One of the great truths of the Gospel is that Jesus purchased humanity with His own blood so they could walk triumphantly over the power of sin. Tragically though, there are many who never overcome habitual sin because they get stuck in a rut of apathy and hopelessness. The truth is that they won’t put away their sin until they become so serious about their relationship with Jesus that they will do whatever it takes to walk holy. People must come to the point of desperation before they will be willing to recklessly abandon themselves to God.
While pastoring in Detroit I ministered to alcoholics, prostitutes, junkies and drug dealers. These people had been devastated by sin; they had lost everything in life. One would expect to see a single-minded determination to break free from the stranglehold of sin, but amazingly, most of them seemed unwilling to change. They lacked the desperation that is always present in a person’s life that finds true victory from the power of sin.
The struggling believer is in a much better position than the unsaved drug addict out on the street. Sin may be controlling his life but at least he has the knowledge of God’s law that is constantly reminding him of the wrongness of his transgressions. Nevertheless, the law can never bring liberty to the sinner.
Imagine if a person wrote the entire dos and don’ts of the Mosaic Law (moral laws) on the walls of his home. They would not make him more holy, only guiltier. These laws would point accusingly at him because every human being breaks those laws on a constant basis. The law only kills and damns people because it reveals that they are actually lawbreakers.
Though the moral law manifests a person’s guilt before God as a lawbreaker, it is powerless to change him or give him the desire to do so. The law screams, “Stop lusting! Stop fornicating! Stop the homosexuality! Stop gossiping! Stop gambling! Stop sinning!” Yet the desire and power to break the chains of sin are not there. There must be something more, a love more powerful than the person’s love of sin and self.
The law was never meant to bring liberty; it was only meant to show people their great need for Someone who could save them from the power of sin. The law cannot make a person want to change because the knowledge of sin is not enough. Even though a person knows he should quit his sinful behavior, he is locked into a terrible pattern of spiritual bondage and despair. There must be something greater than his sin and if he doesn’t grab hold of the greater he will never have the desperation to change that is needed.
When a man grows desperate for God he becomes willing to do whatever it takes to overcome sin. His heart begins to change and a cry wells up from within, “God, I can’t break these chains. They are too strong for me. Please help me!” This is the point of desperation where God visits His people and sets them free. Only a hunger for God that seizes the soul will produce the driving passion needed for holiness.
THE POWER OF SURRENDER
One of the greatest obstacles people face in their pursuit of victory is the matter of control. Most people want to be free from the chains of sin, but they want to do it while maintaining control over their lives. “If I can just do this one particular thing, I will find freedom,” they tell themselves. Nevertheless, as long as they believe there is a solution outside of abandonment to Christ, they will remain a captive to sin. Their efforts to win the battle by their own methods and strength are doomed to failure as long as they remain in control.
The power to overcome sin will never be found in a person’s own determination or wisdom. Freedom from the bondage of sin only comes through surrender to God. The man must come to the point where he falls unreservedly at the feet of Jesus and cries out, “Oh God, I’m weary of my sin! I can’t overcome it without you. You are my only hope!” It is at this point of helplessness that the man is closest to victory.
General William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army said, “The greatness of a man’s power is the measure of his surrender.” People who have done tremendous exploits for God did not possess great abilities in themselves but were people who completely abandoned themselves to the Lord of miracles.
So it is with the battle with sin. The victory is not found in self-effort but in self-abandonment. Oswald Chambers put it this way: “What is needed in spiritual matters is reckless abandonment to the Lord Jesus Christ, reckless and uncalculating abandonment, with no reserve anywhere about it.”
THE FOCUS OF ONE’S AFFECTIONS
Acquiring a relentless determination to live in victory will not happen through one’s own willpower but through one’s affections. To put it simply, it is a matter of love. People become addicted to some particular besetting sin because it is what the flesh loves. And what’s more, the flesh will always love it and there is no amount of effort on a person’s part that can bring to an end his love of sin and self.
His only hope of overcoming habitual sin is to replace his love for sin with a consuming love for God. Until this love seizes the soul the person will never experience a driving passion for holiness. Only when he looks into Christ’s lovely face will he find a love that will eclipse his love of sin and self.
So herein lies the answer. It is to see Jesus, to fall in love with “The Lover of My Soul.” This is why the Psalmist declared, “My eyes are fixed on you, oh, Sovereign Lord.” (Psalm 141:8) Every time a man falls into sin it’s because he has taken his eyes off of Christ’s lovely face. In other words, he abandons his first or principle love. That is why the devil and the world are relentlessly trying to get believers to take their eyes off of Jesus. But godly men and women have learned the secret of making Jesus the focus of their entire life.
The power for holiness comes through intimacy. Look at Jesus, and His love will burn in your heart. When He says, “Change,” you will say, “Yes Lord.” Smith Wigglesworth once said, “No man can see God and live. That’s Scripture. That is why we all need to see Jesus that we might cease to be and that He might live through us.” The greatest victory and joy you will ever know will be yours as you recklessly abandon yourself to Christ.
I will share one final quote in closing. Robert Murray McCheyne said, “Let the Holy Spirit fill every chamber of your heart so that there will be no room for folly or the world or Satan or the flesh.” If you lack this kind of infilling of the Holy Spirit, get on your face before God and cry out for it. Ask the Lord to help you grow desperate you for Him. Ask Him to bring you to a place of absolute surrender. It is there—in complete despair of being able to find the answer in your own abilities and strength—that you will find the One who can set you free from the power of sin.
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.
God has been described as “one pent-up revival.” When saints live in the reviving power of God’s presence, the world takes note that there is a God, we have been with Him, and His name is Jesus.
Revival is God’s self-disclosure. It speaks of a Savior who yearns to dwell in the midst of His people. It is the positive work of the Spirit that deals with the negative character traits of sinful humanity.
Revival is the sovereign activity of God. No one can force His hand to act, or else He would not be the Almighty. Yet the Lord has chosen to place responsibility for revival in the hands of men. This is the great mystery of revival: the Lord sovereignly moves and yet acts in accordance with the prayers of His people.
For revival to come, we must comprehend that in and of ourselves, we can do nothing. Yet, our responsibility is real. This means that a cooperative effort between God and man takes place for the Spirit to be poured out. God has given us the privilege of pursuing revival through those means He has established in His written Word. The Spirit moves the hearts of men to move the heart of God—a mystery indeed.
Revival is a revelation of God’s holiness. Revival is a “person or a community saturated with the presence of God … an invasion from Heaven which brings to man a conscious awareness of God.” This awareness of God includes the revelation of His holiness. The beauty of His holiness will always illuminate our sinfulness, which subsequently produces tremendous conviction of sin. When we look at our sin through the presence of God, we begin to understand how hideous our transgressions actually are. This is Christ’s goodness revealed to a race of rebels (Rom. 2:4).
Revival produces deep, heartfelt repentance. When the Holy Spirit descends, He convicts the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment (John 16:8). Heartfelt repentance produces a change in character, and a change in character produces a change in lifestyle. History demonstrates that according to the depth of conviction will be the depth of repentance, and according to the depth of repentance will be the depth of the revival. Revival is always a move of the Spirit that produces repentance and personal holiness. It cannot be otherwise.
Revival is new life. Heartfelt repentance and a passion for holiness impart new life to the saved and the unsaved. The river of living water that pours forth from the throne of God gives life wherever it flows (Ezek. 47). When that river flows through the church, there will be power and desire to reach the unsaved. When it sweeps through the streets of our cities, radical conversions will abound.
New life produces new priorities. The light of God’s brilliance illuminates the meaninglessness of worldly pursuits. Compromise falls off as love for the Savior replaces the depraved love of the world and the twisted love of self. Vibrant worship and prayer become the norm.
New life in the soul means new life in relationships. When men and women abandon themselves to Jesus, the result will be transformed lives that affect every relationship they have. Marriages and families are restored as godly virtues replace wicked character traits. When rebellious teens are genuinely converted, their rebellion ceases. The power of God delivers the fornicator, adulterous spouse, or homosexual from their sexual addictions to live in pure and holy freedom. Revival is literally new life for individuals, families, churches, and nations.
Revival is spiritual revolution. “Revival is a divine method of operation in human history . . . an instrument of spiritual revolution.” This spiritual revolution is birthed through radicals and martyrs who reproduce after their own kind. They see the world through the eyes of Christ and are willing to lay down their lives for the One who laid down His life for them. This is the place of desperate love and surrender to Jesus, where sacrifice ceases to be a burden.
An explosive missionary spirit is always a byproduct of revival. The Lord uses common saints who live in the light of eternity to turn the world upside down. They comprehend that people are eternal creatures who will live forever in heaven or hell. So they joyfully abandon themselves to the cause of Christ to rescue a self-destructing world no matter the cost.
The manifest glory of God is the greatest hope for the salvation of our loved ones, the most effective means of restraining the wickedness that is sweeping America, and the only power that can transform cities and nations.
 Leonard Ravenhill, Why Revival Tarries, Minneapolis, MN, Bethany House Publishers, 1959, p. 139.
 Stephen Olford, Lord, Open the Heavens!, Wheaton, IL, Howard Shaw Publishers, 1969, p. 60.
 C. E. Autrey, Revivals of the Old Testament, Grand Rapids, MI, Zondervan Publishing House, 1960, pp. 14, 16.
Excerpted from Rend the Heavens, by Glenn Meldrum, copyright © 2005.
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.
Jesus, after going up a mountain to pray, “appointed twelve—designating them apostles—THAT THEY MIGHT BE WITH HIM and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons” (Mk. 3:14-15; emphasis mine). The most important point of this passage is that the disciples “MIGHT BE WITH HIM.” No greater privilege was ever bestowed upon mortal men than to have walked with Jesus as those first disciples did. Because of Christ’s work on the cross we are granted this same great privilege—to walk with Him in unbroken fellowship. The purpose for which God created mankind was to enjoy Him through intimate fellowship and to glorify Him in all we do. We will never bring Him glory unless we know and love the place of intimacy with “the One my heart loves” (Song 3:1-4)
Jesus designed discipleship to be relational. He wanted the disciples to be near Him so they could imitate His heart, lifestyle and mission. The only way they could grow in Christlikeness was for them to spend time with the Savior so they could know Him intimately and learn to obey His every command. According to Jesus, loving obedience was a non-negotiable part of discipleship. Those who refused to explicitly obey Christ either never followed Him (Lk. 19:22) or forsook Him (Jn. 6:66).
Our Lord’s standard of discipleship has not changed from when He first gathered around Him a ragtag band of followers. Because we live in the prosperous 21st century which is suffering under the ravages of humanism and moral relativism does not mean the Savior has altered His costly call to leave all and follow Him. We cannot be a genuine Christian, have a Christlike character or be pleasing to God until we enter into a personal relationship with Him and learn how to lovingly obey Him as Lord and Savior.
The church at large has erroneously believed that total obedience to God is not a compulsory requirement of discipleship. By perverting the love of God, we have concocted a deviant form of Christianity in which we claim that God would never impose upon His people the stringent obligation of absolute obedience. “We are all sinners” and “God knows my heart” are arguments used, not to state truth, but to justify one’s disobedience. What is being advocated is a cheap grace whereby we assert that since salvation is by grace we are not obligated to fully obey the Lord. These deceptions are from the pit of hell!
Obedience distinguishes a godly person from an ungodly one. The ungodly, whether church members or not, practice disobedience which is nothing other than self-idolatry and anarchy against Christ’s lordship. The Savior draws near to His obedient children, but is repulsed by the rebellious. He answers the prayers of His obedient disciples, but refuses to respond to the prayers of the disobedient unless they are the prayers of authentic repentance (Zec. 7:13). How arrogant it is to think God must answer our prayers and bless us when we live hostile to His very will.
The faith of our fathers is further corrupted by our embracing and propagating another damnable lie which claims that Jesus can be our Savior even if we have not surrendered to Him as Lord. The essential qualities that make Jesus Lord and Savior are indivisible. This means that for Jesus to be our Savior He must also be our Lord. The opposite is also true; if Jesus is not our Lord then He most certainly is not our Savior. Everyone that genuinely knows Jesus as Savior has pledged the entirety of their lives to Him as a Sovereign Lord and their lives become living testimonies to that fact. But all who refuse to submit to Christ’s absolute rule over their lives stand outside of His salvation and will face His wrath as enemies of God. Even so, Jesus is Lord regardless of our willingness to surrender to His lordship.
LOVE AND OBEDIENCE
There is yet another error that has gripped the church that relates to the subject of obedience. Many self-proclaimed Christians maintain that they love Jesus even though they live self-willed, rebellious lives. Such assertions express a vast ignorance of what it means to be a disciple of Christ and what constitutes love from God’s point of view. Love and obedience are irrevocably intertwined. As a result, they cannot be divorced from each other. Disobedience, whether it is perpetrated against God or man, is always a willful act of rebellion which is an expression of idolatrous self-love. Authentic love is selfless, therefore, it will not be rebellious. The only way we can have the will and desire to explicitly obey the Lord is that we must love Him supremely; otherwise, there is no compelling force to obey Him at any cost.
To love God supremely means that we love Him more than any person in our lives, whether spouse or children, parents or siblings, loved ones or friends. It includes loving Him more than our wealth, comforts or material possessions. To love Him supremely requires that we love Him more than our ambitions, dreams or desires; that we love Him more than our occupation, ministry, recreation or retirement; that we love Him more than our sin; and ultimately, that we love Him more than ourselves. The Lord firmly established that for our love to be acceptable to Him it must be with the entirety of our being (Mk. 12:29-30; Deu. 6:4-5).
When Jesus is our supreme love then He will be our supreme source of pleasure. Anything that robs us of intimacy with Jesus is sin, no matter how good it may be in and of itself. If Jesus is not our supreme source of pleasure then we have become idolaters, breaking the greatest commandment. And if we do not love being with Jesus more than anyone or anything else, we have proven ourselves to be idolaters. To love God supremely means we prize communion with Him more than any activity or form of entertainment. Take TV for example. When people spend more time watching TV then they do in prayer they have verifiable proof that they love their TV more than God, which means they are idolaters. To love God supremely we must mature in the faith to the point where we fervently enjoy the place of prayer and worship because we love being with Jesus above all else.
When we love God supremely we will obey Him supremely. He will be the definer of our lives, relationships, activities, morality and reason-for-being. His Word will be our life’s guide, which we will obey though it costs us our possessions or very lives. Those who love Him supremely will find it a joy to quickly obey His every word. With a burning passion they will strive to live pleasing to Him through a life of personal holiness. For those who love themselves and their sin above Christ, His commands are considered heavy chains and His service as harsh bondage.
CHRIST’S TEACHING ON LOVING OBEDIENCE
One day Jesus taught the disciples saying, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (Jn. 14:15). Reiterating this thought He declared, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me” (Jn. 14:21). Then a third time, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching” (Jn. 14:23). The repetitiveness of Christ’s teaching on this subject emphatically proves that love and obedience are mandatory in the life of any disciple.
To add further impact to this point Jesus addressed the issue from the negative: “He who does not love me will not obey my teaching” (Jn. 14:23). This forceful statement emphasizes the fact that anyone who does not obey Jesus does not love Him (this also applies to professing Christians). The Savior was confronting our natural propensity to self-love which is a form of idolatry. Anyone who alleges to love the Lord, but does not fully obey Him, possesses little more than sentimental feelings for God. In the end, these sentimental feelings will serve only to eternally haunt countless souls in hell who did not love Jesus and therefore did not obey Him.
Six times in two chapters Jesus proclaims this truth to firmly establish that love and obedience are indissoluble (Jn. 15:10, 14-15). The Savior was confirming His divine right to rule over His disciples as Sovereign Lord. He was defining for all generations the quality and standard of true discipleship, which unequivocally includes loving and obeying Him supremely. Yet many people make lofty claims about loving God while living like the devil. So let’s look at the logical conclusion of what it means to not love the Lord supremely. According to Jesus we cannot love God without wholeheartedly obeying Him; if we are not obeying Him then we are rebelling against Him; if we continue in our rebellion we place ourselves at war with Him; if we are at war with God then we have become His enemy; if we are His enemy then we do not have His salvation; this means we are left in our sins; if we are left in our sins then we are destined for damnation.
Through Christ’s atoning sacrifice we are freely offered the priceless gift of salvation. Though we cannot buy or earn this gift, it nonetheless, costs us everything. That is why our eternal destiny is uniquely tied into whether or not we live a life of loving obedience to God. According to our passion to know Jesus will be our desire to obey Him. Does your life boldly declare that you love the Lord or does blatantly declare the opposite?
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.
There is a disturbing paradox that most Christians do not know exists or is not willing to address. The problem arises over our claims that we believe in the divine inspiration and infallibility of Scriptures and then question whether Jesus really meant what He said in many of His challenging statements. Either “All Scripture is God-breathed,” or it is not (2 Tim. 3:16). When Jesus claimed that He was the Truth He was also declaring that everything He taught was absolute truth (Jn. 14:16). He meant what He said, whether those difficult teachings are convenient to our comfortable lifestyles or not. The nitty-gritty of this issue revolves around whether we are living what He taught.
A simple examination of the life of Christ will reveal that everything about Jesus was radical—His incarnation, life, teaching, death and resurrection. It will also be found that this radical Jesus clearly commanded His followers to live like He did. This necessitates that Biblical Christianity is utterly radical in all of its demands to all generations and cultures.
One example of Christ’s radical teaching is found in Matthew 16:13-27. It begins with Jesus asking His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” After their varied responses He personalized the question, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter quickly proclaimed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Then the Lord told the other disciples that Peter received this revelation from the Father.
Immediately following this event Jesus began sharing with the apostles His coming death and resurrection. Once again Peter was ready with a dramatic declaration, this time reproving Jesus for saying He must die on the cross. Peter’s selfish act received the Master’s stern rebuke, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” How astounding! One moment Peter was in the Spirit and next he was used by Satan. Scary, isn’t it?
Jesus turned this event into an object lesson for all the apostles. He established the fact that, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Peter and the disciples understood a principle that most American Christians totally miss—that the student is not above his teacher (Mt. 10:24-25). Peter knew what this involved: if Jesus went to the cross then he would have to go also. Since Peter did not want to die on a cross he was left with only one alternative; to talk Jesus out of going to the cross. We, like Peter, aggressively resist crucifying our old, sinful nature.
One principle of living the crucified life is, “whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” In our relentless pursuit for happiness we have rejected the only source of true joy—the crucified and resurrected Christ. Our resistance to die to our sinful nature has only served to separate us from God and fill us with the pain and sorrow that comes through the deceitfulness of sin and rebellion. The wonder of Christ’s resurrection is known and enjoyed only after we have willingly embraced the cross by purposely crucifying our sin, selfishness, lust and pride.
Crucifixion finishes the work it begins. “The old cross is a symbol of death,” wrote A. W. Tozer. “It stands for the abrupt, violent end of a human being. The man in Roman times who took up his cross and started down the road had already said good-bye to his friends. He was not coming back. He was going out to have it ended. The cross made no compromise, modified nothing, spared nothing; it slew all of the man, completely and for good. It did not try to keep on good terms with its victim. It struck cruel and hard, and when it had finished its work, the man was no more.” If we had truly nailed our old nature to the cross it would not be causing us all the trouble it does.
There is a beautiful practicality with the Scriptures. John taught, “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did” (1 Jn. 2:6). This is not an option, but a mandatory condition of true discipleship. Christians will obtain Christ’s victory over the world when they walk as He did. We live defeated lives every time we choose to live like the world. Only through death to self can we live resurrected lives that overcome the world. L. E. Maxwell stated that a true understanding of the Cross “takes possession of us; it overcomes and absorbs us, and tears us ruthlessly from everything else.” The Christ of the cross demands that our entire life becomes a perpetual living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1-2).
The radicalness of Jesus is again revealed when He said, “In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple” (Lk. 14: 33). Notice that Jesus did not say we would be a bad disciple if we did not give up everything, but that we COULD NOT be His disciple. Mournfully, many who claim to be Christians in reality are not because they have not given everything to God. One commentator proclaimed that this passage “is perhaps the most unpopular term of Christian discipleship and may well prove to be the most unpopular verse in the Bible. Cleaver theologians can give you a thousand reasons why it does not mean what it says, but simple disciples drink it down eagerly, assuming that Jesus knew what He was saying.”
In our secularized, pleasure driven version of Christianity we have come to loathe the demands of the cross. Since our crossless Christianity is powerless to save, the world ignores the claims of Christ. The unsaved clearly see that we are not willing to live, much less suffer or die for what we believe. It’s obvious to them that most Christians are as pleasure driven as any acclaimed hedonist. Many non-believers have heard about our church splits and know the sum and substance about our divorces, adulteries, drinking, gambling and a host of other sins. They see our children fleeing the church because our lukewarm religion has proved hypocritical and worthless. Jesus puts this all in perspective by warning, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?” (Mt. 16:26).
Our only hope of victory comes through two crosses. The first is Christ’s, where He purchased us with His own blood. This cross reveals the depth of our wickedness and our powerlessness to save ourselves. It proclaims that salvation is by God’s grace alone.
The second cross is the one that bears our name, the one we must voluntarily pick up and claim as our own. For the love of Christ we must die to every form of selfishness and sin, for these destroy our relationship with God and with others. We must then follow Him wherever He leads no matter the cost. Only when we lose our life in Christ will we find His victorious resurrected life.
Jesus said that He would “reward each person according to what he has done” (Mt. 16:27). For those who refuse to pick up their cross and walk with Him through intimate holiness (whether a self-proclaimed Christian or not), there is only sorrow and bondage to sin that comes from a life without God—both now and through eternity.
Those who through loving obedience pick up their cross and follow Jesus will walk in His victory. “Christ Himself shall be the greatest reward of His people,” stated Robert Murray McCheyne. “Any place would be heaven if we were with Christ. No place would be heaven without Him. . . . Oh, to talk with Him as Moses and Elijah did on the mount of transfiguration, to hear Him speak gracious words, to lean our head where John leaned his, to hold Him, and not let Him go . . . to have Him turning upon us His eyes of divine tenderness and holy love–that will be a reward.” Biblical Christianity is radical and it is worth the cost!
I fear the United States is hastening towards judgment. Where that line of no return is I do not know, but the nation’s rapid moral and spiritual decline is hurtling us towards that terrifying line at breakneck speed. Only divine intervention can turn us from our self-destructive course. We have forsaken the God which gave us a country immersed in a strong Christian heritage; we have abandoned the ancient paths to become a modern barbaric culture (Jeremiah 6:16).
Just prior to my ministering at an urban church the youth pastor taught his unsaved, street level youth group that homosexuality is sin and those practicing it will spend an eternity in hell. One 14 year old girl replied, “Then everyone in my school is going to hell.” This same young woman responded to an altar call I gave while preaching to that youth group. While my wife was ministering to her she asked a serious question: “How can I be a Christian when all my friends are lesbians and my mother is a drug addict?” Bob Just was right when he stated: “Today’s culture is a child molester.” 
How can the Lord hold back his just wrath when we are destroying our nation, beginning with our youth? Law Professor Kelly Howard declared, “According to sworn testimony before the U.S. Senate, experts reveal that by the time a female in this country is 18 years old, 38 percent have been sexually molested. One in eight women will be raped. Fifty percent of women will be sexually harassed on their jobs during their lifetimes. In fact, sexual dysfunction is on such a rampant rise that experts are calling it a sexual holocaust.” 
There are cultures and nations that are simply not redeemable. This means that they have collectively crossed a line in the practice of evil where they refuse to turn from their sin and are therefore left to God’s wrath. Because a culture becomes unredeemable does not imply that individuals within that culture cannot be saved. It just indicates that the culture has become so immersed in wickedness that the only thing left for it is destruction. This happens in part because the nature of evil is not understood to be exceedingly wicked and offensive to a holy God, so the practice of evil becomes culturally acceptable.
The fact that cultures can become unredeemable does not mean that the doctrine of limited atonement is true. The Lord gave mankind an authentic free will and desires every person to be saved. That is why He declared, “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 33:11; quoted in 2 Peter 3:9). Though salvation is available to everyone, only those who repent will be saved.
Cultures are made up of individuals who make the conscience moral choices that define the character of a nation or people group. Some cultures become so immersed in evil that they harden themselves against God. Since they reject God’s salvation, He turns them over to their own self-destructive ways (Romans 1:18-32). In essence, they cross a line in their practice of sin where evil is so ingrained into the culture that the only thing left to them is divine wrath.
Examples of unredeemable cultures are abundant in Scripture. The Lord destroyed the world with a flood in Noah’s day. He hailed fire and brimstone down on Sodom. Israel could not conquer the promise land until the evil practices of the Amorites was at its worst (Genesis 15:13-16). King Saul was commanded by God to fully destroy the Amalekites because they had plummeted to the depths of depravity in their pursuit of evil (1 Samuel 15).
The only safe way we can say that a culture was unredeemable is by looking at Scripture. Otherwise we are left to subjective claims that are based upon our small-minded opinions and highfalutin paradigms. Only God knows the hearts of men, therefore, He alone is able to justly judge them and their cultures. Since He is all-knowing and perfect in righteousness He is able determine which nation or people group has crossed the moral and spiritual line becoming unredeemable.
For mere mortals to label people and nations as unredeemable is counterproductive to Christ’s command to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. We must always believe that grace is available to everyone and faithfully strive to present them with the Gospel. Ours is not to decide who is to be saved, but to reach out to everyone no matter their lifestyle or sin.
If all this is true then what is the value of understanding that cultures can become unredeemable? So that we seek God’s face for a national awakening and prepare the way for Him to come to us. In the end, we are either going to experience revival or judgment. Yet even if we had a revival where five million people were genuinely converted, would that deliver the nation from the vile explosion of homosexuality? Would it rescue us from the evils of fornication (which includes people living together outside of marriage)? Do you think that the porn and prostitution trades would cease their practices? Would our state governments and Indian reservations abandon the decadent, yet lucrative business of gambling? Would Hollywood cease propagating the moral and spiritual filth it relentlessly vomits out of its studios?
A JONAH EXAMPLE
My fear is that we are nearing the line of no return. Nevertheless, we must remember that all things are possible with God and the story of Nineveh is the perfect example of mercy being shown to an evil culture. The Lord decreed the judgment of Nineveh “because its wickedness has come up before me” (Jonah 1:2). After Jonah preached, the people repented, so the Lord granted mercy. If the Savior was “concerned about that great city” of 120,000 souls (Jonah 4:11), will He not be concerned about America’s millions?
There are two ways we can respond to our nation’s aggressive pursuit of evil. The first is to run away from our responsibility as Jonah did at first. This is what the majority of professing believers are doing today—hiding in their churches, keeping the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ from the mass of perishing humanity. The second is to follow Jonah’s example and repent. Here lies our only hope—that a deeply repentant church would become a catalyst for an authentic awakening that would transform secular society. The First Great Awakening in America began in the 1730’s. There were approximately 340,000 people in the country, with roughly 100,000 alcoholics. At the end of the awakening 50,000 people were saved. An equivalent awakening today would produce 50 million authentic conversions.
Jesus warned that prior to His second coming the world would become unredeemable like it was in the days of Noah and Sodom (Luke 17:26-30). This is literally being fulfilled before our very eyes. Mankind’s practice of evil will reach a depth unequaled in history. There will come the time when they will literally fight against God at Armageddon, but will suffer a fate similar to Sodom. Then the Lord will make a new heaven and earth “wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13).
People, cultures and nations that cross the line in the practice of evil have something worse to fear than the destruction of their culture or of creation itself, and that’s the Great White Throne Judgment. Here the Lord will judge the people as individuals who made their own conscience choices. All who refused to own Jesus as Lord while on earth will suffer an eternity without Him in the Lake of Fire. Even the eternal fires of hell will not purge them of their love of evil. In the Lake of Fire they will be unredeemable forever.
 David Kupelian, The Marketing of Evil (Nashville, TN, Cumberland House Publishing, 2005), 78.
 David Kupelian, The Marketing of Evil (Nashville, TN, Cumberland House Publishing, 2005), 129.
In 1997 the Lord graciously called my wife and I into the ministry of the evangelist. We live in a motorhome and travel across the nation preaching at churches, camp meetings and conferences. No matter how busy we get there always seems to be a few holes in our schedule. Major holidays are difficult to fill because churches usually don’t want evangelists on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Mother’s Day. We often fill those empty slots by ministering at Christian rehabs such as Teen Challenge.
While traveling south to a minister at a Teen Challenge we attended an authentic Spirit filled, on fire church. The worship was awesome and the preacher delivered an anointed sermon that was firmly grounded in God’s Word. No namby-pamby preaching here. It was truly refreshing.
We then began ministering for a few weeks at the Teen Challenge that was further south in that state. Since our Sunday mornings were free for a few weeks we began looking for an on fire church to attend. We could not find one. The one’s we did attend were the exact opposite of the on fire one mentioned above. The people were slaves to their watches and the pastors were slaves to the people. The song services were anemic, the preaching pitiful and the Spirit was perceptibly absent. At one church the pastor preached gross error to tickle the people’s ears. When we left that church my heart was broken over their error and the deadness of the other churches we visited.
As I got before God that afternoon I called out to Him, “Where are the men of God? Where are the pastors that fearlessly preach the Word through the love of God? What happened to churches that love your presence more than popularity, finances or buildings? Where are the men of God that can marshal a spiritual army and lead them into winning a perishing world?” My heart was in agony.
This experience helped me sympathize with all the people over the years that told me they could not find a good church. Now I believe them. After searching the internet for a genuine Spirit-filled church that was sound in the faith I came up with nothing. I am not saying that there was not a church in that area which fit the criteria; it is just that I could not find it. Nor am I saying that the other churches did not have some authentic believers. The travesty is that American Christianity has mutated into a lukewarm religion that is void of the Spirit. There are not many truly Spirit-filled, Biblically sound churches left in America.
My search for an on fire church began with scratching off my list those that posted on their web sites their “core values.” You can go to major corporations or local grocery and department stores and read virtually the same “core values.” “Core values” are the pop church growth buzz phrase that was directly stolen from the corporate world. They are worthless! Those who use that form of church growth principle become cookie-cutter churches offering people little in the way of spiritual vitality, but they do offer programs—lots of them.
I was looking for a church where the Word was faithfully preached under the anointing and God showed up in a tangible way; my heart was aching for His presence. So the next group to be checked off my list was the “good old boy” kind of churches that put you to sleep during their song service and preaching. Off the list were churches with cowardly pastors that speak fluff to the people or aspire to be a motivational speaker (I have no use for such worthless preachers). Nor did I want a church that was trying to be hip with Hollywood style song services and “talks” that teach the people how to suck down beer and sip wine. I have seen the devastation that alcohol and drugs do to people for the last 34 years of ministry and what it did to me before I became a Christian. I had no desire to attend a backslidden, apostate church.
Now let me get to the point of what I really want to say. The problem of the spiritual bareness of the church at large is the result of the spiritual condition of the pastors and parishioners. The fault begins with pastors who are called to shepherd God’s flock, God’s way no matter the cost. Yet many pastors are so terrified of their people that they obey the will of men rather than God. This often happens because pastors have been bitten enough times by rebellious and complaining sheep that they do not want any fresh wounds. At one large church where I ministered the pastor apologized to the people for my preaching before I even said a word. This man was cowering before a flock of contentious sheep that had very sharp teeth. He was their slave, not their shepherd.
Success in ministry has nothing to do with the size of the church (notice the above example). Genuine success is about obedience to the Lord which means a pastor gives the sheep what God says they need, not what is popular or feeds their flesh. In the Old Testament the Lord often rebuked the pastors because they failed to lead the people for their eternal good. Jeremiah prophesied, “The shepherds are senseless and do not inquire of the LORD; so they do not prosper and all their flock is scattered” (Jer. 10:21). Many pastors have become “senseless” because they no longer obey God by preaching the unadulterated Word. Instead of preaching truth they give them fluff; instead of bringing them into the tangible presence of God they give them dead religion. I have preached to congregations where long time church goers were weeping at an altar next to board members who were weeping next to teenagers, all repenting of practicing sin. Where was the senior pastor? Where was the youth pastor? Why were they not preaching repentance and holiness to the people? This is why the Lord declared, “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” (Jer. 23:1).
The fault of a dead church rests not only on the shoulders of pastors, but on the people as well. Jeremiah stated, “The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end?” (Jer. 5:31). Pastors would not preach Christless, crossless messages filled with fluff or heresy if the people did not want it that way. The people have gotten what they deserve. When people refuse to be ruled by God they will seek out pastors that will satisfy their carnal nature or tickle their itching ears.
Paul, speaking on this issue wrote, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” (2 Tim. 4:3-4). Those who do not want the truth will settle for anything the tickles their fancy, while those who want the truth will settle for nothing less. Returning home after visiting the above mentioned church with the heretical pastor my wife put on an internet sermon preached by a man that fearlessly presents the truth through God’s anointing. At the end of his sermon people ran to repent at the altar. What a loving message that shook the people out of their damnable condition and what refreshing it brought to my soul. The preacher that truly loves people will warn them of sin, point them to the crucified and resurrected Christ and then command them to repent. Those who do not warn of sin and faithfully present the demands of discipleship do not truly love the people.
So what is the solution to the problem of spiritual deadness in our churches? It is not to run away from the church and hide in our safe little homes where we will not be hurt. The answer is complicated because of the ramifications of doing what is right. However, if we want to please God we must do what is right no matter the cost. The solution begins with pastors. First they must become men and women of prayer above all things. Better to neglect business at the office than to neglect God in prayer. Powerless preachers are always powerless in prayer.
Second, pastors need to preach the Word fully, faithfully, fearlessly, lovingly and under the anointing or do not preach at all. Preachers need to remember that they will give an account before God for each sermon they preach. “But what will you do in the end” if God declares that you have been unfaithful to Him and His Word? (Jer. 5:31). Better that you incur the wrath of man, be expelled from the church or even beaten than to face the wrath of God. Better to be hated by the people for telling them the truth than to hear the truth when you stand before God that you were a traitorous shepherd.
Finally, pastors must become like Steven who was full of faith and the Holy Spirit. We desperately need leaders that are authentically Spirit-filled so they can lead the congregation into the very presence of God. To our everlasting disgrace the church has become like Samson who, after breaking covenant with God, did not know the Lord had left him. We can do church without God and do it well, all the time never realizing that the Lord has left us. Why? Because the church is backslidden! The fact remains that we are not desperate for His presence and He knows that. Any church that does not have God tangibly show up has absolutely failed, even if thousands of people attend the church.
Now what can average church goers do to change the situation of the deadness of the church? First you must become a people of prayer that helps build a house of prayer. If the church is prayerless it is your fault. Don’t blame the pastor. If you are not praying there is no one to blame but yourselves. If the prayer meetings are empty it is your fault! If you settle for a dead church then you are getting what you deserve. So do not blame God for your spiritual barrenness.
Next, do not settle for namby-pamby, cotton candy preaching. Lovingly and kindly encourage your pastor to preach the whole truth and preach it boldly. If he refuses, do not start a war in the church or begin gossiping about him. If you do, you will be guilty before God and that should make you very afraid. All that is left for you to do is peacefully and lovingly leave the church and find the most on fire, Spirit filled church that faithfully preaches the cross.
When you work with ice, ice will get into your soul! Therefore, at all cost, get into the fire of God so that holy fire will consume you. Fan into flame a passionate desire for God and then guard that flame so it never goes out. The joy of salvation is intimate fellowship with God, who is a consuming fire. When we fellowship with a fiery God His holy fire will burn in us.
Like a priceless vase, we all break when dropped. Our frailty is a subject that unsettles us because it reveals just how weak and vulnerable we are. That is why we do not like feeling our neediness, much less admitting it.
Whenever we begin to sense our neediness we can feel like our lives are spiraling out of control. We hate this feeling because we are control fanatics. At times we would rather believe a host of lies about ourselves than to face the raw truth of our frailty and fallenness. As fiercely independent people we fight to retain control of our lives, even when we are self-destructing.
In spite of denying our neediness, we know deep down inside things are otherwise. If only we were honest with ourselves we would cry out with heartfelt passion the old great hymn “I need thee every hour, most gracious Lord.” Unfortunately we can sing this hymn without its truth touching our lives to any great degree.
Through the prophet Isaiah, Lord asked Israel four rhetorical questions which He asks us today. Along with those questions are stated some profound facts. “Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded? He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in. He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing” (Isa. 40:21-23).
Today, the Lord is asking the church, “Do you not know? . . . Have you not understood?” We are as ignorant of the magnificent character of God today as Israel was of old. Since Israel did not recognize their gross ignorance about God they became willfully ignorant of the compromise and rebellion that defined their lives. An honest evaluation of the American church will reveal that we are repeating in our own ways the same crimes of idolatry and spiritual prostitution that ancient Israel committed.
In the above verses God’s awe-inspiring perfections are starkly contrasted with mankind’s frailty, neediness and sinfulness. The Almighty is still able to dethrone boasting kings and presidents, topple egotistical politicians, attack the prideful self-will of men, and bring down corrupt nations. In our arrogance we exalt ourselves one over another, ignoring the fact that there is one King and Lord that one day we will all answer to and bow before.
UNDERSTANDING OUR FRAILTY
History can only boast over a few righteous leaders that have graced this planet. King David is one that stands out among that number. His greatness as a man and ruler was rooted in his profound understanding of his frailty and desperate need for God. In one of David’s heartrending prayers he pled, “Show me, O LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro: He bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it. But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you” (Ps. 39:4, 6-7).
David found true security by trusting in the All-sufficient God. To trust in the Lord David had to understand how foolish it was to trust in man’s faulty and unreliable wisdom and strength. “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” (Ps. 20:7). Experience taught David that victory does not come through his mighty army or the insight of his advisors, but from the All-wise and All-powerful Lord. The king’s wisdom is seen in his willingness to comprehend his weakness, which in turn caused him to trust in the Lord.
One major reason why we do not overcome sin and the difficulties of life is that we think we can prevail over them if we only have enough information, self-determination and time. Yet whenever we strive to obtain the needed victory through our own strength and abilities the Lord leaves us to be our own self-made saviors. The problem is that we make horrible saviors.
The starting point for overcoming sin and our self-life is to know the wonder of Christ as Lord. From that vantage point we can begin to comprehend our weakness and tremendous neediness. It is actually a great gift to see our neediness since we are not naturally predisposed to recognize it. Such wisdom opens the door for the Savior to stoop down in divine tenderness to show Himself mighty to save. This wisdom also sets us free from our natural inclination towards self-reliance that is a constant source of pain.
RECEIVING A GIFT FROM GOD
One church where I was ministering was suffering under the ravages of lukewarmness. Their lifeless worship and lack of spiritual vitality testified to their deadness. After coming into the pulpit to preach, it would take a little time to begin to sense the moving of the Holy Spirit. After the altar call on the third night of services, I prayed for the worship leader in a special way: “Lord, give my sister a great gift. Show her how desperately needy she actually is.”
Though I did not know it at the time, this woman grew very angry with me over that prayer. Infuriated, she went home complaining, “Who does that preacher think he is to pray such a prayer over me? I’ve been at the altar every service.” The Spirit robbed her of sleep that night as He began revealing to her the depths of her sin and neediness.
When service began on the fourth night, the worship leader opened with a humble confession. “I’ve been at this altar weeping over issues that God has shown me through the preaching. Last night brother Meldrum prayed that God would give me a gift to see my neediness. I was furious with him. But after going home the Spirit began a deep convicting work and showed me how desperately needy I am. O how good Jesus is to me.” The church experienced a marked change as the Holy Spirit was tangibly present in the worship for the first time during those meetings.
When King David was in the agonizing throws of seeing his profound neediness he proclaimed, “But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you” (Ps. 39:7). Dependence upon Christ begins by seeing our tremendously needy condition which then causes us to throw ourselves upon the compassion and tender mercies of God. This is the place where true liberty is found and victories are won, where we can know how “wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Eph. 3:18).
An independent spirit is always a sign of spiritual immaturity no matter how spiritual a person may boastfully act (this is a great crime and offense against God). True spiritual maturity produces greater dependency upon God—it cannot be otherwise. This dependency happens when believers mature in the knowledge of God’s magnificence and their own frailty and neediness. Great joy is found when we see our neediness and grow dependent upon an All-sufficient, All-powerful and All-loving God.
Through dependence upon the Savior we grow in sweet fellowship with Him, obtain the victory and become useful in building His kingdom. We were created to be dependent upon God, to need Him every hour; anything else is rebellion.
Because I love your commands more than gold, more than pure gold,
and because I consider all your precepts right, I hate every wrong path
It takes a passionate love for God and His Word to develop in us the motivating force to “hate every wrong path.” It is God’s will that we become lovers of truth so that we will not be partakers of evil. If we do not hate evil then we will not have a strong enough incentive to turn from evil in our actions, thoughts and desires.
Christians should be lovers of truth not only in relation to who God is, but also as it relates to life in general. We should want truth to permeate all of life—family, church, entertainment, society, business, culture, science, education and government. However, this is not the condition of America as a whole and the church specifically.
One sign that we are not being lovers of truth is when we begin to separate truth from practice. Today’s Christians are not disturbed over this grave incongruity. If we do not love the truth then we will by default love evil. It is irrelevant if we repackage evil with religious words or politically correct rhetoric, evil will always be evil.
Shortly after Barak Obama was sworn in as president, I was ministering at an urban church. The pastor’s daughter proudly wore her Obama shirt displaying that her candidate of “Change” was now president. There was a large disparity between her political views and Biblical Christianity. Without the least inclination to the fact, she had developed a secular worldview rather than one that was authentically Christian.
There are serious inconsistencies with this young college student’s faith on an intellectual, moral and spiritual basis. Though she is Christian, her decision to vote for an unrighteous man – that aggressively promotes abortion, homosexuality and many other issues blatantly anti-Christian – are irreconcilable with the teaching of Scripture. One primary reason she voted as she did is that she failed to be a lover of truth.
To claim that we love truth but not promote the truth as it relates to all of life is a contradiction— a form of hypocrisy. How can we be lovers of truth while we practice or support evil in any form? Similarly, how can we vote for a candidate that advocates evil? The Lord commands us to, “Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts (Amos 5:15). This means that we should be lovers of truth as it relates to politics and government just as much as we love it working in our home or church.
While sitting in the kitchen of the pastor’s house I asked his daughter why she voted for a candidate that aggressively promotes the killing of unborn children. Her response typifies how people can sanction and promote evil while claiming to be Christian. “Well, I don’t believe in abortion, but abortion is a woman’s own choice and I have to respect the personal choices of others.” Her statement betrays her secular worldview that is permeated with moral relativism. Women should never have the right to murder anyone, whether it’s their unborn babies, husbands or parents!
One reason why we live with this personal dichotomy between believing in truth and practicing evil is that we do not love God as we claim. Paul taught that, “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth” (1 Cor. 13:6). And the Psalmist admonished, “Let those who love the LORD hate evil” (Ps. 97:10). Love for God will always produce hatred for evil, but never of people. To love any expression of evil is to hate the truth and hatred for truth is actually hatred for God Himself.
The Scriptures teach that the reason people die in their sin and spend an eternity in hell is because, “they refused to love the truth and so be saved” (2 Thes. 2:10). When people choose to love God they begin to hate evil. At times we may be ignorant of what constitutes evil. Nevertheless, to remain ignorant of evil causes us to practice or justify evil. We were given God’s Word so that we can walk securely in this corrupt world. If we do not know the Word, then we have nobody to blame but ourselves. We cannot blame others for our willful ignorance of the truth.
Another reason why people love evil is that they do not fear God (this includes professing believers). Solomon wrote, “To fear the LORD is to hate evil” (Pr. 8:13a). Take for example watching TV and movies. “Christians” that do not fear God will watch that which is evil. This exposes their blatant hypocrisy. If we hated evil, we would hate every expression of evil, even that which touches entertainment.
It is interesting to note that the next statement in Pr. 8:13 is made by the Lord, “I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.” God declares once again that He unequivocally hates all evil. Since God hates evil, who do we think we are to love it, promote it, vote for it or cover it up?
True believers are called to hate evil just like God does. That is why Paul admonished us to, “Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil” (1 Thes. 5:21-22). Hatred of evil causes people to abandon every practice of evil and to avoid its mere appearance. This includes the evil of self-righteousness which is the ugliest form of pride. Religious pride is self-exalting and people debasing. It makes people think that they are good when they are inherently wicked. Self-righteousness turns believers into Pharisees and sets them on an equal path to hell as Jesus proclaimed (Mt. 23:15).
So what are we to do when we see our hypocrisy, when truth and evil collide in our very bosoms? We need to apply three truths to our lives. The first is to do a thorough job of repenting. Fall at Jesus’ feet and plead for forgiveness and character transformation. We are powerless to change ourselves for good by ourselves. By living a lifestyle of repentance, we will keep a tender heart before God so that He can reprove us as necessary. To live a lifestyle of repentance we must be quick to repent which produces the desire to straighten out the crooked areas of our lives and correct our erroneous ways of thinking.
Next, we must become good students of the Word so that we know, love and live the truth. When we know the truth, we will be able to discern good and evil so we can apply the truth to all of life, not just in matters of faith. By knowing the Word we can develop an authentic Christian worldview that can empower us to stand against all the lies and assaults of hell.
Finally, we must become true lovers of God. Those who are lovers of God will fear God and be passionate about knowing and living the truth. Anyone who loves God will hate lies. Since God is Truth, He is the author of truth and speaks nothing but truth (Jn. 14:6). When we truly love God we will love, practice and promote the truth. It cannot be otherwise.
“Jesus wants to bless you like He blessed me. All you need to do is come forward and say a little prayer with me.”
I was half listening to the woman giving her testimony and half watching the expressionless faces of those I was serving food to. My husband, Glenn and I were helping with an outreach in Phoenix just a few days before Christmas. The event was planned by an organization whose purpose is to meet the needs of low income families and present the gospel “after their stomachs were full.” This outreach was being done in an empty lot in the heart of the city and the turnout was very good. Flyers had been handed out a few days before advertising a free meal and Christmas presents for all children attending.
“Let me tell you about what Jesus did for me,” the woman with the microphone continued. “Before I got saved, I had a terrible marriage. My husband was no good. But then I got saved and Jesus got rid of my old husband and gave me a new one and this one is ten years younger than the old one! He can do the same for you! Just come forward and pray a little prayer with me.”
My eyes shot over to the area where the children’s gifts were stacked high. No, none of them looked big enough to contain a new, young husband. Maybe she had a catalog and every woman in the crowd that came forward to say the prayer would be able to place their order. This was perhaps the worst presentation of the gospel I had ever heard. It grieved the heart of God and it is very doubtful that any true salvations occurred that day. What has happened to Christianity in the West that people can think this kind of invitation is attractive or necessary to bring people to Christ?
A few years ago I was at a flea market and came across a man demonstrating the amazing Wizamatic Vegetable Chopper. A small crowd had gathered and right before our eyes he made salsa in less than five minutes by just throwing the vegetables under the gadget and pushing down on the plunger a few times. He asked the group of us that had gathered what we would expect to pay for such a valuable kitchen appliance. Before he told us the price though he showed us how easy the Wizamatic was to clean, told us all the ways we could use it and assured us that we would need to find a new hobby because we would be cutting our meal preparation time by half. Still he would not tell us the price because today, just for us, he was going to throw in a professional paring knife (the kind used by trained chefs) and an all vinyl designer cover for the chopper.
I don’t know what happened to me. I have never fallen for these kitchen gadgets before but for some reason that day I believed the salesman when he said this vegetable chopper would make my life easier. And besides, even if the Wizamatic did not live up to its claims at least I would still have the professional paring knife and designer cover. I took my gadget home and used it with satisfaction the first and second weeks but by the third week I was thinking that either I had a disease that was causing my arm muscles to deteriorate or the blades on the chopper were getting very dull. By the fifth week I knew what my new hobby would be: weight lifting. Finally the blades were so dull I could cut nothing but ripe tomatoes so I stored my Wizamatic away and threw out the paring knife that was badly bent from use in less time than it took for the chopper to go dull. I had been taken in. I should have known the chopper was not valuable because other items had to be thrown in with the deal before anyone would buy it.
Haven’t we done the same thing with “selling” Jesus? This woman at the outreach was trying to make Jesus more appealing to her audience by throwing in other tempting items. She assumed that the women in the crowd would not take her up on her offer to pray a little prayer unless she spiced up the deal with a new man. Not only that but her “testimony” spoke of a God that responds like our culture – if you can’t get along with your spouse what you need is a new one. The tragedy is if these women would have agreed to say a prayer only because “today, just for them” a new husband was going to be thrown in with the deal, they would not have experienced true conversion. The only way for the lost to be found is for them to see that they are in desperate need of a Savior and are willing to forsake all to follow Him.
The injustice being done to the Savior and to the lost is obvious here because this example is so extreme. However, as I have thought back on my own witness to people, I’ve found that I am guilty too. How many times have I felt that I had to spice up the gospel to make it more desirable to people? In doing this I led them to believe that Jesus is not enough so I have to throw in His blessings with the deal. This can easily happen when we share our testimony (which we should be doing). The problem is we can often communicate the message that the best thing about Jesus is His assets. The best thing about Jesus is Jesus!
In John chapter 4, we are told the story about Jesus encountering the woman at the well, a woman who was thirsty for more than just water. In verses 13 and 14 Jesus said to this woman; “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”
I believe that Jesus was comparing this woman’s need of water to the deeper spiritual need in her. In essence, he was saying to her; “You keep coming to this well because your thirst is never quenched; in the same way, you keep getting a new man to try and satisfy your spiritual thirst but that also leaves you thirsty and unsatisfied. What I have to give is like living water that always abides in you. No longer will you have to keep coming to the well of human affection to try to get some temporary relief. But I will abide in you so that you will never thirst again.”
Notice Jesus did not offer her anything but Himself; not a new man, not a better situation, nor more material possessions. He exposed her need and offered Himself as the answer. This is consistent throughout the New Testament whether it is a one on one encounter or a sermon to the multitude. Jesus and his disciples preached a pure and simple gospel to people who were weary, broken and guilty – those who wanted to be reconciled to God. This gospel demanded that those who choose this road be willing to forsake all to follow the Savior with no extras thrown in.
Those first preachers did not spice up the deal or promise people a happy life. If their message was refused then they prayed for more power – but they did not compromise the message. This is where we fail. When people are not coming into the Kingdom through Biblical preaching or personal evangelism, we feel we must make the gospel more appealing by listing the many benefits that may go along with the deal. Instead we need to take the example of the early church; abandon ourselves to Jesus, pray and be filled with the Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that does the work of drawing and convicting. If at least one of these things is not evident when speaking of Christ then either the Holy Spirit is not full in us or He is not drawing the person we are speaking to. Either way, it’s when nothing is happening that we are often tempted to resort to other methods like promising things we should not to get people’s attention.
I have been trying in the last few years to be more careful about how I present Jesus to those who do not know Him. I try to talk about Him rather than talk about what He has given me. I was speaking about Jesus to a young woman named Kia a few months ago. She told me that the “Christian thing” had not worked for her even though she said “that prayer.” When I questioned her further I found that she had been led to believe that she could just say a little prayer, then God was obligated to make all her dreams come true and in addition she would receive a guaranteed ticket to heaven. I showed her from Scripture that being a Christian meant surrendering your life completely to Jesus and that she could not have a Savior if she did not want a Lord.
Kia confessed that she still wanted to practice her sin so I was able to convince her that she was not a Christian and to not to let anyone tell her otherwise. She understands now that He will only accept her prayer of repentance when she becomes desperate for a pardon for her many crimes against the Savior and is so sick of her life that she is willing to trade it in for another – one under Christ’s control. I ended the conversation by saying, “Kia, knowing Jesus makes me complete, quenching my deepest needs and surpassing anything this world has to offer. If you only knew Him you would fall in love with Him too – you just can’t help it once you gaze upon His beauty and goodness.” Before we parted Kia seemed genuinely interested in finding out the truth about God and promised me that she would begin to read the gospels to learn who this Jesus really was.
Someone had tried to sell Jesus to Kia by spicing up the deal with “testimonies” and false promises because they mistakenly thought it would make Christianity more desirable. One look at the places in the world where true Christianity is flourishing quickly dismantles this wrong view. Why is it that nations experiencing persecution are the ones seeing so many radical conversions? What kind of testimonies do they have to share? “I came to Jesus and my family forsook me. I lost my job, I now live in poverty and may soon go to prison for preaching the gospel.” There is nothing in the natural about this kind of testimony that would appeal to people yet they are flooding into the Kingdom. Could it be that what people really want to know is if this Jesus is worth losing all to follow? We must demonstrate with our words and our lives that Jesus is the prize above all prizes; no gift or blessing can ever compare to knowing Him. For a world that keeps going to the well and still finds itself thirsty; the answer has not changed it is still Jesus – Him alone.
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.
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.