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2 Corinthians 6:11-18 (NKJV) “O Corinthians! We have spoken openly to you, our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted by your own affections.”
Christians talk a lot about freedom. Unfortunately, the ungodly kind of "freedom" is rebellious and builds a wall between us and God. Do you find yourself hindered in your relationship with God? Do you find yourself hindered in your relationship with God-ordained authorities in your life? If so, then there is a problem. Paul said that the Corinthians had become restricted in their relationship with him because they had become unequally yoked together with unbelievers. What does it mean to be "unequally yoked"? It means to be in an ungodly relationship or partnership with someone who is not in agreement with God and His Word. Paul’s heart was “wide open” to the Corinthian saints. God had put him in their lives to help them grow in their relationship with God. However, Paul detected an obvious wall in their heart toward him. No matter how much he longed to fulfill his God-ordained role in their lives, he could not as long as their hearts were closed to him. What happened to that open heartfelt relationship they had once enjoyed? The problem was that the Corinthians had allowed ungodly relationships to form with unbelievers--those who do not believe and obey God's Word. Paul described the condition of the Corinthian believers. They were:
Unequally yoked together with unbelievers. They were aligned with others in opposition toward God and His Word.
In fellowship with lawlessness. They were in fellowship with those who pursued a freedom without rules or order.
Having communion with darkness. They enjoyed an environment void of the light of God's truth.
In one accord with Belial ("the lawless one"). They were in unity and agreement with those who live according to what is right in his own eyes rather under the authority of God.
Having part with unbelievers. They participated in the sinful activities of others.
In agreement with idols. They put other things before God
What was Paul's solution to remove this restriction in their heart? It was to “Come out from among them and be separate.” If we want to restore our relationship with God and God-ordained authorities in our life, we must separate ourselves from the corrupting influence of anyone and anything that pulls us the other direction.
Malachi 2:15 (NKJV) “But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring…”If there is any hope for America, it will be found in families turning back to God. I hear many Christians say America needs to return to God, but sadly I don’t see many Christian families returning to God. I hear many Christians lament that America no longer gives God His rightful place in our government or in our schools, but sadly I don’t see many Christian families concerned that God is not first place in the home. I am concerned for Christian families today because I see a disconnect between what we say and what we do. The evidence of what we really believe is revealed in what we do and do not do. Through the prophet Malachi, God revealed that His primary purpose for forming families is to perpetuate godly seed—godly children who will put God first in their lives and then form new families who will do the same. The responsibility lies with parents. Are we teaching our children to put God first or education? Are we teaching our children to put God first or a job? Are we teaching our children to put God first place or a career? Are we teaching our children to put God first or obtaining material possessions? Are we teaching our children to put God first or athletics? Are we teaching our children to put God first or family? Are we teaching our children to put God first or friends? Are we teaching our children to put God first place or television, cell phones, music, entertainment, and social media? Are we teaching our children to put God first by faithful attendance at regular church gatherings or do we teach them that other things are more important? We teach our children (and grandchildren) by what we do, what we don’t do, what we allow, and what we excuse. Even those who without children are still teaching children by their example. What example are we setting? What are the children hearing and seeing? If we don’t repent and return back to God at home, we should not be surprised when there is no revival in our churches, in our community, and in our nation.
Since our forefathers first landed on the shores of North America, God has favored and blessed this nation like no other nation that has ever existed. Why has America experienced such blessing? It is because the God of our forefathers was the LORD (YAHWEH or JEHOVAH). Our nation was not founded by Muslims or Hindus. Our God is not Allah or Krishna. Our laws were nor formulated from the Koran or other religious books. Our laws and our justice system was based upon the Holy Bible, the Word of God. And yet, it seems America has forgotten the secret to its greatness. French writer Alexis de Tocqueville, after visiting America in 1831, said “I sought for the greatness of the United States in her commodious harbors, her ample rivers, her fertile fields, and boundless forests—and it was not there. I sought for it in her rich mines, her vast world commerce, her public school system, and in her institutions of higher learning— and it was not there. I looked for it in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution—and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great!” America’s greatness will be determined by the God we choose to reverence, honor, and obey. Will we make the LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob our nation’s God and the Bible our law for goodness or righteousness or will we turn our backs on God and lose His blessing? I pray that American citizens will wake up before we lose it all.
It is easy to get side-tracked by the devil rather than staying focused on the work God has assigned for us to do. Consider the following challenge by an anonymous writer:
Stick with your work. Do not flinch because the lion roars; do not stop to stone the devil’s dogs; do not fool away your time chasing the devil’s rabbits. Do your work. Let liars lie, let sectarians quarrel, let critics malign, let enemies accuse, let the devil do his worst; but see to it nothing hinders you from fulfilling with joy the work God has given you. He has not commanded you to be admired or esteemed. He has never bidden you defend your character. He has not set you at work to contradict falsehood (about yourself) which Satan’s or God’s servants may start to peddle, or to track down every rumor that threatens your reputation. If you do these things, you will do nothing else; you will be at work for yourself and not for the Lord. Keep at your work. Let your aim be as steady as a star. You may be assaulted, wronged, insulted, slandered, wounded and rejected, misunderstood, or assigned impure motives; you may be abused by foes, forsaken by friends, and despised and rejected of men. But see to it with steadfast determination, with unfaltering zeal, that you pursue the great purpose of your life and object of your being until at last you can say, “I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do."
Luke 16:10–13 (NKJV) "He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. 11 Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon."
How can you know if someone is a faithful person? You can know by how faithful they are with the little things. If a person is faithful with five dollars, then they can be trusted with five hundred. If they cannot be trusted with five dollars, then only a fool would trust them with more! Jesus said that if a person is faithful in what is least, then they would also be faithful in much. On the other hand, if we are not faithful in what is least, then how can we expect that anyone would entrust us with more? The principle of faithfulness is a principle of the kingdom and determines how God will release His blessings in our lives. This principle applies in every area whether it be time, treasure, or talent. However, Jesus uses "unrighteous mammon", i.e. money and wealth, to illustrate this principle. Many people today are struggling financially. We are living in economic hard times. However, in general, American individuals, families, and businesses have not been faithful with the resources God has given. Our nation has squandered its prosperity and is headed toward bankruptcy except the Lord intervene. In addition, we have developed a culture of squanderers who demand more without accepting responsibility or accountability for wasteful and unwise spending habits. Why should we expect God to bless us with more when we have not been faithful with what He has already given us? On an individual level, we often wonder why God has not blessed us with more than what we have. However, if we are honest, we would likely have to admit that we are not faithful with the provision He has already given to us. In most cases, God has provided more than enough to meet our needs but the problem is that we have not been faithful to manage what He has given us. We prove ourselves to be unfaithful stewards by robbing God of the tithes and offerings and being wasteful in our spending. Then we cry out to God and other people for help when the bills are due. Is our financial mess God's fault? Can we accuse Him of being unfaithful to provide? Is it the responsibility of our Christian brothers and sisters to bail us out of our financial mess and tolerate our unwillingness to be a faithful stewards? No. It is our fault and it is our responsibility to repent so that we can become faithful once again. If we will commit ourselves to becoming faithful managers of what God has already given to us, then God will help us and can entrust us with more. Faithfulness is the Biblical way out of a financial mess and the way toward financial peace and blessing.
“You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:1-2 NKJV)
Faithfulness is a virtue that is vital in the kingdom of God. Proverbs 20:6 says, “Most men will proclaim each his own goodness, but who can find a faithful man?” It was this virtue of faithfulness that Paul told Timothy to look for as he considered to whom he would pass on the torch for the next generation of believers. What is faithfulness? Faithfulness is the quality of unwavering commitment in duty regardless of who is watching and what the cost. It is being true to responsibility. Most men will proclaim their ability to do a job, but are not faithful on a daily basis. Employers know how important it is to hire people who are faithful to show up each day on time and will do their job honestly and diligently even while the boss is away. It is these faithful workers who will be candidates for promotion and will be kept when layoffs and cutbacks take place. They are the ones who hold the standard high for any new employee. The wise employer will keep his eyes open to find those who are faithful. The same is true of God. Psalm 101:6 says that God’s eye is upon the faithful of the land. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 4:2, “Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.” How do we find a faithful man? He is not found by listening to what he says, but in what he is doing right now. Look around and find those who are being faithful in areas of responsibility now. Luke 16:10 says, “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.” When it comes to the kingdom of God, God is looking for those who are faithful right now in spiritual things: those who are faithful in their walk with God, in their marriage, in their jobs, in their church attendance, in their tithes and offerings, and in their areas of service to others. These are the ones who are passing the test of faithfulness. These are the ones who are candidates for more influential areas of leadership. Those who are faithful will one day hear their Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord!” (Matthew 25:23 NKJV) Are you a faithful person? God is scanning the horizon now in search of those servants upon whom He can count. Will you be one of those servants?
In a follow up phone call to a recent guest to our church, they eagerly described the service they attended here as one of the best they had ever attended. I might have expected them to say it was the worship or possibly the preaching, but their answer surprised me. In their words there was such reverence, peace, and organization. The service was free from chaos. They felt the presence of God and love of God's people like never before. They proceeded to tell me that their appreciation was based on their previous experience in another church that was unorganized and chaotic and lacked the peace, love, and joy they felt here. Now, I have been around long enough to understand that people can say lots of things. However, I believe there is a principle behind what this person was saying. Unfortunately some churches have adopted the idea that "organization" and "order" are dirty words to God and are code words for "stiff, dead, cold religion". They believe that "freedom of the Spirit" means that they must cast off all boundaries and adopt an "anything goes" mentality where "wilder and crazier" and getting spiritually "drunk" is evidence of God's glory. However, you cannot find this kind of practice and behavior sanctioned in the New Testament church. Paul (who spoke in tongues and would be considered Charismatic or Pentecostal by our definition today), rebuked the Corinthian church for allowing things to get out of hand in the church services. While he encouraged the exercise of spiritual gifts for personal edification outside the church gathering, when it came to the church meetings, everything had to be done decently and in order for the edification of the church. The reason is that God is not the author of confusion. Confusion and chaos are the result of spiritual disorder. Biblical order is necessary to insure that God is glorified and that the people who attend the church gathering are edified. True "freedom" in worship takes place when we worship God within the boundaries of His Word and in loving consideration for one another.
Romans 16:17–20 (NKJV) "Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. 18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. 19 For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil. 20 And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen."
Did you know that the Scripture tells us to avoid certain persons? Yes. We are to avoid those who cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which we have learned (i.e. the Word of God). Paul says that those who cause division and spread offenses are deceivers who do not serve the Lord Jesus Christ but their own belly--their own agenda. In order for deceivers to draw away disciples unto themselves, they use the power of seduction. Deceivers know that they must first soften the heart of those who have heard the truth before they will be willing to embrace the lie. Through seduction--smooth words and flattering speech--deceivers lure the simple. Proverbs describes the "simple" as those who are without wisdom and understanding and who live their lives without clear boundaries. The simple do not have clear boundaries because they are not settled in the truth. Rather than bringing every thought, emotion, and opinion captive to the Word of God, their life is characterized by subjective impulses causing them to wander from one opinion to another. As a result, the simple are easily led astray through the work of seducers who charm their hearts to go astray. The Puritan minister and writer, Thomas Watson (1620-1685) said of these seducers, "They have fine elegant phrases, flattering language, whereby they work on weak Christians. They possess a pretense of extraordinary piety, so others may admire them and suck in their doctrine. They seem to be men of zeal and sanctity, to be divinely inspired and pretend to new revelations." [Glorifying God (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2009), January 3]. In order to avoid falling victim to the work of deceivers, Paul says we must 1) Note those who cause divisions and offenses contrary to the Word of God, and 2) Avoid them. Those who entertain serpents eventually get bit. If Adam and Eve had noted and avoided the Serpent in the Garden of Eden, they certainly would not have been seduced to believe the lie.
© E. Keith Hassell
Blessed are the proud,
For they shall be wise in their own eyes.
Blessed are the rebellious,
For they shall be called my children.
Blessed are the unforgiving,
For they shall never be forgiven.
Blessed are those who sow discord,
For they shall separate the brethren.
Blessed are those who bring division,
For they shall accomplish my vision.
Blessed are the easily offended,
For they shall never be established.
Blessed are the critics,
For they shall act as my judges.
Blessed are the unsubmitted,
For they shall be my slaves.
Blessed are the disobedient,
For they are obedient to me.
Blessed are those claim to be led by God to do their own will
For they are led by me.
Blessed are the unmerciful,
For they shall not receive mercy.
Blessed are the envious,
For they shall resent the advantage of others.
Blessed are the self-centered,
For they shall be the center of my attention.
Blessed are those who seek recognition,
For they shall be noticed by me.
Blessed are the easily offended,
For they shall become angry and quit.
Blessed are the self-righteous,
For they shall be self-justified.
Blessed are the fault-finders,
For they uncover a multitude of sins.
Blessed are the accusers,
For they are my prosecuting attorneys.
Blessed are the excuse makers,
For they shall never accept the blame.
Blessed are those who hate their brother,
For they have me as their father.
Blessed are the do-nothings,
For they shall wear out the diligent.
Blessed are the troublemakers,
For they shall oppress the saints.
Blessed are the ungrateful,
For they shall always feel they deserve more.
Blessed are the gossipers,
For they shall be called my messengers.
Blessed are the unfaithful,
For they are faithful to my cause.
Blessed are those who expect to be invited to their own church,
For they are important to me.
Blessed are those who will not serve others,
For they will always serve me.
Blessed are those who murmur and complain,
For they always hear my voice.
Blessed are those who persecute the righteous,
For they are soldiers in my army.
Blessed are those who do not pray,
For they shall become my prey.
Ezekiel 14:4–5 (NKJV) “Therefore speak to them, and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Everyone of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart, and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity, and then comes to the prophet, I the Lord will answer him who comes, according to the multitude of his idols, that I may seize the house of Israel by their heart, because they are all estranged from Me by their idols."'"
Are you a prophecy junkie going from one prophetic conference to another seeking another "word from the Lord"? Are you drawn to prophets who tell you what you want to hear rather than what you need to hear? When I first got involved in the Charismatic Movement, it wasn't this way. People were hungry for the Word of God. They would sit for hours with Bibles and notepads in hand feeding on God's Word. Most of the prophetic words given in meetings had a simplicity and innocence that was beautiful. Prophecy edified rather than controlled the meeting. Prophecies were generally given under accountability to church leadership and were lovingly judged and corrected when they contained error. There were no lines to receive "personal prophecies". However, over time came the rise of the prophetic movement that placed emphasis no only on prophecy but on prophets. While some of the emphasis has been biblically based and profitable, it also provided a platform for the rise of profaned prophetic ministry and outright false prophets. As a result, false doctrine, covetous practices, questionable methods, moral issues, spiritual arrogance, and manipulative prophetic ministry has become commonplace. The abuse of prophecy and the prophetic office has unfortunately resulted in many shipwrecked lives and church splits. Often pastors who naively allowed this kind of ministry to enter the church unchecked find themselves in a battle to save the flock and even their own leadership. Why are so few pastors sounding the alarm and protecting the flock? I believe it is due to a lack of discernment coupled with a pressure to embrace what they are told is "cutting edge" prophetic ministry. No one wants to be left behind in the shadows, right? The pressure on pastors to embrace the prophetic movement is increasing as growing numbers of prophets and prophetesses affirm each others prophecies and to validate one another's ministries. Does large numbers validate the movement? No. Elijah stood as God's true prophet against 450 prophets of Baal. In fact, Ezekiel 22:25 called the alliance of false prophets in his day a "conspiracy" that he likened to a pride of roaring lions devouring their prey. Pastors who dare to question, much less confront, these self-proclaimed prophets are met with a ferocious warning, "Touch not the Lord's anointed!" However, pastors need not be afraid of false prophets (Deuteronomy 18:18-22). The apostle John admonishes us to test the spirits in order to deny false prophets access to the flock (1 John 4:1-6). In Revelation 2:2, Jesus commended rather than rebuked the church in Ephesus for testing those who claimed to be apostles but were not. Brothers and sisters, it is time to wake up and wise up to the reality that not everyone who prophesies is a prophet of God and not every prophecy is true. If the body of Christ doesn't wake up soon, I believe the church in our generation may experience the great apostasy (falling away from the true faith) spoken of in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. Don't misunderstand, I believe that there are true prophets. In fact, we need to ask God to raise up true prophets like Elijah who will confront the false prophets of our day! Remember, when the spell of false prophets was broken off of the people, revival was the result! False prophets are dangerous. They are masters of disguise (Matthew 7:15) and of seduction (Ezekiel 13:10). False prophets claim to have a word from God, but God has not spoken to them (Jeremiah 23:21-22). They prophesy out of the inspiration of their own heart (Ezekiel 13:2). Their spirit is corrupt and profane (Jeremiah 6:13). They are motivated by covetousness (Jeremiah 8:10). As a result, they lure the unsuspecting by telling them what they want to hear (2 Timothy 4:2-4). They deliver a message of "Peace! Peace!" to those involved in idolatry, rebellion, sin, and disobedience (Ezekiel 13:10; Jeremiah 6:14). False prophets are dangerous because they affirm wicked desires and comfort the sinner. Once people embrace the ministry of false prophets, they rarely escape deception. In His wisdom, God has judged these individuals by causing them to believe the lying spirits operating in false prophets (Ezekiel 14:6-11; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12). For a sobering example of how God did this with King Ahab, read 2 Chronicles 18:18-22! Friend, you and I are not immune from being deceived. If you don't believe that, then you are already deceived! How can we escape the seduction of lying spirits operating through false prophets? We must humble ourselves before God, confess our sin, repent of our idolatry and sin (Ezekiel 14:6), repent of our fascination with subjective supernatural experiences, and then develop an uncompromising love and obedience for the truth of God's Word (2 Thessalonians 2:10).Without an uncompromising love for the truth of God's Word and the humility to receive its correction, we will be unwilling and unable to escape the deception around us.
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