Tuesday, May 31, 2011

DISTORTION

DISTORTION
A. Brother
©2010 Narrowgate Publishing

"Even from your own number men will arise
and distort the truth..."
Acts 20:30

       I'm writing with a heavy heart today, as I'm overwhelmed by the massive distortions of truth perpetuated by men who call themselves believers in Christ.  Just visiting the blog world--the writings of the people central to all the so-called "Christian industries" such as publishing, and music, and the arts, education, and ministry--is a journey into the chaos of self-promotion.
      This is not Christ.  This smorgasbord of self-focus is not Christ.  The name of Christ is not mentioned, except in passing, like a reference on a resume.  
      Of course I serve Christ, so I do this, or that, and look at me, and at my fine, wonderful life of achievements.  Of course I serve Christ, but look at me and my family, and my latest book, or CD, or degree, or conference speaking schedule.  Of course I serve Jesus, that's why I'm so successful, and have a big following on all the social media sites, and why my book is being published, and I have a speaking tour set up.  Of course I am a Christian, and that's why my blog has a community of thousands, and my every word is commented on by hundreds of people a day.  Of course my life is an example, because so many people say nice things about me, and buy my stuff.
      ME, ME, ME, I, I, I, MINE, MINE, MINE!
      How lonely and ignored the Lord Jesus is today among our affluent, modern, fantabulous Christians!  In reading this drivel I'm driven by the Holy Spirit to remember and read in Scripture about my Lord's ministry--how humble it was, and how He never exalted Himself.  I think of Paul and the other apostles--outcasts and hated by the world, persecuted and hunted down, opposed even by many in the religious world.  Rioted over in the marketplace, lowered down city walls to escape mobs, protected from religious zealots by the pagan Roman armies, shipwrecked, beaten, hungry, cold, without permanent homes, and all because of their love for Christ and their refusal to compromise with the world.
      No such life for the modern, fantabulous American Christian.  Why should we live in such a Way?  Why should we not live lusciously delicious lives, full of success, full of ourselves?  After all, we've earned it!  How talented we are, and how brilliant!  We have become all we need, and to boot, we have Christ and the church!  The Christian mob throws its uncritical approval upon us, and garlands of praise, and so stamps us with glory!
      The Lord God stands aside for this procession.  He is not the subject of all this self-adoration.  He does not participate.  His Word stands today as it always has, and we either humble ourselves, giving all, dying to self, following Jesus, or we will be left out on the Day coming, when God's true ekklesia, His scattered, suffering, persecuted, loved, cherished, faithful remnant, will be gathered from the four winds to His arms.
      Other great processions, self-congratulatory parades of so-called 'Christian' religiosity, have marched across the globe at various times in history.  Where are they now?  Dead and buried and forgotten.  Like all man's endeavors, they pass away like the grass.  But the Word of God stands forever, and His Truth will always be, and only those who obey the Lord Jesus and follow Him on the nearly forgotten Narrow Road will be there with Him when He returns.
     Many across the globe have not bowed their knee to the modern, affluent, fantabulous Baal.  Thousands have continued to stand, uncompromised, unbowed, silent before those who ignore them, or accuse them, as our Lord Jesus was silent before the religious Jews and Pilate.
      What will you do when you find out that your celebrity, your achievements in the 'Christian world', your fine plaques and trophies, your long resume, your leadership, your popularity, your self-accomplishments, all mean nothing to Christ?  What will you do when He asks you who you are?  If you can't answer 'I am nothing--my life has been You, and You alone, dear Friend'--then He will have to throw away your press releases, and your framed photos of you and your adoring fans and say, "Depart from Me, I never knew you."
      Is all this temporary partying worth that?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

NO RAM IN THE THICKET

NO RAM IN THE THICKET
A. Brother
©2010 Narrowgate Publishing

          “When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it.  He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.  Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.”  --Gen. 22:9,10

          You must read this entire chapter to get the whole story.  But there is one point that is often missed.
            Abraham didn’t know there would be a ram in the thicket.
            Abraham was obedient to God in giving up what God had promised him…even when he had no thought that God would stop him.  The son whom God had promised Abraham would be the fulfillment of the promise to make a great nation was to be sacrificed to the One who had made the promise. 
            There was no avoidance.  No way out. 
            This son was not just a fulfillment of a promise in Abraham’s eyes.  This son was Isaac, his own flesh and blood, his beloved son.  He was his only son, and could not be replaced, as it had taken a miracle from God to produce him in the first place.
            This was not God asking for just something.  This was God asking for everything.  Everything that Abraham held dear.  Everything he lived for.  This was God asking for Abraham to lift the knife and plunge it into his only son’s heart, taking by his own hand the life and joy God had brought him in his old age. 
            This was the sacrifice of all Abraham cared about.  This was the ultimate sacrifice, the cross, the death to self.  This was death to even the good things Abraham thought he would get out of his obedience to God.  This was awful, ugly death, in a remote spot, with nobody to share his grief, or know his pain. 
            This was to be done without the blessing or approval of others, for what would Sarah have done if she knew what God had asked of Abraham?  Would not a mother do everything in her power to protect her child from the knife, even to dying herself?
            Would not Sarah had been like Peter before Christ’s crucifixion, trying to talk him out of the whole absurd thing, trying to grab a sword and fight, rather than submit to this unreasonable request by God?  Would she not have tried to kill Abraham, her husband, rather than let him kill her only son, the only child she ever bore in her life?
            This drama has a happy ending.  God provides a ram caught in the thicket of bushes near the altar, and lets Abraham use the ram instead of Isaac as the
sacrifice.

            But what is the lesson here?  Is it that God will always provide a ram in the thicket when He asks of us everything we hold dear?
            No, otherwise there would not be thousands upon thousands of martyrs in the roll call of heaven.  Jesus would not have demanded everything of his disciples, even unto death.  The Lord would not have required that a man lose his own life to save it, nor would He have asked the rich young ruler to give all he had to the poor before he could follow Jesus.  There would have been no talk of counting the cost, of carrying the cross daily, of hating even our own lives to live for Jesus.
            There are many today, even leading ministries in America, even those in pulpits of prominence who speak before gatherings of thousands in big church buildings, who preach and teach this passage in Abraham’s life as if it were an object lesson about God providing the ram in the thicket when we obey Him.  That all we’re required to do is symbolically be prepared to give up everything for Jesus.  That He’ll not actually make us go through with this hideous request.

            So false, and so pretentious.  So contrary to even the basic understanding God meant us to have here.  So contrary to Jesus’ Words.
            Brethren, if you would follow Christ, you must put everything—all your hopes, aspirations, dreams, goals, agendas, plans—on the altar of sacrifice to Him.   You must raise the knife and plunge it downward, into the heart of all your own thoughts and desires, your own schemes for life. 
            You must actually give up, not just be willing to give up, your life for Christ.
            There is no ram in the thicket for us.
            God gave up His only Son for us, and we are required to give up everything for Him.  The story of Abraham is a story of God testing one man and his willingness to give it all up.  And Abraham hadn’t a clue that that ram was in the thicket, nor that God would allow Isaac to live.  This was no object lesson.  This, to Abraham, was the end of his hopes and his dreams, his plans and aspirations, his agendas and his own life.  There is no doubt if God had not intervened that Abraham would have plunged that knife into Isaac’s chest, killing by his own hand the very thing that he thought would deliver him from his life of loneliness and obscurity.  He was asked to give up the very thing that he thought would make his own life worthwhile.
            There is no ram in the thicket.
            God asks us to sell all we have, to lay it on the altar of sacrifice, to give it all up, for Jesus.  To seek first and with all our beings the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness.  To lay down our lives for Christ and His brothers and sisters, without thought of being relieved of the command by a substitute in the bushes.
            This is the lesson of total obedience, without thought of rescue.
            God’s love is total.  He demands our lives in return.  And this is our love for Him.  This was Abraham’s love for God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.  This was Abraham’s ‘faith without works is dead’ test.  This test was Abraham giving 100%, not just a tithe of 10%.   This was Abraham’s Golgotha, His martyrdom.  This was Abraham’s dying to self.  This was his crucifixion, not just Isaac’s.
            Today, it is our test.  We must also offer up all we value, all we hold dear, and take up the knife.  God doesn’t guarantee a ram.  But like Jesus said:

            “Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.”  --Luke 17:33

          We, like Abraham, without thought of the ram in the thicket, must offer up everything we are, everything we have—everything--no matter how dear to us.  Christ must be the one who decides what gets saved and what doesn’t.

          “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice….Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from the dead.”  --Heb. 11:17-19
           
            We know now that God does raise the dead. 
            Those who would follow Him must die to themselves and their own plans and goals and dreams.
            Then, we can experience the resurrection power of Christ, giving us the strength and love to walk the narrow road with Him.  The whole world may pass us by, but God will do what He wants to do in us.  We may be fought against and shunned, even by those who claim to be Christians, but who will answer some day soon for their disobedience to the most basic of Christ’s commands.
            Follow Abraham, who is an example of saving faith.
            This is the true lesson we're to learn.
            Faith expects no ram in the thicket.
            

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