A Deadly Enemy!

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(William Sprague, “Lectures on Revivals of Religion”)

“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?
Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” James 4:4  

Beware of the world!

Everyone who has made much progress in the Christian life, has been taught by his own experience that the world is a deadly enemy to the believer’s growth in grace.

The cares of the world are exceedingly apt to mar the Christian character.

But there are, in addition . . .
the pleasures of the world,
the honors of the world,
the riches of the world,
all of which in turn seize hold of the heart with a mighty grasp.

Sometimes the world laughs and scoffs at the Christian, and tries to persuade him that he is giving himself to fanaticism and folly.

Sometimes it flatters and caresses him, and by its artful blandishments, seeks to draw him aside from the plain path of duty.

Indeed the world will assume any form, or morph into anything, to draw the Christian away from God and from duty.

How important then that you be on guard against this dangerous enemy! Beware especially against the levities and amusements of the world; for this is the point at which you are most in danger.

“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 and does–comes not from the Father but from the world.” 1 John 2:15-16

A Fountain of Unfailing Happiness!

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(George Everard, 1884)

“He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ” Ephesians 1:5

“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus!” Galatians 3:26

Here is one of the sweetest privileges of the Christian life. The Christian is God’s beloved child, and shares all the love and tenderness of the Father’s heart!

This one thought is a fountain of unfailing happiness!
“I am at home with God!
Once I was far off–but now I am near.
Once I was a stranger–but now His beloved child!
Once the thought of His presence was fear and dread–but now it is life, and joy, and peace.
He is my Father, and in this Name all heart-joys meet.
He knows me by name, and cares for me in all my cares.
He pities me, and in tender compassion marks each tear I shed, and each sorrow that weighs upon my heart.
He opens His hand, and each day gives me all that I need.
He bows down His ear and hearkens to each prayer I offer.
I have boldness and liberty to go at all times into His presence-chamber, and may tell Him every desire and ask of Him whatever is for my good.”

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1

The New Jerusalem and More on the Temple of God

The New Jerusalem

There are many who have been taught that when Jesus comes back on the clouds of glory that He will establish a new Jerusalem; a literal, physical city, at a location somewhere on this earth.  Some people believe that it will be at the location of the old Jerusalem, while others, particularly those in the LDS (Mormon) church, believe that it will be located in the United States, and, more specifically, in Independence, Missouri.  Let’s see what the Bible has to say regarding this issue.

With regard to the possibility that this earth will even exist beyond Jesus’s second coming (Judgment Day), In 2 Peter 3:7, we read, “But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.”  Further on in verse 10, we read, “But the day of the LORD will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”  God reiterates this point in verse 12 and finally in verse 13 we read, “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”

In Revelation 21:1, it reads, “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.”

Regarding the new Jerusalem, however, in the very next verse we read, “and I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”  Later, at the end of verse 9, one of the seven angels told John, ” Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.”  And in verse 10, “and he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain and shewed me that great city, holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.”  We can readily see that the city, the new Jerusalem is not some literal, physical, city, but rather the kingdom of God encompassing the body of all true believing Christians, the true eternal Church, which God looks upon as the bride of Christ!

To see that the new Jerusalem is a spiritual representation of the kingdom of God that is made up of the body of believers, we just have to turn to Revelation 3:12, where we read, “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall no more go out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalemwhich cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the spirit saith unto the churches.”  This truth is also evident in Galatians 4, verses 25 and 26 which contrasts the earthly Jerusalem and her children (the Jews of national Israel), described as being in bondage (to the works of the law), with the heavenly spiritual “Jerusalem which is above is free (through the grace of God), which is the mother of us all (all true believing Christians).”

Additional support is found in Hebrews 12:22-23 , where we read, “But ye are come unto Mount Sion and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,”.

As to the timing of the fulfillment of the coming of the new Jerusalem we are told in Matthew 24:29-31, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.  And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”

The Holy Temple of God, Where is it Now?

This brings us to another problem.  There are those in various religions today who claim to have access to a literal, physical, earthly holy temple of God.  As was indicated above, the holy temple of God is a spiritual structure made up of true believing Christians (described as pillars in the temple) coincident with the new Jerusalem in heaven.  This is entirely consistent with what we read in 1 Peter 2:5-8, where God equates the true believers to “lively stones” that are part of the spiritual temple of God of which Jesus Christ is the “Chief Cornerstone.”  “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.  Wherefore also it is contained in scripture, (Found in Isaiah 28:16 and Psalm 118:22) behold I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.  Unto you therefore which believe he (The Lord Jesus Christ) is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.” (See also Isaiah 8:14, Matthew 21:42, Mark 12:10, Luke 20:17, Acts 4:11, and Romans 9:53)

So that there can be absolutely no doubt that the holy temple of God could never, ever, again be defined by physical stones and mortar (whether in Jerusalem; Salt Lake City, Utah; Independence, Missouri; or anywhere else for that matter), we read in Ephesians 2:19-22, “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God: And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone: In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”

Finally, in 2 Corinthians 6:16, we read, “…Ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said (see Ezekiel 37:26&27), I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

To more clearly understand why there could never again be any need for an earthly, physical temple of God following the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross, we have only to search the scriptures to review what happened at the precise moment of His death.  We read in Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38, and Luke 23:45 that, at that very moment, the veil of the temple was rent in twain (torn in two) from top to bottom. 

The result was that the “Holiest of all,” (see Hebrews 9:3) the tabernacle altar of God (where only the high priest, alone, could venture once a year to make an atoning sacrifice of blood on the Day of Atonement) which had heretofore always been hidden from outside view by the veil, had now been fully exposed by God to show that the sign or figure that the “Holiest of all” of the temple represented had been perfectly fulfilled in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ; as He was both the sacrificial Lamb of God and the High Priest that offered the perfect atoning blood sacrifice.  God was showing that the function of the earthly temple had come to an end! (Read all of Hebrews chapter 9 to see that this is so).   Although the Jewish high priest (Caiaphas) no doubt rushed in to repair the torn veil, so that he, and the other Jewish high priests that followed him, could continue the yearly atonement sacrificial rite until the physical temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D., the priestly action would have been pure vanity and rebellion against God.  Those efforts could not have had any effect or substance so far as God’s plan of salvation was concerned.  In fact, (according to Isaiah 66:1-4) they would have only been an abomination in God’s sight (because by carrying out those rites, the Jews were continuing to deny that Jesus Christ had come to fulfill the law of sacrifice, which had all along been the sole focal point of the blood sacrifices that were carried out in the temple before Christ died). 

This is the most likely reason why God finally allowed the physical temple in Jerusalem to be destroyed for the third (and last) time (as prophesied by Jesus in Matthew 24:1-2), and why he scattered National Israel, the Jews (until our day).  Additionally, because God also subsequently allowed the Islamic Dome of the Rock to be built on the temple site in Jerusalem, the Jews have been prevented from rebuilding the temple ever again (despite the fact that the Jews in National Israel have had political sovereignty over Jerusalem since 1967).

The Temple of God

Was reading in 1 Corinthians 3 this week and this passage was before me:
1 Corinthians 3:16-17: Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
This should resonate for the Christian, though we are far removed from the heavily Jewish flavor of the 1st century in Palestine. Jewish Christians hearing this from Paul would likely have connected what he said here with cherished promises they had heard all their lives. But the apostle reveals that the true fulfillment of all of God’s promises are found in Christ, not in a parcel of dirt in the middle east.
Here’s what the 1st century Jews were holding onto:
Abram. Genesis 12:2 & 3: I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
Jacob. Genesis 27:29: Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be everyone who blesses you!
Israel. Numbers 24:8 & 9: God brings him out of Egypt and is for him like the horns of the wild ox; he shall eat up the nations, his adversaries, and shall break their bones in pieces and pierce them through with his arrows. He crouched, he lay down like a lion and like a lioness; who will rouse him up? Blessed are those who bless you, and cursed are those who curse you.
Blessing and curses. God loves His people! Yes, He does. And note: not only does Paul apply this same blessing curse to the body of Christ, he also told us that all who believe on Jesus are true children of Abraham according to the promise. And Matthew told us that when Israel was called out of Egypt (as we see in Num 24, above and in Hosea 11), that this was a shadow of Jesus coming out of Egypt (Matt 2:15).
1 Corinthians 3:11 (HCSB) For no one can lay any other foundation than what has been laid down. That foundation is Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 3:16-17 (HCSB) 16 Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s sanctuary and that the Spirit of God lives in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s sanctuary, God will destroy him; for God’s sanctuary is holy, and that is what you are.
Yes, God loves His people. He sent His Son to redeem us from sin and hell and death. He did this so that we would shine like lights in a dark place, heralding the gospel to a world that consuming itself. Fear not, God is giving His kingdom to His children. Go forth, now and tell people that Jesus saves sinners from a certain doom that is far worse than any “hell” they imagine.

No Longer Normal

In the month since I posted my blogs about prayer, our world and our lives have been turned on their heads. Many of us are having to self-quarantine due to Covid-19 (or the Coronavirus). This means except for shopping for essentials or walking by ourselves around the block, we are not going out. Most restaurants are closed, schools and colleges are closed, and even shopping malls and stores are closed.

Social distancing is a concept that many could not have articulated a month ago. Now, even grade school age children understand what this means. Many parents are now forced to be home, along with their children, because many work places are also shut-down. Many may no longer have a job and multiple businesses will close forever. The government is currently considering a massive stimulus package that will reimburse families and businesses for lost time and wages.

Everything that was normal is no longer normal.

On Monday of this week, I listened to the BBC News and heard the daily broadcast given by the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. A month ago, if the British people would have been told that police and government workers have the power to break up any gatherings of more than two people, they would have probably laughed and ridiculed you at the thought of such Draconian laws being put into place.

For those who have read or remember history, excessive or harsh laws were implemented in Europe and eventually the Jews were blamed for the problems of western Europe. Citizens were told that the laws were only temporary and in place for the “well-being” of all people. But I digress for that subject is for another day and another post.

However, the concern that I have is that the British government explicitly detailed what was to close. In the Prime Minister’s announcement, he specifically stated that all church gatherings are now banned!

Everything that was normal is no longer normal.

Local, state, and federal governments, here in America, have declared that we can no longer meet in groups larger than 10. Some are taking it even further and freedoms are being restricted beyond anything we could have imagined possible.

For almost half a century, I have read. I cannot begin to tell you how many books I have read in my lifetime, but I know they number in the thousands. From the Bible to classics to romance to modern day warfare to lawyer or military intrigue, turning pages in a book is a comfort to the soul. Yet, in all of my reading, what I see today seems like dystopian fiction come to life.

However, we in the western world now find ourselves at a crossroad. We are no longer allowed to meet for church in groups of more than 10, and some states in the USA have implemented emergency measures that allow for criminal prosecution for those breaking these new emergency laws.

This last Sunday was the first Sunday that the church where we serve closed down. We got up early and drove toward the building where our local assembly gathers. But, the services would not take place and so we turned around in a park. The day seemed to grow even more gray and dreary and I wondered aloud how much worse things could become. I realized afresh that —

Everything that was normal is no longer normal.

Yet, all that we see happening should not shock true believers. The apostle Paul wrote to a young man right before his own execution. In his short letter, he predicted that tough times would come. In fact, parts of this little epistle read as though Paul pulled his news directly from the front page headlines of 21st century newspapers.

2 Timothy 3:1-4 – “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”

We who are true believers should remember that difficult or perilous times will come. The Bible is clear that all who will live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. I am not trying to predict that this is the final days before the time of great tribulation, but it is a possibility. What if through this time, a world leader should arise and promise to give the world a “happy ending?” What if that person were to bring prosperity, but at the cost of losing a few “freedoms”?

The truth is that the world deserves any and all judgment that may come at the hand of a holy and righteous God. We have rejected His ways and His commands for centuries and millennia. Even now in the 21st century, mankind thinks that he has been able to either destroy God or that he has re-created God is his own image.

The world mocks the remnant who have never bowed the knee to Baal. The world mocks those who proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that He will return one day just as He promised.

There are even so-called evangelical churches that no longer believe that Jesus will literally return to this sin-cursed world. It is a world that Romans reminds us cries out for redemption, along with all those who have been redeemed and bought by the precious blood of Christ.

2 Peter 3:1-4 – “This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.’”

Like the prophets and preachers of yesteryear, it is important that true Christians proclaim the message of the gospel. Like Paul did to Felix, Festus, and Agrippa, we must preach about righteousness, self-control, and the coming judgment.

Be not deceived, for God will not be mocked. Whatsoever a man sows, the same he will reap. We do not know when the day of judgment will arrive, but when it does, the current pandemic known as Covid-19 will not even be a distant memory to those who live through those terrible days.

Christians, we are called to be like a Bride who is making herself ready for her Bridegroom to appear. Jesus Christ is very much alive and He is coming again. It may be sooner than any of us think. And I know with 100% assurance that He is definitely coming back sooner than the world wishes to believe.

NO LONGER NORMAL should be the battle cry of every true child of God. Through every trial, every tragedy, every pandemic, every death that occurs in this world, and especially at times like we are currently experiencing in March 2020, we should be shouting to everybody who will listen that –

Life is no longer normal!

Whether through Covid-19, an earthquake, cancer, the flu, an accident, or some other tragedy, death is coming. True believers should rejoice that our punishment was born by Christ on the cross of Calvary and there is no fear of any condemnation. For those who are not, we again plead to you to bow the knee to King Jesus before it is too late!

Pastors, if you are not preparing the hearts of your people for the return of our glorious King, then repent and humble yourself before His Majesty. He is coming and we need to live and preach like we actually believe it again!

It is no longer time for us to try and remind God of how big we think our problems are in this world. The time has come for us to tell the world how big our God is and always has been!

Only one life
It will soon be past,
And only what’s done
For Christ will last!

Christ our Glory

The last two weeks have been extremely trying. The normal lives we thought we had, along with the comfort and ease, was cruelly crushed beyond recognition. This is particularly true to those in the Western world.

Yet, it may be at this time that the eyes of all true believers needs to be turned away from the cares of the world and refocused on Jesus Christ, who alone is the Author and Finisher of our faith. He is our glory and we, the Bride, are His.

Sovereign Grace Music has another hymn entitled “Christ Our Glory” that I have never heard until the last month or so. These words resonate in light of what we are currently experiencing.

“Our rest is in heaven, our rest is not here
Then why should we tremble when trials draw near?
Be still and remember the worst that can come
But shortens our journey and hastens us home!”

“No hours should be wasted on seeking our joy
And placing our hope in what will be destroyed
We look for a city that hands have not raised
We long for a country that sin has not stained!”