Sunday, August 25, 2019

How to Live Set-Apart and Pure in Jesus


Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy;without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 17 Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.

18 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20 because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.”[c] 21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”[d]

22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.”[e] 27 The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.

28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken,let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”[f]
-Hebrews 12:14-29

Today we’re talking about how we can learn to follow Jesus Christ our glorious savior. And we’re considering the book of Hebrews, chapter 12. This book of the Bible is just amazing, it’s so powerful, it’s so deep, it’s so meaningful. I just love it. But I love the whole Bible, it’s all so amazing, I can’t get enough of it. I hope you have a Bible, and that you take time to read it everyday. I usually read the Bible in bed before I sleep at night. And I hope your also praying regularly, asking God to be with you each day, and praying for people and for the world, and for your own needs. Prayer is powerful.

I’m alive today because I had a praying grandmother. I had a mom praying for me. I had a bible study group somewhere praying for me when I was lost in addiction. That’s powerful.

So we know that we’re saved by the blood of Jesus Christ, that was shed on the cross. Jesus was taken by the ruling authorities, and whipped, and beaten, then forced to carry his own cross, to the place where he’d be killed. Then Jesus was made to lay across the wood of the cross, and nailed were driven through his hands and his feet. And then the cross was hoisted up, and dropped into a hole in the ground. And Jesus roasted in the sun, until he had lost so much blood, and become so exhausted, and so dehydrated, that he could no longer hold himself up. See, on the cross you would die from suffocation. You had to force yourself up, to be able to breath, but eventually you were so weak, you couldn’t do it anymore. And you’d die.

But something was strange about the way this Jesus person died. He was on the cross, and it was about noon, about 12 noon, and suddenly it went dark. And this event is actually recorded by historians of the time. It went completely dark for 3 hours. From noon until 3. Totally darkness. Can you imagine this? 3 hours. And then there was an earthquake. And Jesus cried out, he just screamed, screamed so loudly, and then it says he died, and gave up his spirit. That’s what Jesus did for us. Jesus took the punishment that each of us deserve for our sins. He took it on the cross. Then 3 days later he resurrected from the dead. It wasn’t over when Jesus died. He came back to life.

Now our job as Christians today, is to believe in Jesus Christ. To believe that Jesus is really alive, and at work in the world today. He conquered death itself. Meaning we can have eternal life, and live forever, because of what Jesus did.

Now, when we believe in Jesus, we become born again. God changes our heart. My old self is dead. And now a new life starts. Has your new life started? My new life has started.

So now that we are Christians, which means followers of Jesus, we seek with all our strength and determination to live as Jesus lived. This is the tough part. I knew instantly 7 years ago, that when I got saved, Jesus was saying to me, you need to get clean and sober. And Jesus was saying, I’m gonna help you. But I knew Jesus was telling me to go back to recovery. It’s not enough to just believe in Jesus, we need to live differently.

And that’s where a lot of us can get stuck. Because we want Jesus as our savior. But we aren’t really willing to change. But we have to change. That’s what God expects of us. That’s why as soon as I had cried out to Jesus, and I knew Jesus had come into my heart, I started trying to live differently. I started going to 12 step groups. I started attending celebrate recovery. I joined a bible study, attended Sunday services at a church faithfully. I began pursuing the new life Jesus had given me.

Sins started dropping from my life. I quit drinking. I drinking using drugs. A year later I quit smoking cigarettes. I stopped having sex with whoever I wanted to. I decided I was going to honor God in my romantic life. I decided I would wait for marriage to be intimate with a woman. That’s what God made sexual intimacy for, for marriage, a lifelong marriage between husband and wife. So God is challenging us, as His people, to show Him that we really mean it. That we really trust Him. Faith without works is dead. So I gotta get to work!

And its’ fun. It’s great. Sure it’s tough. But man it’s so exciting to watch Jesus change my life. It’s so great to be free from dope, from alcohol, from cigarettes, from meaningless relationships. And it’s so exciting to see a whole new life of purity, of holiness taking hold in my life. It’s like wow, I never thought this was possible, but God is doing it in me! God does the deep work in our souls. And we do the foot work.

As our scripture today said, “See to it that you do not refuse Him who speaks.” Do you recall that when God delivered his people from slavery in Egypt, and Moses led them into the wilderness, that they began to complain against God, and disobey God, and so that generation died wandering in the wilderness, and lost the inheritance they were so hoping for.

What scares me is that I could fall short of making it to heaven when I die. And that’s always a possibility. If I held on to some sins in my life, secretly, and only I knew, well, God would know. And say I come before him on judgment day, all of that stuff is gonna come out. And then God would have to send me to hell. And I would burn in fire and torment forever. That’s terrible. But I was playing games with God, if I did it that way. I’m not going to play any games. I want to be holy, because God is holy. And the new city of God, the new heavens and new earth that God is preparing for us, is for holy people. People who are not living in sin. So I do need to live holy. But it doesn’t happen all at once. It’s a process. Over time God removes sins from my life, I fight against the sin, and God gives the victory. But it’s in his timing. But I work very hard to live in holiness. God does it in me. Jesus Christ lives in me. And it’s amazing. God is so good. But my job is to resist temptation, and pray, and seek God, and study the Bible, and stay in fellowship, attend church faithfully. Then I stay close to God, and those old sins can’t get near me. But if I were to stop attending church, stop praying, stop attending my meeting, and start hanging with the wrong crowd, then pretty soon the devil would be knocking and those old sins could easily come right back.

If you recall when Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt, they came to mount Sinai. And God would call Moses up the mountain to meet with him. But at that time, that was considered holy ground. And some didn’t take that seriously, and they touched the mountain, and they were struck dead right there. Boom, dead. And Moses witnessed this and he was so shocked, it says he was trembling with fear, trembling before God, because our God is not some sappy, love-sick sort of hippie God. Our God is righteous, holy, and a God of justice. He is going to set all things right. Yes, He loves us. He does, so much. But He is also just. Like any good father, he disciplines us. And let me tell you, growing up, when you hear the dad voice, or grandpa, yelling, because I was doing something wrong, well, you understand. I fear God. I know God can send me to hell. I know He doesn’t want to do that. But God demands that I live right. That I live holy. And he demands the same of all of us. So let’s be holy. If we stick close to God, then we will be holy.

One final thought is this, like we talked about, Jesus Christ is alive right now, he walked the Earth about 2000 years ago, about. In fact somewhere between 2030-2035 will be exactly 2000 years since Jesus walked the Earth. Isn’t that interesting. See after Jesus resurrected from the dead, he showed himself to many witnesses, to his disciples, then he ascended to heaven. And that’s where Jesus is right now, in heaven. But the ultimate conclusion of this planet, and of our lives is when Jesus Christ will return. The Bible says he is coming in the clouds, and every eye will see Him. So we as Christians are watching for the return of Jesus. We are eagerly awaiting the return of Jesus. We must be watchful. Are you watching for his return? He is coming very, very, very soon. Be watchful. 

Friday, August 23, 2019

Why My Faith is Stronger than Ever that God is Really Real



I thought to myself, should I follow suit with the post-modern heroes of Christianity, the disaffected, selfish millennials flipping on the faith, and declaring their atheism to the world?  The answer to that question is NO! 

My reasonable faith in the architect of reality, the universe, and the human race is stronger now than ever before.  Some think science is slowly poking holes in religion.  That is the narrative sometimes repeated in the coffee shops and plush venues of cultural elitists, in their elitist newspapers and journals.  Of course the opposite is quite.  More so than ever, science itself is pointing us to the reality of the existence of God.

The more scientists study DNA, the more they realize that the cells in our bodies are coded with instructions, exceedingly advanced instructions.  As they look deeper and deeper into the cells of our bodies, they realize, with awe, "This looks designed!"  Meanwhile astronomers studying the stars and the universe have realized that there are particles called the "higgs boson" that literally hold the universe together.  Many in the scientific community nicknamed these "God" particles.  It is quite interesting when we realize that the word of God declares that Jesus Christ himself holds the universe together by his mighty power (Colossians 1:17). 

Additionally, it's clear to the scientific community that our universe is not eternal, but that is began in the finite past, something they refer to as the big bang.  This cosmological principle is powerful in that this burst of creation in the finite past is remarkably similar to the concept of God "speaking" the universe into existence during the creation week.  And if the universe did come into existence, it can't simply pop into existence from nothing.  It must have a cause.  What force or entity best fits the bill to be the cause of the universe? That's right you guessed it, God the intelligent designer, who is infinite in nature, outside time, and possessing ultimate power.

Not only that, but historical and archaeological  discoveries continue to confirm the biblical account of history.  In fact just two weeks ago archaeologists discovered the ancient "Church of the Apostles" near the sea of Galilee in Israel.  Thousands of archaeological discoveries have served to confirm the biblical account of history, from a statue of Caesar Augustus discovered in the red sea, to the old city of Jerusalem recently discovered by archaeologists.

But what about that age old question that philosophers have wrestled with for centuries: Is God really is there, why is there so much evil in the world?  Now, it's interesting to note that if the atheists are really right, and there is no God, then there is no standard by which to discern between good and evil.  It's all just personal opinion.  If it's true that our universe burst forth from nothingness billions of years ago and aimlessly flies into nowhere, and we are just evolved slime from the goo pits, then there is no good or evil.  It's all just personal opinions.  And ultimately it wouldn't matter anyway, because one day, all would come to darkness. 

Then again if God does exist, then there is good and evil, and an ultimate standard.  Which means God has allowed for humanity to have free will.  What an incredible gift, don't you think?  We'd be mindless robots without free will.  Free will is the only thing that allows for true love.  Free will is a beautiful gift. But it's also risky, because we can choose good or evil.  Unfortunately we live in a world where things have gone terribly wrong, and humanity has fled away from God.  We live in a world where a child may die of some disease, or a natural disaster may kill thousands, or a lone gunman may slaughter innocent people.  This world is the chaos that results when humanity tries to play God, and live without God.  We also wrestle with the issue of evil in the world.  It breaks our hearts. But in the Christian worldview, God has promised to judge evil, at the end of the world.  That should be very satisfying to us, that in the end, good will be rewarded, and evil will be punished.  God is patient. God is kind. And God isn't afraid of our questions. God will interact with you, as you probe such deep and meaningful questions.

Ultimately, when we look at the life of Jesus Christ, even today Jesus is as popular as ever in the world.  The academic masterminds of our time continue to debate and discuss the life of Jesus, and average everyday people continue to consider Jesus, what he taught and how he lived.  When we look to Jesus Christ, we see a flawless, beautiful life, in which one lived to serve others, loved others, helped others, and offered up his very life to bring others home to God.  And Jesus is alive, and continues to change lives in the world today.  Jesus changed my life seven years ago, when he saved me from addiction, depression, and an empty, meaningless life.

So do I get upset, and start to waver in my faith when high profile Christians like Joshua Harris, and the worship leader from Hillsong reject Christ?  No I don't.  I know in whom I've believed.  God is real.  And his son Jesus Christ is a true, living savior, who conquered the grave, and is literally alive right now in heaven.  And Jesus Christ is coming again, to rule this entire Earth.  I believe that now more than ever.  And if some are rejecting the faith, and turning back to the ways of the world, maybe it's just a sign of the times we live in.  It's hard to follow Jesus.  It means giving up our whole lives to a new way.  It means fighting and defeating sin.  It means serving God, instead of serving self.  And it's a lot easier to live a vain, selfish life.  But I'm convinced more than ever, that the most loving, beautiful, holy, and selfless way to live life, is to live walking hand in hand with my King the Lord Jesus Christ. 


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Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Spirit of Holy Warfare


Audio Message:



“You must fight devils, lies, fleshly indulgences, hardships, disappointments, and everything that sets itself up against God, or that is apposed to the living of a holy life, or which threatens the damnation of man. At all risks and consequences, you must fight for God and the salvation of souls.” -William Booth, The Seven Spirits

Today, we consider holy warfare. For this I will direct you to a famous story that William Booth recounts, and is commonly referred to as “What will you do?” Many of you have probably heard of it. If you’d like to read the full story, get a copy of this book titled “William Booth’s Amazing Visions.” Booth one day was home, sitting alone considering the plight of the millions of lost in the world. And he saw this vision. He saw a raging sea, storming, lightning and thunder, and he saw thousands and thousands of people drowning in the waters. Then he saw a mighty rock rise up from the waters. And there was a platform at the rock, on which people were rescued. Some on the rock were working tirelessly to help save the people that were still trapped in the water, throwing them life preservers, and building boats to go down into the water, and even some dove into the water to help fish people out that way. But to Booth’s astonishment most of the people on the platform were not helping to pull people out of the water at all. They were going about their worldly affairs, gathering money, working, going on vacations, playing sports; while others were growing flowers, playing music, accumulating products, others debating about theology, and still others painting, taking classes, and so on and so forth.

Then in his vision Booth saw one drop down into the water, helping to save people dying in the water, and he was bright and brilliant, fighting with all his might, and he cried out to the people on the platform “Come help me! Come help me!” But they did not respond. Sadly, they did not care.

Booth realized quickly what the vision meant. The storming sea and the people it in were the unsaved in this world drowning in sins and brokenness. The rock that rose from the sea was the salvation provided in Christ. The platform and the people on it were the church. And he realized that the people in the boats and the ones throwing out life preservers were salvation soldiers, those who burned with the true spirit of holy warfare. But most of the church didn’t care, for the lost. The bright one in the waters was Jesus Christ himself, fighting to save the lost to this very day.

And this visions I believe perfectly describes what it means to be living the Spirit of Holy Warfare. There are only two kinds of Christians, the Christian who sits on the platform, enjoying worldly pleasures, and the Christian who is down in the waters tirelessly fighting to save souls from damnation. Which one are you? Are you down there in the water fighting tooth and nail to get people saved? Or are you up on the platform, ignoring the cries of the dying? Only you can answer that question.

It could just as easily be me. In fact as an officer it is very easy to get bogged down in paperwork, fundraisers and food drives, that pretty soon there is no soul winning going on at all. And what will be my fate on judgment day, if I live that way? Is there any chance of my attaining to eternal life? None-whatsoever. I must be a soul winner. I must be one who practices holy warfare.

Everyday we suite up for conflict, in fact conflict is our very nature. We fight to provide for our families. We fight to teach our children. We fight to make money. We fight against disease and old age. Life is often a conflict, and we meet it daily in the struggle of life.

If we fight in this world, how much more do we fight in the Christian faith? The Christian faith is a constant battle. Once first get saved, all sorts of problems suddenly spring up to try to tear us back down, and rip us away from God. The enemy does his best to dissuade us, to get us to turn back. Sins of the flesh boggle our minds and we find ourselves confessing and repenting, and desperately trying to live holy lives. And how bleak it seems at first, in those first few years, wondering if there’s even any chance to live like Christ.

That is the personal struggle. But we must too struggle to get others saved. William Booth said, “This is desperate, agonizing, wounding business.” My goodness Booth could turn a phrase. I recall when at training college we went out did evangelism at a public event in downtown Chicago. It was exhausting, talking to person after person about Jesus Christ. But after being there a few hours, I had spoke to probably about ten people about Jesus. And on the way back in the van, I felt the wounds. The harsh answers, the debates, the discussions, and the stress and strain on my soul.I felt beat up in my spirit. But I felt so… real. So complete in those moments. I tell you today that there is never any time that I feel more alive, more Spirit-filled, more completely like a true, real Christian, than when I witness to the unsaved. I always feel as I do that, that this is the single, most important thing I can do as a Christian, to win the lost to Christ, by simply sharing the faith with a stranger. Or a friend, or a neighbor.

I dare you to do it. Do it daily in your life. And feel the Spirit declare in you the fullness of who you are, a real Christian.

That is true holy warfare! That is the difficulty we are called to. We’re all here on the platform, and we see the raging sea around us. And how clearly we can see it in Flint. We see the dying people slowly drowning in the waves and crashing sea. And how difficult and agonizing work it is, to try to fish them out of the sea, with row boats and life jackets and ropes. It is not easy work. It is thankless work. But it must be done.

Booth said, “Think of the difficulties that have to be surmounted before a man can have ground for expecting the “well done” at the judgment throne, or a victorious crown in Heaven. “Be thou faithful unto death!” Do you ever consider what that faithfulness unto death meant to those to whom the words were first spoken? The visions of the torture chamber, the wild beasts in the arena, the crucifixion, which it called up in their minds?”

Even today, in the middle-east, in China, in north Africa, in India, there are Christians who are dying everyday for their faith in Jesus. These are the heroes of our faith. And who is to say that something like that couldn’t happen here in America? It is closer that we might all realize. But when we consider the blood of the martyrs, and the struggle of our faith, we are drawn back to the first one who offered up his blood.

In our scripture today, Revelation chapter five, we see the one on the throne holding a scroll. This scroll ushers in the final conclusion of God’s kingdom program. And there is one who is able to take the scroll and open the seven seals. The messenger of God declares, “Fear not, for the lion of Judah has triumphed!”

Now let’s just pause there for a moment. We’ve gone through Revelation, and we see these amazing displays of God’s throne, these scrolls, all this sort of esoteric imagery. Does it seem strange to you? Does it seem just like a little bit too much? I must admit at times, I doubt. I think to myself, could that really be true? Is this really real?

Could it really be true that an ark carried all that was left of the animals and people of the Earth at one time. Could it really be true that a giant fish swallowed Jonah? Is it really true that Jesus Christ rose from the dead? Isn’t it all just a bit too extreme? Haven’t they disproved all of this with science?

And I would answer myself this way: Has science disproved religion? Absolutely not. Science simply measures the observable universe. It doesn’t have anything to say about religion. In fact I’ve found that science and religion complement each other quite well. A natural process shows how rain falls, or how water freezes, or how vapor becomes clouds, and so on. Our religious faith answers the questions as to why we exist at all on this planet. Can everything be explained through natural means? Not at all. In fact I think the single best argument for the existence of God comes from science. Science indicates that the universe is expanding. Scientists discovered that the universe is not eternal, but that is began to exist at a fixed point in time. They call this “the big bang.” Now ask a scientist, where did the big bang come from? And some would say that it’s simply a mystery. There was nothing, then bang, the universe. But someone whose honest would have to say, “What caused the bang?” And one could indicate, that God is the best explanation for the cause of the universe. Something that begins to exist must have a cause. Therefore God exists.

Now, if God can make the universe, the stars, and craft the planet is Earth from nothing, into a lush green ecosystem, and create humanity, in all our complexity, from our auto-focusing eyeballs to our fully functional endocrine and circulatory systems, then is it really that hard for God to resurrect Jesus from the dead? Is it really that hard for God to keep Jonah safe in the belly of a whale? And is it really so difficult to believe that God exists in some sort of ethereal throne room on a plain of reality we refer to as “heaven”? No, it isn’t that hard. If God can make the universe from nothing, imagine what he can do in our lives.

Revelation 5:6 “Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits[a] of God sent out into all the earth.” The lamb is at the center of the throne, that astonished me. Jesus Christ is God. He ‘s right there on the throne with the Father.

Then the elders and the living creatures cried out in worship to Jesus saying, ““You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”

Jesus Christ triumphed in his life. He lived a life of holy warfare fighting tooth and nail for the lives of lost humanity. He fought so hard, toiling in prayer, constantly surrounded by crowds, preaching the word, constantly dealing with people who would argue with him, call him a demon, mock him, and ridicule him. He fought against the religious leaders the Pharisees. He fought for the weak, the poor, and the sick. And Jesus Christ fought a very certain sort of holy warfare. He fought with love, grace, and truth. He fought by dying on the cross, by giving up His life to the Father of Lights. And by offering up his blood, Jesus Christ our King purchased us. He purchased for God people from every nation and language and group across the face of the Earth. He purchased lost souls in China, he purchased homeless boys in India, he purchased settlers in America, he purchased rich business men, prostitutes on the streets, drug addicts and Nobel prize winners. All gathered to God, because of the blood of Jesus, shed on the cross, to pay off our debt of sins, and take us home to God.

In the Salvation Army, God worked through two rather ordinary people named William and Catherine Booth. Through two people, not all that special, just ordinary folks, he launched a war on Satan and his dominion over the poor, the homeless, the starving, the alcoholic, and the addicted, that were being sorely neglected by the churches of their day. From a poor, broke man named William, preaching to drunks in bars, and having beer bottles thrown at him, God launched a war against Satan and a war for the souls of humanity, that has spread to 130 countries in the world today.

The goal of my life, is to fight tooth and nail for the lost souls of humanity in this world, by winning them to Jesus Christ, and teaching them to live in holiness. I want to bring as many souls with me to heaven as possible.

And I believe on that day, when each of return to the God that made us, there will be a special sort of ceremony for salvationists who have won their battle and proceeded home triumphantly. I can see it now. The bright golden hauls of heaven. And we are walking down a long, long corridor. And to the left and to the right of us, we see thousands and thousands of salvationists in their uniforms cheering and applauding as we march forward, step by step. Can you see it? I see them cheering and giving glory to God, and praising Jesus Christ, as we march forward. And standing along the path we walk, will be the people we preached to, the people we prayed for, the people we won to Christ, stopping us, and hugging as we go by, and shaking our hands, with huge smiles, and tears in their eyes. And we’ll walk forward together with them, to a brightness beyond our comprehension, a glowing love and beauty, from the throne, where Jesus will stand, and say to us, “Well done good and faithful soldiers.” You have won your battle.

In conclusion today, William Booth said:

“If you are saviors of men you must fight. Make up your minds that it is so, and that nothing on earth or in Heaven, human or divine can change it. The Devil has got possession of the world; anyway, of the people that dwell in it, and if you want them for Christ and holiness and heaven, you will have to take your stand and hold your post, and close with your enemy, and fight for their rescue, and you may be sure he won’t loosen his grip without inflicting all the damage he can upon you who dare to attack him and his prey. This law is not of my making. I am not responsible for it. I found it in my Bible. It is God’s plan and God’s plan for us. Have you accepted it? I have.” –William Booth


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Sunday, August 4, 2019

The Spirit of Divine Holiness


Audio Message: 


“If borne on a burning seraph’s wings I could rise to the Heaven of Heavens, and, like it’s holy inhabitants be allowed to enter the holy of holies where Jehovah especially manifests his glory; and if, prostrate before that Throne, with all reverence I should ask the question: “What is the first and most important qualification a salvationist must possess in order to do your Blessed Will?” God would reply: “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” -William Booth, The Seven Spirits

Divine holiness is that chief nature which God himself is. Particularly, God the Father. Divine holiness is who God is, fundamentally. Before anything, before heaven and Earth, before the angels and humanity, and all else, there was God alone and His holiness as the constant reality of everything. Divine holiness is the natural and proper state of everything as it was meant to be.

It's important to note that Earth was originally intended to be a paradise where God lived in peace and harmony with humanity, humanity was meant to be holy, perfect and good, building civilizations, art, music, society, and liberty on a perfect Earth, in endless cities of people and animals, living in harmony with nature, building great cities, works of art, and cosmopolitan metropolises reflective of God’s endless glory. And God would especially reside amongst us, and enjoy fellowship with us, and us with Him.

Unfortunately, our ancestors chose to disobey God, and preferred to try to go it alone, to redefine reality, and tried to claim sole lordship over the Earth. So instead of a paradise, we got this, what we have today. A place where man reigns supreme, and behind the thrones of man, we have Satan and his demons at work, attacking humanity, twisting truth and reality, destroying, corrupting and adding endlessly to the misery of mankind.

Yet we also find God, who came to Earth, as Jesus Christ, to make a way for us to escape this broken reality, which is destined for destruction. So as we look back in history, the last two thousands, we saw a radical break from the madness of evil on this planet, with the rise of the church, the body of Christ, spreading across the Earth, as a sort of resistance movement against the kingdoms of darkness and evil.

God’s holiness, as the reality behind the spread of the church, is cleansing humanity of sin, and preparing humanity, through the blood of Jesus, to be presented spotless and blameless, for a new heavens and new Earth. Essentially, we were washed clean in Jesus Christ, and called to live in holiness, to prepare us for when God removes this broken universe, and makes a new universe, and a new Earth, and the city called the New Jerusalem. That is what we are being prepared for.

The other reality is the world as we see it now, Satan and his demons, attempting to drag us down to hell with them. They know they are doomed to hell. So they want to bring as many humans as they can with them. And we fight against them as the church, calling humanity home to God, day and night. The clock is ticking everyday on that clock. Which is why we fight so hard to get people saved before it’s too late.

Holiness at work in the heavens, sin at work on the Earth, and holiness come through the church, as the resistance movement against the kingdoms of darkness. All bound together by a reality of our existence known as free-will. Free will is our choice in the matter: Will we choose to walk the difficult path back home to God? Or will we choose the easy way of sin and pleasure, and lose everything with it? Ultimately we each make that choice, every day.

So if we are indeed the blood washed saints of God, made righteous in Christ, then we must choose holiness! Each and every day. I want heaven on Earth. I want it so badly. This bland life on Earth has little appeal to me. Anything, anything at all for heaven, for eternal life. So the question is how! How are we to live out holiness? What is holiness and how can we have it? William Booth wrote, first of all, as his prime definition for holiness these words: “…Holiness, in the sense in which The Salvation Army uses the word, means entire deliverance from sin.” -William Booth, The Seven Spirits, Pg. 25.

He said “holy souls are saved from sin.” All unrighteousness is sin. And he continues writing that “To be holy is to be delivered from the penalty of sin. Holiness is deliverance from the guilt of sin. Holiness is deliverance from the defilement of sin. Holiness means complete deliverance from the bondage of sin. And Holiness is the deliverance of the soul from the reign of selfishness.” Each of those phrases were headings for various subsections which Booth writes on what holiness is. But he also continues to indicate that holiness means “separation.” Holiness as a biblical term means to be set apart for special, or sacred use. And that is what it means for a Christian to be in the world, but not of the world. We as Christian salvationists are set apart from the old world, born again, into Christ, yet still living in this world, called to win the world for Christ, and live a “set apart” life, in which we keep ourselves from being defiled by the sins of the world.

That I believe in this last hour we live in, is a very difficult thing to do. It truly is very difficult. There are so many allurements of the flesh out there. So many temptations. It is very difficult to live holy in this world. But in Christ it can be done. And it must be done. The increase in wickedness in our world is foretold, as part of the end times. And it says in the word that the love of many will grow cold, because of the increasing wickedness. But as we discovered last week, we cannot allow ourselves to grow cold, and instead we see to have a heart of burning love.

Burning love, and divine holiness are of course intrinsically linked. They are two sides of the same coin. Divine holiness is simply the source of the flame of burning love. But still we struggle to truly understand what holiness really is. To understand what holiness really is, we have to ask the question, who is God, and what does it mean that God is holy? For that we must rise to the highest heaven, with John, in our scripture for today.

In Revelation chapter four, we find that John of Patmos has received the revelation of the message to the seven churches, and now John is called up to heaven. A voice like a trumpet blast burst forth into John’s ears and said, “Come up here.”

So we find ourselves with John in the very throne room of God. And it says he saw a throne, and someone seated on the throne. It was this massive brightness. But John looked intently into the brightness and he said it had the appearance of jasper. Here is a picture of what jasper rocks look like, jasper comes in all sorts of colors. And he said God also appeared as ruby. Here is what rubies look like. And there was a rainbow arching over the throne, that appeared to glow like emerald stone. Beautiful.

Why is God described in terms of precious stones and colors and brightness? Perhaps because God is not like us, in most ways. God is so far beyond us. And our minds and eyes, and senses can only perceive of God in terms of visuals, expressions of beauty, purity, and goodness. These precious stones, and brightness and colors and the majesty of the rainbow point us to the beauty and glory of God. But we also have another sensation being triggered here. It says there were bursts of lightning, visual power, and crackling of thunder and rumblings of thunder. This declares God’s power. God is fearful, mighty, and all powerful. And then we have the sea of transparent glass, this great expanse of glass, that seems to ripple like an ocean. Perhaps this represents God’s infinite nature, the fact that He exists outside of time, and has no beginning or end.

Before God’s throne we see the seven lamp stands which represent the 7 spirits of God, and perhaps also represent the church. We also see 24 elders, dressed in white, with crowns on their heads. And there are four beasts before God’s throne, constantly declaring these words: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.”

They are saying, pure, pure, pure, is our God, who is infinitely in the past, infinitely in the present, and infinitely forward into the future.

Wow. Simply amazing. All these things before God’s throne point us to God the Father’s unique holy nature. And that is ultimately the divine nature we here on Earth must adopt for ourselves in this world, to be fit for the next world that is to come.

Just as my cats walk around my house on all fours, watching me change, watching me read and write, and watching me think and consider, we also watch God do things that we can hardly understand. My cats don’t understand what I’m doing when I’m reading my Bible, or when I’m watching TV or talking on the phone. They just look on with wonder, and crawl onto my lap and love to be near me. It’s the same with you and I like God. We are like the cat watching the human. Or the ant watching the skyscraper. We don’t understand what he’s doing usually, and we don’t have to. We just love him and crawl onto his lap and love him anyway.

What amazes me is that this God, who resides in this throne room, is not only there, but also connected with us down here. God the Father’s presence goes from there, through Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, to us. And so God this infinite being in the highest heaven, so mighty, and endless, resides within us as well. That is absolutely shocking, stunning, and amazing. It is an incredible honor that God would reside in us.

In the past during the times of Moses and the tabernacle, God resided in the temple, in the holy of holies, but today, we as the church are God’s temple, so God actually resides within us. That is amazing. And it is also a great motivator to fight tooth and nail to remain temples that are pure and undefiled.

William Booth wrote “Holiness is the royal road to peace, contentment, and joy for you.” We sometimes think of holiness as a terrible burden ,this long list of things we can’t do. And it feels like at times God just wants to stop us from having fun. But that is not the reality my friends, truly it is not. For what sin has ever brought us lasting joy? What sin has ever made us better people? What sin has ever made us more fulfilled? None of them. Not one. Sin is the enemy of our peace, and sin is misery. It may at first appear to be fun or pleasurable, but so quickly it leads to misery.

So what is holiness, for us?

Booth wrote, “Holiness is a distinct definite state; a man can be in it, or out of it. Holiness is enjoyed partially or entirely by all converted people.”

He continues writing, “Every truly converted man is the master of sin, although he may not be entirely delivered from it.”

Yet Booth also said, “Then again, Holiness is a continued growth in sincere souls. With faith, watchfulness, prayer, and obedience, the power of sin diminishes as the days pass along, and the strength of Holiness increases.”

And finally Booth wrote, “The line which separates a state of entire from a state of partial Holiness may be approached very gradually, but there is a moment when it is crossed.”

Just a word on my own walk in holiness. I do not consider myself to have come to the point of “entire sanctification” which is a reality of the Christian life. I’ve only been a Christian for about seven years. I’m not there yet. But I do believe I walk in a sort of holiness, though at this point in my life, it’s one in which I sort of slip in and out of, on any given day. Just the other day, it was about noon I felt the Lord calling me to go before him and repent of something sinful I had said to another. So I did. So in my life, there is this sort of balancing act, where I live holy in Christ, but every few days in prayer I have to confess and repent of certain things that I do that should not be in my life. But I honestly and sincerely believe that there will come a day in my life when I realize, I’ve come to the point of entire sanctification, where sin no longer occurs in my life.

As Booth himself, “By perseverance in the sanctified life spiritual manhood is reached, and the soul is perfected in love; that is maturity.”

Some don’t believe this is possible, unfortunately. They think they must always be mired in sin. But that is not the case. But I do think I understand why some think that. Booth has a good word for us on that. He wrote: “I have no doubt that many fail here by confounding temptation with sin. They pray-they consecrate they believe that they receive, and they rejoice. But by and by when bad thoughts are suggested to their minds, they say to themselves, “Oh I can’t be saved from sin, or I would not have all those wicked thoughts and suggestions streaming through my soul. They confuse temptation with sin.” Being tempted is not sinning. Never forget that. Remember the Bible says Jesus was tempted in every way we are, but He never sinned.

A second mistaken reality is that people assume that holiness must mean total freedom from serious depression and low spirits. That is completely false. Holiness is not to be mistaken for “happiness” or feeling good all the time. If you feel really down or depressed, you can be pure and holy at that same moment. Believe it. Always recall that Jesus Christ himself was a man of sorrows and deeply acquainted with grief and loss. Yet he was perfectly holy.

A third mistake is made also, in that people think it is for others but not for them, or doesn’t really apply to them. Booth said, ““They think there is some fatal necessity laid upon them to sin---at least a little or just now and then. They think that God cannot, or that He will not, or that He has not arranged to save them altogether from their inward evils. They know that the Bible says over and over again in a thousand different ways that the Blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin; and they read God’s promises again and again, that He will pour out His Spirit upon them, to save them from all their idols and filthiness; but they doubt whether it is strictly true or anyway whether it applies to them. And so tossed to and fro by doubts about this holy experience, no wonder that they do not seek to realize it in their own hearts.”

In conclusion today, hear these words clearly: Holiness is not something always out of reach. Remember that today. Hide that truth in your heart. Persevere in your walk with God toward holiness. Never give up. Keep persevering, over weeks, months, years, decades, and further. Holiness is possible. Because our God is holy. And he has put His Spirit in us. And our ultimate destiny is holy universe. A new heavens. A new Earth. A new city of God. Holy heavens. Holy Earth. Holy City. With a holy people residing in the city.

Holiness is the natural state of the ultimate meaning and baseline for the universe. God is holy. Therefore holiness is the default setting for everything. Sin is the exception. Sin is the defect in the system that will be removed. In the end there will be a great burst from the throne room of God, that destroys everything in this universe, the earth, the universe, the heavens, all of it. A giant reset button. All that is sin, whether, Satan, his demons, the works of the flesh, and the people who decided to side with Satan in the rebellion, they will be quarantined in a place of darkness, called hell. Sin must be quarantined, because is ruins everything.

And we ourselves who live out holiness in Christ, will then be taken from this world, found fitting for paradise, and placed in the new heavens, the new universe, on the new Earth, in the new city of God, to live out blissful holy joyous happiness for all eternity. Billions and billions of years, and we will live forever. It wont’ be boring, there will work for us to do, works of art to create, books to write, structures to build, and roads to traverse that lead to places we can hardly imagine. That is your destiny if you will live out holiness in this world. Live it personally, live it in community, and may your humble holiness always shine out as a witness to the world of the amazing glory and goodness of God our heavenly Father. 




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Saturday, August 3, 2019

What is Biblical Social Justice?


This is a personal blog. The views on this blog do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the Salvation Army, it's employees, or partners. The views on this blog are solely of those making them, based on the teachings of the Bible, in the Spirit.

Let's talk about social justice in the context of Christianity.  What exactly is social justice?  Depending on who you ask you might get any number of definitions.  But we see that justice ministry is an important subsector of the historic Christian church, and an important teaching in the pages of the Bible.  

From the book of Isaiah chapter 1 verses 16 and 17: (NIV)
16 "Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow."

Again in Proverbs 31:8-9 (ESV) "Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy."


These old testament scriptures are telling, and we also see modeled by Jesus in the New Testament, his seven woes to the pharisees (Matthew 23) and his teachings to care for our neighbors (Luke 10:25-37) and to be salt and light to civilization (Matthew 5:13-16).

Justice ministry is certainly a biblical practice.  But what exactly should it look like?  What issues should we speak out on?  And how do we go about doing it?  

For the founder of The Salvation Army, William Booth, winning people to the gospel of Jesus Christ was the primary concern in 1865. That's what he wanted, to win people to Christ, the destitute and afflicted, who had no one to preach to them.  But along with that, as a secondary concern, there was justice ministry.  Let's consider a few examples.

Salvationists fought for the age of consent to be raised in London.  At the time it was only 13 years old, and they fought successfully, by politically advocating, and by drawing attention to the sexual misconduct taking place, to get the age of consent raised to 16.

Salvationists seeing harmful work conditions, decided they would create their own match factory with more safe conditions and better pay/benefits for workers.  

Salvationists seeing so many Londoners addicted to alcohol traveled around picking people up and putting them on the water wagon, to help them get sober.

There are numerous additional examples. So we see that in the history of the church, and particularly in the Salvation Army, justice ministry has been an important part of the work we do as Christians.  

Historically as well in the larger church, Christianity has in the protestant vein been a force for liberty and freedom for the western hemisphere. God given rights were enshrined in the American founding, as well as other similar democracies throughout the west. The freedom of religion, the right of assembly, and other personal liberties were largely fought for and enshrined in law by Christians active in human history. 

Christians were on the front lines of justice conflicts like the fight to abolish slavery in the United Kingdom, with William Wilberforce successfully defeating the slave trade.  In the United States abolitionist societies cropped up everywhere, and produced the underground railroad, ferrying escaped slaves to freedom. 

Today justice ministry continues in many ways. The Salvation Army has been on the forefront of many of those ministries, including emergency disaster services, feeding programs, utility assistance, child care, hospitals, and orphanages.

If I were to apply a simple definition to Christian justice I would define it as: "The process by which the body of Christ tactfully advocates for the lost, hurting, and marginalized of society, by activities that preserve, protect, and build up human civilization."

Justice ministry however, in the past 10 to 20 years has morphed slightly into social justice. In the recent past we've seen the growth of social justice culture on college campuses across the United States and Europe.  We've seen these social justice warrior groups holding protests, preventing certain 'controversial' speakers from visiting campuses, and promoting ideas like wealth inequality, rape culture, institutional racism, and white privilege among other things. We see the concept being taught that white supremacy is a growing danger in the west.  We see concepts like intersectionality being taught on college campuses.  We see a sort of political correctness taking hold in these institutions.  We see the curtailing of freedom of speech and the development of hate speech laws that often target people with viewpoints that dissent against the current prevailing orthodoxy.  The west's academic institutions have increasingly become places where things like trigger warnings and safe spaces are overriding freedom of speech, and free thought.

So we see these more secular social justice concerns have increasingly migrated from the universities, and have taken hold and been institutionalized as justice ministries within many churches and evangelical/mainline protestant movements.  So we see this wider umbrella ideology of social justice being intertwined with Christianity, and then we see churches beginning to advocate in similar ways to social justice warrior culture.  Is this a good thing?  Should we thoroughly embrace these secular social ideas?  

The important question to ask ourselves is: Are these ideas truly Christian and biblical?  Or are they rooted in something else?  Unfortunately many of these ideas are not rooted in historic Christianity. They are not rooted in natural law, or in any sort of underpinning of a worldview that sees God as the creator, and truth as inherently objective.  Instead these sociological theories of oppression and systemic racism and intersectionality are rooted in a contrary worldview, that of cultural marxism.

This is not to somehow label all those who espouse such beliefs as "marxists" or "socialists." This is simply to recognize the reality that these theories are based in general viewpoints of the world as fundamentally a struggle between oppressor and oppressed. This is to recognize the reality that these viewpoints see the story of civilization as power struggles between groups of people vying for dominance.  

The vast majority of those who espouse viewpoints within this realm are not bad people.  They are good, decent people who are trying to improve the world for Jesus Christ.  They are simply taking what they were taught in the universities and attempting to apply it to Christian faith and practice. 

These people should not be demeaned or mistreated, or told that they are socialists or feminists or Marxists.  They are using information they were taught, to try to make the world a better place.  What we do need to do however is take time to sit down, and process a lot of these ideas and viewpoints, and test them according to the scriptures, according to prayer, and according to their results.  

Do these viewpoints like intersectionality, group identity, institutional racism, and so on really bring people together?  Do they bring people closer to Jesus Christ?  Do they bring about racial reconciliation?  Or do they in fact actually drive people further apart?  Do they bring about Christian love, or do they stir up increased hatred?  That is the real question.  Would Jesus Christ if he were physically on Earth right now be asking people to "check their privilege?"  Or would Jesus Christ be more concerned with me checking myself, and me actually loving people and serving people, instead of me telling others to check themselves?  

We need to have a conversation about social justice, and how Christians should live out justice in the world.  And we should recognize that if we want a fair balance of Christian justice practice, we have to be willing to think outside the box. We have to be willing to talk about issues that are not just sanctioned by the culture, but also issues that political correctness tell us we can't talk about: Yes, like abortion.  Yes, like biblical marriage.  Yes, like human trafficking.  And yes, like racial reconciliation.  

We need to stop for a moment and ask ourselves: Are these Christian practices we see in the realm of social justice? Or are they something else?  Are they really biblical, based in humility, love, kindness, and truthfulness?  

When we get up on the stage at the conference and tell people about how racist they are, and how hateful their ancestors are, and how awful their country is, and how their culture is virtually beyond redemption, honestly, is that really a humble, loving, reconciling Christian way of speaking and living?  When we get up there and virtue signal about how we have all the culturally-correct viewpoints on race and class and gender, is that really helping anyone?  Or is it just making us feel morally superior?  Maybe we need to talk less about justice, and get out there and do more of it.  

So what is Biblical Christian justice?  To me, it means yes, some of the flashy topics like human trafficking and abortion and fighting racism, but it's also a lot of other less glamorous causes to fight, like advocating for the rights of the elderly, and making sure orphans are cared for properly, visiting those nursing homes, visiting those orphanages, and visiting those at-risk youth centers, and sitting down and talking with those addicted teenagers.  It's about setting up those food pantries and soup kitchens. It's about developing educational and after school programs.  

Is it super glamorous? Probably not as much.  But it sure is biblical Christian justice, straight out the Bible.  Does it mean we get to speak out and call out injustice verbally? No, I suppose it doesn't. But it does mean we get to serve people in love.  Does it mean we get to jump on stage and talk about how mean Donald Trump is, and how racist and evil the border wall is?  No, I suppose it doesn't.  It doesn't get that controversial when you visit some old ladies at the nursing home, and tell them that Jesus loves them.  It doesn't get that political when you stop over at the at-risk teen center and tell the kids about how Jesus changed your life.  But boy is it beautiful, full of love, and a glorious, quiet, humble expression of biblical Christian justice.  

I know Christians with a desire to promote justice and equality have a lot of passion to speak out and fight the man, and we can do those things in proper biblical ways.  But we should also focus in on how we do those things, and if we're crossing the line from Christian justice, and into partisan politics.  It can easily go both ways sadly. In a rural community it can mean pretty soon a church is becoming increasingly right wing in their 'justice causes.'  And in the urban context it can look like 'social justice' causes that look pretty left wing in their political agenda.  We have to avoid both of those extremes, and walk the narrow way of biblical Christian justice.  

I'm the first one to say that we need to speak out on controversial issues like racism, abortion, human trafficking, religious liberty, and marriage.  But let's consider our methods.  Is it better to love, or better to stir up dissension and anger?  Is it better to mock and ridicule, or better to understand?  Will racism be destroyed by dividing up people based on the color of their skin, or by bringing people together as one body, one people, united in Christ Jesus?  I'll let you make that determination.  Let's consider our ways carefully, and let us return to the Lord, in love, in truth, and in great humility, great compassion, and yes, a great zeal for justice to be done. 

“Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”
This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways." -Haggai 1:5-7 NIV


References
Advocacy. (n.d.). Retrieved April 7, 2019, from https://www.socialworkers.org/Advocacy/Social-Justice
Butcher, J. (n.d.). Will Free Speech Survive on College Campuses? Retrieved April 7, 2019, from https://www.heritage.org/education/commentary/will-free-speech-survive-college-campuses
Carter, J. (2018, August 17). The FAQs: What Christians Should Know About Social Justice. Retrieved April 7, 2019, from https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/faqs-christians-know-social-justice/
How the Term 'Social Justice Warrior' Became an Insult. (n.d.). Retrieved April 7, 2019, from https://www.intellectualtakeout.org/article/how-term-social-justice-warrior-became-insult
Jackson, A. (2016, July 28). 'Disinvitations' for college speakers are on the rise - here's a list of people turned away this year. Retrieved April 7, 2019, from https://www.businessinsider.com/list-of-disinvited-speakers-at-colleges-2016-7
John-Stossel. (2019, March 06). Political Correctness Is Ruining Academic Journals. Retrieved from https://reason.com/archives/2019/03/06/political-correctness-is-ruining-academi
Ministries, F. (2019, February 21). Retrieved April 07, 2019, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRMFBdDDTkI
Ministries, F. (2019, March 27). Retrieved April 07, 2019, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FoJGYCc7EUg&t=1407s
Novak, M. (n.d.). Social Justice: Not What You Think It Is. Retrieved April 7, 2019, from https://www.heritage.org/poverty-and-inequality/report/social-justice-not-what-you-think-it
Platt, D. (2013, August 29). Retrieved April 07, 2019, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOh0Ts1xDmM
Samples, J. (2018, June 08). "Hate Speech" Laws Undermine Free Speech and Equality. Retrieved April 7, 2019, from https://www.cato.org/blog/hate-speech-laws-undermine-free-speech-equality

Villarreal, A., & Villarreal, A. (2015, November 24). The doubts of a 'Social Justice Warrior'. Retrieved April 7, 2019, from https://nypost.com/2015/07/13/doubts-of-a-social-justice-warrior/

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