For Goats or Sheep?

In a previous post entitled, “Spiritual Vertigo”, I addressed three reasons why true believers, particularly in western evangelicalism, have entered a state where they have become disorientated. They struggle from week to week and from one Sunday morning worship to the next. The church has lost its balance and people are sick.

But, why or how does this happen?

Here are the reasons that I gave.

First, we fail to keep sight of the holiness, majesty, and glory of the almighty God. (Part 1 – Found here.)

Second, our vision of eternity is dulled because we become too focused on the world and what it has to offer. (Part 2 – Found here.)

Third, we become disorientated when we work harder to make the church appealing to unbelievers than we do in making the church a place for the sheep to come and find quiet waters and pastures where they can feed without the fear of wolves.

********

Let’s get right to a summary of this blogpost.

1. Heaven is NOT for unredeemed sinners.

2. The Bride of Christ is the manifest evidence to a dead world that Jesus Christ is alive and is coming back for that which He redeemed with His precious blood.

3. Church is NOT for the pleasure of the world.

4. Church is a gathering together of believers who meet together for teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread (communion or the Lord’s Table), and prayer.

********

Now we will break some of this down.

We live in a day and age of snowflakes. An overwhelming majority of people want to be offended, and there is no lack of intolerance. The worldling wears proverbial chips on the shoulder and just dares anybody, somebody, everybody to breathe in their direction so it will fall off and plummet to the ground.

Wikipedia defines the word “snowflake” as “a 2010s derogatory slang term for a person, implying that they have an inflated sense of uniqueness, an unwarranted sense of entitlement, or are overly-emotional, easily offended, and unable to deal with opposing opinions.”

Many pastors and teachers of the Scriptures today feel they are in a quandary. On one hand, they know that true believers are to obey God rather than man. On the other hand, many have not considered the price of standing for truth whether it causes offense or not. In other words, many are afraid of the faces of the people for a myriad of reasons, some of which may include their paychecks each month.

When being politically correct is more important than preaching truth, the minister who caves into the world is no longer a shepherd. They have become nothing more than a hireling.

For example, the rise of “issues” such as the LGBTQ+ movement is not a reflection of the direction the world is moving. The gross immorality of this movement has been in place for millennium. It will continue to grow more and more depraved, but we MUST expect that for the world runs headlong after all that opposes God and the truth of holiness.

The real issue is that the church bears the necessity of condemnation for its failing to adhere to Sola Scripture (Scripture alone) in all that it believes and practices. Little by little, the world kept pushing the boundaries. Pastors and church leaders kept quiet or used the phrase – “Well, whatever is done in the privacy of their own homes is ok as long as it is not done in the open.”

That was never going to be good enough, so the world continues to push. The church caved even more and now it is hard to find churches that have not openly accepted those who stand in open rebellion against God. Those who practice lawlessness moved their wickedness out of their own homes into the light of day and now have charged militantly into the church.

The militancy of this particular tiny but excessively and aggressively vocal subset of the community continues to try to infiltrate every single aspect of all that is good. What God created to be holy, they have made into degradation including marriage and the family.

Why is this important? Because the downward slide into oblivion will continue. The world will continue to make the church and God seem irrelevant. This means that true believers have just one of two choices on the shelf —

PLEASING GOD or PLEASING SELF!

What makes the situation in church even worse is that the world laughs at the church. They laugh, mock, and belittle true believers. Further, they think they are mocking God and thumbing their noses at Him. Listen to the words of King David from Psalm 2:1-4.

Why do the nations rage and the people plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.

Truly, there is a dizzying difference between the churches of centuries past and the modern, so-called evangelical churches of today.

The early churches KNEW what it meant to take a stand and to be separate from the world. The world knew they were different. In fact, Acts 5:13 notes of the world, “None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem.” The world did NOT consider it a light matter to join themselves to the small bands of Christian believers. They were afraid of the judgment that came from God against those who lied and grieved the Holy Spirit of God.

Today, many churches have little to no requirements for those who want to “join.” The worn-out motto has become “Come as you are, leave as you came!”

Is it any wonder that the church has no power?

Should we, who are bought by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, reduce our inheritance to nothing for the sake that we may be liked by the world? Have we truly forgotten the words of the Lord Jesus Christ that the world will HATE you because it hated me FIRST?

Brothers and sisters, the local body of believers is to be a haven of rest. It is a place where we may go to worship the God of all creation as a collective group. Will unbelievers come in to visit? Yes! Should they be welcomed? Yes!

Should we give the impression that God loves them just as they are and that our lives should be lived in a way that reflects the holiness of God? No, no, a thousand times NO!

Church is for true believers to be edified and built up in their faith. We are then to go OUT into the world to proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ. As new believers are brought to the Savior, then they should be taught and discipled to become more and more like Jesus Christ.

Dear readers, you and I WILL NEVER change the church to look more like the world and find that we have attracted anything other than goats.

The joy of salvation is that the Bible makes a clear distinction between those who are lost (goats) and those who are true believers (sheep). However, the apostle John made it clear that whosoever is thirsty, may come and drink of the water of life. The gospel call goes out to the world to come and dine at the feet of Jesus Christ. Finally, the apostle Paul said that whosoever will may come and be saved.

For the church, judgment must begin with at home. We must stop trying to pacify the world and get back to reflecting the truth that we are the Bride of Christ. The Bride of Christ who is making herself ready for the return of the King.

As I concluded in the previous post, if the wonder of eternity remains dulled to us because we prefer to believe that the world holds more allure to us, then we will become a miserable failure because of a dimmed vision.

May our hearts be encouraged with a fresh look at the Savior today. May we be blessed with the recollection of all the heavenly benefits that belong to us.

A Dimmed Vision

In a previous post entitled, “Spiritual Vertigo”, I addressed three reasons why true believers, particularly in western evangelicalism, have entered a state where they have become disorientated. They struggle from week to week and from one Sunday morning worship to the next. The church has lost its balance and people are sick.

But, why or how does this happen?

Here are the reasons that I gave.

First, we fail to keep sight of the holiness, majesty, and glory of the almighty God. (Part 1)

Second, our vision of eternity is dulled because we become too focused on the world and what it has to offer.

Third, we become disorientated when we work harder to make the church appealing to unbelievers than we do in making the church a place for the sheep to come and find quiet waters and pastures where they can feed without the fear of wolves. (Part 3 – tbd)

********

Today, nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population has myopia, or nearsightedness, and it’s only expected to grow. By 2050, 50 percent of the world’s population, a total of nearly 5 billion, will be myopic, according to a new review study published in the journal Opthalmology.

I fall into this category of humanity. Thankfully, there are remedies to assist those with myopia. Some choose the more radical approach like Lasik surgery, while others simply go to a local eye doctor and obtain a prescription for glasses. Personally, I have worn glasses since I was about three or four. Today, if I take my glasses off, I cannot even read the computer screen on my laptop from more than about 8-9” away.

Our family has been blessed to see and enjoy some of the beautiful places in America. Some we have lived in and others were simply enjoyed on a trip for vacation or for ministry purposes. We are blessed in that we have literally been from sea to shining sea. We have touched the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, and have traveled from the Gulf of Mexico up north to the Dakotas near Canada and walked on frozen lakes.

It would be sad to have visited all those places though and not been able to see them clearly. Now that we live in Wyoming, we are close to some of the most beautiful mountains I have ever seen. Alpine lakes dot the Rockies, and there is a feeling of sereneness that comes from standing at 10-12,000 feet (3050-3700 meters) above sea level. It feels like you can see into tomorrow.

But ONLY with my glasses.

Over the years, my eyesight has grown worse though and every so often I have to get a stronger prescription. If I did not, my ability to see long-distances would grow exceptionally dim. Yet, the warning signs do show up to remind me that it is time for another check-up. These can include: blinking to try and clear the vision, headaches, and tiredness.

I will be one of the first to admit that I hate wearing glasses. For a time, I tried contact lenses but the high winds in Wyoming make them quickly uncomfortable. So, until it is time for me to go to my eternal home, I have to keep wearing a weight on my nose and ears.

The only other alternative would be to stop wear glasses. Would such an action stop me from living? No, it would not. Many around the world live without glasses, especially in poor Third World countries. However, it would keep me from doing a lot of things. I could not drive. Visiting the beautiful mountains and lakes would mean nothing for I would not be able to see them.

********

Years ago while living in England, I remember seeing a poster advertising for help to get glasses to Nepal and Bhutan. This charitable organization was requesting old or second-hand glasses that they could take to help out those less fortunate. The top picture showed a blurry picture of the Himalayas with a question like: “What if this was how you saw the Himalayas?” It was followed by a second picture from the same perspective but was crystal clear with the words “Instead of like this!”

Every day that I am able to leave my home, I always look across the plains to see the mountains. However, some people are so focused on what is immediately around them that the far-off objects tend to lose their value. People know the mountains are there just like they know the sun rises and sets every day. However, many fail to see the beautiful myriad of colors that grace the skies every single day.

They live their lives in such a way that the majesty of God’s creation has become dulled. Whether it is the humdrum of everyday life, or job, or family commitments, something keeps them enjoying seeing those things that are in the distance.

And this is what brings us to the second point for true believers. Let me repeat it here.

Our vision of eternity is dulled because we become too focused on the world and what it has to offer.

Every true believer should remember that this world is NOT our home. The writer of Hebrews and the apostle Peter put it quite succinctly.

Hebrews 11:13-14 – These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.

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.

Reread the words from Hebrews in this perspective. “These who are true believers died in their faith in Jesus Christ. They had not received the heavenly blessings and inheritance which was promised to them with the Holy Spirit given as a downpayment. However, they kept looking into eternity realizing it was coming. However, because of that FAR-sight, they had to recognize that they were but strangers AND exiles while living on earth. And by the way, people who know how to talk in this kind of language are really telling everyone around them that they are looking for the heaven which is to come. The reason is simply because HEAVEN IS THEIR HOMELAND!”

Peter was just as straightforward when he addressed the true believers who had been forced out of Judea during the Diaspora.

Here are Peter’s words again from an expanded perspective. “Beloved, dear ones, those whom I love with all my heart, family, I beg you to remember that you are sojourners AND exiles. This world is NOT your home, you are just passing through. That which is of heaven should be your focus instead of what is in the world. Therefore, be so heavenly minded that the passions of the flesh will lose their appeal. The passions the world has to offer only wages mortal combat against every part of your being.”

Now listen to the words of the apostle John as he wrote some of the last words in his book “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.” Dear reader, this precious book is NOT about the revelation about John or to John or even from John. The aged apostle, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, makes it clear in the very first verse that this “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.” This book is ALL about revealing more of Jesus Christ to us.

Read these beautiful words from Revelation 21:1-4.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Maybe like the Jews of the Old Testament, it would benefit us to have these words written and carried on our arms and on our foreheads. What if we printed these off and pasted them on every wall of our homes and doors and work cubicles? I believe the reminder of these verses every day would give us the prescription we need to refocus on that which cannot be seen with human eyes.

ALL that the world can offer only brings dullness to the heart, the mind, and the soul of every true believer. It may bring pleasure for a short time, but those pleasures will dry up and blow away like dry leaves on an autumn wind.

Yes, it will be wonderful to live in a new heaven and a new earth. What an incredible experience it will be to see the New Jerusalem radiating like a bride adorned for her husband. But oh, the words that really amaze me are these –

The dwelling place of God is WITH MAN! God will dwell WITH THEM! They will be HIS PEOPLE! God Himself will be WITH THEM as their God.

Dear readers, there is NO religion in the world that can offer such a promise. NO denomination with all of its traditions, creeds, and man-made teachings can offer such an inheritance. This can only come from the One who loved us and gave Himself as the ultimate sacrifice so that we can know we have eternal life.

And the next words are no less a blessing and an encouragement.

NO more tears. NO more death. NO more mourning. NO more crying. NO more pain. The poignancy of these words though to me is not because there will be no more tears. This God of all creation will personally WIPE the tears from our eyes. We will know Him in all His glory and we will sing His praises from fully glorified bodies.

What an amazing day that will never end!

If the wonder of eternity remains dulled to us because we prefer to believe that the world holds more allure to us, then we will become a miserable failure because of a dimmed vision.

May our hearts be encouraged with a fresh look at the Savior today. May we be blessed with the recollection of all the heavenly benefits that belong to us.

My Worth is Not in What I Own

In a world that prides itself on self-indulgence and the so-called ability to lift ourselves to new heights, we would do well to remember a short message from the apostle Paul. Speaking to the philosophers at the Aeropagus in Acts 17:24-28 told his listeners:

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for in Him we live and move and have our being.”

My worth has NOTHING to do with me. The world says I must love myself first, take care of myself first, forgive myself first, but the Scriptures are clear that all we have and are is because of Christ and Him alone.

A Miserable Failure

In a previous post entitled, “Spiritual Vertigo”, I addressed three reasons why true believers, particularly in western evangelicalism, have entered a state where they have become disorientated. They struggle from week to week and from one Sunday morning worship to the next. The church has lost its balance and people are sick.

Sadly, for some believers, the change has been so gradual that they missed the warning signs. Now that their balance is off or their lives have become disorientated, they have become like the person born with sight in just one eye or with hearing in just one ear. Such individuals do not know what they are missing because they have never known the privilege of seeing with two eyes or hearing with two ears.

Many believers now live thinking that their view of God, eternity, or sound Biblical doctrine is crystal clear. Life continues each day as though that focus is on that which is heavenly, but they have become partially mute and blind to the wonders of the One whose name we claim as our own before the world.

Sometimes, true believers do not know why they are worshipping, but they make the effort. While the prophet Jeremiah reminded his listeners that the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, we still refer to our heart as the seat of our emotions and particularly where we say we have our love for God. It is our heart that gets us in trouble and what we actually need is to follow the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 12:1-2,

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

During His earthly ministry, the Lord Jesus Christ quoted from Isaiah 29:13. Both the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Matthew record His words as He addressed the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the scribes. These were individuals who seemed to have all the answers, but something was missing.

Matthew 15:8-9, Jesus quotes the prophet Isaiah, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”

But, why or how does this happen?

Here are the three reasons that I gave, and in the balance of this post, it is my intention to focus just on the first point. Lord willing, in the near future, I will address the other two in greater length.

First, we fail to keep sight of the holiness, majesty, and glory of the almighty God.

Second, our vision of eternity is dulled because we become too focused on the world and what it has to offer.

Third, we become disorientated when we work harder to make the church appealing to unbelievers than we do in making the church a place for the sheep to come and find quiet waters and pastures where they can feed without the fear of wolves.

In my previous post, I gave a few quotes and I continue with three of those now.

A.W. Pink – Happy the soul that has been awed by a view of God’s majesty.

King David – Psalm 93:1, The LORD reigns; he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed; he has put on strength as his belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.

Jude – half-brother of Jesus Christ in his little book – Jude 25, To the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

********

Almost thirty-five years ago, I was touring London, England with a group of USAF servicemen. I had my film camera at the ready and we were making the rounds of the locations all tourists stop. One of the stops included Buckingham Palace. Walking ahead of the group, I noticed that the Royal Standard was being lowered, but gave it no more thought. Approaching a side gate, I stood alone and watched as a few very expensive cars pulled out of an archway and headed directly toward the gate that was in front of me.

To my amazement, the gate swung open and I watched dumbfounded as the entire Royal family passed no more than three feet from where I stood on the curbside. A couple of them waved as they passed. I was too shocked to remember that my camera was around my neck until they swept quickly out of view.

Yes, I can say that in that moment, I had not just seen the Royal family, but I had also seen Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. She had no idea who I was, but I had seen her and she had seen me. It was a thrilling moment as we looked at each other ever so briefly through the tinted windows of her luxury vehicle.

A couple of years later, I have a Scottish uncle who had a career working on submarines in conjunction with the Royal Navy. For his work, he was invited to Buckingham Palace to receive a special medal and be knighted. The ceremony took place with great pomp and fanfare. Each recipient of an award had to be dressed in very formal attire and each person invited was expected to behave in a very dignified manner. I was privileged to see some of the pictures of the event in which my uncle had the privilege of being recognized for his work by none other than Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

After the person receives their award, Her Majesty takes a few moments to interact with the recipient on a personal basis and by name. Many have commented that this personal touch often means more than the award itself.

The difference between my encounter with the Queen and that of my uncle was worlds apart.

I stood OUTSIDE the gates of the palace. The queen never knew who I was. And, I was dressed in jeans and wearing a dark brown leather jacket. There was nothing significant that took place that day. I had done nothing to warrant a personal meeting with Her Majesty.

On my uncle’s part, he went INSIDE the palace. He was part of a garden party after. He personally met and spoke with the Queen and she spoke with him. My uncle was dressed in formal attire and his wife was dressed like a proper lady complete with fancy hat. It was a significant event because his work had warranted the personal meeting. He was there because his presence was requested by the government and the Palace.

Everything about the meeting is choreographed except for the personal interaction with the Queen who maintains the prerogative to say or ask whatever she wishes to each individual recipient. However, the invitation, the travel to and into the Palace, the meeting with the General Lord Chamberlain as he gives final directions, and even the walk through the halls of the Palace – there is nothing flippant or untoward as each person prepares (and is prepared) to come face to face with the monarch of the United Kingdom.

What an amazing honor it would be to receive an invitation!

********

Yet, as a true believer, we have been granted a much higher honor.

No longer clothed in the filthy rags of our own self-importance and failed attempts in attaining righteousness, the holy God of all creation has brought us into the Palace and counts us as His children. We are no longer children of the evil one. Taking away the stench of our wickedness, He has clothed us with the impeccable, white garments of His own Son, Jesus Christ.

Christ invites us to dine with Him as He supplies all of our needs, and at times, He even gives us some of the desires of our heart.

Like the account of the prodigal son in Luke’s gospel, our Heavenly Father also outfits us with all the trappings that reflect our parentage. Weapons and armor are freely provided in order to protect us against the attacks of the evil one. This includes the breastplate of righteousness and the sword of the Spirit.

My uncle received an invitation one time, but our King has written the most beautiful love letter to us. Through this love letter, the Bible, He converses with us at any time we come before His presence. Even when we take the time to memorize portions of this letter, His Word promises that He is there.

A trip to Buckingham Palace is normally a once-in-a-lifetime honor and experience. Yet, dear readers, our King has NOT left us comfortless. The Holy Spirit remains with us forever as a down-payment on our inheritance. Further, we need no appointments or invitations to visit the throne room of heaven. It is ours to go to anytime, any day, and for any reason.

When we arrive, we get to walk right by the angels who can never know the joy of salvation. Approaching the throne itself, we have the right and the privilege of walking up and addressing the King as “Abba” or “Father.”

And, He takes the time and deigns to hear our petitions!

How was all of this possible? Because He gave His only begotten Son.

To whom is this available? That whosoever believes in Him may come and drink freely.

Investiture is defined as the action of formally investing a person with honors or rank.

What is the investiture to those who believe? We shall not perish. We now have eternal life. The justice and wrath we deserved was poured out on Jesus Christ. Because of His blood that He shed, we have been granted all of these wonders.

This and more should cause us to rejoice that our names have been written for time and eternity in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

Why?

Jude 25, To the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Now ask yourself this –

1. Does our worship retain this kind of sight of the Almighty God?
2. What has caused our vision to fail?
3. Is our collective worship a reflection of this kind of God?
4. Is our worship dulled because of man-made traditions that take the focus off of Christ and put it on self-centered man?
5. Does every aspect of our worship point to this kind of God?
6. Pastors and teachers, do those who hear us have this view of God when they leave? Or, do they only remember the illustrations, pithy little stories, and the lightheartedness designed to make the world feel better about themselves?
7. When we come before the Communion Table, what is our attitude and focus?

It does not take much for our sight to become dull and our lives to become disorientated. When this occurs, our delight is no longer in God, but in what we think we must have in order for life to work for us. Even what we consider collective worship can leave us disorientated if we are not vigilant and striving to constantly be reminded of Who we serve.

May our hearts be encouraged with a fresh look at the Savior today. May we be blessed with the recollection of all the heavenly benefits that belong to us.

Ill News From New England

History has not been kind to those who refuse to submit to a state-church. Even in this country, the USA, this monstrosity of a state-church ran roughshod over those who would not bow the knee.

In colonial America, three Baptists were arrested for speaking about their doctrine over supper at a boarding house near Boston. John Clark wrote his book, Ill News From New England in the mid-17th century. An edition with updated English (shorter sentences and paragraphs, word changes) is now available in paper and digital format.

You can read more at the following Amazon Link.