her…a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth…16 “And…will call me ‘My Husband,’…18 And I will make…a covenant (promise) on that day…and I will…(enable her) to lie down (unafraid in peace and) in safety 19 …(with me) forever…in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. 20 I will be faithful to (her) and…(she will be) mine…
3:1 And the Lord said to (Hosea), “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, (this is how) the Lord loves (His) children…
Hopefully this helps you understand the depth of the love and commitment that God has for His children, and how our sinful behavior and our rejection of God truly appears from a third person perspective. I find it difficult to watch this video without feeling a strong need to repent and run to God. Despite our continuing to ignore Him, and our refusal to obey Him, He continues to pursue us to the ends of the Earth. He has not given up on you and is waiting with open arms for your return to Him. Ask for His forgiveness…He will forgive you. God is love.
Is Your Christian Faith Biblical?
Many Christians, who are not well versed in the Bible, combine elements of the Bible, church tradition, culture, other religions, and personal beliefs to create belief systems that don’t actually align with the teachings of the Lord they profess to follow. There is a recent trend in Christianity, a somewhat knee-jerk reaction to our post-modern culture’s proclivity to relativism and tolerance, that has led many Christians (and even Christian leaders) to shy away from clear teaching of the Bible. In some cases there are Christians who have questioned teachings of the Bible or even attempted to reconstruct long held Christian doctrines to fit within the confines of our country’s new cultural beliefs. For this reason I have constructed a quick test to help determine if our individual beliefs, and the beliefs of our churches, are truly in line with the Bible. Answer the yes or no questions, and then check them against the answers below.
1. Do you believe man evolved from something other than humans…a bacteria or another species of animal (IE. apes)?
2. Do you believe any of the following: that God and creation are one, that creation is a manifest part of God, that the universe is contained within God, or that God exists within creation?
3. Do you believe that all people are united to one another other and to the universe in mind, spirit, and body?
4. Do you believe the human mind has the potential to alter or override physical reality?
5. Do you believe people have the ability (independent of the work of God through the Holy Spirit) to heal illness by belief, with the mind, by touch, or by spoken word?
6. Do you believe that it is possible to believe desired outcomes into existence (IE. thinking positive thoughts will bring positive outcomes into existence)?
7. Do you believe that God accepts people into heaven based on the merits of the life they live, if they live a life of good, of love, or of good works?
8. Do you believe that the God of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Bhuddism, etc. all share the same God, and the different religions are merely God’s way of reaching different people?
9. Do you believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God and do you place yourself, your beliefs, and your actions under the authority of the Bible?
10. Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, God Himself come to earth in human flesh, and is an equal part of the Holy Trinity?
11. Do you believe Christ physically (in the body) rose from the grave and ascended into heaven?
12. Do you believe the atoning work of the blood of Christ is mandatory for the salvation of a sinner from the wrath of God (including eternal separation from God in hell), and that faith in Christ is the only way that a person can be reconciled and placed in right standing with God?
13. Do you believe the Holy Spirit of God is exclusively granted to believers in Jesus Christ as Lord?
14. Do you believe Christ’s Church is consecrated and set apart from the world?
15. Do you believe that faith is the free, unmerited gift of God, granted to His chosen by His grace, and that while we pursue righteousness, faith is not developed by works, logical reasoning, or the convincing of man?
16. Do you believe that Christ will physically return to earth at the Day of the Lord to gather His elect, and to tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty against non-believers?
1. If you answered yes to #1, you are a believer in the scientific theory of macro-evolution. This theory is so far unproven, and in conflict with Genesis 2:7 which says, “then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” You can learn more about science’s inability to prove macro-evolution here:
2. If you answered yes to #2, you hold some variation of the heretical views of pantheism or panentheism. These beliefs contradict Genesis 1:1 which says, “God created the heavens and the earth,” and Hebrews 11:3, which teaches, God created everything from nothing (ex nihilo). Matthew 5:48 says God is perfect and Malachi 3:6 says He does not change. The idea that God would have a portion of Himself that is corrupted by sin, wicked, and destined for destruction (Revelation 20:15) is in contradiction to the very character of God which is eternal, perfect, and holy (Deuteronomy 33:27, Isaiah 6:3).
3-6. If you answered yes to any of questions 3-6, you hold beliefs from the non-Christian religion, New Age.
3. The Bible says in Psalm 4:3 that we are not all one in body and spirit, but that “the Lord has set apart the godly for Himself,” In John 15:17 Christ says we are not of this world, just as He is not of the world. In Romans 12:2 we are instructed to not conform to the world.
4&5. Christ taught in Matthew 17:20 that with enough faith Christians will be able to move mountains. The faith He speaks of however, is not a faith in ourselves and our own abilities, but faith that God will move mountains for us. Christ Himself said that the power by which He performed His miracles was not his own, but the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:18). In Christianity we are not to depend on our own abilities, but to pray to God for the aid of His Holy Spirit.
6. If you answered yes to #6, you believe in the New Age belief in the power of positive thinking. Some feel good preachers teach that by speaking power over our circumstances we can will change into existence. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 however says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Clearly we all know that our lives will not always be perfect, and there will be times when we will all endure suffering. So often we want God to change our circumstances and we pray that He would, but we are reluctant to accept the truth that God has placed us in our circumstances to bring about change in us. This is not meant to discount the importance of prayer, as it is paramount, but rather to bring about awareness that as followers of Christ we are not called to attempt to influence God’s will, but rather, to make it the desire of our heart to live in submission to it. Our confidence lies in the greatness of our God. We can always be confident that He will provide us exactly what we need. What we need may not be exactly what we want. In Luke 22:42 Christ demonstrates that even He lived in submission to the Father’s will when he said, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” We are to trust God’s plans for our lives and seek to align our hearts with them.
7. If you answered yes to #7 you are holding to a false doctrine of works based righteousness. This belief that a person can earn their way into heaven by their good deeds is the same belief that Christ condemned the Pharisees for. The Good News of the gospel is that we are save by our faith in Christ. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
8. If you answered yes to #8, you hold the heresy of Universalism. This is the belief that all roads lead to God. This contradicts the words of Christ when in John 14:6 He says, “I am THE WAY, and THE TRUTH, and THE LIFE. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Christ, here, says He is the absolute Truth, and the only way to salvation. If this sounds exclusive it is because it is. Jesus was crucified by the religious leaders of the day because He was outspoken in stating that He is God, and that He is the only way. Some people say that Christ never claimed to be God, but in John 14:8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father; that will be enough for us.” 9 Jesus replied, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been with you all this time? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” Jesus is God. Anyone who does not know Jesus, does not know God.
9-16. If you answered yes to #9-16, you hold to sound Christian doctrines as expressed in the Holy Bible. These doctrines can be seen most clearly in the following places in the Bible: (9) 1 Timothy 3:16 (10) John 1:14 (11) Luke 24:39 (12) 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 (13) Acts 2:38 (14) 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 (15) Ephesians 2:8-9, 2 Timothy 1:8-11 (16) Matthew 24:29-31, Revelation 19:20
I hope this test was helpful, and my prayer is that all of us will always continue to prayerfully and thoughtfully seek Truth and seek to grow in knowledge and relationship with our LORD. Some people fear learning more about God because they are comfortable with God in the terms by which they imagine Him, and are afraid they would uncover something that they would not like. This is understandable, but a wise man once posed the following question to me, “If you knew God better, would you love Him more, or would you love Him less?” I have found it very encouraging to ponder that question. Someday we will come face to face with God, and on that day we will see Him perfectly. Let us hope that on that day, when we know Him rightly, we will love Him more.
Chad W. Hussey is an average Jesus loving iconoclastic non-conformist neighborhood hope dealer – a husband, father, urban missionary, community group leader, Master of Divinity student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Community Life Intern at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, KY.
In the Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis, Uncle Screwtape, a senior ranking devil writes letters of advice to his nephew, Wormwood, a junior tempter. In one letter he directs the attention of his young nephew to the following point, “…you will have noticed that nothing throws (a person) into a passion so easily as to find a tract of time which he reckoned on having at his own disposal unexpectedly taken from him. […] (This perceived loss angers) him because he regards his time as his own and feels that it is being stolen.” Screwtape goes on to encourage the young temper to, “Let him have the feeling that he starts each day as the lawful possessor of twenty-four hours. Let him feel as a grievous tax that portion of this property which he has to make over to his employers, and as a generous donation that further portion which he allows to religious duties.”
C.S. Lewis concludes, “…man can neither make, nor retain, one moment of time; it all comes to him by pure gift; he might as well regard the sun and moon as his (personal possessions).” In the end, man has no ownership over time, and the idea of ownership of time is a foolish notion, being that our time is clearly God given, and God’s to cease giving.
My realization in reading this piece is that, while I desire to give all of myself to Christ, the thing I most selfishly cling to and begrudgingly relinquish is the last of my free time. I place a higher value on time than on possessions or money, and where the cliché will say, “time is money,” I literally treasure my time. I’m not talking about moments in time or memories, but literally, the time itself – the free time to do what I want to do, even if it is doing nothing. Christ says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” and where many will link this verse to monetary wealth, I have been forced to make an examination of how I spend my time, and called to make a better effort to steward my time in ways that better please and glorify God.
This text further disturbed me as I truly want to believe I endeavor to have a servant’s heart. I am by no means fully self-sacrificing, but I believe I desire to be. I believe this begins with the recognition that we are not our own, but were bought at a price (1 Corinthians 6:19). The cost of our souls was the life of our God in the flesh. He cashed His life in, purchasing ours, and covering our debt. Christ gave his life, not just in death, but also in living sinlessly (in traveling, teaching, preaching, and healing – always doing the work and will of God even when it conflicted with his own self-preservation). Christ did this all to pay the cost to reconcile us sinners to the Father. Hence we should recognize we are not our own.
If I acknowledge that I am not my own, and I willingly give my life to Christ, then certainly, in fullness, this must include the forfeiture of my time, which clearly I have idolatrized and continue to place far too high a value on. Our lives (not our existences, but our lives as we perceive them here on earth) are truly just the days our souls spend encapsulated in these present vessels – our earthly bodies. God, however, promises that our souls exist independently of this earth (where time constrains), and are eternal. Somehow the idolatrizing of time must absolutely be indicative of a lack of faith in the eternality of our souls. Who would be so concerned with every minute, if we believed we had forever?
Psalm 90:12 says, teach us to number our days. This demonstrates that our days in this body are limited, come at a high premium, and should not be wasted. This, however, does not mean that we should be selfishly and fearfully hoarding our time for the purposes of self-worship – making ourselves our highest priority, and seeking endeavors that ultimately come to nothing more than our own vanity. We are offered such a limited time to come to know Christ, to introduce others to Him, and to get to the business to which He has called us. With this in mind I feel a very real need to let go of my grasp on time and invest it in ways that better satisfy Him. In doing so I believe I will also be better satisfied in Him. After all, it would seem that neither legacies nor memories are ever built in the moments when we are hoarding time, but always in the moments when we are spending it.
Psalm 42:5 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation 6 and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember You…7 Deep calls to deep at the roar of Your waterfalls; all Your breakers and Your waves have gone over me.
This is a sermon that was inspired by this blog post, and was preached in the Alumni Chapel at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY as part of a preaching practicum.
These are powerful words from King David, a man after God’s own heart. A man who experienced both times of unmatchable joy, and times of extreme, terrible anguish. In all things, high and low, David found complete fullness in His relationship with the LORD. Here David delivered a paramount analogy of our souls’ longing for the comforting, healing, and filling Spirit that can only be had in relationship with our Father. David says “Deep calls to deep.”
“In the grandeur of Nature there are awful harmonies. When the storm agitates the ocean below, the heavens above hear the tumult and answer to the clamor. Down comes a deluge of sonorous hail or swift-descending rain, attended with peals of thunder and flashes of flame. Frequently the waterspout, of which David speaks…evidences the sympathy of the two great waters above and beneath the firmament—the great deep above stretches out its hands to the great deep below and in voice of thunder their old relationship is recognized. It is almost as if the twin seas remembered how once they lay together in the same cradle of confusion till the decree of the Eternal appointed each his bounds and place. ‘Deep calls unto deep’—one splendor of creation holds fellowship with another.”
-Charles Spurgeon, Sermon No. 865
When life’s storms rage, and perils come in succession, the waves crash over us, a dark cloud settles above us, and the storm rages down upon us. We find ourselves stranded in the deep, waves crashing…they continue again and again – billowing over us, unrelenting, unyielding…mercilessly commanding surrender…leaving us desperately crying out for a rescuing hand of salvation.
As the plummeting power of the waters of the sky call out a tumultuous response from the waters of the sea, so too is reflected the powerful call of God – the call sent forth from the deepest chambers of His being to the most inward parts of our hearts. As the wind and the rain stir the waves of the deep, so too does God’s immeasurably deep call intend to stir an echo with us. In the Bible the LORD’s voice is described as the roar of rushing waters (Ezekiel 43:2,Revelation 14:2). The cry of God’s voice, roaring like the waterfalls, paints the picture of God’s yearning command that you cry back to Him from the deepest, most longing places in your heart.
In life’s storms, the strongest of us are made helpless, the highest of us are brought low, the high, mighty, and proud spirits are humbled, and only what is of crucial importance becomes the sole pursuit of our hearts. In a time of drowning, what will we cling to? Will a drowning man cling to his treasure? Will he cling to his pride, being content to sink to death, holding on to possessions which can not save him? Or, will the drowning man let go of all that is not able to save and extend his hand to its fullest reach, and with all his might stretch out for the hand of his savior? Will we reach out for life?
A person diagnosed with cancer quickly finds the priorities of their life changed. No longer do they find themselves concerned with a promotion at work, or the latest Iphone. A person who is losing a loved one can not find adequate joy in a new car, or living vicariously through the lives of reality TV personalities. There comes a time when we all will have lived long enough to know we bleed. There comes a time when life happens. There comes a time when we will all experience a hurt so deep that there will be no adequate solace found on this earth. There will come a deep hurt that can only be mended by a healing more soothing than any medicine this world can provide. In that time, there is the realization that there can be no clinging to our treasure or clinging to our pride. There is no consolation in temporal earthly things. We come to realize our possessions can not save, nor even distract our attentions, from the sinking of our souls. It’s in this time we are brought to the realization that we must let go, we must stop looking around us, and start looking above us. The call is coming like the roar of a waterfall from the depths of Heaven. It’s in this time we must echo the call, cry out in response, and reach out for life. A deep sea of affliction requires a deeper sea of grace. A deep despair calls for the deliverance of a God of infinitely deeper mercy.
Deep calls to deep.
The Hebrew word for deep, “tehom,” refers to an immeasurable chasm, an abyss.
Everyone recognizes there is a deep emptiness within us. There is an undeniable longing for something more. Many, many people believe this void can be filled by attaining more of what we already have. If what we already have isn’t satisfying then more of it must be the answer. More success, more power, more money, more friends, more square footage, more toys, more clothes, more vacations, more freedom, more stability, more excitement, more danger, more drugs, more alcohol, more sex. MORE! We believe that if we pile enough of these things into the empty chasm in our souls that we will be able to fill them. The media says more, the advertisers say more, the celebrities say more, and even the American Dream itself tells us to aspire and we can achieve and attain more. But true spiritual contentment never comes from more of what we already have. Even when we think we are happy, this happiness is fleeting. We never find lasting contentment by building our foundations on the temporal things that do not last. In a single moment our lives come crashing down. Then, when we are weighed on the scales…ultimately we are only found wanting. Unfulfilled with nothing solid to lean on….wanting something we still do not have, and lacking that which is required.
This has happened because man was created full and whole. At creation, man was made in complete harmony with God, heaven, and all the earth. There was perfect relationship with God, and peace in the souls of man. Then When Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, sin entered the world, and a deep rift was driven between man and God. This separation manifests in the immeasurable chasm between man and God that exists inside our very souls. Our souls long to return to the fullness and wholeness we were created to have, but on its own, the soul can not mend. This emptiness is not a void that can be filled with power, money, success, drugs, or even more grandchildren. This chasm is simply too deep. Too genuine. Our souls cry out to all creation, and there is only one thing that can fill the immeasurable emptiness within us. This deep emptiness cries out for a deeper love, a deeper provision, and a filling of the Spirit – The only One deep enough to repair this void.
Deep calls to deep.
Over the course of our lives we have all buried ourselves so deep, under such a wretched heap of sin, that those of us willing to humbly examine ourselves can only come to own that there is a terrible amount of hurt we’ve caused our LORD, others, and ultimately ourselves. Beneath this heap of sin and hurt we realize that we lie practically paralyzed – enslaved in the bondage of our iniquity. We become reserved to the idea that we are idolaters, liars, slanderers, gossips, manipulators, cheats, and addicts, and become convinces that that’s just simply who we are. We are wallowing, dead, in a pit of filth and transgression so deep that only a God of greater grace, deeper forgiveness, and a love as deep as the oceans could wash over us and cleanse us, plant us back on our feet, give us new life.
Deep calls to deep.
Many who have received Christ as their savior, and believe, still do not feel the deep peace that comes from being filled with the Holy Spirit. They believe that Christ alone will not bring all fulfillment, but cling to their old ways, believing that their sinful desires will be more satisfying than Christ alone. This is the unfortunate result of a continued seeking for carnal, worldly pleasures, and a lack of dependence and trust in the ways and provision of the LORD. Sadly, this straddling between two masters leads to people being unfulfilled in both the world, and in the Church. The LORD demands to know, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions (1 Kings 18:21)?” How long will you straddle between the sinful ways of the world, and the righteous ways of God? Until you are willing to stop straddling between two branches, and go out on the limb with Him, you will never make it to the fruit. You will never truly have faith that peace is found in letting Him support you. Believers who do not feel the fullness and contentment of life in Christ should seek to go further with the LORD. Christ plus nothing equals everything. Where you go deeper, the Spirit has the depth to fill you. You will not outpace Him. He can provide a contentment not found in carnal pleasures or worldly temporal gain. All you need do is measure the expanse of the earth, or number the visible stars of the sky and realize you are only one tiny person in one small corner of God’s great creation. We have an infinitely bigger Father who longs to take us infinitely deeper. He is ready and waiting to take you there. He desires to take you into His everlasting embrace and shower you with His grace. Trust He is the source of deep contentment and peace and is the only One capable of bringing fullness to your life.
Deep calls to deep.
And between you and I, brothers and sisters…children of the living God…Only a call from the depths of our hearts can provoke a response in the depths of another. A shallow sales pitch will never stir the depths of others. Nor should these shallow, forced presentations of the gospel even be necessary. When you know the love of God, your contagious enthusiasm for the Lord will spill out uncontrollably. His light will reflect in you. Like Moses off the mountaintop, those who come in contact with the LORD glow. Only the deep reaches the deep. Likewise, only those who are willing to dig deep into their hearts, examine themselves, and be honest with their deepest feelings will respond to the deep call. We know this because we know what it is to connect with someone on a deeper level. We know what it is to feel something pierce beyond the superficial and resonate within us. We know when someone is genuine, when someone is in love, and we know when something stirs deep within someone’s heart…to the point it actually touches ours.
So, I cry out from the depths of my heart to the depths of yours. I was lost and hurting, empty and wanting. I was seeking in every place, in every way, and desperately lost, finding no fulfillment. I struggled with a terrible depression, a hopeless emptiness, an endless seeking, and a desperate belief that that was simply what life was. I became bitter. I became selfish. I blamed others. I hurt others. Badly. A lot of people, a lot of times. I was blind to the realization that I was this way. I thought I was a good person. I tried to tell myself I was happy. I tried to convince others I was happy. But I knew I wasn’t fulfilled, and my actions were the result of that. I put my every focus on myself – my search for my “happiness.”
Then God brought the rain roaring down on me, and He brought His waves crashing over my head. I tried to hold my life, as I knew it, together. But it unraveled. I was undone…exposed…a fraud. Then I collapsed. All that was left for me was surrender….to stop resisting and to give God what He had always been after…my heart…to accept that all He ever really wanted to do was save me from myself. Like a father watches a son continuously walk into peril, God said to me, “Enough!!!” And He reached down and snatched me up and saved me. He put me back on my feet and changed me. That was the beginning of my walk – my fall, and my rebirth. The greatest thing that ever happened to me. Many people would tell you that the greatest day of their lives was the day they were married…or the day their children were born. I would tell you that those days do not come close to the day the Heavenly Father came for me. That was the beginning of a joy that has been a complete explosion in the depths of me. I was baptized on August 12, 2013, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and since that moment I have walked in a freedom and fullness that I have never known. I want so desperately for everyone to know this love. This love of the God who is who He says He is. I urge you from the bottom of my heart, to seek comfort in the only One who can meet you in your deepest need. The one who knows you, fills you, and heals you in the deepest parts of who you are. If you are already a believer, I urge you…go deeper! Let go of your baggage that is only weighing you down. You will not find the ends of His love, and you will not seek him in vain. Seek and you shall find. No matter how deep you go, He will go there with you. The more you give up, the more you find. I know because I am experiencing it…more and more each day. I love you and I want you to know these things. I don’t tell you these things because I read somewhere that it was what I was supposed to do, or because I feel like I need to prove something to you. I am dedicating my life to telling you these things because in Christ I found fullness and joy. Someone once told me…”If you knew Him like I know Him, you wouldn’t be able to shut up about Him either.” Truth. With all my heart I want you to have His love and His peace. From the deepest depths of my heart.
Deep calls to deep.
Bird York – In The Deep
Chad W. Hussey is an average Jesus loving iconoclastic non-conformist neighborhood hope dealer – a husband, father, urban missionary, community group leader, Master of Divinity student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Community Life Intern at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, KY.
Biblical Christianity IS radical, and any attempt to make it seem normal is just an issue with loving the world.
Mark 3:28 “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”
Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is an issue that seems to be misunderstood by many Christians. It often seems to take Bible readers by surprise when we see it in scripture, and it leaves us wondering first, what is it? And then, am I guilty of this? Not surprisinly, this is an issue that has been confused and fretted over by many in the Church throughout Christian history. It is not uncommon for a person to hear the words of Christ in Matthew 12:32, Mark 3:29, or Luke 12:10 and become paranoid that perhaps they have committed this eternal sin. Immediately we may wonder…is He talking about blasphemy? Because I’m pretty sure at some point I’ve been guilty of that. If not now, before I was a believer. It seems reasonable that most Christians prior to coming to Christ would have, in some way, committed the sin of thinking a thought or committing an act that insults, contempts, or demonstrates lack of reverence for God and His Spirit. Obviously, before conversion we walked in irreverence toward God with our every step. Fortunately for those in the Body of Christ, merely insulting God, or showing lack of reverence towards Him, is not the unforgivable sin. The unforgivable sin is actually an act that a truly saved Christian, whose heart is inhabited by the Holy Spirit, is not actually capable of committing. Rather than being fearful of this sin, Christians should find supreme comfort in knowing they can not perform it. Blaspheming the Holy Spirit happens in the following ways:
First is denial of the Holy Spirit – denying the Spirit the ability to come into ones heart and perform His regenerative work. When the gospel is preached, and the call goes out to an unbeliever, the Spirit of God calls, declaring the need for Christ. Until a person repents and turns their life over to Christ they are rejecting the Holy Spirit. This rejection of the Holy Spirit is effectually calling the Holy Spirit a liar. The Holy Spirit declares that a person needs Christ, and the person declares back, “Holy Spirit, you are wrong. I do not need Him.” This is blasphemy against the Sprit. By rejecting the Spirit of God, you reject His ability to save, justify, and sanctify. You deny Christ’s offer of propitiation to bring you to rightstanding with God. You deny the Spirit the ability to transform you and press you on toward righteousness and good works for the Kingdom. Without the Spirit you can not be reborn, can not be released from the bondage of sin, can not be justified to God, can not be brought to glory, and ultimately can not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Rejecting the Spirit of God with finality leaves no possiblity for future salvation.
Further, Christ says speaking slanderously against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable. Slandering the Holy Spirit is a clear evidence that the Spirit does not reside in a person’s heart. No one, after receiving God’s grace, truly being saved, and being filled with the Holy Spirit, then has the ability to speak out against the very Spirit that guides them. It is by this very Spirit believers have been healed, and born into new life. It is by the guiding of the Spirit that the Christian is empowered, begins overcoming sin, and performs good deeds. It is not so much that speaking against the Holy Spirit merits eternal condemnation, rather it is the speaking against the Spirit that shows clear evidence that the Holy Spirit is not present in the person’s heart. See the way that Jesus explains the house divided against itself:
Matthew 12:22 Then a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute was brought to Jesus, and He healed him, so that the mute man spoke and saw. 24… when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “This (Jesus) casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.”
Here the Pharisees blaspheme the Holy Spirit, both by denying the Spirit’s call to Christ and by slandering the Spirit’s work – attrituting the origin of Christ’s miracles (performed by the aid of the Spirit) to Satan.
Matthew 12:25 And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand. 26 If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand?
Christ here explains that He could not perform works against demons if He were empowered by Satan. Evil does not destroy evil. In the same way, good does not destroy good. The Pharisees attacking the Spirit here is evidence that they are not good or a part of all that is good. They are divided from the Kingdom of God. They do not know God – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and can not recognize Him. In John 14:6, Jesus says, “No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.” If the Pharisees do not recognize Christ as the Son of God, they do not have the Spirit of God within them. If they had the Spirit of God within them they would have had faith in Christ, and they would not have spoken out against Him and the power by which He performed His miracles.
32 Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.
Christ speaks about blaspheming the Holy Spirit again in Luke 12, and we receive more context here…
Luke 12:9 …but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God. 10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. 11 And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”
Here we see that Jesus says it is possible for a person who has not yet received the Holy Spirit to see Christ, but not recognize Him as God, and speak against Him. Jesus said, “You have seen me and yet do not believe (John 6:36). In John 6:37 and 38, Christ says that all of His followers have been given to Him by the Father, and He will lose nothing the Father has given Him. Christ teaches us that it is not until God has sent His Spirit upon a person that they may not just see Him, but believe. The Holy Spirit is sent upon men by the grace of God as a gift.
John 6:44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”
John 6:65 And (Jesus) said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God
Then in Luke 12:12 (above) Christ goes on to tell us that, as believers, we need not worry about denying the Spirit. Because we can’t. We need not worry about what we will say when we are called to defend ourselves before our oppressors. We need not worry that we will cower under the pressure, or fold in our fear. Christ tells us the Holy Spirit will speak through us on our behalf. At this time it will not be possible for a true believer to deny the Holy Spirit, because the house can not be divided against itself, and if the Holy Spirit is in us, He will speak out on our behalf.
Matthew 10:19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
It would seem then that the real concern should not be whether or not we have been guilty of blasphemy, but whether or not we have truly submitted our lives to Jesus Christ, and truly been transformed by the Holy Spirit. A hardened heart that permanently rejects the Spirit is a heart that permanently rejects any opporutunity for future forgiveness and salvation. Any other sin can be forgiven upon repentance and submission to Christ. This includes hating God and Christ, speaking against them, even killing God’s children. See the Apostle Paul who persecuted and killed Christians before his salvation, or Peter who, in fear, denied Christ 3 times before receiving the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Both men were guilty of heinous sins, but went on to be reconciled to Christ and to burn with the Spirit, performing good works in Jesus’ name. These men were the very founders of Christ’s Church. This demonstrates that all sins are forgivable by faith in Christ. If you are a true believer, you have not denied the Holy Spirit, and you have been forgiven your sins. If the Holy Spirit truly burns inside your heart, you do not have to fear that you would blaspheme Him under any circumstance. As true believers we should be able to take supreme comfort and rejoice in the fact that we are not capable of committing the only sin that Chirst says is truly unforgivable.
The definition of sanctified is simply: set apart and made holy. In the Bible, sanctification seems however to be a process of God, in mending our broken nature, that goes far deeper than such a simple definition. In the circles I study in, the term sanctification is most commonly used to label the lifelong, progressive process by which God (via the Holy Spirit) conforms believers to Christ’s likeness. In other places I have heard the term sanctification used to label the one time imputing of grace (at salvation) by which a believer is set apart and given the enabling grace to cast off the shackles of sin and endeavor to be more like Christ.
While in a sense each of these explanations are correct, in another sense they seem to fall terribly short of communicating the full majesty and scope of sanctification as I read about it in the Bible. To be honest, I’m not even sure that I, or anyone for that matter, fully understands every aspect of sanctification. Sanctification is, after all, a work of God, and it is surely more important that we receive it than that we fully understand it. Still, I am going to try here to map out the contiguous phases of God’s sanctifying process. Hopefully this will prove fruitful in enhancing our understanding in the receiving of the LORD’s imputed grace and His process in bringing us to glory.
The Southern Baptist Convention’s Baptist Message of Faith 2000 descibes sanctification as:
“The experience, beginning in regeneration, by which the believer is set apart to God’s purposes, and is enabled to progress toward moral and spiritual maturity through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. Growth in grace should continue throughout the regenerate person’s life.”
This becomes confusing when considering that we are set apart and made holy (forever) at the time we are saved, yet we are still called to pursue holiness and increase in righteousness throughout the rest of our walk with Christ.
To understand, we must first remember that God is omniscient and does not operate within the constraint of time. He sees the beginning and end in the same moment. True salvation assumes the end of the process from the very beginning. So in this sense, God considers believers holy and set apart from the moment of salvation simply by Christ’s justifying sacrifice. This however does not mean that His purifying work in us is complete at that moment. It is just assumed that it will be brought to completion because it is promised by God. God never fails to complete a work, and to God the end is already assured.
1 Corinthians 1:2 To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy…
Paul here demonstrates that Christians are simultaneously “sanctified in Christ Jesus” and “called to be holy.” In terms of time, the call is only the beginning, not the end or completion of our journey through purification to holiness. The Greek words for “sanctified” and “holy” are from the same root word. So, a Christian is both labeled holy and called to become holy at the same time.
The process of sanctification is three fold…
1. Positional Sanctification. Positional sanctification refers to being set apart and labeled holy upon salvation. At salvation we are imputed sanctifying grace, our hearts are regenerated, and the bond of sin is broken. We are justified by the atoning sacrifice of Christ, and in the great exchange, Christ takes our sin, and imputes us His righteousness. In justification we are placed into a position of perfection in God’s eyes. From this time on, when God looks at us, He sees the righteousness and holiness of Christ. However, while we are deemed holy and righteous, we remain in a continuing war against our sin. We will continue to pursue righteousness and holiness, by the aid of the Holy Spirit, until death.
Justification is specifically the imputing of Christ’s righteousness to us. Sanctification is the imputing of the grace necessary to enable us to exercise that righteousness. The term sanctified, when applied to this point, still assumes that the progressive act of God in perfectly purifying us and bringing us to glory will be carried through to completion as promised.
2. Progressive Sanctification. This is the phase of sanctification that is most typically referred to. Progressive sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit in believers hearts in gradually producing less acts of the sinful nature and more bearing of the fruit of the Holy Spirit…love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. It is during progressive sanctification that God’s people separate from the ways of the world and become progressively transformed to the image of Jesus Christ. The process of progressive sanctification is a journey that continues from the time we are saved until death.
3. Ultimate Sanctification. Ultimate sanctification occurs at glorification. At the resurrection, Believers will be raised and given new, pure, glorified, heavenly bodies. We must first be made new and pure before coming into the presence of God. Nothing corrupted by sin can exist in the presence of the LORD. God said, “You cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live (Exodus 33:20).” But Jesus tells us, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Matthew 5:8).” At this time We will be ultimately sanctified – glorified and given pure, sinless hearts, we will then be able to gaze upon the face of God and live in His presence forever.
Phillipians 3:20-21 …our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
Revelation 21:5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new…”
Revelation 22:3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servantsc will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
I have added 2 new pages to the site (links are located in the menu bar):
What I Believe – This is a run down of my doctrinal views and beliefs, based upon my interpretation of scripture as it has been revealed to me. I have gathered my theology in one location for your easy reference. Should you wonder where I stand on a topic and don’t care to read my entire blog to piece my beliefs together, this link is for you. I find I most appreciate teachers who are forthcoming with their doctrine, so I have provided mine. If there are any questions you have about anything not posted here, please leave a comment or reach out to me on facebook. It would be my joy to converse with you about Jesus Christ or His Word.
My Favorite Sermons – This is a video collection of the sermons that have most profoundly impacted my walk with Christ and most stir my affections for Him. I could write all day about the glory of God and all of the amazing things He has revealed to me, but I would not be able to say it better than these men have already said it here. If you have the time I whole-heartedly encourage you to listen to some of the exemplary teachings of these anointed men.
Much to my surprise I recently discovered that Tedashii, my favorite Christian rapper, actually studied under my pastor, Mitch Maher. Tedashii’s lyrics are impressive, holding strictly to sound Bible doctrine. Tedashii will be headlining the NGEN Boomin’ concert on Tuesday, August 6 in Houston, and I encourage everyone to come out and see the show with me. He has an excellent catalogue of music, and has reached as high as #2 on the Billboard Gospel Chart, and #9 on the Billboard Christian Chart. Additionally, the KSBJ/NGEN concerts are excellent, and the KSBJ Birthday Concert earlier this year was an absolute blast.
1 Peter 2:11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.
Romans 8:13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
In the song “Make War” Tedashii does very well to espouse the desperate need for believers to aggressively make war with the sin in our lives. The song was inspired by a sermon from pastor and author John Piper, in which he said:
“I hear so many Christians murmuring about their imperfections and their failures and their addictions and their short-comings, And I see so little war! ‘Murmur, murmur, murmur… Why am I this way?’ MAKE WAR!”
See the song with lyrics below (I strongly suggest reading them):
“My heart, my passion, my desire is that we would have men who would fight sin, and at the end of the day, produce other men like them in discipleship.” -Tedashii
The John Piper sermon mentioned above was inspired by a famous teaching by English Puritan Theologian John Owen in which he said, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.”
It can be all to easy to fall into the snare of downplaying the danger of sin. Conversely, the necessity of uprooting and completelely killing sin can not be emphasized enough. Often times when aspiring to overcome our afflictions we compartmentalize or don’t go the full measure in addressing our issues. Sadly we often leave ways for our sin to somehow find it’s way back in the door. So many kings of the Old Testament did what was right in the sight of the LORD and yet failed to remove the high places where the sacrifices were made to idol gods. Each time this led to the people of Israel eventually falling back into the old rituals of sacrifice at the high places – straying from God – returning to their old idols. This is symbolically similar to how, you and I, while striving to honor God, often fail to remove every last opportunity to return to our sin. We must be fully dedicated to completely removing all areas for temptation so that once we overcome a sin we are done with it once and for all. Like cancer we must remove every last remnant so that we will never be afflicted by the illness again.
Hopefully I will see many of you at the NGEN Boomin’ show, and we will all be inspired to make war with our sin! MAKE WAR!!!
Here is a fantastic, and very funny, discussion by 2 pastors far more versed than I on the benefits and consequences of bringing pop culture into the church, and tailoring the church to appeal to the world.
Here, Pastor Perry Noble offers his explanation for having his church band play AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” during NewSpring Church’s Easter Service:
The entire discussion can be viewed here: http://vimeo.com/59137575
Here is my view…which I should preface is just that…one person’s view and nothing more. It should first be noted that my calling, as I perceive my calling, is to support, hold to account, rebuke, strengthen, and deepen the faith and Bible knowledge of my Christian brothers and sisters (as I depend on them to do the same for me) so we can become healthy and secure followers of Christ who will then be well equipped to positively represent Christ in the world and communicate the Gospel to the lost. Everything I write is written with the intent that it will be beneficial to Christians first, with the idea in mind that it may also be read by the lost. Based on the Acts of the Apostles, I believe the developing of disciples is the primary purpose of the gathering of believers to the physical church. Another man’s calling and gift set may lend itself more specifically to targetting and converting the lost. This is a different and equally valuable gift. I believe all Christians are called to evangelize, however this is not the primary function to which I am called nor the skillset for which I am most gifted. I believe reaching the lost is primarily the function of Evangelism and Mission which has traditionally been done in the world, outside the walls of the Church. In the last 20 years there has been an enormous movement to bring the lost into the church, to become mission minded on Sundays, to engineer sermons to target non-believers, and to introduce elements of pop-culture – some God-honoring and some not – into the Sunday service. This has had a massive impact on the dynamic of churches and their congregations.
NewSpring Church Band Performs AC/DC “Highway to Hell” on Easter Sunday:
I have clearly defined views on this issue and this was one of the first things that was made clear to me after I was saved. I believe Christians and the church have to be aware of pop culture, but I don’t think sermons should be about pop culture. The Gospel saves…regardless of the presentation or sales tactic…it has done so on its own merits for 2,000 years. It is by God’s call that we come to Christ (Romans 8:30)…not by man’s shiny packaging or his slick sales pitch. I think anything a Christian does inside or outside of the church needs to be first and foremost evaluated on the merits of whether or not it glorifies God. Most worldly things fall short of glorifying God.
1 John 2:15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.
Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world…
Here is how I arrived at a clear position on separating culture from church: When I was saved, which was not all that long ago, I was attending a church that is on the corner a quarter mile from my house. I was there because it was convenient and entertaining. The pastor was funny and a few times even preached while seated atop a motorcycle, revving the engine. Something about the rebelliousness of riding motorcycles inside the church seemed exciting. At Christmas the church substituted the standard Christmas Concert and the children’s Nativity play for a 50 foot Christmas Tree, Santa Claus, and 50,000 pounds of man-made snow in the parking lot. This was an epic event, and it is important to note the size and grandeur of the celebration as it was very important to this church that every event be an attention garnering spectacle. What the Christmas celebration did not have however was a focus on Jesus. Nor did the December sermon series which was about sex trafficking. This seemed wrong even to the old me. I remember specifically thinking that there are many places I can go to see fake snow or Santa Claus, but I come to church to worship Christ – especially at Christmas. This is the one time of year when I most want to hear the old story. What I came to understand later was that the event and sermon series weren’t engineered for followers of Christ, they were intended to appeal to non-believers.
At that time I was just another stick burning in the fire (Amos 4:11), going through the motions, resting on a false arrogance…living in an absurd amount of unrepentant sin…so much so that I’m lucky to still have anything…my wife, kids, and job. I’m telling you I was horrible. I wouldn’t have been able to blame anyone had they cut me loose at that time. I was lost. I had been going to this church off and on for 2 years assuming that because I was a church goer I was a Christian. I was going to small group, and even serving in the Children’s ministry. But, the other 165 hours of the week I was going out into the world and being a complete embarrassment – to myself and to God. Then my wife, who was also not yet saved, decided we needed to read the Bible. She started reading it to me every day in the car. When we started getting into the Bible I started to hear things I had never heard in church. I began to understand I was depraved, and that I was not a good person like I thought I was. I started to understand that following Christ required a full submission of my life…and actual sacrifice…not just an acknowledgement of Him. Ultimately I began to hear the salvation call…God reached out and snatched me from the fire (Zechariah 3:2). One Sunday the church had an alter call where they baptized several hundred people. I felt the LORD wanted me to go, so I stood in line and was baptized. I was told to fast, so I fasted. Then my wife and I went on to read straight through the New Testament over the next few months. It was in the Bible that I was found and came to be saved by the LORD.
Very quickly it became clear to me that I was not going to be able to stay in this church. I started to realize that Jesus wasn’t the focus there. The pastor was the star. He would braggingly say things like, “I saved 500 people last year.” Meaning he had gotten 500 people to pray the prayer to invite Christ into their lives. (But I had read in Ephesians 2:9, it is not by any act of man that any person is saved, but salvation comes from the call and grace of God alone “so no man may boast.” Additionally, I learned that the prayer to invite Christ into your heart is nowhere found in the Bible. It’s one of the largest fallacies in Evanglism. Salvation is not as simple as praying a single prayer. It is the commitment made in that prayer…a lifelong commitment to faith and repentance…the dependence on God’s grace, and Christ’s sacrifice…not the prayer itself, that saves. (Acts 16:31 says, we must believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, Luke 13:3 says that without a life of repentance we will all likewise perish, and Romans 12:1 says we are to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to Christ.) The pastor would say, “God told me that I am to build a 25,000 member church on this corner.” More and more it was seeming to me that this pastor was first concerned with his glory, and less with God’s. Rather than creating fishers of men, he was collecting his own fan base.
The church continued to weekly espouse that their purpose was to drive attendance, and to draw crowds. They said every decision they made was made by asking the question “Will this draw a crowd?” Thus, the Sunday Sermons had to be delivered with the intentionality that the majority of the congregation had next to zero prior exposure to the Bible. The result was that no one around me was able truly communicate the gospel, what salvation is or why it is truly necessary. And because the intent of the church was for new non-believers to arrive each week, the message never got any deeper, and the plan stayed the same. My peers and I really didn’t even know why we were in small group…other than just knowing it was something we should do…or it was a good way to make friends. (It is necessary to say here that I deeply love my brothers and sisters from these small groups. My wife and I stuck with our group even after leaving this church, and I have seen several of these friends grow in their relationship with Christ as a result of their own personal pursuit of His Word.)
Jude12 These people are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm — shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead.
2 Peter 2:17 These people are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. 18 For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity for people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.”
My issue with this church was not that the teaching was lacking doctrinal depth, which it was. The issue was that the church members were not being effectively taught the very most fundamental aspects of Christianity. Everyone felt like they were doing well. They were doing what they were instructed by the pastors. Their conscience was clear, but they were not being exposed to the full Word of God. Not everything in the Bible is chocolate milk. Some of it is hard to swallow, and it’s in those parts where we learn just how small we are, and how big our God is. There was not only no discussion of doctrine, but discussion of doctrine was feared. My wife and I went to membership class and we were told that doctrine would not be discussed in the church because it was divisive. We were also told that terms like “being washed in the blood of the lamb” would not be used because they are off putting to non-believers. They went on to mock believers who want to “hear about the blood of the lamb.” And they said, “If that’s you’re thing, you can go somewhere else.” Sadly, the Bible is repeatedly clear that it is only by the blood of the lamb that we attain salvation. Hebrews 9:14 says There is no salvation that comes without being washed in the blood of Jesus Christ.
That was one of the last times we stepped foot in that church.
Yes I was saved during the time I was attending this church…God uses everything good and evil to work for His purpose (Genesis 50:20, Romans 8:28). But the fact that He uses something does not validate it as good. God’s elect were chosen from before the foundation of the world (Romans 8:30, Revelation 13:8), and God uses any number of tools to carry out His plan and bring His chosen to salvation. As I heard Matt Chandler say…”I know a guy who found Christ because his mother was in a car wreck. That doesn’t mean I want to start (a car wreck) ministry.” The car wreck leading the man to Christ does not make car wrecks good, and truly, my shattered life was the car wreck that led me to Christ. It was the desperation for God and His healing…not the church.
The issue I found with a church with baby milk teaching is that these churches give an incomplete view of God. They give people a false idea of submission to Christ, and potentially a very real false assurance of salvation. There are countless lukewarm ‘Christians’ right now living in unrepentant sin, living lives that don’t honor Christ and actually do more harm to the work of evangelism than good. These are the seed in the parable of the sower that lands on shallow soil (Matthew 13:5). They get excited and sprout quickly, but they also quickly fall away when things get tough. If we should ever enter tribulation, There are millions of ‘Christians’ that will bail on day one. Being a disciple of Christ actually means giving your life to Christ…as in…losing your life, possibly even physically. I never would have heard that message in that church.
My wife and I have since found a church that puts Jesus Christ and His full Gospel at the center of every initiative to which the church endeavors. Not everything about the church is the coolest, hippest, or hottest. I have learned that neither is following Jesus Christ. The world will never think Jesus is cool. He said as much himself. What I found is that following Jesus Christ is infinitely better. While following Jesus Christ is not the coolest, hippest, or hottest, it is the most genuine, loving, redeeming, and wholely fulfilling call a person can receive.
Based on my experience I probably have an over sensitivity to churches that try to use “cool” worldly things to attract non-believers, but my point is, the gospel saved me. Jesus saved me. Not the church, or the church’s sales pitch. Not the preacher, or his cool motorcycle. Christ is sufficient. I found life in Jesus Christ when He carried me out of the world and into His Word.
Some correct out of love, and others out of contempt. The truly wise man knows the intent does not validate nor discredit the content of criticism. The intent of the person offering correction is not important. What is important is that we receive what is said and examine it for truth.
Despite 1800 years of Post Tribulation teaching, many Christians of the last two centuries have been led to optimistically believe in a rapture that will not see believers tested by the great tribulation. Unfortunately, this belief, held against scripture, may be nothing more than wishful thinking.
29 “Immediately after the tribulation (…) 30they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds (…) 31 and he will send out his angels (…) and they will gather his elect(…). – An abridgement of Matthew 24:29-31
After the Tribulation powers through an in depth Bible exposition addressing, verse by verse, nearly every piece of scripture relating to the rapture. This, not-for-profit video has been distributed free to all, via the internet, simply for the sake of educating all members of the Body of Christ that they may be prepared for possible challenges to come.
After the Tribulation does an outstanding job of demonstrating that Christ’s own words tell of a rapture that will follow the great tribulation. Some however will still hold firm to the belief that the rapture will come before the tribulation. My personal feeling, beyond the belief in a post-tribulation rapture (based on the scripture), is that there are far less consequences for preparing your heart and mind to face great challenges. If the rapture comes before the tribulation, Christ’s believers will be taken from this earth and we will have nothing to be concerned with. But, if the rapture IS to come after the tribulation, those who are caught off guard will find themselves completely unprepared for the challenges to come – challenges not only to our physical well-being, but severe challenges to our faith in Christ and to our eternal salvation. Biblical prophecies warn of an end time mass apostacy, and many who profess to be Christians, when faced with staunch adversity (political, social, or spiritual) will denounce Christ. I believe that in preparing our souls for great tests, we will be able to persevere and overcoming the great challenges that may come. After the Tribulation, the full movie may be viewed here, and I highly advise everyone to watch it:
This movie, as well as a 5 disc DVD commentary of Revelation, by the same producers (set to release 8/1/2013), can be ordered here: http://afterthetribulation.bigcartel.com/ I am definitely excited to watch this when it comes out!
Question: I’m not sure exactly what “Fearing the Lord” means. On your blog you speak a little on fearing the Lord but not in depth. What are your thoughts?
Many people in our generation believe that fear of the Lord simply means respect. The liberal, feel good theology of the last 50 years has been heavily focused on grace and mercy, and has widely espoused the “God is love” slogan. It is absolutely true that it is by God’s grace alone that we are saved, and it is also absolutely true that God is love. However, an over emphasis of the “God is love” maxim fails to acknowledge that God has many characteristics of which loving, merciful, and graceful are just a few. God is also, equally just – meaning He absolutely cannot allow sin to go unpunished, jealous – meaning He is angered by any desire of man to put other things ahead of Him, and is also wrathful (Nahum 1:2). The combination of all of God’s traits is what makes God what He ultimately is: above all, and in all things, God is Holy, Holy, Holy (Isaiah 6:3, Revelation 4:8). In the Hebrew language, a word repeated 3 times is the equivalent of 3 exclamation points in English. Read: God is HOLY!!! The Bible never says God is love, love, love…or merciful, merciful, merciful.
God IS love. I want to preface that this is absolutely true, and God’s love is by no means being debated. God is actually the creator of love and the origin of true agape (Greek for unconditional covenant love). Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love (1 John 4:8). Just remember, God is not only love. God also has other characteristics that should be respected, and feared, in the literal sense of the word fear.
The word fear appears in the Bible 216 times from Genesis to Revelation. Many times the word fear appears alongside the word trembling. The first time fear and trembling appear is in Exodus, and the last time is in Philippians.
Phillipians 2:12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.
If you believe fear means respect…I suppose if your respect takes you to the point of physical trembling…then that is the appropriate respect owed to God by the command of the verse above. But, trembling – defined as involuntary shaking as a result of anxiety and frailty – indicates to me that proper knowledge of the LORD provokes literal fear.
Look at the experience of any Biblical character who comes into the presence of God. Every one of them, upon first realization, falls straight down on their face and/or cries out that they are sinful and unworthy. Take for instance Isaiah, the holiest man in lsrael: (Isaiah 6:5) Isaiah said: “Woe is me! For I am undone; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!.” He breaks down and comes completely unglued in the presence of God simply because he has a dirty mouth. Then in the New Testament when Christ asks Simon Peter to follow Him, Peter falls down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord (Luke 5:8).” Then, in revelation when the Spirit raises John (the one whom Jesus loved) to see the risen Christ, John says, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead (Revelation 1:17). These are just a few examples…there are dozens more. The holiest of men fall to pieces at the feet of the LORD.
I once started working on a fire and brimstone sermon by Jesus. That may sound like an oxymoron to some, and may perhaps even offend others. I went about the task of compiling Christ’s every reference to judgment, hell, and condemnation. My intent was to offer a demonstration that Jesus Christ did indeed preach fire and brimstone. I am acquainted with many people who have a strong aversion to hell, fire, and brimstone preaching, however I find it to be very important (in limited application), and believe there is a necessary balance between teaching grace, wrath, and every other personality trait of God. After spending several hours compiling many pages of condemning Jesus quotes I decided that what I was doing was a dangerous thing. After praying on it, and seeing how condemning the collection of verses was, I came to the conclusion that perhaps pulling Jesus’ verses out of their original context could misrepresent Him. That’s not a risk I want to take. The point of the matter is however, that Jesus did preach extensively on judgment and wrath. When you cut out the narrative and the softening analogies of the parables, and you merely examine the references and allusions to hell, death, and condemnation, it is exceedingly clear that, with absolute certainty, there will be harsh judgment (Matthew 25:41), the majority of people will burn in hell (Matthew 7:14), and there will be tremendous sorrow (weeping and gnashing of teeth – appears 7 times). We must present the LORD, unvarnished, for all the things His Word declares He is…not just the traits that work for us, that make us feel good, that make us like Him more, or that don’t scare us. It is terrible folly to attempt to fit God within parameters that we dictate. Excluding wrath from our doctrine does not eliminate the wrath of God (“wrath” appears 215 times in the Bible) – rather it merely eliminates it from our consciousness. Prayerfully ponder the implications and consequences of that.
Christ said, “Fear not man who has the ability to kill the body. I shall tell you whom you should fear. Fear Him who after the body has been killed has the authority to cast you into hell (Luke 12:5).” The context of fear being expressed here is fear in the sense of suffering a violent death at the hands of another man. I don’t know what earthly fear could be any more fearsome than the fear of a violent death (think of being stoned to death for preaching the gospel as Steven the martyr was – Acts 7:54). Jesus instructs here that the only fear greater than being brutally killed should be the fear of hell. This doesn’t sound like Jesus is talking about respect. I don’t think He’s saying we respect death so we should respect Him. I think our natural instinct is to be terrified of death, and Jesus is saying here: Fear Me more! I can cast you into a violent, torturous Hell, the likes of which you cannot even fathom.
It is also important that we not fall into depending solely on the New Testament to define who the LORD is. Jesus Christ and the Father God are united in one essence, and Christ himself says that He is subservient to the will of the Father (John 6:38). Christ did not come into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world (John 3:17). However, Christ does clearly exhort that all must follow His teaching, or condemnation is coming for those who do not submit their lives to His service. If you read the Old Testament, where the Father God is the main character, you witness dozens of instances where the immutable, unchanging, LORD, annihilates all who would rebel and put anything ahead of Him. We must remember Jesus Christ and God the Father are one and the same God in the Holy Trinity. God does not change. He was perfect from the beginning, and it is not possible to change or improve upon perfection. He is not a God who is growing, learning, becoming more progressive, inclusive, or open minded. He has not improved upon His perfection since His Old Testament days. No. God is unchanged. Therefore, we must understand God is still the same sovereign God who punishes treason and administers wrath to rebels. Non-believers, those not secure in salvation, unrepentant sinners, and those lukewarm in their subservience to Christ have much to fear.
Proverbs 9:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
Even believers would be wise to understand the Bible has drastic promises for those who believe in Christ, but fail to repent and turn to God, to ask forgiveness, and to strive to conquer sin within our lives…
Hebrews 10:27 For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. 28Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.”And again, “The LORD will judge His People.”
31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
We cannot varnish the truth of God’s character. A focus solely citing portions of the Bible that portray the Lord as “gentle Jesus meek and mild,” does not eliminate the mass of scripture that promises coming judgment and wrath for the non-believer, the self-righteous, and the unrepentant sinner. I implore everyone, get to know Jesus Christ as the lamb. He came to the world as a lamb to serve and suffer the punishment of His followers’ sin – offering forgiveness in His kindness and compassion. When we give the LORD control He is quick to forgive. When we reject the LORD we bring His wrath upon ourselves.
Now is the time to get right with the Lord. He has extended the invitations. A day will come when that invitation will no longer stand. Christ has promised that when He returns He is not coming back as a lamb, but he is coming as a lion (Revelation 5:5). When He returns He will not come to serve or suffer. He will come to judge the quick and the dead (2 Timothy 4:1).
Psalm 2:11 Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
Part 4 of 4: Peace Comes from true FAITH
Habakkuk 3:18 When all is lost, and all is hopeless, I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the LORD, is my strength; He makes my feet like the deer’s; He makes me tread on my high places.
The deer hops with a graceful ease along the mountaintops, with elegance, high above the toils and struggles of the earth below. So too shall we rise above the endless turmoil, navigating rocky times with graceful elegance, when we place our trust in the LORD, and rest on the hope assured by faith in Christ Jesus.
Hope comes from true faith in the promises of the LORD. Peace comes from the confidence spawned in eternal hope. If you’re reading this blog you probably already have some measure of belief in God. The question we should be asking ourselves is: when we are truly honest, do we have the kind of faith that can bring peace to our souls – the kind of peace that comes from believing beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is a God in Heaven who has us in the palm of His hand? Each post in this four part series hinges on the genuine belief that God is the real, sovereign, all powerful Heavenly keeper of the promises of the Bible. In the moments when we doubt that God is any of those things, our peace can quickly become unhinged.
“Temptation is a false promise–a promise that doesn’t deliver. The sin to be ultimately expelled is our lack of trust, our unbelief.” – Tullian Tchividjian, Senior Pastor and grandson of Billy Graham
The biggest temptation we face in this world is the temptation to doubt the LORD. Sadly, our lack of peace is the direct biproduct of this very doubt. Our salvation and protection lies with the LORD, and hope begins to wain when we start questioning wether the LORD truly directs our steps and has His hand on our lives. (Psalm 37:23). When we have doubts in the LORD, in His existence, in His promises, or in His abilities, the foundation of our reassuarance is fractured. When our trust in God is diminished, our peace also quickly fades. This is where the devil slips his foot in the door. Every person has moments of doubt, and every person has questions. The Bible does not shy away from questions, but rather invites and encourages the inquiring mind. The Bible beckons us to vigorously seek answers within its pages. “Seek and you shall find” (Matthew 7:7). The more questions we ask and the more answers we seek, the more answers we will find and the less we will doubt.
Jeremaiah 29:13 You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.
We must take an honest assessment of ourselves. Do we trust God with every ounce of our being? Are we truly searching for God with all our hearts? When we trust that God will be our defender and deliverer we find He is the rock under which we are sheltered when the storms of life come.
Matthew 8:26 And (Jesus) said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.
Four times in the gospel of Matthew Jesus says, “O ye of little faith!” In each reference He goes on to assure us that a strong faith is the remedy for all things. Jesus tells us that with a proper amount of faith we need not worry about whether we will be provided for and clothed (Matthew 6:30), we need not be fearful of our circumstances (Matthew 8:26), we need not doubt (Matthew 14:31), and we need not worry about whether we will eat (Matthew 16:8). In Matthew 17:20 Jesus tells His disciples that it is by lack of faith that they fail, but with faith as small as a mustard seed, “nothing will be impossible for you.” By faith we come to truly trust God’s plan, we align ourselves with God’s will, and we understand how God uses the circumstances of our lives for His glory. True faith is not just belief but trust. True faith brings about the peace that surpasses all understanding.
” A little faith will bring your soul to heaven, a great faith will bring heaven to your soul” – C.H. Spurgeon
Part 3 of 4: Peace Comes From Understanding How Your Circumstances Glorify God
John 9:1 As he passed by, (Jesus) saw a man blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. 6 (Then), he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud 7 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.” So he went and washed and came back seeing.
What Christ tells His disciples here is that this man was not born blind as punishment for his parent’s sin, he was not born blind because God foreknew his sins, and he was not born blind by chance, by a great cosmic fluke, or for no reason. The man was born blind for just this certain occasion – this time when he would seek Jesus’ healing, and Christ would have the opportunity to perfom this miracle. Then the man would run and profess Christ’s name to all, and the Lord would be glorified in this man’s testimony.
Why is it that when we suffer hardship we are so quick to question God or become angry with Him? How do we suppose that God would be able demonstrate the greatness of His power and love if there were never any obstacles in our lives where we should need His assistance or His healing? We must realize that we are a terribly jaded people. It is only a small amount of time before we take anything for granted. Stop and think…how much time do we spend appreciating the simple things like running water and electricity? How long can we go without them before we realize just how fortunate we truly are? How long does it take when things are going well before we start to forget how much we truly need the LORD? Conversely, how long does it take when we fall into hardship for us to drop to our knees in prayer? When things get hard it’s not long before we are asking our entire network for their prayers. Even non-believers ask believers to pray for them. Clearly there must be something to that. At some point does it not seem that we can be too blessed – that we can have too much, or become too confident in our prosperity and begin to believe we have no need for the LORD (Proverbs 30:8)? But…when life becomes overwhelming, we are often quick to cry out for help.
Man was given a perfect existence when Adam and Eve were created in the Garden. Rather than embrace God, they rebelled. They took their perfect existence for granted. They took God for granted. In that perfect existence, Adam and Eve had no ability to comprehend life seperate from God. Without an understanding of life separate from God, they had no appreciation of the value of life with God.
Just as God heals the sick and delivers the oppressed for His glory, he also uses our response to suffering as testimony to His glory. The Apostle Paul understood this as well as anyone as he rejoiced in writing 2/3 of the New Testament. The majority of his writing took place all while being ship wrecked, snake bitten, beaten continuously…nearly to death, and locked in prison multiple times. It would seem many of us would surely get discouraged in all of this. Paul never once did. When you and I see a dreadful situation, like being beaten and imprisoned, ship wrecked, or ill we might see it as catastrophic. We might see it as God punishing us, or turning His back on us. We might see it as God not listening to our prayers. Paul saw it as an opportunity. He saw it as a moment in which God was using Him. He rejoiced in being chosen worthy by God to be used for His purpose. It was an opportunity for him to overcome obstacles, preach the gospel through them, for God to deliver him from them, and for his handling of these situations to be a testimony to the glory of Jesus Christ. Paul lived above the circumstances that surrounded him. By keeping His eyes on God, he transcended all earthly difficulties in his heart and mind. Nothing phased Paul. Paul said, “For me, to live is Christ, to die is gain (Philippians 1:21), meaing that in either event, life or death, in Christ there is always victory. His heart was so connected to God, his anchor so securely set in the clouds, the events transpiring around him did not toss him back and forth like a ship upon the waves, or blow him here and there like every gust of wind (Ephesians 4:14). Paul rejoiced in doing God’s will and was thus a fully contented Christian super hero – fearless, unafraid, and eternally joyful.
Paul is an amazing testimony to the power of Jesus Christ. I find it hard to believe that God could have been more glorified, or Christians more inspired, had Paul written his letters while lounging in a rocker or picnicking under a shady tree. The truth is, the idea of anyone making it through this life without turmoil and suffering is not realistic. It takes next to nothing of this earth to serve Christ. Even people facing the most difficult of circumstances can seek God with all their heart, and serve God’s purpose for their lives. It takes very little, just our daily bread and a heart for Christ, to find contentment in relationship with Him. Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven (Luke 6:20). The poor in spirit do not live a life wrought with distractions, and a simple life more often yields the realization of the need for God – the realization that we have needs that we are not able to fulfill on our own. Many people believe they could become happier by having more of what we already have. If we just had the next promotion, a little more money, a little bigger house, a little more free time, etc, etc. Then we try like mad to acquire those things…they come…and yet there is still not contentment. The things of this world are not sufficient to provide the contentment our souls desire. Our souls desire relationship with our creator.
The gift of faith is not a perfect life free from struggle. The gift of faith is not earthly prosperity. The gift of faith is the peace that is found in relationship with Jesus Christ! That is the reward. This relationship is more valuable than anything this universe can afford. You will never find perfect peace or contentment in anything else the world could offer. It is better to have nothing, and know God, than to have everything and not know Him. If we are missing that, we are missing the entirity of our existence.
All of these earthly things we desire are merely distractions from the one true thing that will bring about contentment and healing in our lives. Sometimes it takes a little struggle for us to realize that. When things get hard it becomes very clear what is truly important. God sometimes uses suffering to pry our grip from the things we have sinfully made too important. His intent is to break our hold of these idols and to redirect our focus to what will truly bring peace to our lives – relationship with Him. Understanding why the LORD has placed us in our circumstances, and understanding the result that God desires to bring out of these circumstances is essential to finding the peace that surpasses all understanding.
Joni Eareckson Tada is an amazing testimony in rejoicing in all circumstances and suffering well. It’s hard to say it much better than this:
Read Part 4 Here