What a hypocritical nation America has become. We have developed a culture that loves violence while simultaneously condemning it. Violence permeates the very fabric of our nation and the entertainment industry is one of its primary propagators. What hypocrisy! The celebrities that act out the violence Americans are obsessed with often claim to be proponents of nonviolence. What about the citizenry itself? Though they may state with political correctness that violence is wrong, they have, so to speak, an umbilical cord attached to the secular media that feeds them the violence and moral decadence they crave. If we did not love violence then the entertainment industry would not be producing such evil.
This fallen world is an incubator of rebellion against the Lord and His kingdom. We have created a spiritual and moral environment that has caused us to grow numb to the culture of violence we made. Yes, this includes the church. Christians must shoulder the greater guilt in creating this problem because we should be the guardians of truth and biblical morality. To our shame, we have become proponents of evil. A vast number of Christians support the culture of violence with their time and money. Just look in the average self-proclaimed Christian’s video cabinet, examine their cable bill, peruse their video games or search their computer’s history for the internet porn they watch. It will not take long to find just a few ways that supposedly “good” people actively advance evil.
The news media loves to exploit acts of violence for their own profit and we Americans just love to be exploited. In those cases of violence that the media uses to capture the attention of the nation our consciences may be awakened to a small degree. These news blitzes excite the feeble sympathies of our hearts or may enrage our thoughts to some kind of anemic response. Yet a few days after the tragedy we once again fall asleep to the evils we have breed of our own free will. Of course, we foolishly trust that our elected officials will run with the political tide created by the most recent media feeding frenzy. Out of self-love and self-preservation these mercenary politicians pass laws in the heat of the moment that, more often than not, do more harm than good.
The culture of violence in which we find ourselves today had its origin in Adam’s sin. In the Garden of Eden violence was nonexistent. Scripture records that the first act of violence was the sacrifice Adam and Eve offered up to God as atonement for their sin (Genesis 3:21). From that point on violence became an integral part of this fallen world. Every act of violence this world has ever known or will experience is the consequence of Adam and Eve’s deliberate act of rebellion against God. What they set in motion we now continue through our own conscious acts of breaking God commands. The wages of sin always produces death and separation from God (Genesis 2:17; Ezekiel 18:4, 20; Romans 6:23).
The violence that mankind perpetrates one upon one another is inspired by hell. At times, the evil people inflict upon others is so heinous that our minds cannot fathom the horror nor words express the depths of their malevolence. It seems like devils inspired with hellish hatred motivate weak people to abuse, mutilate and ruin the very creatures God created His own image.
Through the authority of Scripture we can say that mankind created violence, not God. However, in our present situation the Lord uses violence to advance His kingdom. Now please do not misunderstand me here. The violence God uses is diametrically opposed to that which came through the Adam’s rebellion. Terrorism, murder, natural war and all the other expressions of violence and hatred are not part of God’s kingdom.
Jesus taught the correct means by which violence is used to advance the Kingdom of Heaven, “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force” (NKJV; Mt. 11:12). The violence the Savior refers to incorporates two ideas. First, it speaks of people entering Christ’s kingdom. The Lord relentlessly labors to bring people to the place where they comprehend their desperate need of salvation and are willing to flee into Christ’s loving embrace. When they reach that imperative condition to salvation they will violently (forcefully) strive to enter the kingdom of God at any cost. The Lord, through His infinitely astounding abilities, uses the evil we created, practice and promote to drive us to Himself. The greatest example of this is demonstrated when God, who did not create violence, allowed the most horrendous act of violence to be preformed against Himself—crucifixion. Why did He allow this? So that mankind could be saved from the eternal violence of hell.
The second way that the Lord uses violence to advance His kingdom deals with the way true disciples are called to aggressively expand the Kingdom of God. This is accomplished in the same manner that Jesus advanced the Kingdom of God when He walked this earth, through the laying down of His life. Let me use a story Duncan Campbell told about a soldier during WWI to illustrate this point. During an attack at Passchendaele Ridge, Belgium, Campbell stated, “I saw on my right a young 42nd Highlander. He was wounded in his arm and trying to tear the tail of his shirt to bind it. Another soldier in front of us lay wounded beckoning for help. I heard that 42nd Highlander say, ‘I’m sure that’s Jock!’ I saw him spring to his feet with that wounded arm lying beside him as he climbed out of the trench saying, ‘Yes, that’s poor Jock and I’ll save him or die in the attempt.’” In like manner, through the love of God we are to lay siege to people, families, communities and nations until we see them saved or die in the attempt to rescue them. That is what Jesus was talking about—aggressive, loving evangelism.
There is a violence ordained of God. Not the heartless brutality that flows out of hell through susceptible humans, but that which our Lord and Master modeled. This is a high calling, the obligation placed upon the shoulders of every true believer to be like Jesus in both life and death. What does this privilege of infinitesimal value include, even demand? That out of love for Christ we lay down our wealth, reputations, comforts and lives for His glory and the salvation of the lost.
Walter Henley, a former White House staff member that turned pastor said it this way: “Militant love is life attacking death, light coming against darkness, truth colliding with lies. . . . Militant Islam, for example, may call for the death of the ‘infidel,’ and may issue death warrants against its enemies, but Jesus of Nazareth will not allow His followers to call down the fire . . . His militant love will minister healing, deliverance and hope. Jesus shows that militant love does not inflict suffering on others, but is willing to receive it on itself for the sake of others. Militant love does not nail its enemies to the cross, but goes to the cross on behalf of the enemy. . . . Militant love does aggressive acts of kindness towards those who would cause it hurt. It washes the feet of those who would betray it.”
True love demands that we respond to the desperate needs of others that are within our ability to meet. How can we say we love family, friends and community while remaining indifferent to the reality that the majority of people we know are rushing to a literal hell? How can we say we are part of a kingdom whose Lord and King was crucified so we could be saved and be senseless about the multitudes of perishing immortal souls? And how can we live in the selfish pursuit of pleasure while hell grows larger by the second? The existence of hell demands our response.
Violence rages around us, incessant and unmerciful. We cannot get away from it. Try to run if you will, but the violence of hell will only pursue you. Either stand and fight or cower and hide. To the one is a victor’s crown, to the other shame and disgrace. But if you think that you can act like the proverbial ostrich that sticks its head in the sand know that the vicious predators of hell which are seeking to devour your mother and father, children and siblings, friends and acquaintances are also coming after you. This moment, this day and age demands that God’s people respond to the violence of hell with the good, holy and compassionate violence of God’s love operating through His genuine followers even if it costs us our reputations, comforts, wealth or lives.
Glenn Meldrum has been a national evangelist since 1997. Prior to his calling as an evangelist he pastored for 15 years. He is ordained and holds an M.A. in theology and church history from Ashland Theological Seminary. Visit www.ihpministry.com for articles, sermons, books and information on Glenn Meldrum and In His Presence Ministries.
The young woman that sat across from me was very pregnant and extremely angry. Her features, which were probably very pretty, were so distorted with bitterness it was impossible to see any beauty. I have known people who have allowed a consuming anger to destroy their lives but I still don’t understand the desire to hold on to such an ugly emotion, especially when it is directed towards God.
I met Amanda last week while my husband, Glenn and I were ministering at a Christian drug and alcohol rehab for women and their children. It is a tremendous program that provides the opportunity for these women to surrender their lives to Jesus and let Him conquer their addictions. Needless to say, all these women come into the program with lots of baggage including a history of physical abuse or incest. Amanda is one of these. She was sexually abused by her father and now she cannot forgive. I’m not talking about forgiving her earthly father; I’m talking about forgiving her heavenly Father.
She began her life story by telling Glenn and I how she came to be in the program. Although she is only 25, Amanda has been in jail often for drug related crimes. Two months ago as she stood before another judge he shocked her by offering an alternative to jail. He suggested she consider entering a year long Christian program to get help for her addiction. He then offered to pay her entrance fee out of his pocket. Amanda chose to enter the program and acknowledges that God did a miracle for her.
At this point the conversation took a turn. Amanda confessed to being in and out of Christianity for many years and said the reason for this was that she had not been able to forgive God for the abuse she suffered. Glenn responded by questioning her as to why she would lay the blame on God for what her father did to her. She explained that she was angry with God because it was His job to make sure nothing bad ever happened to her and He had failed her in this. Of course we tried to show her the error of thinking this way using Scripture and trying to help her understand the nature of man’s freewill, but she was determined to make God as evil as her father.
What became clear was that Amanda felt that God did not take good care of her and that she believed that she was a much better parent than He. She proclaimed her love to be so great for her children that she would give her life for them; she would never let anything bad happen to them. In other words she condemned God by claiming herself more kind and compassionate than He was. After questioning her about her “children” I learned that in addition to her unborn child, Amanda had a six year old daughter who had been taken from her. She wouldn’t tell me why but I did get her to admit that her daughter had to be taken away because Amanda was not a good mom. Yet again Amanda declared she would lay her life down even now for her daughter and her unborn child. Obviously she has not yet understood that she would never die for her children because she has not been willing to live for them.
As the conversation came to a close I asked Amanda to pray that God would show her the cross; the reality of our wickedness, Jesus’ incredible sacrifice and the gift of forgiveness offered to rebels such as us. I suggested that the real reason that she is experiencing anger towards God is because she has not truly seen Him or known Him; she does not understand who He is. She replied that she knew all about the cross, God and Jesus and there was nothing more to learn about Him. Now it was up to God to bless her so that she might one day forgive Him. Until that time she would continue to be angry with Him.
To believe that God has done anything for which He needs our forgiveness is a polluted, twisted idea. Only created, sinful beings are guilty of crimes that need to be forgiven. The Lamb of God is pure and holy. Jesus has never committed an evil act. In this Amanda showed her complete ignorance of the character of God, the sacrifice of Jesus and her own wickedness. However, the struggle with anger towards God is a very real issue for many of us.
To feel anger towards God is something we all have experienced at times even if we dare not tell anyone about it. Sometimes we don’t recognize it for what it is or we try to dress it up in religious garb to make ourselves appear righteous. Anger is a strong emotion and we will not begin to conquer it until it is confessed. It is not sin to feel an emotion, at times we cannot help feeling anger, but it is what we do with the emotion that matters. If we are angry at God we must drag that anger up the hill to Calvary and lay it down it in the shadow of the cross to see whether we really have any right to our anger. Then as we walk by faith back down Calvary’s hill we must determinedly surrender our emotion and cry out for a heart that “would see Jesus.”
From some of Job’s statements it appears that he had his struggle with anger at God. He accused and questioned God. He wanted some answers for what he perceived as injustice on the part of God. But notice at the end of the book of Job God does not address Job’s questions and Job no longer requires any answers. In fact all his questions were forgotten. Why? Because instead of responding to his inquires God gave him a revelation – He answered Job with Himself. It is here we find Job acknowledging the foolishness of his anger when he confesses; “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5&6)
When Job had an encounter with God two things changed; Job’s perception of God and Job’s perception of Job. How much better it would have been if early on Job had said; “I do not understand what is happening, but I will yield my emotions to the Character of God. By His Word I know He is loving and He is merciful. I choose to surrender my emotions and conception of God (surrender to who) because I only know Him but a little.” Would this have immediately caused Job’s anger to die? – probably not (at least it doesn’t for me). Yet statements of truth are expressions of faith that will subdue the emotion until a fresh encounter with Jesus puts to rest our questions. Consider David’s Psalms of lament in which he brings out a complaint, yet soon afterwards makes statements like this; “But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth. (Ps 86:15)
The abuse suffered by Amanda is not the obstacle to her finding freedom from her anger; it is her unwillingness to surrender her emotions to God. Until she is willing to “despise herself and repent” she will remain blind to her true condition and her need of mercy. She has heard of Jesus, but she has not seen Him. At this point Amanda will not even consider the possibility that God is other than what she believes Him to be. The freedom for which she longs will elude her unless, in brokenness, her heart begins to cry out; “I have only heard of You, but now let my eyes see you.”
Jessica Meldrum has been a national evangelist with her husband Glenn since 1997. She speaks to women’s groups, is a freelance author and wrote the book “Floods on Dry Ground: The Story of the Hebrides Awakening.” Visit www.ihpministry.com for articles, sermons, books and information on Glenn and Jessica Meldrum and In His Presence Ministries.
Paris Reidhead preached this powerful sermon that is sure to shake your life if you have ears to hear. God is to be the supreme motive in our lives and in our desire for the move of the Spirit. You will not be sorry for listening to this sermon.
Duncan Campbell was the evangelist of the Hebrides Awakening, which are islands off the coast of Scotland. He gives eyewitness testimony to the profound outpouring of the Holy Spirit and outlines how the revival came into being. This sermon is powerful, soul stirring and provoking. Those hungry for revival must listen to this sermon.
This is Mary Peckham’s personal testimony about the Hebrides Awakening. The Hebrides Awakening was one of the most powerful revivals in modern times. It was free from superstar celebrities and the works of the flesh that define so much of what is called revival in our time. Mary was saved in the revival towards its beginning so she is able to give credible testimony to the outpouring of the Spirit in this historic revival.
This message by Leonard Ravenhill is a classic. Ravenhill was a true prophet that called America to repent. This sermon is in true Ravenhill form. It will stir your soul and convict your conscience.
In this teaching Jessica Meldrum addresses issues relevant to women by gleaning some wonderful truths out of Song of Solomon. What it means to be Christs and to belong to Him are powerful themes she speaks about on how these truths can change our lives.
In this message Jessica Meldrum delves into the deeper life teaching of waiting on God. She addresses the issues of prayer, obedience, abandonment and patience on how they affect our waiting on God. She teaches the practical application on how to wait patiently on God for Him to meet every need in our life.
While in the midst of preaching a series of meetings at a church the pastor came to my motorhome for a visit. He apologized for not coming by earlier but had two marital counseling sessions that took his entire morning. One of the couples had a fight the night before where they physically beat each other and bore the marks to prove it. The other couple consisted of a woman who had five affairs on her husband and he had ten on her. Obviously, both marriages were in shambles even though they all claimed to be Christian.
At another church where I ministered a woman had divorced her husband because she could not forgive his besetting sin – he was unwilling to help with the house cleaning. She believed God would never want her to be chained to such a man for the rest of her life so before the divorce was final she found another man that she hoped would make her happier.
Then there has been the string of well known “Christian” pastors and recording artists that have been practicing homosexuals. Some claim to still love Jesus asserting that God doesn’t have a problem with their homosexuality. And what about the evangelist that shot into fame but was actually a falling star? Not only was he propagating gross heresies, but within a week of his public coronation as an “apostle” by some influential leaders the facts surfaced about his adulteries, drunkenness and breakdown of his marriage. Now add to all of this the increase in adultery, pornography and divorce among spiritual leaders and we still only see the tip of the iceberg that is shipwrecking the American church.
How has the church fallen to such a low spiritual and moral condition that people can live in such blatant wickedness yet still claim to be Christian? Because growing portions of professing believers have abandoned the Biblical truths that define what it means to be Christian. Godly character is no longer thought of as a valuable prize to be passionately sought, a beautiful adornment to grace our lives and the only path in which to draw near to God (Isa. 35:8-10; 1 Thes. 4:1; Heb. 12:14). Even though most believers would assert that godly character is important, few are actually pursing it with abandon. The low spiritual condition of our churches verifies this distressing fact.
One major reason why we are having such a spiritual and moral crisis in our nation and churches is because we are failing to recognize that character matters. At one time the church knew this truth and promoted it. But the secular lies of moral relativism and tolerance have crept into our congregations stripping us of the moral absolutes based upon the Scriptures that are integral to building godly character.
THE PRIVILEGE OF BEING CHRISTIAN
It was in the ancient Syrian metropolis of Antioch where Jesus’ followers were first called Christians. This designation indicated that they completely devoted themselves to Christ’s teaching and strove to be like Him in character (Acts 11:26). We do not know if they were called Christian by their enemies as a derogatory label or if they called themselves by that name. Either way, they counted it a complement of the highest order. All who were privileged enough to receive such a title paid for it at great cost.
Those early disciples were not identified as Christians because they belonged to a particular denomination, attended a specific church or prayed a “sinner’s prayer.” They were called Christians because they bowed their will to Christ’s lordship and had a Christlike character to prove it. This caused them to experience sporadic outbreaks of persecution, some of which were widespread and brutal. They understood that to be Christian meant there was a good possibility that they could suffer for the faith, even to the point of death.
It is ridiculous to think that anyone willing to suffer persecution for Jesus would not be vigorously striving to develop a Christlike character. If we do not want to pay the price to be Christlike now, then we will not pay the price to follow Jesus in the face of persecution and suffering. Our unwillingness to suffer for Christ is one reason why we are not willing to crucify our sinful nature that destroys marriages, devastates churches and disgraces Christ before the world.
Husbands and wives that authentically love Jesus will cultivate a Christlike character so their marriage will be pleasing to God. They will crucify their hellish behaviors that devastate their marriage and children. How can people say they love the Lord yet refuse to repent of the wicked character traits that are causing their marital breakdown?
Since salvation is the gift of God we are not saved because we are Christlike. However, those who are truly born again will actively pursue a Christlike character because salvation is evident and operating in them. In other words, those who are authentically Christian will be laboring through divine grace to be like Jesus. Their lives and character will give clear testimony that they belong to Him.
On the other hand, everyone who professes to be Christian but does not bear the mark of a Christlike character is not in true fellowship with God. The harsh reality is that they do not belong to Christ. There are multitudes claiming to be Christian that do not genuinely know Jesus. Their character proves that they are of the world, and not of Christ. They act like the world because they love the world.
We always imitate whoever, or whatever, is our real spiritual and moral teacher. If Jesus is really our Savior then our character will reflect His transforming influence in our lives. But if the world is our teacher then our character will be a reflection of the world. A vast number of professing Christians are more defined by TV, movies, sports, secular music and the internet than by Christ and His Word. Since Satan is the prince and the power of this world’s systems, all who are schooled by the world bear the character of Satan, even if they call themselves Christian.
We can only be Christlike if we are truly Christ’s. Because people call themselves Christian does not mean they are the genuine artifact. Imagine the eternal horror of those who claim to be believers but in reality are not. They will stand before God and hear Him say, “Depart from me, you worker of iniquity” (Mt. 25:41). Those words will torment them forever. At Christ’s judgment bar it will be too late to develop a Christlike character, too late to repent and too late to own Jesus as Lord. Now is the time to, “Examine yourselves to see whether we are in the faith; test ourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Cor. 13:5). To fail the test holds damnable consequences!
Glenn Meldrum has been a national evangelist since 1997. Prior to his calling as an evangelist he pastored for 15 years. He is ordained and holds an M.A. in theology and church history from Ashland Theological Seminary. Visit www.ihpministry.com for articles, sermons, books and information on Glenn Meldrum and In His Presence Ministries.
The evangelical church in the west is experiencing a major crisis; a crisis that that goes to the core of its identity and the majority of people involved don’t even know it exists. What is the crisis I am speaking about? – The redefining of what it means to be Christian. More specifically, how a person becomes a believer and then how one is to live in this world. Through a slow process of redefining what it means to be “Christian,” we have forsaken the faith defined in the Scriptures. Instead, we have substituted a pop cultural, politically correct version that advocates a deceptive form of tolerance and an unbiblical concept of inclusiveness. This is another gospel, an anti-Christian religion.
Let me give a couple of examples. After 15 years of pastoring the Lord called my wife and I to be evangelists. Since the end of 1996 we have traveled the country speaking at churches, conferences and ministries. To help pay some bills my wife, Jessica, took a seasonal job in a southern, Bible-belt town during the Christmas season of 1997. She was excited to find that most of the women in the business claimed to be Christian. However, as time went on she learned the ugly truth that many of them were either living with their boyfriend or practicing other immoral behaviors. Either way, they were in blatant rebellion against God by living in fornication and willfully sinning. When Jessica tried to share the true Gospel with them they were not interested.
A few years ago I was preaching at a church that ran a homeless shelter. As Jessica and I ministered to the homeless we found that most of them were very hard to the Gospel. Why? They had once said the “sinner’s prayer” and then were informed that this prayer made them Christian. Now they could no longer see any problem with being a “Christian” while strung out on drugs or living a sexually immoral life – after all they did say the prayer. They had been lied to and chose to believe the lie.
Thirty, fifty or a hundred years ago it would have been unthinkable for people living in fornication or doing drugs to be considered Christian or to regard themselves as one. But through a relentless series of small compromises the very definition of Christianity has been changed. We are building churches without Christ, offering salvation without a cross and calling people to a discipleship without cost. Rather than depopulating hell to populate heaven we are allowing hell to infiltrate the church and entrench itself into our very heart and doctrine. Much of the so-called-church is inviting people to join their club and pay their weekly dues so they can receive the benefits and rewards such membership offers. Their slogan could easily be: “Join our club and live as you want.”
The spiritually bankrupt condition of the church at large compels me to proclaim that we are in desperate need of another Great Reformation; a spiritual revolution that will take us back to our Biblical roots where we will recover once again the true Christian faith. To do this we have to abandon all the religious baggage we have accumulated from both the church and the world. We need men and women of God who will lovingly, yet boldly proclaim the Reformation battle cry; “Sola Scriptura,” – that faith must be based upon Scripture alone. For too long we have allowed our religious beliefs to be defined by modern day Protestant popes that pontificate their doctrinal errors for their own selfish agenda. Multitudes within the visible church freely embrace aberrant views of Scripture because they want practice their sin.
With all this said, I think it imperative that we begin our search for the Biblical faith by examining Christ’s simple, yet revolutionary phrase that we must be “born again” to enter the kingdom of God. The phrase “born again,” has been horrendously abused and carries with it a lot of unscriptural baggage. Nonetheless, we need to restore Christ’s beautiful phrase to its pure and rightful place in helping to define true conversion, faith and practice.
Salvation, from God’s point of view, is absolutely radical, both in the price Christ paid that we might be saved and the cost for those who genuinely want His salvation. Jesus used the phrase “born again” to paint a graphic picture of the revolutionary nature of conversion. When a child is born he goes from the darkness of his mother’s womb to the brightness of new life in a new world. It is an absolutely radical change for the child, and is no less radical when a person is authentically born again.
Nicodemus, a Pharisee and member of the Jewish ruling council, went to Jesus one night honestly inquiring into the way of salvation. Jesus immediately addressed his true need, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (Jn. 3:3). Nicodemus, not understanding what Jesus meant, questioned how a man can be born a second time (Jn. 3:4). Jesus responded, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (Jn. 3:6). The new birth is a spiritual birth, no less radical and obvious than its natural counterpart.
When a woman gives birth to a baby there is verifiable proof that a child has been born. This means that there is objective evidence—a new born baby rests in the arms of the mother. The birth of a child is never subjective, existing only in the woman’s mind. This stands true in the spiritual realm. When a person is genuinely born again there will always be objective, verifiable evidence. That proof consists of a radical change of life that will be seen through the transformation of a person’s heart, mind and character. If there is not a radical change of character, then no matter what the person claims, he has not been born again.
The birthing process is a painful ordeal for both mother and child. As the birth pains increase in intensity and frequency it becomes obvious that the time of delivery draws near. Jesus used the illustration of child birth to show how traumatic it can be to go from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. It can be an excruciating experience to come to the knowledge that we are sinners by nature and by choice, that our sin is always a deliberate act of rebellion and that we deserve eternal damnation as a result. When a person nears the time where he can be born again the emotional pain of the sin can increase in intensity and frequency. Yet without the pain that would bring them to the new birth they would die in the womb of the world.
As the crowds went out to be baptized of John he confronted them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Lk. 3:7-8a). Most of the people didn’t want to hear such strong words, especially those that were religious. They would have liked John to preach positive messages that lifted them up. Since they thought their problem was low self-esteem, all they needed was encouragement, not rebukes. But the path from darkness to life is painful. We must come to a true knowledge of our spiritual condition or we will not flee from the “coming wrath.” If preachers, or lay people, keep from the unsaved the message that can bring them to the point of being born again, they are committing spiritual abortions by killing the people in their spiritual womb. Love warns! It is not love that does not warn! Salvation is radical! So the process of coming to salvation is also radical.
The womb is a necessary environment for a child to grow until he or she is ready to be delivered. If a child does not come forth at the proper time it means death for mother, child or both. The womb then becomes a tomb. So it is with being born again. The world is the womb that allows us to come to the point where we can be born again. If we rebel against the consequences of our sins and the convicting work of the Holy Spirit (birth pains), the very world that we seek to find refuge and happiness in will kill us.
Imagine if a child communicated from the womb that she did not want to leave the warm, comfortable world she had grown so familiar with. Since she didn’t know what was on the other side of the womb she decided to stay right where she was. Besides, she did not want to go through all the emotional and physical pain involved with child birth. Would it not seem reasonable for those outside the womb to try to convince the infant at all costs that she would die if she stayed in the womb? Not just that, if she stayed in the womb she would kill the mother she claimed to love. Yet how many people will inflict pain and suffering on their loved ones and then spend an eternity in hell because they did not want to forsake the world to be truly born again. Some people may think that if they go to church, pray a sinner’s prayer, are baptized or do some good works that they are born again. But if people will not take God’s ordained path to life, even though they hang around the cross, they will never enter the kingdom of God.
It is impossible for those who come out of their mother’s womb to ever live the life they once lived in the womb. Nor can anyone share both worlds at the same time. Yet a host of self-proclaimed Christians try to mingle the kingdom of heaven with the kingdom of hell and think that God does not have a problem with it. Oh, what depths of deception! Jesus used the illustration of being born again so we could see the absolute difference between the two kingdoms. He wanted us to know that we could forsake one kingdom for the other, but we could not have them both. Those who choose to love this world will find themselves enemies of God (Jam. 4:4; 1 Jn. 2:15-16); those who are born again will forsake this world for new life in Christ.
Unconverted people, both in the church and the world, live lives that are contrary to Christ. They are filled with lust, pride, rebellion, fornication, homosexuality, greed, contention and a host of other sins. We cannot expect those who have not been authentically born again to live the Christian life. Only when we have the living and incarnate Christ dwelling in us and transforming our lives to be like His own will we manifest the verifiable proof of a person that has been born again.
Without fail, Biblical Christianity produces the Biblical results of salvation, life and character transformation. Unbiblical Christianity also produces Biblical results; however, here the Scriptures tell us that the results are only death and damnation. Dear reader, this is not a game! Your eternal destiny depends upon whether or not you have been truly born again. Religion cannot save you! Your church or denomination cannot save you! A sinner’s prayer cannot save you. Baptism cannot save you! Good works cannot save you! Only Jesus Christ can save you! But know this: that He will only save you if you choose to totally abandon the womb of this world, with all of its wicked ways. To do so you must be born again into His kingdom that will produce the verifiable proof of a genuine Christian life.
Glenn Meldrum has been a national evangelist since 1997. Prior to his calling as an evangelist he pastored for 15 years. He is ordained and holds an M.A. in theology and church history from Ashland Theological Seminary. Visit www.ihpministry.com for articles, sermons, books and information on Glenn Meldrum and In His Presence Ministries.
With the explosive increase in knowledge that we have experienced in the last hundred years it’s ironic that we are more ignorant today about what it means to be Christian then we were early last century. This goes for those within the church as well as those that are without. This high-speed increase in knowledge has not done the average professing Christian much spiritual good. In spite of the never-ending flood of Christian books, music, CDs, DVDs, TV celebrities, teachings and conferences, we are degenerating into worldliness at an alarming rate. We are willfully ignorant of our moral and spiritual decline and love it that way.
The glitz and sleaze of Hollywood has made its way into the church. How tragic it is that the more a church looks and acts like Hollywood the larger it grows numerically even though it deteriorates spiritually. Instead of seeking to know the true faith as revealed in Scripture we are embracing a belief based upon feelings, pop trends, celebrities and political correctness. One reason for this departure from the truth is that many self-professed Christians want a belief system that fits their lifestyles rather than a faith that their lives must conform to. The bottom line is that we do not want to surrender to the truth; we want the truth to surrender to our desires and opinions.
Through almost 30 years of ministry I have seen a consistent problem that runs through the lives of so many people that call themselves Christian—an unwillingness to fully surrender to Christ. I consider this lack of surrender to be the primary reason why so many people do not overcome sin, have bad or failed marriages and why they are unfulfilled in their lives. Surrender is not a peripheral issue to the Christian faith, but absolutely central to it. Without surrendering to Christ a person will never become a believer, mature in the faith, overcome sin, find the joy that comes through knowing the Savior or be used by Him in a tangible way.
One section of Scripture that clearly addresses the issue of surrender and beautifully sums up what it means to be a Christian is Romans 12:1-2:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Paul’s use of the phrase “I urge you” was a passionate appeal that his readers would carefully listen to the vital message that would follow. He thoroughly believed that what he wrote was of such paramount importance that he begged them to understand and put into practice this teaching.
The apostle was urging the Romans, and now us, to understand that only by the grace of God could we live the truth he was about to introduce. He was establishing the fact that the Christian life is impossible to live except through divine grace. Paul understood human nature well enough to know that we are prone to seek a righteousness that comes through our own merit and ability. That is why we often equate being Christian with not doing the “bad” things other people do while doing the good things we ought to do. Yet left to ourselves, all our supposed good works are little more than expressions of self-love and self-trust which are anathema to God.
The reformers of the early 1500s courageously trumpeted the truth restored to them that the organized church had abandoned for a thousand—Sola Gratia—through grace alone are we saved. Yet in our modern day version of Christianity rather than herald this reformation truth we are embracing a cheap grace that costs us nothing or are resorting back to manmade religion based upon human merit. Paul’s warning that the Christian life is obtainable only by grace alone remains true today. To abandon this truth is to reject the very message that would bring us to a saving faith in the Savior.
In Romans 12:1-2 Paul specifically urges his readers to grow dependent upon divine grace or they will never give themselves to Christ as living sacrifices. The Lord only accepts holy sacrifices; He will never accept unholy ones. Never! That is why it’s imperative we recognize the impossibility of being holy through our own merit or ability. This is a very hard lesson to learn! No matter how hard we try our efforts to be holy through good deeds, church affiliation, doctrinal orthodoxy or separation from the world will never make us holy. Holiness comes solely through relationship with God which is uniquely tied into the issue of surrender. Until we actually surrender to the Lord we will never enter into fellowship with Him, therefore, we will never be made holy through His grace and sacrificial death.
In the Old Testament, if the people wanted to be in right fellowship with the Lord they would have to offer the prescribed sacrifice in an approved manner. But there is far more to offering a sacrifice than just doing it in the prescribed method. The Lord was, and is, more interested in the motive behind the sacrifice than the sacrifice itself. The motive determines whether or not the Lord will accept the offering. The outward appearance of the sacrifice might look right, but God looks upon the heart. If the heart is not right with God then the sacrifice is never accepted by Him. This is why surrender is such an integral part of being a living sacrifice.
One primary reason we do not fully give ourselves to the Lord as living sacrifices is because we want to control our lives. This can take a lot of courage and soul searching to admit, but we will never become authentic believers, or mature as ones, until we understand our natural propensity to be in control of our lives. We not only want to be in control of our own lives, we love controlling the lives of others as well. If we were honest enough to admit it we would even go so far as to say that we would like to control God, well, at least enough to get our own way and to be blessed by Him according to what we think we deserve. Yet the true blessings of God do not come through getting our own way or receiving the fulfillment of our twisted illusions about what we deserve, but through surrender.
Because we passionately want to control our lives, living surrendered to God is one of the hardest things we will ever have to do. From the moment of birth we are on a quest for independence—to be our own boss. Not just that, as we grow older and experience pain, suffering and loss, we endeavor to protect ourselves by striving to have greater control over our lives. In our effort to not be hurt we futilely attempt to be in charge. At other times, when we want our desires to be fulfilled we fight to be in command of our lives. One way or the other, multitudes of people use their religious belief as a means to control their lives and the lives of others rather than their faith being a path of surrender.
Biblical Christianity, on the other hand, is one hundred percent the opposite of being the boss of our lives because it’s all about dependency upon God. The moment we offer ourselves as living sacrifices we loose all say and rights over our lives. The only way we can grow dependent upon Christ is to comprehend to depths of our neediness, cry out for His grace to conform to His likeness and then purposely sacrifice (crucify) our hurts, desires, possessions and self-righteousness. Out of love for Christ we must sacrifice every portion of our being, down to the minutest desire or attitude. Without living the crucified life we will never be a living sacrifice to God. We may be religious, but never a holy offering to the Lord. That is why the sacrifice must be slain on the altar or it will never be a sacrifice at all.
A living sacrifice will not be conformed to this world because it will have a different way of thinking, loving and acting than non-Christians. However, the only way we will not be conformed to this world is through surrender. It is at this point that many people fail. We often equate conformity to the world as acts we define as worldly and nonconformity as abstaining from those worldly ways. But worldliness is a state of the heart and mind. People can be worldly in their hearts while abstaining from outward worldly acts. Jesus told us that if we lust after a person we have committed adultery (Mt. 5:27-28). Though a person does not commit adultery outwardly, yet inwardly they can still be thoroughly guilty. This is the same with worldliness. We can abstain from those things that are outwardly worldly while our hearts still long for the world as did Lot’s wife (Lk. 17:32). Or we may congratulate ourselves on our supposed unworldly lifestyle and yet, in fact, be opposing God through a worldly heart of pride and self-righteousness (Jam. 4:6, 1 Pe. 5:5).
Here again, it is all about relationship with God. Only when we are living sacrifices will we be set apart to God for the purposes of God. It is not about what we do or do not do, but about who we are in Christ. That is why Paul said that our minds must be transformed by the grace of God. We are not only to stop living worldly lives; we are to stop thinking like the world because we have ceased loving the world. To think, love and act differently we must be transformed through divine grace because it is not in the power and nature of man to change himself for the better. Without Christ’s transforming grace we will think and love like natural men whether or not we go to church, think religious thoughts or act in religious ways. All we have done is to cloak our worldly ways with religious garments. No, we must be changed from the inside out and this comes only through yielding our entire being to the crucified Savior for our undoing and remaking.
It is impossible for the natural man, whether religious or not, to be pleasing to God. There is nothing in our sinful nature that can fulfill God’s “good, pleasing and perfect will.” When we surrender to Him all the past, pain and anger, all our dreams and ambitions, all of our loved ones and possession, and all our religious baggage, we will find the transforming power of God that we might know His “good, pleasing and perfect will.”
We forfeit so much joy and victory because we refuse to be living sacrifices to God. When we live surrendered to Him we will find the sweetest, safest, most joyful place to be is when we are living in His “good, pleasing and perfect will.” We will then wonder why it took us so long to begin learning how to live the surrendered life through the grace of God.
It is worth it all!
It seems of late as if I have been awakened out of a deep sleep. I thought I had a fair understanding of the spiritual condition of the American church, but I was wrong. As an evangelist I preach repentance across the country because the church has predominately embraced worldly lifestyles and is apathetic towards unbelievers. For many years it has been obvious to me that the church was in desperate need of authentic revival. But until recently I did not know how bad the situation had actually become.
Within the circles I normally preach there is, for the most part, a reverence for the Word of God. Some of the people may not be living the truth, but at least they have a basic belief that truth can be known and that it is found in the Bible. But I am now beginning to see that a large portion of the church in all of its Protestant branches is forsaking the Word; abandoning the truth for lies and illusions. Many who once believed in the infallibility of Scripture are now picking and choosing what they want to believe. Others are relegating Jesus to a position of an enlightened teacher on par with Buddha. And a growing number of people are turning Christianity into a spiritual high where truth is defined according to experience.
Though there are many reasons why people are forsaking the Word of God there are four that I will briefly outline in this article: 1) Ignorance of the Word. 2) Influence of the secular culture. 3) Believing the Word is not enough. 4) A growing apostasy.
1. IGNORANCE OF THE WORD
We Americans are busy people, so busy we do not take time to study the Scriptures. Our lack of genuine hunger for God and His Word has caused us to fill up life’s voids with meaningless pursuits. We have time for TV, sports, books and a host of other non-essential activities. This reveals that our ignorance of the Word is a choice; a deliberate act of rebellion against God. This is also an indictment against Almighty God implying that He is not worth seeking and that knowledge of Him is irrelevant to life.
It is astounding how ignorant most professing Christians are of the Scriptures. How can we stand against lies if we do not know the truth? How can we say we love God and not love His Word? Because a large majority of self-proclaimed Christians do not know the Word they cannot articulate why they believe they are Christians or offer verifiable evidence that they are genuine believers. They have incorporated into their belief system views they have heard from TV preachers, parents, friends, sitcoms, news shows, movies, music, Internet and a host of other sources. But they do not know the truth for themselves and this is keeping them from knowing the true and living God.
When professing believers are ignorant of the Scriptures their worldview will be secular by default and not Christian. Their secular worldview causes them to act, talk and live like the world. It cannot be otherwise. This means they will have marriages like the world, raise their children like the world, pursue money like the world, seek pleasure like the world, talk like the world, dress like the world, think like the world and in the end, spend an eternity with those of the world.
Only by basing the entirety of our lives upon the Scriptures will we be able to think and act differently from the world. The voices of secular society are screaming at us from all sides, while the spirit of the world is wooing us to forsake Christ. We must have a purposeful pursuit of God and His Word or we will not stand against the wiles of the devil. If we do not strive to know the truth, and have the truth define our lives, then we are left to believe lies that are powerless to save us.
2. INFLUENCE OF SECULAR CULTURE
If the Word of God does not define our lives then the world in which we live will. Those who do not know the Scriptures will live worldly lives because they do not know what it means to be Christian and how to please God. Their ignorance of the Word will never allow them to develop a Christlike character. On the flip side, there are many professing Christians that are doctrinally orthodox, but are applicatively derelict. They know the Word but do not live it. We could call both types of “Christians” practical atheists and practical humanists.
What do I mean by practical atheists? These are people who say they believe in God but live like He does not exist. Their lives are not defined by the teaching of Scriptures because they have allowed their way of thinking to be developed through the propaganda machines of the secular world i.e., TV, movies, music, Internet, etc. Their lives and marriages look like the world because they think like the world and therefore act like the world.
Practical humanists are professing Christians that live no different than committed humanists. Humanism is an atheistic belief where man is the center of all things. Human passions and desires rule supreme because the individual is all important. Practical humanists have perverted the true faith by turning it into a humanistic religion in which man is the center of Christianity. By placing themselves at the center of their faith they have relegated God to the peripheral areas of life. Many have turned God into a sugar daddy that exists to satisfy their every lust and desire.
Relativism is also defining a vast portion of the church because we have been deeply influenced by the world. What is relativism? It is the belief that there are no absolutes. Therefore, morality and truth are changeable principles subject to culture and situation. This is an abandonment of what the Scriptures clearly teach—that truth can be known and morality is based upon the changeless character of God. Whenever people embrace relativism they abandon the truth of Scripture to pick and choose what they want to believe and how they want to live. This is a belief for convenience sake, so people can live as they like and feel no guilt over their actions.
The only way we will not be practical atheists or humanists is to make Christ and His teaching central to our lives. Since we are inundated on every side with relativism we must make the choice to turn off the voices of the world that are within our power to do so or these same philosophies will degrade the true faith.
3. BELIEVING THE WORD IS NOT ENOUGH
There are a lot of professing Christians who live as if Jesus and His Word are not enough to satisfy their lives. They add to the Scriptures or take from them for their own selfish reasons. There are three primary reasons for this. The first comes through liberal theology in which the Scriptures are dishonored at every level. Religious liberals, whether clergy or laity, do not believe that the Bible is the infallible Word of God. They claim that the Scriptures are of human origin and only contain portions of God’s words, or are little more than moral stories. Whenever the Word does not define our lives then we will seek other sources that will. Here you find the idolatrous practice of incorporating into the Christian faith false religions and worldly philosophies.
The second reason people live as though the Word is not enough comes through those who are willfully ignorant of the Bible. Their ignorance of the Scriptures causes them to espouse extra-Biblical teachings, superstitions and opinions. They reject those portions of the Scriptures they disagree with or do not like. Their ignorance of the truth opens the door for them to believe lies and consequently, become idolaters.
The final reason why people live like the Word is not enough comes through portions of the Charismatic Movement and those that are being influenced by it. We can define two types of people that make up this diverse group. There are those who have remained basically orthodox in belief but are adding to their faith the extra-Biblical teachings of self-proclaimed prophets and apostles. Then there are those who are unorthodox in doctrine while holding to extra-Biblical teachings.
In the first case, you have professing believers that accept the basic doctrines of Biblical Christianity but are basing their faith more upon experience then upon the Scriptures. Truth and spirituality has come to be defined by experience rather than the Word. Consequently, they have ceased to be authentic God seekers and have become experience seekers instead.
One of the catalysts that have propelled people to be experience seekers rather than God seekers is that they have become enamored with the latest “prophet,” “apostle” or movement. Whenever people become experience seekers they will become the followers of men because they will look for the newest experience that comes through the hottest new “prophet” or conference speaker. This causes them to add to the Scriptures the unorthodox teachings of men and subtract from the Word those teachings that are contrary to their “prophets,” teachers and doctrines.
A disturbing problem that arises as a result of people becoming the followers of men and pop-movements is that they refuse to judge the words of their prophets and teachers by the infallible Scriptures. They unquestioningly hold to their prophets’ prophecies, visions and teachings as if their words were equal to God’s written Word. In fact, this is one major reason why they will not question their prophets. This is socially very cultish and can lead to the development of religious cults.
Those who question the prophets are labeled as spiritually dead and unenlightened people that are not in the “river of God.” They further refer to them as those who hold to the old wineskins of doctrine while rejecting the new wineskins of the Spirit. This manipulative teaching is used primarily to control people and make them mindless followers. Any teacher, preacher or prophet that does not welcome honest scrutiny of his or her doctrine is hiding something sinister. Here you have the Word of God set aside for the doctrines of men. Many sincere people are being deceived and drawn away from the truth.
The second type of people referred to above are those who are unorthodox in doctrine. These we will look at in the final section of the growing apostasy that is touching all segments of the church.
4. A GROWING APOSTASY
Jesus told us that in the last days “many false prophets will appear and deceive many people” (Mt. 24:11). Paul warned, “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons” (1 Tim. 4:1). Why do we think that these false teachers are only men like Joseph Smith (Mormonism) and Charles Russell (Jehovah Witnesses)? Did not Paul tell us that they would come from within (Acts 20:29)? And why do we think that they would not come in this hour of history?
There are two ways false prophets and teachers advance their deceptions. The first is that they twist the plain meaning of the Scriptures to propagate their lies. The second is that they elevate their own teachings, prophesies and visions to be equal to, or greater than, the Scriptures. Then they remove, explain away, or ignore those verses that contradict their doctrines.
There is nothing new under the sun; the new false teachings are the old false teachings remarketed. What believers would have blatantly called heresy 30 years ago many now embrace as new revelations. The preaching of the cross is abandoned for soft speeches that offend no one; the preaching of repentance is forsaken for positive confession and teachings on self-esteem; the preaching of holiness is deserted for messages that God loves us as we are; the Scriptures are cast aside for the idols of experience and worldly ambition. We have forsaken the right way and are chasing after that which feeds the lusts of our flesh. A great falling away is upon us, but we have failed to discern it.
What is the answer to the Word being forsaken? To return to the Lord and His Word. But will we return? Are we really any different than Israel of old? Jeremiah prophesied, “This is what the LORD says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.’ But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ I appointed watchmen over you and said, ‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’ But you said, ‘We will not listen’” (Jer. 6:16). The old way of the cross is rejected by many today because they have forsaken God and His changeless Word. The truth remains the same, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18).
National mourning erupted when Israel’s first king, Saul son of Kish and his son Jonathan, were slain in battle against the Philistines. When David and his men, who were hunted by the king, heard the news, “they mourned and wept and fasted till evening” (2 Sam. 1:12). Saul’s death inspired David to pen the poetic elegy, Lament of the Bow. Three times in this dirge the psalmist bewailed, “How the mighty have fallen!” (2 Sam. 1:19, 25, 27). The sword of Saul would no longer subdue the enemies of Israel.
If we only had the discernment to see the spiritual condition of a growing number of church leaders we would cry out like David, “How the mighty have fallen!” Many of our spiritual leaders have fallen in battle. They have grown emotionally and spiritually weary in the fight and have lost the strength to brandish their swords and wield their shields. Scores of others have dropped their swords—the Word of God—due to the pressures of family and ministry. Whole contingents of leaders have forsaken their sword thinking that it is irrelevant in this more enlightened age. They are spiritual traitors, anarchists against the Most High because they have discarded Biblical truths to embrace politically correct lies.
No matter what motivates spiritual leaders to abandon the preaching, teaching and ministration of God’s Word they have done it nonetheless. Consequently, the church-at-large is abandoning the Scriptures for a tantalizing array of fad teachings that are detrimental to the true faith, and at times, even damnable. This problem is at a crisis level in western Christianity. Since America influences the world, we are spawning an international, spiritual crisis. Like Israel of old, the church is prostituting herself with the world and spreading that spirit of prostitution.
As goes the shepherds, so goes the flock. When men of God courageously preach the truth then you will find the people being lovers of the truth. But when the shepherds forsake the Word, then the sheep will follow them to their own peril. We will now examine four issues that cause leaders to forsake the Word of God.
The pastoral ministry is emotionally draining, spiritually exhausting and physically taxing. This can cause weariness to seep into the very bones of pastors. The natural challenges of ministry in a fallen world is amplified in America due to our self-indulgent, individualistic society that produces a lot of mean-spirited people that take out their frustrations and pent up anger on the pastor (a good dose of repentance can transform mean-spirited people into lovable saints).
When pastors grow weary of fighting with parishioners and board members there are four different directions they can take: 1) They can passionately seek healing from Jesus and continue the good fight. 2) They can leave the ministry and go into secular work. 3) They can take another church hoping to find a congregation that is not as self-absorbed and contentious. Unfortunately, this is more than likely a fantasy. 4) Or they can accommodate the people by becoming maintenance pastors that don’t want to rock-the-boat or stir up a hornet’s nest of cantankerous people by preaching the truth. But this is a failure of duty!
If you asked weary pastors if they believed that the Bible was the inerrant Word of God they would invariably say yes. They would also affirm their belief in the orthodox doctrines of the faith. But their spiritual and emotional fatigue can cause them to water-down the Word so that they do not have to deal with belligerent church people. Such pastors need to become desperate for God’s healing so they are not found unfaithful when they stand before Him.
Burned-out and weary pastors need to be loved back into spiritual and emotional health by faithful saints. Woe unto the wolves and predatory sheep who chew up God’s pastors, who abuse them, attack them and malign them with gossip and deceitful scheming. Jesus pronounced “woe” unto those that cause others to sin (Mt. 18:5-10) and accused obstinate religious people of killing the prophets (Mt. 23:29-32). We would do well to remember that the Lord hates those who cause dissension among the brethren (Pr. 6:16-19). What John the Baptist preached is still relevant for all who will face the just wrath of God, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Mt. 3:8).
Some pastors preach watered-down sermons because they are cowards. They suffer under the fear of man which causes them to so abhor confrontation that they avoid the appearance of it in pulpit ministry, pastoral counseling or administrative duties. Pastors can become slaves to the people when their congregation gets deep in debt. Fear of people leaving the church and taking their tithes with them can drive a pastor to preach non-confrontational messages so no one is offended. Small church pastors and those facing internal struggles can also be afraid to preach the truth out of fear of people leaving.
While preaching at a large church on the east coast the pastor introduced me to the congregation with an apology for bringing in such an evangelist. It was obvious that he was terrified of the people. Some pastors are afraid of the people because they never had a spiritual backbone that caused them to stand in Christ’s strength in the midst of conflict or to preach the truth that the people so profoundly need. At other times their backbone has been crushed by contentious church attendees.
Cowardly pastors are to be greatly pitied. They find little joy in ministry because they suffer under the fear of man and do not know the strength that the fear of God gives. They will find when they stand before the Savior that their cowardice caused them to preach an impotent message that was powerless to save and transform lives. What a tragic condition for ministers to find themselves in when they could have lived and died for the glory of God.
The only hope for cowardly pastors is to repent of their fear of man and passionately seek to be instilled with divine courage. They have to love Christ more than their position, comforts or the praise of men. They must be willing to lay down their ministry, yes, even their lives for Christ.
There is a price to pay to grow a large church, and more often than not, the price is the forsaking of the truth. In such cases the pastor preaches accommodating messages that will draw a larger variety of people. The popular approach is to preach positive messages that offend no one and makes people feel good about themselves. But such messages lack the fullness of truth that manifests the power of God to change people for their eternal good.
We must understand that whatever it takes to draw people is what it takes to keep them. Draw people with a Christless, crossless, costless message and you will have a church full of people rushing to hell. Compromising pastors must continue preaching compromised messages to their unconverted people lest they seek another lukewarm church or expel the pastor.
Most of our nation’s largest churches are propagating a gospel of easy-believism, which is basically a message that we can have heaven while still living like hell. This anti-Christian message is powerless to save or transform people. Smaller church pastors and future pastors look up to the big churches as models to emulate. The idol worshiped is a large church and the truth must be scarified on its altar. Shamefully, a vast number of church leaders are afraid to ask if the sermons preached, and the church model they are using, is soundly Biblical. The answer will reveal whether or not the preacher and church is advancing the kingdom of heaven or the kingdom of hell, for there is no middle ground.
Whenever the truth is compromised the results are always eternally tragic. By telling people they are “Christian” when they have not been authentically born again is a damnable practice. They are given a false sense of security when they are actually dangling over the brink of hell. When people do not manifest the fruits of repentance and regeneration you have verifiable proof that they are not saved.
Spiritually dead congregations are the result of spiritually dead pastors. The Lord will hold the shepherds accountable for all the souls they damned to hell with their worthless preaching (Ezk. 3:17-21). Their only hope is to return to the firm foundation of Scripture and begin to minister according to the example Jesus gave us. He preached through the power of the Holy Spirit and gave the people the truth that they so desperately needed regardless of whether they loved or hated Him.
The Great Reformation of the 1500s brought deliverance from many of the religious tyrannies of the age. As religious freedoms grew, a purer faith unfolded and expanded. Since the Reformation the Protestant church has splintered again and again. Some of this was necessary so that the life of the church remained vibrant and Biblical; most of the time it was the result of unconquered characters that caused division or wanted to keep the status quo. Occasionally the divisions were the results of heresies.
Not so very long ago most Christians could discern between truth and lie. However, in our day a growing percentage of believers are having a difficult time with this. The devious secular teachings of moral relativism and tolerance is creeping into the church and thwarting her ability to recognize error and speak against it. Now we are afraid to judge righteous judgment or offend anyone (Jn. 7:24). This is a grave deception!
Cults that once were known as heretical are now gaining acceptance among many Christians. Even blatant New Age teachings are being propagated by self-proclaimed prophets and teachers within the evangelical church. Divorce and immorality have become a plague in the ministry, disgracing the church before the world and the people in the pews are not greatly disturbed over it. So where is the outcry of the shepherds, where is their defense of the faith, where is their preaching on holiness, where is their protection of the sheep? Most shepherds are virtually silent on those truths that are of true eternal worth. Either they are immersed in the errors, afraid of the people or in love with numbers.
How have heretical doctrines and immoral practices wormed their way into our churches? Because the watchmen on the walls have fallen asleep, they are not defending the truth. Why are so many professing believers ignorant of what constitutes truth and lie? Because the preachers preach comfortable messages and are afraid to proclaim the unadulterated Word. The growth of lies among the people directly corresponds with the absence of truth that comes from the pulpits. There is a crisis in our leadership today; “How the mighty have fallen!”
Take “Christian” TV for example. Does the average viewer know the difference between what is Biblical and what is error? No, because the pastors are silent. People are enamored with smooth talking preachers that advocate a gospel of cheap grace, promote “new” truths or promise financial prosperity. People follow such teachers because they love the lies that feed the lust of their flesh more than the truths of God’s Word (Jer. 5:31).
I know pastors that have forsaken sound Biblical truths for heresies because they were emotionally moved by a new preacher or prophet. They were unwilling to examine whether what was being advocated was doctrinally sound. If they did recognize some of the errors they believed that a little bit of error was harmless to the sheep. When pastors are taken up with lies the sheep will follow.
Spiritual experiences can be powerful influences upon people. The preaching of truth should always be accompanied with the demonstration of the Spirit’s power. But here is an important truth—because spiritual power is present in a speaker does not mean that the power is from God. Many Christians have been deceived because they equate spiritual power with truth. This is a very dangerous error. The Lord established only one standard to define our faith and that is Scripture. When a preacher advocates errors we are obligated to question the source his power. If we are not solidly planted upon the Word then we will be taken captive by “every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming” (Eph. 4:14).
If the truth has not changed then what has? Our willingness to base the entirety of our faith upon the changeless truths of Scripture. In this evil and corrupt generation our desperate need is for fearless pastors and preachers. It is also of paramount importance that Christians only sit under real men of God who soundly minister the Word through the power of the Spirit. When we stand before God He will not be impressed with our pet-doctrines, pop-preachers, comfortable churches and new experiences. The Lord proclaimed, “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word” (Isa. 66:2).
It does not take great discernment to comprehend that America in general, and the church specifically, has fallen to its lowest spiritual condition in history. Not just that, the church seems powerless to stop America from forsaking her Judeo-Christian roots and plunging deeper into an abyss of wickedness that will bring divine judgment. What makes this situation so catastrophic is that the church doesn’t realize that she is in a major crisis. Those who do recognize the crisis are often looking in the wrong places for the answer.
Though there are many reasons why the American church is suffering under these spiritual maladies there is an extremely important one this article will address—how the kingdom of God advances; through God or through man. Individuals, churches and denominations have a philosophy of ministry that determines their approach to this subject. The eternal destiny of multitudes hang upon our theological and applicative response to this issue.
One challenge we have in answering how the work of God advances is in how we reconcile verses that appear contradictory. Take for instance the seemingly incompatible differnces between Zechariah 4:6b and 2 Chronicles 7:14. Zechariah 4:6b reads, “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.” Second Chronicles 7:14 says, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” The verse in Zechariah establishes that the work of God is done by the Holy Spirit alone, while 2 Chronicles teaches that before God will revive, man must do specific things.
BUILT BY GOD OR BY MAN
Leaders and lay people alike are naturally prone to trust in themselves, even when it comes to ministry. This is a result of our fallen nature. Churches and denominations can be built without God. Intelligent people can apply the latest marketing techniques or church growth principles to create large churches while Jesus stands outside their doors knocking to get in.
The compromise of the church stinks in the Lord’s nostrils. The smell from ten dead people can be mighty bad, but the stench of a thousand corpses is far worse. Large dead churches are no better than small dead ones. The cemetery is only larger for the one.
If our church growth methods grieve the Holy Spirit then we are left to build the church through the strength and wisdom of man. Far too often, we want Jesus’ stamp of approval upon our religious undertakings while never being overly concerned if His will is being done. The majority of churches are not growing. Of those that are growing a vast number do so only by robbing from other churches. Some may call it “marketing the church,” but if a church has grown through thievery it will never be considered successful by God.
A pragmatic approach to church growth (the end justifies the means) can be anathematized by God. Men that grab hold of the proverbial bull by the horns to build Christ’s kingdom may find the only horns He wanted them to grab were the horns of the altar in passionate prayer and repentance. Self-trust is always repulsive to God and is akin to rebellion and compromise. Arthur Wallis defined compromise as, “‘A partial surrender of one’s position, for the sake of coming to terms’ (Oxford Dictionary). For the Christian it means that he concedes something that God has given, or sets aside something God has revealed, for the sake of coming to terms with the situation he faces. . . When we are dealing with truth, to conceded is to compromise. . . . We never compromise out of ignorance, only out of knowledge.” So what works in filling pews is not always what is right in God’s sight.
Moreover, what right do we have to compromise Christ’s message? His love for humanity compelled Him to teach the truth so as to pierce sinner’s hearts and bring them to repentance. Successful preaching from God’s point of view is diametrically opposed to much of the preaching in the 21st century, especially with what is found on “Christian” TV and through big name preachers. In contrast stands the Biblical preaching of men like James Glendinning (Oldstone, Ireland, 1626):
Behold the success! For the hearers finding themselves condemned by the mouth of God speaking in His Word, fell into such anxiety and terror of conscience that they looked on themselves as altogether lost and damned. . . I have seen them myself stricken into a swoon with the Word; yea, a dozen in one day carried out of the doors as dead, so marvelous was the power of God smiting their hearts of sin.
Though such preaching may appear to the compromised church as ignorant, archaic, harsh and irrelevant, God sees it otherwise and anoints it. Results like this will never come out of a watered-down, pop-gospel that is palatable to the sinful nature.
The world will never be converted through compromise. Buildings may be filled through such methods, but heaven will never be populated by conceding the truth. “Christianity is divine life within individuals. When the proportions of the Christian drive and fervor become less than revolutionary, it ceases to capture the imagination and attention of the world.” When the Biblical faith is preached, and the Spirit is poured out, the explosive nature of Christianity will shake a dying world.
In one sense it is understandable why churches turn to pop church growth methods. The old, dead, traditionalism is not working, so why beat a dead horse; get a new one. But don’t replace a dead horse with a sterile mule that is powerless to reproduce. There is an endless stream of programs and seminars that claim they can help pastors out of their numeric plateaus. This may be little more than dead horse meat or a fresh mule. Neither can reproduce. In the end, leaders and churches grow cynical and are immobilized. When pastors grow weary of seeing little fruit from their labors they look to manmade plans, leave the ministry or go back to the upper room to get authentic Holy Ghost power.
Because something appears new and imaginative does not mean it has come from the Spirit. Singing and shouting are not proofs of spiritual life; social action is not evidence that a church is alive; busyness will never be an honest gauge of spiritual vitality. Life in the church can only be equated with the saint’s ability to reproduce new life. Dead people cannot produce living babies. Empty altars reveal that the people are spiritually barren. Many innovative or emerging churches may find that all they have been doing is feeding a sterile mule.
Scores of churches tenaciously hold to their traditions. There is nothing inherently wrong with traditions unless they are void of the Holy Spirit. The problem arises from our dependence upon rituals and programs and not upon the Spirit. Traditions are birthed and die with each generation. If each generation does not strive to have new life, rather than tradition, their practices bring death. This was the state of the church in Wales before the 1859 revival:
By and large the churches were orthodox in their beliefs, but ineffective in their witness.. . . For in spite of past revivals, powerful preachers and present orthodoxy, a general apathy and indifference prevailed. This was coupled with a spiritual bankruptcy and stagnation, a lukewarmness and aridity, which were symptomatic of an almost apostate Church.. . . By and large, however, the watchmen on the walls of Zion had fallen asleep, and they were few in number who saw her peril and desperate need.
Spiritual stagnation and trust in rituals have become the death of many a denomination, church and individual
So why do we keep beating our dead horses of tradition or continue seeking for the newest sterile mule? Because we erroneously believe that all we need is the latest teaching, the right formula, or a breakthrough. If we trust in self rather than abandoning ourselves to Christ, then there is little difference between churches that call themselves renewal, emergent, seeker-sensitive, plain, Pentecostal or traditional. Dead churches are dead no matter their size or denomination.
So what percentage of God is needed in an authentic move of God? 100%! Only God can save, convict, deliver, heal and revive. He does not need our talent or ability; He has more than enough to accomplish the work. Such power does not come from man, for it is not inherent in him. As long as we think we can do the work that only God can do we will never be Biblically successful. When Christians finally abandon themselves to Christ, they will also come to an end of self-trust. When believer’s long for the true prize–Jesus Christ—they will freely lay down self at any cost.
People who have died to self don’t want to play church any more; they want to see the face of Jesus. They don’t want a counterfeit move of God, but the real thing that will always be true to the Scriptures and glorify the crucified and resurrected Savior. Programs become almost meaningless because people finally learn that only God can save sinners and fill hearts with joy unspeakable. A passion for the presence of God begins to burn that nothing on earth can quench but Christ Himself. This is the depths of man calling out to the deep of God saying, “I cannot live without your nearness. Show me your face or I perish with longing.” David Brainerd expressed this well when he wrote, “When I really enjoy God I feel my desires of Him the more insatiable and my thirstings after holiness the more unquenchable. O’ this pleasing pain. It makes my soul press after God.” It is at this point where God uses people in phenomenal ways.
Authentic revival is when the manifest presence of God flows through His people transforming secular society. This is the greatest church growth movement the world has ever known. This means that man also has a part to play in revival. His part is also 100%. Nothing less will ever be acceptable to God. Man’s part revolves around repentance, prayer, seeking God’s face and total dependence upon the Holy Spirit. This is wholehearted devotion that can turn the world upside down (Jeremiah 29:13; Psalms 119:2; Joel 2:12-13; Matthew 22:37; Acts 2:42).
In closing, let me bare my heart. I ache to see authentic revival. But I am weary of manmade versions that do little more than parade the works of the flesh. After seeing genuine revival, the counterfeit appears even uglier than before. I long to see revivals such as the Hebrides Awakening or the 1857 Prayer Meeting Revival. Both of these revivals, among a host of others, were free from the arrogance of man and superstar preachers. Duncan Campbell, the evangelist of the Hebrides Awakening testified, “A force was let loose in Barvas that shook the whole of Lewis. God stepped out; the Holy Spirit began to move among the people. God seemed to be everywhere. What was that? Revival? No evangelist; not a special effort; not anything at all organized on the basis of human endeavor. But an awareness of God that gripped the whole community.”
God is glorified whenever His people get out of the way and let Him take center stage. The world has not seen the beauty of Christ because we have clouded His majesty with dead traditions, spiritually sterile church growth methods and our repugnant fallen nature. The Holy Spirit could do great things through us if only we would fully surrender to Him and passionately seek Christ’s face. God is looking for believers who desire a move of God more than their own comforts and ambitions. In the words of A. W. Tozer, “We have only to prepare Him a habitation in love and faith and humility. We have but to want Him badly enough, and He will come and manifest Himself to us.”
Arthur Wallis, The Radical Christian (Columbia, MO, Cityhill Publishing, 1987), 11.
Iain H. Murray, The Puritan Hope (Carlisle, Banner of Truth Trust, 1971), 30.
C. E. Autrey, Revivals of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, Zondervan Publishing House, 1960), 16.
Eifion Evans, When He Is Come (London, Evangelical Press, 1967), 23.
Eifion Evans, When He Is Come (London, Evangelical Press, 1967), 26.
Eifion Evans, When He Is Come (London, Evangelical Press, 1967), 95.
Michael L. Brown, Its Time To Rock The Boat, (Shippensburg, Destiny Image Publishers, 1993), 74.
Duncan Campbell, from an audio tape entitled, “Revival Fire,” (No editor, publisher, or date).
A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (New York, Harper and Row Publishers, 1961), 49.
King Solomon wisely told us to avoid all extremes (Ecc. 7:18). This is good commonsense theology. Ah, but how inclined are we to heed such rational advice? Like pendulums we swing from one extreme to the other, all the while believing that our life and faith are relatively in good balance. However, does such reasoning hold up to reality and the Scriptures?
Our out of balance lives can be most acutely seen in our life theology. What do I mean by life theology? I am talking about what we live from day to day which is the true expression of what we actually believe. It’s easy for professing Christians to believe a set of doctrines that they do not authentically live out. What we really believe is what we live on a regular basis, not necessarily what we doctrinally assert.
We could develop this idea of believing one thing and living another in a tremendous amount of ways, but I want to concentrate on one area in this article—the great problem we have of finding balance between the Word and the Spirit.
People of the Word
It is reasonable to claim that genuine Christians believe that both the Old and New Testaments are God’s inspired and infallible Word of God. Why is it then that at one moment we can testify to the inerrancy of the Scriptures and the next live the total opposite? Some people maintain that they stand on the Word even while they strive to explain away those verses that rebuke the way they live or refute their pet doctrines.
If we claim to believe the Word then its time we live what it says, not what is doctrinally comfortable, socially acceptable or convenient. Paul taught Timothy to “Watch your life and doctrine closely” (1 Tim. 4:16). He admonished Titus to, “teach what is in accord with sound doctrine” and to “encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it” (Titus 2:1. 1:9). Both Jesus and Paul warned that in the last days people would not hold to sound doctrine but follow lies that feed their sinful nature. Since Christ is the Author of Truth we ought to love the truth as He does and hate all untruths in an equal manner. It does not take a rocket scientist to comprehend that both believing and living sound doctrine is of paramount importance to the Lord God.
There is something terribly wrong with our concept of being a people of the Word if we are spiritually dead. We cannot be truly full of the Living Word and be empty of the Holy Spirit. To be full of the Word and empty of the Spirit is both unscriptural and illogical. If we really became a people of the Word then we should be full of faith and of the Holy Spirit as was Stephen (Acts 6 &7). Yet many professing believers that claim to believe the Word do not live like those New Testament saints that were truly full of the Holy Ghost.
If we believe that Jesus is who He said He is then we should literally believe everything He taught; and if we believe everything He taught then we should be willing to live out those truths at all cost. How can we be people of the Word and yet ignore Christ’s teaching on the Spirit and the tremendous importance He placed upon the subject? Are we wiser then God? Do we think that the infilling of the Spirit is a meaningless teaching that should be relegated to ages past when the Lord Christ said otherwise? Many people downplay the work of the Spirit or outright reject Him because such teaching goes against their lifestyles or church doctrine. This is a tragedy!
Everything Jesus did when His ministry began was done through the power of the Spirit (Lk. 4:1, 14-19, 31-37). John told us that, “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did” (1 Jn. 2:6). Using Christ’s example, the entirety of our life and ministry should be lived out through the power of the Spirit. To be faithful to our Lord we must return in faith and practice to His plain teaching on the Spirit and those of the remaining New Testament.
Jesus commanded the first disciples to “tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49, KJV). Paul commanded the Ephesians to “be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18b). The example of Christ’s life and the principles of these commands are as relevant today as they were 2000 years ago. Jesus knew that the early church could not survive, much less triumph, without the infilling of the Spirit. How arrogant we are to think that as modern believers we do not need the Spirit baptism even though those early saints could not live without it. The book of Acts gives us a snapshot of the life of the early church which made being filled with the Spirit the norm for every believer.
People of the Spirit
One of the primary ministries of the Holy Spirit is to glorify Jesus (Jn. 16:13-15). So the Spirit will never do anything that will not bring glory to Christ. Not just that, the Spirit will never act in a way that conflicts with the Word of God. Because the Spirit of Truth is part of the triune God, He will never do anything that is contrary to the character of Godhead. Those who are truly baptized in the Spirit will live lives that glorify God because they walk in harmony with the Word and the character of God.
Just as those who call themselves people of the Word can live contrary to the Word so those who call themselves people of the Spirit can act in ways contrary to the Spirit. Being filled with the Spirit will never make us act stupid. This happens when people do not rightly know the Word, the character of God or the workings of the Spirit. If they were truly operating in the Spirit they would not act in ways that are contrary to the Word or disgraces Jesus.
It’s just as dangerous to twist the Word for our own selfish ends as it is to twist what some call the outpouring of the Spirit for selfish reasons. Either way, we are being unfaithful to the Word and the Spirit. Reject the Word and we end up in error whether or not we claim to be filled with the Spirit. We can have all kinds of programs, activities or manifestations in the church without the Spirit having any part of it; and if the Spirit is not part of it then neither is Jesus.
There is a terrifying error creeping into many of the camps of those who consider themselves people of the Spirit. It is the exaltation of experience over the Word. If we claim to be led by the Spirit but do that which is contrary to the Word then we have unequivocal evidence that we are not being led by the Spirit, but by self or Satan. The more we are led by the Spirit the more we will live the Word and see the Spirit’s fruit authentically revealed. It cannot be otherwise!
Some people have become spiritual experience junkies that go from conference to conference or from “revival” to “revival” seeking the latest experience or impartation. But they never change, nor do they become agents of godly change in their home, church or world. I have known many people that claimed to be in the “river” while their marriages were in the sewers and their characters more resembled Satan’s then Christ’s. This is the fruit of deception.
There can be terrible peer pressure among many who claim to be Spirit filled. Whenever something is labeled a work of the Spirit there is an unwritten taboo that forbids them from questioning its authenticity. Those who question what is going on are often considered people that do not know the workings of the Spirit or have not been in the “river.” This is a blatant lie. The Spirit will never work against the Word of God. If those in leadership are afraid to be scrutinized by the Word then they should leave the ministry or they may lead multitudes astray.
I have seen gross errors spread because people would not question whether or not their experience lined up with the Scriptures. Since they refused to allow anyone to question their experience, “outpouring” or teacher/preacher they became stubbornly unteachable. I have also seen crowds follow a teacher, give them enormous amounts of money and act in ridiculous ways, all because they refused to examine whether or not what was being taught and experienced was of the Word and the Spirit. This is the exaltation of experience over the Word and is nothing other than a Christianized version of existentialism and hedonism.
What takes place in many churches and meetings are culturally learned reactions to religious cultural influences. We can respond in particular ways because we have learned how to act under certain cultural conditions. Understand that I am not speaking against authentic moves of the Spirit which I have experienced and strive to correctly seek (abuses never nullify that which is authentic and Biblical). The issue at hand is whether or not we are governed by subjective experience or the infallible Word of God. Unfortunately, many believers who consider themselves people of the Spirit have become exceedingly gullible.
Much more could be said about the various errors of those who call themselves people of the Word and people of the Spirit, but let me conclude with the core issue of both: neither are being people of the Word or people of the Spirit.
If we love the Word then we will strive to be true to it in every dimension of its teaching. To love the Word means that we love what the Lord loves and hate what the Lord hates. We would then love the infilling and work of the Holy Spirit as the Scriptures clearly teach and seek to have all that the Spirit has for us. We would ache for the Spirit’s power and life to be pulsating through our very bones and in our churches. We would also hunger to have the gifts of the Spirit operating in our lives. On top of this, we would passionately seek to have all the fruit of the Spirit gracing our character so that we would look as Christlike as is humanly possible.
If we are really a people of the Spirit then we will want the Word of God to be the absolute authority over our lives. Then we will only embrace those things that the Scriptures tell us is truly from Him and reject everything that deviates from the Word because it is absolutely objectionable to the Spirit. To be Spirit lead we must be Word based in our thinking, acting and experiencing. It is only by the Word that we can know what pleases and displeases the Lord, what is holy and unholy, how to live in this present evil world, and what it means to be human. Remove the all-encompassing influence of the Word and we are left with a religious form of humanism where man and his desires are what define life and experience.
To avoid all extremes means that we must be a people of the Word and the Spirit. We cannot be a people of the Word and reject any dimension of the Holy Spirit. Nor can we be truly a people of the Spirit and not define the entirety our lives by the Word. To reject one or the other, in part or in all, we then become neither.
In this teaching by Glenn Meldrum you will learn some of the basic truths about authentic revival. With a very practical approach that comes out of sound Biblical study and personal experience you will learn valuable truths that you can apply to your life.
Escrito por Glenn Meldrum
Traducido por Alfonso Ramírez de El Salvador
Una de las grandes verdades del Evangelio es que Jesús compró la humanidad con Su propia sangre para que pudiéramos caminar triunfantes sobre el poder del pecado. Trágicamente, hay muchos que nunca superan el hábito del pecado porque se atascaron en una ruta de apatía y desesperanza. La verdad es que no van a poder apartarse de su pecado hasta que no tomen en serio su relación con Jesús, de manera que hicieran cualquier cosa para caminar en santidad. La gente debe llegar al punto de desesperación antes de estar dispuestos a abandonarse a Dios sin reservas.
Siendo pastor en Detroit ministraba alcohólicos, prostitutas, drogadictos y distribuidores de drogas. Estas personas habían sido devastadas por el pecado; habían perdido todo en la vida. Uno esperaría ver una gran determinación mental para romper con las estranguladoras garras del pecado, pero increíblemente, la mayoría de ellos no parecía tener la voluntad para cambiar. Carecían de la desesperación que está siempre presente en la vida de una persona que encuentra la verdadera victoria sobre el poder del pecado.
Un creyente que lucha está en mucho mejor posición que alguien no salvo en las calles con una adicción a las drogas. El pecado podrá estar controlando su vida, pero al menos tiene el conocimiento de la ley de Dios que esta constantemente recordándole lo erróneo de sus trasgresiones. Sin embargo, la ley no puede nunca traer libertad al pecador.
Imagine que una persona escribe la lista completa de lo que se debe y lo que no se debe hacer (leyes morales) de la ley en las paredes de su casa. Esta lista no lo haría más santo, solo más culpable. Estas leyes le señalarían acusadoramente porque cada ser humano rompe esas leyes de manera constante. La ley solo mata y condena a la gente porque revela que son transgresores de la ley.
Aun cuando las ley moral manifiesta la culpa de una persona ante Dios como un trasgresor, esta carece del poder para hacerlo cambiar o para poner en él, el deseo de cambiar. Las leyes claman: “alto a la lujuria!, Alto a la fornicación! Alto al Adulterio!, Alto a la homosexualidad! Alto al pecado!” Aun así el deseo y poder para romper las cadenas del pecado no está ahí. Debe haber algo más, un amor mayor que el amor de la persona por el pecado y por si misma.
La ley no fue creada para traer libertad; fue creada para mostrar a la gente su gran necesidad por Alguien que pudiera salvarlos del poder del pecado. La ley no puede hacer que una persona quiera cambiar, porque el conocimiento del pecado no es suficiente. Aún cuando una persona sabe que debe dejar su conducta pecaminosa, está atrapado en una terrible tendencia de esclavitud espiritual y desesperación. Debe haber algo más grande que su pecado y si él no se toma fuertemente del Mas Grande, nunca tendrá la desesperación por cambiar que se necesita.
Cuando en un hombre crece la desesperación por Dios, tendrá la voluntad para hacer lo que sea necesario para vencer el pecado. Su corazón comienza a cambiar y un clamor emana desde adentro, “Señor, yo no puedo romper estas cadenas. Son muy fuertes para mi. Por favor ayúdame!” Este es el punto de desesperación en que Dios visita a Su gente y los libera. Solo un hambre por Dios que toma control del alma producirá la pasión que conduce a la santidad necesaria.
EL PODER DE RENDIRSE
Uno de los más grandes obstáculos que las personas enfrentan en busca de la victoria es el asunto del control. La mayoría de las personas quieren ser libres de las cadenas del pecado, pero quieren hacerlo mientras mantienen el control sobre su vida. “Si tan solo puedo hacer esto en particular, encontraré la libertad,” se dicen a si mismos. Sin embargo, mientras crean que hay una solución fuera del abandono a Cristo, se mantendrán cautivos del pecado. Sus esfuerzos de ganar la batalla por sus propios métodos y fuerza están condenados al fracaso mientras ellos mantengan el control.
El poder de vencer el pecado nunca se va a encontrar en la determinación o sabiduría de una persona. La libertad de la esclavitud del pecado solo viene a través de la rendición a Dios. El hombre debe llagar al punto en que cae sin reserva a los pies de Jesús y clama, “Oh Dios, estoy cansado de mi pecado! No puedo vencerlo sin Ti. Tue res mi única esperanza!” Es en este punto de impotencia que el hombre está más cerca de la victoria.
El General William Booth, fundador del Ejército de Salvación dijo, “La grandeza del poder de un hombre se mide por su rendición” Gente que ha hecho tremendas hazañas para Dios, no poseen grandes habilidades en si mismos pero son personas que se abandonaron completamente al Señor de los milagros.
De igual manera es la batalla con el pecado. La victoria no se encuentra en el esfuerzo propio sino en el abandono propio. Oswald Chambers lo dijo de esta forma: “Lo que se necesita en el tema espiritual es un abandono temerario al Señor Jesucristo, abandono temerario y sin especulaciones, sin ninguna clase de reservas”
EL ENFOQUE EN EL AFECTO
Adquirir una determinación implacable de vivir en victoria no va a suceder a través de la fuerza de voluntad de alguien sino por medio del afecto. Para ponerlo sencillo, es una cuestión de amor. La gente se vuelve adicta a algún tipo particular de pecado obsesivo porque esto es lo que la carne ama. Y aún más, la carne siempre lo amará y no hay ninguna cantidad de esfuerzo de parte de una persona que pueda terminar con su amor por el pecado y por si mismo.
Su única esperanza para vencer el hábito de pecado es reemplazar su amor por el pecado por un amor que le consume por Dios. Hasta que este amor toma control del alma, la persona nunca experimentará una pasión que lo guíe a la santidad. Solo cuando la persona vea al amoroso rostro de Cristo, encontrará un amor que va a eclipsar su amor por el pecado y por si mismo.
De manera que aquí reside la respuesta. Es ver a Jesús, enamorarse del “Amante de mi Alma.” “Mis ojos están puestos en Ti, oh, Soberano Señor.” (Salmo 141:8) Cada vez que un hombre cae en pecado es porque quitó sus ojos del amoroso rostro de Jesús. En otras palabras, abandona su primer amor. Por esa razón el Diablo y el mundo están sin cesar tratando que más creyentes quiten sus ojos de Jesús. Pero los hombres y mujeres de Dios han aprendido el secreto de hacer de Jesús el enfoque de su pasión.
El poder de la santidad viene por medio de la intimidad. Vea a Jesús, y Su amor arderá en su corazón. Cuando El dice, “Cambia,” tu dirás, “Si Señor.” Smith Wigglesworth dijo una vez, “Ningún hombre puede ver a Dios y vivir. Eso es de la Escritura. Por eso es que todos necesitamos ver a Jesús, para que podamos dejar de vivir y El viva en nosotros.” La mayor victoria y gozo que conocerás será tuya en la medida que sin reservas te abandones a Cristo.
Voy a compartir una cita final para cerrar. Robert Murray McCheyne dijo, “Deja al Espíritu Santo llenar cada espacio de tu corazón de manera que no quede ningún espacio para disparates, para el mundo, para Satanás o para la carne.” Si usted carece de este tipo de llenura del Espíritu Santo, pon tu rostro delante de Dios y clama por ello. Pídele al Señor que cree una desesperación por El dentro de ti. Pídele que te lleve a un lugar de absoluta rendición. Es allí – en completa desesperación por no ser capaz de encontrar las respuestas en tus propias habilidades y fuerzas – que vas a encontrar al Único que puede liberarte del poder del pecado.
Glenn Meldrum es un evangelista ordenado (Asambleas de Dios) y tiene un M.A. en teología e historia de la iglesia del Seminario de Teología Ashland. Si algún pastor tiene interés en tenerlo como conferencista puede recibir una cinta gratis de su predicación, para esto deje su nombre y dirección en el buzón de voz de Glenn (651) 247-3979.
Your heart will be stirred in this teaching by Glenn Meldrum. You will learn the importance of godly character, what it is and how to mature in Christ. Proof of spiritual maturity is always revealed in the quality of our character, not in our gifts, talents or years we claim to have been a Christian. Be challenged to be more like Jesus.
Whether we like it or not, or for that matter, even acknowledge it or not, there is a spiritual war raging all around us at this very moment. This war is no less real then those that nations fight. The implications of natural war are temporal, nations either rise or fall. However, the consequences of this spiritual war are eternal. Given that we cannot see the invading armies or the relentless violent skirmishes that surround us does not diminish the fact that this war exists. To comprehend the validity of this fully engaged war all we have to do is look at the ravages of sin that engulfs this world.
To conquer an individual or nation the archenemy of mankind does not issue a surprise attack to overwhelm his opponent like a horde of barbarians or crazed terrorists. Otherwise, we could easily identify him and stand against the flagrant assault in open battle. No, with subtlety our adversary creeps into our ranks, infiltrating families and culture, striving to look like friends rather than fiends. As the hordes of hell slowly gain access to our minds, hearts and culture they begin to define the way we think and how we live. Once the enemy of our soul gains enough control over the minds and hearts of people they begin to show themselves more openly and in greater force. This is where the moral decline of a people becomes blatant, defiant and rapid.
Since the greatest warfare this world will ever know is spiritual, it can be hard for the majority of people to discern unless they have spiritual eyes to see. Those who strive to warn the populous about this demonically inspired invasion are often called alarmists, fanatics or lunatics. “But wisdom is justified of her children” (Luke 7:35). Whether it was during the Old Testament era or down to our present day, the people of God have always desperately needed true prophets and evangelists to help them see what they cannot naturally see.
History abounds with stories of how armies pit weapon against weapon and whoever had the latest, greatest instrument of war most often won. This principle stands true in this spiritual war as well. On God’s side is the weapon of truth empowered by the work of the Holy Spirit. In the end, this weapon will prove itself invincible. The opposing side is armed with half-truths, illusions, deceptions, outright lies and the means to tantalize mankind’s fallen nature is a host of devious ways. The battle is fought in the minds and hearts of humanity and the prize each side seeks to claim as the spoils of war are the souls of men. Whoever captures the hearts and minds of the populous gains control over the culture at large and of individuals specifically.
The war is at a crisis level! Much of the professing church is either in denial that this war exists or refuses to engage in the conflict. The once mighty Bride of Christ has fallen into a deep, spiritual sleep, mesmerized by the same lying devils that have gained control of our world, country, government and media. Truth is fighting against lies and the life and identity of the church is at stake. The combined forces of hell, which is “the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient” (Eph. 2:2), are striving to defeat the true church by redefining her spiritual and moral character. Satan and his minions do not want authentic believers to be like the radical Jesus, for all the forces of hell cannot stand against a holy, Spirit empowered church.
At first glance it outwardly appears that Christ and the truth are losing the present day battle. It seems that as the world grows in wickedness that the church is endeavoring to keep the same pace of worldliness. What may actually be happening is that a vast number of people that where living on the fence between the two opposing kingdoms are being forced to make a decision and most are joining the ranks of God’s enemies. The Scriptures promise that all who choose to remain true to Christ will be refined with holy fire so that they look and act more like Jesus.
This war stops for no one, passes no one, spares no one. We will either swear loyalty to Christ or become His enemy—there is no neutral ground. If we become loyalists to Christ then Christ must be the standard by which we live and the Scriptures our sole authority for faith and life. Oh, that the old reformation battle cry Sola Scripture would once again be fearlessly declared in our churches—that Scripture alone would define our faith. Tradition, morals and cultural norms are as changeable as man, but the Word of the Lord stands forever true.
Devils and men have a better chance of stopping a tornado then of defeating Christ and His Word. They violently attack the truth because they hate Jesus and refuse to bow to His rule. Their God hatred drives them to relentlessly assault true believers. If our spiritual enemy can manipulate professing believers into abandoning the truth then these devils have affectively hindered believers from being conformed to Christ’s likeness. Whenever Christians cease to be true radicals like Jesus they also cease to authentically build Christ’s kingdom by bringing men, women and children to genuine faith in Christ. Our compromise leaves the world to the ruination of hell, where godless philosophies and ambitions spread like a noxious plague; where the brute appetites of the flesh are gorged without restraint. Withhold the convicting influence that the true church brings upon the world as bearers of the Holy Spirit and evil will prosper with seeming impunity.
In spite of all this, each of us will stand before the Judge of all the Earth. Will we be hailed as heroes, condemned to the pit as traitors or damned as enemy combatants against Christ the King? What will you and I say to Him at that moment? If He damns you as a traitor to His person and kingdom, what defense will you offer for living like the enemy while claiming to be Christian? Every deserter from God’s army will not find a single excuse to hide behind for running away from the divine command to fight this spiritual war to the death. And what of those who went AWOL, who left their required duties without permission, but never intended on fully deserting? These church attendees that never fulfilled their required duties due to cowardice, laziness or love of pleasure will find this judgment most terrifying.
The rewards of battle belong to those who fight on the front lines, not to those who seek to live in safety, comfort and ease. Mere mortal armies of every nation, stripe and era have always despised cowardice, laziness and the self-preservation that makes people run from the battle or never engage in it. So why do we applaud such behavior in the church when it has always been the downfall of every military that suffered its devastating influence?
Life is too short to squander and eternity too long to neglect. To hear from Christ’s lips that we were good and faithful followers will produce a joy that will sweetly linger in our hearts throughout eternity. Eons from now we will still rejoice over what Christ did for us. We will joyously declare that everything we suffered for Him on earth was worth it all, even to the laying down of our lives. If regrets had any place in heaven, they would consist of the fact that we did not give Him enough, that we did not honor Him all that He deserves. On the contrary are those that hear the voice of the Great I Am declare, “Depart from Me”. The perpetual haunting of those words will be a never-ending nightmare echoing through their conscience because they refused to bow their will to the Lord of Heaven and Earth.
We are actively in Everyman’s War where no one is exempt. Either we fight for the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Hell—but fight we will. Many that claim to be Christian are enemies of God because they have not truly surrendered to Christ; they live for themselves which is a state of being antagonistic to God. To be victorious in Everyman’s War we must be fully engaged in it for the glory of Christ alone.
Outside the Kingdom of God are only rebels; inside only true followers of Christ. Seemingly between these two kingdoms is a fence that many people sit upon, thinking it is safe in spite of the fact that they are sitting in the midst of a raging battlefield. What these fence sitters fail to realize is that the fence actually sits in enemy territory—they are on the wrong side.
“I fasted once but it made me hungry so I haven’t done it since.” This humorous, yet illogical statement was actually made to us by a Christian woman while discussing the topic of fasting. She went on to explain that if Christians went on God ordained fasts they should never feel hungry. Obviously she had no personal experience in this matter. Only in self-indulgent Western culture would such an idea be considered reasonable; believers in the suffering nations would either laugh at us or weep for us.
There have been many books written on the subject of fasting, and if you look hard enough you can even find a few sermons on it. But like the issue of prayer, we may have an abundance of information yet still not put it into practice. To the average American Christian fasting is as popular a topic as suffering. The unpopularity of the subject does not change the fact that it is an indispensable discipline that needs to be restored to the church.
There are numerous reasons why we don’t fast. One major reason is because we hold erroneous beliefs about fasting which demonstrates our ignorance of the Scriptures. Many believers have mistakenly convinced themselves that fasting makes little or no difference in this world, so why bother with the inconvenience. Probably the biggest reason we steer clear of it is that we don’t want to make ourselves uncomfortable.
We struggle with fasting because it goes against the natural order of life. Unless there is something very wrong with us, we usually don’t intentionally do anything that causes ourselves pain or discomfort. Also, there’s something within us that cherishes life and cutting off what we need to sustain life goes against nature. Even our social life can be upset by fasting because much our interaction with friends and family revolves around eating.
Commanded to Fast
The Lord places great importance on fasting. That is why we need to understand the Scriptural truths that define this spiritual discipline. With a right understanding of fasting we will hopefully find the right motivation to make it a regular part of our service to God and His kingdom.
Jesus, in obedience to the Holy Spirit, was led into the wilderness to fast and be tempted for forty days. Although He never required His disciples to perform a similar fast, He did expect them to fast. That is why He said in the Sermon on the Mount “When you fast” (Mt. 6:16). He included the discipline of fasting with prayer and benevolence (Mt. 6:1-21). Once while Jesus was reproving the Pharisees for their self-righteous, powerless fasting He informed them that fasting would be a normal part of the disciple’s life after He ascended to the Father (Luke 5:35).
The Scriptures are full of examples of His people fasting. Whether it was in times of pending danger, mourning, during national repentance, the Day of Atonement or to find His will, all true fasting was done in obedience to God. This act of denying ourselves food is an expression of brokenness and humility which communicates to God our desperate need of His intervention. It is one of the means He has given us to fulfill the purposes for which He put us in this fallen world.
Fasting to Break Chains
Through the prophet Isaiah the Lord informs us that fasting with pure motives breaks chains, sets the oppressed free and speeds healing.
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard (Isa. 58:6-8).
We have personally witnessed God fulfill all His promises in this section of Scripture through fasting and prayer. While the Lord never violates a person’s free will, He does create circumstances that will make a way for the bound to obtain freedom and the oppressed to be treated justly.
As evangelists we minister at a different church or rehab almost every week of the year. Over 13 years ago when Jesus called us out of pastoral ministry into the evangelistic field we wondered how anything of value could be accomplished in just four or five services. We knew from pastoring that change is a slow process and unless the Spirit does a quick and powerful work we would just be wasting people’s time and money.
This realization brought us to a deeper understanding that in ourselves “we have no power” (2 Chr. 20:12). Unless we give ourselves to prayer and fasting for each church we cannot expect change that will last for eternity. Every week we pray and fast for conviction upon the lost so they will be saved, that prodigals will come home and that the church will be awakened. We admit that it was God putting this in our hearts – not our own thoughts and understand it is the Holy Spirit who does the work. So in the end we can only say, “all we have accomplished you have done for us” (Isa. 26:12).
The Lord yearns to liberate the oppressed and break the yoke of bondage people suffer under Satan’s slavery. He could do this without our help, yet He allows us to share in His sufferings in a very small way through prayer and fasting. One story that stands out in our memory is of an unsaved man whose wife had been begging him to come to church with her for years. Matt emphatically claimed that he would never set foot in church especially “that church.” One Sunday morning Matt shocked his wife by informing her that he would attend church with her. It happened to be the Sunday that we began a series of meetings at “that church.” Not only did Matt come to the service, he surrendered his life to Jesus. The pastor was amazed because the few times he had talked to Matt he found the man very hard to the gospel. The pastor informed us later that Matt gave convincing evidence that he had truly been converted.
God often works through prayer and fasting to bring a person to the point of surrender who is suffering under the bondage of addiction. A young man told Glenn recently that a year ago he had repented of his pornography addiction after hearing one of Glenn’s messages on holiness. He said that he has not looked once at pornography since that service and God healed his marriage. A similar story of being set free from addition was told to us just a few months ago at a church in Arizona. This young man had heard Glenn preach a few times at a Christian rehab eight years prior while he was in the program. He said those messages transformed his life and he is still serving Jesus because of them.
In Isaiah 58:8 we find that God will heal the body in response to fasting. Glenn was healed over ten years ago in this way. For many years he suffered with severe asthma to the point of needing three inhalers a day as well as a rescue inhaler. Through the urging of the Holy Spirit we felt that we should take several days to pray and fast for healing. Jesus healed Glenn and never again has he used any asthma inhalers or medication.
Fasting does break chains therefore it is one of the most formable weapons God has given us. Prayer is another powerful armament made available to all His people. He has given the church both of these disciplines because without them we would be left with only our skills or intellect in which to revolutionize this world. When fasting and prayer are combined and habitually used in spiritual warfare the oppressed will be freed, eternity can be changed and hell will tremble.