Thirsting For God

Psalm 41:1-2 To the chief Musician, Maschil, for the sons of Korah. As the hart panteth after the waterbrooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?

The years have come and gone and I see myself not much wiser than I was when the Lord first brought me to Himself compared to actual years of a person. For instance, I was saved 25 years ago and yet I have to wonder about my spiritual growth. As I’ve contemplated life and it’s difficulties, I’ve also contemplated why it seems I’ve hardly grown in that amount of time. Yes, there have been times where I’ve been fervent and desired change but was it for the right reasons?

Not too long ago, Sony Elise posted about sin and holiness. In it she said, “I feel like, in many churches, more emphasis is placed on God’s forgiveness as opposed to His holiness. I am so grateful for God’s mercy and forgiveness, but there are often still consequences to the fleshly decisions that we make. This is one reason that it is important to walk in the Spirit so that you do not fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Galatians 5:16).” This can also be said about each true believer within their personal lives.

hart_for_god_wide

Why is holiness so important? It’s because God hates sin. If we love Him then we should love what He loves and hate what He hates. How can we pant for the Lord and long after Him if we are willing to entertain sin within our lives? Is it easy to get caught up in daily living and forget the Lord is sovereign and in control of each situation we are involved in? Yes! Is it easy to live as if we were atheists and completely shut out the Lord except for Sunday? Yes! Is it easy to get angry at those who hurt us and aren’t willing to make things right? Yes, again! And it’s so easy to fall over and over again!

We are all sinners but if we are true believers then we should seek to make things right! What if they aren’t willing to do so or even listen to us? Then we must forgive and move on! We can mourn over what happened but there comes a time when the Lord says, “It’s time for you to love me even more! Who do you have in heaven but Me? There is none on earth that you should desire except Me. Your heart and your flesh fail continuously but I am the strength of your heart. I am your Portion forever.”

My heart should respond with, “Yes, Lord! You are all that and more! My heart pants for You as the deer pants for the water and even more than that! My soul thirsts for You and I cannot be satisfied unless You fill me to overflowing with You! I want to do Your will no matter how hard it is, no matter what persecutions and sorrows I will go through, no matter who stands with me or doesn’t because I love You beyond life itself!” Yes, it will still be easy to fall and live that life without the Lord but let those of us, who are true believers, beg for God to give us such a love for Him that we hate what He hates and love what He loves.

Let holiness and grace reign in our hearts so completely that when people are around us, even though we sin regularly, they can say, “He or she has been with Christ!” They may not like us for the conviction within their hearts but we need to be like Him.

I long to be like the Lord Jesus but I fail miserably on a daily basis and yet…I want to be holy as He is holy. I want to thirst for Him to fill me in such a way that I seek to love Him and do what He wants in every way!

Let me see my sin, dear Lord,
as though I were looking through Your eyes,
My heart and the blackness that is within,
the sin for which You died
Let Your horror of sin be my heartbreak
Blur mine eyes with tears of agony
For if once I could see my sin the way You see
I would seek to hate my sin for love of Thee.

Change my sin sick soul, dear Lord,
so that I will become more like Christ
Make me pure and white within, dear Lord,
give me strength to follow You in this fight
May I stand for truth whatever happens
Give my heart holy tenacity
For Your death on the cross is what gave life to me
Now I want my life wholly given to Thee.

Preacher, Tell Me Like It Is?

A good friend shared a Southern Gospel song with me this past week. It is one that I cannot ever remember hearing, although the group that sings this song is one I listened to for many years. The Southern Gospel group is called Greater Vision. For your reference, I have included the lyrics below before I share some additional thoughts.

1) Preacher I’d say it’s been a while since you heard this request,
but my spirit is tired and I need rest.
I want to hear from Heaven a clear word from God,
A sermon of conviction straight from the heart.

2) I’ve been hearing other preachers say I don’t have to change.
The most eloquent of speakers tell me I’m okay.
But it hasn’t eased my conscience and I know it’s not the truth.
So when you stand before us, can I count on you?

(Chorus) Oh Preacher, you say you want to be my friend,
don’t be afraid to call my sin what it is.
And Preacher, tell me I can overcome,
but it’s only by the blood of the Lamb.
Don’t tell me like I wish it was, Preacher tell me like it is.

3) So open up the Word and let the Spirit lead,
Preach until I’ve heard God speak to me.
Don’t worry about my feelings, don’t worry about my shame,
Just preach the cross of Jesus and that I’m to blame!

(bridge)
Life is quickly passing, the world is fading fast
and the foolishness of preaching is the only hope we have.

Regardless of whether you like Southern Gospel Music or not, there are still pastor-teachers who get up every Sunday or throughout the week and pray that today would be the day they heard such a song from those in their congregations.

Preaching

Sadly, this is far from truth. Many of you, who are regulars here at DefCon, know some of our story. In early 2013, I was called to pastor what I thought was a conservative, evangelical Bible-believing church in north-central California.  It took less than 2 months to ascertain that several of the “elders” were not even true believers. One was living in open sin, and they took great offense at my preaching that salvation is by grace through faith alone in Christ alone.

In one leaders’ meeting, one “elder” stated this while pointing at my Bible, “I don’t really know much about that book, but if you are telling me that my friends and family who do not believe in Jesus Christ are going to die and go to hell…well, I would rather die and go to hell with them than to believe what you are telling me!”

Can you imagine such a response by one who is supposedly “called” to be a shepherd? Why would a church even ask a person to be a shepherd when they don’t know The Book?

A few months later, just shy of 70% of the congregation voted against taking a stand on the issue of homosexuality and homosexual marriage. Obviously, this was not a congregation that was interested in singing the lyrics of this song. They did not want sin called what it was. The men who claimed to be elders and who were supposed to be leading spiritually and watching over the flock had little to no interest in the truth of God’s Word.

Sundays come and Sundays go, and far too many faithful ministers prepare messages wondering who will show up and whether they are even upset from the Word that was ministered the week before. On the other hand, there are hirelings posing as shepherds who refrain from speaking boldly because they are afraid of losing a paycheck. Such individuals have NO BUSINESS being in the pulpit.

While there are many other things that are on my heart, I want to use this post to address those who normally sit in congregations each week. Let me tell you what a true pastor looks like.

  1. A true pastor will be faithful to the Word before he is faithful to your pet peeves.
  2. A true pastor will be obedient to the Word before he will be obedient to what you THINK you want to hear.
  3. A true pastor will honor God first and foremost before he will honor requests to dumb down the Scriptures.
  4. A true pastor will normally be found in a small gathering long before he will be found preaching to large crowds who come for everything BUT exposition of the Scriptures.
  5. A true pastor may not show up for every party you have at your house but he will keep you before the Lord each time you are brought to his remembrance.
  6. A true pastor has a family that he has been called to take care of but they will often wait long hours for him to come home because he is “needed” in another part of the harvest field for a few more hours.
  7. A true pastor may have to work long hours outside of ministry-related duties and still have to find time to juggle family, ministry, preparation, and maybe squeeze in some rest. He may do this because it is better than taking a paycheck from a congregation who thinks they can hire and fire him if he doesn’t tickle their ears.
  8. A true pastor will struggle with his own sin and concerns while preaching to himself each time he opens the Scriptures. He will strive to be faithful while at the same time endeavoring to be more like Jesus Christ knowing that he fails miserably.
  9. A true pastor weeps when he sees entire families walk away because they didn’t like the music or lack thereof, or because they chose to walk in the paths of heretics they read after or watch on TBN. He knows that what they are following after does not change their lives. He knows their struggles are real and hopping from church to church is not going to change them to be more like Christ.
  10. A true pastor is concerned when telling it like it is about sin and shame produces little response in the lives of the hearers,, and he wonders whether it is worth all the effort.
  11. A true pastor may often take the blame for much that has nothing to do with his own life, his family, or his ministry. However, he will also know that the blameshifting is merely a cry for help from those who do not want to be helped.
  12. A true pastor may often wonder if there is “anybody else in Israel that has not bowed the knee to the gods of this world” but will rejoice when he finds even one or two of the 7,000 who have not bowed.
  13. A true pastor knows the world is dying and on their way to hell apart from the saving grace of Jesus Christ, but will normally minister to people, some who think they are “good enough” to get there on their own merits.
  14. A true pastor knows that the foolishness of preaching is the ONLY hope we have to offer to the world.
  15. A true pastor will know that to strive to be most eloquent in the eyes of the world will only bring further heartache.
  16. A true pastor knows that this world cannot be his home, that he is only a stranger on a journey to a better land, and that the rewards this world has to offer are corrupt at best and will rot away.
  17. A true pastor may at times be captured in moments of weakness by thoughts of wanting to hear compliments, but in the end remembers that the only true accomplishment will be to hear, “Well done, you were a good and faithful servant.”

For those true pastors who have refused to bow the knee to the gods of this world and the sinful desires of congregations, you are loved with an everlasting love. Your rewards will be few down here. Your body may be worn down as you strive to juggle all of your efforts to show Christ to others, but strive to remain faithful as we look toward a land whose builder and maker is God. True pastors, you have a high calling.

True believers, you have a responsibility to pray for your pastor, to support him, to love him, and to realize that he is only human. Every message will NOT be easy to hear. He is tasked with the incredible and heart-breakingly overwhelming responsibility of protecting you from the dangers of all the heresy and false teaching that is spreading like wildfire throughout evangelicalism.

True believers, it is easy to sing songs like this when they have catchy tunes or lyrics, but how often have you actually walked up to your pastor and told him such words? How often have you said, “Preacher, Tell Me Like It Is!” and then instead of getting offended and looking for a new church next week prayed and asked the Lord to help you be a faithful Berean Christian who will stand for truth even when it is not popular?

 

A Call to Repentance and Surrender

After Bible Study the other night, we were sitting around talking, and someone mentioned that, before he knew the Lord, he wouldn’t attend church because he knew he wasn’t living right. Thankfully, he finally hit a place where he surrendered to the Lord, changed the things he knew needed to change, and surrendered his life to Christ.

I understand why churches stress the importance of coming to Jesus as you are instead of waiting to be cleaned up but it also seems like way too many stay as they are, even after making a profession of faith. Isaiah 1:18 says, “‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ said the LORD: ‘though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.'” This doesn’t mean your sins become white but that your life of sin disappears as you begin to serve God.

sinsasscarlet

In Romans 6:1, Paul asks, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” In verse 2, he answers his own question, “God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?”

In Galatians 2:20, Paul says, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” We know Christ knew no sin so, if He lives in me, I won’t live a life of sin either.

Many times in Scripture, people were told to repent. That call still goes out today. If you are one who looks nice on the outside but inside, you are full of uncleanness, repent. If you are nice to the people at church but mean to your family, repent. If you are living a life that you know is not honoring to God, it is never too late to turn from your sinful ways and surrender those areas to the One who loves you more than you will ever be able to comprehend. The answer isn’t to stop going to church; the answer is to understand your need and turn to Him today.

Pretend that you are about to take communion. Think about the horrendous death that Jesus suffered because of your sins and mine. As you begin to bring the bread and cup to your lips, does your heart well up with gratitude for what Christ has done for you or do you find yourself squirming because you know that you are not able to take communion worthily but you know that others have no idea what your life is really like? Worse yet, do you not feel that sense of guilt about the life you are living?

Hebrews 12:6 says, “For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and whips every son whom He receives.” If you are able to sin and not be disciplined by the Lord, you should really search your heart to know if you are truly His.

Let me also say here that there is a difference between conviction and condemnation. Condemnation feels like there is no hope. Conviction is the mercy of the Holy Spirit tapping you on the shoulder and showing you what you are doing wrong so that you can change. That is what I want you to feel today: the conviction that only God can bring. I don’t know your life. I don’t know what you’re going through. But I do know that God loves you, and He can change you today, whether you have gone to church for a day, a month, a year, 5 years, 65 years, or not at all. His arm is not too short, and He desires you to spend eternity with Him. Won’t you surrender today?