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.
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)
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.
To download the slides to this message, click – HERE
Jesus chastised the religious elite of His day for their confidence in predicting things like the weather, but not being able to discern the signs of the times. In fact, He called them hypocrites. Remember? “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times” – Matthew 16:2-3. I wonder if He would say the same about His church today? After all, it appears we all seem to know everything about everything. Just ask us.
It seems we resemble those that Isaiah was called to address.
Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and prudent in their own sight – Isaiah 5:20-21.
But there is one prophetic statement of Jesus regarding the times before us that is hard for many, including me, to understand. That is until today. Jesus said “because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold” (Matt. 24:12). Got that. He also promised that “a man’s enemies will be those of his own household” (Matt. 10:36). How is that possible? How can our love for our spouse or children grow so cold we will treat them as enemies to the extent of hatred and betrayal? (Matt. 24:10). How can that be true? What sort of perverted human would turn on his own family for the sake of himself? What kind of depraved mind or personality disorder would produce sociopaths with a love this cold?
In a word, it’s called narcissism. And it is the ultimate end-time personality disorder.
In general, narcissism or narcissistic traits can be described as follows:
- They have an exaggerated sense of self-importance.
- They have a sense of entitlement and require constant, excessive admiration.
- They expect and demand to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it.
- They exaggerate their achievements and talents.
- They are preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate.
- They believe they are superior and can only associate with equally special people.’
- They monopolize conversations and belittle or look down on people they perceive as inferior (which is just about everyone).
- They expect and demand special favors and unquestioning compliance with their expectations.
- They habitually take advantage of others to get what they want.
- They have an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others.
- They are envious of others and believe others envy them.
- They behave in an arrogant or haughty manner, coming across as conceited, boastful and pretentious.
- They Insist on having the best of everything because they are entitled.
And they are everywhere! They multiply like kudzu.
Narcissism may very well be the ultimate personality disorder of the end-times. And it certainly fits the Laodicean church model. In fact, psychologists believe that in the last 15 years over 30% of our population now registers on the narcissism spectrum. And that number grows daily.
So what are we to do? Great question. Keep listening to find out more.
The following is a study on Narcissism and the End Times.
To download the slides to this message, click – HERE
When Jesus instructed His disciples, and the others, about what it meant to follow Him in Matthew 16:24-25, He spoke of “desire to come after me” and then “let him deny himself.” We looked at desire in our last message, and now we will turn our focus to what He meant by “deny himself.” Note the requirement and sequence in the verse below. First, there must be desire (“if anyone desires to come after Me”). Then, a denial and the corresponding action showing the commitment to deny himself (“take up his cross”). And finally, the invitation to “follow Me.” Jesus shows surrendering to Him must follow in this order. In essence, first meet the conditions, and then come “follow Me.”
Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” – Matthew 16:24-25.
The word deny (aparnéomai) when followed by the pronoun heautón (oneself, himself) means “to deny oneself, or to disown and renounce self and to subjugate all works, interests, benefits, and enjoyments to another.” The word is also translated “to speak against, contradict, to avoid, reject, nullify, to stand firm against, resist, oppose.”
When Jesus said we must “deny” ourselves, the impact of our denial affects all areas of our life.
Deny, Denial, and Denied!
In Matthew 10, Jesus speaks of confessing Him before men or risk having Him deny us before His Father. It is an extremely troubling warning from Christ that left no room for doubt or excuses. He said,
“Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” – Matthew 10:27-28.
Who is the One we are to fear? Exactly, the Lord. If so, do you have the fear of the Lord in you? How has that fear changed your life so far?
“Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore (the consequences of speaking what the Lord tells you to say); you are of more value than many sparrows” – Matthew 10:29-31.
But then it gets quite serious for those who do not heed the Lord’s warning.
“Therefore whoever confesses Me (where) before men, him I will also confess (where) before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies (refuse, avoid, reject, resist, oppose) Me (where) before men, him I will also deny (refuse, avoid, reject, resist, oppose) before My Father who is in heaven” – Matthew 10:32-33.
Can you imagine being denied by Christ before the Father?
Fear and Excuses
But if I confess Jesus, my friends will not include me. Or my spouse will reject me even to the point of separation or divorce. Or I’ll lose my job and source of income. Or I’ll be persecuted, even to the point of possible imprisonment. Or… you choose the excuse. They are all the same, lame. But Jesus anticipated these excuses. He continued:
“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter in law against her mother in law ’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ He who loves father or mother more than Me is (what) not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is (what) not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is (what) not worthy of Me. (Therefore) He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life (why) for My sake will find it” – Matthew 10:34-39.
Or are you a follower of Jesus according to what works best for you? Have you truly counted the cost of being one with Him? Is He the center of your life? Is He your very life? Do you want Him to be? If so, everything begins at the beginning. And it all begins with desire.
Do you want to follow after Jesus? No matter what? Come what may? If so, then keep listening.
The following is a study on What it Means to Follow Jesus.
To download the slides to this message, click – HERE
Download this episode (right click and save)
On any given Sunday, if a pastor asks by a show of hands how many in the congregation consider themselves followers of Christ, most would raise their hands. But if he followed up that question with: “And how many of you know what it means to be a follower of Jesus today?” – the number of raised hands would drop considerably. Maybe even to none. Why? Because our view today of following Jesus is a far cry from what it meant in the time of Jesus. Think about it for a moment. Today, following Jesus means agreeing to a set of doctrinal facts, going to church regularly, tithing, volunteering for some service ministry, adhering to a moral code, and reading and praying as often as we can. But in the New Testament, following Jesus meant something quite different.
Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matt. 16:24). Note the components of His invitation. First, it begins with a conditional clause, if, like a classic if / then statement. “If you desire to come after Me, then these are the conditions.” Next, we have self-denial or self-subjugation to God. “If you desire to come after Me, the first condition is to deny yourself.” And finally, we are now privy to the degree to which self-denial must take place. “If you desire to come after Me, the first condition is to deny yourself even to the point of death, and a horrific death at that.” And only then does Jesus say, “and follow Me.” First, meet the conditions, and then “follow Me.”
But What About Desire
Exactly. The entire invitation of Jesus hinges on the word, desire. If you desire, then do the following. If you don’t desire, then this message must not be for you. Which begs the questions, what is your desire regarding following Jesus? And is your desire great enough to pay the price necessary to meet His conditions? Ouch. This is where it often gets personal.
In order to fully understand all of what Jesus said when He revealed His conditions of following Him, let’s look at this invitation from all three Gospel accounts. Only then can we fully understand all the implications and the Cost of Discipleship (to quote Bonhoeffer). The following is from Matthew 16:24-25, Mark 8:34-35, and Luke 9:23-24:
Then Jesus (MK) called the people to Himself (LK) and said to them all, (MK) with His disciples also, (MT) “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross (LK) daily, (MT) and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake (MK) and the gospel’s (MT) will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul (LK) and is himself destroyed or lost? (MT) Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (MK) For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes (LK) in His own glory, and (MT) in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.”
Today, we will primarily focus on the issue of desire.
What is your desire regarding Christ?
Have you counted the costs of a deeper relationship with Him?
Are you ready to pay the price? No matter what that price might be?
Are you paying any price right now for your commitment to the Lord?
Do you know if it will be much different in the future?
Are you tired of taking two steps forward and then losing ground once again because you desire something less than all of His fullness manifested in your life? If so, then keep listening.
The following is a study on our Desire to Follow Christ.
To download the slides to this message, click – HERE
Download this episode (right click and save)
The verses we are looking at for the next couple of days are another one of Paul’s blessed digressions. It is his style of writing, his way of making sure we understand the past, present, and future aspects of our relationship with Christ. It is the Holy Spirit’s way of taking nothing for granted and making sure each of us is fully equipped with what we need to know about His church. Let me show you how this works.
Paul ends Ephesians 2 by describing who we are in Christ as fellow citizens, saints, and members of the household of God (Eph. 2:19). He then goes on to say the church, now revealed to be made of both Jews and Gentiles, is like a temple of God built on the foundation of Christ and each of us, regardless of our backgrounds, are perfectly “fitted together” into a growing entity for a “dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Eph. 2:20-22). This is an amazing revelation about His church. And it seems natural, after making this proclamation, that Paul would continue in prayer as he does in Ephesians 3:14:
For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (Eph. 3:14-19).
But he doesn’t. He can’t. Why? Because there is still more to be said about this great “mystery” he only spoke about briefly in Ephesians 1:9-10.
Having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth— in Him (Eph. 1:9-10).
Paul knew, through the Holy Spirit, he needed to spend more time letting the church at Ephesus, and each of us today, know about this great “mystery” we call the church and God’s design behind its creation. Hence, we have the wonderful and blessed digression of Paul in Ephesians 3:2-13.
The Church— the Great Mystery
What is this mystery? And what does the word “mystery” mean?
The word “mystery” is used four times in this chapter alone and, therefore, seems to be an extremely important concept for believers to understand. The Greek word translated “mystery” is mustḗrion and means “something hidden or not fully manifest.” But you must understand the original use of this word in order to grasp what the passage is saying. In contemporary English, we use the word mystery to speak of something unknown or something unknowable. “I don’t know how that happened. It is a mystery to me.” But in New Testament times the Greek word refers to something that is known or knowable but not to everyone. It is some truth or knowledge known only to the initiate, or only to those it was meant to be revealed. When the word is used in Ephesians, it is meant to describe something that was unknown before Christ came, but is now fully revealed. It is a mystery to some, but to us, the church, it is revealed truth given to us at this time.
We will speak more about this word tomorrow, but for now, let’s close by looking at how mustḗrion is used in Ephesians. Hopefully, this will give you a deeper appreciation for the digression of Paul (Eph. 3:2-13).
Having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself – Ephesians 1:9.
How that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) – Ephesians 3:3-4.
And to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ – Ephesians 3:9.
This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church – Ephesians 5:32.
Time to Pray
There is much about the Christian life that is a mystery. And God’s ways and His wisdom are called a mystery to those who don’t understand, to those who are outside of the family of faith.
But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory – 1 Corinthians 2:7-8.
But for you and me, they are not a mystery. We have been granted, by grace alone, the privilege of having these truths revealed to us through the Spirit of God.
But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God – 1 Corinthians 2:9-10.
So what do you lack in Him? Nothing. What do you not know or what knowledge is being deliberately kept from you by God? Nothing. And where do you find your source of belonging and illumination in the things of God? Exactly, through the Spirit who dwells in you. The only thing holding you back from being all that God wants you to be, is you.
When you pray today, remember what you already have in Christ and thank Him for it. And do not fret about what you think you don’t have. After all, you are complete, not in yourself, but in Him (Col. 2:9-10).