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July 2018
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Truth Divorced From Life

Jude v25For those of us who profess to be Christian, why do we worship God? What is it about Jesus Christ that we claim we cling to while singing our worship songs on Sunday morning? Unfortunately, it often does not follow us throughout the rest of our week in our interactions with others and in the midst of our own self-seeking ways. And “being nice” is no proof of genuine Christianity as anyone is capable of “being nice” if they choose to be. Our actions (and the motives behind them) lived out on a daily basis can give us some clues as to the depth, or lack of it, regarding our true feelings for and about God. Merely looking and acting “religious” on the outside (for the benefits of others and ourselves) has nothing to do with the truth.

In a devotion by A.W. Tozer (1897-1963) titled, “Truth Divorced From Life,” in the devotional book titled, Tozer on The Almighty God,” compiled by Ron Eggert and published in 2004, Tozer states the following:

There is scarcely anything so dull and meaningless as Bible doctrine taught for its own sake. Truth divorced from life is not truth in its biblical sense, but something else and something less. Theology is a set of facts concerning God, man and the world. These facts may be and often are set forth as values in themselves; and there lies the snare both for the teacher and for the hearer . . . .

The Bible, however, is more than a volume of hitherto unknown facts about God, man and the universe. It is a book of exhortation based upon those facts. By far the greater portion of the book is devoted to an urgent effort to persuade people to alter their ways and bring their lives into harmony with the will of God . . . .

No man is better for knowing that God in the beginning created the heavens and the earth. The devil knows that, and so did Ahab and Judas Iscariot. No man is better for knowing that God so loved the world of men that He gave His only begotten Son to die for their redemption. In hell there are millions who know that. Theological truth is useless until it is obeyed. The purpose behind all doctrine is to secure moral action. (Devotion for September 6)

Action . . . the kind that goes to the heart of everything that we do. Why do we do it? And what is behind that “action”? Self? Or God? Too often, it is self. Tozer goes on to state the following in another devotion titled, “Universally Misunderstood,” in the same book mentioned above:

We can only conclude that Jesus is universally popular today because He is universally misunderstood.

Everyone admires Jesus, but almost no one takes Him seriously. He is considered a kindly idealist who loved babies and underprivileged persons. He is pictured as a gentle dreamer who was naive enough to believe in human goodness and brave enough to die for His belief. The world thinks of Him as meek, selfless and loving, and values Him because He was what we all are at heart, or would be if things were not so tough and we had more time to cultivate our virtues. Or He is a sweet, holy symbol of something too fine, too beautiful, to be real, but something which we would not lose nevertheless from our treasure house of precious things.

Because the human mind has two compartments, the practical and the ideal, people are able to live comfortably with their dreamy, romantic conception of Jesus while paying no attention whatsoever to His words. It is this neat division between the fanciful and the real that enables countless thousands of persons to say, “Lord, Lord” in all sincerity while living every moment in flat defiance of His authority. (Devotion for July 14)

“Living every moment in flat defiance of His authority” . . . . How often do our wants and our desires usurp Jesus Christ’s authority over our lives? Too often, in many cases. All we need to do is ask ourselves why we are doing what we do at any given moment and it becomes pretty clear who is in charge most of the time.

Here is another devotion by Tozer from the same book mentioned above titled, “Both Easy and Difficult”:

But the God we must see is not the utilitarian God who is having such a run of popularity today, whose chief claim to men’s attention is His ability to bring them success in their various undertakings and who for that reason is being cajoled and flattered by everyone who wants a favor. The God we must learn to know is the Majesty in the heavens, God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, the only wise God our Saviour . . . .

Knowledge of such a Being cannot be gained by study alone. It comes by a wisdom that natural man knows nothing of, neither can know, because it is spiritually discerned. To know God is at once the easiest and the most difficult thing in the world. It is easy because the knowledge is not won by hard mental toil, but is something freely given. As sunlight falls free on the open field, so the knowledge of the holy God is a free gift to men who are open to receive it. But this knowledge is difficult because there are conditions to be met and the obstinate nature of fallen man does not take kindly to them. (Devotion for January 24)

Read that last sentence again . . . “But this knowledge is difficult because there are conditions to be met and the obstinate nature of fallen man does not take kindly to them.” And on the following page Tozer goes on to state in a devotion titled, “A Vast Difference,” the following:

It is possible to grow up in a church, learn the catechism and have everything done to us that they do to us, within reason. But after we have done all that, we many not know God at all, because God isn’t known by those external things. We are blind and can’t see, because the things of God no man knows but by the Spirit of God . . . .

We imagine that we can handle it by the flesh, and we do handle it by the flesh–the Lord lets us do it. We can hold the creed and not know God in His person at all. We can know the doctrine and not know spiritual things at all. The fearful consequence is that many people know about God but don’t know God Himself. There is a vast difference between knowing about God and knowing God–a vast difference! . . . .

So it is that the human being can know about God, can know about Christ’s dying for him, can even write songs and books, can be the head of religious organizations and hold important church offices–and still never have come to the vital, personal knowledge of God at all. Only by the Holy Spirit can we know God. (Devotion for January 25)

proverbs-23-7Too often we only have a head knowledge–and not a genuine heart knowledge–of God and Jesus Christ. And without genuine repentance that head knowledge can fool both us and those around us. And it is a deadly place to be, for there is no genuine repentance that brings about change in us–a giving over of our own desires to the will of God.

It is quite possible to get all emotional on Sunday morning while singing worships songs, but where the rubber meets the road is how we treat others (all others and not just those we choose to like for whatever our reasons) and who we are really living for during the rest of the week.

Jesus stated the following after his resurrection in Matthew 28:18-20:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

And what are the commands of Jesus Christ? The following is taken from the opening paragraph on Institute of Basic Life Principles:

Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Keeping the commands of Jesus begins with recognizing what they are. Following (see link) is a collection of 49 of Jesus’ commands. As you read through them, ask God to help you observe these words, apply them, and faithfully follow them throughout your lifetime. (Click here for the compiled list).

I’m not including the link to that list to overwhelm anyone as it overwhelms me if I think I have to try to do any of them in my own power. Nobody can do them in their own power. However, the first one on the list brings about the ability to accomplish the rest, and that first one is repentance. Without genuine repentance the rest won’t matter. And we can’t do the rest without the power of the Holy Spirit inside of us enabling us to accomplish them. And it might surprise us to see just what some of the items are on that list, such as: following after Jesus; rejoicing; going the second mile; letting your light shine before others; keeping your word; loving your enemies; laying up treasures in heaven and not here on earth; and seeking God’s kingdom instead of one of our own making. And the reality is that it is not just about a “list,” but about a heart attitude. Who is it that we really want to serve? Jesus or ourselves?

Jesus stated the following in Matthew 11:28-30:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Too often we perceive Jesus to be described as in the devotion above titled, “Universally Misunderstood,” and he is anything but weak and/or timid or someone we can just push aside as a nice guy or sweet, holy symbol of our religion (see blog posts titled Not a Tame Lion and Not A Timid Christianity). He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lord and all authority has been given to him by God the Father (see Matthew 28:18-20).

It’s easy (and deadly) to only have a head knowledge about God and Jesus Christ without any genuine change in heart attitude that comes from repentance. As Tozer stated above, “No man is better for knowing that God in the beginning created the heavens and the earth. The devil knows that, and so did Ahab and Judas Iscariot. No man is better for knowing that God so loved the world of men that He gave His only begotten Son to die for their redemption. In hell there are millions who know that. Theological truth is useless until it is obeyed . . . .”

Our faith, if it is genuine, requires obedience . . . .

Holy, Holy, Holy
Is The Lord God Almighty
Who Was And Is
And Is To Come!
~Revelation 4:8

YouTube Video: “Revelation Song” sung by Phillips, Craig & Dean:

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Put Away Compromise

Compromise-WDGSACompromise . . . how many times in a day do we find ourselves compromising on things we say we believe in? Three of the definitions for “compromise” stated in are (1) a weakening or reduction of one’s principles or standards; (2) to reduce the quality, value, or degree of something, such as one’s ideals; and (3) an exposure of one’s good name, reputation, etc, to injury. (Quote source here.)

In answer to the question, “What does the Bible have to say about compromise?” GotQuestions?org states the following in their answer (full article available at this link):

To compromise is to make concessions or accommodations for someone who does not agree with a prevalent set of standards or rules. The Bible makes it clear that God does not condone compromising His standards . . . . Not compromising requires our unswerving submission to Him and to Him only, regardless of the world’s concession to godlessness (Joshua 24:15Psalm 119:10Psalm 119:15). . . .

As believers, we must “see to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8; see also Hebrews 3:12). We are also commanded to be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you . . .” (1 Peter 3:15). In other words, we are commanded not only to remain faithful to the Word but to defend it and correct those who are in opposition to it (2 Timothy 2:24-25). God is serious about our not compromising His Word with the values of the world—the reason being that those outside of Christ may then “come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil . . .” (2 Timothy 2:26).

Then there are those who profess to being Christians, yet live lives not in keeping with the precepts of the Scripture, i.e., compromising their biblical beliefs by living like world. For them, the things of the world and its sensual allurements take precedence over the Word of God (Acts 20:301 John 2:16-19). Jesus referred to these people as “those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful” (Mark 4:18-19). These are the ones who, though professing to follow Christ, compromise their faith by craving worldly success and accolades from their fellow man. Jesus chastised such people who rationalized their questionable behavior: “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” (John 5:41-44). In other words, to compromise in one’s total allegiance and devotion to God is to allow the allurements of this world, with its accompanying worries, to take precedence over Christ (Matthew 6:24). (Quote source and full article here).

“Compromising their biblical beliefs by living like the world” . . . and we do that all the time here in America. We love the excesses afforded to us by our society so we indulge and before we know it our conscience is seared by our lack of restraint. And if enough of us do it we don’t even recognize the major error we have made in our relationship with God. After all, we rationalize that everybody else is doing it, too.

In a devotion titled, “Put Away Compromise,” by A.W. Tozer (1897-1963), in the book titled, Tozer on the Holy Spirit (2000), compiled by Marylynne E. Foster, Tozer states:

The way to spiritual power and favor with God is to be willing to put away the weak compromises and the tempting evils to which we are prone to cling. There is no Christian victory or blessing if we refuse to turn away from the things that God hates.

Even if your wife loves it, turn away from it. Even if your husband loves it, turn away from it. Even if it is accepted in the whole social class and system of which you are a part, turn away from it. Even if it is something that has come to be accepted by our whole generation, turn away from it if it is evil and wrong and an offense to our Lord and righteous Savior . . . .

Every Christian holds the key to his or her own spiritual attainment. If he or she will not pay the price of being joyfully led by the Holy Spirit of God, if he or she refuses to hate sin and evil and wrong, our churches might as well be turned into lodges or clubs. (Devotion for July 6.)

Read that last sentence again . . . “If he or she will not pay the price of being joyfully led by the Holy Spirit of God, if he or she refuses to hate sin and evil and wrong, our churches might as well be turned into lodges or clubs.” And many have been turned into Christian “social clubs” not only in Tozer’s day but has quantified substantially in the 52 years since Tozer’s death. Sin is just “no big deal” to many of us anymore. And why is that? It’s because we don’t take what God says seriously anymore. And that is an error of staggering proportions, the ramifications of which we cannot even begin to imagine. And nobody seems to care.

end of self beginning of GodWe major on what we want and forget that we serve a Holy God. We wink at sin as if it just doesn’t matter all that much in our fast-paced and easy access society today. Besides, Jesus is always there to forgive us, right? Our heart attitude is really into serving self and not God, but we can sure make it look like we are serving him to others and maybe even fool ourselves along the way. Yeah, we can put on a really good show with a smiling face. Unfortunately, God is not so easily fooled, even if we think we can fool the rest of our world. And the world isn’t fooled that easily, either, but it can often be bought with gossip and money, and that includes many in the Christian world who profess to be Christian. “Bigger, better, more, more, more” is the motto of our day in America, and it doesn’t matter who we are or what we say we believe in, either. And who really cares if we possibly end up destroying someone else (whether it’s their livelihood or reputation or both) through our gossip or lying to get what we want? We rationalize that our gain (whatever it happens to be) from their loss is God’s blessing, right? Not by a long shot. Anathema . . . And there’s always a payback to that kind of deception.

In two devotions titled, “Love Good, Hate Evil,” and “Love God, Hate Sin,” previous to the one mentioned above in the same book, Tozer wrote the following:

Love Good, Hate Evil

If we are committed, consecrated Christians, truly disciples of the crucified and risen Christ, there are some things we must face.

We cannot love honesty without hating dishonesty. We cannot love purity without hating impurity. We cannot love truth without hating lying and deceitfulness.

If we belong to Jesus Christ, we must hate evil even as He hated evil in every form. The ability of Jesus Christ to hate that which was against God and to love that which was full of God was the force that made Him able to receive the anointing–the oil of gladness–in complete measure.

On our human side, it is our imperfection in loving the good and hating the evil that prevents us from receiving the Holy Spirit in complete measure. God withholds from us because we are unwilling to follow Jesus in His great poured-out love for what is right and His pure and holy hatred of what is evil. “Hate the evil and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate” (Amos 5:15). (Devotion from July 4).

Love God, Hate Sin

People remark how favored the church is in this country. It does not have to face persecution and rejection. If the truth were known, our freedom from persecution is because we have taken the easy, the popular way.

If we would love righteousness until it became an overpowering passion, if we would renounce everything that is evil, our day of popularity and pleasantness would quickly end. The world would soon turn on us.

We are too nice! We are too tolerant! We are too anxious to be popular! We are too quick to make excuses for sin in its many forms! If I would stir Christians around me to love God and hate sin, even to the point of being a bit of a nuisance, I would rejoice . . . . Vance Havner used to remark that too many are running for something when they ought to be standing for something. God’s people should be willing to stand! (Devotion from July 5).

Do you think this is a bit too hard-hitting? Good. There are too many people out there soft peddling as easy Christianity that just doesn’t exist and way too many folks have swallowed it because it sounds so good. We don’t need more pastors/teachers who coddle their congregations with teaching that twist the Bible to their own benefit (either for status or money or both)–and certainly that is not to say that all pastors/teachers do that, either. But there are many who do. Even the Apostle Paul stated in Colossians 2:8:

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

And also Paul stated in 2 Corinthians 11:3-4; 13-15 regarding the false teachers of his day:

I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. . .

For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.

Unfortunately, we believe almost anyone who claims to be Christian and especially if they have any kind of following or they are popular on the Christian speaking circuit (with their plethora of books and other materials to peddle) and/or have the educational “credentials” we esteem despite what they teach. And often we are unaware of their deception because we do not study the Bible for ourselves, pray for discernment, and develop our own relationship with Jesus Christ to be able to recognize the deception.

And discernment? What’s that? Spiritual discernment has to do with wisdom and the ability to distinguish truth from error. The following statement is from GotQuestions?org regarding how to increase one’s spiritual discernment:

It is not wrong to possess knowledge or have an education, and it is not wrong to use reason and logic to solve problems. However, spiritual discernment cannot be attained that way. It must be given by the revelation of Jesus Christ to the believer, and then developed by way of training in righteousness (Hebrews 5:14) and prayer (Philippians 1:9). Hebrews 5:11-14 shows how spiritual discernment is developed. The writer speaks to those who had become “dull of hearing,” meaning they had fallen out of practice discerning spiritually. The writer of Hebrews tells them that everyone who lives on “milk” (rather than the “solid food” desired by the mature) is unskilled in the word of righteousness; however, the mature Christian has been “trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” The keys, according to this passage, are becoming skilled in the Word of God (by which we define righteousness) and “constant practice” (through which we gain experience).

So, how does one increase spiritual discernment? First, recognizing that God is the only one who can increase wisdom, pray for it (James 1:5Philippians 1:9). Then, knowing the wisdom to distinguish good from evil comes by training and practice, go to the Bible to learn the truth and, by meditation on the Word, reinforce the truth.

When a bank hires an employee, he is trained to recognize counterfeit bills. One would think that the best way to recognize a counterfeit would be to study various counterfeits. The problem is that new counterfeits are being created every day. The best way to recognize a counterfeit bill is to have an intimate knowledge of the real thing. Having studied authentic bills, bank cashiers are not fooled when a counterfeit comes along. A knowledge of the true helps them identify the false.

This is what Christians must do to develop spiritual discernment. We must know the authentic so well that, when the false appears, we can recognize it. By knowing and obeying the Word of God, we will be “trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” We will know God’s character and will. This is the heart of spiritual discernment – being able to distinguish the voice of the world from the voice of God, to have a sense that “this is right” or “this is wrong.” Spiritual discernment fends off temptation and allows us to “hate what is evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9). (Quote source and full article here.)

Too often in today’s world and, yes, among Christians, we have so compromised the way we live that we fudge on what is “right” and “wrong” on a regular basis. Our conscience has been seared by our own desires and society’s excesses, and nobody out there is warning us of the impending danger. The following statement is from GotQuestions?org:

For human beings, having one’s conscience seared is a result of continual, unrepentant sinning. Eventually, sin dulls the sense of moral right or wrong, and the unrepentant sinner becomes numb to the warnings of the conscience that God has placed within each of us to guide us (Romans 2:15) (Quote source here.)

Much like the frog–who was placed in a pot of water that was slowly heated up to the boiling point–was totally unaware of his impending demise, we are in the exact same predicament, and we don’t even recognize it for what it is. James 4:17 states, “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” But do we care? Our reaction to that verse speaks volumes about our spiritual state.

Then Jesus said to his disciples,
“Whoever wants to be my disciple
must deny themselves
and take up their cross
and follow me.”
~Matthew 16:24

YouTube Video: “Lose My Soul,” by TobyMac (with Kirk Franklin & Mandisa):

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