Perspective: “Wake Up Church!”

Christian, have you fallen into such a religious stupor where you are no longer awake but you have instead become like the “walking dead”? Have you backslid in your faith where you have provided backdoor access for the enemy to gleefully regain power in areas of your life you thought you already gained victory over? Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? Have you recognized that your strivings and well-intentioned efforts are inadequate to successfully fight this battle of faith? Have you reached the end of yourself?! If this sounds like you, you are right where God needs you–emptied of yourself so that He can indwell and mightily work though you with His Holy Spirit. You don’t need more lukewarm, entertainment-driven, half-committed Christianity, what you need is the infilling of the Holy Spirit Himself Who will be given only as we die to our fleshly-selves! Stop playing games with God by trivializing sin and start providing your faith with the weight of seriousness that it requires!

Please heed this message closely.

We are living in spiritually-perilous times today. It grieves me greatly to concede that much of the glory of God has departed the vast majority of churches today. In fact, very few Biblically-rooted and Spirit-Filled churches exist today. The Church has largely become insitutionalized and commercialized; God’s house has gradually become a den of thieves rather than a house of prayer(Mat 21:13)! I am sure that Jesus would not hesitate in overturning the tables of the money-changers within most churches today like when he cleansed the temple during his earthly ministry (see: Mat 21:12-13; Jn 2:14-17).

Church, why are there more Christian denominations today than ever before, yet instead of experiencing anything even close to a revival, we have difficulty moving past our nominal-christianity(not real Christianity)? Andrew Bonar, the great hymn writer in Scotland once said, “I looked for the Church and I found it in the world. I looked for the world and I found it in the Church.”

Shockingly, the greatest hinderance to revival today is evangelism because evangelism needs to be organized whereas revival cannot be organized! Most of today’s modern church system is organized, regimented and structured in such a way where true revival is simply not possible. The way this man-made religious system is designed would make it impossible for any such revival to become ignited, let alone flourish. Sadly, it would be over before it even started; the strict institutionalized controls in place intentionally stifle such spiritual awakenings.

The harsh truth, however, is that we don’t want God to disrupt our status quo. We are quite comfortable with the way things are so why would we expect for God to change the state of the church? One of the major reasons we do not see revival emerge today is because it is too costly to die to self and we are content to live without it!

True Church revival starts on an individual level. God only needs a few true, dedicated, all-in believers to accomplish His Kingdom-Furthering Purposes. He cannot and will not work through lukewarm, part-time Christians regardless of how big in number they may be. Today’s modern church is more than ample evidence of this! God is after quality and not quantity. As believers who are desperate for God to move among the nations, may we all repent from our sinful ways. Otherwise, we will run out of time and on judgment day Jesus will plainly tell us, “…I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ (Lk 13:27).

What The Enemy Does Not Want You to Know

Key Biblical Text

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,  being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete”(2 Corinthians 10:3-6)

Introduction: Too Busy to Focus on the Spiritual

Have you ever stopped to consider that what we see in the physical realm is only a portion of what is actually happening all around us? I think that it is a safe assumption that most of today barely have enough time for ourselves, let alone to ponder on the spiritual realities within this world.

Life in modern society is moving at such a frighteningly-fast pace that we barely have sufficient time to get our day-to-day tasks accomplished. Statements such as: “I just don’t have enough time”, “I’m too busy for this”, or “There aren’t just enough hours in the day to finish what I need to accomplish” are ubiquitous to the average person today. While it is not necessarily a sin to be busy, what I fear is happening today is that we are being greatly distracted from the things that truly matter in the context of eternity.

Westernized Christianity Waters Down The Spiritual

It is my assertion that the teaching among most Christian Churches within the West does not provide enough focus on the spiritual warfare surrounding Christians. Yet, the Bible repeatedly underscores the importance of recognizing the spiritual realm as something very real and also something which Christians must prepare themselves against.

In the West, we have this prevailing humanist and materialist mindset which overshadows much of the way in which we think and operate as a society. Secular psychology is an incredibly influential and authoritative force even to the degree that it has begun to infiltrate the Church. Almost everything, including the things of spiritual origin, can be merely theorized into these humanist “boxes of understanding”. Christian Colleges and Universities have begun to incorporate psychology-counseling into the teaching curriculum for those studying to become pastors and teachers.

We Are in All-Out Spiritual War

Christian, do you know that you have an enemy who will stop at nothing to annihilate your faith? If you do not recognize how high the stakes are, then surely what reason would you have to equip yourself for this spiritual warfare? There is an old quote that teaches that the greatest thing the enemy ever pulled off is to convince us that he doesn’t exist. The schemes of the enemy work best when those being deceived are ignorant to what is actually happening. Therefore, I think that it is also fitting to say that one of the greatest things the enemy has pulled off is to convince the Church to downplay the importance of spiritual warfare. Perhaps one of the leading causes for why much of the Church in the West has fallen asleep stems from its ignorance of spiritual warfare. We are called to make war with sin so that we can grow in holiness and righteousness, but how can this happen if we are not even aware of the type of battle which we are involved in?

Spiritual Strongholds

GotQuestion.org provides a Biblical View on Spiritual Strongholds below:

The enemy is firmly entrenched; these strongholds have been guarded for thousands of years, presenting a great wall of resistance to the Truth. None of this deters the Christian warrior, however. Using the weapons of God’s choosing, he attacks the strongholds, and by the miraculous power of Christ, the walls are breached, and the bastions of sin and error are battered down. The victorious Christian enters the ruins and leads captive, as it were, every false theory and every human philosophy that had once proudly asserted its independence from God…Sharing the gospel is not the only time we see resistance. We can also face demonic strongholds in our own lives, in our families, and even in our churches. Anyone who has fought an addiction, struggled with pride, or had to “flee youthful lusts” knows that sin, a lack of faith, and a worldly outlook on life are indeed “strongholds.”

I believe that understanding and being able to identify spiritual strongholds in our lives as Christians is one of the first steps to conquering them. Interestingly, a significant degree of our spiritual maturity and growth as Christians is dependent on how effectively we make war with these spiritual strongholds. Each day we wake up, we are faced with a decision to equip ourselves with the armour of God or not. We must understand that even though God has finished the work through His Son on the Cross, we are responsible to continually walk in obedience and to access the spiritual means of grace freely given to us. The spiritual toolkit in the form of God’s armour and the reservoir of His grace is definitely there for the Christian, but it still needs to be accessed by faith in order to be effective.

Tragically, so many ignorant Christians fail to live their spiritual lives in victory and instead choose to live defeated lives. As they listen to the lies of the enemy, they begin to believe them. These lies gain a foothold in the minds of the believer leading to a crippled and ineffective life as a Christian. Rather than reclaiming the authority they have in Christ in order to overcome the dominion of sin, they allow themselves to remain spiritually-complacent and unfruitful.

The Solution: Live by The Spirit through Repentance, & Equipping Yourself with God’s Armour 

God will not provide us with the spiritual victory as long as we are not surrendered to Him. We need to die to self so that Christ through His Holy Spirit will reign and actively work through us as one of His instruments. In the West, I fear that we often intellectualize Christianity and that we restrain it to some kind of futile head knowledge while the heart remains unchanged. If our faith does not manifest in commensurate righteous actions and deeds, then we may be wise to question whether we have a saving faith or not. James 2:14-17 teaches:

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 

The core teaching is not that it is works that saves us, but rather the point is ultimately: What is the point if our faith is not accompanied with works? Our hearts, not merely our minds, needs to be transformed. It is then and only then that the Holy Spirit will reside within us and empower us to conquer the spiritual strongholds in our journey. As we abide in Christ(through study and application of Scripture), the Holy Spirit works mightly in our life while demolishing those strongholds in the process!

In addition, equipping ourselves with the armour of God as detailed in Ephesians 6:10-18 is essential. Without which, we will inevitably compromise our Christian living and our faith will eventually be sifted like wheat as Jesus Himself reveals the enemy’s intentions to Peter(Luke 22:31). I find this analogy about the Christian from GotQuestion.org helpful as it relies on Ephesians 6:14-17 for its framework:

Our weapons are not physical, for our warfare is spiritual in nature. Rather than guns and tanks, our weapons are those of the “full armour of God” and consist of “the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”(Ephesians 6:14-17)

 

Prayer

Father,

I pray that you awaken your Church to the spiritual battleground around us. Please strengthen us as we ready ourselves for battle in this spiritual fight. Thank-you for providing us with the spiritual weapons of warfare to be victorious over the dominion of sin. Help us to walk in step with Your Holy Spirit to experience the fullness of the plan to that which You have called us in Christ. In Jesus’ Name, I pray Amen.

 

Reference:

https://www.gotquestions.org/spiritual-strongholds.html

Perspective: Why Our Trust Must Be Rooted in Christ and Not Christianity(Religion)

Preface

Have you ever stopped to consider and ponder that Christianity is not the same as Who Jesus Christ is? Christianity as a religion is comprised up of imperfect humans who are gradually being transformed into the image and likeness of Christ. Christ is perfect, Christians are not. Sadly, one of the main stumbling blocks I encounter when witnessing to others is their exposure to a misrepresentation of the Christian Faith. Therefore, as Christians, we should not be placing our faith in fellow Christian brothers and sisters on a micro-level and/or even towards Christianity on a macro-level. We are equally broken–Christian and non-Christian–who are all in as much of need for Jesus as the next person. Yet, we regularly put other Christians on pedestals almost on a daily-basis, commonly without consciously thinking about it. The tragic result is disappointment when they do not fulfill our expectations, but, more significantly, it is a diminishment of the all-sufficiency of God. In turn, we end up idolizing other Christians, rather than placing our unwavering faith in Jesus Alone for our salvation and spiritual growth.

Christianity Cannot Save You, But Jesus Can

Within the West, I believe that we are at a comparative spiritual-disadvantage to that of poorer parts of the world. We have so much material wealth, abundance, and prosperity to the degree that it becomes easy to trust and depend on things other than God Himself. Christian resources are almost too readily accessible, thereby presenting the temptation for us to exchange these Christian supplements in the place of diligent study in God’s Word.

What I believe is one of the leading causes of lukewarmness within the Christian Church in the West today derives itself from the false belief that the Church saves us. The implicitly-held belief among several Christians in the West is that as long I attend weekly church service, partake in helping through various ministries and fulfill the requirements of other rituals, then I am saved.

Church-goers swiftly become enticed by the allure of comfortable Christianity. Even lesser known local churches have such an unparalleled access to ministry resources. It becomes almost too easy to become spiritually-lazy through relying wholeheartedly on the local church to feed us, while we ourselves lack the spiritual disciplines. In doing so, we place too much weight on the pulpit and we begin to ignorantly think that we absolutely need an intermediary between ourselves and God in order to grow in faith of Jesus. Devastatingly, the local church slowly, but surely takes the place of Jesus. Rather than trusting in Jesus and His finished work alone, the mindset of the church-goer shifts to placing their trust in their church instead. Paradoxically, the local church becomes an idol and stifles the spiritual life of the believer which Jesus graciously provided. Rather than being a faith in Jesus by grace alone, it subtly evolves into a religion by self-effort.

Disclaimer: I do believe that all Christians need to actively be apart of a local, Biblically-Rooted Church. However, I also believe that the purpose of the Church is to equip its Saints to boldly go out and point others to Jesus. We need to be cautious to never forget that our foundation is built upon Jesus and that He is the Only One worthy of our full allegiance. 

Religion by Self-Effort vs. Salvation by Faith

The major implication for those who idolize their church is that they re-enter into the bondage of law and rule-keeping, the very thing that Jesus has already saved them from. For church-goers, this manifests itself in the form of religion when Jesus Christ by faith is replaced by religion through self-effort. Because it is impossible to earn our salvation or to somehow work our way to heaven, those who place their trust in their own righteousness will perish in the end. The figure below helps illustrate the differences between the two:

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (Galatians 3:1–4).

Those attending the church of Galatia had naively returned to works of the law even after having begun by the Spirit. I think that it is important for us all to do a self-examination to ensure that we have not fallen into the same trap. Paul provides us with instruction on how God desires for His children to live by in verse 11 below:

Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith (Galatians 3:11).

Believers must live by faith in Jesus out of reliance in the future grace which He extends to all who trust in Him. This reliance can only come when the believer’s heart is rightly postured before God. No amount of sacrifices, good deeds, and/or religious rituals will ever be enough because God doesn’t delight in external performance. As seen below, God desires a surrendered, repentant, and humble heart from us. It is then and only then that He can provide us with a new nature in order that we can live the resurrected life as His new creation!

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise (Psalms 51:16–17)

Heavenly Father,

Forgive us for anytime that we have trusted in anything other than Your perfect righteousness for our salvation and continued spiritual growth. Help us to continue to live by faith in You Alone. Remind us that Your Son, Jesus, has torn the veil between us and You which has provided us with direct access to Your throne of grace. This is something that no religious teacher can ever provide. Provide us with rock-solid confidence in You as we seek journey and grow with you in faith. In Jesus’ All-Sufficient Name, Amen!

Insight: Church. What’s The Point?

Sadly, Christianity within the Progressive West often overlooks what it means to be a true follower of Jesus. Taking up our crosses daily by dying daily to our fleshly desires is an incredibly unpopular message, yet it is practically the whole point of the Gospel Message! We need to crucify the sins of the flesh in order that Christ may reign supreme in every fiber of our being and every sphere of our lives! However, in Western Society we typically find ourselves doing one of the two extremes: placing excessive focus on building up one another as a Church Body, or decisively disconnecting ourselves from the Church Body because of its alleged hypocrisy. Every true Christian must diligently seek to uphold this delicate balance of being equipped and being missional with the power of the Holy Spirit, otherwise they will become lukewarm and/or self-righteous hypocrites themselves. Exclusive focus to either one of these ways of Christian living is extremely dangerous and it must be avoided at all costs! By seeking to maintain this balance through the indwelling Holy Spirit, our impact as Christians is able to be optimized and, most importantly, our Awesome God is also being glorified!

God Bless!

What Does God’s Word Say?

What is Happening Today

Within the West today, we are experiencing a rapid decrease in the number of genuine, faithful, practicing Christians. The influence of Eastern World Religion has been continually on the rise and it has permeated much of the culture in which we live today. We only need to look at what is on the best-selling book list to see hundreds of self-help books proposing new ways to unlock our full potential from within. In addition, life-hacking techniques are merely a web click away teaching us ways in which we can supposedly live our best life now with the least effort expended.  I don’t think we have ever lived in an era with such a myriad of leaders, gurus, mentors, and coaches who somehow all profess to have the key(s) to help us live our most successful life. To make matters worse, Biblical Christianity has even begun to absorb these adverse effects through becoming re-packaged into a sort of “Convenient Christianity”.

When Supplements Turn into Substitutes

“Convenient Christianity” has strong ties with the Prosperity Gospel Movement which focuses on gaining health and wealth, rather than salvation and forgiveness from our sins. We have so many material resources in the West and, if we are not careful, this will lead to complacency deterring our faith walk with God. Even within the Christian subculture, there are numerous resources which we can utilize to study God’s Word such as: podcasts, songs, articles, books, devotionals, study Bibles…just to name a few. Our Bibles themselves are full of commentaries, cross-references, and study guides of various kinds. We barely need to put forth any effort when it comes to understanding the Scriptures since this work is seemingly already done. While on the one hand this is super convenient and helpful, on the other, this is extremely dangerous because it relegates the quality of our Bible Study time. Not only are we depending more on the individual to tell us what God has said(which belittles God’s authority), but the richness and intimacy of unpacking God’s Word is pointedly reduced. Plus, God’s Word is unable to have the full intended impact within the affections of our heart. What is initially perceived to be a shortcut actually turns into a major stumbling block towards our spiritual growth and maturity.

Certainly, there are benefits and value towards supplementing our Bible-reading time with Christian resources. The keyword is supplement though! We cannot allow these supplements to turn into substitutes. The moment that this happens is when we risk committing idolatry because we are in effect telling God that we place greater value in what the theologian, for example, is saying over God Himself. The Scriptures are God’s Gift to us and they are truly the sword of the spirit within our armor of God(Ephesians 6:17). However, the sword of the spirit is only effective if we equip ourselves with it and this only comes from studying and knowing God’s Word. This can only help through intentional time spent studying it.

Practical Advice

In my own life, I confess that I have been spending an inordinate amount of time with supplementary resources, particularly with podcasts and Christian literature of various kinds. Sadly, even during my personal Bible devotional time, I have sometimes given too much authority to the study commentaries. I find that it is very helpful to pray before reading the Scriptures through asking God to provide us a fresh perspective and to speak to us through His revealed Word. Then we should read through it slowly, unpacking what the author is trying to convey about God and His character within the overall Gospel Narrative. We need to soften our hearts so that God’s Word will have their full transformational impact on our affections as the Holy Spirit does His work within us. This approach to Bible-reading helps make our experience direct, personal and intimate during the time in which we encounter God face-to-face through His All-Powerful Word.

Implications from Biblical Illiteracy

On a macro level, what I believe we can in attribute the dwindling influence of Christianity primarily towards is Biblical Illiteracy. We are living in an Information Age. Biblical-IlliteracyKnowledge has never been so widely and easily accessible to us as it is today. With this comes various disadvantages, like the ease by which uncredible sources have platforms to disseminate misconceptions and falsifications of Christianity. Christian Cults holding onto heretical teachings have even emerged which propagates confusion all the more. In modern society, Biblical Christianity is viewed as anything but the answer because we have strayed so far from orthodoxy. Nobody knows what truth is anymore and culture is experiencing moral-decay because it has become morally-relativistic. The media keeps pumping out lies upon lies, and people are believing them because they have no discernment. This should be no surprise for unbelievers, but what is striking about this is that even believers are falling prey to some of these lies. The Church is being disestablished as we speak and we as a Church are being paralyzed by fear and comfort. I contend that at the core of all this is Biblical Illiteracy. People do not know God and His purpose for them because they do not know their Bibles. The Bible reveals Who God is and what we are called to be as partakers of His Redemptive Plan. Without staying in God’s Word, we will continue to be deceived by the lies of the world and tossed about by the wind. Worst of all, we will be ineffective and unproductive for God’s work. John 15:6-7 tells us the following about remaining in Jesus,

If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.

These are harsh words from Jesus Himself and they should serve as reminders of the absolute importance of remaining in His Word, otherwise we will face these devastating circumstances.

Lord, I pray that you help us rise up against complacency and spiritual-laziness through returning to the roots of Biblical Christianity through Your Holy Word. Teach and equip us to be the courageous men and women of God You have called us to be on this spiritual battleground!

In Jesus’ Name, I Pray Amen.