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Falling Away Underway
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
– John 14:15
“Righteousness exalts a nation,
but sin is a reproach to any people.”
– Proverbs 14:34
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I’m convinced that a great falling away is underway – not among people who don’t claim to be Christians. It’s happening from within, among those who say they are followers of Jesus Christ. It’s happening all around us, with growing momentum – and people within the church are applauding. Is this the great “rebellion” spoken of in 2 Thessalonians, which precedes the return of Jesus Christ?
“Any attempt to ‘worship’ and ‘love’ God apart from truth is misdirected, mistaken, miserable. Attempts to “disciple” others apart from God’s truth, Jesus’ commandments and the idea of objective truth existing apart from humanity, are likewise.”
Glennon Doyle Melton spoke this past weekend at the “Belong” tour, which my wife, Janet, attended. The tour is from the same producers as the popular “Women of Faith.” Others have said that Doyle Melton is “best known for is her unapologetic commitment to telling the truth.” Two days after speaking at the Belong event, she boldly announced that she was “in love” with another woman. Never mind that she is still married to her husband, and that they separated less than three months ago. Yes, her husband cheated on her, repeatedly. But do two wrongs make a right? Whatever happened to being true to your own word, regardless of when others may break theirs? Whatever happened to marriage being a commitment before God, not merely one’s spouse? The sacredness of the marriage covenant has been abandoned by a society bent on a “me first” mentality.
To be clear, my primary concern is not that she embraced lesbianism, that she fell “in love” while still married, just months after separating. My primary concern is that she confused relativism for truth and self-love as the primary purpose in life – and that she is unabashedly encouraging others to do the same.
Here is what Doyle Melton wrote to her followers, days after speaking at the Belong event:
“My loves, here is the good news: You are allowed to think and feel WHATEVER YOU NEED OR WANT TO FEEL! . . . I want you to grow so comfortable in your own being, your own skin, your own knowing — that you become more interested in your own joy and freedom and integrity than in what others think about you. That you remember that you only live once, that this is not a dress rehearsal and so you must BE who you are. I want you to refuse to betray yourself. Not just for you. For ALL OF US.”
Wow. Thinking and feeling “whatever” we “need or want to feel” are the aim in life? She wants us to grow comfortable” so that we become more interested in “our own joy and freedom” – and “integrity”? On whose authority is she speaking? Who is she, God? And what happened to the “integrity” she speaks of that should be modeled in the covenant of marriage, which she is shattering by announcing a lesbian affair while still married? Where is the integrity in that? Is she really modeling an “unapologetic commitment to telling the truth” or has she, like an increasing number of people, confused relativistic, emotional, self-serving ideology with truth? I think she has. Big time. And a great many people are drinking the Kool-Aid. Moreover, they are encouraging others to do the same, all along calling themselves Christ “followers.”
Yes, we only live once – but how we live matters for all eternity. Truth is eternal, and whether or not we align our lives with the Truth-Giver matters. A lot. It matters in this life and in the life to come.
“Sin is so self-deceptive that it is absolutely possible to reject absolute truth – God’s truth – and be convinced you are walking in “joy and freedom” when you are doing nothing of the sort. Yes, it may feel great – but that feeling may be a reflection of a seared conscience, the result of selfishly surrendering to sin, not the Savior from sin.”
Doyle Melton and her followers have confused relativism and self-desire for truth. By her relativistic, self-centered reasoning, one can justify nearly any action as appropriate if one’s personal joy and freedom are the objectives in life. It’s all about being “comfortable” and becoming “more interested in your own joy and freedom” than it is with loving God and honoring Him in obedience. The big lie: it is possible to be free and maximize one’s joy apart from loving surrender to God. That, my friends, is a massive lie many are embracing these days. Reject it with all that is in you. To do so is to love God. To not is to hate him.
Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Real freedom is found when we embrace God’s truth, not the relativistic, self-serving “truth” an increasing number of people are today embracing. In fact, when we reject God’s truth, we don’t at all find freedom. We find the exact opposite – even if we think otherwise. Sin is so self-deceptive that it is absolutely possible to reject absolute truth and be convinced you are walking in “joy and freedom” when you are doing nothing of the sort. Yes, it may feel great – but that feeling may be a reflection of a seared conscience, the result of selfishly surrendering to sin, not the Savior from sin. Consider this:
“Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done” (Romans 1:24-28)
TIME TO ARISE, HUMBLY, COURAGEOUSLY
I am a fallen man, speaking to fallen people. I am no better than Balaam’s ass (Numbers 22, KJV language). In fact, I have lived more like an ass than my beautiful LORD for most of my life. But I cannot, as a recovering hypocrite and sinner, remain silent when such silence would result in others embracing hypocrisy and sin as a way of life in the name of love. Neither can you if you are a Christ-follower. Especially when God IS love, truth and holiness. He is all, not some, of these. It is your job, as a Christian – a real Christ follower – to speak the truth in love, and to remain true to God as you help others discover the beauty in His truth and love.
“The idea that a nation can be exalted for righteousness, or brought down for its absence, clarifies that there are standards of righteousness and sin that do not arise from mere mortals, but from God.”
To compromise on divine truth is, in the end, to turn your back on God. It is to not love people at all, but to actually have blatant disregard for their well-being. It is to derail them. It is to strip them of all the potential they would realize if only they were to embrace the God of truth and love. It would be a decision to not love God, but to oppose Him.
TRUE LOVE EMBRACES GOD’S TRUTH
Jesus calls us to love people – but to do it without compromising on the truth. That would be unloving toward God. Wouldn’t that be tragically ironic?
I want to clarify that my disagreement with Doyle Melton, and her followers, is done with respect for their opinion, and with love. This love, however, does not mean I must condone behavior. I can love and respect them with the understanding that I cannot endorse their twist on what God says must not be twisted. If I did, I would be unloving toward God – and you would be, too if you followed in Doyle Melton’s footsteps. I encourage you to learn how to speak the truth in love, and to do it with humble courage, because a great falling away is underway.
WHICH GOD, WHOSE TERMS?
“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” – John 4:23,24
Any attempt to “worship” and “love” God apart from truth is misdirected, mistaken, miserable. Attempts to “disciple” others apart from God’s truth, Jesus’ commandments, and the idea of objective truth existing apart from humanity, are likewise.
The very notion of truth is that there are untruths, competing ideologies that cannot simultaneously be true. The idea that a nation can be exalted for righteousness, or brought down for its absence, clarifies that there are standards of righteousness and sin that do not arise from mere mortals, but from God. But we are a society – comprised of many who profess to know Christ – that is forgetting this at an alarming rate.
2 Thessalonians 2:1-7 says:
“Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way.”
IS THIS THE “REBELLION”?
Is what we are seeing THE “rebellion” spoken of in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-7? I have no idea, and neither do you. What we’re witnessing may be nothing compared to what is on the horizon. The point, however, is that objective, absolute truth exists – and many are denying it because they are denying its Author, the Living and True God.
Is it possible to love Jesus without obeying Him? Is it possible to love Jesus if we don’t do it on His terms? Is it possible to help others love Him if we withhold the truth from them?
Because we now live in a society that has mistaken relativism for truth, and tolerance for love, it’s important that I take the guess work out of these questions. The answer to all three is “No.” It is not possible to love Jesus if we ignore His commandments. No, it is not possible to help others love Him if we don’t tell them what He seeks, and let Him find such things in our own lives.
 Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy, “Author Glennon Doylle Melton Announces New Love Abby Wambach in Inpsiring Blog Post,” https://www.yahoo.com/style/author-glennon-doyle-melton-announces-new-love-abby-wambach-in-inspiring-blog-post-174907562.html
*Bible verses courtesy of the English Standard Version (ESV).
An Open Letter To America:
Let Our Bath Begin
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We’re grateful to TownHall.com for publishing another op-Ed. This one is an open letter to America. Would love YOUR comments, below, as well as in the original post, here, on TownHall.com. Your comments inspire others, and help spread the word . . .
At long last, our time of speculation about the next president and presidency is over. This election season served as a stark reminder that while we may be called the “United States,” we are, in fact, a very divided country. It’s time to heal and unite, but healing and unity are always byproducts of something else, a key ingredient so scarce in our all-consuming quest for self-gratification. Yes, the quest of our next president is over; now it’s time to focus on the King and His Kingdom. No president, no matter if elected by the popular or electoral vote, is a surrogate for the supernatural work that only the Almighty can perform.
Our nation is now in such a mess that it will take nothing short of a series of miracles to turn her around. Our country will be great again, and we’ll all be stronger together, when we rediscover the key ingredient for supernatural success. It’s where real hope and change begin – and how they are sustained. Our next president will need an enduring dose of divine wisdom and humble courage, because without these, our best days will truly be behind us.
“No president and no political party can do what only God can do. It’s time for genuine, historic movements of God to sweep across America, one person at a time. This is how America will change.”
Supernatural success is only possible when humble courage, which has been absent for far too long, becomes central to the mix. This would be true no matter who had been elected as our new Commander in Chief. Humble courage is the greatest need in our nation – because it is the greatest need in each of our lives, families and houses of worship. James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5 remind us that “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” I don’t know about you, but I can’t afford to be resisted by God any longer – and neither can our families, houses of worship or nation. We need a massive outpouring of humility, at a grass-roots level around the country, with you and me at ground zero.
America, we have work to do, and lots of it. But this work begins with a hard look at what we’ve become, and for many of us, we’ve become hypocrites. Our hypocrisy needs to go the way of the passenger pigeon, which once accounted for nearly 40 percent of the bird population in the U.S.. Similarly, hypocrisy among Christians accounts for a great number of sins throughout our nation. The plank in the eye of most who claim to be following Christ is so large and so culturally acceptable that it is amazing we are even able to see the specks in our neighbors’ eyes – upon which we seem so fixated. Our fixation is wrong, nonetheless. It’s time we heed the command of Jesus and start pointing the finger at ourselves. That’s where hope and change begin.
Is it a coincidence that America’s first nation-wide “bath,” the first-ever National Week of Repentance, took place during the entire week before the election? It was the first time in American history that people in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, took part in a simultaneous, week-long time of self-examination, asking God to do a mighty work – not merely “out there,” in the nebulous expanse we call “America,” but in the specific arenas of our personal lives, families and churches. I don’t think it was a coincidence at all. I think it was providential. Our nation needs a bath, a real and deep work of God in each of us, from the inside-out. That bath, I believe, has only just begun.
No president and no political party can do what only God can do. It’s time for genuine, historic movements of God to sweep across America, one person at a time. This is how America will change. This need is not for some distant time in the future, but now. If America is to be saved, the Church must accept her role as the healing balm of the Great Physician.
Never mind “America” for a moment. While many of us have pointed the finger at Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton for their character flaws, could it be that, through them, God has been trying to get our attention by reflecting back to us what many of us have become? It’s just like God to allow His people to have leaders just like themselves. If we want leaders of high moral character, we need to become followers who possess the same trait. Leaders, we must remember, arise from among the people.
Yes, Mr. Trump and Gov. Pence will undoubtedly face many hurdles as they make the transition to assume the presidency and vice-presidency of our nation. Mrs. Clinton and Gov. Kaine would have faced their own share of problems had they been elected. 1 Timothy 2:1-7 tells us we are to pray for our leaders, no matter who they are, that God’s agenda be advanced. But in our praying for our leaders, let’s not forget that they are a lot like most of us. It is this sobering realization that helps me realize that the American Church’s need for a bath, real revival and serious spiritual awakening, has never been more pressing. We have a need for a deep, cleansing work of God in our nation, and that cleansing needs to include each of us, right now.
DO YOU THINK AMERICA NEEDS A BATH? WHERE ARE YOU IN THE PROCESS?
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The rest, as they say, is history. In the aftermath of a stunning election upset, Donald Trump and Mike Pence will lead America, starting on Friday, January 20, 2017. One of the main reasons the Trump/Pence victory was so shocking is because many within the mainstream media kept talking about the Clinton/Kane lead, the polls that showed Trump/Pence behind, and how the electoral map heavily favored the Democrat ticket. So much for the experts. Now, the hard work of uniting a divided nation begins.
But how is unity possible, let alone imaginable, after such a stunning upset, where two vastly different visions for America were cast – with Hillary Clinton edging out Mr. Trump in the popular vote? Here are a few suggestions I’d like to toss out in what was one of the most bizarre, hard-fought, contentious elections in United States history:
1. It’s time for everyone in America to take a good, long look at themselves. Now that the smoke has cleared, I think it’s not too unreasonable to suggest that this election season was a referendum on American pop culture, where the pursuit of pleasure seems to have gotten the best – and brought out the worst – in each of us.
If we are upset with the candidates we were given, we have no one to blame but ourselves. If we want to have better choices, we need to be more intentional about encouraging moral, ethical, selfless people to pick up the mantle of leadership. We need to mind our own choices when no one is looking, because eventually the chickens end up coming home to roost.
2. It’s time to stop viewing public service as something for the elite. The best public servants know what it means to serve – not for self-seeking purposes, but for the betterment of others. What about you? Why can’t God use YOU to lead others in noble, ethical, humbly courageous ways – for such a time as this? Start small, and see what God might do through you.
We don’t just need people in leadership positions. We need selfless leaders who will have God’s Kingdom agenda in heart and mind – men and women who will put their own interests aside for eternally significant objectives. If not now, then when? If not you, then who? Stop waiting for someone else to do what God has called you to do. You, not someone else, are the agent of change our nation so seriously needs.
3. It’s time for people in the Church, the body of Christ, to arise – on our knees. Our nation is now at such a place of deep need that it will take a series of miracles to turn around. If we’re going to get a divine bail-out, it won’t happen without human hunger for supernatural intervention. It’s time that our hunger for real, mighty movements of God across America reaches a critical mass to lead us to the point of doing what we have not yet really begun to do across the nation: depend upon God like our future depends upon it. It does, now, more than ever.
The church is God’s “Plan A” for transformation. Our moral malaise and racial divide are things that are best addressed by an army of surrendered servants, men and women who have rediscovered the biblical call to be living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God (Romans 12:1,2). All people are equal at the foot of the cross. It’s time we, within the church, show the world that we really believe it.
4. We need a Second Reformation, a new Great Awakening in America, on an unprecedented scale. Only this will stem the tide of decline that abounds all around us. This new Reformation and Awakening must be characterized by a rediscovery of moral absolutes and humble courage among God’s people, where we are not at all concerned with the opinions of mere mortals, but with the will and agenda of the Son of Man, the Lord Jesus Christ.
We need a sweeping movement of humility across America, one where we rediscover and become convinced once again – with genuine humility – that God’s truths apply to everyone, beginning with ourselves.
I fear that many of us Christians have been trying to get others to follow a Jesus we haven’t been following very closely at all. Our hypocrisy, even if unintentional, must stop. Immediately, and on a massive scale.
Our nation and world are desperate for real, authentic, biblical Christianity where regular, ordinary people end up doing irregular, extraordinary things.
America will be great again, and we’ll all be stronger together, when you and I return to God with the humble ferocity we see modeled by real believers in the pages of Scripture. We’ve been trying everything else, and we’ve seen where that gets us. Lord help us, literally, if we don’t heed the call at this vital time of history to seek and serve God with all we’ve got. Most likely, we won’t get a second chance this late in the game to try again.
What about you? Are you ready for the real hope and change that only the Spirit of God can bring? It’s time.
 As of 6:00 p.m., November 9, 2016
You Need to Master This
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It’s something we all need to do – often and genuinely. The inability to do it creates problems in nearly all aspects of life. The problem is, we often don’t know how. The truth is that we make it harder than it really is. I’m talking about how to apologize – and mean it.
People don’t often stop to consider that repentance and humility are siblings. Genuine apologies are central to a life of humility, because a humble person is someone who recognizes when they’ve done wrong, and owns up to it. If you have a hard time apologizing, you’re already having a hard time being humble – and a person who is not humble is at odds with none other than God. Opposition from God makes all of life much, much harder than it needs to be. Humility is the grease of life.
I know the temptation is to keep reading, but that last last paragraph you just read deserves a second look. In fact, nothing else you’re about to read will be more life-changing than what you’ve just read. The key, however, is in letting that last paragraph sink in until you begin to adjust the rest of life around its truth. Humility really is the grease of life.
Unless your sin is only against God (which is rare), it also affects people. When repentance is real, we usually need to make things right with people, not just God. This involves apologizing, accepting apologies, forgiving and asking for forgiveness. It means changing our ways.
It’s a lie to think we can get real with God and not be real with people. Consider Jesus’ summary of life in Mark 12:30-31:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second (commandment) is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
We’ve got to learn how to genuinely apologize, accept apologies, forgive and accept forgiveness. Here’s are some suggestions that I’ve found helpful, which I hope will help you, too:
1. HUMBLE YOURSELF, PRAY, SEEK GOD’S FACE AND TURN. This is where it all begins. If you read the Bible, God’s Word, and really humble yourself before Him, He will so convince and empower you to do what is right that the rest of what you are about to read and do will fall into place.
Put first things first. Spend time with God, get His heart and mind on the matter, and He will enable you to do what is right.
2. BE COURAGEOUS AND SINCERE. DO IT. The best way to apologize is to reflect on your sin, repent of it and then be honest. The more you get into the practice of being honest with God and honest with yourself, the easier it will be to become honest with people. And, you will find that people will begin to see your authenticity and respond in kind. (No, not every time. But you greatly increase the odds if you set the example).
3. MAKE IT UNCONDITIONAL. Leave the consequences to God, not your imagination or the opinions of people. God knows when an apology is sincere and when it is not. Don’t apologize with preconditions. Your reward in apologizing is doing what is right before God and people, not because it will be recognized or applauded by people.
If you have preconceived expectations and wait for people to approve or respond to you, you will set yourself up for discouragement. Just do what is right – without conditions – and trust God.
4. DON’T JUST APOLOGIZE, DO SOMETHING. If you have gossiped, slandered, lied or stolen, you may very well need to do more than simply apologize to the person(s) immediately affected. You may need to go to others and make restitution that reflects your sorrow.
There may be consequences to confessing to a lie or returning something you have stolen. God honors truth and honesty. Do what is right and trust God with the consequences.
Many people get stuck in life for no other reason than not doing what they know, deep down, needs to be done.
5. DON’T GET DISCOURAGED. Apologizing may be new for you. The truth is that it’s new for anyone who really wants to follow God. It’s all about embracing an entirely new lifestyle – one that turns from self and turns to God. Completely. Others may not believe you at first. But as you walk with God you will develop a new reputation with people, and a new freedom to follow God and leave your old ways behind.
Keep doing what is right, and don’t let human comments, fear of rejection, or emotions, deter you.
6. TRUST GOD ALL THE WAY. Remember this simple saying: “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe” (Proverbs 29:25). At the end of the day, you’ll either follow God or people. Follow God, and leave the consequences to Him. Someday, perhaps sooner than you think, you’ll be glad you did.
In this life you’ll experience a freedom and joy that only comes from truly surrendering to God. And in the life to come, you’ll be rewarded even more. A life that is truly surrendered to God is one that masters the lost art of asking for forgiveness and extending it, completely, to others.
HOW ABOUT YOU? Is there someone you need to ask for forgiveness? Is there someone you need to forgive? Why wait to postpone joy, freedom and happiness another second?
TIME TO SAVE AMERICA
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We can’t wait any longer. If there is any hope for spiritual awakening in America, it must begin at a grass-roots level – one person, one family, one church, at a time. This is how widespread spiritual awakening begins. It’s time for real revival, a new “great awakening” in America. Real hope and change needs to begin in God’s house – immediately – regardless of what may happen in the White House.
One of the things that makes the National Week of Repentance so powerful is that it is unprecedented. It’s the first time in American history that people in every state, plus Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico, are calling out to God at the same time, for an entire week, in fulfillment of 2 Chronicles 7:14:
“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, IF my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, THEN I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
This historic week is not about asking God to change the nation, even though our nation is in crisis on so many levels. It’s about asking God to change each of us – one person, family, and church, at a time. As this begins to happen, there is hope for our nation – because the nation is simply a compilation of individuals, families and houses of worship. As these go, so goes the nation.
Yes, there are many in America who have been faithfully praying for God to move in our nation. Keep up the call-out! Stay faithful, and beware of fatalism. It’s time to go deeper with the LORD than ever before, and to recruit others toward the same.
TALK IS CHEAP
Merely recognizing America is in trouble will do nothing to change her downward spiral. If we’re honest with ourselves – and honest with God – we’ll begin to recognize that our apathy, busy-ness, distractions and misplaced priorities have finally caught up with us. America’s day of reckoning is either here or fast approaching.
Talk is cheap. Repentance is priceless. At this time in our nation’s history, I think we’ve done enough talking. It’s time for a nation-wide movement of humility. Real repentance. This is the one thing we have not yet tried as Christians in America, and it’s killing us. Real repentance is the one thing we must (re)discover if we want to see our nation turn around.
But forget about the nation for a moment. A nation falls into place when her citizens, on a personal basis, get their hearts and lives right with God. Failure to do so always has nation-wide, negative, consequences. I think our nation is reflecting back to us the painful reality that if Christianity isn’t saved, our nation will be truly lost. America in 5-10 years will not be recognizable. Moreover, by that time, she may be too late to save.
If you merely think America’s condition is sad, you aren’t thinking deeply enough. And, you may not be living the lifestyle of repentance that Jesus requires of anyone who accepts Him as Savior. We are not watching a reality TV program, folks. We are watching the melt-down of a nation because this is what happens when, en mass, individual lives, families, and churches, are out of touch with the heart, vision and mission of God.
One can call oneself a “Christ follower” all day long, but at the end of the day, the proof of following is in the pudding. Are we really following Jesus? When individuals, families and churches lose their passion for Jesus Christ, it is only a matter of time before the nation in which they live reaps the harvest of what’s been sewn.
TIME TO WAKE THE GIANT
The American Church is a sleeping giant, the healing balm of Jesus that has marginalized herself by mistaking church growth for discipleship, music for worship, performance for purity and popularity for supernatural, Holy Spirit power. We may have been baptized, but we need a spiritual bath, a great awakening and a second reformation where we rediscover Jesus’ call for each of us to take up our cross – daily – and really follow Him.
Until we (re)discover the necessity of dying to ourselves – which is manifest through humility and repentance – we’ll keep dying the slow, agonizing death that’s already well underway.
America is not someone else’s problem. It’s your problem and mine. The new Great Awakening, the real revival we need nationally, begins with you. Now.
HAS ANYTHING I’VE WRITTEN STRUCK A CHORD WITH YOU? HOW? I’D LOVE TO HEAR YOUR COMMENTS, AND AM PRETTY SURE OTHERS WOULD, TOO . . .
10 SIGNS YOU MAY BE MORPHING INTO A PHARISEE
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Are you turning into a person you never thought you’d become? It’s possible to start off on the right foot, and gravitate toward an approach to spiritual “growth” that will leave you dry, empty and wondering how you got there in the first place.
There were 6,000 Pharisees in Jesus’ day, and most of them were His arch enemies. Today, there are millions of “pharisees.” Beware the ten warning signs that you may be morphing into one. The first five are great, and are provided to simply show how much the average Christian already has in common with a Pharisee. The second five are not good at all – and are traits that each of us can, if we are not careful, adapt with the passage of time. You may have more in common with a Pharisee than you realize . . .
THE GOOD STUFF YOU MAY HAVE IN COMMON WITH A PHARISEE:
1. You may believe people are immortal, and will spend eternity either in or apart from the presence of God. The Pharisees believed this.
2. You may prioritize the Scriptures, memorize them and meditate on them. The Pharisees had the equivalent of a PhD in the Old Testament – yet the hearts of most of them were far from God.
3. You may be a firm believer in the sovereignty of God. So were the Pharisees.
4. You may believe in angels and the spirit world. So did the Pharisees.
5. You may be politically neutral, supporting candidates who embrace and champion values based on God’s word. The Pharisees were the same, and did exactly this.
THE PHARISEES OF JESUS’ DAY BELIEVED AND/OR PRACTICED ALL OF THE ABOVE. These are good things – but they do not guarantee a growing love for God and people. Resting in them alone, therefore, merely puts you on the same page as a Pharisee. Many Christians are comfortable simply believing the above, as if these things alone are reflections of love for God. They aren’t.
THE BAD STUFF YOU MAY HAVE IN COMMON WITH A PHARISEE:
6. You may love the Word of God, the Bible, but you have fallen out of love with the God of the Bible. The chief end of all Bible reading, Bible meditation, and Bible memorization, is to know, love, enjoy and follow God. The Pharisees had all 613 Old Testament laws memorized, along with so much more. They had the equivalent of a PhD in the Old Testament – yet they missed Jesus when he was right in front of them. They did not understand that the purpose of the Scriptures was, and is, to create spiritual practicality in loving God and people. This is the chief aim of man and the purpose of God’s word.
The Pharisees loved the Scriptures, but they didn’t love God and they didn’t love people. If you don’t have, as a burning passion of your life, a growing love for God and people (both), you are on your way to becoming a Pharisee.
7. You may have forgotten that the most important aspect of your spiritual journey and growth is inner purity. Spiritually “good” behavior comes from the inside-out. The Pharisees in Jesus’ day thought a person was “good” because of what they did and did not do. Jesus, and the Bible, teach us that good behavior is the byproduct of inner purity, which God alone can create in a person when they repent and keep repenting.
Neglect inner purity as the starting and ending place of true spiritual maturity, and you are on your way to becoming a modern Pharisee.
8. You may be impressed with, and even seek, the praise of people. This is spiritual pride. The Pharisees loved the praise of people, the best seats in the marketplace. They loved to be noticed. It’s easy in our social-media crazed society to start slipping down the slope of liking, even pursuing, human attention. The only attention you need – and will want – if you are growing in your relationship with God, is to know God’s opinion of you.
Watch out for spiritual pride. It’s deceptive and it wants to master your life. It will, if you are not careful. You must continually renounce it, or you will be on your way to becoming a Pharisee.
9. You may think righteousness can come from anything apart from personal faith in Jesus as Savior, Master and God. It can’t. If it could, Christ died for nothing. In Luke 11:37 and following, a Pharisee invited Jesus to His home for dinner. Jesus went and reclined at the table with him and other Pharisees and Scribes (Old Testament “lawyers”). Jesus was right in front of them. Salvation was right at their table. And they missed Him! Why? Because the Pharisees thought they could be saved by observing the Law. But Romans 3:20 teaches that is impossible: “For by no works of the law no human being will be justified in his (God’s) sight.”
So, what was the purpose of the Law? Romans 3:20 teaches that “through the law comes knowledge of sin.” The Pharisees thought observing the do’s an don’ts of the Old Testament would save them. Actually, the purpose of those do’s and don’ts was to teach that God’s standard is perfection, and can’t be attained without divine help. In other words, God wanted us to see that we fall short, that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Then, and only then, can we realize that we need God to rescue us. Hence, the Savior, Jesus.
If you think you can be saved by being a “good” person, you miss the whole point. No one is good, nor can anyone be “good.” If you’re trying to be “good” and attain God’s forgiveness and personal purity by obeying the Bible without doing so out of love for God, you miss the whole point, and are on your way to becoming a Pharisee.
10. You may think that increasing personal purity, sanctification, can come from anything apart from ongoing surrender to Jesus Christ. It’s not that we are doing things for God, changing ourselves. It’s that God changes us when we get out of the way – when we surrender to Him. Partial surrender is not surrender. Partial obedience is disobedience. Good deeds – deeds that God calls good – are those things that come from an overflow of having been cleansed of all your sins by personal faith in Jesus Christ. When God makes you clean, you begin, by default, to do clean things. This is what Ephesians 2:10 means: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.” Good works are the overflow of being made good by God Himself.
If you trust on anything to help you grow in your walk with God apart from surrender to God, and inviting Him to finish what He started, you are on your way to becoming a Pharisee.
The great news is that you can place all your faith in Jesus Christ, God will remove all your sins, make you good in His sight, and your journey of doing good things, and being spared of becoming a Pharisee, will begin. But once that journey begins, be careful you don’t allow yourself to go back to your old way of stinking thinking.
Beware the warning signs of becoming a Pharisee. The danger never goes away. Real repentance, a lifestyle of humble submission to Jesus Christ, is the repellent for the cold, empty, pharisaic way of life.
HOW ABOUT YOU? HOW HAS THIS BLOG HELPED YOU THINK – AND HUMBLE YOURSELF BEFORE GOD IN A LIFESTYLE OF REPENTANCE? I’D LOVE TO KNOW, AND MOST LIKELY, SO WOULD OTHERS WHO WILL BE BLESSED BY YOUR HONESTY.