Spiritual Suicide

Posted: August 9, 2012 in Uncategorized

Spiritual Suicide

I understand that we have a blessed hope. We await, with great anticipation, the resurrection, that wonderful day when we are “clothed with our heavenly dwelling”. (2 Corinthians 5)

I believe this, and look forward to it with great eagerness.

That being said, a great concern of mine has been that Christianity’s continual emphasis on the afterlife has created something of a suicidal culture. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that having a Heavenly hope has caused the devout to consider *literally* taking their lives. What I mean, is that many have stopped living altogether, and that in the name of awaiting something greater.

Whether it be due to a longing for the “rapture”, or simply due to the hope of heaven itself, many Christians have taken to viewing our present life as though it were nothing more than an opportunity to earn some celestial merit badges, whilst enduring hardship and trial. We look with such eagerness to the world to come, that we miss out on the one which is right under our noses.

Many devout believers cannot, without guilt, enjoy something as banal as a four dollar cup of coffee out of fear that mishandling their money will somehow decrease their quality of life in Heaven. Some cannot enjoy the peace and serenity of a night at home with the family, without feeling the need to be out evangelizing, or stealing away for prayer. Some cannot simply enjoy a date night with their spouse, without feeling the pressure to be at some prayer meeting, or other “church” event.

Why is this?

In many cases, it is because there is this pressure to, “live for eternity”. If something is not of “eternal value”, we’re told, then it’s cheap, trivial, and unimportant. This belief has, sadly, led to the sterilization of many marriages, the severing of many good relationships, and to an ungodly form of neo-Gnostic, asceticism, which cripples, and sucks the life out of even the most vibrant of souls.

This is a tragedy, and is tantamount to spiritual suicide.

If the incarnation of Christ shows us anything, it shows us that God is not afraid of the lives we live. He jumped into the human existence like a kid doing a cannonball into a swimming pool! He walked, lived, worked, ate, drank, cried, and laughed among us, and continues to do so as Immanuel — God with us! Yes, Christ spoke of a Heaven to come, but He did so while enjoying life as a man, and declaring to us a Kingdom that was within! (Luke 17:21)

It is in this context that God Himself instructs us to, “not worry about tomorrow”. He knew that tomorrow would have it’s own set of worries, and the best and most profitable thing that we could do was to enjoy the moment that we were living in.

God showed us this. It wasn’t Dr. Phil, Oprah, or some other television, self help guru who made this truth known–it was Jesus, the Word made flesh!

When we are constantly looking to tomorrow, we end up scorning today. What many sincere Christians forget, however, is that *today* is where they actually live, and, consequently, it is where the most important things in their lives live as well. You’ll get to tomorrow, make no mistake, but don’t commit spiritual suicide, and stop living “now”, out of an unholy reverence for “then”.

There are still hundreds of sunrises and sunsets that we’ve yet to behold our Father’s beauty in! There are still many star laden night skies that we’ve yet to behold our Father’s perfection in. There are still many laid back, summer barbecues that we’ve yet to have a foretaste of our rest in Christ through. There’s still too many rowdy, holiday get together’s that we’ve yet to experience the warmth of our heavenly adoption through.

There are still far too many beautiful moments that we’ve yet to experience the marvelous perfection, and mystery of our Heavenly Daddy’s nature through!

If we take our eyes off of this beautiful, glorious “now”, and live only for a distant, ambiguous “then”, we might find ourselves extremely unfamiliar with what we find there. For perhaps our “then” will much more closely resemble our “now” than we’ve allowed ourselves to imagine.

Eternal life begins now. (John 17:3)

You see, “eternal life” is not so much about quantity, but quality. It’s less to do with the length of your existence, and more to do with the quality of your experience. And the Bible is clear, that experience begins now. If you don’t get the hang of it here, who’s to say you’ll get it there?

Don’t commit spiritual suicide. You’ve been called to live.

So do it.

Jonathan Edwards once said the following words:

“Reprobate infants are vipers of vengeance, which Jehovah will hold over hell, in the tongs of his wrath, till they turn and spit venom in his face!”

Elsewhere, Edwards asked the question:

“Can the believing father in Heaven be happy with his unbelieving children in Hell?”

Now, a bit of clarification: Edwards is not referring to God when he speaks of the “believing father in Heaven”. Rather, he is speaking an earthly father who enters Heaven, while His children are sentenced to an eternity in Hell. One would assume that Edwards’ answer to this question would be something akin to, “Nay! And a thousand times nay!”.

Unfortunately, his answer was as follows:

“…it [the sight of his children in Hell] will increase rather than diminish his bliss.”

To be honest with you, I’m not sure if I’ve ever read more demonic, and putrid words in all of my life. I have a level of respect for Jonathan Edwards, and know that these statements do not equal the thesis statement of his life, nor is he defined by them. I know that some of his other works and words seem almost contradictory to these words. However, it is Edwards’ words on hell and the demise of the damned which have made him famous, and, are the ideas which he is most known for proclaiming.

My respect, and contextual understandings aside, to think that there is a form of religion out there which teaches and prepares parents to rejoice, and experience “increased bliss” at the sight of their children being barbecued alive in an eternal hell, is not only disturbing, but downright revolting, and, in my opinion, utterly satanic.

Unfortunately, heretical Christianity has, for years, encouraged otherwise sane men and women, to gleefully anticipate death, misery, and eternal torment for a vast majority of earth’s populace. This is neither, healthy nor sane. It is madness, and madness of the most disgusting kind. I know that my words seem harsh here, but truly, this is an issue which has plagued the Church, and thus the world, for centuries.

Allow me to share with you why I’m writing this today in the first place:

Earlier this week, I was on a certain online forum, reading through various posts concerning theology and such. My eyes, however, were drawn to a particular post entitled, “The most lost generation EVER”. I will quote a portion of the original post, while keeping it’s author’s identity concealed out of respect.

The post went as follows:

“After witnessing again tonight and hearing AGAIN from yet another shockingly hard-hearted person how the Bible is supposedly ‘all fiction’ and absolutely NOTHING i said could make any difference, i must conclude that this generation is thee most hopeless EVER. I think i have heard it ALL now. Every last excuse, every last accusation and diatribe. And it is crystal clear that Americans do not want Christ, no matter what. The hearts of this people have turned to STONE. It is like bashing my head against a brick wall talking to these people. Many of them even contradict their own selves. I have come to hate witnessing. It is tiresome. It is offensive to hear the awful things they say. They never run out of excuses for rejecting Christ, yet any of the pagan ‘gods’ will do. I have tolerated the most deplorable things and shown nothing but kindness, friendship, and love/charity to them. When the bomb or whatever hits this country, whatever finally comes, i can’t feel no pity. UGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.”

Now, certainly, anyone who has ever attempted to present the Gospel to an unbeliever can sympathize with this young man’s frustrations. However, notice the last line preceding the prolonged “UGH”. The young man states that when apocalyptic judgement “finally” hits this nation, he will feel no pity. Why? Because we’ll apparently deserve it. And this young man, frustrated with the wickedness of the wicked and the unbelief of the unbelieving, seems to be looking forward to the fiery demise of his own peers and countrymen.

However, can this young man truly be blamed for having this thought? Would this not be the natural response of an individual who has been taught to believe that God is cooking up one “hell” (pun intended) of a reckoning day for the wicked, and unbelieving?

Now, let me clarify, because I most certainly believe in a day of judgement, as the Bible is quite clear on the issue. The idea, however, that a house of horrors and torture await all of those who have never had the chance, or, who have rejected the chance to “repeat after me”, is absurd, and cannot rightly be called biblical. Again, I do not set aside the notion of hell. No, there is far too much said in the scriptures concerning a “hell” to outrightly reject the idea. It is not the doctrine of “hell” that I take issue with. It is the modern interpretations of hell – the idea of hell as a mammoth tortured chamber that makes Nazi concentration camps look like Disney World, that every individual who met with the unfortunate fate of being born in a nation void of Christianity will one day eternally inhabit – that I take issue with.

I do believe in a Biblical doctrine of hell. The Halloween-ish, B-grade horror movie version of recent times, however, I’m completely unsold on.

Now, the reason for even making these statements is that such a belief seems to create within many an anticipation of final judgement. The quote by Jonathan Edwards is a statement by him saying that a father who makes it to Heaven, would have his “bliss increased” by watching his child burn alive in hell. In the other Edwards’ quote I presented, he states that there are some infants who will be considered reprobates, who will be roasted alive above the fires of hell in the tongs of God’s wrath. So, in Edwards estimation, there will one day be human fathers in Heaven, viewing their infant children roasting alive above the fires of hell, and these fathers will have their “bliss increased”, not diminished, by the sight. He will continue on with his Heavenly feasting and revelry, while joyously beholding the eternal torment of his infant son or daughter!

That, in any sane person’s mind, must be considered to be psychotic.

Yes, the view of hell has changed a bit since Edward’s time. His words, however, have most definitely become the context in which many evangelicals frame their view of the afterlife. What I’m attempting to say here is that a belief system which causes us to anticipate the suffering and torture of millions, if not billions of people, is warped, twisted, and cannot rightly be called Christianity.

Honestly, to think that we will one day gaze upon the charred, but living corpses of the victims of eternal justice, whilst feasting and rejoicing in Heaven, is deplorable, and turns the stomach. To think that we will gaze upon the earth during the great “seven year tribulation”, giggling and applauding whilst billions suffer under divine wrath, is the stuff of madmen’s fantasies. To joyously anticipate such a thing is nothing short of deranged.

Tertullian, the famed Christian author of the second and third centuries, once said the following concerning hell and the response of the “saints” to the horrors thereof:

“At that greatest of all spectacles, that last and eternal judgment how shall I admire, how laugh, how rejoice, how exult, when I behold so many proud monarchs groaning in the lowest abyss of darkness; so many magistrates liquefying in fiercer flames than they ever kindled against the Christians; so many sages philosophers blushing in red-hot fires with their deluded pupils; so many tragedians more tuneful in the expression of their own sufferings; so many dancers tripping more nimbly from anguish then ever before from applause.”

I suppose I could sympathize with a man who lived in an era of extreme persecution. Perhaps his own pain and bitterness towards his and his predecessor’s persecutors led him to hold to such a gleeful view of eternal damnation. Even so, is that truly the God and Father whom Christ reveals?

Certainly not!

Elsewhere, Jonathan Edwards said the following words:

“The sight of hell torments will exalt the happiness of the saints forever.”

My friends, Christ did not reveal to us a Father who cackles like a witch, or roars maniacally at the sight of human suffering. Rather, Christ reveals to us a Father who weeps and laments when His children’s decisions invite correction. We do not serve the god of holocaust flames, but the God who’s heart is a furnace of unquenchable love for us. Our God is not a mad dictator, demanding the sick to make themselves well or face the gallows. No, we serve a God who, at great cost to Himself, became the cure to our malady. A God who, in mercy, ran to us and rescued us from sin and death.

This “god” who demands damnation as recompense for offended justice, and then enables the “righteous” to gibber, and cackle like demonic trolls at the sight of said damnation, is no God at all. He is a figment of fallen man’s mind, and, perhaps is something even more diabolical than that.

This satanic interloper, this impostor, was with us in antiquity, into the middle ages, and still stands behinds many pulpits each and every Sunday morning. He gives his hearty approval to the burning of babies before Molech, the torture of “heretics” by their Catholic and Protestant inquisitors, the burning of accused “witches” by the pious, the horrors of the holocaust, and to each and every sermon that paints our Heavenly Father in a similar light.

He is not a god. He is your enemy, and he does not deserve an ounce of worship.

The God revealed by Christ – YES – has appointed a day of judgement, and – YES – brings correction and discipline to His children. However, He is a God who Himself is the very definition of love. There is nothing that He has ever done, or will ever do, that does not have love, life, and redemption as it’s center! That being said, a belief in a god that causes us to joyously anticipate the pain, torment, and hurt of others is none other than a devil inspired monstrosity, and it belongs in the scrapheap of history.

God is Love.

Period.

Aside  —  Posted: August 2, 2012 in Uncategorized

Hysterics, Hell and History

Posted: April 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

‎”There were days when the Church could club men into obedience by preaching Hell to them, but that day has long passed. The world has outgrown it.”  (John G. Lake)

THE MOVIE

Scared Yet?

On December 28, 1895, the first ever motion picture, The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat, saw it’s first public exhibition.  The simple film consists of less than a minute of footage of a train arriving at a station, followed by footage of people exiting the same train.  Really, there’s nothing very dynamic, eye catching or stunning about it.  In fact, today’s media soaked, iPad generation may find themselves dozing off by the end of it’s mere fifty seconds.  Though I’ve seen it several times, it gave me neither chills nor thrills.

According to the story, however, the film’s first screening was anything but a yawn fest.  As legend tells it, the film’s first audience fled from the scene, screaming and fearing that they were about to experience that rare phenomenon, known in the scientific community as “death by train”.  The truth is, they had nothing to fear, but their ignorance concerning motion picture’s led to panic.  Due to the prominence and normalcy of movies and television, such a film would barely even elicit straight faced boredom if shown in a theater today.  It’s amazing the effect that the passage of time can have on our reaction to certain things.

THE MESSAGE

Scared Yet?

Over the years I’ve read hundreds of books on historic revivals, and I have always been struck by how audiences were so gripped by the sound of hell fire and brimstone.  Men would lose their dignity and be down on all fours, groveling like animals in the dust.  The normally prim and proper women would turn into tearful messes, lying prostrate on the floor, seeking forgiveness and peace with God.  Children would shriek and scream in unison together, believing themselves to be tiptoeing on the edge of a sulfuric, Christ-less eternity.

One cannot speak of such scenes without thinking of Johnathan Edwards’ famous sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.  It is said that during this now famous sermon, men literally grasped the pillars in the church, fearing that the earth would open up and that they would swallowed alive into hell.  The usual shrieks and screams filled the room as mass hysteria and all ‘hell’ broke loose in the minds of Edwards’ listeners.  He painted terrifying images of sinners being weighed down by sin and, under such weight, always tending and being pulled towards hell.  The message highlighted the lack of surety and security that unbelievers have, because, as Edwards puts it, There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God.” And he adds this little chestnut, “And that of an angry God.”

As you can imagine, the impressionable, religiously inclined audience’s imaginations were aflame with gut wrenching images, and breathtaking anxiety!  Even the most righteous among them were not safe from the terrible wrath of this angry God!  Yes friends, it certainly appeared as though that train were about to pop out of the screen, and mow them down beneath it’s heavy wheels!  (Insert shrieks and screams here.)

I had often wondered, as a younger man, why such displays never followed my preaching.  To be perfectly honest, in my early days as a preacher, I delivered messages that made Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God look like that syrupy sweet, piano laced moment at the end of an episode of Full House.  I mean, I made Edwards’ hell sound like Chuckie Cheese’s–still rather terrifying, but minus the brimstone.  Seriously.  Yet with all of my eloquent descriptions of eternal torment, I never saw the results that Edwards  saw.

And then one day it struck me, maybe the results that Edwards and historic revivalists saw, weren’t the work of the Holy Spirit!  Now, I know that’s borderline blasphemy, but just hear me out.  Maybe instead of being “conviction”, it was actually just the result of a horrifically graphic message being delivered to an audience who’s minds and imaginations were very sensitive to word pictures and scary imagery!  Perhaps the reason such sermons don’t bear the same fruit today, is because the message being delivered isn’t really the Gospel!  After all, you will never–not once in the whole of scripture–find either Christ, or His apostle’s, going into graphic and gruesome detail on the horrors of hell.  You’ll never find them dressing up in Halloween costumes, putting on graphic and disturbing displays about the horrors of a Christ-less after life and following it up with an altar call.  Sure, you’ll see Christ talk about hell, but it’s never for the purpose of winning over the hurting and the broken.  Contextually, He’s almost always directing His words at men who fancy themselves as being other men’s judges.  Christ had harsh words for those who lusted after His job as judge.  However, to the lost, to the broken and to the hurting, to the prostitute, to the scam artist and to the drunk, Christ had nothing but words of love, comfort and acceptance.

Nowadays, Edwards sermon is read and taught as part of American history.  It’s considered to be one of the most famous sermons preached.  Even the most liberal High Schools contain this  message in their history books.  Now, remember, this disturbing sermon, read by Edwards in a dead pan, monotone voice, had his hearers screaming and holding on to their pews for dear life.  Yet, when is the last time that you’ve heard of a classroom erupting into salvific chaos, as student after student took turns reading Edwards words aloud?

Yeah, me neither.

Could the reason be because it’s not the Gospel, and therefore not a universal, any-era-will-do, message?

Yep, I think so.

John G. Lake put it this way, ‎”There were days when the Church could club men into obedience by preaching Hell to them, but that day has long passed. The world has outgrown it.”

You see, the black and white film The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat, would no longer send men and women screaming in panic from a theater, simply because they’ve outgrown it.  It no longer strikes a chord of terror in their hearts, simply because they know that the image is a mere projection of light on a screen.  In the same way, today’s generation no longer wails and weeps at the sound of hell fire and brimstone, simply because most of them see it for what it is  –  a mere projection of fear and anxiety from a preacher’s heart.  Oh, I’m sure a few impressionable souls would squirm in their seats, but unless one has been raised in a religious atmosphere, such preaching no longer packs the punch it once did.  However, the real Gospel of Jesus Christ has no expiration date!  It cannot be “outgrown” or moved past.  The Gospel is a love story, not a ghost story.  What scares one generation might not scare another, but love is universal and undated!

Unbound by time, culture, fashion or innovation, the real Gospel works the same in any era.  It’s always relevant.  We may present it and illustrate it differently, based on the era in which we live, but the story stays the same.  It’s the message of a God who, in His extravagant love for humanity, saved them from the menace of death, destruction and the devil.  It’s a tale of romance and redemption; the story of a Father’s love and sacrifice.  Such themes transcend time, and have the power to melt a 21st century heart as much as they would have a 2nd century heart.

What’s my point?  My point is simple–and yes, even offensively simple:  We are not called to preach hell, we are called to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ!  We’re not called to give men bad news, we’re called to give them Good News!  Many argue that the Good News doesn’t look good until it is seen in the light of the bad news.  To this argument I simply say, I’ve got some good news for you, and I’ve got some bad news for you…ready…here it comes – wrong!  (And yes, that’s both the good and the bad news in one.)   The Good News is good even without a knowledge of the bad.  Men know how miserable and lost they are, they don’t need their faces rubbed in it.  Preach Christ and Him crucified, risen and ascended.  Tell men of a love that sought and continues to seek them.  Tell men of the fire of God’s passion for them, not the fire of His contempt towards them.

Friends, at the end of the day, if our message, like the film described in the opening paragraph, can lose it’s punch with the passage of time, we must rethink whether or not our message truly is the Gospel!  If it’s efficacy is short lived, and native only to certain slots in time, chances are we’ve lost something along the way.  The Gospel is steadfast, relevant at all times and to all people.  If we must continuously “up the ante”, in order to scare people into obedience, we’ve missed it.  This Gospel we’ve been given is the message of reconciliation; the message of a passionate Father who has sought out His wayward sons and daughters, bringing them into His embrace at great cost to Himself.  Let us never lose the simplicity and the beauty of our message.  Hell isn’t the message, Christ is.  And He’s always simple and He’s always beautiful.

True Revival

Posted: March 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

It’s a strange phenomenon, but so long as a preacher regularly emphasizes the importance of ‘repentance’ and our urgent need to ‘turn from sin’, modern evangelicals will swallow most everything else that he says. It matters not if said individual rarely, if ever, brings up the name of Jesus or the all encompassing power of His finished work, as long as he harps on sin and societal ills, he’s taken in and his message accepted.

As long as the messenger is bold in his denunciation of homosexuals, abortionists, democrats and those who don’t attend prayer meetings, he’s spoken of as having a ‘prophetic voice’ that ‘the church needs to hear’. As long as his articles and writings are on the need for churches to knock off the nonsense, hit their knees and cry out for revival, his message will be accepted, eleven times out of ten. No one ever stops to compare the number of times said minister speaks of revival, holiness, repentance and such versus how many times the work of Christ is mentioned. Typically, Jesus merely gets his name dropped during the opening and closing prayers, and then is quickly whisked backstage so that human effort and desperation, the real stars of the show, can be brought out to perform.

What a tragedy.

The modern church does not worship idols of gold or stone, she worships the gods of human effort and will power. Morality has become our Molech and and behavior our Ba’al, while the person and work of Christ is strangely missing from our messages, meetings and media. Never, and I say again, *NEVER* trust the message of a messenger who seems to be filled with facts on revival history, but lacks any understanding of the Gospel of God’s grace. Avoid like the plague movements that emphasize the power of man’s hunger, thirst and repentance to change God from a nation’s judge to it’s benevolent bless-er. If Christ is not the center and substance of all things taught and wrought, then be sure you are dealing with mere flesh and blood; A nearly-out-of-gas, clanking and sputtering bandwagon, which will soon crash, burn and fall to pieces, taking down and deferring the hopes of everyone who happens to have hopped on board.

I’m tired of a powerless ‘revival’ message which places heavy yokes and burdens on the shoulders of God’s people, providing nothing in return but burnout and disillusionment. It’s time to ascend the stairs to the attic of truth and pull out that dusty, old relic which we’ve long forgotten about–The Gospel! The message of Christ incarnate, crucified, resurrected, ascended and seated at the Father’s right hand is the *ONLY* message packing enough punch to bring transformation and ‘revival’. You can’t control or manipulate the masses whilst preaching the real Gospel, and so it’s been shelved due to it’s lack of emphasis on man’s effort. But the time has come for all sons and daughters to find their voice, and to proclaim from every corner of the globe, the glad message of God to men through Christ! It is the Gospel alone which is the power of God unto salvation; the message of Jesus, and Jesus alone!

That’s real revival, friends.  A reviving of the one and only message that has the power to destroy darkness, fear, depression and anguish–the message of Christ as man’s substitute and continued incarnate brother.  We must shed our blind devotion to the ideas and ideals born out of colonial revivalism and Western conservatism, and we must instead shamelessly embrace that happy message, for which apostles and alleged apostates shed their blood for–the message of God’s ceaseless grace and love towards us in Christ!  It’s not the message of ‘revival’ or endless lists of ascetic, formulaic gibberish, which, if followed correctly will guarantee an ‘outpouring’ that brings life!  No, friends, the message of Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ alone can bring life!

So accept no substitutes.  Pick Jesus, and only Jesus.  This is real revival

In Jesus,

Jeff

“If you have died with Christ and have escaped from the world’s rudimentary notions, why, as though your life still belonged to the world, do you submit to such precepts as “Do not handle this;” “Do not taste that;” “Do not touch that other thing” — referring to things which are all intended to be used up and perish—in obedience to mere human injunctions and teachings? These rules have indeed an appearance of wisdom where self-imposed worship exists, and an affectation of humility and an ascetic severity. But not one of them is of any value in combating the indulgence of our lower natures. If however you have risen with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, enthroned at God’s right hand.” (COLOSSIANS 2:20-23; 3:1, Weymouth)

7 - 7 - 0 7

Friends, I write today in humility, knowing that what I say may offend, or even anger some of my brothers and sisters in the Lord.  This is not my intent.  I love the Church and all of her various expressions of Christ in her.  If I come across as being sarcastic and/or seem to be belittling the efforts of some very sincere brothers and sisters, I apologize, and can assure you that it is not my intent.

With that being said, let’s look at some important issues…

Today just happens to be July 7, 2011.  Now, that date may not seem to be too significant to you, but it should certainly be significant to anyone who has been involved with the “prayer movement” over the last several years.  You see, four years ago today, well over 80,000 passionate worshippers and intercessors gathered together at Titan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee, for theCALL Nashville.  This was to be a massive prayer and fasting gathering, aimed at turning America back to God.  Various high profile ministers and worship leaders graced the stage throughout the day, offering up songs of worship, intense prayers and proclamations that America’s time for revival had finally come.

The event was literally alive with expectancy as well known “prophets” and internationally known speakers had been heavily promoting the event for months.  Prophetic words went out stating that this event would mark the time when America’s “territorial spirit”, whom we were told was Ba’al, would be brought down.  We were also told that the corruption of American youth, which saw a dramatic spike in 1967, would be reversed as we were exiting a 40 year period of wilderness wandering in America.  In addition to all of this, many were prophesying that this gathering and the passing of this significant date, 7-7-07, would serve as the flashpoint for a worldwide increase in signs, wonders and miracles.  Also, we were told that it would mark the beginning of a dramatic shift in the music industry.  A new breed of prophets would rise up, carrying a new sound from heaven that would bring revival and demonstrations of power to the cities and nations of the earth.

To put it plainly, this date and event really seemed to be the answer to all of our problems!

I myself was in attendance at this meeting and saw some amazing things take place.  The worship was intense and sweet.  Many valid points were made, and I must say that I left the gathering feeling deeply affected.

That being said, as the weeks and months unfolded in front of us, amazingly, very few of the prophesied results came into being.  America continued to hobble along in her former state.  Ungodly laws and politicians still seemed to dominate the landscape, and for the most part, there really was no significant change in the spiritual climate of the Church.  What happened?  Did we do something wrong?  Was this yet another case of, “Prophetic words are potential, not promises!  We aren’t seeing the prophesied results because the Church is failing to do her part!”?  Or was it maybe that we only gathered 80,000 + to the stadium, and not the full 100,000?  Certainly something had to have gone wrong somewhere, right?  Because here we are, 4 years later, and the same things that we went to Nashville to see remedied are still very much in existence, and are, in some ways, more pronounced now than they were then!  Who blew it?  Who dropped the ball?

The answer to the question won’t be a shock to most of you, but still, here it is: WE DID!  You read it right folks.  There it is in all caps and bold and italicized font–WE, the Church blew it!  And no, I don’t mean that we blew it in regards to keeping up our end of the bargain and so God changed His mind about America.  What I am saying is that we blew it in believing that gathering together on a special date, in a special location was the answer to America’s problems in the first place!

Again, I’m not saying that nothing significant happened in Nashville on 7-7-07.  I’m sure lives were changed and impacted.  But as a nation, we’re no closer to the Church’s ideal of revival than we were on 7-6-07.  Why is this?  I think the answer is pretty simple:  Solemn assemblies and massive prayer gatherings are not the answer for America’s, or any other nations woes.

The modern concept of the Solemn Assembly is taken directly from Old Testament scripture, the book of Joel in particular:

15 Blow the trumpet in Zion,
     declare a holy fast,
     call a sacred assembly.
16 Gather the people,
     consecrate the assembly;
bring together the elders,
     gather the children,
     those nursing at the breast.
Let the bridegroom leave his room
     and the bride her chamber.
17 Let the priests, who minister before the LORD,
     weep between the temple porch and the altar.
Let them say, ‘Spare your people, O LORD.
     Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn,
     a byword among the nations.
Why should they say among the peoples,
     ‘Where is their God?”18 Then the LORD will be jealous for his land and take pity on his people. 

(JOEL 2:15-18)

The passage quoted above has become the flagship scripture for all of the major prayer, fasting and solemn assembly ministries in America.  We are told, as spoken by the prophet, that when things look bleak for a nation, there is only one remedy: gather the people together en mass to pray and fast!  After we’ve fulfilled our part of the bargain, the Lord will look upon us, and if our hearts were sincere enough, our yearnings deep enough and our fasting genuine enough, He’ll change His mind about judging us, and instead show us favor and mercy.  This all seems to fit nicely within the parameters of Joel’s prophecy, right?  Maybe not…

You see, there is one tiny problem with following Joel’s prayer and fasting prescription for nationwide revival.  The whole point of Joel 2:15-17 was to bring us to Joel 2:28-32, which reads thus:

 28 ‘And afterward,
     I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
     your old men will dream dreams,
     your young men will see visions.
29 Even on my servants, both men and women,
     I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
30 I will show wonders in the heavens
     and on the earth,
     blood and fire and billows of smoke.
31 The sun will be turned to darkness
     and the moon to blood
     before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.
32 And everyone who calls
     on the name of the LORD will be saved;
for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem
     there will be deliverance,
     as the LORD has said,
among the survivors
     whom the LORD calls. 

 Have you noticed the problem yet?  The prayer and fasting prescription was only given to bring us to the above promised outpouring of the Spirit from Heaven!  Still haven’t seen the problem yet?  Fast forward a few centuries to the Day of Pentecost, just 50 days after the ascension of Jesus Christ.  A group of staggering, stumbling, tongue talking, mumbling believers spill out onto the streets of Jerusalem.  Onlookers point and stare, accusing the group of dipping into Grandpa’s cough medicine a wee bit too early in the morning.  Then the Apostle Peter stands up from among the group.  Just a month or so earlier he was a deserter and a coward, but now he stands bold as a lion and declares the following:

15 These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 “‘In the last days, God says,
     I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
     your young men will see visions,
     your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
     I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
     and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heaven above
     and signs on the earth below,
     blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness
     and the moon to blood
     before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And everyone who calls
     on the name of the Lord will be saved.

(ACTS 2:15-21)

Peter declared by the Holy Spirit, that Joel’s prophecy concerning the outpouring of the Holy Spirit had come to pass.  Now, you must understand, Peter was not saying that they had merely witnessed something similar to Joel’s prophecy coming to pass.  He was stating that once and for all, Joel’s prophecy concerning the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon “all flesh” (simply meaning all nations, Jew and Gentile alike) had come to pass!  The Holy Spirit did not fall on Pentecost, only to evaporate back up into the Heaven’s the day after, needing to be prayed back down if the Church decided that she wanted another “outpouring”.  No, the Holy Spirit came to stay!  Never again would the Holy Spirit “fall from heaven”, or “come down” upon His people.  He had come, and He was not intent on leaving.

Jesus had this to say about the coming of the Holy Spirit:

16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever.

(JOHN 14:16)

What does this mean?  It means that the Holy Spirit, after Pentecost, will not come and go.  He has come to abide with us forever.  Therefore, Pentecost need not ever be repeated.  He has come!  Furthermore, Peter declares that the Holy Spirit has been “…sent from Heaven…” (1 PETER 1:12)  He does not state that He is being sent, or that He will need to be sent afresh each and every time we need revival.  No, the Apostle states that the Spirit has come, and He’s come to abide forever.

Therefore, if Joel’s prophecy concerning the Spirit’s coming has already been fulfilled and doesn’t need to be repeated, Joel 2:15-17, the verses dealing with preceding solemn assembly, have become obsolete.  “WHAT!”, some might say, “The scriptures becoming obsolete? That’s total and complete heresy!”  Well, the writer of the book of Hebrews declares that the whole of the Law of Moses has become obsolete (HEB 8:13).  We have no problem with omitting portions of Old Testament scripture that deal with dietary laws, the upkeep of facial hair or the proper way to dispose of human waste.  We do, however, tend to get nervous when we’re told that key ingredients in our Charismatic folklore are actually obsolete in Jesus Christ.  This is the case with Joel 2:15-17.  Unless we are expecting the Holy Spirit to be sent to the earth afresh, we need not recreate the Joel 2:15-17 scenario.  If we claim that we do in fact need another Pentecost, that we do not in fact have the fullness of the Holy Spirit, we make both Christ and Peter out to be liars.

Friends, the idea that we are lacking in the Holy Spirit’s power and can somehow coax Him in to coming closer to us, or that we can somehow impress God with our fasting and repentance so that He will give us a double shot of the Holy Ghost, is not only foreign to the New Covenant, but is also an offense to the finished work of the Cross.  Nowhere in the epistles or in the record of the early church’s life in the book of Acts do we read of solemn assemblies being held in order to bring revival after Pentecost.  In fact, we never again see believers having to tarry, wait or pray for the Holy Spirit.  It was always given instantly at the laying on of the Apostles’s or a believer’s hands.  You and I have been given the fullness of the Spirit through Christ.  We need not starve ourselves in the baking sun in order to get Him to come to us.  He’s already with us!

Now, is there anything wrong with gathering together for mass prayer and worship?  Certainly not.  However, we must never put our faith in a gathering on a magical date or at a special location.  Our faith must be rooted firmly in the finished works of Jesus Christ.  It was His request to the Father that earned us the gift of the Holy Spirit, not our actions, fasting, prayers or travail (JOHN 14:16).  It is Christ and Christ alone.  Watchman Nee once said, “The basis upon which we receive…the Holy Spirit is not our praying and fasting and waiting, but the exaltation of Christ…”.

Friends, we need not frantically try to squeeze through small windows of time, just hoping that we pray or do enough in this magical 24 hour window so that God will be impressed.  The Holy Spirit does not need us to pray away the darkness, or plead with Him to come.  He has come (PERIOD)!  To repeat Joel’s prescribed solemn assembly is actually to take a prescription that was written for someone else!  Have you ever taken the wrong prescription?  It could actually kill you if you get the wrong stuff inside of you.  We must be very careful how we read scripture and what we apply to our lives as New Testament believers.

I’ll leave you with this exhortation: YOU ARE REVIVAL!  The fullness of the Godhead now lives and moves within you (COL 2:9-10)!   We need not scream at the sky awaiting the Holy Spirit’s arrival.  He arrived 2,000 years ago, and now simply commissions us to go forth in His power and might.  I have good news for you today, there is no climactic revival coming to America!  It’s already come!  It’s Christ in you…and therefore, it’s you.  Be encouraged, we don’t have to wait around another millenia, waiting for the day when we can line up the 7’s again.  Christ is in you, and this is the day of salvation, this is the year of His favor!  (LK 4:19, 2 COR 6:2)

Filled with the Spirit,

Jeff

Growing up in Church, taking communion was a pretty frightening and unnerving ritual.  “What’s so ‘unnerving’ about washing down a sticky, newspaper tasting wafer with a shot of Welch’s grape juice?”, you may ask.  Well it wasn’t the experience itself, although for a kid, the enjoyment factor did hinge a lot on who was supplying the wafers that week.  There’s those little, rectangular cracker-esque ones which weren’t so bad.  Then you’d always have a few months of having to swallow down their more circular cousin, what I call the protestant Eucharist.  You know the ones I’m talking about?  The little mini circles with the cross stamped in the middle?  The one’s that have the consistency of paper mache?  Yep, those ones.  For a kid, that little hit of Welch’s was a welcomed sensation in the mouth after having to force one of those fellows down the hatch.

Seriously though, the edibility of the communion elements aside, what was it that unnerved me so about taking communion?  Well, for me it was that lingering thought that I could possibly fall under divine judgement if I “did it wrong”.  You see, in every communion service there is the mandatory “moment of silence”, in which we are encouraged to examine ourselves, making sure that we are “right with God” before proceeding any further.  We are told, from the scripture of course, that if we “do it wrong”, that is, if we partake of the body and blood of Jesus in an unworthy manner, we could wind up being candidates for a steaming plate of Divine wrath-which could include, but is certainly not limited to sickness, physical weakness and (gulp) death.  You can imagine all of the terrifying images dancing in the minds of church kids during that “moment of silence”.  That’s the Church for you, sucking the fun out of Welch’s since 1869.  Seriously though, from whence come the traditions of a moment of silence, the quicky self exam and the threats of pestilence and woe for “doing communion wrong”?  Well, where most heresies come from of course, the Bible!

Jesus once stated that the traditions of men concerning Biblical truths actually have the ability to render God’s word ineffective.  You heard me right.  Men’s traditional approaches to scripture and theology actually have the capability to, in effect, neuter God’s word and rob it of it’s efficacy.  How so?  Well, we come up with an idea as to what a particular text of scripture is saying, and eventually, after years of propagating said idea, it becomes law.  It becomes settled like concrete in the collective psyche of Christendom that this or that is what a certain passage is saying.  The problem is that alot of the times we are dead wrong in our interpretations.  Why?  Because we interpret scripture with an agenda.  We read into it what we want to see, and as a result, we come up with all sorts of wacky notions and bizarre doctrines.  The biggest issue though, is that we’ve rendered the word of God ineffective.  How?  You see, once we’ve settled upon what a passage means, but have actually misinterpreted the passage, we are unable to see what is actually being said because we are stuck in our traditional understanding.  Suddenly, the true message of the passage is completely lost and almost unrecognizable because of the way we have twisted and misinterpreted it.  And with that, “KAPOW”, God’s word is rendered ineffective in our lives.

Unfortunately, 1 Corinthians 11:17-34, which happens to be the most used communion passage in the Bible, is no exception when it comes to our “ineffectualizing” of God’s word. (And yes, I know that’s not a real word.)  First let’s take a look at the most oft quoted portions of this verse, which, to the religiously astute, will be immediately recognizable:

23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 

So far, so good.  Let’s keep on reading…

27 Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31 But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. 32 When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.  

OK, and that would be where the “unnerving” part comes into play.  It seems pretty obvious doesn’t it?  Paul appears to be stating that when we come together and partake of communion in an improper way, it is possible that death and/or sickness could result.  It seems to be saying that God disciplined the Corinthians, using sickness and death, in order to teach them that they had better get their communion-taking skills right…or else.

However, as we expand our view of the passage, looking at the sentences that sandwich in this most quoted portion, something slightly different comes into view.  Let’s take a look at how Paul opens this particular section of his letter to Corinth:

17 In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. 18 In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. 19 No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. 20 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, 21 for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. 22 Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not!  

For starters, it’s important to understand that the early churches “communion services” were vastly different from our own.  They didn’t squeeze it in at the end of a Sunday morning service,  nor did they sandwich it in between the praise & worship and the sermon.  For the early Church, the celebration of the Lord’s supper was a very big deal.  A typical meeting in the early Church consisted in what were called love feasts, or simply, the agape.  Jude mentions these celebratory gatherings in verse 12 of his one chapter[ed] epistle.  The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology states: “…it is evident that that church observed the practice of meeting together for a common meal before partaking of the Lord’s Supper…”  This “common meal” is what became known as the agape, or, the Love Feast.

To put it simply, the Love Feast was a meal shared by the body of believers prior to their receiving of communion.  It was a joyous event, celebrated in the context of Christ and His work on the Cross.  Now, we can clearly see that this is the event being written about by Paul in his address to the Corinthians.  However, Paul states that he has no praises to heap upon Corinth in regards to their Love Feasts, only condemnation.  Why so harsh there, Paul?  Well, Paul tells us that when they came together for their meal, there were “divisions among them“.  Apparently, all was not well in Corinth.  There were little cliques gathered around different teachers and teachings, and evidently they became rather “clan-ish”, eating their meals with only those who were “on their side”.  Paul rebukes them for this.

Paul goes on to address the real problem in even plainer speech.  In verses 21 & 22, he reveals what the real problem was:

  21 for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. 22 Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not!

You see, historically we are told that believers would invite the poor and hungry to their love feasts.  Here, Paul states that the believers in Corinth were so caught up in themselves, that during the meal portion of the Love Feast, people were just rudely “filling their plates” as it were, not giving any thought to those who had not yet eaten.  As a result, Paul tells us that the poor and hungry were left hungry and were, in Paul’s words, being humiliated and despised by the glutonous Corinthians.

Are you seeing what the main problem was?  Everybody was so caught up in there own little social circles that the poor and hungry were being ignored, going away empty handed and empty stomached.  It is directly after these statements that Paul launches into his “you’re doing it wrong” tirade, in which he declares that many in Corinth have become sick, weak and even have died as a result of their behavior in the Love Feast.  So let me ask you this, who was it that was growing weak, getting sick and who were those who were dying?  And why was it happening?  Did God just fly off the handle and decide to whack Himself a few Corinthians because of their irreverence?  Let’s look again at Paul’s words:

27 Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31 But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. 32 When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.  

Now pay close attention to the underlined portions of scripture.  Paul states that anyone who eats and drinks of the cup in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body AND the blood of Jesus Christ.  That’s simple enough.  Paul is saying that when we behave this way, shaming the poor and neglecting the needier members of the Church, and proceed to “partake of communion”, we’re sinning against Christ’s sacrifice.  Now, look at what Paul states in verse 29, he says that anyone who eats AND drinks without properly discerning the Lord’s body, eats and drinks condemnation upon himself.  Now first Paul states that we sin against the body and the blood, but later he states that men subject themselves to judgment when they do not properly discern the Lord’s bodyWhy the omission of the ‘blood’ the second time around?  Because in this instance, Paul is NOT speaking of the body of Christ represented by the communion bread.  Rather, Paul is speaking here about the ACTUAL body of Christ, which is the Church!

Just one chapter later, in 1 Corinthians 12:27, Pauls states:  “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”  So, when Paul talks about discerning the Lord’s body in verse 29, he isn’t merely speaking of the communion bread.  He is stating that they have taken part in a religious ritual which is meant to be a participation in the body and blood of Christ, however, the physical body of Christ, which is the Church, was being utterly neglected by these Corinthians.  The poor, hungry member who was passed over during the Love Feast is the Body of Christ which was not properly discerned, not the communion bread!  What was the result of their shenanigans?  Well, many of their members were sick, weak and some had even died!  Does this mean God was hurling lightning bolts at these dirty little gluttons?  Some commentators believe that is what is being spoken.  What seems more likely to me, however, is that the sick, weak members of the Corinthian church were those who were being passed over and not properly cared for.  It was those members of the body who were going “undiscerned”, unfed and unnoticed that were suffering for the cliquish Corinthians lack of love and reverence.

Many commentators also assert that the sickness and death mentioned could have been coming upon the unruly Corinthians simply because of their gluttonous and drunken behavior.  One way or another, it was the Corinthians actions that were brining about the judgment.  They were eating and drinking condemnation upon themselves.  How?  By neglecting and not discerning the true Body of Christ!  The Body which lies not in a wafer, but in the hungry Church member; in the single mother, the widow and the orphan!

Paul ends his address to the Corinthians on this subject with these words:

33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other. 34 If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment.

Now remember, where was the judgment coming from?  The Corinthians were bringing it upon themselves!  How?  By not discerning the true body of Christ, the Church.  So what were Paul’s instructions?  “Hey Corinthians, when you come together for your Love Feasts, and you know that the poor and the hungry will be amongst you, eat at home, so that when you come together, those who have nothing can eat their fill.  In so doing, you will not be bringing death, sickness and weakness upon the needier members of the Body of Christ!” 

Do you see how it works?  Do you see what was really being said?  This is not a scare tactic passage that should cause you to tremble each time that wafer hits your tongue.  Communion should not be a fearful time, but a time in which we celebrate the finished work of the Cross and recognize the person and power of Christ at work in each and every member of the body!  It’s a time to commune with Christ, not just through the elements, but in our relationships with each other.  This is true communion:  Partaking symbolically and spiritually of His death through the elements, but also participating in His life and body by being in loving relationship with the Church.

My point in writing this today was just to put one more little religious myth to bed so that we can get on enjoying the fullness of life that we have in Him.  There are far too many religious myths and old wives tales floating around out there which only serve to keep us terrified of a God who simply wants to share His life and love with us.  Our Greek inspired, Pagan view of the Father has made Him into an entity who can make even grape juice and bad crackers look like instruments of terror.  I pray that this little blog helped you to detox a bit from these poisonous views of our loving Father.

Communing with Christ’s Body,

Jeff

A Tale of Two Grandmothers

Posted: June 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

I, like most earthlings, once had two Grandmothers.  Both of them lived some distance away from my family and I, and I saw them only during certain times of the year.  My Grandmother on my Father’s side, lived nearly 5 states away, and I saw her much less frequently than my Grandmother on my Mother’s side, who lived only a matter of hours away.  Both are now dead and dearly missed.

Now, the purpose of my writing is not to clue you in on the details of my relationship with my Grandparents.  I want to weave a short parable for you.  Both of my Grandmothers died several years ago now.  I attended both of their funerals, but there was one major difference between them: my Grandmother on my Father’s side was cremated, while my Mother’s mother had a traditional, open casket funeral.  Now, psychologically, this has a certain effect on the human mind.  As a young man, I never beheld my one Grandmothers face as she lay in a casket.  She had been cremated, and her ashes placed within an urn.  In my last memories of her, she is still very much alive and well.  My last memory of my other Grandmother, however, is of her lying lifeless in a coffin.  The reality of her passing could not be denied and is permanently etched into my mind as fact.  My other Grandmother, however, not so much.  In my imagination, I still see her as being very much alive.  Sometimes I even find myself forgetting that she died at all.  Why?  The reality of her passing never quite sank in.  At her funeral, all that I saw to prove it as being true was a jar, and only a jar.  Now, I was told that’s where her remains were placed, I believed, but it just didn’t sink in.  To this very day, I can trick myself into believing that she is still among the living, though just living five states away.  Weird, I know.

There’s something tremendously important about that final viewing.  It somehow seals the deal and makes the passing of that individual seem real.  In the same way, it is tremendously important that we grasp the reality of our own death as well.  “Our own death?”, you might say, “What exactly are you getting at here?”  What I’m getting at is the fact that Scripture declares that you and I , as believer’s in Jesus Christ, have died.  That’s right, you read it in black and white.  You died.  Colossians 3:3 states, “you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”

Romans 6:6 states similarly that, “…our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin–because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.”  What does this mean exactly?  It means that the moment you believed upon Christ, you were spiritually baptized into the work and person of Jesus Christ.  Romans 6:3 asks and answers the question, “…don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?”  This is not speaking of water baptism, but of a spiritual immersion into the work of Jesus Christ.  Literally, when Christ died to sin upon Calvary, you died to sin as well.  That is to say that your old, sinful, Adamic nature was once-for-all dealt the death blow through the Christ’s physical death.  2 Corinthians 5:21 states that upon Calvary Christ was “made to be sin”.  Therefore, when He died, sin and the corrupt nature from which it springs, was utterly and completely annihilated, never to rise again.  The Good News?  This means that sin’s batteries have been removed.  The engine has been yanked right out from under your hood.  The plug has been removed from the socket and then severed in two, never to be reassembled again.  To make it plain, the power of sin died.  The old you, the you that enjoyed lusting, being bitter, depressed and unforgiving, that person died completely and totally with Jesus Christ.

This is no flowery metaphor, nor is it a mere “positional” reality, only to be fully realized in the afterlife.  It’s real, true and able to be apprehended right here, right now, in the present tense.  Sin is no longer our identity, and can never again be a source of legitimate enjoyment for us.   Paul asks rhetorically in Romans 6:2, “We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”  John the Apostle is singing in the same key when he makes the statement: “No one who is born of God will continue to sin…” (1 John 3:9)  The point?  Sin is dead.  He no longer lives inside of me.  My body was once his address, but that day is long past thanks to Christ’s death.  I’m not who I was.  I can no longer enjoy what I once enjoyed.  The struggle which was once so intense is over.  ‘Taps’ has been played, the hole’s been dug, and my old self is now six feet under.

“Well, if this is true”, some may ask, “then where is the victory in my life?  I still struggle every day!  Sin seems to be very much alive in me!”  Well my friend, I’m afraid that you, like me, never really went to “Grandma’s” funeral.  We attended a ceremony, heard a religious “truth” which told us that sin was dead, but it wasn’t real to us.  It was mere theological rhetoric.  It was just fluff to fill a sermon with, but it didn’t sink in.  To you, sin is alive, because you only saw the urn, but never gazed upon it’s lifeless, ashen face as it was lowered into the ground.

Most of our battles with sin stem from this very problem.  We’ve never fully come to grips with just how dead our sin is.  We misinterpret whole chapters of the Bible, like Romans 7, because we begin with, and then interpret all that we read, in light of  the false notion that sin is still alive.  We’ve only read of sin’s demise in a very one dimensional, metaphoric sense, but have never actually beheld it’s lifeless body nailed helplessly the cross of Jesus Christ.  But if Christ died, so did sin.  Sin is as dead as Christ’s body was for three days.  When He rose, sin did not rise with Him, but stayed in it’s grave.  The “zombie theology” of western Christendom may tell you that sin periodically resurrects, seeking to eat your brains, but this is nonsense, and is only taught because of scriptural ignorance.

Friends, whether I like it or not, my Grandmother is dead.  Regardless of how alive she still seems to be in my mind, it’s not true.  I can close my eyes, use my imagination and believe as fact that which is fictional, but it has no bearing on reality.  In the same way, we can choose to believe in the folkloric, boogie-man tales of a sinful nature still lurking within, but it doesn’t make it true.  Sin is dead…and his death is permanent.  His power over you is long gone.  So why do you still live as though he lives?  It’s time to attend your own funeral.  It’s time look deeply into Christ’s face upon the Cross and see your own there as well.  It’s time to listen closely to the dramatic, final exit of carbon dioxide from the lungs of deity, and hear sin’s death rattle within.  It’s time to behold Christ’s limp, lifeless body as it is removed from the Cross and realize that if the One who “was made to be sin” died, then sin itself died in Him.  It’s time to realize that your sin is dead.  Period.  No if’s, and’s or but’s.

You see, whether I like it or not, Grandma is no longer with us.  And whether you like it or not, neither is sin.  I’ll leave you with the wise words of Watchman Nee:

“It does not depend on your feelings. If you feel that Christ has died, he has died; and if you do not feel that he has died, he has died. If you feel that you have died, you have died; and if you do not feel that you have died, you have died. These are divine facts. That Christ has died is a fact, that the two thieves have died is a fact, and that you have died is a fact also. Let me tell you, You have died! You are done with! You are ruled out! The self you loathe is on the Cross in Christ. And ‘he that is dead is freed from sin. (Romans 6:7) This is the Gospel for Christians. Our crucifixion can never be made effective by will or by effort, but only by accepting what the Lord Jesus did on the Cross.”  

Preach it Mr. Nee, Preach it!

Dead to sin, alive to God,

Jeff