30 October 2012

Despisers of Good

The great problem with sin is what is does to the sinner. The deceiver becomes deceived, and the liar believes his own lies. This is what happened to the devil. He began as an archangel named “Lucifer” or The Morning Star, but he fell from his position to become the devil. He began well but ended badly.

The apostle Paul warns about the subtle nature of sin and gives us three distinct levels of sinning. First, we begin by “practicing” sin. (Romans 1:32) The Bible speaks about “the passing pleasures of sin.” (Hebrews 11:25) There is an enjoyment we derive from doing evil which entices us to sin. Sin begins as fun, but as we continue to practice sin, its true nature is revealed. Sin has a subtle nature of deception. “Sin… deceived me.” (Romans 7:11) What began as fun turns into misery. When sin ceases to be fun, we are faced with a choice; will we continue in our misery or repent of our wrong and change our ways?

There is a wise proverb which says, “Misery loves company,” and that is exactly what many sinners do; they seek out others to help them practice their sin. This is the second stage of practicing sin; they “not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.” (Romans 1:32) The sinner is seeking approval of what inwardly he knows is wrong. By seeking out others who agree with his sin, he finds a validation that he is right to continue in his sin. By mutual consent, sinners encourage each other in doing wrong.

The third stage of sin shifts from those sinning and from looking for others to help them practice their sin and turns in vengeance against those who refuse to agree with them. They become “despisers of good.” (II Timothy 3:3) At this stage, the sinner is no longer content to practice his sin, and he no longer is satisfied with finding others to help him practice it. No, at this third level, he turns against anyone who disagrees with him and attacks them as though they were the real problem. Those who are practicing good deeds become the target for those practicing evil deeds.

This is the point we have reached as a nation. Righteous people are now being blamed for the problems of our country. To our accusers, we have become the problem. It is because of righteous people that they are not happy in their sinful life styles. They blame us for their guilt. What a terrible deception! The sinner has been caught in his own trap, but he justifies himself and blames others for his misery. “He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.” (Proverbs 17:15)

The major problems of our nation are spiritual. May God help America to wake up from the deception of sin and return to righteous life styles. As Christians who believe the Bible is the Word of God and try to govern their lives by it, we must be aware that there will be many today who will accuse us for creating the problems of our nation.

20 October 2012

When God Gives Up

The sinister nature of sin isn’t so much the wrong we have done; no, the great danger is what we’ve become. The apostle Paul warns us of this in Romans 1:18-32. He begins with a warning about the wrath of God. The wrath of God is a forgotten subject for many people. They only think of God’s mercy, love, and grace; but as truly as God is love, God is also holy.

“Therefore God also gave them up.” (Romans 1:24) What does Paul mean “God…gave them up”?

First of all, he does not mean that God quits. God is not a quitter. God never stops loving and caring. His mercies are new every morning. What this statement means is there comes a point where if we insist on resisting God’s ways and doing our own thing that God will allow us to do it. The greatest power God has given us is the power of choice. God permits us to choose even when we are choosing the wrong thing. He warns us of the consequences but permits us to do bad things. Why does God allow this? Because God did not create us as automated machines and He loves us too much to destroy us. The word “temptation” comes from the words “to stretch.” That is what happens each time we are tempted to do wrong. There is a stretching inside us as we struggle with right and wrong. God is pulling us to do right and the devil is pulling us to do wrong. There comes a point where we have to make a decision, and the decision is ours to make. If we choose to do evil God releases us to do the evil we have chosen. Otherwise “the stretch” would destroy us.

I saw this illustrated with a plastic cup. You can begin pulling on both sides of the cup and the cup reaches a point of tension where unless you release one side, the pressure becomes so great that it rips the cup apart leaving it totally useless. This is a picture of what sin does do us. God releases us to keep from destroying us. God believes we will learn from our mistake and return to Him.

But look at what happened when God released these people; they fell into a lower level of degradation, “in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies.” They sank into a deeper level of immorality. The second time God gave them up was “to vile passions” and they sank from immorality to homosexuality. “For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful.” (Romans 1:26-27) The third time God gave them up was, “God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting,” and he gives a long list of those evil things. (Romans 1:28) They have now sunk to the level of a reprobate mind where good things are perceived as being bad and bad things are mistaken for being good.

When God “gives up” or God “gives over” it doesn’t mean that the sinner won. No, the sinner lost and fell into a deeper level of condemnation. We must understand life is a journey. We are going somewhere and our journey will ultimately end in heaven or in hell. We are either becoming more like God or we are becoming more like the devil. God never stops loving us but God’s love cannot redeem those who reject it.

What a rebuke for those who flaunt their sin. The Bible warns us, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption.” (Galatians 6:7-8)

15 October 2012

The Powerful Word of God

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16)

“For the word of God is alive and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword.” (Hebrews 4:12)

I witnessed this powerful truth these past two weeks. My travels first took me to Minsk, Belarus where I taught a convocation of over 1,500 ministers and then traveled to Istanbul, Turkey to teach a small group of 30 pastors and church leaders. Each situation was totally different and yet the Word of God was powerful and life-changing in both countries.

After the break-up of the former Soviet Union, Belarus experienced new religious liberties which helped produce a great revival. Under the old communistic government, the Christians in Belarus paid a tremendous price for their faith. Many pastors spent time in prison for preaching, and Protestant Christians were considered a sect and treated badly.

The meeting I taught was held at Grace Church in Minsk. This great church seats 2,500 people and is the headquarters church for a group of over 500 churches. It is also the host church for a Bible School of hundreds of students. This is part of the fruit of a revival which swept across Belarus after the collapse of communism. I have taught in this church several times before, and each time we have experienced a tremendous moving of the Holy Spirit. It has been wonderful to see the powerful effect of the Word of God upon their lives.

The situation in Turkey, however, is completely different, and yet, the Word of God is just as effective. Christians in Turkey are viewed as infidels because of their faith in Jesus Christ. Because they believe that Jesus is God, they are treated rudely and, at times, harshly. There is no spirit of revival sweeping across Turkey, but I discovered the Word of God was as powerful there as it was in Belarus. It’s my understanding that the average church size in Turkey is only about 40 people. A church of 100 is considered a mega-church. There is a lot of intimidation and pressure upon the Christians in Turkey. They live in a society which believes their religion is false, and they know at almost any time they can be mistreated because of their faith.

As I taught these pastors and church leaders, I was constantly aware of their situation, but I watched with amazement at their response. You could see it in their eyes and upon their countenance that the Word of God was energizing their minds and spirits. The Word of God is alive, and wherever it is proclaimed, it produces life.

What we need today are more people to proclaim the Word of God. There is a famine in the world today for God’s Word. I encourage you to stop talking trivia and start sharing what you have learned about the Word of God. Begin daily devotionals of meditating on the Scriptures and then sharing with a friend what you are learning. Not only will you grow in your faith, but you will discover you are planting the seeds of living truth which will produce spiritual fruit in others.

Jesus said, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63)