A friend on Twitter recently asked me to do an interview with him in order to give a short testimony, to briefly discuss my street evangelism, and to explain what prompted me to turn from being an NIV advocate to a KJB warrior. I believe there is some solid content regarding the evidence for the Textus Receptus (KJB Greek) vs. the Critical Greek text(new version Greek). I hope you enjoy.
I am still shocked by how often, while reading something in scripture for perhaps the 100th time, I discover an entirely new, infinitely more potent and even life-altering meaning. The scripture below is one of those for me. Please read it slowly and carefully:
16″ For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.17 For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.18 And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” 2 Peter 1:16-21
Peter is teaching us, as clearly as is possible, that not only was he an eye witness to the life, death and return to glory of Jesus Christ, but he was also on the Mount of Transfiguration and actually heard the voice of God the Father praising His beloved son. Peter then goes on to state one of the most profound things I’ve ever read in God’s word: that Bible we have on our phones, on our computers and in our hands…is an even more sure word of prophecy than the divine voice of God speaking out of heaven itself. That…is stunning, and is an incredible truth that should silence every voice that attempts to minimize or marginalize scripture. The word of God is even more certain that God the Father speaking out of a cloud from heaven!! What more could we ever want in terms of direction and guidance?? Not a thing. What this world desperately needs is what Peter describes as a light from God himself, shining brightly and boldly through the thick and heavy darkness of sin…until Jesus returns for His own.
This passage should forever end our desire to listen to the teaching of clever, eloquent and even scholarly men, who, in their vanity, slowly and subtly slip away from the clear words of God, written directly to ALL of us in the holy scriptures. It should also neuter our lust for any type personal “prophecy” or “word of knowledge” from a human being, since God himself has given us the most certain of prophecies via his written word. May we, like the Berean’s, not only learn the scriptures, in full, for ourselves, but also be willing to test those pastors and teachers we love and trust, with the piercing two-edged sword of God’s eternal word. If Paul didn’t mind being examined with scripture, then neither should they. I for one, am blessed to have a pastor who strays neither to the right nor to the left of the words of the living God. I pray that you find may find one as well, but if not, never forget that what you have in your own hands is:”…a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts….” 2 Peter 1:19 Oh, how I long for that day!
A commentator suggested that it seems as if Peter is denigrating God the Father’s voice by his comments in the passage above. Certainly not. Peter is simply making the point, via the same type of hyperbole that Jesus often used, that scripture is as certain as God’s voice…because it is God’s voice.
BONUS SCRIPTURE: Everything we need for life and godliness
Earlier in this very same chapter (2 Peter 1), Peter sets up the passage quoted in the above article, by telling us:
2 “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” 2 Peter 1:2-4
How, precisely, do we get grace and peace in our lives? There is only one way: through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. How do we obtain that knowledge? Verse 3 tells us that God, by His divine power, has already given us ALL things pertaining to life and godliness. Then, Peter speaks of the precious promises of God(which we only know through His word), and assures us that the scriptures are more trustworthy than the audible voice of the Father…so we know EXACTLY where our eyes and hearts must go, and it isn’t to flesh:
23 “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.24 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.” 1 Peter 1:23-25
**I encourage every single person who reads these two thoughts on the certainty and value of scripture to ask yourself – do you truly believe, in your heart, what Peter is teaching us? To summarize, Peter says:
- The scriptures are more certain than anything else on earth, superceding even the audible voice of the Father from a cloud, and
- In those scriptures, there is grace, peace and every single thing we need for life and godliness? We truly have been given everything we need to get through this life, by the knowledge of Jesus Christ as He is in his word. Believe it. Pray it. Live it.
16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth….” Romans 1:16
11 “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men….” 1 Corinthians 5:11a
I was never planning on writing about my street evangelism for fear of coming across as boastful, but both my pastor and wife thought that I should share about my recent two day excursion to and through the Florida keys. The Keys have been on my heart for a long time, and I especially longed to go to Key West, where I could gently but directly pierce the darkness with the truth of God’s great mercy, love…and judgement. So, last weekend, I headed south.
In April of 2014, I felt a strong desire in my spirit to spend my days studying the scriptures intensely, so I began reading and taking voluminous notes on every passage that addressed a doctrine I questioned, an obvious heresy, and the scriptures that dealt with false teaching and false teachers. I have many friends lost in the blinding white light of Bethel, Hillsong, IHOP, Catholicism and the ecumenical movement. In April of 2015, after one year of studying the word, all day every day, I felt an overwhelming urge to go to the streets daily with the simple message of sin, repentance and the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. If someone had told me to go evangelize in the streets a day earlier, I would have told them they were insane. If they had told me not to preach on the streets one day later, I would have said the exact same thing. I knew that this call was from the Lord, and I knew that He would give me the confidence, gentleness and strength to do it…so the next morning I got in my car and headed to Wal Mart.
What I quickly discovered was that America, and especially church goers, needed to understand that biblical Christianity is not about money or any type of temporal success. It is about our sin and His blood. While God does care about our needs, Jesus didn’t come in the flesh in order to bless our businesses or to find us the perfect spouse. He came to earth to pay for our sin, and that He did with blood, sweat and pain. May I preach that message boldly til the day I die.
My general methodology for evangelizing is to go where people are – Wal Marts, Home Depots, gas stations, fast food restaurants, and my favorite: DMV’s. My personal approach is to walk the line at the DMV (or inside/outside the stores listed above), looking each person in the eye, and with a smile, telling them (in Spanish or English) that Jesus Christ loves them and paid for their sins with His blood. I then offer them an excellent tract (Called “Why Did Jesus Die?” published by MWTB). I also offer free Spanish and English Bibles, and I have a special tract for Catholics and Jews, which are carefully targeted to address their beliefs with scripture. I run into Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Pagans, Satanists, Hindus, Mormons, crackheads, prostitutes, Transgenders, Druids, prosperity preachers, Pentecostals, Atheists, rich, poor, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and Whites. My message to all is the same. The only way to have your sins washed away when you stand before God in judgement, is by having faith in the blood of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:20-28). Our deeds aren’t good enough to save us. Our sins are far too great. So Jesus came to earth, fully God and fully man, to pay the debt that we could never, ever pay – and He paid that debt with blood (Hebrews 9:22; Revelation 1:5-6).
The Florida Keys
My first stop was Florida City, the last town north of the northern most key. I went to the local Wal Mart, shared the gospel inside the store, and was escorted out by security after about 10 minutes. I then headed over to the Home Depot around the corner, and walked the aisles with no problems. I was able to give a Bible to a man who lived in his car. My usual practice when giving out Bibles is to put a bookmark at 1st John 1, and tell them to read all of 1st John first. In my view, it summarizes the gospel and the Christian life well, especially for a non-believer/recent convert. After witnessing to some people pumping gas, I headed to the islands.
The first major town is Key Largo, and it felt dark to me. That doesn’t really mean anything other than I felt a heaviness in my spirit as I was driving through. There aren’t many big stores there, so I went into a Starbucks (where I witnessed to a proud but angry pagan), and several fast food restaurants, gently moving from table to table. I had some takers, some rejectors, and I met a wonderful Christian family from Norway. That was mutually encouraging, since I consider Europe essentially godless, and it blessed them to see someone preaching the true gospel.
I don’t mind opposition. I get it all the time. Some rebukes are harsher than others. People tell me to get the F out of their face, or that they don’t believe in Santa (or the tooth fairy), or that the idea of sin is a myth. I am hearing that one more frequently, and happily reel off: greed, pride, lust, anger, unforgiveness, and jealousy as they drift away, hoping that perhaps a small seed of truth is planted. Even if people don’t take a tract, I want them to have heard the gospel message. The Holy Spirit can work with that, no matter how they treat me (Rom 3: 17; 1 Cor. 3:5-7). I don’t take it personally. The problem is sin. They love it, and hate the fact that they just might have to deal with it one day at the foot of God’s throne. My prayer is that, even if I don’t see evidence of it, they will deal with their sin via repentance and faith in the blood, before they die.
That being said…I went into a Wendy’s and gave out some tracts, and explained to a very tan man in a muscle shirt what is unique about Christianity and why we have to repent and believe. He received it with a smile, and so I headed to the next table where a lady with her little daughter wouldn’t look up but shouted at me to get away from her because she was a Druid. I have met some Druids on the streets before, and they are a unique brand of darkness. Surprising to many, just as freemasonry is covertly prevalent in political,corporate and religious leadership, so is Druidism(at least in the corporate and political spheres), and it, and it’s hidden practices, are vile.
I typically tell Satanists, Druids and other occultists, that I know that satan (Lucifer to them, since they believe that he has given them enlightenment) is real, and I am aware of the fact that he gives them money, sex and power – but he truly hates them, and that they are going into eternal fire with him lest they repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21). The Druid lady gave me what, sadly, is a typical response from these types: “I know, and I’m gonna love every minute of it!” That hurts my heart, and I feel the hate…but the seed is planted and I move on.
Next, I ventured into a Denny’s and move from table to table, with generally positive responses. As I was leaving, I stopped by the manager at the hostess stand, and I quickly shared the gospel and offered him a tract. Rather than being angry at me for prosthelitizing in his restaurant, he looked me in the eye, said “praise God,” and took a tract.
As I move south, I stopped and ministered at gas stations and grocery stores, with fairly standard results. One thing I find is that just by being out there preaching the simple gospel, true believers are encouraged – and encourage me. I often have to add on to the end of my little speech that I am a Christian, because many assume that I must be a Jehovah’s Witness. That I am not, and I am glad to explain why (Exodus 3:13-15, in conjunction with John 8:58 are unanswerable).
As I arrive in Key West, I am actually excited…looking forward to the darkness, but I am also nervous because it is unfamiliar. Will I get arrested? Will some drunk guy punch me, bringing my journey to an abrupt end? Will I be accused of harassing gays? Will I be able to find large groups of people? So I hit a grocery store and Home Depot with the gospel, and then attempt to leave a tract with an astrologist but her door is locked. So I head straight to my hotel, which is right in the heart of this beautiful, tropical but spiritually dark town.
I already had a long day of witnessing, and my plan was to rest and go out first thing Sunday morning, but, after an hour, a desire to go to the streets returned, along with my strength. So I headed to the bus stop around the corner, but as I was leaving, I noticed a large Catholic church across the street, with a life-size statue of Mary. A few people were touching it and bowing before it in awe. I was able to catch a few of them (including a lady with an overtly satanic goat horn necklace), with a smile and a brilliant Catholic tract that has a drawing of Mary on the cover, looking solemn but with open arms. Inside the tract, scripture resolves, with extreme prejudice, any controversy about who is and isn’t worthy of our adoration and prayers.
I then caught the bus to the old seaport area, which was full of sun baked tourists, and I began to hit it as hard as I could, speaking to individuals and couples, and walking through crowds with my tract in the air and the gospel on my tongue.
I talked to a group of Hindus, and after explaining that: we ALL need to have our sins removed (because they are many); our good deeds aren’t enough; and that the only God who paid for the sins of mankind was Jesus…a few of them took a tract (I also make the point, when necessary, that Jesus isn’t a white man’s God. He is brown, from the near east, and Christianity originated there, not in the USA. It can help at times). I then ran into a Bethel-ized hippie-surfer type (and his scantily clad lady friend) who said that he was a Christian and loved Jesus, but was offended that I was preaching about the blood. He angrily, and semi-drunkenly stated that I should only talk about His love. I explained that the blood IS love, and that without the blood there is no remission of sin (Heb. 9:22). He didn’t even remotely comprehend what I was saying and told me he had been a believer for 37 years and knew more than me (he looked to be about 25 years old…alcohol). I moved on to witness at a small beach and along the perimeter of several waterfront restaurants.
I met a young Swiss couple who were strong believers and were encouraged by what I was doing in the midst of all that revelry. We had a nice talk. I also ran into several groups of intoxicated couples who said that they were Christians but didn’t want to hear about it while they were partying. I also ran into a jovial Christian man who said that he knew Jesus was coming, but wasn’t quite ready to go; along with a few of the typical American “Christians” who rudely tell me that they are already saved, so please – get the heck away from us! Again, that is fairly standard, and I let it roll off my back. However, I will note that I much prefer talking to atheists, homosexuals, crackheads and even biker-gang types, then to lukewarm “Christians.”
I ended up catching several lines of people preparing to board boats for sunset cruises. I walked the lines, gently speaking the gospel, and had a few people take tracts. I also was the recipient of several F bombs, but really, I ran into far fewer of those than I anticipated in such a crazy town.
I then came across a grizzled old man, scorched-red by decades in the sun, who said that God hated him and didn’t answer his prayers. He was tired of working and was tired of life. I explained to him that we can’t use God whenever we want something and then party the rest of the time. He then told me a story about how two pastors told him that they, and by implication, God, had given up on him. I was of course, furious. I informed him that they were not true ministers of Jesus Christ, and that Jesus had not given up on him and never would. I then explained how sin entered the world, and with sin came satan’s reign (John 16:11), therefore, this world will always be difficult. But, if we believe the gospel (which I explained) with our hearts, no matter how much we struggle and fail in this life, we have the next one, and that one is without sin, without tears and without pain. He listened…and then I prayed for him and kept moving.
I continued to run into groups of true European, born-again Christians, joking with some that since there are so few in Europe, they must all be in the keys this weekend. One lady from Scotland told me how a Christian man from her town was on the Titanic. He gave his seat on a rescue boat to another man, and that man (an unbeliever) got saved years later and started the church she and her husband attend today. Talk about bearing fruit even unto death!
After bouncing around Mallory Square, where the multitudes were gathered to watch street performers and the setting sun, I headed to famed Duval Street, home of countless bars and unceasing debauchery. By the mercy of God, I felt strong – full of His confidence, His gentleness, His joy…and most importantly, His word. I walked up and the street, speaking the gospel gently but clearly, and giving tracts to whosoever will. I gave out a few in an art gallery, and proceeded to run into a man who said he was gay and hated God. I saw a group of four gay guys across the street, and went over to talk with them. I gave them the clear message of sin and repentance, and one man said softly that he thought maybe God loved him. I told him that He did, but that he, just like me, must repent of sin and turn to Jesus Christ with his heart. We have to choose – the temporary pleasures of this short life or the eternal glory of the next one. The men were friendly, and we discussed true Christianity for a bit, with one of them joking gleefully that he sinned all the time…and then I moved on.
I came across a group of three scraggily young men, one of whom took a tract. He opened it as if he was going to read it, then dropped it on the sidewalk where he and one of his friends trampled on it over and over again. I noticed that they were in a deep state of intoxication…so I backed off until they were finished. I then grabbed the tract, which didn’t look any flatter than it had been before they stomped on it, put back in my stack, and headed on up Duval Street.
A few blocks later I heard someone yelling at me, “hey, hey!” I stopped and turned around to see a 19 year old boy who said he was a Christian, heard me preaching and wanted to talk. His grandparents had some kind of church, but I got the impression that he hadn’t met many other real believers. We had a nice chat. I made sure he understood sin, salvation and the cross, and encouraged him to consider reading a King James Bible, as difficult as it might seem, due to all of the doctrinal deletions in the newer versions. He gave me his phone number and asked me to text him my article on the subject, which I did. The Bible Version Controversy: A Brief History It was a huge blessing to see a young guy willing to chase me down to hear what I had to say, and then to receive the message that was already floating around in his heart, with joy.
I continued my long journey up Duval Street, spreading the message of the cross to all who would hear, until about 8:30pm, when it started getting dark, and the percentage of sober people dropped into the low single digits. I will not preach to drunk people, and I will not buy them food or clothes, since they chose to spend their meager resources on alcohol rather than on food. I don’t mind giving them a tract to read when they sober up, but generally, they, in their drunkeness, want a buddy to ramble on and on with. It’s like drunk dialing, but without a phone.
I got back to the hotel, fell asleep for a few hours, and woke up at 2:30AM. I laid around for an hour, then moved my car at 3:30AM, in order to have a good, free parking spot the next day. I then pretty much tossed and turned in bed listening to some old Christian radio podcasts until I fell asleep from 6-7:30AM.
After eating the free, low-quality breakfast offered by the small, quaint hotel, which was really like a classic old Key West style house, with extra rooms spread along the perimeter of the property, forming a rectangle, I sat in the courtyard reading my Bible. It was beautiful and quiet. The sun was slipping through a tall Canary Island date palm, and the surrounding foliage was thick and deep-green, with a few splashes of brilliant color scattered throughout the property’s landscape. I could see that some of the guests were watching me to see what I was reading, and it was a blessing to be able to proudly and publicly read the words of the living God as I prepared to start my day.
Just before I checked out, I walked the breakfast area, offering tracts to all. One young couple commented that they saw me reading my Bible, and they both took tracts. Another lady, who I was fairly certain would reject a tract, said with a smile that she had already taken one of the ones I had left by the bagels. I then headed to the streets.
At the bus stop, I met a nice, long-time Key West resident who told me about how she weathered the hurricanes of 2017, and mentioned that she was a Christian too. I didn’t get the sense that she truly understood the biblical Jesus, so we talked and I gave her a tract. We boarded the bus, where I offered the driver a tract and was promptly told not to solicit. My standard response is that I am not technically soliciting, since I am not selling anything. I am giving free stuff to anyone who wants it and won’t take anything in return. That doesn’t seem to resonate with anyone but me.
When I arrived at the old seaport, I ran into several lines of people waiting to board small boats for snorkeling excursions, etc. I always tell tract-taking wafflers that they should take one just to have something to read later. They can always throw it away. That actually works sometimes. I also ran into a guy who told me that he was “really, really” gay – but the gospel is the same for him as it is for anyone. I came across an unhappy satanist I had spoken to the night before, along with a few early morning drunks, and your average squad of young families getting a head start on the day. Then I saw it. El Dorado. A cruise ship, disgorging thousands of unsuspecting passengers at a narrow choke point.
I headed over to a spot just outside of the opening, so as not to be an annoyance, and started preaching to the flood of people from all over the world. I had many passing believers tell me that they were saved, and thank me for doing what I was doing, and I had a few…very few, tract takers. One inquisitive man watched me for about 20 minutes, and I laughingly told him during a break in the flow of people, that I was glad that I wasn’t in a results-oriented business. He smiled and nodded. Really, my goal is to get the truth of God out there – in the air, so people hear it whether or not they take a tract. God does the rest:
5 “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?6 I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.7 So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.” 1 Corinthians 3:5-7
Besides the fact that I was able to get the message of the cross out to cruise ship passengers, the only other significant event that morning involved an elderly female tour guide, who literally screamed at me, as loud as she could, not to dare preach to her tour group. I was standing in, what the law describes as a “public forum,” therefore, I had the legal right to be there. I did tell her that if I was in North Korea (or Canada, sadly), I wouldn’t be able to share my views, but here, in the USA, I can – at least for now. I don’t say that to be smug. I say that to emphasize that she has the right to share what I’m certain are her views on the joys of witchcraft, while I have the freedom to share the message of the God who stepped off the throne of heaven to pay for the sins of mankind.
After the ship had emptied, I headed back to Duval Street, hot, sweaty and exhausted. As I headed towards the “southernmost point” of the USA on foot, I continued talking to people and passing out tracts. There was more mid-morning partying going on than usual, because people were preparing to watch the world cup final, which started at 10AM EDT.
Probably the saddest moment for me came as I was strolling down Duval, while speaking to a middle-aged lesbian couple. After sharing the gospel, one of the ladies looked at me, smiled broadly, and announced that she was going to die in her sin. That hurt because she wasn’t ignorant of eternity, and the reality of God’s judgement. She was willingly, and even gleefully, exchanging the short term pleasures of this dying world for an eternity of unrelenting fire. I pray with all of my heart that she will turn to the One who made her, loves her and longs to save her.
After walking Duval, and realizing that most of the people out and about were those I had already preached to either at the cruise port or on the street, I packed my car and was preparing to hit Big Pine Key, Marathon, etc., when I saw that the Catholic church across the street had just finished its service, and there was a large group out front talking and laughing. I grabbed a stack of my “Mary” tracts and headed over. I gave them to the two priests, the nuns, and whoever else would take one. I offered them with a nod, and a knowing smile. One lady in the parking lot asked me if the tract was Catholic, and I told her to open it up and see what Mary actually said (in the Bible). I told her she will love it if she loves Mary.
In the tract, Mary, at the wedding feast, tells the host to obey…her son, and she also says that SHE needs a savior. The tract then goes on to present the gospel of grace through faith vs. the gospel of grace plus works plus the sacraments plus religion, followed by an indefinite roasting in purgatory. God’s word does not return void. I trust that promise with these precious souls.
As I headed north, I stopped at my usual places, and seemed to run into more Christians than normal – especially at the Winn Dixie on Big Pine Key, an island almost destroyed by Hurricane Irma. That was a timely blessing to me after the intensity and darkness of Key West because I received friendly affirmation along with firm, joyful handshakes. As I mentioned earlier, I truly believe that a large part of my evangelism ministry exists to encourage and exhort the believers I come across on the streets – that they might be reminded of the true gospel message, and that, by the grace of God, there are people out there who don’t mind sharing it publicly, middle fingers and all.
The remainder of my journey home was not particularly noteworthy, other than the fact that from the Winn Dixie in Big Pine, to the Home Depot on Marathon, to the Home Depot and Wal Mart (I stayed outside this time) back in Florida City, the gospel was proclaimed, clearly, directly, and with a gentle smile. I did meet a nice young African American couple at a 7-11 in Florida City, and I asked their daughter if she had a Bible. She said no, and her parents let me give her a nice new King James Bible I had packed for the trip. In her parent’s earshot, I was able to explain to her that this book is truth, and that truth can be found no where else. Therefore, she should fill up on it and test every preacher with it. She gave me a big, happy, precious smile, graciously receiving the word of life.
14 “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” Galatians 6:14
I most certainly do not think I am some great evangelist or bear even a passing resemblance to the apostles. I can hop in my air conditioned truck and head home, go to the beach or stop by chipotle at any time. I am simply a man who almost destroyed his life nearly 7 years ago. I am a man who understands that I am nothing and that God is everything. I understand that I am a sinner in desperate need of the blood of Jesus Christ. I go to the streets knowing that the Lord lifted me up out of the pit I had dug for myself, out of the miry clay where I was stuck. He set my feet upon a rock and made my footsteps firm…and that rock is Jesus Christ. May He be your rock as well.
I remember, perhaps 8 or 9 years ago, contemplating the parable of the sower and wondering where these people are who bear fruit? I didn’t know any, and I certainly wasn’t one of them. I am simply grateful, that after 47 years on earth, and 29 years as a believer, I was finally equipped(in 2015), through my intense, year-long study of the word, to go out into the field. I don’t see much actual fruit in my line of work, yet I press on, sowing seed which only the Lord can grow into eternal life. I love Him and I trust Him, and it is truly a joy to have the ability and opportunity to preach His blood freely shed for our sin, to all who will hear. To Him be glory, honor and dominion, now and forever…Amen.
“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” 1 Corinthians 1:18,20-21
Other articles by this author which might be of interest:
44 “And all that believed were together, and had all things common;45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” Acts 2:44-47
34 “For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.35 Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward.” Hebrews 10:34-35
24 “Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth.” 1 Corinthians 10:24
I have absolutely zero interest in macro economic policy. I am neither a capitalists, nor a socialist, nor a communist. I am a Bible-believing Christian, and thus, I want ALL of my thoughts and opinions to be searched and refined by the fire of God’s word. I am not concerned about America or the American way. It has led to countless men and women forsaking their families to chase mammon and worldly glory…instead seeking of a quiet, humble, godly life, loving our precious little ones and caring for our spouses. I have been deep in the heart of the seemingly innocuous machine of capitalism, and felt its tear…ripping my heart away from the things of God…slowly, subtlety, and all in the name of “protecting my family’s future.” One thing is certain – IT WILL ALL BURN (2 Peter 3:7-13). Therefore, as we finish our time on this earth, let us consider the reality of forever, where we will rule and reign in paradise with Jesus Christ, and may we turn our hearts from this wicked and dying world, to his everlasting kingdom, to a continuing city, one whose builder and maker…is God. (Heb.11:10; 13:14)
In Revelation 3, God paints us a clear portrait of the state of many churches today, and it isn’t pretty:
14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness…15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Revelation 3:14-19
That…is an ugly, but realistic picture of much of western Christianity, which greedy and power-hunger charlatans have spread all across the world – all in the name of Jesus. Wealth and temporal success, along with a focus on our emotional needs (rather than turning our eyes to the One who loves us and gave His body to be beaten and broken for us), seems to be the predominant message in the worship style and teaching of these “churches.” The pastors often seem to be more interested in generating emotional highs and in building their own brands, rather than in building and promoting the eternal brand of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately for these wolves, sound, biblical exposition doesn’t give them what they truly want…money, book deals, speaking engagements, and influence. I have heard horror stories from truly needy believers who have asked some of these churches for just a little bit of help…for food or clothes…but were denied. THAT…is ugly and will not go unpunished. All of us need to test our hearts with scripture when it comes to being free with our resources, and I need to be first in that line.
Below I am going to quote several passages of scripture which illustrate exactly how believers should relate to one and other when it comes to material things. I most certainly am not anywhere close to where I need to be with this, but my heart has been pricked by these truths, therefore, I am seeking the Lord’s help to conform my life to His word. Again, these verses do not apply to governments. I do not trust any government to take my money and distribute it equitably – not now, not ever. We have seen that fail time and time again. These passages are simply provided so that we may test our hearts in the bright-light of scripture by considering both the ways of the early church, and the needs of the believers in our lives. Caring for the needs of the brethren, and especially the poor, will not go unrewarded:
44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common;45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.Acts 2:44-47
32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.33 And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.34 Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,35 And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. Acts 4:32-35
29 Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea:30 Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.Acts 11:29-30
As the passages above indicate, those in the the early church had no interest whatsoever in storing up cash or goods for themselves. They trusted God, and they trusted each other…and the church multiplied. If only it could be like that again! I fear that we won’t see it until the millennial reign, largely because the deep-rooted tare of greed seems to spring up quickly, even amongst believers.
The passage below reminds us that Jesus left the incomparable glory and beauty of heaven (See, Ezekiel 1), to live a dirty, sweaty, hungry life, in order to redeem us from the sin from which we could never redeem ourselves. Paul uses Jesus, the one who had no place to rest his head (Luke 9:58), as an illustration of how we should relate to one another in the matter of giving and receiving:
9 For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.10 And herein I give my advice: for this is expedient for you, who have begun before, not only to do, but also to be forward a year ago.11 Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have.12 For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.13 For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened:14 But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality:15 As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.16 But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you. 2 Corinthians 8:9-16
That…is a challenging scripture, especially in light of the willful suffering and poverty Jesus experienced while here on earth solely to save us from an eternity in hell. No one followed his example better than Paul.
At one point, Jesus had to explain to a disappointed multitude that, John the Baptist,as a harbinger for the king of the next world (Jesus), had no interest in wearing fancy clothes or in drawing people to his message of repentance, via the flesh. Isaiah 52:14-15; along with chapter 53, also teach us that Jesus always intended to come in humility and reproach, so that he would not attract people to him by the flesh…but through the power of his spirit. Make no mistake, Jesus was all-powerful while on earth (John 3:35; Col.1:15-20; Col. 2:9), yet he was humble and meek enough to wash the filthy, dust crusted feet of his friends.
Below, Jesus teaches us that John the Baptist, who was the greatest man born of women, and the primary herald and prophet of the one true Savior, did not conform himself to the patterns of this world, but separated himself unto God. We WILL all live in king’s palaces…but not quite yet:
25 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they which are gorgeously apparelled, and live delicately, are in kings’ courts.26 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet.27 This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.28 For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he. Luke 6:25-28
Paul also warns us about liars who equate godliness with financial gain. He savages their outrageous perversion of the truth, and then instructs us to withdraw from them. He then proceeds to teach us the proper attitude towards material possessions:
3 If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness;4 He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings,5 Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. 1 Timothy 6:3-8
It is interesting that the passage above, teaching us to “withdraw” from those who equate godliness with financial gain, is edited heavily in the new Bible versions. Satan knew that in the end times, “pastors” and “prophets” would rise up, teaching their precious little flocks that, if they would just sow their financial seed to them, then they would get rich. As I have seen first hand, many trust those destructive lies. Why? I believe that it is due to a general ignorance of the Bible, greed, and a lack of diligence when it comes to studying the history of our Bible versions. Therefore, most christians have no idea that we are actually told by Paul, in no uncertain terms, to “withdraw” from those who equate monetary success to Jesus Christ. (see,A Brief History of the Bible Version Issue).
Jesus had no place to rest his head. Paul died penniless and in prison, after having suffered countless deprivations: beatings, shipwrecks, and days and nights of starvation. He suffered even to the point of seeking death while in Asia Minor (2 Corinthians 1:8-10). Yet in all those things, he was able to find contentment and peace in the Lord Jesus Christ:
11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.14 Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction.15 Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only.16 For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.17 Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.18 But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.20 Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen. Philippians 2:11-20
Our goal, as true Bible believers, is to run the earthly race God has given us with the joy and peace of the Lord(Acts 20:24), so that we are not ashamed at his appearing (1 John 2:28). Every single one of us will have to give an account of our lives to Him (2 Corinthians 5:9-11), and for me, that is intimidating. I know He loves me, and I long for him to be pleased with my thoughts and deeds. Yet only his Spirit can destroy the ways of my flesh…so I press on in Jesus Christ and His glorious word, as Paul taught us so beautifully and powerfully in Philippians 3:
7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.8 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,9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:7-14
My purpose for this article is to challenge both myself, and all who claim Jesus Christ as their Savior, with scripture, as it relates to: 1) how we truly view money, and 2) the clever, worldly lies of the American economic machine. Many of us proclaim Christ, yet in the deep places of our hearts, we are trusting in and living for mammon. We can never replace the time lost with our precious families due to excessive time on the golf course and while chasing the next big deal on a never-ending carousel of business trips. We cannot replace the time lost loving the brethren or sharing the gospel boldly, as the Lord leads us. Once this life is done, every single one of us will look back and wish that we had spent more time and energy building up treasure in heaven, where moths and rust can’t destroy and where thieves can’t break in and steal. Often it seems that we connect with the idea of eternity on a general, intellectual level, yet it doesn’t seem to carry over to our hearts, or affect the way we live.
My hope and prayer is that the scriptures above will light a fire under all of us, not so that we blindly and foolishly sell everything and go live on the streets, but so that we will search our hearts diligently, in order to discover where our treasure truly is…because where your treasure is, their your heart will be also. May we all, at the end of this short life, be able to boldly and truly proclaim:
7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:7-8
A few more articles that may be of interest:
“Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” James 4:3
“And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us….” 1 John 5:14
While reading through the Bible over the past few years, I have been surprised to come across a substantial number of scriptures, which clearly state that God doesn’t always answer our prayers, and sometimes He doesn’t even hear them. This is the exact opposite of what most churches seem to teach these days. Instead, what I hear…often…is that anything we ask for God WILL provide…if we only just believe. If we don’t receive it? Well, we just don’t have enough faith. In other words – it’s your own fault that you aren’t healed and aren’t receiving abundant financial blessings! The verses that are often quoted to support this theory, usually in isolation, are similar to Mathew 21:22 below:
“And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.”
…And John 11:22
“But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.”
Two well-known verses from Acts come to mind as I consider the meaning of the above scriptures, along with the whole name-it-and-claim-it theological paradigm (for lack of a better, less pretentious word). In reality, the verses from Acts (cited below) should be applied to ANY biblical counsel we receive from man.
In Acts 17:11, Paul commends his Christian brothers and sisters from Berea, not only for receiving the word of God with readiness of mind but also for testing the truth of his words with the scriptures. Paul was one of those rare teachers who was actually blessed when his words were tested in the refining fire of scripture. Furthermore, in Acts 20:17, Paul notes, as he was preparing to leave Ephesus for the last time, that he didn’t cover just a few areas of Christian doctrine while preaching to the church. Instead, he taught “all the counsel of God.” Why did he do this? I believe it was to prevent someone from taking his teaching of out of context and using it for their own personal gain – or using it to create a cult following based on a minor point of doctrine. In other words, Paul knew that if he taught the church the whole counsel of God, then an elder or another believer, who was also present when he was preaching, could correct an errant or deceptive brother after Paul had departed. Doctrinal truth mattered a great deal to him (1 Timothy 4:16).
We too are exhorted by Paul, through Timothy, to study the scriptures intently for ourselves (2 Timothy 2:15), and to refuse to cling to a single verse or passage that appeals to our flesh or just seems right to us, when there are other passages that place that scripture in it’s proper spiritual context. No topic is more needful of intense study than prayer.
It has always troubled me when someone who is not a believer, explains to me that, when they were in some kind of difficulty, they cried out to “God” to help them…and He was silent. Well, there is a reason for that. Below, I will lay out the scriptures that teach us why God doesn’t always answer us or even hear us, and then I will set forth some of the scriptures that tell us when He does both hear and answer us, even if the answer isn’t always what we expect.
WHY GOD DOESN’T ANSWER US:
1. God doesn’t answer us when our prayers revolve around fulfilling our covetous desires:
“Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” James 4:3
Unfortunately, this profound, but obvious truth (for anyone who studies the scriptures with regularity), is all but ignored by the popular “Christian” authors and teachers of our day. Jesus was poor and had no place to rest His head (Luke 9:58). Paul, too, was poor, had “no certain dwelling place” and walked from town to town across Asia minor, often starving and cold, even after being beaten multiple times with whips and rods (1 Corinthians 4:11-13; 2 Corinthians 11:23-27). He was ultimately decapitated after spending the last two years of his life imprisoned in Rome. It is no wonder that the passage below, is ignored by many popular churches today:
“If any man teach otherwise and consent not to wholesome words…and to the doctrine which is according to godliness;4 He is proud, knowing nothing…5 Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.” (*Please note that the highlighted section is ONLY found in the Textus Receptus Greek, and in the KJV in English. Not many pastors today would be in business if we all withdrew from the ones who equated godliness with financial increase, so…they simply use a Bible where it has been efficiently…edited out.)
2. God doesn’t answer us when we delight in or ignore our sin:
“But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” Isaiah 59:2
“If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me….” Psalm 66:18
3. God doesn’t answer husbands who aren’t loving their wives:
“Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.“ 1 Peter 3:7
We are to love our wives as Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25), and if we don’t…then our prayers WILL be hindered. God cares very much for the happiness of our wives, and expects us to love them sacrificially, just as He loved those around Him with no concern for Himself.
4. God doesn’t hear our prayers if we have no regard for the poor:
“Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.” Proverbs 21:13
I believe that a God-honoring way to truly love the poor, is to care for both their bodies and their souls, even if it is just in a small way. I recommend purchasing sound Bible tracts (meaning that they must mention the love of Jesus, and His death on the cross as the only way to cover our sins), and keep them in your car. Also, have little bags of healthy food along with water bottles in your vehicle, so that when you see a genuinely poor person, you can feed their bodies…and their precious, hurting souls. Simply doing one without the other is, in my humble estimation….completely and totally worthless. If we preach to them without caring for their physical bodies, then we are just another yapping, Bible-beating Christian who doesn’t have a clue about their real, urgent needs. Likewise, if we simply care for the physical needs of the poor and don’t share the gospel of Jesus Christ (What is the Gospel? ), which can save their eternal soul from eternal fire, then really, we are wasting our time.
5. God doesn’t answer our prayers, when what we seek isn’t according to His will.
“And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us…” 1 John 5:14
There are two great examples of prayers offered with a clear and unshakeable understanding of this great and surpassing truth. The first one I will comment on was by Jesus Christ, as he was about to enter into a time of unspeakable physical and emotional agony. Yet His prayer was not that His will would be done, but that God the Father’s will would be done, no matter the cost:
“Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.43 And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. Luke 22:42 -44
And the second example is…Shadrach, Meshach and Abendego, who, as they were about to be thrown into a fiery furnace for refusing to bow down to any other god but God, responded to the king as follows:
16″ Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.18 But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” Daniel 3:16-18
I cannot overstate how much the unconditional trust these three great men had for God…wether they were burned alive in the front of the king or not…has meant to me and my understanding of what it means to follow Him with all of my heart. God is God, and I am not. He gives and He takes away. He does according to HIS good will, whether we understand it or not. We must fully surrender to Him, and trust Him, with all of our hearts. He never makes bad decisions or leaves us to suffer needlessly. He always has a plan, and one day that plan will be clear.
6. God doesn’t answer us when we have our heart set on our idols (vanity, sports, vacations, our child’s performance in school, wealth, our reputations, etc.) rather then on him:
“Then came certain of the elders of Israel unto me, and sat before me.2 And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,3 Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be enquired of at all by them?4 Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I the Lord will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols;5 That I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from me through their idols.6 Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord God; Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations.” Ezekiel 1: 1-6
7. God Doesn’t hear our prayers for forgiveness if we are unforgiving:
14″ For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:14-15
Please note that this verse isn’t meant to imply that one loses their salvation by not forgiving someone. Unforgiveness, in my view, is simply something that we, as believers saved by the blood of the Lamb, will have to deal with at the judgement seat of Christ. Therefore, forgive as you have been forgiven…while there is still time. We don’t have to pretend with God. We simply make the decision to forgive, and ask Him to heal our hearts each time the unforgiveness and pain from the one we seek to forgive, arises. He will honor our decision to forgive. Forgiveness: To the Merciful, God shows Himself Merciful
8. If we are intentionally turning our hearts away from biblical truth or are delighting in evil, then He rejects our prayers:
“He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.” Proverbs 28:9 (We are not under law today, but the enduring point seems to be that, if we turn away from his clear, biblical truths, then He turns His ear away from us.)
“For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.” 1 Peter 3:12
WHEN GOD DOES HEAR OUR PRAYERS:
1. God hears our prayers when our hearts are truly set on understanding and obeying Him. The verse below, when the Angel of the Lord spoke to Daniel as he was standing by the Hiddekel River, continues to instruct me regarding what a surrendered/repentant heart towards God, truly means:
12 “Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words.” Daniel 10:12
Later in that chapter, Daniel is actually called beloved of God. Wow…a man, in that dark time, who was not just loved by God, but was truly beloved of God. I want to be that man! Yes, I know that I am loved by God, but I want more. I want Him to look down at my life and be pleased with, not only my heart towards Him, but also with my actions. I pray that the Lord will help me to set my heart to understand His ways, in spirit and in truth – and to chasten myself before Him…not as law, but out of love.
2.The Lord hears the prayers of those that fear Him, abide in Him and call upon Him in truth:
” The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth.19 He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him:he also will hear their cry, and will save them.” Psalm 145: 18-19
“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.2 I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.3 Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.4 He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.5 Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;6 Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.7 A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.8 Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.9 Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation;10 There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling...14 Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him…” Psalm 91
4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.8 John 15:4-7
As some of the other verses quoted in this writing have shown us, when our prayers are a reflection of our lusts, or are outside of the will of God, He doesn’t answer them. However, as the passages above teach us, if we are truly abiding in Jesus Christ, then our desires will gradually, by the power of the Holy Spirit, be conformed to His desires, and as those desires change…we will see our prayers being answered in tangible ways.
3. God hears our prayers when our lives are pleasing to Him. This is simply a variation on the theme above, but nevertheless, it is a verse, which clearly states how we are to keep open channels of communication with the One who made us and loves us:
My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.19 And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.20 For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.21 Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.22 And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. 1 John 3: 18-22
For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous,and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. 1 Peter 3:12
4. God hears our prayers when our requests are in accordance with His will:
“And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:15 And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.” 1 John 5:14-15
If we truly trust God as much as we claim to, yet don’t see an answer to our petition, then we can know, with certainty, that either our prayer wasn’t according to His will, or His perfect timing has not yet come. When Paul asked God THREE times that the thorn in his flesh be removed…God said ‘no” all three times ( 2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Why? Because His purpose was bigger than Paul’s, even though Paul didn’t seem to agree…but Paul ended up accepting God’s answer and conforming his will to God’s. He did not name it and he did not claim it. He pleaded…and then he surrendered, trusting the One who made him, saved him, and loved him:
“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions,in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
I believe that the passages I quoted from Luke 22 and Daniel 3 (Jesus in Gethsemane, and Shadrach, et. al. prior to the fire) best describe what I am trying to communicate with this article, and hopefully, it accurately sets forth what God wants to communicate to us about both prayer and faith, through his beautiful and powerful written word. He hears us and answers us…when our hearts are set on His will, and His will only…no matter the cost – and more than that, when we, like Job, bless his glorious name, whether he builds us up, or for His unsearchable purpose, tears us down:
13 “And there was a day when his (Job’s) sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house:14 And there came a messenger unto Job, and said, The oxen were plowing, and the asses feeding beside them:15 And the Sabeans fell upon them, and took them away; yea, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.16 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and hath burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.17 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The Chaldeans made out three bands, and fell upon the camels, and have carried them away, yea, and slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.18 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house:19 And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.20 Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped,21 And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.22 In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” Job 1: 13- 22
As the heaven’s are higher than the earth, so are God’s ways higher than my ways, and of that…I am very glad. I know that I will never come close to getting everything right, and I will always wrestle with sin until the day I go up, yet I love Him and will press on to take hold of that for which He has taken hold of me. I will pursue my great Savior, not out of obligation, but because I love Him, and I know exactly what He did for me, naked, cold and in agony on that rough wooden cross. May we all come to trust and honor the one and only God, who loves us and gave Himself for us, with our prayers and with our lives…no matter the cost.
The gospel, clearly defined:
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;2 By which also ye are saved…For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures….” 1 Corinthians 15:1-4
A strong warning to those who pervert the gospel of Jesus Christ:
6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed…unto another gospel:7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.…So say I …again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. Galatians 1:6-9
The gospel of Jesus Christ, which we as believers are called to preach and teach, is a specific doctrine, and that doctrine is the very foundation of our Christian lives since it alone is “the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16). Therefore, we MUST get it right. The gospel is not a general Christian platitude, such as “Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life,” and it is not a message created by man. In Galatians 2:11-12, Paul states:
11 “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.12 For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
The true gospel of Jesus, given to us by Christ through Paul, teaches us that God, through His Son, died in our stead in order to pay the price God requires for our sins to be forgiven. The gospel also instructs us that Jesus was buried, and, in accordance with Old Testament scriptures (Ps. 16:10; Ps.22:1-18), rose again three days later. This is the gospel that we must teach, and this is the truth in which we must stand. The gospel, as Paul lays it out for us, is the divine message, which sets those who believe on the only path to salvation. There is no other gospel.
I have heard people say that this popular mega-church or that well-known pastor preaches the gospel, but from what I’ve seen and heard, it is highly unlikely that many (if any) of these money-centered churches today, actually call people to repent, and believe that Jesus died, was buried and rose again, in order to pay a debt in blood, that we could never, ever pay ourselves. Instead, what they usually seem to preach is what Paul calls “another gospel,” or “another Jesus,” meaning a fake, non-biblical Jesus – one which tickles our itching ears by failing to teach the hard but beautiful truth of the grace of God that leads to salvation (See, Titus 2:11-15). Instead, they tend to teach a type of worldly, man-centered philosophy, packaged in Christian terminology, which sadly, is what most people want to hear (2 Corinthians 11:4; 2 Tim. 4:3).
Because of what seems to be the omnipresence of these false teachers (in bookstores and on TV), many of those who consider themselves Christians today have been conditioned to love the false, man-centered Jesus, and will only accept a weak, temporal gospel, which fuels our fleshly desires for happiness and worldly success, but in truth, is no gospel at all. Any call to turn to Jesus from the sin that so easily entangles, and believe, in the deep places of our hearts, that Jesus suffered on that cross to redeem us from the eternal flames of hell we so richly deserve, is either considered passé, legalistic, or just isn’t the kind of “negativity” that people want to hear in church.
We should not attend church: to hear a message about Jesus blessing us financially, in order to find a spouse, or in an attempt to have some type of emotional worship experience. The purpose of church is to hear the soul-saving message of the cross, and to learn, with the guidance of the scriptures, how to walk before God and men in love, truth and holiness. Jesus is a God of love, mercy and grace…but he is also a God who administers justice…and at the appointed time, his vengeance will come against those who reject the true gospel, with a fury never seen before on the face of this earth…and never to be seen again. Revelation 19 is an important chapter for understanding the final judgment of God against the wickedness of man. (See, also The Wrath of Almighty God).
I recently attended a Bible study where the leader informed us that he had a new perspective on the gospel, one which he had only recently learned. He called it the “gospel of the kingdom,” per Matthew 4:17. Jesus referred to it several times as he preached to the Jewish people PRIOR to his death on the cross to redeem us from the consequences of our sin. This “gospel,” as taught in this Bible study, is allegedly for today, and lines up with the outrageously false “word of faith” doctrine, and turns present-day believers into super-apostles, with the same powers and abilities that Jesus had, including the ability to heal, raise the dead and forgive sins. According to this teaching, the reason why we are all struggling along in our miserable little Christian lives is because we haven’t yet unlocked our God-power.
This doctrine sounds very much like new age teaching shrouded in Christian language, and reminds me of the most destructive lie ever told- the one Satan whispered to Eve in the garden: “Eat this …and you shall be as gods.” We all know how that ended. As the former long-time occultist, turned brilliant apologist, Warren B. Smith said in response to this type of teaching, “Be still and know that you are NOT God.”
While Paul and the other apostles clearly had the authority to heal, and even raise the dead early in their ministries, that power seemed to wane as Christianity became established. In 1 Timothy 5:23, Paul doesn’t heal his beloved Timothy, but instead tells him to drink a little wine for his “frequent illnesses.” He also left his Christian brother, Trophemus, sick at Miletus (2 Timothy 4:20), while Epaphroditus, a dear friend and the pastor of the Philippian church, was so sick that he nearly died. Ultimately, GOD (not man) intervened, and healed him, to the great joy and relief of Paul (Philippians 2:25-27). As for forgiving the sins of others, Paul teaches that there is only ONE mediator between God and man…and that mediator isn’t Paul, and most certainly isn’t you or me (1 Timothy 2:5).
James, the brother of Jesus, teaches that not many of us should seek to be pastors or overseers, because those who do will face a higher standard of judgment (James 3:1). I believe that this clear warning is something all of us should consider carefully as we seek to influence those around us with what we consider to be the truth of God. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the very power of God unto salvation, and Paul tells us exactly what that gospel is in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 (quoted at the top of the page). In case there are any doubts that this is the one true gospel for the post-resurrection world, Paul affirms that it is the gospel which he received by direct revelation from Jesus Christ, and it is the gospel in which he stands. There is none other, and anyone (including an angel) who preaches a different, more socially relevant “gospel,” does so at their own great peril (Galatians 1:6-10).
My answer to this teacher as to how we become equipped to grow in Christ, gaining hope, wisdom, joy and confidence in this life also comes from Paul in his first letter to his dear son in the faith, Timothy:
14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
It may not sound particularly exciting or insightful, but the sharp two-edged sword of the word is all we need to grow in knowledge, wisdom and strength in Christ. I don’t want super-powers. I don’t want secret insight. I want Jesus Christ, crucified for my sin, risen from the dead, and seated at the right hand of God the Father, to rule and reign in my life…and I simply want to be His obedient servant. Lord Jesus, please help that goal to be realized in me more and more each day!
We are all tempted to preach ourselves (our insight and wisdom), instead of the biblical Jesus Christ. We must fight that urge, and instead teach and preach the blood of the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world, for He alone is our peace. Jesus redeemed us from the consequences of the sin we used to love, and as I often note, He did it in humiliation, and in indescribable agony…cold and naked on a wooden cross.
There is only one gospel, and if it is not being preached by those who claim to be Christian leaders, then, as Paul challenged Peter publicly in Galatians 2 when he was in grave error, so should we gently but firmly challenge those who are leading our Christian brothers and sisters astray. The stakes are high and Satan is moving to build his kingdom here on earth through a false one-world religion (See, Revelation 17:1-18). Please…do not be a part of that church, either out of willful ignorance or a desire for some type of false unity under a different, more socially acceptable Jesus (and gospel)….and do not be afraid to contend vigorously for the truth, no matter the cost. The fate of countless souls, precious to our great God…are at stake.
2 Timothy 4:2-4
“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”
1 Corinthians 1:17-18, 22-24
“For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.”
11 “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.15 These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.”
There is no passage of scripture which more accurately describes the effect that the grace of God has on a soul that knows it has been saved from the eternal consequences of sin, than the passage above. When we understand what exactly the true grace of God is, who gave it to us, and at what cost, it should not only bring us to our knees in joyful gratitude and relief, but it should start us down the path of holiness through the Spirit. It should, as this passage states, spark in us a desire to flee the lusts of our flesh, which alienate us from our great God, and should instead turn our eyes, our minds and our hearts, not to this short and often painful life, but to the next one; the life that is with God, in paradise…forever.
It is humbling and sometimes overwhelming to quietly contemplate this impossible truth: that Jesus Christ, the God on the sapphire throne in Ezekiel 1, stepped out of that glory and became a dirty, sweaty man…not because he had to, but because he loved us and was willing to offer himself, without condition, to his cruel and spiteful enemies. As this passage teaches us, he did that, not only because he loves us and wanted to redeem us from the eternal consequences of our sin, but also to purify for himself a people…unique in this world, separated out…who are not primarily focused on growing their businesses and building their reputations, but who are zealous of good works in his name. In other words, as Paul says in Philippians 3, God wants his beloved children to consider everything in this dying world that feeds our reputations, our lusts and our pride…as a loss for the sake of Jesus Christ. Instead, we are exhorted to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of us. Phil. 3:7-14 and the purpose of life God isn’t looking for lukewarm believers who simply want a free pass out of hell. He wants men and women who know him, love him, and are willing to give up the short term pleasures of our vain existence, to honor the one who created us and redeemed us with his sweat, blood and pain.
This passage ends with an unmistakable call: teach these words with all authority, and use them, not only to encourage the brethren, but also to rebuke those who teach a false grace – a grace which doesn’t lead to salvation. The authentic grace of God results in a change of mind and heart from the love of sin, to a deep and abiding love of the God who ransomed us from death. The world, and sadly even today’s “Christian” culture, does not take kindly to the true grace of God. They both seem to prefer a false, a cheap grace, which offers a free pass to do as thou wilt…to freely sin and quickly claim his mercy, with no thought of the love, glory and power of the only one who could redeem them from the eternal fires of hell. That mentality (and that heart), does not comprehend the true, saving grace of God. Salvation is not a prayer prayed. It is a heart that understands exactly who Jesus is and believes that it desperately needs his blood to cover the dark and ugly blemish of sin. Anyone who understands the true gospel message will not take sin lightly, and will joyfully pursue godliness and righteousness in this life, while quietly living in hope for the life to come.
We will all wrestle with the weight of sin as long as we are in this body of death, but as we eat, drink and breathe the word, the Spirit will slowly move us away from our old ways and into His ways. While new sins (forgotten or intentionally ignored) always seem to pop up, when we truly understand the surpassing mercy and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, we press on to apprehend that for which he has so graciously apprehended us. And as Paul said so eloquently:
13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 3:13-14