Fight for Joy! Blog
Where Jesus Changes Everything
“Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). Whenever we think of Christian persecution our thoughts normally turn to those believers of yesteryear. It seems today’s brand of American Christianity knows little if anything of persecution. But persecution is a reality in many places around the world. For example, on Sunday morning, November 4, 2012, suspected Muslim extremists hurled a grenade onto the roof of a Kenyan church, killing a chaplain and injuring several others. In Tanzania, Christians have lost churches, homes, cars, and livestock in recent attacks. In Iran, the ruling elite continues their crackdown on Christian churches. All around the world many are being persecuted for their faith in Jesus. Some are threatened, some are beaten, some are imprisoned, and some are slaughtered—all because they dare to name the name of Jesus . Little is reported in the secular media, and little is known, it seems, by the Christian church in America. But the persecution of Christians is a reality and it is a reality that may very well be fast approaching American Christianity—or to put it another way, true Christians in America.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). As we near the end of the age and the soon return of Christ for His Church, it is clear that Satan is ramping up his battle for the souls of unbelievers. This is especially true in the area of moral purity. No one is exempt from the battle. Satan’s number one goal is to so suppress God’s truth that wrong becomes right and right becomes wrong. This is clearly happening today. Although the evidence from conscience, creation, and God’s Word is clear, men continue to choose to resist and oppose God’s truth by holding fast to their sin. The words of Jesus ring true: “Men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). When God’s truth is rejected, the darkness of spiritual falsehood replaces it. Therefore, Paul admonishes us to fight this war, not “according to the flesh,” but with the “divinely powerful weapons of our warfare.” What are these divinely powerful weapons? It is actually a singular weapon—the “sword of the Spirit” (Eph. 6:17). We fight the battle with truth—God’s Word. We cannot successfully oppose satanic assaults on the gospel nor can we defeat satanic falsehoods without this “divinely powerful” weapon. We are not called upon to bind Satan or demons (see Jude 9), nor are we called upon to debate truth and error, but to attack error with truth. When it comes down to it, this battle for God’s truth is really a battle for the human soul—perhaps your soul.
This is not an easy battle. Our enemy is clever, crafty, cunning, and a master deceiver. He is able to promulgate his evil schemes through his evil world system over which he rules (see Eph. 6:11). These “schemes,” according to John MacArthur are, “all-inclusive, encompassing every sin, immoral practice, false theology, false religion, and worldly enticement.” He is a master at using trickery and deception, therefore believers must respond with truth and righteousness. When we consider these “fortresses, … speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God,” we must understand this includes the most depraved abominations, including such things as extreme sexual immorality (adultery, fornications, homosexuality and the like), occultism, Satan worship, thoughts, ideas, reasonings, philosophies, and false religions. These are the “fortresses” with which men wall themselves in against God and the truth of the Gospel. Only the truth of God’s Word can destroy these fortresses! This is why we must preach Jesus! This is why we must continually proclaim the truth—unpopular truth at that—to a world that is hell-bent on suppressing the truth. One recent example of a satanic fortress “raised up against the knowledge of God” is the so called Hate Crime legislation that recently became law. Despite all the rhetoric to the contrary, the primary purpose of this legislation is to silence Christians who would dare to tell the truth about certain sins. If you don’t believe me, simply look to our neighbor to the north—Canada—where similar laws have been enacted and are being used to threaten and intimidate Christians—conservative Bible believing Christians in particular. Satan will stop at nothing to silence the truth so that darkness can prevail and souls can be enslaved and damned for all eternity. However, I will not be silenced!
Hear me and hear me well—there is a battle raging for the soul—your soul—and only the truth of God’s Word and the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ can free a soul from the grips of satanic darkness and eternal damnation. “We are taking every thought captive,” Paul says. This accentuates the total destruction of the fortresses of satanic deception and the rescuing of those enslaved to Satan. And one doesn’t have to be a Satan worshipper to be enslaved to Satan. One can be sitting in the pews of the local church and be enslaved to satanic darkness. Who is winning the battle for your soul—God or Satan? Remember, Satan doesn’t care what it takes or how long it takes. His goal is always the same—to win the battle for your soul. There is only one way to ensure victory over this enemy—faith in the crucified, risen, ascended, and soon returning King of kings and Lord of lords—the Lord Jesus Christ! It may not be easy. You may still struggle and fail at times. But the rewards of faith in the Son of God are well worth the struggle. “But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:6-8). Believe God and you will be victorious!
“Behold, you are trusting in deceptive words to no avail” (Jeremiah 7:8). Deception has been a problem for humankind since the serpent deceived Eve in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:1-7). However, the Bible indicates that as the return of Christ draws near, deception will increase significantly. In Matthew 24, Jesus, when answering the disciples’ question about His Second Coming and the end of the age, warned them repeatedly about deception: “See to it that no one misleads you” (24:4; see also verses 11, 24). Paul warned against this last days deception as well: “Let no one in any way deceive you” (2 Thess. 2:3). In Revelation 13, we are warned about the great deception that is coming, literally in the flesh, known as the Antichrist: “And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform” (Rev. 13:14). Paul calls this great deception that is coming, “lying signs and false wonders” (2 Thess. 2:9). Deception is ever present but the days are coming and have come when many will be deceived by these “lying signs and false wonders.”
Visions of “Mary” are nothing new. They have been appearing around the world for hundreds of years. However, in recent years, there appears to be a significant increase in these appearances. I believe these so called apparitions, claiming to be messages from heaven, are nothing more than a last days deception. It only takes a casual familiarity with Scripture to see that these appearances simply are not biblical. Take for example the apparition that began appearing in Conyers, Georgia on October 13, 1990. An apparition claiming to be the “Blessed Virgin Mary” began appearing to Nancy Fowler to give messages to the United States. For me, the first thing that comes to mind is Hebrews 1:1-2, “Although God spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son.” Clearly, God is not speaking through Mary or anyone else today. On May 9, 1991, this apparition appeared and said, “Please photograph this statue [a statue of Mary] and distribute it freely to my children.” This is nothing new as nearly every “Mary” apparition through the years has requested a statue or shrine. But this brings several warnings from Scripture to mind. Here is one example: “So watch yourselves carefully, since you did not see any form on the day the Lord spoke to you at Horeb from the midst of the fire, so that you do not act corruptly and make a graven image for yourselves in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female” (Deut. 4:15-16). These kinds of visions continue to increase around the world. The visions are often accompanied by prophecies about the last days, urging all men and women to, “love the mother of God and submit themselves to her.” But the Scriptures tell us that we are to love God and submit ourselves to Him: “Submit therefore to God” (James 4:7). One witness to an apparition reported, “I do not know exactly what she wants me to do, but this much I do know, that she will complete the good work she started in me!” This is pure blasphemy. Paul wrote, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He [Christ] who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). This kind of deception is what we can expect from a movement that fails to submit to Christ alone through the Scriptures alone. Jeremiah wrote, “Behold, you are trusting in deceptive words to no avail” (Jer. 7:8).
It grieves my heart to no end when I think about the countless multitude of people following after these “lying signs and false wonders.” Mary was not venerated in Scripture. She is not the “Queen of Heaven.” The only time that title is used is in Jeremiah chapters 7 and 44, both times referring to an Assyrian and Babylonian goddess, the worship of which Scripture seems to indicate will occur in the last days. This is not Christianity. Christianity, by definition, is a faith centered on Jesus Christ alone. Paul warns us to be careful so that we can avoid being deceived. He wrote, “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3). Furthermore, writing about these deceitful workers, he wrote, “No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds” (2 Cor. 11:14-15). Do not be deceived! These apparitions often said to be messages from heaven are nothing more than messages from the pit hell, designed to deceive and lead astray. Furthermore, they are another sign that we are indeed living in the last days just prior to the return of Christ for His Church. “Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming” (Matt. 24:42).
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many 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). Why is the Gospel so hard to believe? There are probably a myriad of answers to that question. However, the truth of the matter is, it is probably human pride and spiritual blindness that prevent most people from believing the true Gospel. Jesus said it plainly: “The gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction. The gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life.” His point was that when it comes down to believing the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, far more people will reject it than believe and far more people will believe they have believed it when in reality they have not. They have been spoon fed the devil’s disinformation which leads to false assurance, and unless they truly believe, will one day lead to empty words.
Disinformation: it is the deliberate dissemination of false information in order to mislead. False assurance: it is believing you have something when in reality you do not. Empty words: they are just that, empty words. So the question is do you want to be forgiven of your sins, given the gift of eternal life, and have the settled and sure hope of glory when you die? Do you want to be freed from the power of sin and blessed with every spiritual blessing Christ has to offer? Most people would answer yes! However, know this: Many people who say yes will never realize salvation. Jesus made this clear. You can want all the blessings salvation offers and never receive a single one. How so? It’s simple, really. Most have believed a lie, which has led to false assurance and will one day result in empty words…unless they fix it this side of eternity.
I have absolutely no use for the so called “seeker-sensitive movement” that seems to be sweeping the land these days. There are several reasons why, but two are always at the forefront. First of all, the Bible is clear that there is only one seeker and His name is Jesus. He said, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). Furthermore, the Bible makes it clear no one seeks after God: “There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God” (Romans 3:11). Secondly, the seeker-sensitive movement is nothing but a watered down, let’s all get happy and feel good about ourselves, version of the Gospel, which is really no Gospel at all. For the most part, I believe it is the devil’s disinformation program. It sounds good. It looks good. But it’s not good! It’s no wonder, when speaking of salvation, Jesus said, “There are few who find it.” This movement, I believe, has given false assurance to hundreds of thousands of people. They think they are on their way to heaven, when in reality; they are traveling fast down the wide and broad way that leads to destruction. And one day, they will utter empty words, the words, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?” (Matthew 7:22). Tragedy of tragedies, Jesus will declare to them, “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23).
There are a lot of things in this life we can get wrong, but not this. Either we get it right in this life or we miss out on the eternal blessings of eternal life with Christ. The alternative is eternal separation from God and everything that is good. The Bible further describes the alternative as eternal torment from which there is no escape. So there are no second chances after death. We get it right this side of eternity, or we do not get it right at all. The true Gospel is a call to self-denial. It is not a call to self-fulfillment or higher self-esteem. 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). That’s pretty clear cut. If you want to be a follower of Jesus and enter the kingdom of God—if you want to be a Christian—then you must face three commands: You must deny yourself, take up your cross daily (death to self), and follow Christ. This does not sound too seeker-sensitive to me. However, it is the truth that Jesus taught consistently and repeatedly.
So who then is saved? Who will spend eternity with Jesus in heaven? The answer is obvious: only those who have believed the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Bible gives us markers that help identify who these people are. First of all, check the list in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. If you are on it, you are not saved and will not be spending eternity with Jesus, unless you are willing to repent and believe the Gospel. A second marker that is used to identify those who are truly saved, is found in Matthew 7:21: “He who does the will of My Father in heaven,” will enter the kingdom. This is the Word of the Lord! Therefore, these are true words. But most will not believe. Perhaps it is because most people “loved the darkness rather than the Light” (John 3:19). Therefore, they readily grasp onto disinformation, they cling to false assurance, and will one day utter empty words.
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