Okay, I’m not even sure where to begin with this one. If you read this blog regularly, you know that I am on a very intimate journey with God as a “Stander“, one who refuses to move on, even though his or her spouse has believed the world’s opinion about marriage and divorce. I’ve shared a lot of scripture here. I’ve shared a lot of prayer. I’ve shared some of my deepest pain.
I have not shared a lot of personal testimony (how God is working specifically in my life). Frankly, I assume that most of you would immediately tune me out if I started sharing what God has been doing in my life since my wife left for the far country. Why? Popular Christianity has diminished God so much that we do not believe that He is who He is. As a result, anything or anyone that speaks against that illusion is marginalized as a little crazy. I know this because that is how I had always felt. Charismatics, Pentecostals, and the like always came off as a bit cult-ish to me. I wanted nothing to do with that mess. Then, my wife left. I decided to wait on God to bring her back. Then He started speaking to me and intervening in my life. How do I share this with others without being labeled as a crazy person?
This Sunday, one of our pastors gave a sermon on the true nature of God, with a focus on how we’ve diminished God, and it occurred to me that this is not only the key to denying truth in our lives to avoid its inconvenience, but also how we can deny the supernatural in our lives. My argument is that both lead to apostasy and set us up beautifully to become servants of the enemy, rather than of the God we profess to know and love.
If you profess to be a Christian, the truth is not relative. The Word of God is the truth. It does not make suggestions. It was inspired by the being that created all things, that holds all things… That’s scary stuff. It should be very very sobering, particularly if you live like most of us do in the USA.
Incidentally, our culture has programmed us to not see any real awe in anything. So, we put God in a little fun-size package and go on with our life not following the truth and asking Him to bless us in our self-centered pursuit of happiness. After all, our happiness is the most important goal of our whole life…
With this diminishment of GOD, then we experience a decay of TRUTH. For God is truth, true truth, the source of all truth and without God, truth cannot remain. We exchange the truths that would provide the norms for human life for the prevailing lies that are convenient. (Brian Rice)
I agree with Brian Rice, that we get more “truth” today from pop culture than we do from the Bible. We’re practically marinated in it. No wonder so many of our prodigal spouses have said that God wants them to be happy, so they left to pursue happiness with someone else. We have countless pop culture gurus to thank for the pervasive believe that our feelings are paramount and that we can live without sacrifice, self-denial, or discomfort. We just need to focus on what makes us happy. Thanks a lot, Oprah!
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ John 8:31-32
So, we see that truth is intertwined with obedience, obedience to the Word of God, or Christ’s teaching. Further, Jesus connected truth and obedience to our relationship with Him. This is not a doctrine of works, but merely a statement on the reality one will live in if he or she is truly saved.
Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. (John 14:23)
Notice, that Jesus promises to come and make a home with those who obey His teaching. Not everyone who says, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the ones who do the will of God. I spent much of my adult life saying Lord, Lord, every Sunday and failing to do the will of God daily or even weekly. Now my very family is broken and my spouse has been seduced by the enemy. In the middle of this wreckage, God stepped in and reminded me of a few things:
- He is real and so much bigger than all of my circumstances.
- He bought me with a price.
- I’m wasting that gift by not living into it.
- He never promised I wouldn’t suffer.
Then I started reading this Bible. The Word of God, after all, is full of inconvenient truth for both standers and prodigals.
11 He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. 12 And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10:11-12)
In other words, just because your prodigal spouse left before carrying out your affair doesn’t mean that it isn’t wrong. It also provides a sobering warning to us.
But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:28)
In other words, most of us standers are not innocent of this sin that we hate so much.
In fact the Word of God tends, by and large, to move us out of the flesh and into the spirit. It instructs us to move away from a focus on self and into a focus on others. If my goal is to fulfill my own happiness, then I am focused on self. I am against God at that point. If my view of God is appropriate, then how can I be against God without feeling a little uncomfortable?
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[c] you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. (Galatians 5:16-26)
So, the acts of the flesh are pretty much what our popular culture tells us leads to happiness. Seriously. Turn on the TV or radio. Listen to some popular music. I remember preachers trying to tell me when I was a kid that Rock music killed house plants so it was destroying my soul. It turns out that it was actually the accumulation of repetitive messages about how to live my life that was killing my soul. The tune to which it was set was largely irrelevant.
Oddly, up until recently, I have found the fruit of the Spirit almost impossible to attain, even in small amounts. Incidentally, what was missing in my equation was the Spirit. Yes, I was saved. Yes I’ve been baptized. Unfortunately, my denial of God’s supernatural power left me unable to embrace the Spirit.
God is either omnipotent or impotent. God is either God, or He is not. We have watered Him down so much. Where is the supernatural in Christianity today? We’ve given it over to the snake handlers and acrobats who do back flips during worship and “flop around like a piece of bacon” (Bill Scott) when the healer forces them to swoon. If you speak of God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit as thought they’re alive and active in your life, speaking to you and intervening, people assume that you’re starting to get just a little too radical and should consider finding another church (and some new friends) at best or consider admitting yourself to a local psychiatric facility at worst.
This brings us back to the truth, the Bible, which is either the Word of God or a collection of nice stories. Do you believe the new testament? The existence and prevalence of evil spirits in the new testament is not presented as metaphor or as a reality that is dealt with there, at that time, never to resurface again. It is merely a fact of life. This should concern us, as believers, but it does not. Our cultural coating of Teflon, that Brian Rice notes keeps us from comprehending the reality of God’s greatness, also convinces us that such things all had medical and psychological explanations. It’s all science. There is nothing going on in the spiritual realm, you see. Those people were just backward and primitive. So, is the Bible truth, or is it sort of true once you take out all the primitive supernatural stuff? At that point, how compelling is it?
Fellow standers, how many of us have had a spouse who suddenly went from being a man or woman of God, who was devoted and loving to a completely different person, almost overnight, with no logical explanation? My wife’s Christmas card to me told me that I was her “superhero”. Three months later, she informed me that she never loved me the entirety of our 10 years of marriage. She was suddenly cold and distant and a bit haunted. That is the work of of evil in the heavenly realms, or it’s a sudden onset of insanity. Either way, there is little doubt in my mind that the kingdom of Satan is not behind it. If you’re a stander and you’ve never read the testimony of a returned prodigal, then stop right now and read one of all of these. They will change your view considerably:
This is a spiritual battle. All of life is. Once you professed Christ, you joined the war. You can say you are a pacifist, but you’ll still be attacked. We have been both warned and equipped.
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Ephesians 6:10-18)
3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)
18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:18-19)
I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. (Luke 10:19)
Again, this is either the Word of God or a collection of nice stories. Jesus was either for real when he was talking about that stuff, or he wasn’t who he said he was. Would the God of the universe, incarnate, make stuff up for the primitives or dumb it down? Like it or not, this stuff is real. Every day, you are in a spiritual battle for your very soul, and often that of your loved ones. You had better put on your armor and work on your Kung Fu because Kansas just went bye bye.
Apostasy is not a word you hear often anymore. “Apostasy in Christianity refers to the rejection of Christianity by someone who formerly was a Christian” (Wikipedia). In practice, it commonly refers to falling away from the truth. So, an apostate is someone who has once believed and then rejected the truth of God. There’s that whole truth thing again. Apostasy, then, is a rebellion against God because it is a rebellion against truth. What truth? There’s actually a formal code of primary and secondary essentials, primary non-essentials, etc. The bottom line is, the Word of God is the truth. If you profess to be a Christian, then the truth is not relative. It’s right there. Think it’s okay to leave your spouse for someone you like better. Keep going to church every Sunday and doing devotions with your kids at night, but you are still in rebellion against God.
Remember, that Jesus promises to come and make a home with those who obey His teaching. Not everyone who says, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the ones who do the will of God. Further, in the end of the story, victory is only guaranteed to those who overcome (Revelation 2, Revelation 3). The key is to overcome. If we don’t overcome, we are overcome (Derek Prince). There is no middle ground. There is a very real spiritual war going on. Whose side are you on?
That’s all I’ve got…