Fight for Joy! Blog
Where Jesus Changes Everything
"For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one great, He swore by Himself, saying, „I will surely bless you and I will surely multiply you.‟ And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise… [Therefore], we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner" (Hebrews 6:13-14, 18-20). Perhaps one of the most important questions one can ask is, how can we know which book or writing that claims to be the Word of God really is what it claims to be? There are literally thousands of religions in the world today, nearly all of which have their own so called sacred writings. I believe that the only way to know which book or sacred writing is the Word of God is to ask a very simple question. Which one requires steadfast assurance over blind faith? The answer for me is clear—only the Bible. Any other book or writing that claims to be the Word of God or an additional testament of Christ all have one thing in common—they all require blind faith. One of them requires a so called burning in the bosom. But only the Bible offers steadfast assurance that it and it alone is truly the Word of the true and living God—to the exclusion of all other books or writings that claim to be such! This steadfast assurance comes from the precise fulfillment of past prophecies. In fact, the God of the Bible is so certain that only the Bible and He alone can accurately predict future events, that He challenges anyone to put Him to the test: "I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, „My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure‟" (Isaiah 46:9-10). Here God challenges us to recall all the past history of fulfilled biblical prophecies—all of which are ample evidence that He alone is God and the Bible alone is His Word.
Mark Hitchcock says, "In order to accurately predict the future, one must be omniscient (know everything), omnipresent (be present everywhere), and omnipotent (possess all power). The true [God] must know all things, must be present at all times and places, and must possess all power so as to make sure the prediction is fulfilled. Only the true God [of the Bible] meets these prerequisites, so only He can accurately forecast the future. He has proven His ability to tell the future by compiling a 100 percent track record." And because of this 100 percent track record of fulfilled prophecies, we can rest assured with steadfast assurance that the remaining prophecies of the Bible yet unfulfilled will be fulfilled just as literally and completely as those that have already been fulfilled. Today, there are so many end-times related prophecies converging that it is hard to keep up with it all. These prophecies deal with the rise of the European super-state, the Israeli-Palestinian problem including the whole peace process, the worldwide economic problems, the march towards globalism and some type of global governance, and the gathering storm clouds concerning Iran‟s quest to obtain nuclear weapons coupled with their threats to wipe Israel off the map. Jesus, speaking about these things said, "So you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door" (Matt. 24:33). In other words, know that the Bible is truly God‟s Word and His return is very near.
Clearly, the Bible has an unparalleled, unrivaled track record. No other book or writing that claims to be God‟s Word comes close. No other so called prophet can measure up. The Bible has "written by God" all over it. Fulfilled prophecy proves once and for all that the Bible and it alone, is the Word of the true and living God! So my question is this: With all the evidence, why would anyone be so ignorant to continue to pursue, with blind and useless faith, a book, religion or belief system that has been clearly shown to be false? I simply do not understand it. Why would anyone base their whole eternal future on blind faith? Why would anyone cling to a so called "burning in the bosom" or any other feeling rather than on the steadfast assurance that the Bible and it alone is God‟s full, complete and final revelation of Himself to you and me? The writer of Hebrews says, "This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner" (Heb. 6:19-20). His point is simply this: The Bible is God‟s Word and Jesus Christ is who He claimed to be—the Son of God, God in human flesh, and our only hope for forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life. If you have not previously done so, my challenge to you is that you believe the promises of Scripture and receive the free gift of eternal life in Christ. "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name" (John 1:12).
"Daniel answered before the king and said, 'As for the mystery about which the king has inquired, neither wise men, conjurers, magicians nor diviners are able to declare it to the king. However, there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in the latter days. This was your dream and the visions in your mind while on your bed. As for you, O king, while on your bed your thoughts turned to what would take place in the future; and He who reveals mysteries has made known to you what will take place'" (Daniel 2:27-29). Current events in our world—financial upheaval, nuclear tensions between Iran and the West, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process—continue to cause many to wonder what the future holds. Will there be peace or will there be war? Too many, it seems a mystery. Thankfully, God has not left His people in darkness. Daniel reminds us, "There is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries." When it comes to prophecy, Daniel is to the Old Testament what Revelation is to the New Testament. It reveals God’s plan for the future, particularly when it comes to Gentile world powers ruling over Israel. The mysteries revealed to King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2 concern five world empires in succession that would rule over Israel. The fifth world empire is really a revival of the fourth. Daniel 2 presents these empires as parts of a statue while Daniel 7 presents them as four great beasts. These empires are Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, and a revived form of Rome. Chapter 2 describes a stone picturing Christ at His second coming. This stone destroys the fourth empire in its revived phase with sudden and unexpected destruction (see 1 Thess. 5:3). It is also interesting to note that Daniel describes a world leader who will arise out of this revived Rome in the last days. According to Daniel 9:27, this leader will seemingly do what no other world leader has been able to do—bring peace to the Middle East, between Israel and her enemies.
Amazingly, we see this scenario unfolding today. We see the old Roman Empire literally ascending from the ash-heap of history as nations who were once under her influence come back together in an economic, political, and soon to be military alliance. This area of the world is referred to today as the European and Mediterranean Unions. Not only that, but the whole world seems to be interested in Jerusalem, Israel and the Middle East. Furthermore, the recent economic upheaval, and the recent meetings of world leaders at the U.N. have clearly shown that the nations of the world are marching lock-step towards globalism and some form of global governance. Even the one world leader indicated his willingness to bring one country under some form of a world governing body (with himself at the helm, of course) when he said, "In an era where our destiny is shared, power is no longer a zero-sum game. No world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will succeed." This is the same individual who said, "We have been speaking directly to people around the world, including our friends across the Muslim world, with whom we launch new beginnings based on mutual interests and mutual respect … This spirit of partnership is a defining feature of our foreign policy." Bill Koenig, speaking of this, said, "This spirit of partnership seems a lot like the spirit of the Antichrist in paving the way for a new one-world order based on a utopian idea of serving the idealist for his ideals." This is amazing, as the "God in heaven who reveals mysteries," tells us in Daniel 7:24-25, that such a leader that will arise among other leaders in the last days. This is not to suggest that this particular individual is the long awaited Antichrist of the last days. The Scriptures are clear that when he comes on the scene, he will arise out of the old Roman Empire—Western Europe of today. But it does illustrate how mind-bogglingly close we really are to this period of history.
So what does all this mean? First of all, we see that God not only knows the future but He controls it. Therefore, as believers, we need not worry or lose sleep over the things that are coming upon this world—we just need to preach Jesus! Secondly, and this is the best part—at some point before this last days leader arises, the Bible tells us that Jesus will come for His own—the Church: "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord" (1 Thess. 4:15-17). This event, known as the Rapture, may very well happen today! Are you ready to meet the Lord in the air? If not, then forsake your sin and embrace the free gift of eternal life Christ offers to all who will believe. Time is quickly running out!
"There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death"(Proverbs 14:12). A popular Country and Western song from the early 80’s, entitled, "How Can it Be Wrong When it Feels So Right," encapsulates the thinking of most today when it comes to truth. It seems most people are content to determine truth based on how they feel rather than on what God says. But such foolishness and short-sightedness is extremely dangerous, not only in this life, but the life to come. What we do on this earth—the decisions we make, the things we embrace, that which we treasure—has eternal consequences that will result in either reward or misery. Now don’t misunderstand. It is not the things we do that determine our eternal destiny. But they do demonstrate whether or not we belong to the King! Following Christ is not easy. In fact, it can be extremely difficult. This is why Paul writes, "Fight the good fight of faith" (2 Tim. 6:12). Salvation calls for knowledge of the truth, repentance, submission to Christ as Lord, and a willingness to obey His will and Word. We must choose wisely! As the writer of Proverbs says, "There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death."
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus concludes His "Sermon on the Mount" with a Gospel application—He presents two gates, two ways, two destinations, two groups of people, two kinds of trees, and two kinds of fruit; two groups at the judgment, and two kinds of builders, building on two kinds of foundations. John MacArthur, commenting on this says, "[Jesus] is drawing the line as clearly as possible between the way that leads to destruction and the way that leads to life." So the warning is pretty clear—some ways might appear to be a smooth, obstacle free, rose lined pathway—but in the end, it is the way of death! The way leading to destruction is not normally marked by a huge neon sign that identifies it as the way of death. That is why we need a standard by which to measure life and make wise choices. God has given us such a standard—the Bible. The Bible is truth. Every single word from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21 is truth. Not only that, but Jesus Christ is the very embodiment of truth. After all, He did claim to be "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). Since the Bible has proven itself to be of Divine origin and true in every respect, there really is no debate when it comes to truth. There is however, a choice. One may be completely convinced that a certain thing is right. They may feel its "rightness" with all their heart. The tragedy lies in that "its end is the way of death." Death here means not just physical death which we all will one day experience, but spiritual death and separation from God and the joys of heaven. Its end is an eternal misery and suffering that the mind of man cannot even begin to fathom—"But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Rev. 21:8).
I was looking at a certain group’s website recently. I’m not going to lend credence to this group by naming them here. But I will say they claim to be a fellowship of believers although they deny the truth of God’s Word. On their website is an article entitled, "Reading the Bible with New Eyes." What it ought to be called is, "Reading the Bible with Blind Eyes." Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, "And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." Satan has been so successful in blinding many to the truth that they cannot see and understand that they have chosen the way of death—that they are right now, this very moment, perishing! And it all started in the beginning, when he asked the woman, "Has God said?" He followed that question up with a blatant lie, "You surely shall not die!" The stakes are indeed high. The consequences of our decisions in this life are infinitely eternal, and time is quickly running out. Which way will you choose? "There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death" (Prov. 14:12).
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith’”(Romans 1:16-17). We live in an age of remarkable theological and biblical confusion. It amazes me the number of professing Christians I meet who cannot articulate the Gospel as presented in the Scriptures. It seems everyone has an opinion as to how one comes to be in a right relationship with God. Sadly, a majority of these folks have missed the mark when it comes to believing the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. Notice I used the words, “true Gospel.” That is because it is imperative that one believes the true Gospel of Jesus Christ in order to be saved. Anything less will result in eternal separation from God. I write often on the true Gospel and the exclusivity of the true Gospel. This is because, like Paul, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel.” I understand and believe that it and it alone “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” So the question remains: Are you sure that you believe the true Gospel of Jesus Christ? I ask that question in the present tense because “believe,” when used of salvation, almost always occurs in the present tense, meaning that faith is not simply a one-time event, but an ongoing condition.
The true Gospel of Jesus Christ is exclusive. Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). This is an astounding statement. John MacArthur, speaking of this says, “Both the narrow gate and the wide gate are assumed to provide entrance to God’s kingdom. Two ways are offered to people. The narrow gate is by faith, only through Christ, constricted and precise. It represents true salvation in God’s way that leads to life eternal. The wide gate includes all religions of works and self-righteousness, with no single way, but it leads to hell, not heaven.” This is why the true Gospel is unique, distinct, and exclusive. The reality of this Gospel is that “it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” This is why Paul was “eager to preach the gospel” (Romans 1:15). And it is why I write so often on this subject—so many are confused and deceived when it comes to matters of salvation. What a tragedy it must be for a person to live his or her entire life convinced that they are on their way to heaven because of the church they attend, the confirmation certificate they hold, the Communion they partake of, the money they give, or the so called good works they perform. I tremble when I consider the utter darkness that many are in as a result of their enslavement to any number of the false religious systems we find in the world today. Oh, that those of us who truly believe would be “eager to preach the gospel.”
The Gospel, which means “good news,” refers to the good news about Jesus Christ. In the technical sense, it is “the power of God to salvation to all who believe.” But how does the Gospel save? Or to put it another way, what does it mean to believe? The Gospel does not announce that everyone will be saved because of what Jesus has done. That would be Universalism. The Gospel is only effective for those who believe it. The Bible mentions no other condition for eternal salvation other than believing the Gospel. The New Testament teaches, in more than 160 instances, that eternal life comes as a result of faith alone in Christ alone. But what precisely must one believe about the Gospel in order to be saved? The key is the content, not quality of faith. It is not believing in and of itself that saves. It is believing the right thing! Believing that Jesus is the Son of God, died on a cross, rose again, is a member of the Trinity, and saves, does not necessarily result in salvation. I must understand the Gospel and the truth about Christ. This is known as knowledge. This would include the historic facts about the person and work of Christ (see Romans 10:14-17). Secondly, I must be convinced that these historic facts (knowledge) about Christ are true. I must believe that Jesus is able to do what He said he could do – forgive sins and guarantee eternal life! This is known as assent to Christ and might be described as the emotional element (see Romans 6:17). Finally, I must whole-heartedly commit myself to Jesus Christ. This is known as commitment or volition (see Romans 4:3). So, to put it another way, I must believe I am a sinner in need of a Savior. I must believe that Jesus Christ alone paid the debt of my sin by His death and resurrection. I must trust Him alone to forgive my sin and give me the free gift of eternal life. And finally, my life must give evidence that I have been saved, as genuine faith will always produce authentic obedience. In other words, I must forsake my sin. Are you sure of your salvation? “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we are saved” (Acts 4:12).
“Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at Your presence—As fire kindles the brushwood, as fire causes water to boil—To make Your name known to Your adversaries, that the nations may tremble at Your presence! When You did awesome things which we did not expect, You came down; the mountains quaked at Your presence. For from days of old they have not heard or perceived by ear, nor has the eye seen a God besides You, who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him” (Isaiah 64:1-4). The Scriptures are replete with examples of God acting in behalf of His people. In the Old Testament, we find Him intervening time and time again in behalf of His chosen people—the Jews. In the New Testament, we find Him acting in behalf of a new race of people—the Church. As I read the accounts of God acting in behalf of His people, the one thing that always strikes me is the experience of God’s presence as He acts. For His people, the experience is always one of awe and protection. For the enemies of His people, the experience is always one of dread.In Isaiah 64:1-4, we find God’s chosen people—the Jews—pleading with the Lord to demonstrate His power as He did in the earlier days of Israel’s history. Their plea is in response to their own assessment of themselves in the last verse of chapter 63: “We have become like those over whom You have never ruled, like those who were not called by Your name.” So they plea for the Lord to “rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at Your presence.”
I recently had the experience of living through a magnitude 6.4 earthquake. Everything under and around me was shaking. It was a truly amazing experience; one that I was glad quickly came to an end. It’s no wonder that such events strike fear in many who experience them. And perhaps this is why Israel pleaded for God to act in such a way in their behalf—that they might experience the awe and protection of His presence and that their enemies would experience the dread of His presence. In Psalm 18, David prayed for God to deliver him from the hand of his enemies. David records, “Then the earth shook and quaked; and the foundations of the mountains were trembling and were shaken, because He was angry” (18:7). God responded on David’s behalf in such a way that he was able to write, “He sent from on high, He took me; He drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me…He brought me forth also into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me” (Psalm 18:16, 19). God’s sheer power was displayed so dramatically that David experienced the protection of God’s presence while his enemies experienced utter dread and destruction. The manifestations of God’s presence are unique. According to Isaiah 64:4, no one has witnessed the likes of His awesome works on behalf of His own people: “For from days of old they have not heard or perceived by ear, nor has the eye seen a God besides You, who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him.” We serve a mighty and awesome God who has promised to be with us and protect us, no matter what—even if such protection involves bringing us safely home to be with Him. In other words, He protects us against our enemies in both life and death. Death, after all, is our greatest enemy. But we need not fear. Christ has already triumphed over the grave!
Whether one is speaking of God’s chosen people—the Jews—or His new race of people—the Church—God acts in behalf of both. Our generation has witnessed Him acting in behalf of the Jews as He has begun bringing them from the four corners of the earth back into their covenant land. He has thwarted every attempt of Israel’s enemies to destroy the Jewish state, striking dread in them when necessary. This in and of itself is overwhelming evidence that the Messiah—the Lord Jesus Christ—will one day soon reign gloriously on David’s throne and over His Kingdom. Furthermore, the evidence is clear that He will one day soon rescue His new race of people—the Church—from His wrath that He is about to pour out on an unbelieving and rebellious world—an event that will surely strike dread in the hearts of those left behind. So the question you must answer is, “Am I ready?” Christ will return for His Church at any moment. That moment may very well be today. If you have not previously done so, receive God’s free gift of forgiveness and eternal life before it is too late. "For thus says the LORD of hosts, 'Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land’” (Haggai 2:6).
“But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called” (1 Timothy 6:11-12a). In August of this year, the Southwest Believers’ Convention assembled in Forth Worth, Texas. The meeting was hosted by Kenneth and Gloria Copeland and included an “all-star” lineup of various prosperity gospel preachers. Prosperity theology, also known as the word of faith movement, is a belief system that teaches that God provides material prosperity for those He favors. It is often used by its promoters to elicit donations, as was the case with the Southwest Believers’ Convention. It is not unusual for prosperity preachers to own large houses, expensive cars, airplanes, jewelry, boats, and a whole lot of other stuff. In fact, the whole system revolves around material possessions and good health. One thing you will never hear from a prosperity gospel preacher is the true Gospel of Jesus Christ—why Jesus came and what one must do to be saved.
The prosperity gospel is nothing new. Paul confronted it head-on in his first letter to Timothy: “But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Tim. 6:9-10). Notice the Bible doesn’t condemn money. Money isn’t the problem. The problem is one of the heart—“those who want to get rich.” In other words, the desire for material wealth is far more dangerous than the wealth itself. Furthermore, the notion that God provides material prosperity for those He favors is deceptively deadly. It is deadly because having material wealth and good health doesn’t necessarily imply God’s favor. The opposite is also true. Being poor doesn’t necessarily imply godliness. There are numerous examples in the Bible of godly men who were unbelievably rich—Abraham, David, and Solomon. There are just as many, if not more, godly men who were materially poor—Lazarus from Jesus’ story about the rich man and Lazarus, as well as most of the disciples.
The true Gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of suffering. In fact, Jesus bids us to leave all that we have and come follow Him (Mark 10:21). It is a call to a sold out faith and obedience to Christ. This is why Paul says to “flee” from the desire for riches and material possessions. Instead, we are to “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.” He describes this as “the good fight of faith,” and “[taking] hold of the eternal life to which you were called.” I recently witnessed this kind of faith and obedience firsthand. Allow me to introduce you to Brother Herman. Bro. Herman and his wife are from Europe. Following God’s call to missions nearly twenty years ago, they literally left all that they had—good jobs, good retirement, even medical and life insurance—and came to another land to establish Siloam, a home for orphaned, abandoned and terminally ill children. He seeks to provide a home for any needy child, no questions asked. And the amazing thing is he does it entirely on faith. He never asks anyone for anything other than prayer. When asked what donations he might need, he refuses to ask for a single item. Instead, he humbly asks, “If you have the time, pray for us—the most important gift you can give us is prayer.” There is no hint of prosperity theology here. Meeting Bro. Herman absolutely transformed my life. This guy oozes Jesus! He is fighting “the good fight of faith.” Nearly every testimony he shares about God’s faithfulness and provision is prefaced by the words, “To be very honest…” His simple faith in God is contagious.
The prosperity preachers are liars, cheats, and frauds who misuse God’s Word because they think it is an avenue to riches. When the Gospel is presented in this way, it makes followers who are completely unprepared for tough times and have no idea what true Christianity is. To be very honest, we need to see Christians who are more concerned with what glorifies God than with what benefits me. So which Gospel do you choose to believe—the one that promises health, wealth and prosperity and ends in hell or the one that requires faith, promises suffering, but ends in heaven with Christ and joys immeasurable?
You are welcome to leave comments and you don't have to necessarily agree with me. However, I expect a civil tone and charitable spirit. We can disagree with one another without being disagreeable. "Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt." (Colossians 4:6)
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