Fight for Joy! Blog
Where Jesus Changes Everything
“Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times?”(Matthew 16:3) We use the phrase down to the wire for any situation which is tense because its outcome may not be decided until the very last moment. However, when it comes to end-times Bible prophecy, the outcome is clear. The question is simply when? Personally, I believe when is a whole lot closer than most people are willing to believe. Few of us realize the lateness of the hour. Many in the Church have ignored the Bible’s warning concerning the end-times and, as a result, have no idea how to “discern the signs of the times.” I believe, based on Scripture and current events, that it is overwhelmingly clear we are nearing the end of the Church Age. The birth-pains Jesus described in Matthew 24 indicate that Daniel’s Seventieth Week will soon begin (see Daniel 9:24-27). However, before this prophesied seven year period can start, the Church must be removed. Therefore, if Daniel’s Seventieth Week is on the near horizon, how much closer then is the Rapture of the Church? It is mind-bogglingly close!
If the return of Christ for His Church is as close as many prophecy teachers believe it is, me included, what should we as believers do? I believe we must raise the bar in our walk with Christ. This is not the time to get lazy, max out your credit cards, and cruise on into heaven. No, now is the time to get more serious than ever about your walk with Christ. One reason I believe this is because I also believe that persecution against followers of Christ will increase as the time of our departure nears. We are already seeing this. Satan will stop at nothing to suppress God’s truth. One of his primary ways of doing this is through silencing Christians. One example of this clever deception is the recently signed hate-crimes law. Regardless of what its supporters want you to believe, its ultimate purpose will be to silence anyone who opposes the abhorrent lifestyles it claims to protect. Therefore, in order to prepare for the coming increase in persecution it is imperative we raise the bar in our walk with Christ. To begin with, we must pursue holiness with a passion. 1 John 3:2 says, “It has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.” Since we are going to be like Him, which includes both physical changes of the resurrection body and spiritual changes of purity, no sin, and righteousness, let’s be as much like Him now as we can. In fact, John goes on to write, “And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as he is pure” (1 John 3:3). This raises another very important issue—that of false hope. I know far too many people who think they are right with God because they walked a church aisle but whose lives today give little evidence they belong to Christ. Paul said, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith” (2 Cor. 13:5). Secondly, we need to go to our knees in prayer. We should be praying for His will to “be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). Thirdly, we must raise the bar on personal and corporate Bible study. By this, I mean the verse-by-verse study of God’s Word. Our goal in life ought to be to know God as intimately as possible this side of glory. The only way that is going to happen is through careful Bible study and concerted prayer. Finally, we must preach Jesus. By preach Jesus, I mean share the gospel one on one and corporately. Jesus said, “You shall be My witnesses” (Acts 1:8). If the Rapture occurred today, how many of your family, friends, and loved ones would be left behind? What are you doing about it? Hopefully, you are going to your knees in concerted prayer and preaching the Gospel of our glorious Savior, Jesus Christ!
Our duty and calling in these last days, as we recognize the signs of the times in which we live, is to stand firm on behalf of the Lord. Paul wrote, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58). He repeated this in the next chapter, “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (1 Cor. 16:13). I can think of no better advice for those of us so fortunate to live during the most exciting time in history—the time leading up to the return of Christ for His Church. There is no better time to raise the bar in our walk with Christ. There is no better time to “proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9). When it comes to the end-times, we are coming down to the wire. Therefore, make sure you are ready to meet the Lord in the air! “Fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:13).
“Though Edom says, ‘We have been beaten down, but we will return and build up the ruins’; thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘They may build, but I will tear down; and men will call them the Territory of Wickedness, and the people toward whom the Lord is indignant forever’” (Malachi 1:4). The Rapture of the Church is upon us! Surely the return of the Lord is near. At least that’s the way I feel every time I read or hear about another news report coming out of the Middle East. It seems every major event prophesied for the last days regarding the Seventieth Week of Daniel and the return of the Lord is converging so quickly, I can hardly keep up. Consider this recent news headline: The Palestinians are ready to declare the peace process a failure and name a Palestinian state unilaterally. Several news agencies are reporting, “The Palestinian Authority is mobilizing international support for declaring statehood. Palestinians will bring the issue to a vote before the United Nations Security Council, which would declare a Palestinian state on the 4 June 1967 border with Israel.” This is utterly amazing as it fits quite nicely with the prophetic scenario for the last days.
The Prophet Daniel indicated the last days would see numerous Middle East peace proposals, none of which would be working (see Dan. 9:27). There have been several treaties, accords, and other proposals put forth in recent years to try and solve the Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab problems. No plan has thus far succeeded in ending these conflicts. The recent announcement by the Palestinian Authority that the peace process is a failure and that they will ask the United Nations to recognize their unilateral declaration of a Palestinians State is, to quote Dr. Jimmy DeYoung, “a page out of Bible prophecy for the last days.” The Bible is very clear that the Palestinians will do this. They will, according to Malachi and Ezekiel, return to take God’s Covenant Land from the Jewish people, thus setting up their boarders which God calls, “the Territory of Wickedness.” Ezekiel 35:10-12 says the Palestinian people (the Edomites in Biblical times) will say, “These two nations and these two lands will be mine, and we will possess them.” As a result, God says, “Therefore as I live, I will deal with you according to your anger and according to your envy which you have showed because of your hatred against [the Jewish people]; so I will make Myself known among them when I judge you.” The Palestinians are doomed because of their scheme to snatch control of Israel and God’s Covenant Land. They have never been interested in peace or a “two state solution.” Their only interest and their primary goal is Israel’s destruction and a single State of Palestine. They may try to declare their fantasy state unilaterally. They may succeed for a time in building their “Territory of Wickedness.” But God will, according to Malachi, negate their efforts. Israel, on the other hand, will be fully and completely restored to their Covenant Land. This will ultimately take place when Christ returns to this earth. Until then, we can expect to see an ongoing struggle, on the part of the Palestinians and Arabs, to destroy Israel, either by direct conflict or through diplomatic negotiation and unilateral declaration. But do not be deceived. “They may build, but [God] will tear down.” This is the Word of the Lord!
This whole scenario is definitely setting the stage for the end-times. The prophetic scenario found in the Bible will be played out. In fact, it is being played out right before our eyes. This is a prophetic flash point that could descend the Middle East into war literally overnight. In fact, the Prophet Obadiah seems to indicate such a war between Israel and the Palestinians is on the near horizon. “Then the house of Jacob will be a fire and the house of Joseph a flame; but the house of Esau will be as stubble. And they will set them on fire and consume them, so that there will be no survivor of the house of Esau” (Obad. 1:18). The house of Jacob and Joseph is, of course, Israel. The house of Esau is the Palestinians of today. Israel will be victorious and the Palestinians utterly destroyed. There is no way around this conclusion as this is what the Bible teaches for the last days. The question is when all this will take place. Only God knows but all indications point to a near fulfillment. Therefore, make sure you are ready to meet the Lord in the air. keep your focus on the Lord Jesus and His soon return for His Church. “But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28). “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).
"And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death" (Revelation 12:11). As we near the end of the age, persecution and even martyrdom of Christians will increase dramatically. Those of us living in the United States won’t be exempt. In fact, we are already witnessing an increase in persecution. The time to prepare for this eventual reality is now. Make sure you are thoroughly grounded in the faith. Make sure you know what you believe and why you believe it. Make sure you are truly of the faith. Make sure you are an overcomer! Otherwise, when persecution comes—particularly persecution with the threat of death—you will run the risk of denying and bringing shame to the name of Christ. Such denial may indicate another reality—that you do not belong to Christ. Therefore, it is imperative that we understand what the Bible says about those who overcome. Revelation 12:11 give us three marks of an overcomer. All three are true in the life of one who has truly been saved by the grace of God through faith in the Son of God.
John writes, "And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb." In a previous article I pointed out the Greek word for overcame is the word nikao, meaning "to come off victorious." True Christians are, by nature, overcomers. But we don’t overcome in our own strength and energy. We overcome "because of the blood of the Lamb." Satan is our accuser. Yet, because of the blood of the Lamb, his accusations cannot stand. Paul wrote, "Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies" (Rom. 8:33). We are justified through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. The blood emphasizes the death of Jesus. He died so that we might live. We are forgiven because of His shed blood. No accusation can stand against those whose sins have been forgiven! Because Christ was victorious, His victory is our victory. So the first defining mark of an overcomer is that they belong to Christ, having been washed by the blood of the Lamb. Secondly, John writes that we overcome the enemy, "because of the word of [our] testimony." My testimony is not walking a church aisle and praying to receive Christ. My testimony is the fact that I have been born again by grace through faith and that I continue to walk in newness of life. In other words, my testimony is a changed life! I no longer embrace my sin, but rather, I embrace Christ! Your testimony overcomes Satan’s deception. Paul could write, "I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day" (2 Tim. 1:12). The writer of Hebrews echoed that truth by writing, "Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them" (Heb. 7:25). The King James says it this way: "He is able also to save them to the uttermost." We are saved to the uttermost! This is the testimony of the believer and it is this testimony we share with others and is the living evidence of a changed life. I cannot emphasize this changed life enough! Finally, John says we overcome because, "[we do] not love [our] life even when faced with death." Overcomers are willing to make any sacrifice, including death. Jesus said, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me" (Luke 9:23). Willingly dying for the cause of Christ is the ultimate in self-denial. Like Christ, we should all be willing to be "obedient to the point of death" (Phil. 2:8). However, self-denial begins with repenting of my sin and turning to Christ. It is an ongoing condition and lifestyle whereby I choose Christ over all else—especially self. Such a life is not easy but it is eternally rewarding. If we refuse to cling to our earthly lives, then there really is no threat Satan can bring against us. If the enemy kills you because of your faith in Christ, what else can they do (see Luke 12:4)?
To sum it all up, overcomers are first of all, saved. Secondly, they have a consistent testimony of a changed life. Finally, they would readily welcome death rather than to deny their Lord. So, the question is, are you an overcomer? Does your life give evidence of a changed life? Are you truly saved? If so, take hope in knowing that God will preserve you to the end—He is able and has saved you to the uttermost! If you are not saved, now is the time to give your life to Christ, receiving His free gift of forgiveness and eternal life. The Bible says, "How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?" (Heb. 2:3) God has provided "so great a salvation," so that through Christ we can overcome Satan, the flesh, and the world system. But it begins by simple faith in the crucified, risen, ascended, and soon returning Lord. "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).
"But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these" (2 Timothy 3:1-5). The world was stunned last week at the news out of Ft. Hood that a lone gunman fired several rounds, killing at least 13, and wounding many more. The very next day, a similar news story was reported out of Orlando when a gunman entered his former workplace, firing several rounds, killing one and wounding several others. Add these two events to past events of a similar nature and a clear message begins to emerge. We are living in the last days—the very last of the last days—just prior to the return of Christ for His Church.
Paul wrote to Timothy, "But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come." Why did the Holy Spirit inspire the Apostle to write these words? I’m sure the days in which Paul and Timothy lived could be described as difficult. After all, many were being persecuted and martyred for their faith. So what sets today’s "difficult times" apart from those of the first century? For the answer to that question, we need only look to the Greek word behind the English word, difficult. It is the Greek word, chalepos, meaning hard to bear, troublesome, dangerous, harsh, fierce, and savage. It occurs only one other time in the New Testament. "When He came to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs. They were so extremely violent that no one could pass by that way" (Matt. 8:28). The words translated "so extremely violent" is the same Greek word, chalepos, used in 2 Timothy 3:1. But Paul doesn’t have bad times in view here so much as he has evil people. In other words, he has the wicked, evil, and depraved ways of men in mind. And it all ties into men being "lovers of self." All the other sins he lists in this passage grow out of the sin of misplaced self-love. Furthermore, such savage, dangerous and evil men will increase in frequency and severity as the return of Christ draws near. Amazingly, many of these people will hold "to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power." In other words, many of them will be religious, as was the case with the Ft. Hood shooter. A few verses later he writes they are, "Always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Tim. 3:7). In his first letter to Timothy, Paul uses this same phrase to describe those who are being saved (see 1 Tim. 2:4). Paul’s message is clear—these difficult times will only grow worse. But it’s not the times so much as it is the people—evil people growing more evil by the day!
Our confused brethren who believe things are simply going to get better and better prior to Christ’s return would do well to read and believe these verses. Clearly, it’s only going to get worse. The rest of Paul’s second letter to Timothy underscores the fact that faithful believers will increasingly become targets of persecution and suffering at the hands of evil persons and a Christ-rejecting world (see 2 Tim. 3:12). All of this Paul indicates will increase until Jesus returns. Therefore, it is extremely crucial that as believers, we understand and embrace our hope—our future hope. Paul writes, "The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen" (2 Tim. 4:18). Regardless of what happens. Regardless of the ever increasing evil and wicked days in which we live. Regardless of the very evil people who will only grow more evil. God’s Word promises us that God will bring each of us who believes "safely to His heavenly kingdom." In other words, we are eternally secure in Him no matter what! Evil men may grow more evil. They may even succeed in persecuting and ultimately killing those of us who believe. But God will "bring [us] safely to His heavenly kingdom." In Luke 12:4, Jesus says, "I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do." If evil men succeed in killing me, that’s really all they can do. They cannot kill my soul as it belongs to the Lord and He has promised to bring me "safely to His heavenly kingdom." Therefore we need not fear! God is in control despite the ever increasing "difficult times" in which we live. And when necessary, the Holy Spirit will help you die. So keep on believing and praying for the soon return of Jesus Christ for His Church! "If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you" (1 Peter 4:14).
"As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, 'Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?'" (Acts 8:36) One of my faithful readers submitted a question concerning Christian Baptism. If you ask three different ministers you might get three different answers. Some argue baptism takes place by sprinkling or pouring water over a person’s head. Others say baptism must be by immersion. Some practice infant baptism while others insist one should only be baptized following their profession of faith. It seems everyone has an opinion. For this reason, we cannot appeal to history, tradition or church authority. If we are to do what is pleasing to God we must be faithful to the Word of God. Martin Luther (who practiced infant baptism) had this in mind when he said, "The church needs to rid itself of all false glories that torture Scripture by inserting personal conceits into the Scripture which lend it to their own sense. Scripture, Scripture, Scripture for me constrain, press, and compel me with God’s Word." I think that’s good advice for us all. Although water baptism has no saving merit I believe it is crucially important that we get it right. I believe this, not because I want to be divisive, but because I want to honor the Word of God and the God of the Word! But it seems to be today that the climate is such that one simply is not allowed to disagree with anyone without being considered as divisive and unloving and unkind. This is sad but is a risk I take in order to be faithful to my great God and Savior—Jesus Christ!
Let me say upfront that baptism by sprinkling or pouring is human in origin. There is simply no scriptural support for either practice. It appears these practices arose around A.D. 250. However, I should also add there is nowhere in the New Testament that explicitly commands or prohibits either practice. But the absence of a command or prohibition is not sufficient grounds for its practice, the reason being God’s Word clearly instructs us on Christian baptism. The word "baptism" in the New Testament is a transliteration of the Greek word "baptizo" (βαπτίζω), which very plainly means, "to dip, to immerse, to submerge." It was used to describe a ship that was sunk. I doubt pouring or sprinkling water onto a ship would result in its being sunk. Furthermore, forms of the word "baptizo" appear in various extra-biblical Greek writings where it consistently carries with it the idea of immersion. Another thing to note is that the Holy Spirit inspired the writers of the New Testament to use the word "baptizo" when referring to baptism. God does not have a speech impediment. Therefore, if the Holy Spirit had sprinkling or pouring in mind, there are Greek words He would have chosen to communicate such. Those who practice sprinkling and pouring have their "proof texts." However, none of the verses they site actually prove that sprinkling or pouring is a form of baptism. The baptism Jesus commands and the apostles and early church practiced is precisely what is indicated by the Greek word "baptizo": immersion! The book of Acts contains multiple accounts of baptism, and in every instance, the person being baptized was immersed. A thorough study of the New Testament reveals several important facts about the proper mode for Christian Baptism. John 3:23 tells us that baptism involved "much water." Acts 8:36 tells us "they came to some water." Verse 38 tells us, "They both went down into the water." Verse 39 says, "They came up out of the water." Colossians 2:12 declares, "Having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith," indicating baptism is a picture of our identification with Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. How in the world could sprinkling or pouring ever picture this? Every time I baptize someone, I will say (in addition to the Matthew 28:19 formula), "Buried with Christ in baptism; raised to walk in newness of life." Furthermore, in the first century church, baptism by immersion was obedience and obedience was the fruit of repentance. One’s first act of obedience following conversion was baptism by immersion. The new believer would stand before a watching world and declare their identification with Christ—His death, burial and resurrection—knowing that such identification might very well result in their martyrdom.
There are so many people who say, "Oh well. There are so many views of baptism. I don't want to make an issue out of it." Well, it is certainly not something over which we should divide. But it is important. It is important because we want to honor Christ and the Word of God. We want to be obedient to Christ’s command. The only way we can do that is through baptism by immersion according to the formula Jesus gave us in Matthew 28:19. Anything less is disobedience and disobedience is sin. James 4:17 says, "Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin." In spite of the biblical command, in spite of the New Testament mandate and clarity on the issue of Christian baptism, there is still wide-spread disobedience. All I can do is lay this on your conscience from the Lord Himself and trust that you'll do what is right. "Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?"
"Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, and makes me walk on my high places" (Habakkuk 3:17-19). Like this passage, Dennis Jernigan’s lyrics to "You are My All in All," capture the essence of what it means to treasure Christ above all. "You are my strength when I am weak, You are the treasure that I seek, You are my all in all. I’m seeking You like a precious jewel, Lord, to give up I’d be a fool. You are my all in all… Taking my cross, my sin, my shame, raising again I praise Your name; You are my all in all. When I fall down You pick me up, when I run dry you fill my cup; You are my all in all…" Sadly, many today treasure anything and everything rather than Christ. Equally as sad is the number of so called ministers who stand in pulpits across this land and preach a blasphemous message of health, wealth, and prosperity, rather than the greatest treasure of all—Jesus Christ. Jernigan says it well—I’d be a fool to seek anything other than Christ. Indeed, He is the treasure that I seek and pray you seek as well.
The prophet Habakkuk gives us one of many reasons found within Scripture to treasure Christ above all. He concludes his short book (only 3 chapters) with an "If everything goes south I will still trust in the Lord" scenario. This is a far cry from much of what we hear coming out of Christendom today. Much of what is being taught today says God wants you to be rich. He wants you to feel good about yourself. He wants you to live a life of ease, comfort, and pleasure. He wants you to own expensive cars, big houses, and maybe even a yacht and airplane. The problem with such thinking is twofold. First of all, it simply is not true. Secondly, when one treasures such temporal things and the bottom does drop out, their faith (if they even had any to start with) will spiral out of control, leaving them bitter and disillusioned. But when Christ is my treasure, "Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines…, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation." Habakkuk’s point is this—Treasure Christ above all! If everything collapses and I lose it all, I will still rejoice in and desire Christ. This is true hope and security. Such is not based on temporal blessings—stuff—but on the Lord Himself. This is the essence of treasuring Christ. Indeed, He is My all in All! If my focus is living by faith in the crucified, risen, ascended, and soon returning Lord—treasuring Christ above all—then I can say, "The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, and makes me walk on my high places." My faith in the Lord will enable me to endure difficulty, suffering, and even loss—tremendous pain and loss at that.
"I’m seeking You like a precious jewel, Lord, to give up I’d be a fool." I see a lot of fools these days and I’m not talking about "fools for Christ’s sake" (1 Cor. 4:10). I’m talking about those who seek earthly treasures over Christ. What treasure do you seek? Paul wrote, "I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord" (Phil. 3:8). Do you consider all things loss, your sin included, for the sake of knowing and treasuring Christ? Is Christ more important to you than life itself? "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain" (Phil. 1:21). The Psalmist wrote, "Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise you" (Ps. 63:3). What’s the point of all this? It is simple, really. Jesus is the goal. He is the prize. He is the treasure that we seek. Sadly however, many seek after that which will not satisfy. My heart grieves for those who follow after false prophets, false religious systems, and pseudo-Christianity thinking such things will bring them joy and guarantee eternal life. Furthermore, my heart breaks over those whom I know and care about who are seeking happiness by embracing sin rather than Christ. Jesus said, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Luke 12:34). If you treasure things your heart will be in things. If you treasure sin, your heart will be consumed with sin. If you treasure wealth, your heart will long for more and more. But if you treasure Christ, your heart will be satisfied with nothing less than Christ and Christ alone. Treasuring Christ guarantees satisfaction here and an eternal joy that simply cannot be described this side of heaven—"But just as it is written, things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who [treasure] Him" (1 Cor. 2:9). "You are the treasure that I seek, You are my all in all…to give up I’d be a fool."
“For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty… So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:16, 19-21). Many people believe that Bible prophecy is far too complicated to understand. Therefore, we should just leave it to the “experts.” Of course, these same people are often critical of the “experts,” insisting there’s plenty of work to be done for the Lord that one should not busy oneself with the study of prophecy. How stupid is that? Peter wrote, “So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention.” How can one “pay attention” to the “prophetic word made more sure,” if one refuses to consider it at all? It is sin and shortsightedness to neglect the study of prophecy! God has revealed His prophetic plan “to show His bondservants, the things which must soon take place” (Rev. 1:1). Furthermore, the Scripture declares, “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:10). These are not “cleverly devised tales,” but the clear revelation of Jesus Christ given by God so that we may know “the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” God expects us to study and understand prophecy because He is the author of prophecy and Jesus Christ “is the spirit of prophecy.”
The false teachers of Peter’s day tried their best to oppose him and debunk the clear biblical teaching of the Second Coming of Christ. We see the same thing today from within the professing church. “Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation’” (2 Pet. 3:3-4). The world’s rejection of the coming Messiah should not surprise us. But when we see such foolish thinking from within the ranks of those who profess Christ, it is alarming. I was informed recently about some people who have been reading my blog. I was told these people, although they profess Christ, took offense at the idea that Jesus is coming again. I use the phrase, “profess Christ,” loosely, as I believe these people have been deceived into believing a false hope because they think their false religious system is the one true church on earth. They scoff at God’s future plans, pretending to know the truth while denying judgment will ever come. The fact that Jesus is coming again—a lot sooner than most are willing to believe—is not “cleverly devised tales,” but the “prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention.” As the last days draw to a close the darkness of sin and blindness to the truth of God’s Word will increase. It is the “prophetic word made more sure,” that acts as “a lamp shining in a dark place.” It provides us with a security and hope that can never be taken away because this security and hope is the Lord Jesus Christ, Himself. This “prophetic word” refers to the entire Old Testament, all of which was written by prophets. They spoke the Word of the Lord and all looked forward to the coming Messiah. By referring back to the entirety of the Old Testament prophets, Peter is asserting the Word of God over experience. Our experience may lead us to conclude Jesus isn’t coming back anytime soon. After all, “all continues just as it was from the beginning,” or does it? You see, when one asserts such foolishness, “it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water” (2 Pet. 3:5-6). In other words, God has already directly intervened in human history twice—once at the Creation and another in judgment at the Flood of Noah (and a third time at Christ’s first coming). The conclusion is He will intervene yet another time at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
The fact that Israel is in existence today and increasing in stature indicates the last of the last days have begun. Daniel’s Seventieth Week is on the horizon, which means the Rapture of the Church is even closer! Furthermore, the alignment of nations, the anticipation for peace, the arrangements being made for the Jewish Temple, and the argument over Jerusalem are further evidences the Bible is God’s Word, its prophecies are true and literally coming to pass. “We have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place.” Therefore, it is crucial you be ready. Are you ready? If Jesus shouted from heaven today would you be caught up to meet Him in the air? Time is quickly running out. “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).
“For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died… Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come… Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God”(2 Corinthians 5:14-20). As Christians, we have the greatest message anyone will ever hear. Unfortunately, most of those who hear it will reject it. "We are ambassadors for Christ," meaning we represent the King of heaven with the His glorious Gospel. In his first letter to the Corinthian believers, Paul referred to this glorious Gospel as "the word of the cross," a foolish message to those who remain lost, yet the power of God to those of us who are being saved (see 1 Cor. 1:18). It is this foolish message we proclaim, "as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." Every time I share the Gospel with another, every time I stand in the pulpit to preach, every time I open the Bible to teach, I have this message in mind and my goal is always the same—to clearly and concisely preach Jesus, "namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself."
Why do I do this? "For the love of Christ controls [me]." The word translated "controls" is the Greek word, συνέχω (synechō), which basically means "to hold together, confine, secure, to hold fast." Its use throughout the New Testament is interesting. For example, it is used to describe the effect of the Word of God upon Paul in Acts 18:5: "Paul began devoting [synechō] himself completely to the word, solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ." In Acts 7:57, it is used to describe the response of those who refused to listen to the truth of the Gospel message preached by Stephen: "But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered [synechō] their ears and rushed at him with one impulse." In 2 Cor. 5:14, it refers to the effect the love of God has on those of us who believe, meaning the love of Christ keeps us within bounds and compels us to preach the Gospel. This is the "ministry of reconciliation" (2 Cor. 7:18) and it sums up the Gospel message in that "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5:21). This statement is the heart of the Gospel—Jesus Christ, the sinless Savior has taken our sins that through Him we might be forgiven and have His righteousness. God accomplished this "in Christ" and offers this righteousness to all those who will ever be saved. This is the "ministry of reconciliation" whereby believers proclaim the Gospel, God speaks through them ("as though God were making an appeal through us, we beg of you…be reconciled to God") thus urging unbelievers to come to Christ in faith and believe the Gospel. This means repent of your sins and believe on Jesus! This is the essence of reconciliation—a changed relationship where our sins are no longer counted against us. No religion in the world offers this. It comes only through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and is offered freely to everyone who believes. This "belief" isn’t mere head knowledge but a heart knowledge that results in a changed life!
So my question to you is this: Which use of the word "controls" will you choose for yourself? Will it be the positive use whereby you allow the Word of God and the love of Christ to control you, thus resulting in salvation by grace through faith and a compelling desire to preach Jesus to others? Or, will it be the negative use, whereby you hear the Gospel message yet refuse to listen to it, turning a deaf ear to the one message that can change your life for all eternity? Paul wrote, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come." To be "in Christ" means that I was at one time without Christ. In other words, I was lost and by nature a sinner. But thanks to God’s grace I am now "in Christ," forgiven of my sin, and the recipient of a new nature, one of being a saint—a radical change wrought by the Gospel . It also means I have the promise of being with Christ in glory when He returns for His saints or calls me home to be with Him. All of this the Bible says is made a reality by faith. I must believe God—"And without faith it is impossible to please Him" (Heb. 11:6). Therefore, "[I] beg you, be reconciled to God."
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Striving to glorify God by becoming more like Jesus.
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