Archive for the ‘The Preaching of the Cross’ Category
By David Dombrowski
Editor at Lighthouse Trails
A number of years ago, there was a knock at the office door, and when I answered it, I was greeted by a lady with a cheery face telling me of a most significant event coming to the community – and I was invited. She then handed me a brochure that was to clue me in on what the event was all about. I thanked her and closed the door.
On the front page, there was a picture of Jesus crowned as King along with some questions asking, basically, is Jesus a man who attempted to die for the sins of all mankind – in weakness and humility, or is He the victorious King soon to return. It was an either/or question implying that Jesus was either a pathetically weak individual, or He is a victorious King soon to return, swiftly conquering all the forces of evil. Then when I flipped the brochure open, it greeted me with the bold statement – He is the coming King. All the while, a sickening feeling came over me – the kind of feeling I get when I hear someone blaspheming God. Yet, whoever wrote the brochure was trying to depict Jesus as good – Jesus as powerful. The author was suggesting that we need to do away with the idea of a weak Jesus who would stoop so low as to die for sins.
It’s a funny thing, but from my earliest youth – before I ever became a born-again Christian – I knew that Jesus came to die for mankind’s sins. I knew in my heart that He is our Redeemer. Then in my early twenties when I accepted Him as my Savior and Lord and made a life-long commitment to serve Him, I remember pondering the overwhelming significance of Jesus dying on the Cross. It was the most significant event in history only to be equaled in any fashion by His resurrection. I remember thinking then, as a new believer, that Jesus’ death on the Cross to atone for sin is so fundamental to the Christian faith that this doctrine and teaching could never possibly be questioned by the church at large. While I knew that a mass deception would sweep the entire world before Jesus returns – when the Antichrist will come to power – but nullifying teaching on the atonement and the Cross did not seem to enter the equation.
But, what is wrong with seeing Jesus as a victorious, powerful king and forgetting that weak moment in time when He was nailed to a Cross? (This is a rhetorical question and not a serious one.) After all, is it not true that in chapters 17 and 19 of Revelation He is referred to as Lord of lords and King of kings? We should look at one of those passages; it concerns a time when the rulers of the earth will be paying homage to the Beast:
These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast. These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful. (Revelation 17:13-14)
Upon reading this, I decided to look up the word “Lamb” found in these verses in Strong’s Concordance, for somehow the word “Lamb” does not fit the idea of a conquering King, being known as an animal that is both meek and lowly. Checking the Concordance, sure enough, the word literally means “lamb” but this derivative more aptly means a lambkin – which according to Webster’s Dictionary means a little lamb. My word pursuit only led me to the ultimate in weakness – a helpless little lamb.
Yet, something very significant about all of this also blazes throughout the pages of both the Old and New Testaments. For it was the sacrificial lamb of the Old Testament, without spot or blemish, that foretold as a type and shadow of things to come, the coming of a sinless Redeemer. Isaiah wrote of Him saying, “he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities . . . and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:5-6). When John the Baptist saw Jesus coming, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Jesus, indeed, was the sacrificial Lamb who became the perfect substitute and one true offering for Abraham and Isaac at the altar, for the Israelites at their first Passover in Egypt, for Moses and Aaron and the temple priests and their many offerings; and He is the substitute for “whosoever believeth in Him” (John 3:15 & 16, Acts 10:43, Romans 10:11) – Jesus, the Son of God, who died on the Cross for our sins.
I find it very puzzling how supposed Bible scholars can spend vast amounts of time dissecting the Scriptures and yet not seem to be able to come up with a single reference to Jesus dying as an atonement for sin. If the Old Testament had taught that we are saved by our own good works, then why were the chosen people of that day instructed to, year after year, offer sacrificial animals for sin? It is because salvation never was and never will be earned (based on works); it is the “gift of God: Not of works” (Ephesians 2:8-9). And a gift necessitates a giver, and that Giver is Jesus Christ, the one perfect Lamb without blemish.
Going back to Revelation 17, where we see Jesus portrayed as both Lamb and King, I ask the question, what would it be like to forget Jesus as the Lamb and portray Him only as King? The answer to this question can be readily found in the New Testament because this is precisely the kind of Messiah the Jews were looking for at that time – who would be a political figure, rather than a personal savior and save the Jews from the oppressive despotic government of the Romans. Time and again, the Jewish masses wanted to make Him King, and the disciples sometimes pondered as to why Jesus did not usurp the power of government held by the Romans.
The fact of the matter is that the Jewish population was not as concerned about personal salvation as they were concerned about the oppression they encountered in the here and now. It is the same today. Increasingly, we are hearing that the era of the personal (single) savior is over, and the term “redeeming cultures” is prevalent. In fact, emergent leaders indicate that those who seek after personal salvation rather than corporate redemption of cultures are merely “self-centered.” In other words, personal salvation is no longer an issue, nor is it even relevant, but what counts is saving our planet.
But Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). Jesus never attempted to operate as a political figure or to redeem cultures as many are attempting to do today. It seems so much nobler and politically correct to save our culture or our world than to “selfishly” seek personal salvation. But personal salvation is specifically what Jesus came for. He knew that we can never have a better world if individual hearts are not changed. Furthermore, Jesus was concerned about our individual souls from the perspective of where we will spend eternity. In fact, as the disciples were admiring the beauty of the temple, Jesus rightfully predicted that it would all be torn down, for He knew the immediate future was bleak for the nation of Israel.
Even Judas was hoping for a political king. He often dipped into the treasury for himself and wondered what political gain he might enjoy by following Jesus. Then when Jesus disappointed his hope for temporal gain, Judas betrayed him.
In view of these facts, I find it very disconcerting that people who call themselves Christians today would strip Jesus of His true purpose to be that sacrificial Lamb while crowning him as King. This is what Judas attempted to do. It is also what the Roman soldiers did when they dressed Him in a robe and set a crown of thorns on His head. But, truthfully, what many Christians are doing today is much worse because when we rob Jesus of His title as the sacrificial Lamb, we are making a mockery of Jesus’ death on the Cross and of the deity of the sinless Son of God. If Jesus did not die for the sins of mankind, neither was He the unique and sinless One whom Isaiah refers to as, “Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). To rob Jesus of His role as our Redeemer is to rob His place as God who became flesh and dwelt among us – because there would be no more Gospel. Suffice to say, crowning Jesus as King alone while denying His intended and rightful place as our Redeemer is nothing short of blasphemous.
Jesus indeed is risen, and He will come back as King. But remember, for Him to have risen, He had to have died first. The glory of the resurrection is that Jesus is Victor in conquering both sin and death at the Cross. Through that cruel death, He purchased us and has gone to prepare a place for us to spend with Him for all eternity.
I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee. (Isaiah 44:22)
In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace. (Ephesians 1:7)
For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
He preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection . . . And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. (Acts 17:18, 30-31)
Apart from the great fact of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, we would have no Gospel to preach. By “resurrection,” we do not mean that our Lord’s spirit continued to live after His body died but that He was actually raised from the dead by the glory of the Father and came forth from the tomb in the very same body that had been impaled on Calvary’s cross. In that body, now glorified, He sits at God’s right hand, and in that same body, He is coming again as the Judge of both living and dead—the saved and lost. This is what is emphasized for us in the seventeenth chapter of the Acts of the apostles.
The entire passage, beginning with verse 16, is of tremendous interest, but I have no thought of attempting to explain it all, though I hope you will read it carefully at your leisure, if you are not thoroughly familiar with it, for it is undoubtedly one of the finest examples of a preacher’s eloquence that we have anywhere in the Bible.
Paul appears here at his best, from the human standpoint, but he also speaks as a divinely inspired servant of Christ. Of Apollos, we read elsewhere that he was an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, and it is very evident from this sample sermon that Paul was a man of the same stamp; although on the other hand, he did not particularly cultivate what was simply rhetorical, lest the Cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
But it was quite in keeping with his principle of being” made all things to all men,” that when he stood on Mars’ Hill, the very center of culture of the Greek world, he should meet those philosophers on their own ground.
PROUD, ATTIC PHILOSOPHERS
So far as culture was concerned, he was every whit their equal, combining a thorough acquaintance with their literature, history, and customs, with a deep knowledge of the Word of God to which they were strangers. Thus he gave them that day a new and arresting message such as they had never heard before, and possibly many were destined never to hear again.
Notice some of the circumstances. Paul was waiting in Athens for several of his fellow servants, who had returned to Thessalonica to find out how the newborn Christians there were getting along. As he wandered about the city, his spirit was deeply stirred, for he saw everywhere the evidences of idolatry. They worshipped everything in Athens; in fact an ancient philosopher once said, “In Athens it is easier to find a god than a man.” There were images on every street corner, over every doorway, in every courtyard, found in every store, and every dwelling house. Turn where you would, you were confronted by them.
SIGNS OF PAGAN DARKNESS
Paul, as he walked those streets, knew that the things the Gentiles sacrificed were sacrificed to demons and not to God; he knew he was probably the only man in that city who had a knowledge of the true and living God and of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ; and yet for the time being he saw no opportunity to give his message in a public way.
A Jewish synagogue, however, attracted his attention, and entering it, he claimed his right as a recognized teacher to speak, and there he presented the Gospel, disputing with the adherents of Judaism, and with proselytes who were doubtless weary of the unsatisfactory character of idolatrous rites and ceremonies, and had sought out this place of instruction in the law of Moses.
In the market place also he addressed himself to individuals, and sometimes little groups would gather about him to whom he proclaimed the wondrous story of God’s grace in Christ Jesus to a lost world. Little by little he drew the attention of the people, who were always interested in that which seemed new and strange. So we need not be surprised that at last certain philosophers of the Epicureans and the Stoics became interested in him and his teaching.
THE EPICUREANS AND THE STOICS
These believed that man’s supreme good is found in trying to please himself, that there is no use denying one’s self; make the best of life by getting all the pleasure out of it you can, for you are going to be dead for a long time. We can hear the echo of this in the philosophy of so-called self-expression of our day.
The Stoics took the opposite view of life. They said: we are in the hands of a remorseless fate; we had nothing to say about coming into the world, and there is no telling what will happen when we leave it. Just grit your teeth, don’t show the white feather, make up your mind that “what cannot be cured must be endured.” Stoicism has come down through the ages as the synonym for patient endurance.
Some of these philosophers asked, “What will this babbler say?” To them he seemed to be setting forth new gods. New gods in Athens! They had searched the world to find all of them. They had shrines for the gods of Babylon, Phoenicia, Greece, Egypt, and Rome. They worshipped them all, and yet this man seemed to know something about some new ones, because Paul preached “Jesus and the resurrection.” They thought that Anastasis (resurrection) was yet another god! They had the god of peace, the god of victory, the god of justice, the god of love — all these different deified human attributes; and now they thought, “This man seems to have two new gods, one called Jesus and the other, Resurrection. We would like to hear more about them.” And they took him up to Mars’ Hill, or the Areopagus. This overlooked Athens, and was where the philosophers met for discussion. So they invited Paul to come up there and expound his new doctrines. Led by them, he wended his way to the meeting -place above, and at once began to proclaim the message that he had been yearning to give them for so long.
He took his text from an inscription he had seen on one of their altars, and said, as it were, “I see you are a very religious people. You seem to worship every god known to the Greeks and all other nations, and as I walked about I noticed an altar with an unusual inscription.”
“TO THE UNKNOWN GOD!”
It was evident that these Athenians feared lest they might be neglecting some god whose name had not been communicated to them, and so they set up the altar that had attracted Paul’s attention.
What a splendid text it made! And so Paul said, “Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.” In other words, “I am here to tell you who the unknown God is.” How can anyone make known the unknown? God has made Himself known in the person of His blessed Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul was there, indeed, to present Jesus and the resurrection, and let me say that no man preaches the Gospel unless he does preach Jesus and the resurrection.
There is no Gospel for guilty sinners apart from Christ, for the Gospel is God’s message about His blessed Son. The Gospel is not good advice to be obeyed; it is good news to be believed. And that good news concerns the Lord Jesus Christ, Who came from the glory that He had with the Father from all eternity down to the sorrow and anguish of the cross of Calvary where He bared His breast that the sword of divine justice might be sheathed in His heart. He took our place and endured what we deserved. But that alone would not be the Gospel; there is something more needed.
Paul preached: JESUS, AND—And what? “And the resurrection.” Wherever the disciples went, they preached that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. The essence of their message was that He “was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Romans 4:25).
So Paul preached Jesus and the resurrection, and we today proclaim the same, and we tell you in His Name, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10).
THE CREATOR AND THE CREATED
Notice how Paul prepared the ground for his message. First of all, they were reminded that the Creator must be greater than that which is created, and Paul directed their attention to the visible universe. It was very evident that the God Who made all things could not be confined in one of their temples. He says, “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing he is Lord of Heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things.” He is not the God of one nation, but of all nations, and we are really one people, for He “hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and bounds of their habitation.” He has put upon men the responsibility to know Him, for He is not far from any one of us.
There is no man anywhere who will dare say in the day of judgment, “I wanted to find God and could not,” for
“Closer is He than breathing, Nearer than hands and feet.” He is so close that if men will feel after Him, will stretch up empty hands towards Him, they will find His great strong hands reaching down to lay hold of them. God will never permit it to be said that any man honestly sought the way of life and failed to find it, that any man really wanted to be saved, and cried to God unheard.
This answers a question that troubles a good many people. I am often asked: WHAT ABOUT THE HEATHEN?
They have never heard the Gospel. What of them? Are they going to be damned because they have never heard? No matter where a heathen man may be today, if he wants to know God and honestly reaches out after Him, God will make Himself responsible to give that man light enough to be saved, for He is not far from any one of us. God has commanded men “that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him.”
This is the only place in the New Testament where we get the word “feel.” I have often urged people to trust the Lord Jesus and have told them how He died for them, bore their sins on the cross, and that if they will believe on Him, He has given His own Word that “whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” And then they say, “Well, I do believe, but I don’t feel any different.” That has nothing to do with it. The word feel is not a Christian word at all. The only place it occurs in the New Testament is here where Paul is speaking of the heathen. But you have an open Bible; you do not need to feel after God. What you need to do is to believe the testimony that He has given, and then you will be saved. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31). This is the word of the living GOD given through His servants of old.
“FEEL” AND “FEELING”
I said that the word feel is found only once in the New Testament, but the word feeling is found twice: once in Ephesians 4:19, where it speaks of certain Gentiles, and says, “Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness”; and again in Hebrews 4:15, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” Apart from these three instances we do not find the words feeling or feel used in the New Testament. The moment you believe in the Lord Jesus, the moment you trust in Him you pass out of death into life, out of condemnation into justification before the throne of God.
In John 5:24, Jesus says, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”
THE FIVE DIVISIONS OF JOHN 5:24
1.”HE THAT HEARETH MY WORD.” Face this: be honest with your own heart. Have you heard the Word of the Son of GOD? Have you heard Him speaking to you through this blessed Book?
2.”AND BELIEVETH HIM THAT SENT ME.” Do you in your heart believe that GOD sent the Lord Jesus Christ to be the sinner’s Savior, to die for you on the cross, to rise from the dead for your justification?
3.”HATH EVERLASTING LIFE.” When do you get it? When you die? No, you get it now, from the moment you believe, from the moment you hear the Word of the Son of God, and receive and confess Him as the One whom the Father sent into the world to be the sinner’s Saviour. The trouble today is that people are stumbling over its very simplicity.
I heard of a man who wanted to be saved, and he was told to do penance for sin by putting hard dried peas in his shoes and walking on them so many hours a day. This poor man did this and limped around the streets, trying to make atonement. It would have done him just as much good if he had boiled the peas first.
But people are willing to do all kinds of hard things. They are like Naaman who, when the prophet commanded, “Go and wash in Jordan seven times,” said, “That is too easy a way.” But he had a wise old servant who suggest, “If the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it?” Why, of course he would. “How much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?” If you had to give a great deal of money, say a great many prayers, make long pilgrimages, do vast numbers of charitable deeds in order to get life eternal, how many of you would be willing to do these things? How much more when He saith to thee, “Believe and live!”
4. “SHALL NOT COME INTO CONDEMNATION.” Think of it! Is that not good news? Not a word about purgatory, not a word about confession to a priest, not a word about sacramental observances, not a word about penance; but here and now, the moment you put your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, your sins are gone and you will never come into judgment, but you have everlasting life. It is all for you. That is the Gospel which Paul preached. And notice the next point:
5. “IS PASSED FROM DEATH UNTO LIFE.” It is a settled, complete salvation, giving a new standing before God to the believing sinner. Observe the threefold link with resurrection:
a. Resurrection and Repentance
But what if men do not accept it? Then there is the judgment. He says that God has been very gracious with the heathen: “The times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent.” Repent means to change your mind completely, to have a new attitude. You had an idea that you could save yourself by your good works, but you change your mind and now admit that you cannot do a thing to save yourself, but that Christ must do it all. That is repentance— a change of attitude toward God. Instead of trying to do anything to save yourself, let the Lord Jesus do it all.
God “commandeth all men everywhere to repent: because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained.” God is going to judge the world in righteousness, but your case can be settled out of court, and settled today, so that you need never think of coming into judgment. But if you reject Christ, some day you must give account before His judgment throne.
b. Resurrection and Assurance
“Whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” The resurrection of the body of our Lord Jesus Christ is the ground of our assurance that we shall live again in our resurrected bodies. He says, “Because I live, ye shall live also.” We are told that “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” This does not mean that all men will be saved, but that the bodies of all men will be raised from the dead. Thus God has given assurance to all men of a life after death in that He raised the body of Christ from the grave. In the second place, He has given assurance unto all men that the sin question is settled in the death of Christ, by raising His body from the dead.
Here is an innocent man who has gone to prison for the crime of another. He knew the other man was guilty, but he knew, too, that in order to prove his own innocence he would have to expose his friend; and so he hears the sentence of the judge, sending him to prison for one year. What must be the feeling of the other man outside? He says, “I have sent that man there; I deserved to go, but he is there in my place.” Perhaps he goes to see him and the man says, “I took your place voluntarily, and I am quite content; you let me endure it.” The other roams the streets and says, “I wonder how long he will be content to remain there; I wonder how long before he tells the whole story.” But by and by a year has passed, and walking down the street one day, he sees the one who went to prison for him. He rushes up and says, “What does this mean?”
“It means,” is the reply, “that you have nothing to fear now. The sentence has been endured.”
So our blessed Lord bore on the Tree the sentence for us, and now we who were once guilty sinners are free. ” Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more.” The resurrection is the proof that the sin question has been settled, that God is satisfied. “He hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.”
c. Resurrection and Reckoning
In the third place, we have assurance in the resurrection of Jesus Christ that some day all men are going to give account to Him. This will be when He sits upon the great white throne. Think of giving account of your sins to Him after all He has done to save you from them!
Notice the threefold response from Paul’s message had that day. “When they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter . . . . Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed.” I wonder if there are not people manifesting these three different attitudes toward the message today!
THREE RESPONSES TO THE GOSPEL
Some mock, some ridicule, some say, “Oh, we cannot believe this message about Jesus and the resurrection; we cannot accept it. We do not see how He could die for sinners and rise again, and how men can be saved through believing on Him.” God pity you if you are turning this message down. Some day He will turn you down, for He says in His Word, “Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh” (Proverbs 1:24- 26). God grant that you may not at last be exposed to such a doom. Do not turn it down, do not go away with a cold, careless sneer and say, “It is nothing to me.”
The second class said, “We will hear thee again of this matter.” They are the procrastinators. You may not be mocking; possibly you would not sneer at the Gospel message; you fully intend to be saved some day, but you are saying, “I will hear you again; I am not ready to close with Christ today. There is so much to occupy my heart and mind these days; some other time. Let me alone for the present. Sometime I will give attention to these things.”
Remember the old saying, “Procrastination is the thief of time.” There is a Spanish proverb which says, “The road of by and by leads to the town of never.” How many have taken that road, have said, “By and by, some other day,” and have gone on and on, until at last they have reached the other world, hopelessly lost, and that forever!
The third class, ” Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed.” What a blessed testimony! God has recorded the names of two of them, one man and one woman, Dionysius and Damaris, who accepted the message proclaimed that day.
Men have an idea that what sinners need is more culture, more refinement; but if polite culture could have saved the world, Greece would have been saved long ago. But Greece went all to pieces in spite of its culture. It was the Gospel of the grace of God that saved the ancient world from ruin. And it is the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ that saves men today. I bring before you these two examples, Dionysius and Damaris, and I beg you to follow them as they followed Christ; believe the message, and go on rejoicing in Him, who was raised from the dead, never to die again. Hear what He says in Revelation 1:18—”I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore.”
Dear Lighthouse Trails:
I read the story behind Lighthouse Trails a couple of times, and it hit me that we are going to reach only a fraction of evangelical believers because the movement has progressed so much farther into Contemplative Spirituality (CS) than I had realized. I became aware of CS five years ago, so when I read that Ray Yungen wrote his book (which I am re-reading currently) in 2002, it occurred to me that the battle is nearly won by the forces of evil. Out of all the people I have tried to reach, only two have been receptive to my warning. Of course, your ministry can reach many more than any one individual. Jesus told us we would see this apostasy in the end.
I sent the link for your story of LHT to a friend, who said she had the very same reaction I had—that is, CS has infiltrated the Church more than she realized and that she felt it is too late. Neither she nor I will give up on trying to warn believers—if only a few have their eyes opened, we will have done what Jesus commands.
I do wish you would do some research on Pastor Brian Zahnd, my former pastor. His church went emergent, and he is deep into Contemplative Spirituality. He teaches seminars on Contemplative Prayer at Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, MO. He is now taking his prayer school on the road. And like Roger Oakland says, he’s on the “road to Rome.” He is currently writing his sixth book. https://brianzahnd.com/books/
If you were to read his blog and his Twitter account, you’d see just how far he has gone into apostasy. https://twitter.com/BrianZahnd
He has said he is a friend of Eugene Peterson. He quotes Thomas Merton, Richard Rohr, and many other CS authors and “theologians” on Twitter. One tweet said: “The future of Christianity belongs to the Thomas Merton kind of Christian, not the heirs of Jerry Falwell.”
Recently he had a reply to one of his tweets from Ann Coulter, so he is not an unknown.
He has jettisoned the OT (though he says not, but then he says he’s not Emergent) and is against substitutionary atonement.
I sent my current pastor your booklet on Brennan Manning and got no response. So I guess I’ll be looking for a new church again.
May God bless you in your vital work.
Lighthouse Trails Comments: As Ruth has perceived, Brian Zahnd is a mystic. If you asked him if he was, he would proudly tell you yes. He’s not ashamed of it. His book Water to Wine tells of his mystical experiences and the outcome of those experiences. It’s in that book that Zahnd made the Merton/Falwell quote. Here is a little more of that quote:
The way forward is far less political and far more mystical. A generation ago the great Catholic theologian Karl Rahner famously predicted, “The devout Christian of the future will either be a ‘mystic’, one who has ‘experienced’ something, or he will cease to be anything at all.” The future of Christianity belongs to the Thomas Merton kind of Christian, not the heirs of Jerry Falwell. This should be seen as a welcome change. It is only our false hopes that are being disappointed in the death of Christendom. (Zahnd, Brian. Water To Wine: Some of My Story (Kindle Locations 1606-1610). Spello Press. Kindle Edition)
During the course of our author Ray Yungen’s adult life, he studied the New Age, occultism, and mysticism, their connection to each other, and their influence in the world and in the church. He frequently mentioned Karl Rahner’s quote that the Christian of the future will be a mystic or he will be nothing. That is how the mystics view their belief that a Christian must engage in mystical practices if he really wants to be spiritual. They believe these practices will produce esoteric experiences that if practiced by enough of mankind, the earth and the world can be saved. They believe that real love and a change of heart can only come from these experiences. The mystics believe that this mystical transformation can happen to anyone, of any belief, of any religion, or of no religion at all. That’s because it isn’t about Jesus Christ (though they may say they like him) and man realizing he is a sinner in great need of a Savior. It can’t be about that—that would take away from the mystic’s belief that divinity dwells in all people and in all things. Though a bit obscure in the following quote by Zahnd, he puts it this way:
Love all of God’s creation, both the whole of it and every grain of sand. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love animals, love plants, love each thing. If you love each thing, you will perceive the mystery of God in things. Once you have perceived it, you will begin tirelessly to perceive more and more of it every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an entire, universal love. (Zahnd, Brian. Water To Wine: Some of My Story (Kindle Locations 1897-1900). Spello Press. Kindle Edition, emphasis added)
As Ray Yungen often pointed out, the “fruit” of contemplative prayer (which Zahnd refers to over 40 times in the book) is interspirituality (all paths lead to God) and panentheism (God in all). Zahnd explains in his book that when he moved from the moral (doctrine) to the mystical, he became interspiritual:
When I was converted from sectarian to eclectic [mystical], I obtained a passport that allowed me to travel freely throughout the whole body of Christ. In my theological travels I have discovered a Christianity that has both historical depth and ecumenical width. Now I can’t imagine not being able to access all the great contributors to contemporary Christian thought. Orthodox thinkers like Kallistos Ware and David Bentley Hart. Catholic thinkers like Richard Rohr and William Cavanaugh. Anglican thinkers like Rowen Williams and N.T. Wright. Mainline thinkers like Walter Brueggemann and Eugene Peterson. Without them my Christianity would be horribly impoverished. (Zahnd, Brian. Water To Wine: Some of My Story (Kindle Locations 459-463). Spello Press. Kindle Edition)
Water to Wine is filled with interspiritual statements like the one above. Using words such as “tribalism,” he says we must get rid of this notion that traditional (biblical) Christianity is more true or right than other religious traditions. Just prior to the statement above, Zahnd quoted Thomas Merton saying:
If I can unite in myself the thought and the devotion of Eastern and Western Christendom, the Greek and the Latin Fathers, the Russian with the Spanish mystics, I can prepare in myself the reunion of divided Christians… If we want to bring together what is divided, we cannot do so by imposing one division [doctrine] upon the other. If we do this, the union is not Christian. It is political and doomed to further conflict. We must contain all the divided worlds in ourselves and transcend them in Christ. (Kindle Locations 454-459, quoting Merton’s Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, Colorado Springs, CO: Image Books, 1968, 14).
You may recall when Thomas Merton spoke via letter with a Sufi master (an Islamic mystic) and told him that doctrinal differences needed to be laid aside, and we must turn to esoteric experiences as a common ground for unity and fellowship between all . He actually used the Cross as an example of one of those doctrines that had to be laid aside. (Rob Baker and Gray Henry, Editors, Merton and Sufism, Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae, 1999, p. 109)
While Zahnd’s book is filled with examples of his “new life” as a mystic, we’d like to bring out just one more point about Zahnd because it reveals some insight that affects a huge percentage of today’s Christian culture, and it is the person who initially pointed the way for Zahnd to become a mystic. You will know the name. Most likely, your own pastor has read at least one of his books. Read what Zahnd has to say:
On a summer afternoon I was at home browsing my bookshelves. I was deliberately looking for a book that would “give me a breakthrough.” I couldn’t settle on anything. So I prayed, “God, show me what to read.” And I sensed…nothing. I went downstairs feeling a bit agitated and slumped into a chair. Within a minute or two my wife, Peri, walked into the room, handed me a book and said, “I think you should read this.” She knew nothing of my moments ago prayer, but she had just handed me a book, and told me to read it. This was my Augustine-like “take and read” moment. It sent chills down my spine. Somehow I knew it was the answer to my prayer. The book was Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy. The strange thing was Peri had not read this book and had no more idea who Dallas Willard was than I did. (As I said, I was embarrassingly ignorant of the good stuff.) Neither of us were sure how the book had even made its way into our house. But, oh my, was it ever an answer to prayer! The next day I was flying somewhere and I took out the book providentially given to me by an angel. I began to read. And my life changed forever. Hyperbole? No. Stone cold fact. Reading Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy was like having a door kicked open in my mind. It opened my eyes to the kingdom of God. And the kingdom of God is, well, everything! In his foreword to The Divine Conspiracy, Richard Foster writes: “The Divine Conspiracy is the book I have been searching for all my life. Like Michelangelo’s Sistine ceiling, it is a masterpiece and a wonder… I would place The Divine Conspiracy in rare company indeed: along-side the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and John Wesley, John Calvin and Martin Luther, Teresa of Avila and Hildegard of Bingen, and perhaps even Thomas Aquinas and Augustine of Hippo. If the parousia tarries, this is a book for the next millennium.” That’s exactly what I needed! Augustine and Aquinas for the twenty-first century! Dallas Willard was my gateway to the good stuff. Directly or indirectly reading Willard led me to others: N.T. Wright, Walter Brueggemann, Eugene Peterson, Frederick Buechner, Stanley Hauerwas, John Howard Yoder, René Girard, Miroslav Volf, Karl Barth, Hans Urs von Balthasar, David Bentley Hart, Wendell Berry, Scot McKnight, Thomas Merton, Richard Rohr, and so many more. (Kindle Locations 116-133)
Sadly, the spirituality that Brian Zahnd found in those authors cannot save souls and does not point to the Cross of redemption through Jesus Christ. Like so many mystics before him, Zahnd has discarded the idea that Christianity is dualistic in that it is separate from all other belief systems (and that there is a right and wrong, true and false, good and bad, etc), and the doctrines that the mystics so readily dismiss are the very framework of our Christian faith. Within those rejected doctrines is the doctrine of the Cross that says man is not divine and he desperately needs a Savior who is just one Person, Jesus Christ who died a violent death on behalf of mankind. He took our place. To reject dualism (two sides) is to reject the Cross. The contemplative emergent Episcopal bishope Alan Jones illustrated this in his book Reimagining Christianity. In Roger Oakland’s book, Faith Undone, Oakland states:
[Alan] Jones carries through with this idea that God never intended Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross to be considered a payment for our sins:
“The Church’s fixation on the death of Jesus as the universal saving act must end, and the place of the cross must be reimagined in Christian faith. Why? Because of the cult of suffering and the vindictive God behind it.”
“The other thread of just criticism addresses the suggestion implicit in the cross that Jesus’ sacrifice was to appease an angry God. Penal substitution [the Cross] was the name of this vile doctrine.” (Faith Undone, Lighthouse Trails, 2007, p. 193, quoting Alan Jones, Reimagining Christianity, Hoboken, NJ: Wiley and Sons, 200, pp. 132, 168)
Jones calls the doctrine of the Cross a “vile doctrine,” similar to Brian McLaren who said the doctrine of the Cross and Hell are “false advertising” for God.* Brennan Manning did the same thing when he said that the God who exacted the last drop of his blood to appease His anger for our sins does not exist. (Above All, Manning, p. 58) Brian Zahnd says it this way:
Over time I began to see the cross in a much deeper way—not as a mere factor in an atonement theory equation, but as the moment in time and space where God reclaimed creation. I saw the cross as the place where Jesus refounded the world. Instead of being organized around an axis of power enforced by violence, at the cross the world was refounded around an axis of love expressed in forgiveness. (Water To Wine, Kindle Locations 305-308, emphasis added)
It’s a perfect ploy of Satan to get people to stop believing in that atonement. Remember, our adversary hates the atonement. And once a person begins down that road of mystical experiences, entering esoteric realms (really demonic realms), Satan will even allow that mystic to think he has become a fully evolved enlightened person who loves everyone and everything. All the while that person, who is being seduced by familiar spirits, is moving further and further away from the only path God has provided for salvation. And he will share this “mystical revolution” with as many people as he can. This is what happened with all the “great” mystics, and tragically, it appears to have happened to Brian Zahnd and who knows how many other evangelical pastors.
* Interview by Leif Hansen (The Bleeding Purple Podcast) with Brian McLaren, January 8th, 2006); Part 1: http://bleeding purple podcast .blog spot.com/2006/01/brian-mclaren-interview-part-i.html; Part II: http://bleeding purple pod cast. blog spot.com/2006/01/interview-with-brian-mclaren-part-ii.html).
In 2009, Lighthouse Trails posted an article titled “The Shack Author Rejects Biblical Substitutionary Atonement.” The article was largely based on an interview that The Shack author William Paul Young did. Below is a partial transcript of the interview between Young and a pastor named Kendall Adams. When your Christian friends, family members, pastors, and church members tell you they are going to go and see the upcoming movie, The Shack, ask them if they really understand what The Shack author believes. You may listen to the entire interview by clicking here. You can also pass out Warren B. Smith’s article/booklet The Shack and Its New Age Leaven and Substitution: He Took Our Place by Harry Ironside.
On the Penal Substitutionary Atonement (that Jesus Christ took the penalty for our sins on the cross):
Adams: “On page 120 [of The Shack] where God says, you know, I don’t punish sin, sin is it’s own punishment, you know, this is when Mack , um, is having a hard time with his view of God pouring out wrath, etc. But then when it says, “Mackenzie, I don’t need to punish people for sin. I guess when people read the scripture my question is, doesn’t God…hasn’t God, and doesn’t He…punish sin?”
William Young: “Some of it is semantics, we’re dealing with the concept of the wrath of God and, and here’s an underlying question. “Do you believe that God does anything that is not motivated by love?”
Adams: “Well I think in scripture we have wrath, we have justice, we have mercy-”
Young: “I understand…but…”
Adams: “…we do have love, so…”
Young: “Do you believe that God does anything that is not motivated by love, cuz love is his onthological character, it’s his being, justice is an activity of God, uh, wrath is an activity of God, so…”
Adams: “So you do believe though, that he does punish sin…”
Young: “I..I believe in the wrath of God, absolutely, but, but the wrath of God is, is always couched, the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all the ungodly (undecipherable word here) and unrighteousness of men, it’s not against the men, it’s against everything that is damaging them, hurting them, causing them to sin against eachother, everything that is contrary to his nature, and um…so…”
Young “I, I absolutely believe in the wrath of God, yes, but I believe it’s motivated by love .”
Adams: “But this love also, and just as you quoted, you know, you mentioned uh the lake of fire, etc., it does say that there is torment day and night, so there is punishment, torment…”
Young: “Ya, and it, it is in the presence of the Lamb.”
Adams: “Here’s my question, if God doesn’t punish sin, what is the cross then, because if Jesus took our punishment on the cross, if he died for our sins, he was taking our punishment. If God doesn’t punish sin it seems like that demeans the whole concept of the cross.”
Young: “Oh, not at all. Look, the cross is, is the plan of God from before the foundation of the world, to redeem us back from being lost, being in the grip of our sin and lostness and idolatry and everything else, it’s absolutely essential. There’s no hope for any human being let alone the human race apart from the cross.”
Adams: “So you do believe that Christ was punished, then, for our sin.”
Young: “I believe that, that Christ became sin for us.”
Adams: “I mean that he was a sacrifice, that he was punished, he took…”
Young: “Uhuh…by who?”
Adams: “The Father.”
Young: “Why…why would the Father punish His son?”
Adams: “Because sin demanded justice, it, it demanded-”
Young: “Oh, it, but it, where was Father when the Son was on the cross?”
Adams: “In your book, when it says, um, Mack had a problem with ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ and God basically says, ‘Mack, I never left him’…”
Young: “That’s right.”
Adams: “When Jesus said ‘Why have you forsaken me?’ it…”
Young: “Ya, he’s quoting, he’s also quoting and doing the cry of David in the Psalms, and in Psalms that’s totally reconciled within the Psalms. The next thing that he says, even though that’s exactly what he feels for the first time as a human being who was born of the spirit, baptized of the spirit, filled with the spirit, for the first time, he doesn’t sense the presence of the Father, and in that he cries out. But Paul the apostle comes up later, and Jesus first says, but into your hands I commit my spirit, so he’s still saying, you’re here. And Paul says, where was God the Father? For God the Father, 2 Cor. 5:19, was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their sins against them. So where was God the Father? You…and where did reconciliation happen? I believe it happened on the cross. And it says that God the Father was in His son reconciling the world to himself.”
Adams: “Ya, many see that as Christ being the agency of our reconciliation but that when, you know, that Christ was taking the wrath of God upon him, I, I take it that you wouldn’t, you wouldn’t agree that the cross was a place of punishment for our sin.”
Young: “No. I don’t, I am not a penal substitution …reformation…point of view.”
Adams: “But isn’t that the heart of the gospel? Is that the heart of the gospel?”
Young: “No! Ha, no! The heart of the gospel is that we are, are so pursued, the heart of the gospel is in Ephesians 1:5. He predestined us before the foundation of the world to be adopted as sons and everything is by, for and through Jesus, and when Jesus dies, all die, all die.”
Adams: “But all the sac- all the sacrifices in the Old Testament, they were for the sins of the person, as they laid the hand on the lamb, or, or the Passover, you know the lamb’s blood was shed and put on the doorposts so when the death angel came it passed over, that way…”
Young: “And, and I understand uh, ya, I’m not saying that I don’t agree with some sense of substitutionary atonement.”
Adams: “But you disagree…”
Young: “But it’s way broader (muffled) than that.”
Adams: “But if you reject a penal substitution that Christ died as a penalty for our sins, it seems like that is the, that is the Christian faith.”
Young: “I don’t know if you’re aware, but that’s a huge debate that’s going on in theology right now within the evangelical community.”
Adams: “It is, and I, and I, and I would say everything hangs on that, I mean, there’s so many scriptures that Christ died for our sins, 1 Corinthians 15:3 -”
Young: “Oh, and, and I, I agree with that, I, he became sin for us..”
Adams: “No, he died for our sins. Romans said, the Father delivered him over for our sin. If he didn’t, if he wasn’t delivered for my sin…”
Young: “I’m not disagreeing with any of those passages at all, it’s just that how do we understand it? And how do we define what exactly took place? And I’m saying, that there is a huuuuuge amount of disagreement among theologians, about what all that means.”
Young: “And so there is, you know, a degree of ambiguity there. And uh, what I’m saying everything that happened there, is the purpose of father, son and holy spirit, and that purpose is, our redemption, is salvation, reconciliation, and I don’t see, um, that it’s necessary to have the father, uh, punish, in that sense, the son!”
Adams: “Ya, we could, this is, I think this is an important issue.”
By Mike Oppenheimer
Let Us Reason Ministries
Psalm 22 is known as the Psalm of the crucifixion, written nearly 1,000 years before Jesus cries, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?.” David prophesies of the Crucified One’s words in vs. 6: “But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.” The word worm is not just describing any worm. Here it is tola,1 an insect that was crushed to get the die color of red/scarlet and used to color the robes of royalty.
Strong’s Concordance says: OT:8144 shaniy (shaw-nee’); of uncertain derivation; crimson, properly, the insect or its color, also stuff dyed with it.” Brown-Driver-Briggs’ Definition of tola: (1) worm, scarlet stuff, crimson = (a) worm – the female ‘coccus ilicis’ (b) scarlet stuff, crimson, scarlet, the dye made from the dried body of the female of the worm “coccus ilicis.”
There are two Hebrew words for scarlet or crimson that speak of a color and a creature from which the color is made. The two words can be translated two ways: “scarlet” or “worm.” In Old Testament times when people wanted to dye something scarlet, they would dip the material in the crushed dye of this insect, and the material would take on a scarlet color. These two Hebrew words occur juxtaposed in many of the passages in Exodus (26 times it is referred to). The dye was highly valued (Lamentations 4:5) as it was used to color the cloth in the tabernacle. Scarlet was woven into the fine linen of the screen for the doorway (Exodus 26:36); there was one way into the Tabernacle. This picture was fulfilled by Jesus’ words, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).
Creationist Henry Morris gives further insight:
When the female of the scarlet worm species was ready to give birth to her young, she would attach her body to the trunk of a tree, fixing herself so firmly and permanently that she would never leave again. The eggs deposited beneath her body were thus protected until the larvae were hatched and able to enter their own life cycle. As the mother died, the crimson fluid stained her body and the surrounding wood. From the dead bodies of such female scarlet worms, the commercial scarlet dyes of antiquity were extracted. (Biblical Basis for Modern Science, p.73 1985, Morris)
The blood-red scarlet material seen throughout the Old Testament in various pictures and illustrations foreshadowed the Messiah’s work of redemption on the Cross. Scarlet was used in the veil that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies (Exodus 26:31); and when our Lord was crucified (His flesh rent), the veil was torn in two from top to bottom. Jesus became our “merciful and faithful high priest” (Hebrews 2:17). He cried with a loud voice, yielding up His Spirit, and the veil of the temple tore from top to bottom, opening “a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh” (Matthew 27:50-51, Hebrews 10:19-20). The use of animal sacrifices would no longer be used as the means to approach God.
This insect attaches itself to the tree (as Christ did for us). Peter’s favorite saying was Christ was crucified on the tree. Jesus, at His crucifixion, invoking the image of a worm, is not meant to convey his human status, but rather the color of blood. He is describing the red-stained tree of His Crucifixion. The same word is sometimes translated as “scarlet” or “crimson.”
In order to produce the dye for these robes the worm had to be crushed. After the worm was crushed, it was no longer recognizable. Christ was crushed for our sin.
He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities. (Isaiah 53:5)
What a picture this gives of Christ, the King of the Jews, the king all Kings dying on the tree, shedding His precious blood for those who reject God (Isaiah53:3). Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the forbidden tree. Two thousand years ago, a bloody man hung on a tree (a Roman cross). It may not have looked beautiful to men, but it was acceptable to God (Isaiah 53:10).
It is here the scarlet thread of redemption is completed (Hebrews 7:27; 9:12; 10:10).
It was there under the wrath of God that He shed His blood for the sins of mankind. It is that crimson flow of His blood that makes it possible for us to be clothed in the robes of His righteousness.
(source: Let Us Reason)
LTRP Note: Please pray for Roger this week. This week he entered India where he will be speaking to pastors and also deciding if the Bryce Home project will open up in India. Pray for his safety and health and also that the pastors he is speaking to will receive the messages he brings to them. You can listen to his first India report here, which was recorded a few hours before he entered India. It is interesting that just shortly after his long-time friend and co-laborer Caryl Matrisciana passes away, Roger is in the land where she was raised.
“Certain Men Crept In”
By Roger Oakland
(From his latest release, The Good Shepherd Calls: An Urgent Message to the Last-Days Church)
Jude was called by God to send a message to the church. It is clear he was warning the church because the simple Gospel of Jesus Christ was being compromised. Apparently “certain men had crept in” and were the cause of great concern. He began by making an emphatic statement:
Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. (Jude 1:3; emphasis added)
Why earnestly? He explains:
For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude 1: 4)
The word earnest means “Ardent in the pursuit of an object; eager to obtain; having a longing desire; warmly engaged or incited.”1 We must ask ourselves, are we eager to obtain, and do we have a longing desire to contend for the faith?
Now, imagine if you were a member of a church that had received a letter from Jude. He was the half-brother of Jesus Christ. His message certainly must have carried some weight. His letter opened by stating that although he had intended to write and share about the wonderful salvation accomplished through the finished work of the Cross, his mind was somehow changed. Instead, he felt it imperative to deal with a major problem that had developed.
Apparently “certain men” had “crept in unawares” and had become enemies of the simple Gospel. Rather than being messengers of the Gospel, these impostors had become stealth deceivers who needed to be exposed before more innocent followers of Jesus were led astray. What had happened was the very thing Paul had previously warned the church at Corinth about when he had written to them and stated his concern for them in receiving “another Jesus,” “another spirit,” and “another gospel” (2 Corinthians 11:3-4).
Paul had already warned the church at Corinth about one of Satan’s most effective plans to deceive the brethren. Further, in the Book of Acts, Paul prophetically warned what would occur after his departure from the scene. He wrote:
For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. (Acts 20:29-30)
Paul saw Satan’s plan clearly and warned what was coming. Jude saw it happening in his day. Further, these warnings which are included in the inspired Word of God are timeless and are for the church right now.
What would Paul and Jude write to the church if they were here today? Would their message have changed in any way? Based on current trends that dilute the Gospel of Jesus and make it into a social-humanistic-psychological-what’s-in-it-for-me gospel, definitely not!
Let these same warnings be a wake-up call for us today!
By David Dombrowski
It is all too easy in the busy world in which we live today to get caught up in worldly concerns that would tend to draw our hearts in a different direction than God intends. A Scripture that comes to mind is the one in Proverbs that says:
Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Proverbs 4:23
This Scripture tells us that we are to keep a watchful eye, or to guard our hearts, against things that would steal away from us the very things that are most precious in life. That is why it is good to stop from time to time to reflect, reevaluate, and check our compass bearings.
The fact is we are sojourners through this life, and this is not our permanent home. Like Abraham, we can set up a “tent,” but our permanent dwelling is not here. Jesus said:
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Matthew 6:19-21
Too often, for the Christian, anxiety and stress over the many things in life—be it business, finances, health, or possessions—overtake us. Yet Jesus said that our heavenly Father will take care of us if we seek His kingdom first. If our lives are full of worry and stress, like a thermometer or pressure gauge, it should be an indicator to us that we need to reevaluate our lives and decide if our treasures are truly in heaven and if we will cling to God’s promises to provide for us as He sees fit.With our involvement with the Christians in Kenya through the Bryce Homes, Africa has even further driven the point to us that as North Americans especially we need to diligently watch where our true treasures are and not get caught up in “things.” In and of themselves, there is nothing wrong with having possessions as long as they do not rule our hearts. Whatever we have—whether it is earthly goods, health, intelligence, or education—these things are a loan to us and can only be of real benefit when they enable us to serve the kingdom of God in the cause of the Gospel. Paul, for instance, said:
I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Philippians 4:12
Paul was a well-educated man who probably had known prosperity, yet he risked everything for the sake of the Gospel. That is why he could also say:
But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ. Philippians 3:7-8
We need to keep in mind that where our treasures are our heart will be there too. As committed Christians, should we not want our treasures to be in Heaven and in the things of the Lord? Remember Paul’s exhortation:
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Colossians 3:1
Time is a precious commodity that we should not take for granted. Think of a sandglass or hourglass where you can literally watch time being poured out. Knowing that our time is relatively short, let us follow the injunction in Hebrews to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).
Too many things hold us back from serving the Lord. In this verse in Hebrews, an illustration of an athlete is being used to show how, if we are to win a race, we need to strip off unnecessary weight. Scripture says that God will give us wings like eagles, but if we are tied down with the affairs and cares of the world, we will never be able to fly.
Want to find out where your heart is? Search out where your treasure is—that commodity that means more to you than anything else in life—and you will discover that it is in the same place where your heart is. As believers in Jesus Christ, our hope should be that when we find that treasure, it will be in the same place God’s treasure is too.
At Lighthouse Trails, we feel very privileged to be given the opportunity to defend the Gospel. We are in awe and humbled that God has used the “weak things” and the “foolish things” to confound the wise. Sometimes people call us to help solve their theological questions, and though we try to help as we can, we do not have all the answers. However, one thing we do know, and that is Christ and Him crucified. Jesus is the answer to what we really need; after all, isn’t life meant to be all about saving souls, and Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world? It’s that simple. Sometimes when people contact us, we get the notion when they test and probe us on theological questions that some of them think our ministry is all about having all the right answers to every theological matter. Perhaps some think that Lighthouse Trails expects all pastors to have a correct understanding of all the Scriptures. But, we know that all pastors are fallible, and we have never expected any Christian leader to be either sinless or inerrant. To expect a pastor to have all the answers is not only unrealistic but also a burden that no one can bear.
But what really does matter is—what do we think about the Cross and what do we think about God’s Word? Sadly, many of the emerging contemplative leaders are preaching a Christ-less Word-less gospel. Likewise, those who practice mysticism through contemplative prayer inevitably come to the day when the atonement means nothing to them; we have seen this happen time and again. God knows that mysticism connects people to the demonic realm, and that is why it is forbidden in Scripture (Deuteronomy 18:9-15). Yet, again, mysticism has become the common practice of our day. It does not take a theological scholar to see there is something wrong here.
Though the Gospel is a simple message—that Jesus died to make atonement for sin—nothing has ever come under more attack because Satan knows if he can destroy the message of the Gospel (or the messengers of the Gospel), he has destroyed Christianity and destroyed the message through which we find salvation. His continual quest is to undermine our belief in the saving work of Jesus Christ. That is why, perhaps more than any time before, we must “keep thy heart with all diligence.”