We will not all be equal in heaven. Now we’re not talking about salvation, but of rewards. All of us are equal in regards to salvation because it is a gift given freely to those who believe. In this, there is no question. But what we do with our salvation is another matter. And we will be rewarded for our faithfulness to Him in this life. Consider the following:
1 Corinthians 3:11-15 – For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with (1) gold, silver, precious stones, (2) wood, hay, straw, each one’s (personal) work will become clear; (how) for the Day will declare it, (how) because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s (personal) work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures (gold, silver, precious stones), he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned (wood, hay, straw), he will suffer loss (of reward); but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
Charles Stanley also spoke of this in his book, Eternal Security. He said, “Some believers will be entrusted with certain privileges; others will not. Some will reign with Christ; others will not (2 Timothy 2:12). Some will be rich in the kingdom of God; others will be poor (Luke 12:21, 33). Some will be given true riches; others will not. Some will be given heavenly treasures of their own; others will not. Some will rule and reign with Christ; others will not. Privilege in the kingdom of God is determined by one’s faithfulness in this life. It is true that there will be equality in terms of our inclusion in the kingdom of God, but not in our rank and privilege.”
Does this sound troubling to you? Maybe confusing? If so, keep listening to learn more.
The following is a study on the Judgment Seat of Christ and the Marriage Ceremony of the Lamb.
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If you’ll take the time, you’ll find the core message of Jesus was about the kingdom of God. Over and over again we find summary verses like this one:
Matthew 4:23 – And Jesus went about all Galilee, (1) teaching in their synagogues, (2) preaching the gospel of (what) the kingdom, and (3) healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.
In fact, Jesus said the object of the gospel He preached, and commanded us to preach, is the kingdom of God. Consider what Jesus said in His olivet discourse:
Matthew 24:14 – “And this gospel of (what) the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”
There are also certain kingdom characteristics in the lives of believers that the Scriptures point out to us as signs of His kingdom. In essence, when believers manifest certain characteristics of the kingdom in their lives, we can know the kingdom of God is present. And, conversely, when a believer doesn’t manifest these kingdom characteristics, we can also safely assume the kingdom of God is far from them.
This is a sobering thought. Character, holiness, and sanctification matter. Do you want to discover more about the signs of life in the kingdom? Then keep listening.
The following is a study of Acts 4:32-5:16.
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We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us
For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation,
ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the
only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Churchill once said, borrowing from an old African proverb, “When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.” While there is much truth to that proverb, the opposite is also true. “When the enemy is within, the enemies outside can hurt you.” And they can hurt you bad. Often permanently.
This was the situation Jude was warning the church about in his letter, and the same situation we find ourselves today. The enemy has breached our walls and is now inside the camp. What are we to do?
Who Are These Certain Men?
Jude, after calling believers to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3), begins to tell us why it’s so imperative to defend our faith. He says, “For certain men have crept in unnoticed” (Jude 1:4).
There are several words that need further scrutiny.
The first of these is certain. The Greek word is tis and means “a certain one, some person whom one cannot or does not wish to name.”2 In other words, “It’s one of those guys. You know who they are. I don’t even need to call them by name.”
These certain men have crept (pareisdúō) into the church unnoticed, or by stealth. The word means to “enter in craftily, under cover of darkness, like a thief.”3 They, like a terrorist sleeper cell, blend in with the others waiting for a time to attack from the inside, from the unprotected underbelly of the church. They are most sinister.
But who are these guys?
Jude describes them as those “who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:4). But we’ll look more into this at a later time.
They are, in effect, pastors void of holiness.
Businessmen, masquerading as pastors, who see the church as their next current startup.
They’re entrepreneurs, building their own product, brand, and empire within the church.
Jesus called them “false prophets”— ravenous wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt. 7:15).
And we don’t seem to care they’re among us, spreading like kudzu.
Bread and Games
We’ve allowed them to take root in the hallowed halls of the church. We’ve let our guard down, chosen not to make waves, and go along with what feels good for a moment. We’ve sat idly by and watched our church become a business where we offer a Sunday product of cotton candy to satisfy the sweet cravings of the carnal and uncommitted. We’ve continually judged our success by how many tickets we sell to our Sunday matinee or how large is the crowd. And we have no problem changing our preaching to make people feel good in their sin and apathy. For us, bigger always means better. But that’s not necessarily true in the kingdom of God.
It’s just like it was in Rome. “Bread and games to satisfy the masses.”
How did they get in unnoticed? Where were the watchmen on the wall?4
Pastors, over the years, sought after success defined by the likes of Rick Warren or Bill Hybels, and now Andy Stanley. They became more concerned with their personal brand than with the gospel of Christ.
And the church bought into this “Bigger Means Better” mantra. “If it works on Wall Street,” we reasoned, “it should work in the church.” We hired, not Spirit-filled pastors and Bible teachers to reveal to us the deeper things of God, but Madison Avenue marketing gurus and visionaries, all promising to take our church to the next level.
But the pastor’s job is not to be a visionary. That’s Jesus’ job. The pastor is to simply implement the vision of the Lord, our Master, as a faithful slave, or doúlos to Him.5 Even if Andy Stanley says going to a small church is “stinking selfish.”6
Now, it seems, we need multiple campuses all watching our hip, relevant, popular pastor live-streamed on video. And we call that community or family? Far from it.
The Need for Watchmen
Remember, the men who’ve entered the church unnoticed, under the cloak of darkness, are defined by Jude as evil men, ungodly men, who long ago were marked out for commendation (Jude 1:4). These are lost, unregenerate men, traitors to the faith, hidden sleeper cells, that have found a home in the church— much like the birds of the air found a home in the branches of the mustard tree (Matt. 13:32).
What are we to do?
Now it gets personal.
We need watchmen on the walls of the church. We need those who will strive to keep the body of Christ as a “glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle” and contend earnestly to keep her “holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:27).
In practical terms, here are a few examples of what you can do.
If your pastor shows R-rated movie clips to illustrate a biblical principal or uses coarse language to seem relevant to the world, you must confront that carnality. But you must do so with respect for his position as pastor, even if the man is disqualified (Rom. 13:1). If nothing changes, remove yourself and your family from that gathering and let the Lord direct you to another church.
If the gospel and true biblical preaching is replaced with a sweet tasting, feel good message, have a frank discussion with your pastor and, if nothing changes, remove you and your family from that church. Don’t worry about where you will go. The Lord will direct you to a place where you can grow in your faith and understanding of the Scriptures.
And if you church approves of homosexuality, or any sin that is now culturally acceptable, it’s time to find a new church. Now. Immediately. Post haste.
Remember this important warning:
1 Corinthians 15:33 – Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”
Or, to put it another way, “Bad company corrupts good character” (NIV).
Don’t let yourself be corrupted by certain men (and you know who they are) who have crept into your church unnoticed, or under the cloak of darkness. Even if these men may be pastors or elders. Point them out. Contend earnestly for the faith. Do all you can with respect and honor. And if nothing changes:
1. The title comes from a quote from the syndicated Pogo comic strip that was created by Walt Kelly (1913-
1973). The strip ran from October 4, 1948, until July 20, 1975.
2. Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (pp. 1385-1386). Chattanooga,
3. Ibid., 1117.
4. See Ezekiel 33.
5. Zodhiates, p. 483.
7. Spanish for “Goodbye, friends.”
Why We Must Continue to Contend for the Faith
Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation,
I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith
which was once for all delivered to the saints.
We are engaged in a bloody war. It’s a war taken to us, laid on our doorsteps— a war we cannot afford to lose. To the victor goes the heart and mind of the church.
In the past, Satan has attacked the church both outwardly and inwardly with mixed results. In Acts, for example, the external attacks from the religious establishment were countered by the church speaking “the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31). And the internal attacks only led to “great fear came upon all the church” (Acts 5:11) and increased ministry to others (Acts 6:7).
In each of these, the church only grew stronger.
A Single Voice
In its early history, the church would meet in authoritative councils to define truth or orthodoxy and address heresy. When a falsehood would arise that became popular among the people and threatened to lead them away from the truth of the gospel, church leaders from all over the world would gather to examine the heresy, compare it to Scripture, and issue a binding statement that would define Christian belief for the church at large. These binding statements became known as creeds. Some of them, the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed for example, codified for us the doctrines we often take for granted.
But today it’s different.
There’s no authoritative voice for the church and little accountability. With the internet, pretty much anything goes. And with most Bible-believing Christians not believing the Bible, the spread of heresy and false doctrine is rampant.
We have heresies today that are promoted by popular ex-pastors, such as Rob Bell, that deny God’s sovereignty in salvation, the reality of hell and the punishment for sin, the atonement of Christ, sanctification, and the sufficiency and inerrancy of Scripture. This is repackaged paganism. Or Paganism 2.0.
Then there’s the growing Prosperity Gospel and the Word of Faith Movement. This heresy, at its core, claims that mere man has the power to bind our sovereign God by the words we speak and demand He does our bidding even if it’s against His will. That’s witchcraft with a fresh veneer. They “claim” and “agree” that God has to bless them with material or financial blessings and He, like their pet genie-in-a-bottle, must give what they demand.
“I mean, doesn’t everyone deserve health, wealth, and prosperity? Isn’t the purpose of our faith to reward us with money and long life and straight teeth? Didn’t God secure for us, through the death of His Son, Your Best Life Now?”1
No. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
In Hebrews 11, we have what is known as the roll call of faith. It lists great men and women of faith and how their faith was rewarded. Look how the chapter closes. This is not exactly what the prosperity preachers promise as a reward for faith.
Hebrews 11:37-38 – They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.
Do we believe the saints listed in Hebrews— Moses, Joseph, David, Samuel, and the rest— were less spiritual than those in the church today? They received anything but health, wealth, and prosperity as the supposed rewards of their faith. Yet Scripture says they were “of whom the world was not worthy” (Heb. 11:37). This is the type of heresy only an opulent, self-satisfied, and narcissistic church could invent. And that’s what we are.
Once For All
But this is not the gospel of Jesus Christ. And it’s certainly not the faith that was once delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3). Our faith (pístis), as defined by Hebrews, is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). It’s the “basis, the underpinning, the foundation of what we confidently expect; and the proof, the assurance of things we cannot see with our own eyes.”2
But in practical terms, faith means trust. To have faith is to surrender to the Lordship of Christ (Rom. 10:9) and to give life allegiance to the kingdom of God (John 3:3). And it’s the King of this kingdom that “has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Col. 1:13). It’s the kingdom in which we live and the kingdom of which Christ preached (Mark 1:15). And it’s faith, or trust, in this kingdom, and its King, that was “once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). Our faith is not open to interpretation or change. It’s a finite, secure, immutable faith.
To Contend for the Faith
To contend or fight earnestly for the faith does not always take place between believers and the world. More often than not, our striving for truth is against those who have infiltrated the church and seek to draw it away into perversion and heresy. As politically correct, tolerant Westerners, we’ve opened the big tent and invited every form of sin and deviant teaching into the church. And it’s only by their fruits, or lack thereof, that we can tell the difference between those who belong to Christ and those who don’t (Matt. 7:15-20).
So it’s our duty and calling to willfully contend for that faith given us at such a precious cost— the blood of our Savior and the blood of His saints. And it’s our mandate to stand for truth, especially within the walls of the church. Are you ready? Are you able to discern the real from the counterfeit? Do you know the difference between the “broad way that leads to destruction” and the “narrow” gate that “leads to life”? (Matt. 7:13-14).
You need to know. That knowledge begins with a deep fervency for His Word (Ps. 1:2), a committed life of prayer (1 Thess. 5:17), and fully embracing all the Holy Spirit wants to show you (1 Cor. 2:9-12).
Will you join with me as we put on our spiritual armor and prepare to contend for the faith? (Eph. 6:13). Will you take your stand with me, first within the walls of the church, and then against the gates of hell? (Matt. 16:18). Will you choose to shine as “the light of the world”? (Matt. 5:14). After all, our Lord said:
John 3:19-21 – “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”
Be encouraged. Christ has already defeated the enemy and overcome the world (John 16:33). And we are secure — our “life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3).
It doesn’t get much better than that.
1. Yes, this does refer to Joel Osteen’s bestselling book, Your Best Life Now!
2. Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (pp. 1163-1165). Chattanooga,
If we were honest, we’d have to admit that the picture of life in the church as revealed in Scripture and our own personal church experience are not always the same. In fact, they often seem like polar opposites, like night and day. Consider what Paul said about life in the church:
Ephesians 3:20-21 – Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works (where) in us, to Him be glory (where) in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
And yet, knowing this, we still struggle with trying to find the answer to the questions that trouble us the most.
Why can’t we keep our children involved in church?
Why can’t our children hold to Biblical morals?
Why can’t our children make Godly decisions?
Why can’t the church make a noticeable difference in our nation, culture and family?
Why can’t we get victory over our own sins?
Why can’t we see Jesus move in our lives like He did in the past?
Is there an answer to these questions? Is what we’re experiencing in church, Sunday after Sunday, all there is? Or is there something missing? And if so, what is it? How do I find it? What can I do?
If you want to know the answer to these important questions, then keep listening.
The following is a study on life in the Kingdom.
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