Tag Archives: holiness

Noah Found Grace

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So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. (Genesis 6:7-8)

We serve a holy God. And we serve a merciful God. Here, in the midst of one of the most terrifying stories of judgment, we see the grace of God.

God will always have a remnant of people who will serve Him. He always finds a man whose heart is toward Him, someone in whose heart are the ways of grace, someone He can use. There are times when God declares He must start over, He must begin again. There are sometimes new days, or new seasons, or new wineskins — and this is our challenge, and this is how the Holy Spirit provokes us: He stirs our hearts, to make us zealous to be a people who find favor in His sight, people who can serve His purposes in whatever He chooses to do.

It’s All About Your Lampstand

In the weeks since the Super Bowl, many Christians have found themselves arguing or being asked to weigh in about Katy Perry’s halftime performance, and her claims that God spoke to her beforehand. Over the past several years, a number of people have written blogs or produced videos critical of Katy Perry and how she has released music with overt lesbian and occult lyrics and themes. Others have defended her: some saying that we should not “judge” her; others on the theory that what Katy produces is harmless. Still others are concerned that, whatever we may think about Katy, Christians are wrong to be critical in public fora where unsaved people can see us disagree and perhaps speak harshly.

In addition to arguing about Katy Perry, there has been renewed discussion about social issues in general and the steady drift of churches, even ostensibly Evangelical churches, in the direction of accepting homosexual marriage. These mini-controversies have surfaced a lot of discussion about how we should act and speak in social media.

Having watched this happening, I will put forward a few observations:

1. It may no longer be the conservative Christians who are the “attack Christians.” Despite the stereotype of the conservative Christian who bashes those who disagree with him, things seem to have flipped. To merely express an opinion contrary to the spirit of the age is to make yourself a prey for slander – not only from those who do not profess Christ, but from those who do. This is troubling. While these friends attack conservative Christians as judgmental, they don’t seem to realize that they have become equally judgmental, maybe more so.

Here’s a thought. It may be that someone who posts a video attacking Katy Perry’s music does not hate Katy Perry, and isn’t trying to make a buck, but is trying to warn parents about the dangers of letting their young daughters listen to her music. For parents, such discussions are not academic.

2. There is almost no desire for holiness in North America. It is abundantly clear that we can no longer be shocked by anything. Society has accepted as the new normal behaviors that only a single generation ago would have made a person liable to arrest. Does anyone take this to heart? No. King David’s vow to set no wicked thing before his eyes finds very few imitators today.

And yet, this is not a matter of rule-keeping, but a matter of the desires of the heart. What are we looking for? How many among us still have that spirit of Jonathan Edwards, who said, “The heaven that I desired was a heaven of holiness?”

3. Much of the complaining about “division” in the Church is a red herring. Christians who believe in the integrity of God’s Word cannot afford to be cowed here, although Christ-likeness is always required. For not every division necessarily grieves the Spirit of God. It may surprise us to recall that some division in opinion and even in fellowship is expected by Scripture. The New Testament is clear that offenses, and even heresies, will come. They will happen because of human weakness and pride. Paul is clear about this: For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you. (1 Cor. 11:19) God uses division, using it to make obvious those of whom He approves.

In Romans 16, Paul tells us to take note of those who cause divisions – but his concern is actually quite specific and not directed against all division:

Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple… I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil.

So then we are not necessarily to be grieved by the mere fact of disagreements, but we are to make note of those who cause divisions by contravening the Word of God. Contrary to the modern spirit, Paul was shocked that the Corinthians tolerated flagrant sin: …you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you. (1 Cor. 5:2) Paul and his fellow apostles could not have imagined a situation in which Christians would argue that the Holy Spirit was speaking a personal word to an alleged prodigal to encourage her to sing about the glories of lesbianism in front of a billion people.

4. Because of false “tolerance” (which is actually false love), the lampstand of the American Church may now be going out. I won’t argue here with professing Christians concerning “social issues” such as gay marriage. (And let’s face it, the battle over that issue definitely seems to be lost.) So, if you claim to be a Christian and you believe in gay marriage, I’m not addressing you here. Go ahead and tune me out for a minute.

Now, for the rest of us, are we sure that our lampstand is not even now being removed? When was the last time we read the letters to the seven churches (Revelation 2-3) and trembled in fear at the thought of being inspected by the One whose eyes are a flame of fire? The fact that we operate in a false tolerance which masquerades as Christian love keeps us from being effective in proclaiming Christ to our nation. So our lampstand is going out, because there are very few churches left that are brave enough to assert even the most basic truths of the Gospel.

What will happen when Christ removes the lampstand of the Church in America and Canada? Are we so arrogant to think this cannot happen and that national judgment will not descend? Many don’t think such a thing could ever happen to the Land of the Free, but by the same token, I haven’t run into too many Byzantines lately, and neither have you.

5. Christian leaders are obligated by God to warn the Church about sin and to call the wider society to repentance. Yes, we must do this in love, but the average American Christian’s 21st-century definition of love doesn’t square with God’s definition.

Paul said, “Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” But some do not want their teachers to do so. He also said, “Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear.” But this would get an American pastor sued. And Paul told Titus,  “…denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age…Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.”

If you are unwilling or afraid to speak out and so lose friends or face persecution, then please, at least recognize that there are some who are called to this. You ought not hinder them. You may not feel that you can bring a word of correction to your brother concerning his doctrine or behavior – but your elders have been called by God to do so:

“Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” (Colossians 1:28)

Let’s all think very carefully about where we go from here as we speak out for Christ and for His honor. As Christians have now lost the culture wars, all that we have left is the Gospel. Let’s not throw that away, too. Actually, it’s all we’ve really ever had.

May your lampstand not be put out, but may you burn brightly for Him.

How to “Reach the World”

earth and sunWorldly thinking and worldly ways can never help the Christian reach the world.

Why?

It’s because the Kingdom of Christ is upside down. It doesn’t work by the principles of this world. It enters this realm as a face full of cold water, demanding that we awaken to our real condition and hear the heavenly summons.

The Kingdom of God, no matter its benefits, is distasteful to Man. Jesus said that the things which are highly esteemed by men are an abomination to God. This is strong language, to be sure, and yet Christ is the King of a Kingdom where God deliberately chooses things that are weak to confound the strong, and picks foolish things to humiliate the wise.

Mighty kings of Earth make golden statues to their own supremacy and boast of “thousand-year reichs,” but the One who really is coming to reign 1000 years took the form of a servant. He washed the dirty feet of those who had pledged to obey him.

Only those who possess that holy, upside-down kind of life and love will thrive in the new kind of world we seem to be entering. It is only the people who truly know their God, as the angel told Daniel, who will be strong and do exploits at the “end of days.”

So do we know Him? Not just in the sense of “being saved,” but knowing His ways, knowing the things He approves and the things that grieve Him? Can we embrace the reproach of Christ and His Kingdom and be willing to be “the Other?”

The apostles of Christ would counsel us that only there, in the embracing of the reproach of Christ, do we find the release of Resurrection Life that we and the world stand in need of:

…I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Phil. 3:8-11)

Following The Lamb Wherever He Goes

Young Lambs

And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders:and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God. (Revelation 14:1-5 KJV)

Many people have argued about identity of the 144,000, but it will be of more profit to us if we simply seek to emulate them in their devotion to Christ. Although we are introduced to them earlier in Revelation, here in Chapter 14 it seems we see them at the completion of their ministry, as they receive their reward from the Lord.

This special group of believers is rewarded for their faithfulness with very high privileges. First, they are given the right to worship God with a special song which only they are allowed to learn and, apparently, play.  Second, they are invited to follow the Lamb wherever he goes. Think of that! Wherever Jesus goes, these loyal followers who will be there with him. They are His personal companions.  Third, they are described as being “before the throne of God.”  They have a special place of closeness to God’s throne.  John connects this to the fact that there is no deceit in their mouths.

I believe this is a reference to Psalm 15. In the Old Testament, people knew that you could only stand before God if you had clean lips. (We recall that Isaiah had to have his lips cleansed when he was taken up to the third heaven.) Psalm 15 goes like this:

Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbor, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbor. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not. He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved. (Psalms 15:1-5 KJV)

The 144,000 display the kind of holy living that God seeks from his people. We see in them a quality of character radically different from that of the Beast-followers in the chapters preceding.

While followers of the Beast bear his hideous name or mark on their forehead, these men have the name of their Father. It may be invisible to us, but God can see that they are completely devoted to Him.

While followers of the Beast blaspheme God, these render Him pure worship, and they sing Him a new song.

While followers of the Beast have no “love of the truth” so as to be saved, the 144,000 have no deceit in their mouths.

The followers of the Beast reject God and fall away in the Great Apostasy, but these men follow the Lamb wherever He goes. And what a beautiful description of Christian living that is.

These overcoming saints live a life of personal holiness. During the trumpet judgments of Revelation, people refuse to repent of sins such as murder, theft, and sexual immorality – but these men refuse to defile themselves while sin is raging all around them.

What a beautiful contrast between two groups of people, and what a wonderful testimony to the grace of God. These men’s lives show us that even in the darkest days of history, His power can keep us close to Him, and keep us holy.

Indeed, if they did not follow Him wherever He went in the days of Tribulation to come, they would never have been rewarded by being welcomed to follow Him wherever He goes in the Age To Come.