September 19, 2010

The Illusion of Sin – Ray Anderson

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:00 am by kdkelly

First of all, let me state that the title is not meant to imply that sin is an illusion. Sin is real and has been with us since the days of Adam and Eve in the garden. In fact, I am willing to go out on a limb and predict that sin will be with us until the end of time. I am referring to the illusion many people have that sin is not real and that it is not evil. The devil promotes this illusion and does everything in his power to deceive us with this illusion.

Several weeks ago I went to see a magician in Branson who was able to do things that I knew couldn’t possibly be true, but never the less, my eyes “saw” these things happen. I saw him make people disappear, he walked through a solid wall, and made a helicopter appear on stage where there was nothing there before! The illusions were fantastic and I have no way of explaining them. They appeared real to me and I enjoyed being deceived.

If it were not for my understanding that the things I saw were illusions, I might have thought, “What power this man has that he is able to overcome the laws of nature to do things that no normal man can do. Surely he must be a god or have power endowed by God.” The Bible speaks of just such a one. “But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries.” (Acts 8:9-11)

Simon deceived the people by the magic he performed. He was apparently a great illusionist. However, Satan is the greatest illusionist of all—the great deceiver. (Revelations 12:9). He began with Eve and deceived her into thinking that if she and Adam ate of the fruit of the tree of life, they would not surely die.

What is sin? Sin is the transgression of God’s law (1 John 3:4) and the wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23) However, that old deceiver, Satan, would have us to believe that there are no consequences of sin. In fact, as the deceiver of the whole world, he has deceived many into thinking that there is no God and therefore there is no law. If there is no law, there can be no sin. (Romans 4:5)

But for those who believe that there is a God and therefore transgressors of his law do sin, Satan creates the illusion that sin is worth it. Paul Greenberg in one of his recent articles wrote of the “unbuttoned Sixties, when everything that was forbidden, at least ostensibly, became not just permitted but just about mandatory. Mental health demanded it, according to the Freudian canon.” The Sixties and early Seventies became the “if it feels good, do it” generation. Satan surely must have been laughing at the gullibility of mankind during those years.

What was forbidden.? “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21) It makes one shiver to read down through that list of the works of the flesh, and the consequences are such that you wonder why anyone would dare to commit such acts. It must be because they have been deceived or the illusion of the benefit of doing outweighs the risk of losing heaven. The “feel good” part of it now in this lifetime appears to be more desired than the joy to be had in heaven.

The devil is good at deceiving people and creating this illusion. William Lobdell of the Los Angeles Times wrote, “American Christianity is not well, and there’s evidence to indicate that its condition is more critical than most realize—or want to admit.” He also wrote that “pollsters—most notably evangelical George Barna—have reported repeatedly that they can find little measurable difference between the moral behavior of churchgoers and the rest of American society. Barna has found that born-again Christians are more likely to divorce (an act strongly condemned by Jesus) than atheists and agnostics.” He goes on to write that according to Texas researcher Mark Regnerus, “evangelical adolescents overwhelmingly say they believe in abstaining from premarital sex, and they are more likely to be sexually active—and at an earlier age—than peers who are mainline Protestants, Mormons or Jews.” What do we make of this? Some who profess to be Christians are being deceived and are buying off on the illusion about sin that the devil has created so well.

They don’t remember or choose not to remember what the word of God says. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” (Galatians 6:7-8). What is a Christian to do? Turn again to the word of God. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13) “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” (Galatians 5:16-17) “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:22-25)

Beloved, let us not be deceived. Let us hold fast the word of God and be not like the world. Heaven shall surely be worth it all. Amen.

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The Illusion of Sin – Ray Anderson

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:00 am by kdkelly

First of all, let me state that the title is not meant to imply that sin is an illusion. Sin is real and has been with us since the days of Adam and Eve in the garden. In fact, I am willing to go out on a limb and predict that sin will be with us until the end of time. I am referring to the illusion many people have that sin is not real and that it is not evil. The devil promotes this illusion and does everything in his power to deceive us with this illusion.

Several weeks ago I went to see a magician in Branson who was able to do things that I knew couldn’t possibly be true, but never the less, my eyes “saw” these things happen. I saw him make people disappear, he walked through a solid wall, and made a helicopter appear on stage where there was nothing there before! The illusions were fantastic and I have no way of explaining them. They appeared real to me and I enjoyed being deceived.

If it were not for my understanding that the things I saw were illusions, I might have thought, “What power this man has that he is able to overcome the laws of nature to do things that no normal man can do. Surely he must be a god or have power endowed by God.” The Bible speaks of just such a one. “But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God.  And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries.” (Acts 8:9-11)

Simon deceived the people by the magic he performed. He was apparently a great illusionist. However, Satan is the greatest illusionist of all—the great deceiver. (Revelations 12:9). He began with Eve and deceived her into thinking that if she and Adam ate of the fruit of the tree of life, they would not surely die.

What is sin? Sin is the transgression of God’s law (1 John 3:4) and the wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23) However, that old deceiver, Satan, would have us to believe that there are no consequences of sin. In fact, as the deceiver of the whole world, he has deceived many into thinking that there is no God and therefore there is no law. If there is no law, there can be no sin. (Romans 4:5)

But for those who believe that there is a God and therefore transgressors of his law do sin, Satan creates the illusion that sin is worth it. Paul Greenberg in one of his recent articles wrote of the “unbuttoned Sixties, when everything that was forbidden, at least ostensibly, became not just permitted but just about mandatory. Mental health demanded it, according to the Freudian canon.” The Sixties and early Seventies became the “if it feels good, do it” generation. Satan surely must have been laughing at the gullibility of mankind during those years.

What was forbidden.? “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21) It makes one shiver to read down through that list of the works of the flesh, and the consequences are such that you wonder why anyone would dare to commit such acts. It must be because they have been deceived or the illusion of the benefit of doing outweighs the risk of losing heaven. The “feel good” part of it now in this lifetime appears to be more desired than the joy to be had in heaven.

The devil is good at deceiving people and creating this illusion. William Lobdell of the Los Angeles Times wrote, “American Christianity is not well, and there’s evidence to indicate that its condition is more critical than most realize—or want to admit.” He also wrote that “pollsters—most notably evangelical George Barna—have reported repeatedly that they can find little measurable difference between the moral behavior of churchgoers and the rest of American society. Barna has found that born-again Christians are more likely to divorce (an act strongly condemned by Jesus) than atheists and agnostics.” He goes on to write that according to Texas researcher Mark Regnerus, “evangelical adolescents overwhelmingly say they believe in abstaining from premarital sex, and they are more likely to be sexually active—and at an earlier age—than peers who are mainline Protestants, Mormons or Jews.” What do we make of this? Some who profess to be Christians are being deceived and are buying off on the illusion about sin that the devil has created so well.

They don’t remember or choose not to remember what the word of God says. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” (Galatians 6:7-8). What is a Christian to do? Turn again to the word of God. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13) “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” (Galatians 5:16-17) “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:22-25)

Beloved, let us not be deceived. Let us hold fast the word of God and be not like the world. Heaven shall surely be worth it all. Amen.

September 12, 2010

Fellowship with God – Ed Harrell

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:00 am by kdkelly

“Fellowship” (koinonia) means sharing, and Moulton and Milligan say it was used by the Greeks for “the closest of all human relationships.” When God is the “partner” it consists of our sharing His characteristics—as Thayer puts it, “partakers in common of the same mind…” The ideal will only be realized when we dwell with God in eternity, but it sets standards by which our present relations are measured—with God, and with man.

God says, “Be ye holy, for I am holy. (1 Peter 1:15-16) “Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” (1 John 3:3) God is love, and therefore we must also love (1 John4:7-11, 19). We must “walk in the light” to have fellowship with Him who is Light. (1 John 1:5-7). God is Spirit, and our worship must be a communion in spirit. (John 4:23-24) Finally, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48).

The means of such a relationship is Jesus Christ. He died for us, that a just God might forgive our sins (Romans 3:23-26); and in His role of Prophet, Jesus delivered the message by which we are informed of God’s will and are finally judged. (Hebrews 1:1ff; John 12:48-50) His declarations, commands and invitations are to “all the world,” but acceptance  and appropriation of redemption is on an individual basis, and fellowship with God is contingent upon our living, obedient faith. John wrote, “That which we have seen and heard declare we  unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us,” i.e., “with the Father, and with His Son…” (1 John 1:3)

In a practical sense, man’s fellowship with God is possible only as man is taught, hears, learns, and comes to Him (John 6:45). Faith is the result of an objective approach to revelation (Romans 10:17), and must not be equated with mystical “feelings” or emotional “inner warmth.” And this is the place for the “relative knowledge” argument. The “grace-fellowship” fellows, who are uncertain about fellowship among men because doctrinal knowledge differs with our background, etc., must acknowledge the same relativity here, where fellowship with God is at stake. Pursuing their present course, some will eventually accept the evangelical conclusion that God directly and immediately operates upon a sinner’s heart. “Proof” of fellowship with God will be “heart-felt” in the best mourner’s bench tradition.

Of course man’s knowledge is less than perfect, but the sincere truth-seeker has reason to be confident. (1) God, who made man, delivered truth in a way suited to man’s capacity (Ephesians 3:2-6; 5:17); and (2) God knows our thoughts (Hebrews 4:12), our inner spirit from whence we serve Him. (Romans 1:9; 2:29) Since fellowship between God and man is on an unequal basis by its very nature, man’s part is at best his sincere endeavor to be God-like. In fact, “godliness” is more a “Godward attitude” that motivates our doings. If I fail to have fellowship with God, it is my fault, not His.

Jesus said, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine … .” (John 7:17, 14:23). Do we really believe these words?

When does one become a Christian? When one conforms to the requirements that Christ has given (John 14:21-24).

Who determines this conformity? God judges His servants, in keeping with declared standards. (John 12:47ff)

When may I recognize another as a Christian? When, by my understanding of God’s word, I see one has done the bidding of Christ (Matthew 7:15-23).

Is not my most honest appraisal related to my understand of truth? Certainly! Truth is not “relative.” God knows exactly when one is His, but I “know” in keeping with my grasp of revealed truth (Acts 18:24-26).

Could I be honestly mistaken, my understanding of truth at fault? Yes! I do not consider my level of understanding to be equivalent to the divine standard (2 Corinthians 10:12ff).

Then how can I justify being positive about anything? God requires honest conviction of me. “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind” (Romans 14:5, 22-23). “As it is written, I believed and therefore have I spoken: we also, believe, and therefore speak” (2 Corinthians 4:13). To the extent I believe God’s word is truth (John17:17) and am honest in my study and conclusions; exactly to that extent I must conclude that contrary teachings are erroneous (2 Timothy 4:1ff).

Is not this sectarianism? No, it is not! Sectarianism chooses certain doctrines and builds a “party” with them as boundary-refusing to consider anything else as “truth.” I refuse to consider my level of understanding as final, contending only that I must teach and act  in keeping with an honest, objective consideration of God’s standard and in order to be true to myself and to God. The “flip-side” of sectarianism, and equally bad, is the irreverent and faithless conception that each man is accountable only to himself, so that is no standard of absolute truth.

Fellowship (sharing) must be upon the above basis. We must “stand fast in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel.” “If there be therefore any … fellowship of the spirit …” it must be found in this striving, objectively, to be pleasing in God’s sight (Philippians 1:27ff). The universal test for determining man’s spirit is, therefore, his reaction to examination of his practice and teaching in the light of the revelation of God’s spirit. (1 John 4:6—where “we” and “us” are John and other inspired witnesses—1:1-4—not “the party.”)

Excerpted from the Stonegate Standard—Port Arthur, TX

September 5, 2010

Trusting in God’s Forgiveness – Matt Allen

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:00 am by kdkelly

You know the feeling. It starts deep down inside, and as it grows your stomach turns and anxiety builds. It’s the realization that you’ve fallen short…again. Satan seeks out our weaknesses and effectively exploits them to the fullest. And now, the guilt. The constant questioning, if only I had… Think of the dread of coming to worship services again and thinking if these people knew half the things I struggle with, they’d run me out of here. Many obey the gospel of Christ and do well initially. But then, they find themselves falling back into the same habits they had before their relationship with Christ. After they succumb, then comes the guilt. This time it is even worse. Sometimes the guilt is almost overwhelming and younger Christians are tempted to give up.

Sin is a terrible thing. The Hebrew writer likened it to a great weight that ties us down, Hebrews 12:1. It can paralyze our spiritual progress and shackle us with guilt. When we begin to compare our self with the perfect example of holiness, Jesus, it can feel even worse. When Peter finally realized who Jesus really was, he responded, Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man, O Lord, Luke 5:8. When we begin to understand sin for what it is, the burden may feel overwhelming.

I once read that there are three things we can do with sin. We can resolve to never sin again.  If we do this, we set our self up for failure. This is impossible. See 1 John 1:8. We can let sin make us a coward. This is what happened to Judas. Upon realization of the terrible consequences of his scheme, Matthew 27:3-5 tells us he went out and hanged himself. He could have faced his sin through confessing it to God. Had Judas humbly approached God seeking forgiveness, he would have been forgiven. Instead, Judas now has all eternity to deal with the regret of his sin. Sin turned Judas into a coward. Since resolving to never sin and not facing our sin are ways leading to defeat, we must learn from our sin. This is profitable. It is what Peter did. After suffering a crushing spiritual defeat by denying Jesus three times, Matthew 26:69-75, the apostle sought God’s forgiveness and picked himself up. A mere fifty days after the resurrection, Peter preached the greatest sermon of his life on Pentecost. There were over 3000 persons who obeyed the gospel that day. Toward the end of his life, Peter would write:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.

1 Peter 1:3-4 ESV

Peter knew all about mercy and forgiveness. He had personally experienced it as seen in John 21:15-17. What was true for Peter remains true for us. The Christian is someone who has experienced mercy and forgiveness from God. When God says something, He means it. Let us move in faith and learn to trust Him more.

The Forgiveness of God is personal.

God sent His Son to a cruel cross in order to be the perfect sacrifice for sin. Jesus is the propitiation for our sin, 1 John 2:2. This propitiation is for everyone. It makes no difference how many sins have to be forgiven. There is no one beyond God’s power to save. There is a passage in Hebrews 7:25 we need to remember:

He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25 ESV)

 Note the last phrase in the verse above. Forgiveness was not a one-time event. Jesus always lives to make intercession for us. He continues to be the offering that turns away God’s wrath. We can always approach the Father, confess our sin, and be assured that He will always welcome us back into His grace.

Heaven is not an unattainable goal. It is not the destination of so called “super-Christians.” It is the destination of those who have been forgiven and stand solely by the grace of God. Because of the abundant mercy of God, we have a living hope of salvation given to us through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. This hope and assurance should be a source of motivation for us as we go through life. When we realize that God will go to whatever depth or any length to save us, it should radically change our life for the better. How is your life?