MICHAEL ANTHONY BLOG
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“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” Could it be any clearer? God is love. This verse, from 1 John 4:8, just about says it all. We should love people. God does. Anyone who claims to love God, but hates people has an incomplete, or warped, view of God. He loves all people, everywhere, no matter the extent of their sin. And so must we, if we claim to be one of His followers. God is love. End of discussion. Not so fast.
If we’re going to accept that God is love, we must also accept the other parts of the Bible that speak about His other traits. For instance, while 1 John proclaims the nature of God being love one time, Isaiah announces His holiness – not once or twice, but three times:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
– Isaiah 6:3 (ESV)
The same Bible that says “God is love” also says that God is holy. If we pick and choose which verses of the Bible we like about God, and discard those we don’t, we end up with an idol – a self-fashioned, reconstructed “god” who isn’t really God after all. He is so entirely holy that no other trait describing Him is referenced in this way, three times in succession.
WRESTLING WITH GOD
The epic story of God is launched in Genesis with these monumental words that create the backdrop for all of life:
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them . . . And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” – Genesis 1:27, 31 (ESV)
We were created in the image of God. We still are. Our current wrangling over sex and sexuality is really a wrangling over the nature and identity of God. Sexual confusion is a symptom of the real problem: confusion about God. Confusion about God leads to confusion about us.
We are now full-steam ahead in our efforts to recreate God in our own image. If the Bible teaches us anything, it teaches that all such attempts are futile. In other words, this path, if not reversed, does not end well.
LOVING PEOPLE, LOVING GOD
God does not fluctuate between degrees of love and holiness. He is, at all times, simultaneously love and holy. To love God is to love all of Him or nothing at all. To love people is to help them see that they are created in His image, and that image is not merely “good.” It is said in Genesis 1:31 to be “very good.” The idea is that we were created complete. We cannot succeed in adding to or subtracting from the image of God. Neither can we succeed when we add to or subtract from what He has created.
The most loving thing you can do in response to God’s love and holiness is embrace Him – all of Him – and help others do the same. Be careful you don’t recreate God into an inept, second-rate idol. Consider 1 Thessalonians 1:9:
“. . . you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.”
Not all “gods” are alive and true. Have you turned from false, powerless gods to the living and true God? If you have, then don’t turn back. If you haven’t, then it’s time you discover Him. Read the Bible, and set aside your editorial temptations. Don’t pick and choose which parts you like and don’t, because if you do, you’ll be recasting God in your image – and then you’ll have problems with your own identity. Love God by embracing all of Him.
LOVE SOMEONE WHO IS STRUGGLING
If you know someone who is struggling with their gender affiliation, help them understand that God didn’t make a mistake when He made us male and female. He didn’t make a mistake in making them male or female. What God made and makes was, and is, very good.
When we allow someone to remain in a fog about God, we aren’t loving them at all. If anyone tries to tell you that you’re a narrow-minded “hater” because you believe what the Bible teaches about sex and sexuality, don’t be intimidated. Name-calling is one of the most elementary signs of immaturity and fear. Remember, sticks and stones may break your bones, but names will never harm you. The most loving thing you can do for someone is to help them discover the truth about God. The way to do this is to help them read the Bible as is, without adding or subtracting to what it teaches about God.
Remember: What we believe about ourselves is a reflection of what we truly believe about God. When we embrace the truth about God, and help others do the same, we model the most perfect love possible toward God and people. Once we do, all of life begins to make sense. Freedom begins with embracing the truth about God.
Are you afraid of knowing God or helping others know Him? Why? Learning the truth about God will help you learn about yourself. That’s what will really set you free.
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
I believe in the sudden, victorious and glorious return of Jesus Christ. Maybe you do, too. I believe His return will be unlike anything the world has ever seen. But I also believe many of us have subtly looked toward the return of Jesus Christ as an “escape hatch” from exercising leadership and personal responsibility at this vital time in U.S. and world history. We are paying a heavy price – and if we don’t soon reverse this trend, it may be too late. History may repeat itself in a very unfortunate way.
You may or may not believe in the “Rapture” – the belief in the sudden removal of Christians held so dear by so many. And if you believe in the Rapture, your view of its timing and circumstances may vary, depending on where you may be sipping coffee, lifting your hands in worship or perhaps serving at a soup kitchen. Christians can disagree on the reality of the Rapture – and the timing and circumstances – and still love Jesus Christ and one another. In fact, acknowledging one’s doctrinal differences, while maintaining unwavering devotion to the biblical Jesus and love toward others, is a sign of how well someone really knows and follows the Lord they may profess. It is this kind of mature love that reveals genuine discipleship.
JESUS CHRIST IS RETURNING
Beliefs about the Rapture aside, every Christian worth his/her salt believes in the return of Jesus Christ. This second advent is Christianity 101. Jesus is coming back. And, although there will be certain signs preceding His return, His reappearance will be sudden, global and undeniable:
“For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18 (ESV)
Consider another sampling among many passages that affirm the return of Jesus Christ:
“. . . so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” – Hebrews 9:28 (ESV)
And finally, consider the importance of repentance (turning from self to God) and the literal return of Jesus:
“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out,that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.” – Acts 3:19-21 (ESV)
A FEW TIMELY QUESTIONS IN LIGHT OF WORLD EVENTS
- In the 1930’s and 40’s American Christians did not lean on the return of Christ as the escape hatch it’s become among us today. What if they did so while Hitler was rolling through Europe, Mussolini was trampling over Africa and the Japanese were overwhelming the South Pacific? We’d all be speaking German, Italian or Japanese. But it’s not about language: it’s about the fascist beliefs by which we’d all be enslaved. Courage, not complacency, made the difference in WWII.It was the exercise of a strong sense of responsibility that broke the back of tyranny which threatened the world not so very long ago. Today we face as much (if not more) crisis as did our ancestors in the 30’s and 40’s. Are we American Christians leaning too heavily on the Rapture, or the return of Christ, as the solution to our problems? What if American Christians in the ’30’s and ’40s embraced our “what will be will be, Jesus is returning” attitude toward world events? What if we don’t reverse this alarming trend, today?
- What if the return of Jesus Christ is not as soon as many of us have been subtly assuming? We in America have lived very blessed, insulated, isolated lives. We’ve enjoyed unprecedented privilege – and this privilege has tainted our ability to remember what the majority of the world has experienced for centuries, and is now experiencing: oppression, hardship, difficulty, persecution. Suppose the Rapture, or the return of Jesus Christ, were not to happen for another 500 years? Would that change the way you view and act upon current world events?
- What if Christian courage, leadership and involvement are the very things needed to turn things around? Did God stop calling us to be salt and light in this very distasteful, dark time? I didn’t get that memo, did you?
- Where is it in the Bible where God’s people are told to merely occupy until Christ returns? The last words of Jesus to us all are “GO and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19-20). This is not a passive mission – at all. If ever there was a call to action, this is IT.
The return of Jesus Christ was intended to give us hope – but never as an escape hatch to shrink back from leadership in the midst of moral, political, theological or financial crisis. We American Christians have such a narrow understanding of history. And, in spite of all our seminaries, church plants and growth, we seem so shallow and powerless at the precise moment when we should be deep and wide. We shrink back so easily. This may be the very reason why history is about to repeat itself, in a very bad way.
But this need not be the case.May God wake us all up so that history is indeed repeated – but for the best, not the worst. Salt turns things from bland to savory. Light transforms darkness. This is our calling, from the very mouth of God – repeatedly. Courage. Responsibility. Leadership. Remember how central they were to the Christian faith? It is time, brothers and sisters, to live the calling of God for your life, family and church – while we still have time.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, and how God is moving you to change, accordingly.
America is in the middle of a very wide, very deep and very dangerous leadership crisis. Today it took the Prime Minister of Israel to give a historic speech in a Joint Session of Congress to help the world understand what should have been made clear by our Commander in Chief: a nuclear armed Iran is of no benefit to anyone on this planet. It seems as if our nation has fallen, and we can’t get up. (Watch PM Netanyahu’s speech, here.)
Where are my pastor friends and Christian leaders? What I mean is, why have we mistaken leadership position for actual leadership? Why are we so silent – so afraid – when it comes to recognizing and addressing our national leadership crisis? We are in the midst of a perfect storm – a storm of moral, political, theological and financial convergence – and instead of leading the discussion and influencing society as salt and light, we Christians in America are frightened, hiding and silent.Our actions prove the point: we are in the middle of a very deep and very wide leadership crisis. If we don’t dig ourselves out soon, I’m afraid we will soon be buried. Does anyone share my sentiment?
“The leadership void must be filled. It will be filled. The question is, by whom? Our world is more ripe than ever for a global Antichrist. “
AFRAID TO L-L-L-L-L-LEAD
Our leadership crisis is evident in all walks of life, but it is especially obvious among Christians. We’re afraid to l-l-l-l-l-l-lead. We seem to have exchanged leadership and courage for being hipster and trendy. If we Christians are not speaking to the moral, theological and spiritual issues of the day, then who is leading us – and what views are they encouraging us to follow? Haven’t we in the Christian community become ironicallyirrelevant through our silence?
If we want to be hip and trendy, we have Hollywood. But if we want the power of God coursing through our culture, we need God. And I’m not talking about those who reject Christ. I’m talking about those of us who say we follow Him. We’re not following Jesus if we are fear-filled, hiding and silent when the world desperately needs courage, boldness and clarity. Jesus wasn’t any of those things – and neither were any of His followers in the early days of our faith.
Perhaps when the annals of 21st Century American Christianity are written, it will be said of us that we feared criticism from people more than we sought the approval of God. How far we have strayed from the boldness of Peter and the other Apostles who, when facing opposition, proclaimed “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). If Christian leadership is anything, it is bold. Cowardice and Christianity are not sisters. They are enemies.
What on earth has happened to us?We all seem to have marginalized ourselves, through our silence, at this key time in world history when godly leadership – leadership that is bent on protecting freedom and liberty – is absolutely vital.
FEAR, SILENCE AND THE ANTICHRIST
“Courage is not the absence of fear. It is the redirection of fear toward a noble purpose.”
Our world will have her leaders – one way or another. We’ve allowed our fears to paralyze and silence us at a time when they should be driving us to the feet of Jesus and making us courageous. Courage is not the absence of fear. It is the redirection of fear toward a noble purpose. Christian Courage is the byproduct of time spent with Jesus. Godly leadership is the byproduct of having the heart of God, which can only come when we spend time with Him. If this is true, then our root problem is neglecting Christ. Our godly leadership crisis is a symptom of the deeper issue.
Because of our fears and silence our world is more ripe than ever for a global Antichrist. In fact, fear and silence are magnets for antichrists. They multiply like cockroaches when God’s people don’t tow the line. We Christians who are in positions of leadership need to wake up and stop mistaking our leadership positions for real leadership. Holding a leadership position does not make any of us a leader. If we in Christian leadership positions don’t begin to lead – to really lead – I am afraid our decline will accelerate. We see this trend in the Bible again and again. When there is no godly leadership there eventually arises godless leadership. We seem to have forgotten a key teaching in the Bible – and history is again repeating itself.
“Would you prefer to pray for and submit to godly or godless leaders? If you prefer godly leaders, then begin to ask God to make you into one – and ask Him to raise up godly leaders all over the place – while we still have time.”
Which would you rather be under, my Christian friend, godly or godless leaders?We are commanded in Scripture to pray for our leaders, and to submit to the governing authorities over us (1 Timothy 2:1-3; 1 Peter 2:13-15). Would you prefer to pray for and submit to godlyor godlessleaders? If you prefer godly leaders, then begin to ask God to make you into one – and ask Him to raise up godly leaders all over the place – while we still have time. Don’t delay. Do this now. We’ve had our heads in the sand for far too long. We may not have as much time as we think we have to turn things around.
What is happening before our very eyes may one day be recognized as the most crucial time in U.S. and world history.The leadership void must be filled. It will be filled. The question is, by whom – and for what will the leaders stand once they arise? This should wake us up, and get us back on our knees – the starting point of all true transformation.
We are living in a simultaneously frightening and exciting time in world history.The leaders who arise will shape the future in absolutely astounding ways, for better or worse. What we need is godly, courageous leadership – not sometime next week or next month or in the next Presidential election. We need godly, courageous leadership now – and we need it everywhere.
In a post later this week, I’m going to address how the “Rapture” and the return of Christ have become evangelical “escape hatches” God never meant them to be. Stay tuned, and invite your friends.
WATCH NOW AND LEARN WHAT LEADERSHIP LOOKS LIKE:
Click here to watch Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech
to a U.S. Joint Session of Congress on March 3, 2015
Chime in. I’d love to hear your thoughts . . .
“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” – Romans 8:11. Through the resurrection, we have God’s definitive statement on the life, message and identity of Jesus Christ. To dismiss the resurrection is to dismiss not merely Jesus Christ, but God Himself.
Man’s opinion of God is fluid; God’s opinion of man is fixed. Trust and obey or rust and decay. These are the words Leonard Ravenhill wrote to me in a letter years ago. Though dead, through his words, Ravenhill lives. God’s verdict is unchanging. He made his statement on the ministry, the message and the Messianic identity of Jesus Christ with the resurrection. The resurrection and the cross join hands to make God’s definitive statement about the human condition – and His solution.
We have a problem called sin. But God handled that problem through the cross of Christ. How do we know? Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The resurrection is God’s definitive statement of approval of the ministry, message and Messianic identity of Jesus. Jesus was sent by God, is God’s sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin, and is THE way God provided for the forgiveness of sin.
Here are some Bible verses to explore, which reveal God Himself raised Jesus from the dead, and that Jesus, therefore, had the full endorsement of God:
1. John 2:19-22 2. John 10:17,18 3. Romans 1:4 4. 1 Corinthians 6:14 5. Acts 2:24 6. Acts 3:15 7. Acts 4:10 8. Acts 5:30 9. Acts 10:40 10. Acts 13-30-37 11. Galatians 1:1 12. Ephesians 1:16-20
You may ask “so what?” Let me answer that question with a few questions of my own:
1. If God raised Jesus, what statement was He making?
2. Would God resurrect someone who misrepresented Him? Why would God resurrect a liar, or a crazy man making false claims about Him? Consider 1 Corinthians 15:14-22
3. How could Jesus predict His own death and resurrection, speaking on behalf of God, if He didn’t have certainty that God would act on His behalf, and raise Him up?
It’s no small thing to dismiss the resurrection. Before you do, think deeply about the above. Consider that the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is not only the greatest event in history, but that it is also the greatest verdict, the greatest statement made by God. Through it, we understand that the message of Christ is true: repentance is necessary. Accepting Him as Messiah, Savior, is essential. Doing so, and only doing so, removes all of our sin. The verdict is in. Jesus is God’s messenger, with God’s message. It’s time to consider the verdict of the resurrection, and what it means for you.
Listen to the companion podcast, The Verdict, through iTunes or our free Godfactor App.
About the Author: Michael Anthony is the Founder of Godfactor, the creator of the free Godfactor App (search for “Godfactor” in your app store), and the Lead Pastor of Grace Fellowship in York, Pa. He loves the resurrection of Christ, because it’s God’s verdict – that belief in the ministry, the message and the identity of Jesus as God’s Messiah, leads to the forgiveness of sin, every single time, for every single person.
Escape was within reach. Why didn’t Jesus RUN?
We have two free, sharable resources for Good Friday and Easter. They are a sampling of some of the new, free resources we’re beginning to churn out through Godfactor.
Watch Why Didn’t Jesus RUN? by clicking here.
Or, watch it and other videos on the go with our free Godfactor App.
(Get the app in your iTunes or Google App store.)
With the Godfactor App, you can also enjoy more three minute videos – and forward them to friends:
- Enjoying Jesus.Understand how enjoying Jesus is where life starts.
- God’s Calling On Your Life.God has plans for you. Embrace it. Live it.
- Did Jesus Call You To Do It?Many “voices” may be calling you, pulling you, distracting you. Only One voice is important.
- Our True Revival series shot on location in the Solomon Islands. Renew your life, your family or your congregation buy watching these brief videos on spiritual renewal.
We also want to thank our Ministry Partners who make these kinds of resources possible through their prayers and financial support. Thanks to you, we’re reaching people globally, for the glory of God. To support this ministry or learn more about being a Ministry Partner, click here.
Enjoy our resources, and enjoy Resurrection Weekend! And, if you live in or near York, Pa, come and visit us at Grace Fellowship for what we call the “Grace Awakening.” God is moving, and we are moving with Him.