343:  The Spiritual Hat Trick:  Mark, Luke and Demas

343: The Spiritual Hat Trick: Mark, Luke and Demas

In the closing verses of Colossians we are introduced to a list of names, a list of those beloved and commended by Paul.  And in the midst of those names we find Mark, Luke, and a guy named Demas.  We can basically summarize their lives this way:

Mark – started out weak but finished strong.
Luke – was always growing in his commitment to Christ and others.
Demas – started out strong and finished… horrible!

And if you have ears to hear, you can find your spiritual life embedded in the lives of these three men.

Are you interested?  Maybe intrigued?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on Colossians 4:7-18 and 2 Timothy 4:9-11.

To download the slides for this message, click – HERE

Download this episode (right click and save)

big_lines

            podcast-25-25

 

Leaving Laodicea:  Our Purpose

Leaving Laodicea: Our Purpose

While I was preparing for last Sunday’s sermon I was arrested, literally taken captive, by a statement Jesus made during His last message to His disciples before heading to the cross.  He was praying to His Father for them that they would be protected from “the evil one” (John 17:15).  He was not praying for the lost world, but only for His disciples (John 17:9).

But a phrase in Jesus’ prayer stopped me cold in my tracks.  He said:

“I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.  And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them” (John 17:9-10).

It was the last sentence that really got to me.  Read it again for yourselves.  Slowly.

Jesus said, in effect, that all that is His belongs to the Father and all that is the Father’s belongs to Him.  The context of the “all” is Jesus speaking of His disciples, those with Him in the Upper Room and those, you and me, the church, “who will believe in Me through their word” (John 17:20).  Jesus was also speaking of His church— the called, chosen, justified and redeemed (Rom. 8:29-30).

But look closely at what He said about His church, about you and me.  He said, “I am glorified in them” (John 17:10).  That’s not future tense, but present tense.  He is glorified, now, in them.  He is glorified back then, and also today, in them.  He is glorified in the present in them.  And the “in them” means, of course, the church.  “In them” includes those in the Upper Room and those of you reading this post today.  It includes all that call upon His Name for salvation no matter where they live or what local church they attend.  It includes all, everyone, who have ever been saved.

And it includes you and me, individually, and each of us, collectively, as the church— whatever local body of Christ we choose to attend.


I Am Glorified

But what convicted me the most was the glorified part.  Jesus said He is “glorified in them” or in us.  Not will be glorified or maybe, someday be glorified, but He is, right now, glorified in us.  How can that be?

The word, glorify means “to bring glory, honor, or praise to someone, to show great dignity, to highly esteem, to celebrate profound worth, to magnify and exalt above all others.”  Wow.  Jesus said He is all of that in His church and in you and me, right now.  I don’t see it.  I don’t see it at all.

Do you know why?  Because I live, like you, in the Laodicean church age (Rev. 3:14-22) where the prevailing spiritual mindset is embodied in the meaning of the name, Laodicea: “the people rule.”  That’s right, we call the shots.  We’re masters of our own fate, our own destiny.  We’re independent, self-made and proud of it.  We refuse to bend our knee to anyone or anything except our own selfish lusts and pursuits.  And this carnal attitude is engrafted into our DNA, into the very fabric that makes us who we are.

How can Christ be glorified in a church like that?  And, worse yet, how can He be glorified in me when the only glory I seem to seek is my own?

In my flesh, He can’t.  There’s no way.  It’s an impossibility.  There’s nothing I can do on my own to bring Him glory.  Jesus said, “Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5) and He was talking about bearing spiritual fruit so that “My Father is glorified” (John 5:8).  He even goes on to say that we are created, as disciples, “to bear much fruit, (why), so you will be My disciples” (John 15:8).  And bearing fruit, according to Jesus, is the greatest evidence of our salvation (Matt. 12:33).

But the good news is that with the Spirit “all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26) and we can move beyond our inherent, diseased DNA and leave the land of Laodicea and strive to live in the wonder of His grace, of His Spirit, in union with the Father, as children of God and “joint heirs of Jesus Christ” (Rom. 8:17).  In other words, we can be different than those of the church age in which we live.  Things can change.  We can change.

“How?” you ask.  “How can we be different from all that is around us and all we’ve ever known?”


Leaving Laodicea

The answer to that question is the reason this blog exists.  Together we will devote our lives to knowing and understanding how to help each other move beyond our apathy, our cultural conformity and moral carnality and embrace the life our Lord designed for us to live.  Remember?  He called it the “abundant life” found only in Him (John 10:10).  Are you living the “abundant life” in Him right now?

If not, I’d say it’s high time to pack your bags and jump on the next bus out of Laodicea.  It’s time for all of us to leave Laodicea and never look back.


Are You Ready?

Are you ready?  Are you ready to forge ahead into the wild unknown in your life with Christ?  Are you prepared to “count the costs” of true discipleship? (Luke 14:28).  Are you willing to forsake everything, and I mean everything, for the sake of “knowing Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead”? (Phil. 3:10-11).

Are you ready to live your life for the sole purpose, like Paul, of fighting “the good fight, finishing the race, keeping the faith”? (2 Tim. 4:7).  Are you prepared to “suffer hardship as a soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 2:3) and to bear His reproach gladly?

Are you ready to experience an intimacy with the Lord Jesus that is beyond description?  Are you ready, maybe for the first time in your Christian life, to be truly one with Him?

If so, rejoice.  Because making a commitment, a definite resolution, a sacred vow to forsake your citizenship in the land of Laodicea and move to the promised land the Lord has given you, will open for you a promise of blessing previously unknown to the church for centuries.  It’s the promise to the overcomers, the blessing of Ephesians 3:20-21.  Read these words with a hunger and anticipation of the glory waiting to be revealed in you and “run with endurance the race that is set before us, (how) looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:1-2).

This, beloved, is your inheritance in Him today when you leave Laodicea.

Now to Him (Christ) who is able to do exceedingly abundantly (or, immeasurably, beyond comprehension) above all that we (you and I) ask or think (or, can conceive in our minds), according to the power (Gr. dunamis – explosive, miraculous, achieving, overcoming power) that works in us (in you and me, in the church), to Him be glory in the church (in us, collectively, as the Body of Christ) by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.  Amen (Eph. 3:20-21).

This is our inheritance, our birthright.  Let’s not let the toys and trinkets of this world take it away, shall we?

Will you join me?
Come what may.

big_lines

            podcast-25-25

 

Podcast 281:  What Makes a Good Shepherd, Good?

Podcast 281: What Makes a Good Shepherd, Good?

When Jesus says He is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11) what does He mean?  What makes a shepherd of the sheep, maybe even a faithful shepherd, a good shepherd?  What characteristics or innate virtue qualifies them to be a Good Shepherd?

The answer is simple: Jesus said, “the good shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:11).  In fact, this specific attribute is repeated four times in 8 verses just to emphasize this very fact (John 10:11, 15, 17, 18).

And Jesus goes one step further.  He says in John 10:17: “Therefore My Father loves Me, (why) because I lay down My life that I may take it again.”

Don’t be caught sleeping— these statements by the Lord are deeply profound and life-changing.  Want to know more?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on John 10:11-21.

Download this episode (right click and save)

big_lines

            podcast-25-25

 

The Fatal Sin of Self-Deception

The Fatal Sin of Self-Deception

Sometimes, living in the land where tolerance is deemed the greatest virtue— sometimes we as Christians fail to realize just how lost our lost friends and family truly are.  Often we consider them “good” people that would be better still if they would just add our Jesus to their own intrinsic, innate goodness.

“Frank is such a good person.  Just think how much better he’ll be when he gives his life to Jesus.”  Or, “My boy is a good boy.  I know he gets into trouble a bit, but he’s got a good heart.”  Or, “I feel pretty good about myself.  Why do I need Jesus to make me better?  I’m doing OK just as I am.”

When we try to tell them about Jesus we go to great lengths to skirt the offensive issue of their sin and instead play up their value and virtue and inherent righteousness and then try to sell them on Jesus “who will take what is good in them and make it even better.”— like pitching a new and improved model of themselves.  “Step right up and come to Jesus.  He will take the parts of you that you don’t like and change them right before your very eyes.  He’s the Master Fixer-Upper.  Just what the doctor ordered.  So who needs Jesus to bless your life?  Come on, step right up.  Who wants to be first?”

Sound familiar?

But none of this is true, Biblically.  It may be the way we do things in our culture and the way we try to live out the great commission without being offensive or intolerant, but none of it is true.  Jesus never promised to make our life better on this earth.  Never.  He never promised to make us better.  He promised to make us new.  The old man is not improved, he dies.  And in the old man’s place a new man is born again, created in the image of Christ, for the glory of the Father (2 Cor. 5:17).

Everything changes.  Including you and me.

God doesn’t take our old heart and make it better.  He makes it new.  Why?  Because there’s nothing of value in our old heart to update or improve.  Jeremiah 17:9 states: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?”  Get that?  Deceitful and desperately wicked above all things.  Not much good to salvage here.


The Plague of Spiritual Ignorance and Self-Deception

But our lost friends are deceived in thinking their sin is not bad enough to merit judgment or Hell.  They’re duped into thinking they don’t need to change.  After all, they do plenty of good things they feel good about and the good things they do outweigh the bad things and they net, at least in their own eyes, on the good side.  Hence, bottom line in their thinking, they’re OK with the Big Man in the Sky, just like they are.

This is exactly the crowd Jesus was speaking to in John 8:33.  Jesus had repeatedly told the unbelieving Jews they were separated from the Father (John 8:19) and lost in their sins (John 8:24) and by believing in Him, and in Him alone, they would “know the truth, and the truth would make them free” (John 8:32).  But lost people chaff at the thought they’re in bondage.  They reject it because it assaults their self-image and inward sense of self-righteousness.  They hold fast to the lie, their false sense of security, that something in their past, something they have done or accomplished, something they are or will become will be sufficient to satisfy God on the day of judgment.  And for the Jews, that something was being a physical descendant of Abraham.

They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone.  How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?” (John 8:33).  In essence, they didn’t need what Jesus was offering because they, in their own minds, already possessed it.  The major obstacle to discovering the life and truth Jesus offers is thinking you already possess it.  And, as we and Jesus both know, they didn’t possess the “truth that will set them free” (John 8:32, 36).  Do you?

So. just how lost is a lost person?  How ignorant are they of their spiritual condition?

AW Pink says: Tell the sinner that there is no good thing in him, and he will not believe you; but tell him that he is completely the slave of sin and the captive of Satan, that he cannot think a godly thought of himself (2 Cor. 3:5), that he cannot receive God’s truth (1 Cor. 2:14), that he cannot believe (John 12:39), that he cannot please God (Rom. 8:8), that he cannot come to Christ (John 6:44), and he will indignantly deny your assertions.  So it was here in the passage before us.  When Christ said “the truth shall make you free”, the Jews replied “We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to anyone.”

Today spiritual ignorance focuses on our desire to make Jesus into anything we want and to create our own religion and our own system of righteousness.  If it goes contrary to the Scriptures, then we either ignore the Scriptures, or try to explain them away by some sort of theological sleight of hand, or conclude the Scriptures are “living and breathing” and therefore do not apply to us on this point.  Whatever the reason, the outcome is that we are right and God is wrong.  After all, “we have never been in bondage to anyone!” (John 8:33).


How Lost is My Lost Loved One?

When you share your faith with a lost loved one remember just how lost, Scripturally, they truly are— regardless of how much you love them or how many charitable deeds they have racked up in their own ledger books.

Consider the pitiful state of those we are sent to love in Christ:

One, your lost family member or friend is, according the Bible, a fallen creature, totally depraved, with no soundness or goodness in him from the sole of his foot even unto the top of his head (Isa. 1:6)— regardless of how he views himself or how much self-esteem he has.

Two, your lost son or daughter is completely under the dominion of sin, they’re a “slave to sin” (John 8:34), a slave to “various lusts and pleasures” (Titus 3:3), so much so they “cannot cease from sin” (2 Pet. 2:14) no matter how hard they try.  Only the cross of Christ can free them from the bondage of sin (Rom. 6:18,22).  You must tell them about Christ.  And you must tell them today.

Three, your lost husband or wife has “been taken captive by the devil, by Satan, to do his will” (2 Tim. 2:26).  They now walk “according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2).  They now live to fulfills the lusts of their father, the devil, Satan, even though they vehemently reject that claim (John 8:44).  They are completely dominated by Satan’s power, the “power of darkness “(Col. 1:13).

And nothing can deliver them but the power of Christ.

Our mission field, our own families, are self-deceived into thinking, like the Jews in Jesus’ day, that they need nothing.  That they possess all.  They are ignorant of their spiritual condition and it’s up to you and me individually, and the church collectively, powered by the Holy Spirit, to make disciples of those He has placed in our paths (Matt. 28:19).

Are you up for the challenge?  Are you prepared for rejection and persecution?  Are you ready to be counted worthy of suffering for our Lord (Acts 5:41)?  And are you ready to fulfill the very reason God chose you from the foundation of the world to be made in the likeness of His Son (Eph. 1:4; Rom. 8:29)?

They let’s get busy being who we were created to be.

Come Lord Jesus.

big_lines

            podcast-25-25

 

Malachi:  Excrement and the Clergy

Malachi: Excrement and the Clergy

Message from Malachi

A Prophetic Warning to the Church

Excrement and the Clergy

“Behold, I will rebuke your descendants and spread refuse on your faces,
The refuse of your solemn feasts; and one will take you away with it.”
Malachi 2:3

In the second chapter of Malachi we find one of the most chilling and sobering warnings to the priests of Malachi’s day, and to the preachers of our day, found anywhere in Scripture.  Malachi gives us just a glimpse of how our Lord views His priests and preachers and pastors— literally anyone who claims to speak for Him, who fail to give glory to His name (Mal. 2:2).  And the actions of God against the clergy are disturbing, if not outright frightening.


No Honor to My Name

In Malachi 1:6, God begins to chastise the priests because of their disdain and hypocrisy for Him.  They bend over backwards to offer praise and homage and respect to everyone on earth but Him.  He says, “A son honors his father, and a servant his master.  If then I am the Father, where is My honor?  And if I am a Master, where is My reverence?” says the Lord of hosts to you priests who despise My name.”

Later on in the chapter God again chastises the priests for offering polluted, defiled, worthless sacrifices to Him and trying to pass it off as true worship (Mal. 1:8).  By the time we get to Malachi 1:10, God is telling the priests to “Shut the door of the temple and go home.  You’re wasting your time and My time.  No worship is taking place and I have no pleasure in you.”  Why?  Because they profane His name (Mal. 1:12), seem bored with the task of worship (Mal. 1:13), and greedily keep the best for themselves and give the scraps to God (Mal. 1:14).


The Rebuke of the Clergy

This is where it gets scary.

Remember Who is speaking: God Almighty, the great “I AM”, the Sovereign One, the Creator and Sustainer of everything, the Great and Final Judge.  And remember who He is speaking to: the priests, the preachers and clergy, those who have been called and chosen by God to give Him honor, respect, obedience, love and awe.  Before you sit back and smugly think this warning doesn’t apply to you since you are not a preacher, remember Revelation 1:6 where Christ has made each of us “kings and priests to His God and Father.”  In other words, you and I are also priests of God and, like all priests, should spend our lives glorifying God— whether we have a seminary degree or not.  This warning is for each of us today.

“And now, O priests, this commandment is for you” (Mal. 2:1).

What commandment?  Does the word “this” refer to the commandments from chapter one or do they look forward to the commands of chapter two and following?  Answer: both.  And what happens when the priests fail to heed God’s warning, fail to repent, and give Him the glory due His name?  What happens when preachers, pastors, evangelists, and teachers in the church become selfish, greedy, self-centered and self-seeking, narcissistic, nothing more than egotistical glory-seekers for themselves and begin to lead His sheep astray?  What is God to do then?

“If you will not hear (or, listen, obey), and if you will not take it to heart (or, commit, consider), to give (what) glory to (what) My name,” says the Lord of hosts, “I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings.  Yes, I have cursed them already, because you do not take it to heart” (Mal. 2:2).

What is God commanding His priests, you and I, to do?  Give glory to His Name.  The term glory means the weight or gravity of God’s presence.  It defines His importance and the honor He is due as God.  The word name is mentioned 6 times in the first 16 verses of Malachi and is the summation of all the attributes of God: His character, reputation, everything.  God is saying if they, we, do not give Him the glory due is name, He will send a curse upon us and our blessings.  In fact, He says, that curse has already begun.

So how bad will the curse be?  How serious is God about all of this?  Is He more serious than He was in Revelation 3:16 where He “vomited them (the church) out of His mouth” for being apathetic, lethargic, and lukewarm?

“Behold, I will rebuke your descendants (or, offspring, children) and spread refuse (or, dung, fecal matter, excrement) on your faces, the refuse of your solemn feasts; and one will take you away with it” (Mal. 2:3).

Really?  God can’t be serious.  Does God really mean He will spread, or smear refuse, or dung, fecal matter, excrement, on the faces of His priests and their descendants.  I can’t believe God would do this?  It seems so harsh, so hard.  I didn’t think not giving glory to His name was that big of deal.

Well, it is.  You’d better think again.

One of the natural byproducts of animal sacrifices, in addition to a torrent of blood, is excessive excrement or refuse or dung.  Just like what happens when a frightened dog is put in a cage and taken to the Vet, the same thing happens to the cows, sheep, goats and other animals awaiting their death.  The place where the animals were sacrificed reeked with excrement.  According to Levitical law, the excrement, along with other parts of the sacrifice, was to be removed, carried outside the camp, and burned (Ex. 29:14; Lev. 16:27).  They were considered disgusting, defiled, and had no place around the holiness of God.  Of great offense to the priests would be to get fecal matter or dung on their clothing, sandals, or on their skin.  God is saying to the priests He would take this same fecal matter, this animal excrement, and smear it into the creases of their faces.  Why?  Because refusing to show glory and honor to the Lord is not something He takes lightly.  And then the priests are removed, outside of the camp, with the excrement, to be disposed of.  This is what God thinks of those who hypocritically proclaim His name.

After God chastises His priests as such, He then says, “Then you shall know that I have sent this commandment to you” (Mal. 2:4).  Then you’ll know how truly disgusted I am with you.  Then you’ll know exactly how I feel about your hypocrisy and apathy and contempt for Me.  Yes, then you’ll know how you smell to Me, not as a pleasing aroma, but as excrement.  The animal refuse from your “solemn feasts” (Mal. 2:3).


How Should the Priests Repent?

“My covenant was with him, one of life and peace, and I gave them to him that he might fear Me; so he feared Me and was reverent before My name. The law of truth was in his mouth, and injustice was not found on his lips. He walked with Me in peace and equity, and turned many away from iniquity” (Mal. 2:5-6).

God then uses Levi and as example of how He expects His priests to live and function and fulfill their duty as examples of holiness, righteousness, and sanctity before the God and the people.  What God said to the priests in Malachi’s day, He also says to us today:  We would be wise to listen and obey (Mal. 2:1).

One. the priests must live in contentment with God (Phil. 4:11-13), satisfied with the “life and peace” given them (Mal. 2:5).

Two, they must learn to live in the fear of the Lord, learning how to honor and revere Him above all else (Mal. 2:5).  They must show profound respect for God, His glory, and His name.

Three, they must live and preach the truth.  They must stand for God’s Word, His righteousness, justice, and equity (Mal. 2:6).

Four, they must spend their lives for the sake of others, as a watchman on the wall (Eze. 3:17), turning many away from iniquity by word and deed (Mal. 2:6).

Five, the priests must “walk with God” (Mal. 2:6).  Not walk after God, but walk with God, like Elijah, like David, like Daniel, like Enoch.  They must have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16), be filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18), and care about nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2).

Finally, the priests then and the preachers today must seek and speak the knowledge and truth of God.  Why?  For he, you and I, are a messenger of the Lord of Hosts.

“For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, and people should seek the law from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts” (Mal. 2:7).

We, as preachers, as priests, as believers in Christ, as heirs, as joint heirs with the Lord (Rom. 8:17) must seek with every breath in our being the glory of God and the honor of His name.

For if we fail, it may take more than just a few handy wipes or a swipe of antibacterial lotion to wipe the excrement of our sin off our faces.

big_lines

            podcast-25-25

 

What an Unbelieving World Simply Finds Unbelievable

What an Unbelieving World Simply Finds Unbelievable

“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians:  who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle.  That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”

― Brennan Manning

big_lines

            podcast-25-25