"We see, in many a land, the proudest dynasties and tyrannies still crushing, with their mountain weight, every free motion of the Consciences and hearts of men. We see, on the other hand, the truest heroism for the right and the greatest devotion to the Truth in hearts that God has touched. We have a work to do, as great as our forefathers and, perhaps, far greater. The enemies of Truth are more numerous and subtle than ever and the needs of the Church are greater than at any preceding time. If we are not debtors to the present, then men were never debtors to their age and their time. Brethren, we are debtors to the hour in which we live. Oh, that we might stamp it with Truth and that God might help us to impress upon its wings some proof that it has not flown by neglected and unheeded." -- C.H. Spurgeon . . . "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31, 32

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Saturday, September 19, 2015

BECOMING CHRIST-LIKE or CORRUPTED

By James Fire

It's become a foregone conclusion that the church of Jesus Christ is witnessing the apostasy in these days. Much of Christendom that had previously “[held] fast the form of sound words” (2 TIM. 1:13) are now “departing from the faith” (1 TIM. 4:1) by the droves. Society as a whole is becoming more and more degenerate as we behold one atrocity after another: grotesque abortion procedures, the exaltation of homosexual unions, the increased persecution of Christians in this once godly nation, the generous liberality that governments the world over are granting to Muslims who increasingly wreak heinous acts of terrorism on defenseless people and on and on . . . 

When I was a very young believer in Christ (over 35 years ago – where has the time gone??), the LORD pressed indelibly on my heart a vital pair of triplet imperatives of truth, namely:

WHAT'S MOST IMPORTANT IN THIS WORLD?
1) GOD
2) His children
3) And their love one for another (GOD towards us, us towards GOD and we ourselves towards one another.

Also:

WHAT'S MOST NECESSARY FOR THE CHURCH?
1) The HOLY WORD of GOD 
2) Devoted and persistent PRAYER 
3) Godly FELLOWSHIP 


In all of this world, with all of its endeavors and discoveries and objectives, the greatest that can ever be made or found is the LORD Himself. He is the Treasure above all treasures, the Life above any other kind, the divine Purpose exceeding any other purposes (sorry Rick Warren, you lose!). What can a person gain in all this world that would be of any intrinsic and lasting value if they do not know and love God (MATT. 16:26)?

Thus, God is number 1, not on a list of 10 important things, but on a list of one!

What value can be placed on the children of God? One could rightfully deduce by asking the question, What was the price paid for them? The very precious and most HOLY and PRECIOUS BLOOD of the LAMB of GOD! Therefore the saints – those born again in Christ – are immensely important to the LORD, because when our Heavenly Father looks upon us, He sees us clothed upon with the righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ. We are indwelt by the Spirit of God, and the very nature of the Word Incarnate – that is, His grace, love, truth, righteousness and so much more is present in us, and growing all the time in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 PET. 3:18).

If I possess all knowledge, the Word tells us, and wisdom so that I comprehend all mysteries, and have such devotion as to allow myself to be sacrificed for a cause, or possess all kinds of spiritual gifts – but I have not love, it's expressed clearly that “I am nothing” (1 COR. 13:1-3)! We love God because He first loved us (1 JOHN 4:19). And if we love one another, this is evidence that we truly do love the LORD (1 JOHN 4:20). We also know that we love the LORD if we obey His commandments; we are recognized as God's own by our love one for one another, and if we are bearing fruit for His glory (JOHN 13:35; 14:15; 15:8) as a demonstration of God's love for us and ours for Him.

In keeping with maintaining spiritual health and vitality, a steady diet of reading the Word, studying, meditating upon, believing by faith and acting on the Word accordingly by God's empowering Spirit of grace is a non-negotiable for the saint. This Word is our bread and water, our milk and meat, our light and guide, our counselor and comforter. The Word is a love letter, written in the 'blood of our Savior' (to wax poetic). It is the mainstay and singularly vital and exclusive food store in our lives.

Prayer is likewise absolutely essential, and together with the Word, these two represent two oars as it were as we row our way down the streams of this life (or perhaps more accurately, upstream against the flow of this wicked world!). With both oars in the water, our heading is steady and sure; remove one and we start going in circles. Prayer is the life line from the very throne of God to each and every saint who enters their closet, seeking communion and fellowship with our Father. The LORD rose up early every day to pray – and if He found it necessary, how much more should we!?

Godly fellowship is not 'hanging out' and sitting around the TV with other Christians. It's not simply coming together for a little get-together: that's merely socializing. Fellowship is getting real with one another, sharing our struggles with the world and our passion for the LORD and the lost; it is exhorting one another in the Word, praying for one another, bringing God's counsel via the Scriptures and loving and serving one another. This, like the previous two are becoming a scarcity among today's churches . . . and we wonder why the church is weak, sickly, anemic and undiscerning?

See the following article by The BEREAN CALL on the issue and dire need for godly fellowship and how its function is needfully imperative to avoid apostasy:
FELLOWSHIP: FORTIFICATION Against APOSTASY.

The professing church* is visibly becoming more corrupt and less Christ-like – or even recognizable as biblical Christianity (there should really be no need to make the distinction between “biblical Christianity” and “Christianity” but such are the days in which we live, that a distinction such as this is, in fact, necessary).

[* To be clear, when I use the expression, 'professing church' what is meant by this is, that corporate group of people who individually express an apparent faith (whether real or not) in Christ. Within this group are two sub-groups: genuine believers expressing true faith, born again in Christ; then there are those who “have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof” (2 TIM. 3:5). It is my expressed belief that those who are born and indwelt by the Spirit of truth will remain faithful to the LORD (not by might, not by power but by the Spirit of the LORD according to ZECH. 4:6), as opposed to the merely religious Christian – in name only, who will apostatize and turn from the living Word of Christ and to satanically inspired deception and delusion. I believe that it is possible for the saint of God to become snared for a time in corrupt doctrines and deception; ultimately however I believe the LORD will deliver and restore them, while leaving those with “itching ears” to their own desires (2 TIM. 4:3).]

The church began a while ago to compromise on the strict adherence to the doctrine of the Word, giving up certain precious truths in order to respond to the call for 'unity' that has proven false – even demonic in nature. The siren's song of ecumenism has made shipwreck in too, too many fellowships and Christians! Such compromise can only lead to corruption

If a sealed container of grape juice becomes compromised with a bit of yeast being introduced, it will eventually bring the entire container into a state of corruption. This is how wine is fermented, and becomes alcoholic in composition. As we know, alcohol – like seductive compromise – can prove intoxicating (REV. 14:18; 17:2) and affect us in ways that diminishes our sober and sound judgment and discernment. 

An interesting side note: leaven or yeast, thrives in lukewarm water, is dormant in cold water, and killed in hot water. I am reminded of the LORD's admonition to the church of Laodicea:

REV 3:15-16
15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth.

Once the professing church started on that path of compromise, and turned away from the Word of truth, it allowed the falseness of the “doctrines of men” (MATT. 15:9) and even the “doctrines of devils” (1 TIM. 4:1) to creep in and begin their ruinous work of corruption (REV. 17:6; 18:2), transforming the professing church which is supposed to be a chaste bride into a lustful and violent whore.

We are without a doubt living in perilous times, and as a believer of over three decades I can attest to this truth; there have been many professing Christians who I thought to be solid, strong and spiritual, who loved the LORD and His Word at the least as much as I did . . . but today, they are fallen by the way side, gone back to the world and its allurements, have forsaken the Word, given up on prayer, no longer in fellowship – whose love has grown cold. And I am left to think very sober and thoughtful questions: LORD why them and not me? What's to prevent me from falling away as well? Am I any more immune to the wiles of the devil than they?

I have considered this thought before concerning the professing church – that there seems to be a polarization of two groups within Christianity; the far greater pole is comprised of the compromisers of God's Word; those who have lifted their religious tool upon the Rock (EX. 20:25): the LORD Jesus Christ, and seeking to change Him into something other than what He truly is: the Rock of Truth; and in doing so, have polluted it, marred it, corrupted it and made it into an image that is becoming anti-Christ. 

There is the much smaller pole of simple, faithful Christ-like saints who reject the sophistication of corporate church, with their polished campuses, exorbitant budgets, flashy concert-style worship services, endless programs that keep people busy and such 'sermonettes' that are powerless to convict and bring the wayward to repentance or restoration. 

They are those living stones which comprise the temple of the Holy Spirit and hold fast to the simplicity of Christ, the undiluted Gospel of God. These who have a fervent heart of love for God, His Word, fervent in prayer, and a passion for lost souls. I dare say, that the target that Satan has to aim at is becoming a more defined and easier mark!

How can we resist the spirit of this world that seeks ever to force us into compromise, and remain diligently faithful and resolute to the LORD?

ROMANS 12:1-3
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

Note that world “conformed” - it's from a Greek word that means to “exert pressure from without” - the pressures of this ungodly world that is, which is exerting evilness against us, seeking to conform us to become like them – and don't we see this in too, too many fellowships today!?

Our surrender to the LORD, unreserved and complete is imperative! In my love for acronyms, I formed one shortly after reading Andrew Murray's classic work Absolute Surrender (To read this book and many of Mr. Murray's other works, go here): 

A.V.R.A.S. Or Absolute Victory (in life) Requires Absolute Surrender (to Christ). Of course none of us will know absolute surrender to the LORD while in these bodies cursed with the sin nature (ROM. 8:21-23), but by the grace of God we may be empowered by the LORD to climb the heights of continual yielding whereby we are filled to overflowing of His Spirit. Thus, we may know in our lives the wondrous victory that is ours in Christ (JOHN 16:33), overcome the world by faith (1 JOHN 5:4) and see the erosion of the dominance of sin!

As listed at the beginning of this article, those pair of triplet truths are standard fare for the beloved saints of the LORD. Remembering these and keeping the grace and truth of God in our lives will preserve us in these perilous times and allow us to keep our robes of righteousness “unspotted” from the world (JAMES 1:27).

In closing, consider what the LORD told us about ourselves as members of the body of Christ, His church:

MATTHEW 5:10-13
10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
13 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

Have you ever had salt come in contact with an open wound? Or even rinse your mouth, riddled with canker sores, with warm salt water? Stings doesn't it? Salt is a natural chemical that kills bacteria and fights off infection – and corruption. Being spiritual salt in this world is what keeps the evil of satanic corruption or even that born of the sinful nature of mankind, from spreading out of control. 

When the church is healthy and 'salty' we will inevitably bring the sting of conviction to the world and they will hate us for that hurt, but it's a sting that the Spirit of God brings when He touches the hearts of the unredeemed – and because they hate the Light that He brings they will all the more love their darkness (JOHN 3:18-20) and persecute the righteous. However, our LORD tells us to rejoice and be glad because “great is our reward in heaven”.

What I find so terribly sad is that the corruption and perversion that we see all around us is growing exponentially, even though the church remains with her feet solidly on this globe! Is the salt in our lives so unsavory and powerless that it can no longer sting the sinner? Can the state of this nation, a nation founded on Christian principles, with its deplorable and amoral or immoral conduct and philosophy be the result of a church that's lost its power to stave off corruption?

One might say, “But the Bible prophesies that these things would happen! It's inevitable!” Yet I can't help but consider that the LORD merely has foreseen what is occurring based upon the lack in the church, the body of Christ and her unsalty state of spiritual apathy. It is no wonder that the LORD very well may allow persecution to arise against those who are yet standing for righteousness, and in so doing, stir the slumbering to wakefulness – so that they may repent of their damnable doldrums and return to their first love (REV. 2:4).
And so let us prayerfully seek the LORD and allow His Holy Light to shine into our hearts, while asking, “LORD am I becoming more like You, or am I succumbing to the worldly influences of corruption?”

May we hear from the LORD on this vital question, and seek His Face for any remedial action that His Spirit may need to take to restore and revive us, bringing us to a place of surrender, whereby we may once again grow in Christ-likeness to the glory of God the Father, and bring honor to our LORD Who purchased us with His own blood!

ACTS 20:28
28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

5 comments:

unityinthetruth said...

James, so many good reminders. The times are indeed perilous and most undoubtedly the return of Christ is sooner than many (even within the body) want to believe.

Sadly, we are often too busy building church monuments to man, church kingdoms, if you will; trusting in godless "techniques" to gain and maintain the masses. After all, the bills have to be paid.

To our own shame, we are rarely pointing people to Heaven, but rather to our church programs, attempting to keep people coming to our building, forgetting the flock is the Good Shepherd's, not our own.

Instead of watching and waiting, we are racing and fretting. There is no time to wait upon and trust in the power of God. Instead we scurry after the methods of men which are many times nothing more than dressed up doctrines of devils, false teaching wrapped in spotted wool.

Thanks for the encouragement and call to return to the simplicity of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3). Jesus reminded the religious leaders, the ones who diligently studied God's Word, that it wasn't simply studying and knowing the Scriptures that brings true Life, but rather it is our privilege and duty to sincerely seek the Jesus of His Scriptures. Only this, or better yet, only He brings us true and eternal Life. After all, Jesus alone is the way, the truth, and the life. (John 5:39, 14:6).

Although I understand the intent behind the point, there is one section in which I would lovingly disagree. Towards the beginning of the article, it says, "What value can be placed on the children of God? One could rightfully deduce by asking the question, What was the price paid for them? The very precious and most HOLY and PRECIOUS BLOOD of the LAMB of GOD! Therefore the saints – those born again in Christ – are immensely important to the LORD..." (See the second comment for more.)

unityinthetruth.com said...

ile I would agree that God's love was most definitely demonstrated upon the cross, I would not agree with equating our value to His payment. Although I am certain you are not attempting to draw from these men, the "value" concept was actually popularized by the likes of Norman Vincent Peale and later regurgitated by Robert Schuller, most, if not all so-called Christian psychologists, and now is literally flowing through the veins of most churches.

The "value" argument would say that a person does not go into a jewelry store and pay $10 for a $10,000 ring. No, the man would pay the correct price. Just as the cost of the ring indicates it's value, so it is with mankind. After all, what could be more valuable than the blood of Jesus? Therefore if Jesus paid it all, we must be most valuable/important to Him. They embrace this point to emphasize our importance which sadly also has the opposite affect of minimizing the value of God.

I believe this comparison is not a biblical one. The built-in assumption revealed is the valuable nature (worthiness) of the item being purchased. The Bible, however, does not say we were purchased from a store, but from the slave market of sin, which like Gomer, we have willingly chosen to embrace. If a person has his bail set at $10, it would indicate the cost/value of the crime committed and the level of the criminal facing judgment. Of course, if his bail is set for a million dollars, one would be left with no other conclusion than that the size of that crime and level of criminal is terribly immense.

The price Jesus paid was truly infinite, yet to our shame and to His glory, He chose to pay it. He did so not to remind us of our worthiness. He did so to remind us of His. I believe the cost of the cross indicates just how horrible our crimes really are. Yet, in spite of our terrible rebellion, Jesus chose to stoop so low, not based upon our value or importance, but based on His very character of love.

Does God love us? Absolutely. Does He care for us? Most assuredly. Yet, to say His love demonstrates our importance and value, tends to turn the focus unduly to ourselves and away of Jesus. Again, I'm certain this is not your desire in the least and over all, am very thankful and blessed for the encouragement and reminders within this article.

"Oh how low you stooped to rescue me,
From this self-made life of misery.

"Your 'blood' moved You to come to earth,
You died the death which I deserved.

"Called me inspite of all I've done,
Not based on my worth, but on Your love."

unityinthetruth.com said...

*While

James J. Fire said...

Sinners have no intrinsic value before a Holy God, period. Any value attributed to us cannot be based upon ourselves. If God loves us, and He does, then the value that we have is intrinsic to HIS love, and HIS sacrifice for us: the shed blood of Christ does not demonstrate our value, but rather God's love for us, apart from any merit on our part.
Yet to say that God does not value us would deny His love for us; both God's value of us and His love are demonstrable of His grace: we are undeserving of both, and yet by Christ's shed blood we have both.
We are that pearl of great price that the LORD gave all of Himself to redeem; yet the beauty of that pearl and the costliness of it, is from the LORD God, and not of ourselves.
If we were not at all important to God, no doubt, He wouldn't have bothered with us, and rather destroyed us once Adam sinned.
Our importance, again, is not something we can attribute to ourselves, but to the LORD God and His plan of the ages, in which our redemption and glorification in Christ would proclaim the glory of God's grace, in transforming worthless sinners into saints.
I would say that it is a misunderstanding of the Father heart of GOD to attribute to Him an uncaring attitude towards His own children that He sacrificed His only begotten Son for. And if unimportant we are, as His children, then He has no reason to care for us.

James J. Fire said...

from this same article:

"Therefore the saints – those born again in Christ – are immensely important to the LORD, because when our Heavenly Father looks upon us, >>> He sees us clothed upon with the righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ.<<< We are indwelt by the Spirit of God, and the very nature of the Word Incarnate – that is, His grace, love, truth, righteousness and so much more is present in us, and growing all the time in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 PET. 3:18)."

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