A Change of Mind

change of mind

A woman who was called to jury duty told the presiding judge that she was not qualified to serve because she did not believe in capital punishment. The judge said, “You don’t understand, madam. This is a civil case involving a man who spent five thousand dollars of his wife’s money on gambling and other women.” To which the woman replied eagerly, “I’ll be happy to serve, your honor, and I’ve changed my mind about capital punishment.” (Illustrations Unlimited)

Evidently, the woman in the illustration was so angered at what the accused man allegedly did to his wife that she was even willing to change her opinion on capital punishment. This situation helps to explain what influences our point of view. When it comes to matters that arouse our feelings and judgment, we can quickly change our mind.

Think about it: We can change our mind for better or for worse. Eve, for example, changed her mind for worse when she ate of the forbidden tree. She was emotionally moved at the sight of that gorgeous, seductive fruit—so much so that she rationalized that it must make her more the wise, even to be like God, himself. But Adam told her that God said never to eat of it. She also came to believe that they were not even to touch it, lest they die. Eve changed her mind, however, when the serpent lied and said, “You won’t surely die, rather God knows that in the day you eat it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil,” (Gen. 3:1-8, New European Version, NEV). Unlike his wife, Adam was not deceived (2 Cor. 11:3; 1 Tim. 2:14). Instead, he sinned willingly, knowing full well that he was transgressing against God’s command never to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Rom. 5:14). As a result of this sin, we fall into sin and we all die the first death (Rom. 5:12; 1 Cor. 15:22a).

On the other hand, we can change our mind for the better like the Apostle Paul. Before he was converted to Christ, he was Saul the Pharisee who lived according to the strictest laws of this Jewish sect. He was a dangerous threat to anyone who professed to believe in Jesus Christ. He terrorized innocent men, women, and children, entering their homes, having them put in jail, and consenting to their death (Acts 9:1-2). He stood by and sanctioned the bloody death of Stephen, one of the original church deacons, “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit,” (Acts 6:5-8; 7:54-60; 8:1-3).

Some years later, Paul recounted his former way life to King Agrippa:

So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them. And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities. (Acts 26:9-11, New American Standard Bible, NASB)

No doubt, when Paul persecuted the church, he felt he was doing God a favor. He was sincere. He believed he was doing exactly as the law prescribed. But, as he later confessed, he was wrong; totally wrong. Jesus, himself, brought this proud Pharisee to his knees and he came up a changed man. He went on to tell Agrippa,

While so engaged as I was journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, at midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me and those who were journeying with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” And I said, “Who are You, Lord?” And the Lord said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” (Acts 26:12-15, NASB)

Jesus then told him rise to his feet for the Lord was sending him forth to be a minister and witness to others of what he’d seen and heard. Paul would never be the same again:

So, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance. (Acts 26:19-20, NASB)

Fascinating, isn’t it? That one can be so dogged and determined that he or she is right yet, in reality, is so wrong. What does this have to say about what we believe? How do we know whether our point of view is wrong or right? Should we totally rely on our feelings or is there something else necessary to change our minds for better, not for worse?

The answers to these questions are important especially when it comes to our conversion to Jesus Christ and his truth. When we first come to accept Christ, we undergo a change—a change that includes the three elements of our personality: intellect, our mind’s ability to know; sensibilities, our mind’s ability to feel; and will, our mind’s ability to choose or act. As the late Dr. Alva Huffer explained it,

The power of decision, therefore, is a function of man’s will. Man’s will is the controlling element of his personality. His will is the spring of all actions, the governing power of moral nature. Intellect provides the target, sensibilities pull the trigger, but it is the will which shoots the arrow. Man’s will is of major importance. (Systematic Theology)

When we submit our will to God’s will, we undergo change based on three conditions: Faith, repentance, baptism:

First we believe by putting our faith in God’s Word through his Son, Jesus Christ: “So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God,” (Rom. 10:17).

Then comes repentance: Jesus declared, “I tell you…unless you repent, you will all likewise perish,” Luke 13:3, NASB). Repentance involves the three elements of our personality: intellect since it includes our knowledge that we are sinners (Rom. 6:23); sensibilities since it includes our feelings of regret and remorse (James 4:8-10); and will since it involves a renunciation of sin in our lives (Col. 3:8-14; Eph. 4:18-32).

Next is baptism in Jesus’ name for the forgiveness of sins. Baptism is an ordinance of Christ and it is commanded as part of the conversion experience (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16). The early church taught that baptism is essential for a believer: “And Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let each of your be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,” (Acts 2:28; also 1 Peter 3:21). True baptism, according to the scriptures, is immersion in water as the meaning of the term denotes (baptizo, “to dip, to immerse, to sink”) and as it was practiced in the early church (John 3:23; Matt. 3:16; Acts 8:38-39). Sprinkling is not baptism. Immersion in the waters of baptism is symbolic of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ (Rom. 6:4-5; Col. 2:12).

Conversion is a mind changing process that enables us to grow in the grace and knowledge of God through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Apostle Peter said, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (2 Pet. 3:18). This includes daily reading and study of God’s Word, so that we need not be ashamed as Christians, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15; 3:16-17). 

Our life in Christ is one continual journey of change and transformation through the Power we receive in his name. It affects not only our minds (Rom. 12:2; 1 Cor. 2:16) but our hearts (Psalm 51:10; 2 Cor. 7:10) and our conduct (Eph. 4:17-32). Sometime in our lives, we might realize that what we once believed to be true, is really false; what we once thought to be right is really wrong. We must be open minded to change while at the same time convicted in the truth of God’s Word and what it teaches us so that we will not be led astray and deceived just as Eve.

The whole goal of allowing Jesus to change us is based on the hope we have in him. As he changes us to be more like him each day, our minds are fastened on the goal of winning the prize awaiting us at his return: Phil. 4:13-15; Col. 3:1-4.

Here is Scott Underwood singing, “Take My Life (Holiness)”: http://youtu.be/uHeEytocJVY

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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The Guilt Factor

cross-guilt

The story is reported that a shoplifter wrote to a department store confessing, “I’ve just become a Christian, and I can’t sleep at night because I feel guilty. So here’s $100 that I owe you.”

Then he signs his name, and in a little postscript at the bottom he adds, “If I still can’t sleep, I’ll send you the rest.” (Bill White, as cited in More Perfect Illustrations)

It’s typical of our human nature, isn’t it? We only feel as guilty as long as our conscience bothers us. In other words, once our conscience doesn’t bother us, we no longer feel the guilt. And when we no longer feel the guilt, we no longer feel the need to make full amends for any wrong that we’ve done. We merely say just enough to claim we’ve done our part.

Here we come to a dilemma in today’s worldview. How much does guilt become a factor in our need to improve? If, for example, society does not see sin as sin, then there is no longer any need for guilt, hence, no need to correct the problems which sin creates.

Christian philosopher and pastor, Francis A. Schaffer (1912-1984) once voiced his view about the direction we were heading when it came to feeling less guilty about sin than generations past. He wrote in response to Vicki, a college student, who expressed concerns she had in regard to her doubts about God and the inability to feel truly sorry to God when she sins. She was also concerned about being “anti-emotional and over-intellectual.”

Schaffer’s response to the student was,

I have come to the conclusion that none of us in our generation feels as guilty about sin as we should or as our forefathers did. I think this basically is the problem of living in a psychologically oriented age. Even though we are Christians, and even though we know there is real guilt, somehow or other we get confused with psychological thinking and we don’t feel the guilt the way our forefathers did. (Letters of Frances A. Schaffer: Spiritual Reality in the Personal Christian)

Schaffer’s observation appears to coincide with the scriptures that describe conditions in the last days before Jesus comes back. The Apostle Paul warned, “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron…” (1 Timothy 4:1-3, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

When the apostle referred to “later times” he was speaking of conditions leading up to Christ’s return. When the world turns away from God’s rule of law, for example, they usually turn else where to their own theories and ideas. They typically choose their views based on psychology and other facets of so-called “science” rather than Bible-based truth. Thus, their conscience concerning sin and guilt have lost their feeling, as though seared with a hot iron. But the prevalence of such humanism is deceitful and demonic, according to the Apostle Paul. As Schaffer so accurately pointed out, we are living in those times.

When Paul predicted that “some will fall away from the faith” he was sending a message to the church. I believe this especially applies to the 21-first Century church (cp. 2 Thess. 2:3). We can look back over the past 30 to 50 years and notice that we, indeed, do seem to feel less guilty now than we did then in many aspects of life.

For example, what about the teaching that marriage is sacred, between a man and a woman? Nowadays, it doesn’t seem to bother the conscience of those having same-sex relationships. They are as open about their living style as ever. Perhaps getting laws passed to legalize marriage between same-sex couples will ease their conscience. But this is not what the Bible teaches about marriage as God ordained it: “For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife and they shall become one flesh,” (Genesis 2:24, NASB). And Jesus also declared, “Have you not read, that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh’? Consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate,” (Matt. 19:4-6). Sadly, I find that this moral teaching is rarely preached in churches now. Perhaps we should feel more guilty that we’re not preaching this truth like we should.

Speaking of marriage, there’s also the issue of couples living together before they finally decide to get married. They used to call it “living in sin.” It’s not that way now, as we all know. Unmarried couples living together no longer seem to feel guilty that they are, in reality, committing fornication as the Bible forbids (Matt. 15:19-20; 1 Cor. 6:9-11, 18-20). And, by the way, whatever happened to any feeling of shame when someone commits adultery?

These examples are not meant to judge or condemn anyone. Only God has the right to do that (James 4:12). Rather, these examples are cited to simply illustrate how far we’ve come when the moral conscience of many, even Christians, seems to have lost its sensitivity toward the reality of sin.

The Bible concludes that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23). So, unless we all come to terms that there is such a reality as sin, then and only then can we confess our sins and turn from them, as God’s Word commands (1 John 1:8-10). Unlike the shoplifter, we must confess all our sins even those that keep us from being able to sleep at night.

The fact is, we’re all guilty and stand condemned because of sin (Rom. 1:32). Due to the guilt of sin, we are not innocent and, therefore, deserve punishment by death. So, how does the sinner deal with this guilt? Theologian Alva G. Huffer wrote:

The sinner’s guilt can be removed only through the payment of sin’s penalty which is death. Sin’s penalty can be paid personally by the sinner’s being destroyed in the second death [“for the wages of sin is death…” Romans 6:23a] , or it can be paid vicariously through Christ’s sacrifice [“…but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord,” Rom. 6:23b; also 2 Corinthians 5:21]. (Systematic Theology)

When we admit our sin, we will be able to deal with guilt. And it can only be dealt with if we accept the free gift of God’s grace through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8). This means that if we believe, repent, and are baptized in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38) we will then have entered God’s conditions for being eternally saved. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus,” (Rom. 8:1). From then on, we pursue a Spirit-filled life in Christ with the aim of serving him, allowing him to transform our minds and hearts (Rom. 8:12-17; 12:1-21).

Sin is the reason we feel guilty. But Christ took our sin upon himself when he died on the cross thus paying the ultimate price for our guilt (Colossians 2:12-14). This doesn’t make us feel less guilty when we do sin. But it does reinforce our faith in him because of the forgiveness we can receive in his blessed name. And this is the real way we can sleep better.

Here’s David Wyper singing, “All My Guilt Is Gone”: http://youtu.be/TcrDrENn5Jc

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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Negative vs. Positive

positive-thinking

Do you know of someone who is known as a negative person? This kind of person is a pessimist who always looks at the bad side of everything and can’t find anything good. The glass is always half empty, never half full. The weather is partly cloudy, not partly sunny. The world is going to hell in a handbasket. There is no hope.

The problem with negative persons is that their cynicism can come back to bite them. This is especially true when it comes to criticising others. While they think the worst in others, others might think the worst in them. There’s a funny joke that illustrates this point.

Fred Watkins, the local barber, is the most negative person in our town. John Jordan, the president of the Rotary Club, was sitting in his chair one day, extremely excited. “Guess what, Fred,” he said.

Fred muttered, “What?”

“My wife and I are going to Italy for a month.”

“I’ve heard all about Italy,” Fred replied. “The people are rude. The food is terrible. The countryside is ugly.”

John paid no attention and continued, “And I’m going to spend a week in Rome.”

“Big deal,” said Fred. “Bunch of broken down old buildings.”

Undeterred, John went on. “And I’m going to visit the Vatican. I’m even going to have an audience with the Pope.”

“Oh, yeah,” said Fred., “I know about those so-called papal audiences. You’ll be packed into the square with a million other dopes and the Pope will wave from the balcony. Big deal.”

A month went by and John was once again in the barber chair. “So, how was your trip to Italy?” asked Fred. “As bad as I thought it would be, right?”

“Not at all,” John responded. “The people were warm and friendly. The food was wonderful. The countryside was gorgeous.”

“But Rome is a dump. Am I right?” the barber persisted.

“No,” John answered, “Rome was delightful. We could have stayed a year and not run out of fascinating places to see.”

“And how about your visit with the Pope?” asked the barber, expecting his prediction to be fulfilled.

John answered, “Well, I have to admit, you were half-right about that. The Pope was up there on the balcony and I was back in the crowd with thousands of people, but two uniformed Swiss guards came over and told me the Pope wanted to talk to me. They escorted me right up onto the balcony with him.”

“What did he tell you?” asked the barber.

“He didn’t tell me anything. In fact, he had a question for me.”

“Well, what did he ask?” asked the incredulous barber.

John took a minute to allow the suspense to mount. “The Pope said to me, ‘Tell me, my son, where did you get that terrible haircut?’” (An Encyclopedia of Humor)

This humorous story reminds me of the saying, “What goes around, comes around.” Fred the barber probably didn’t expect the Pope to be critical of him. But the tables were turned.

Negativism tends to have a boomerang effect on pessimists. The evil they anticipate is the evil that they will eventually come to confront. For, as it is said, with a choice of two evils, the pessimist takes both.

Pessimism produces negative vibrations which, in turn, produce defeat. When one sows negative thoughts, one reaps the harvest of those thoughts. As the Bible says, “Do not be deceived. God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption…” (Galatians 6:7-8a, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

I don’t mean to sound negative here, but the reality is that negative persons are in “the flesh” category. The seed they sow turns out bad, just like their attitude. It’s the way of the world or the worldly way of thinking. The Apostle John wrote, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever,” (1 John 2:16-17, NASB).

The works of “the flesh” are evident. The Apostle Paul said, “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: [sexual] immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions [heresies], envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarned you…”  (Galatians 5:19-21a, NASB). Paul was pretty positive about what these negative, fleshly actions of the world will produce for “…those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God,” Gal. 5:21b).

The worldview is a negative characteristic for it opposes the will of God which is positive. Even those who consider themselves to be positive thinkers may, in reality, follow a negative pattern of lust and boastful pride of life. But those who do the will of God, on the other hand, are truly the positive thinkers and doers for they have the blessed hope which the world does not have, (Titus 2:14; 1 John 5:12).

Believers refuse to follow the negative pattern of the world. They sow the positive seed of the Word, not the negative seed of the world, and so they reap the positive things which bring life: “…but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life,”(Gal. 6:8b, NASB). In contrast to the pessimistic, negative side that can only see the bad, there is the optimistic, positive side that can only see the good as a result of “the Spirit” rather than “the flesh.”

As the saying goes, optimists count their blessings; pessimists discount theirs. There can be no greater blessing than to live positively “in the Spirit” instead of negatively in “the flesh.” Paul likens the positive mindset to producing good, wholesome fruit:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another,” (Gal. 5:22-26, NASB).

I think Fred the barber, as well as all of us, could learn a valuable lesson in all of this. Taking a dim view of everything is not the way of those who have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:12-16). The way we think will determine the actions we take whether positive or negative. It takes a lot of courage and faith to keep walking in the Spirit and so abstain from the negative tendencies of the flesh. But I am positive we can do it through Christ who gives us the strength (Philippians 4:13).

Here’s Steve Amerson singing, “The Mind of Christ,” http://youtu.be/UQEPqhn-M28.

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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The Flock Mentality

follow-the-shepherd

Whenever you drive by a field of cows or sheep or watch a flock of birds, you usually see one of the animals leading the others to their destination. They all seem to be following their leader blindly to where ever they are being led. They also appear to be content without even questioning if the place toward which they are heading is really where they want to be. Their instinct is to act and think in the same way as all the others in the flock or herd.

Humans appear to act in the same manner. Several years ago, scientists at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom conducted experiments that reveal our flock mentality. Also known as herd or mob mentality, research revealed that humans flock like sheep or birds, or herds of cattle. According to their study, only five per cent of persons are all that’s necessary to influence a whole crowd to go a certain direction or perform a certain behavior. And, just like animals, the other 95 per cent do not even realize they are following these few. They are just going along with what they see everyone else doing without even thinking about where it could lead them.

Flock mentality was tested when the university’s Biological Professor Jens Krause, with the assistance of a Ph. D. student, John Dyer, conducted an experiment where groups of people were asked to randomly walk around a large hall. There were a few, however, who were given specific details on where to walk. The participants were instructed not to communicate with one another but remain at arms length from each other.

The report was that in “all cases the ‘informed individuals’ were followed by others in the crowd, forming a self-organizing, snake-like structure.” The professor is quoted to say, “We’ve all been in situations where we get swept along by the crowd. But what’s interesting about this research is that our participants ended up making a consensus decision despite the fact that they weren’t allowed to talk or gesture to one another. In most cases the participants didn’t realize they were being led by others.”

In some situations, this human trait could prove to be positive. The point is made that it could help to direct the flow of large crowds in disaster scenarios where communication may be difficult. For example, Professor Krause stated, “At one extreme, it could be used to inform emergency planning strategies and at the other, it could be useful in organizing pedestrian flow in busy areas.” (University of Leeds, “Sheep in human clothing – scientists reveal our flock mentality,” Feb. 14, 2008).

On the other side of the coin, however, flock mentality could prove to be disastrous. What if the crowd is mistakenly led in the wrong direction during a disaster and heads into it rather than out of it? What if the crowd is following a suicidal maniac without realizing it and ends up being destroyed rather than rescued? What if the leader is, in reality, a phony yet so persuasive that the crowd will unquestioningly go where ever he or she takes them, only to be led to their downfall? Will not anyone stand apart from the crowd and make his own decision to not conform and so be spared from a fatal end?

The Bible seems to warn against the kind of flock mentality that leads toward danger,  and ultimately eternal destruction. When they were on their wilderness journey toward the land of promise, the children of Israel were instructed, “You must not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you are called to testify in a dispute, do not be swayed by the crowd to twist justice,” (Exodus 23:2, New Living Translation, NLT). Apparently, if you do not know what is right or wrong you might end up following the crowd. You could be led to take part in carrying out an injustice that would harm an innocent person. In this ungodly world that questions the moral teachings of scriptures and denies the standards set forth by Christ himself, we can see how it could prove disastrous to the stability of a civilized society.

Speaking of the children of Israel, it was flock mentality that ultimately led to the deaths of many people after they worshipped the golden calf. After Moses delayed coming down from Mount Sinai while God was giving him the ten commandments, the crowd under Aaron demanded that a god be fashioned to lead them instead of the one, true God. Aaron took the flock in the wrong direction and instructed them to melt their gold earrings and form them into a golden calf. Their idolatry led them to revel in sinful acts of worship.

When Moses came down from the mountain suffering and death resulted from this flock mentality. If it weren’t for Moses interceding on their behalf, the entire nation would have been destroyed. But the people did suffer the consequences. For one thing, the golden calf idol was ground into powder which was scattered over the surface of the water, and the sons of Israel were made to drink it. Moreover, to make an example of their rebellious conduct, three thousand men were put to death as God commanded. (See Exodus 32.)

The flock mentality was always an issue with Israel. If you study the wilderness wanderings, you see how Moses had his hands full with people with a herd instinct rather than stand apart and be the people God chose them to be. In our time we would call itgroup think,” or more simply, “following the Joneses.” Someone would incite them to complain about something and they would all moan and groan to Moses: “We would have been better off to be slaves in Egypt than be wandering around in this dreaded wilderness!” (Ex. 15:24; 16:2-3; Num. 14:2.) It happened, for example, in the case of Korah and his company who challenged the authority of Moses (See Numbers 16).

Finally, God had enough of it. God said to Moses and Aaron, “Separate yourselves from among this [crowd] that I may instantly destroy them,” (v. 21). But Moses and Aaron pleaded with God not to let one man, Korah, and his band of rebels lead the whole flock to their destruction. So God said for them to speak to the congregation and tell them to separate themselves from Korah and his gang. At that point, the ground beneath Korah, and the renegades with him, split open, “and the earth opened its mouth, and swallowed them up, and their households and all the men who belonged to Korah, with their possessions. So they and all that belonged to them went down alive to Sheol [hell or the grave]; and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly,” (vss. 32-33, New American Standard Bible, NASB). The Bible adds, “Fire also came forth, from the Lord and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering the incense,” (v. 35).

Following the wrong crowd does, indeed, have consequences. Doing it just because everyone else is doing it is not always the best advice. Israel was not to be like all the other nations but they were to stand apart from them and be representatives of God’s laws and standards: They were God’s treasured possession (Exodus 19:5; Deut. 26:18-19); chosen by God among all the nations of the earth to be his own (Deut. 14:2); and guided them like the good flock he meant them to be (Psalm 78:52; 10:3).

This is the same for Christians, too. The flock mentality has disastrous consequences if we choose to follow the wrong crowd. And it’s usually the majority that makes up the wrong crowd. Jesus warns against doing it just because everyone else is doing it: “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter it,” (Matt. 7:13, NASB). A lot of well-intentioned people want to jump on the bandwagon even though the person or persons they are following may appear the most religious of all. Jesus cautioned,

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many [the crowd] will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord,’ did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons, and your name perform many miracles? And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness,’” (Matt. 7:21-23).

Jesus is our Shepherd and we are his flock of sheep. He does not want us to follow the crowd but to follow him regardless what the majority do. We are to stand apart, as Israel was called to do, and enter the gate few chose to enter: “For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to [eternal] life, and few are those who find it,” (Matt. 7:14).

The Apostle Peter applies the same analogy the church as was applied to Israel in the fact that believers are chosen by God:

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy,” (1 Pet. 2:9-10, NASB).

If we are members of God’s flock through Christ, we will not have the kind of flock mentality that leads to destruction but the kind that leads to everlasting life. Church leaders are to be careful to lead the flock of God in a way that keeps it separate from the ways of the world. In Acts 20:28, the Apostle Paul said to the elders, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of [the Lord] which He purchased with His own blood,” (Acts 20:28).

And the Apostle Peter exhorted the church elders, “Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory,” (1 Peter. 5:2-4).

In the last days before Christ comes, we are warned against following the crowd for many will blindly follow false Christ’s and false prophets. The falling away will consist of many who’ve been deceived (1 Thess. 5:1-11; 2 Thess. 2:1-12; Rev. 13:16-18). It’s time for the true flock of God to examine where it stands in the way of the world’s flock mentality and to be rededicated to the truth of God’s Word. It’s time we take a stand and be not conformed to the world but transformed by the renewing of our minds, proving God’s will (Romans 12:2).

(For further study on God’s flock, see also http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/flock/ )

Here is Chris Tomlin singing, “Chosen Generation,” http://youtu.be/XJt1-bv0pK0

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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The Day of the Lord

day-of-the-lord

The Bible describes a future time that will change the world forever. It will mark the end of this present age and the beginning of the kingdom age when Jesus Christ returns to rule the world. It is commonly known as, “the day of the Lord.”

This term is often referred to in Old Testament prophecy and repeated in New Testament writings. Moreover, it has several other descriptions with all applying to the same thing. For example, Zephaniah the prophet recorded the LORD to say (Zeph. 1):

14 Near is the great day of the Lord,
Near and coming very quickly;
Listen, the day of the LORD!
In it the warrior cries out bitterly.
15 A day of wrath is that day,
A day of trouble and distress,
A day of destruction and desolation,
A day of darkness and gloom,
A day of clouds and thick darkness,
16 A day of trumpet and battle cry
Against the fortified cities
And the high corner towers.
17 I will bring distress on men
So that they will walk like the blind,
Because they have sinned against the Lord;
And their blood will be poured out like dust
And their flesh like dung.
18 Neither their silver nor their gold
Will be able to deliver them
On the day of the Lord’s wrath;
And all the earth will be devoured
In the fire of His jealousy,
For He will make a complete end,
Indeed a terrifying one,
Of all the inhabitants of the earth. (New American Standard Bible, NASB)

The prophet is speaking of a day like no other. It coincides with the prophecy of Joel. In Joel 2, the prophet Joel speaks of “the day of the Lord” in conjunction with “a day of darkness and gloom” and “a day of clouds and thick darkness” (Joel 2:1-2). If you read the entire chapter, you find that Joel describes this day in the very same way as Zephaniah. In verses 30-32, the LORD says,

“And I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth, blood, fire, and columns of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be delivered; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will those who escape, as the LORD has said, even among the survivors whom the LORD calls.” (See also Malachi 4:1-6.)

In the New Testament, Jesus touches on this prophetic day. He associated it with the questions his disciples asked concerning the impending destruction of the temple in Jerusalem: “And as he [Jesus] was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?’” (Matt. 24:3). Providing the various signs of the times that would precede his coming, Jesus goes on to refer to Daniel’s prophecy regarding the abomination of desolation,” (v. 15; cp., Dan. 9:27; 11:36-12:1-13) and an unprecdented time of tribulation such as the world has never known nor ever shall know (v. 21). Then, in verses 29-31 he concludes,

29 “But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. 31 And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.” (See also Mark 13:1-37; Luke 21:5-36.)

You will notice how Jesus’ prophecy parallels the prophecies in the Old Testament. It should not surprise us, therefore, that the day of the Lord and the second coming of Christ was the major theme in the early church. Both Apostles Peter and Paul refer to this awesome event in their epistles. Peter wrote,

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. 11 Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! 13 But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells, (2 Pet. 3).

Paul wrote,

1 Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. 2 For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. 3 While they are saying, “Peace and safety [security]!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3).

In his second letter to the Thesssalonians, Paul tied the day of the Lord and Christ’s second coming with “the apostasy or falling away that will come first, and the man of lawlessness or son of destruction is revealed,” (2 Thess. 2:1-3). Leading up to the day of the Lord, false Christs and deceivers will go forth, leading many professing Christians away from the truth of God’s Word. Although this has been going on since the days of the early church, it will peak to its highest when the man of lawlessness is revealed.

According to the prophet Daniel, the one who confirms a seven-year covenant with Israel that will reinstitute temple sacrifices in Jerusalem, will break that covenant three and a half years later when he sets up his own self-worship in the temple. It is believed that the temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem along with sacrifical worship of animals as in ancient times. The breaking of the covenant by the man of lawlessness will lead to the abomination of desolation “even until a complete destruction” which both Daniel and Jesus predict (Cp. Daniel 9:27; 12:11-13; and Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14; Luke 21:20.)

This lawless man will be revealed as the person, “who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God,” (2 Thess. 2:4). This will be a rebuilt temple where he will take his seat of power displaying all manner of evil “in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved,” (2 Thess. 2:8). This is the person whom Jesus “will slay with the breath of his mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of his coming,” 2 Thess. 2:8). Note, again, that the revelation of the man of lawlessness, the son of destruction, is not something in the past but in the future for his destruction will be when Jesus returns.

The man of lawlessness will be a powerful political ruler who will receive international support and his headquarters will be in Jerusalem for as Daniel wrote, “…he will pitch the tents of his royal pavilion between the seas and the beautiful Holy Mountain…” (Dan. 9:36-45.). Futurists identify this lawless person as “the antichrist,” which means someone who will put himself in the place of Christ or Messiah (“displaying himself as being God.”). There were already many imposters who claimed to be Messiah even in the apostle John’s day (1 John 2:22; 1 John 4:1-6; 2 John 7). And there continues to be many false Messiahs among both Jewish and Christian circles today. Of course, this is also one of the predictions Jesus made when he spoke of the end of the age including the events preceding the day of the Lord and the apostasy or falling away of the elect (Matt.24:24).

The man of lawlessness is also identified with “the beast from the sea” in the Book of Revelation (Rev. 13:1-10). “The sea” is representative of the sea or mass of humanity or, more specifically, the allied nations led by ten powerful kings or rulers (Rev. 17:12-13). One of the rulers will receive a fatal wound but come back to life. The whole world will be in awe of him and he will have many followers. He is one of their political heads, or heads of state, which Daniel calls “the little horn” (Dan. 7:8), that arises and usurps authority to make war against the people of God until the Lord comes to destroy him (Daniel 7:1-28).

This man of lawlessness will be allied with a powerful religious leader known as “the false prophet” according to Revelation 13:11-18. He has the same authority as the man of lawlessness. He uses the same deception as the man of lawlessness, performing signs and miracles and is even able to bring down fire from heaven. He can perform the same signs as the prophets of old except he is a false prophet who persuades many, under the threat of death and financial coercion, to receive the mark of the beast. This will truly lead to the great falling away of the faithful of which Paul spoke in Second Thessalonians 2. Those who are not grounded in the Word of the Lord and loyal to Jesus Christ will no doubt be among the ones who are deceived to follow this prophet (Matt. 24:24; 2 Pet. 2:1-22; 3:17).

At this point, we see that the Book of Revelation dwells on all that is foretold in regard to day of the Lord and the second coming of Christ. The day of God’s wrath will culminate in the final war, the battle of Armageddon, when the nations are gathered in the valley of Megiddo to fight against Jesus Christ at his coming (Rev. 16). But this will be his day, in which he will gain the victory over his foes (Rev. 17:14-18) and bring judgement against “the great city,” the harlot, that harbors materialism, corruption and persecution of God’s prophets, apostles, and true believers over the ages (cp. Isa. 1:21; 57:3; Jer. 3:3; Ezek. 16:15; Rev. 11:8; 16:19; 17:4-6; 18:24; Matt. 23:35). The day of the Lord will be fulfilled at Christ’s coming with the destruction of the beast and the false prophet who deceived even the very elect when they received the mark of the beast (Matt. 24:24; Rev. 19:11-21). They are doomed in the lake of fire along with all those whose names are not found written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Rev. 20:7-15).

When the apostles wrote to the churches, they warned that the day of the Lord was coming and to be ready so as not to be deceived. They said that the day of the Lord would come “like a thief in the night,” (Matt. 24:42-44). Those who are not faithful to the Lord, and are too pre-occupied with the things of the world, will be caught off guard just like the owner of a house who does not have a good alarm system to protect against thieves breaking in at night when everyone is asleep. But to those who are awake and alert and have a good alarm system on (armed in faith, love, and hope, 1 Thess. 5:8), that day will not take them like a thief in the night. For as Paul said to the church, “But you are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light, and sons of day. We are not of the night nor of darkness; so then, let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober [self- controlled],” (1 Thess. 5:4-6).

The day of the Lord gives us reason to rejoice in that if we’re ready for Jesus to come, we will look forward to rule and reign alongside our King (Romans 8:17; Gal. 3:29). In fact, if you are a believer you are not destined for God’s wrath but for God’s salvation through Jesus Christ (1 Thess. 5:9-10).Not only that, we will witness the conversion of Israel to Jesus as the Messiah and Deliverer who will save and exalt the nation as promised in the Word: Joel 2:18-32. Here is Paul Wilbur singing, “The Day of the Lord, Rejoice O Israel”: http://youtu.be/u9G_nJQBlc0

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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Part 3: Life Is Sacred…Handle With Care

always-a-life

The Bible not only makes it clear that human life is sacred but why it is sacred. It has to do with God’s plan and purpose for that life even before one is born. Here’s what the Apostle Paul testified about his life in Galatians 1:15, “But when he who has set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me that I might preach him among the Gentiles….”

Just try to imagine how Christianity would have been affected if Paul’s mother would have decided, for whatever reason, that she didn’t want another baby and chose to end her pregnancy. By today’s warped thinking that would have been acceptable amongst some groups. But do you think God would have approved of this given the fact that the life, which he created, is sacred and vital according to his plan of salvation?

Paul’s life was particularly sacred since God had set him apart to do his work even BEFORE he was born. It’s a dreaded thought, but we can’t help but wonder how many Paul’s have been deprived of life over the years because a mother chose not to give birth to the life she carried. But this sort of travesty has occurred among millions of unborn babies whose lives have been already terminated. We can only pray and hope that this trend changes someday for the sake of society and its well-being.

In his book, Sanctity of Life, Chuck Swindoll tells the story of a couple who married during the Great Depression when the man was middle-aged and she was in her twenties. Exactly 10 months after their wedding day, their first child was born—a baby boy. Times were tough but they managed fairly well. Before their second anniversary, along came a second child, this time a girl. Their hands were certainly full with this addition!

And then, lo and behold, in January, long before their fourth anniversary the following October the mother conceived her third child even though they were using contraceptives. The other two children were obviously still in diapers. Finances were very challenging. The mother’s health was not good and, understandably, she was tired all the time. She wasn’t all that great with young children. She was depressed.

The pressures were so great that it would have been easy to consider seeking out someone who could perform an abortion even though it was illegal at the time. However, this couple was convinced that they should accept whatever God had sovereignly planned for them. In spite of the circumstances, they chose to trust God and have that baby in October of 1934.

That baby was Charles R. Swindoll, the author of the book. He became president of Dallas Theological Seminary, pastor for many years, and prolific Christian author. He was his parents’ last child. As it turned out, all three of those children became involved in vocational Christian service.

chuck-swindoll

Charles R. “Chuck” Swindoll

No one, certainly not his parents, knew at that time what God’s plans for him, or his siblings, would be. But they knew God, and they fully believed that HE was greater than their rights, their plans, and their inconveniences.

Submission to God’s greatness includes believing with all our heart that life is sacred according to his purpose and will, then acting upon it. Yes, human life is sacred because God has established it that way ever since creation. Yes, life is sacred because he esteems it with precious value. But life is also cared because Jesus was born to fulfill his Father’s marvelous plan for the ages. If this were not true he wouldn’t have called us to salvation by sending his Son to die for our sins and give us the opportunity to receive eternal life in his Kingdom.

Through God’s redemption in Jesus Christ, our lives may be recreated in a spiritual way. Though human nature suffers through man’s fall into sin, God’s grace or favor enables us to be reshaped spiritually in God’s image through the person of Jesus, his Son. Paul said to the Corinthians, “And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man [Adam], so shall we bear the likeness [image] of the man from heaven [Jesus Christ],” (1 Cor. 15:49). What he is referring to is the privilege we have of being in the likeness of Christ whom God has sent to save us. Those who have given their lives to his Son will be made complete when he returns to resurrect the dead in Christ and give them eternal life (1 Cor. 15:41-58; 1 John 5:12-13).

Our purpose and privilege is to give our lives up so that Christ can take over our lives and live in us. The Apostle Paul likens it to crucifixion. He testified, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me, (Gal. 2:20). In dying to self, we let Christ be alive in every essence of our being through faith in preparation for the coming Kingdom, (1 Thess. 5:21-24).

If life were not so sacred, this hope would never be possible. Jesus declared, “I have come that they might have life, and have it abundantly,” (John 10:10). If life was not so sacred, Jesus would not have sacrificed his own life for saving us and giving us “the blessed hope,” (Titus 2:13-14). He would not have been born for the purpose of doing his Father’s will and giving us the promise of having the abundant life. Yes, the abundant life is filled with all the blessings made possible by the Power of God at work in our lives through Christ, (Gal. 5:22-26).

Indeed, Jesus makes life worth living both now in this life and in the glorious Age to Come. Life IS sacred. Handle it with care. https://youtu.be/aZpCYMKPt2o

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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Part 2: Life Is Sacred…Handle With Care

life-is-sacred-main-881x496

It’s sad to say, but over the last 80-plus years, society has been traveling in a direction that’s been leading us farther and farther away from God and closer and closer toward a total disregard for the sanctity of life. This movement has been accelerated over the years through the efforts of secular philosophers, humanists, judges and politicians who have held powerful influences in our society. Their views have infiltrated and dominated public education, the media, the entertainment industry, families, and government.

Those who do not adhere to Biblical values created their own “bible” in a publication called the Humanist Manifesto that has three parts: Humanist Manifesto I was published in 1933 through the efforts of 34 liberal humanists led by John Dewey and his experimental and pragmatic theories in education. Humanist Manifesto II was published in 1973 which was actually an updated version of the original yet with a stronger emphasis on controversial stances such as the legalization of divorce and birth control, and support for abortion and an international court. Humanist Manifesto III, published in 2003 by the American Humanist Association (AHA), echoes the same liberal themes of the previous two. (Wikipedia)

This humanist “bible” is followed religiously by its believers. Their plan is to make sure that society-at-large would adopt this humanist philosophy. So far, it looks like they are succeeding. The abolishment of conservative law that supports the sanctity of life is one indication that life is no longer considered sacred in the way the Word of God teaches. On top of that, senseless outbreaks of violence, mass murders, physician-assisted suicides, and the legalization of abortion reveal how humanity’s over-all attitude toward life itself has diminished.

To prove this, here are some excerpts of their beliefs quoted from their humanist “bible”:

We find insufficient evidence for belief in the existence of the supernatural…as non-theists we begin with man, not God….no deity will save us; we must save ourselves….Religious Humanists regard the universe as self-existing and not created….the human species is an emergence from natural evolutionary forces….Ethics is autonomous and situational….and stem from self interest—favor to right to birth control, abortion, divorce, and choice of sex direction….We believe in maximum individual autonomy—reject all religious, moral codes that suppress freedom….demand civil liberties, including right to oppose governmental policies—right die with dignity, euthanasia [mercy killing of the elderly and handicapped], and suicide….We have reached a turning point in human history where the best often is to transcend the limits of national sovereignty and move toward the building of a world community [today this word is, “globalization”]….the peaceful adjudication of differences by international courts.” (Humanist Manifestos I and II)

Interestingly, the true Bible predicts this is the kind of humanistic belief that would prevail prior to Jesus’ second coming. We are witnessing right before our very eyes the cultural rot that is taking place on college campuses and other institutions simply because people have removed God from their laws, their schools, their families, and their lives. The Bible says as humanity continues to spiral downward in opposition to God and his holy standards, God will give them over to the depravity of their minds just as he has done as before:

Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen…And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper….(Romans 1:24-25, 28 New American Standard Bible, NASB)

It is imperative that we, as believers, stand on guard against those with depraved minds who persist in promoting the devaluation of human life. Those who profess to be wise are foolish if they hold beliefs that are in direct opposition to the Biblical truth regarding the sanctity of life (1 Cor. 1:18-25). Christian parents need to warn their children of teachers and professors who question God’s existence and that he is the Creator and Sustainer of all life. Ministers need to remind their churches to resist the materialistic ideas of human thinkers who would deny the inspiration of God’s Word and its infallible truth. The evil ways of the world must be opposed and the true Way must be shared with our friends, neighbors, and anyone who is willing to listen to the Good News concerning life and the hope we have in Christ.

The sacred value of life must be reinforced and ingrained in our own way of thinking and lifestyle. Consider, for example, what David declares to God in Psalm 139:13-16,

For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them. (NASB)

From the moment of conception, God has “woven together” our internal organ system. He formed our “frame” consisting of our skeleton, bones, and skull which determine height, build, and size. And unlike those who deny it, there IS self-awareness. Medical technology proves that babies do show conscious responses and reflexes inside the mother’s womb. Science has shown the baby’s heart beating from 18-21 days and brain waves from 40 days of conception. Ultrasound technology clearly shows evidence of another person developing and growing inside the mother’s uterus. Though very tiny, this life is sacred.

God has a purpose and a plan for this sacred life and this is what we will look at in PART 3 of my next post. Please stand by.

Here is Matt Redman singing “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made,” http://youtu.be/k8AyNVppMaQ

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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