Sunday, August 17, 2008

# 259: Christ in You

It could be that most people who call themselves Christians are not aware of the high position and responsibility they are given when they accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. Making that position come to life is what this post will attempt to accomplish.

Marriage between a man and woman, most often, is the closest relationship humans can experience. That is, or should be, a relationship of oneness. What is good for one is good for the other. Likewise, what is bad and hurtful for one is bad for the other. This principle, though said in a few words, is the backbone of life in our civilized world. Take marriage away from society and life would be chaotic and lawless.

It breaks my heart more than most will ever know that what Christianity ought to be is a marriage of oneness with Jesus Christ what we have instead is a religion of oneness with self and company. Many will deny this serious charge; nevertheless, it is the truth. Put in a simple question: What do the run-of-the-mill Christians do to advance the cause of their Lord/boss? Little or nothing! As partners with Christ, it is our duty to continue the work He started. That is the work of showing and telling the world around us exactly what Jesus Christ commanded, and the eternal benefits or repercussions if we obey or make excuses not to obey.

Other than possibly going to church and saying their prayers, if even that, people who have supposedly given their allegiance to the Son of God are not much different than upright, honest and respected atheists. In fact, atheists, quite often, live better lives. Does organized religion per se confront those who live in this manner? Why should they? If they did, they would lose money and membership. Therefore, they turn a blind eye and say to themselves, "No one is perfect. God is a loving, merciful, compassionate and forgiving God." That is true, but the only thing is that God is merciful to those who fear Him. There are over a dozen verses that teach us to fear the Lord, or else. I will quote just one. Luke 1:50. "His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation." The only thing is, there is no fear of God in their lives. If they knew what fear of God meant, they would find out all that God requires from disciples of Christ, as is clearly and candidly displayed in the New Testament. Instead, their main pastimes and activities are things that bring temporal pleasure and satisfaction.

If anyone is not familiar with 2nd Timothy 3:1-5, for your sake read it and see the similarities these tough verses have with our modern Christian church. Of course, when I use the term “organized religion,” I am not referring to all churches; there are a few that preach and live according to Scriptural commands. But from my personal experience, they are few and far between. Any church with a large attendance would never qualify as being forthcoming with the imperative teachings as presented in the New Testament. Why? Mega-churches, out of greed for money and people—they call it Godly prosperity—teach a message of Biblically ear-tickling lullabies, while leaving out the meat. Then it could be said that if they never had a taste of Biblical meat and potatoes, they wouldn’t miss them.

If anyone is new to this blog and is not aware of what these commands are, the ones which are avoided by many Christian churches, just read a few of the posts within this blog. For over three years, we have been defeating, and will continue to defeat, the silent lies of popular churches that thrive on hypocrisies and pleasant trickery, while avoiding those that are hard to accept. There can be no tolerance from God or this Biblical blog for this deadly sin of silence.

Most Christian churches say they are Bible-believing, and that is true, but they believe only the parts that are pleasant to the laity, such as the acceptance of a lifestyle where material wealth and prosperity are acceptable and even desired, while Scripture teaches that it is detestable in God’s sight. This blog quite often speaks openly on our human nature’s tendency of wanting/having material wealth and prosperity.

That is not to say a rich or prosperous person can’t become a disciple of Christ; everyone is more than welcome. 1st Timothy 6:17-18. "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God . . . Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share." But there is one stipulation: Since the rich must be generous and willing to share with those in need, the question comes up: How much of their wealth do they have to share with the needy so that what remains in their possession will not be an obstacle to their Salvation? Did you notice this verse didn’t say to share with their church?

When one is rich, it is an easy thing just to drop the ransom money—give, or go to hell—into the basket; but to actually get out and win souls for Christ takes guts and determination. That is what the wealthy and even the not-so-wealthy negate from their "christian" lives. Other than the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses--—which I believe are cults—I personally don’t know of any denomination that teaches the imperative results of this personal witness. Without these good works, we are no more than lazy, decrepit, religious bystanders. Ouch!

In contrast to the aforementioned verse in 1st Timothy, this is what Jesus commands in the sections concerning the rich young ruler and the Good Samaritan. Matthew 19:20-21. "‘All these I have kept,’ the young man said. ‘What do I still lack?’ Jesus answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, go sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’" In Luke 10:25 & 27-28. ". . . ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ . . . He answered: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ‘You have answered correctly,’ Jesus replied. ‘Do this and you will live.’" Action is a precursor to discipleship. Said another way: Both verses have prerequisites to eternal life—love for God, love for neighbor and the poor. They are not eternity-bound Christians if they do not believe and obey these commands.

The all-important question is this: Why are material wealth and prosperity more than a hindrance, actually an abomination, for those who claim Christianity as their religion? The answer may surprise many. Why would wealthy people have an immediate need for eternal life when they already have all they need and even more? They want the best of both worlds. They desire to go to heaven, but don’t want to die just yet. They want to continue to be spend-thrifty and enjoy life here just a little bit longer. The implication: Heaven and its future pleasures are not real, since they don’t actually need them in the secure and luxurious positions they are now in. They are having too much fun as they eat, drink and get merry. This paragraph infers that it is impossible to have one’s mind and heart on Godly matters while enjoying the things this deceitful world offers.

Whereas, Christians who have it hard in this world can’t wait to go to heaven; they are longing for death (sleep) so as to end their miserable earthly lives. I am one of the latter group. Here is the last reason wealth is not acceptable for followers of Christ: How can anyone have more than they need when there are many millions in dire need of the basics? That goes to demonstrate that the wealthy and prosperous have no Godly love for those in need. With no love comes damnation. That is the reason Jesus said in Luke 16:15, "What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight." Arguably, if anyone believes the New Testament, the above verses and divine logic end all controversy. This seems to say that many millions of rich people who remain rich after accepting Christ as their Savior and still claim Christianity as their religion are doomed to hell. Statements like that are not welcome in organized religion. Repeating: That is the lie this blog has been exposing and hopefully defeating for over three years. I am sure this section will fall on many deaf ears with aggressive thoughts.

I didn’t mean to stray away from the subject of “Christ in you” as the title says; Christ in you is the answer for all the woes of Christianity. Colossians 1:27. ". . . Christ in you, the hope of glory." Let us start with this question: Do you and I know for certain that we are possessed with the Spirit of Christ? We could easily say yes and leave it at that. That is where the problem starts, and it doesn’t end there.

The terms “the Holy Spirit,” “the Spirit,” “the Spirit of God,” “the Spirit of Christ,” “Christ in you,” “born again,” and a few more are terms used which are one and the same as “Spirit.”

Here is a test: If some are just starting out as Christians and desire to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit, it most likely won’t start out with a bang. Slowly, the new convert will notice that they have loving and holy desires they never had before. These desires may vary, but they all have one thing in common: to really get to know Christ and what He expects from them. God’s Spirit never forces His ways on anyone. He must work through our free will. When we start to obey our new desires, which are inspired by the Holy Spirit, that is some evidence that the Spirit of Christ is living in us. As we start to mature, the vast number of our actions will correspond with the instructions in the New Testament. That is more evidence that we are being guided by Christ who lives in us. Nevertheless, never forget this verse: Acts 5:32. "We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him."

At that point, we can honestly say that Christ is in us. That is not to say every person who is doing good is indwelt by the Spirit. Continued obedience to Christ’s commands will determine who is who. For those who don’t have God’s Spirit but say they do, their true colors will start to show when they search for an easier way to God’s heaven, by making little of God’s unnatural commands or negating them all together. In fact, it is impossible to continue to do good works and grow in faith and love without the Spirit. Another indication of His presence is that we will never be content with how much we are doing for the Lord; there will always be room for more. When we feel content with our position or works in Christ, that may be a sign that spiritual complacency is setting in, which is the beginning of the end. What is being said is that to be a recipient of the Spirit of Christ is the most crucial part in the Christian life. In fact, anyone without the Spirit is not a Christian. Romans 8:9. "And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ."

Here is an aspect of our heavenly position that needs some down-to-earth explaining: Without our knowledge, at the moment of conversion, we are justified and sanctified in God’s sight. 1st Corinthians 6:11. "But you were washed, you were sanctified (made holy), you were justified ( made free of all sins) in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." That means if one was to die a short while after accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, eternity would be waiting for him/her. Here is my point: Since God gave us a new status, He now considers/makes us pure and holy by forgiving all our sins; that is the perfect incentive to live pure and holy lives. If for no other reason, we will live up to our new status of how God sees us as new creations, created in the image of God.

God sees us as perfect; since the vicarious exchange of Christ taking all our sins upon himself and in exchange giving us His perfection, we are given the privilege and pleasure to live out that perfection as we "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Are we the ones who are trying to enter but will not be able to because we are not making every effort?" Luke 13:24.

Inactivity in the Christian life breeds the need for worldly joy. Spiritual joy will not materialize when one is inactive in doing God’s will. And it takes effort to do the works of God. Most prefer to take the course of least resistance. The only thing, with Christ in us, we will not take that course. For that reason, I pray to God that all who are reading this blog will continue to grow in faith and love, thus becoming strong in the things of God and Christ. Amen.

Since I have separated myself from most, if not all, worldly activities and things that bring pleasure, I find no joy from living in this world, except the spiritual joy of allowing Jesus Christ to live and love through my body. For that reason, even though death is a dreaded enemy for those who are disobedient, for those like this author who have a genuine hope of spending eternity with God and Christ, death is a welcome friend.

Although the Book of Acts tells of when certain people initially received the Holy Spirit, they spoke in tongues and prophesied as a sign that they received the Spirit. Nowadays, there is even better evidence of Christ in us: when one is continually being led by God’s Spirit. With that Spirit, we are given the power to lead a sin-free life, whereas sin is evidence that one is under the control of the evil one. There is one exception: when a person sins inadvertently/unintentionally. That is a sin that will not lead to death. Leading a sinless life is a hard teaching. Even though it is taught throughout the New Testament, 1st John makes it absolutely clear with no wiggle room: Chapter 3, verse 6. "No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him." Also see verses 8-9. "The reason the Son of God came was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed [the Holy Spirit] remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God."

Just a final reminder: Your life, and how you live it, should be of major concern; that is all you have of earthly value that can determine if you will spend eternity in the presence of a God of love or in a place of eternal and unbearable pain. For that reason, it is the business of Christ and this Biblical blog to teach you, if necessary, how God desires to make your life holy, pure and pleasing to Him. That is our quest. We pray that those who have or desire to have Christ living in them are the ones who will respond to our plea to take this post and blog seriously. Amen.

In conclusion, it is a spiritual fact that when we are recipients of the life and Spirit of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, which is freely given, it can be said that regardless of how lowly our station, we are truly living the high life as God meant it to be lived.

Monday, August 04, 2008

# 258: The Devil’s Trap

2nd Timothy 2:25-26. “Those who oppose him [the Lord] he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will."

Mark 4:18-19. “Still others . . . hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.” These are just a few of the activities most of us may be engaged in, which are the devil’s favorite traps. This similar theme is also presented in Matthew 13:22 and Luke 8:14.

When we initially accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we freely enter into the first phase of discipleship. As new disciples of Jesus Christ, we must learn how we are expected to live in a way that pleases the one who bought us. 1st Corinthians 6:19 [at this time]. “You are not your own; you were bought at a price.” Since we literally sold ourselves in exchange for eternal life, we now belong to Christ, and therefore we are obligated to obey all His detailed instructions. As His disciples, there is only one authority as to where we can learn what is expected of us: the New Testament (NT) of the Christian Bible. Let us make sure we have an up-to-date Bible with our modern language and not one of antiquity, like the King James Bible. There are several good ones; I prefer the New International Version.

Now for those who believe they are Christians and disciples of Christ, and are standing firm in the Lord without an intimate knowledge of our instructions in the NT: take warning. It just may be that your faith is in vain and useless. Repeating, all the instructions in the NT are of absolute necessity to know and obey. Because it is our obedience to His commands which is conclusive evidence that we belong to the Son of God. If we are not producing good fruit/deeds/works—they are one and the same—regardless of how much and how loudly we shout from the rooftops that we are Christians, we are being tricked/deceived (in the devil’s trap) without knowing it. It is impossible to be genuine Christians if we are not heading in that direction of knowledge and obedience. If anyone has a legitimate argument with what is being said herein, please leave a comment or send an email.

In the name of Jesus Christ, I strongly suggest to everyone to read the complete NT or listen to it via CDs at the minimum of once a month; the exception is the book of Revelation. If you have never read it before, read it once just so you know basically how confusing and extremely difficult, if not impossible, most sections are to understand. Of course, chapters 2 and 3 are informative concerning the seven churches, as to what God hates and glories in. Even though I think most of you have in past times read the NT, notwithstanding, unless you have a photographic memory, much of what is of extreme importance will/may be forgotten. Just remember, we are not just talking about the ins and outs of religion—this is a matter of your life and death, and I am not excluded.

As we continue to listen to or read the NT and become familiar with its contents, we will notice contradictions, especially in the four gospels. Do not let that trouble anyone. Those errors do not take away from the holiness, love and purity of God and Christ, or the basis of Godly authority in the NT. The most likely reason why one gospel is different than another is because several centuries before any manuscripts were copulated by the early church in the third and fourth centuries, many people attempted to formulate the facts surrounding the life of Jesus. Apart from the four gospels we now have, there were many more accounts written of the life of Jesus Christ. They were rejected as being inconsistent with the four that seemed to be most creditable. Luke 1:1. “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us . . .” And besides that, the gospels and epistles were written—some possibly from memory—20 to 40 and even more years after the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Then in 315 A.D., after years of squabbling over what letters and gospels were to be included in the Holy Canon, Atheanius, a powerful, early church leader, was influential enough to finally recommend that only 27 books be included as the NT. They remain to this day. That seems to indicate, that individual gospels/letters of the NT were floating around from church to church for over two centuries. Therefore, during that time, human error or intentional changes have taken their toll. Evidence of those individuals’ letters moving from one church to another is seen in several places, but none are more evident than in the first verses of the books of James and 1st Peter. James 1:1. “James, a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations . . .” 1st Peter 1:1. “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.” If anyone desires more information on this subject, click on post # 110: “Contradictions and Uncertainties.”

The good thing about knowing that these errors exist is that no one can surprise us by throwing them into our faces, such as atheists or those who just want to rattle our faith. Another good that can come out of these inconsistencies is if someone doesn’t really believe or has a meager faith, these errors will be a good excuse for them to forsake their religion. Good riddance.

Back to the main subject: Even though living in a way which pleases God and Christ cannot save us, it is absolutely necessary as confirmation that our faith is real, without any mealy-mouth excuses. Actually, it is impossible to live a holy life without the information of what Christ commands, which is available only in the NT. Some might say, “But I pray, go to church, watch Christian programming on TV, etc. Isn’t that enough to prove that I am a Christian?” An astounding no! That is the reason Christianity is in the sad shape it is in. Don’t believe all that some preachers of trickery teach, what Christian books exclaim, or even this Biblical blog, even though I elaborate or try to explain the full impact of many of Christ’s teachings.

Some might ask, “How, then, were people saved in the Middle or Dark Ages, or even before, when Bibles were forbidden to be in the possession of the common people?” That is a good question. The only answer I can give is that God is just, and if a person’s heart is right, I am sure exceptions have/will be made. But now that Bibles are a dime a dozen, those exceptions cannot be made for ignoring God’s Word.

Another reason why Christianity has become a passive religion is because we do not obey these upcoming commands and many others like them: 1st Corinthians 15:58. “Therefore, my brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” Hebrews 10:24. “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” That is one of the main intentions of this blog.

This is worthy of repeating: The only way we can protect ourselves, or better yet, allow God to protect us from Satan’s trickery and trap, is to become familiar with all the instructions in the New Testament as to what is good and what may not appear to be evil, but still is ungodly and of the devil. When we are in the devil’s trap, we, most likely, will be the last ones to know it, since the devil makes his schemes seem acceptable and many times even godly. We must never forget this fact: The devil’s business is deceit. The sad part of deceit is that we all are being deceived—hopefully in a small way—in one way or another, regardless of how holy we may believe we are. The thing is to expose our own deceits by living as closely as possible to every word taught in our instruction book, the NT. Another thing: No one can get all he/she needs to follow the way of holiness and love from going to any church, regardless of how good and decent it may be. It is our own personal responsibility to get it straight from the horse’s mouth, as it were. The reason I say that is because quite often some of the imperative but seemingly impossible-to-adhere-to commands are not mentioned from most pulpits, so as not to lose church members.

Several of those pivotal verses come to mind, the ones we most often are guilty of, concerning living as part of this self-centered world. “Though we live in the world, we are not to be part of the world.” 1st John 2:15-17. “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has or does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” Personally, this command poses no difficulties for me, but may be a great sacrifice for some.

This next verse is one of the most difficult for me to obey: Colossians 3:1-2. “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things.” The reason this is difficult for me is because I take this verse literally. The word “set” is what gives this verse teeth; it doesn’t mean occasionally, but constantly.

There are so many worldly chores that have to be done in life where one must put his/her mind completely on what one is doing, which may have nothing to do with “things above.” Therefore, we must attempt to get engaged in as few things as humanly possible that take our minds off heavenly things. No matter how I look at it, this, I believe, is the most difficult command to conform to in the NT. This command is one where the evil one can have a heyday (the devil’s trap). He loves it when we somehow have our minds on important earthly things and not on Godly things.