Leaving Laodicea
453 - Increase our Faith!

453 - Increase our Faith!

April 11, 2020

As I have been sharing with you since late last year, the times we are facing as believers, and as a church and a nation, demand faith.  But not faith as usual or faith that is comfortable.  We need mature faith, secure faith, maybe even radical faith to believe what our Lord says about everything, and then act on that belief like we truly believe what we claim to believe.

In fact, one of the signs of maturity in our walk with Christ is our ability to drown out the voices of our culture, and even our own voice of fear, doubt, and insecurity, and live in the joy of sheer trust in His character, His Word, and His promises (and warnings).  Our desire is to learn how to trust as a little child does his loving father, without question, and with great joy.  And for logical, pragmatic, even somewhat cynical people, that leap in trust can be quite difficult.

"But where does faith come from?" many often ask.  The disciples recognized their need for more genuine, mature, seasoned faith when it came to continually having to forgive someone who sinned against them over and over again with no true sign of repentance.  When faced with that impossible task, they cried out to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" (Luke 17:5).

Our need for more faith is apparent.  But where do we go to increase our faith?


Faith and the Word of God

In Romans 10, after speaking about Israel's need to hear the gospel, Paul then makes this most revealing statement:

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Rom. 10:17)

Or, to put it another way, "faith comes by hearing the word of God."  And it's really just that simple.  The object of what we are to hear to increase our faith is the Word of God.

If you have been in church for any amount of time, you know that on Easter you will hear a sermon about the resurrection, just like you will hear about the birth of Jesus during December.  It's just what we in the church do.  It's almost a sacred tradition.

This means that many of us have heard dozens of sermons about the empty tomb every late March or early April.  And if we're not careful, the wonder of the resurrection may get dull by rote habit or tradition.  Remember, familiarity often breeds contempt.

But this Sunday, I want God's Word to bring the sermon and not me.  I want each of us to have our faith increased by hearing His Word, and not by hearing a pastor (like me) expound on His Word.  In essence, let's go directly to the source for the pure milk of His Word and not settle for the homogenized, skim stuff.

Therefore, I have taken the liberty of reading a combined account of the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord taken from the four gospel accounts.  In other words, what you will hear is everything Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John wrote so we can get a perfect picture of everything that transpired with our Lord and His disciples from His death until His ascension.  And to be quite honest, I have preached these passages for decades and yet found myself mesmerized as I marveled at the picture they present when combined and synthesized together.

What you will hear is pure Scripture (although I do make a comment or two.  Sorry, can't help it.  It's in my nature).  And I will let you know the source from where I am reading before I read.

So join with me today as we let the Holy Spirit, using Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, present our Easter sermon for us.  I will simply try to act as the host or facilitator, bring a few comments of clarification or questions, as we listen to this wondrous story.

The following is a study on the Resurrection of Christ as told from all four gospel accounts.

452 - How to Hear God’s Voice

452 - How to Hear God’s Voice

April 3, 2020

As we see the day of His return approaching, we must be more diligent to make sure we don't fall for the great deception Jesus spoke about (Matt. 24:4) and prepare ourselves for the coming apostasy (2 Thes. 2:3). Why?  Because as our Lord warned the deception would be so great even the elect, if possible, would be deceived and fall away (Matt. 24:214). So what are we to do?  How do we become a faith prepper and guard ourselves against such great deception?  The answer is simple to understand, yet difficult to do.  In Cliff Notes style:

You must personally experience God yourself. Second-hand faith won't cut it. Your faith must be first-person, personal. You cannot live on the faith of another. And your encounters with God must be on-going and habitual. Especially as we see the darkness approaching. This is what becoming a faith prepper is all about.

In essence, you must know God.  Intimately.  Personally.   And you do that by learning to hear His voice.

"And this is eternal life, that they may know (ginōskō) You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." (John 17:3)

The key to not falling for falsehood and deception is an experience with God.  After all, a relationship between two people must include talking and listening from both parties.  And so it is the same with each of us and the Lord.  We talk. We ask. We beg. Sometimes we demand.  But does God ever speak personally to us?  If so, how?  And how often?


How To Hear God's Voice

The key to learning to hear God's voice is desire.  Do you have a desire to thirst after Him and His righteousness more than you do, for example, to keep abreast of current events?  Do you watch FOX News more than you spend time in His Word?  Are you on Facebook more than on your knees in prayer?  If so, why are we surprised we seldom if ever, hear the voice of our Lord? Remember, a key characteristic of being one of the Lord's sheep is being able to hear His voice.

"My sheep hear My voice, and I know (ginōskō) them, and they follow Me." (John 10:27)

Did you get that?  Jesus' sheep hear His voice.  It's the defining characteristic of being His sheep.  But what does that say if we don't hear His voice?  What are the implications? The key to intimacy with anyone is communication. That’s two-way communication.  Between each of us and the Lord.  So one of the most important things we can learn in our life with Christ is how to hear his voice? Do you long to hear His voice?  Do you have a hard time differentiating between His voice and your own voice?  If so, keep on listening.

The following is a study on How to Hear God's Voice.

449 - The Limitations of Apologetics

449 - The Limitations of Apologetics

February 18, 2020

As the Scriptures claim, one of the greatest signs of the end is the mass defection or apostasy from the Christian faith by those who once claimed to be believers.  Paul, in his letter to Timothy, warns that the "Spirit expressly says that (when) in latter times (who) some (what) will depart from the faith, (how) giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons" (1 Timothy 4:1).  This great apostasy is characterized by a rebellion or revolt against God and His Word.  And it is promoted by those who once claimed Jesus as Lord but are now "giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons."  Peter says "scoffers will come in the last days" (2 Peter 3:3-4).  Jude calls them "mockers" (Jude 17-19).

So what are we to do in the face of this great apostasy?  How do we answer skeptics when they demand we "prove our God exists?"  How do we defend our faith in the unseen God?  What are we to do?  Historically, the answer has been to study up on apologetics and be prepared to go toe to toe with those who demand answers from us void of faith.  But is that the real purpose of apologetics?  I'm not so sure.

For the message (or, preaching) of the cross is foolishness (mōría - folly, absurdity, moronic, stupid, senseless, foolhardy, insane) to (who) those who are perishing (or, being destroyed completely, to render void), but to (who) us who are being saved (to deliver, make whole, preserve safe from danger, loss, or destruction) it (the message of the cross) is the power (dúnamis) of God - 1 Corinthians 1:18.

Our faith in the cross of Christ is moronic to those who are perishing.  Period.  And apologetics won't change that fact.  Think about it, our God doesn't need defending.  He can take care of Himself.  And you cannot lead someone to Christ by logically answering all their questions about faith and the Scriptures to their satisfaction.  Why?  Because faith in Him is a gift from God and, before God imparts faith to the individual, the lost are incapable of believing the Gospel.  To them, our faith in the cross of Christ is moronic.

So, is apologetics important?  Absolutely.  But not necessarily in the way you think.


Apologetics

The purpose of apologetics is for you to have all your questions answered about God and salvation and to allow your faith to grow strong.  It is not for the direct benefit of the lost.  This is what 1 Corinthians 1 and 2 shows in graphic detail.  It has always been God's plan to thwart man's wisdom by revealing Himself through something man considers foolish.  He does this to bring to nothing the wisdom of this world and, in turn, exalt faith in Him as the key that opens the door of salvation.  Consider the following from 1 Corinthians 1:21-22:

Question:  Where is the wise (or, respected, learned philosophers and experts)?
Question:  Where is the scribe (or, writers, scholars)?
Question:  Where is the disputer (or, debater, reasoner, influencer) of this age?
Question:  Has not (who) God made (what) foolish the wisdom of this world (kósmos)
Answer:  Absolutely!

But why?

For since, in the (what) wisdom of God, the world through (its) wisdom did not know (ginōskō - or choose to know) God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached (foolishness to those who are perishing) to save those who believe (faith).

The reason for apologetics is for you to be secure in your faith and not necessarily to convince someone by the power of your arguments to receive Christ.  That is a sovereign act of God alone.  And prior to the impartation of faith in the elect, our most important argument is foolishness (stupid, ridiculous, moronic, insane) to those who are perishing.  Jesus never gave signs for others to believe in Him. So let me ask you just a few questions about your belief vs. God's wisdom.

  • Do you believe in the creation account in Genesis?
  • Do you believe in the virgin birth?
  • Do you believe in the floating ax head?
  • Do you believe in the lion’s den or the fiery furnace?
  • Do you believe in the fall of Jericho?
  • Do you believe a good God sometimes does things that don’t seem so good to us today?
  • Do you believe God rewards faith and punishes unbelief?

Are there parts of His Word that you don’t believe?  If so, you are on very dangerous ground.  Why?  Because Jesus said the deception in the last days would be so great that, if it was possible, even the elect would be deceived (Matt. 24:24).  And that includes you and me.

As we see the day of His return approaching, it is vital to know what we believe to be true.  For help in securing your belief against apostasy, keep listening.

The following is a study on the Limitations of Apologetics as found in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31.

447 - The Two Invitations

447 - The Two Invitations

January 23, 2020

One of the vital truths regarding our desire to follow Christ is to fully understand our union with Him.  After all, we are invited to become one with Him and are described in Scripture as being "in Christ."  In Romans 8 we are called “children of God” that are "adopted" into His family and are now "joint heirs with Christ."  Romans 6 tells us our old man has died and Christ now lives in us in the Presence of the Holy Spirit.  But do we really understand the implication of what this means?

Wayne Grudem, in his Systematic Theology, states "Union with Christ is a phrase that summarizes several different relationships between believers and Christ, through which Christians receive every benefit of salvation. These relationships include the fact that (1) we are in Christ, (2) Christ is in us, (3) we are like Christ, and (4) we are with Christ."   Ok, I've got that.  But is there more to this union with Christ than dry theology?  Can I really experience union with Him?  And, if so, how is that done?  What do I have to do to experience the fullness of my union, my relationship, with Christ?

Great questions.   And the simple answer is, "Yes, you can know the wonder of our union with Him."  And the wonder of it comes with the invitation of Christ to be joined with Him.

Consider the following invitation found in Matthew 11:28.  It is a familiar passage:

"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

Now, let's see what it means by defining a few terms.

"Come to Me, all you who labor (to be worn out, fatigued, faint, weary) and are heavy laden (to overload, heavily burdened, like with the freight of a ship), and I will give you rest (to cease from labor, to refresh, relax, loosen, to be at peace or rest)."

Do you see the trust relationship implied in this invitation?  Do you see Christ's invitation to let Him carry your troubles and you rest in Him?  To be united in Him?

Many of us struggle with this and ask how is that accomplished?  How can I truly experience rest in Him?  Is it just a mental thing?  Or is it some sort of resolution I make and then fail at when things get uncertain or tough?  Is it a mantra I go over and over again in my mind, like "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can"?  Or is it something else?

Oh, it is definitely something else.  Let's look at the second invitation.


To Abide in Him

The second invitation reveals to us the "how" of our union and complete trust in Him.  This invitation is found in John 15:4, and elsewhere in that chapter.

"Abide in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me."

Note the two-fold relationship.  One, I abide in Christ.  And two, He abides in me.  This is vital.  And "abide" means, "to remain, dwell, live, to make one's home, to be united with one heart, mind, and will."  So I "remain" and "make my home" in Christ, "to be united with one heart, mind, and will" with Him.  And He will "remain" and "make His home" in me, "to be united with one heart, mind, and will" with Me.  This is what it means to abide.

As you listen to this podcast in order to understand more of this marvelous relationship we have with the Lord, remember the following:

The branch (you and I) does not produce the fruit.  That comes from the Vine (Christ). The branch does not secure the nutrients necessary to produce the fruit.  That again comes from the Vine (Christ). The branch does not position the buds to get the most sunlight.  The Vinedresser (Father) does that. The branch does not prune dead wood.  Again, that is the Father's job. The branch does not provide water nor sunlight. The branch does not participate in harvesting. The branch (you and I) only bears the work of the Vine (Jesus) for the glory of the Vinedresser (the Father).

The key to all Christ has provided for us is found in a dependent, branch to vine, relationship with Him.  He would not require from us what He has not equipped us to give.  This kind of life is possible and provided for you and is the default position as a believer in Christ.  But to experience the fullness of this relationship, we must surrender our petty desires to Him.

So, once again, the choice is ours.  We can continue to live in lukewarm Laodicea satisfied with less than the abundant life Christ promised.  Or we can jump into the deep end of the pool and surrender all to Him.  It's not complicated.  It's just hard.  What do you want to do?  The ball is in your court.

The following is a study on being Fully Surrendered to God from John 15.

432 - The Importance of Trust in Dark Times

432 - The Importance of Trust in Dark Times

September 24, 2019

The expectation for our future, as a Nation and as the church, are grim indeed.  We are going to face some very tough times, and have to navigate some very rough waters, especially for those of us who live in the United States.

During the Tribulation, the Bible teaches that Israel will stand alone.  No longer will we be her protector.  God will fill that role.  In fact, the US is not even a minor player in the end times scenario.  Look at Ezekiel 38 and 39 if you need convincing.  The prophetic future of the US is almost non-existent.  Something must happen to us to bring us down to the point we can no longer protect Israel.  Can you see it coming?

Just look around.


The Expectation

We are facing unprecedented times in America:

Our trade war with China, and soon the rest of the world.
The coming 2020 elections and all the chaos that will surely follow, regardless of who wins.
The overt attack on Christianity in the media.
The almost insane push of the homosexual agenda. Judicial tyranny at every level.
The widespread corruption in our honored institutions and the government.
Natural disasters run amok, earthquakes, drought, hurricanes, flooding, etc.
Societal breakdown.
Hatred among citizens.
The public talk of a Second Civil War.
Mass shootings and other acts of terror on almost a daily basis.
And it only gets worse.

Because of these, we will need to learn to lean more on the Lord than ever before.  Sunday School faith will no longer cut it.  Church, as we have known it in the West, will become more and more obsolete and irrelevant.  Your personal faith and trust in the Lord will rapidly become the most important thing in your life.  And it all hinges on one word:

Trust.


Trust During the Coming Darkness

The classic Old Testament teaching on trust is found in Proverbs 3:5-6.  There our Lord gives us a profound if/then promise, the very if/then promise we so desperately need as we see the darkness approaching.  Consider His words:

(if) Trust in the LORD with all your heart, (if) and lean not on your own understanding; (if) in all your ways acknowledge Him, (then) and He shall direct your paths.

As we look at this promise, we are compelled to ask ourselves a few questions about the joy of having the Lord directing our paths.

What would you give, especially when we see the coming darkness in our world growing stronger, to have the Lord of All direct your life?
What would it be worth to you to have the confidence to run to Him for shelter and refuge and to know you are welcome under His wings?
What confidence in dark days would that give you?

There is so much more here than just what we read on the surface.  To discover the meaning and implication of each word of this glorious if/then promise, and then to rest in His promise, you will need to keep listening.

The following is a study on the importance of trust as found in Proverbs 3:5-6.