Continued from Part One…
God was not created to fulfill the plans of Man. Man was created to fulfill the plan of God. Each advancing disciple has his/her individual part to play in the plan of God, and should not compare him/herself to others, or feel that he/she is competition with fellow believers.
The Earthly experience of both believers and unbelievers will consist of a mixed bag of what has the overt appearance of both blessings and adversity. Both blessings and adversity come from the hand of God (Job 2: 10), but ALL things work together for good for the ones who love God (Rev. 2: 4 ) and those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8: 28). To have a greater love for any thing or anyone else other than God, amounts to idolatry.
All born again believers are "called to serve God's purpose, but not all will choose to respond. Accordingly, not all born again believers can claim the conditional (all things working out for good) promise of Romans 8: 28.
The promotion of idolatry is one of the many distractions that the devil (1Peter 5: 5) and his forces of evil (Eph. 6: 12) will use to distract, deceive, and to destroy the production of divine good in the execution of the post salvation spiritual life of a born again believer. To the surprise of many, idolatry is an issue to be addressed both within and outside of the Christian Community at large, and in the personal lives of many who claim to be Christians.
Any one or any thing that is prioritized greater than God, the things of God, or takes the place of God in the life of a born again believer is an idol.
There is nothing wrong with making plans or having legitimate personal goals, but when doing so, the wise among us will keep in mind the principles of James 4: 13-15.
“Come now you who say, “Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit. Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that (James 4: 13-15 NASB.”
A "legitimate" goal is one that does not violate the principles of God when pursuing, obtaining, or retaining that goal.
We all have plans and expectations, but things may or may not go according to our plans. All things, however, will go according to His direct, permissive, or over-ruling will. In light of this, the giving us the desires of our heart (Psalms 37: 4, 5/Psalms 20: 4) principle can be best interpreted to mean that when we are walking with God, then He will give us what He wants us to desire, and then fulfill them.
Scripture documents both great blessings and great adversity during the course of the post salvation spiritual life of many Biblical personalities.
Sometimes it is God's removal of what has become an idol that is behind some of the “losses” we incur.
Better to lose everything this world has to offer that to lose out on what God has to offer, now, and on into eternity (Mark 8: 36).
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God is aware of all our needs BEFORE we make them a matter of our prayer requests (Matt. 6: 8).
“… for your Father knows what you need, before you ask Him (Matt. 6: 8 NASB).”
Matt. 6: 7 teach that born again believers should not follow the practice of those whose prayer life consists of the repeating the same prayers, word for word, over and over again, believing this to be the means to secure a desired response from God.
“And when you are praying, do NOT use meaningless repetition, as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many (repetitious) words (Matt. 6: 7 NASB italics mine).”
Meaningless repetition is in view when the same prayer is being repeated over and over again without giving any real thought of what it is being praying for, or when the prayer is not being addressed to God the Father. Meaningless repetition is in view when the subject matter of the chosen repetitious prayer has little bearing on the actual prayer request that the one praying desires to make.
Meaningless repetition is in view when it is offered as the means of receiving forgiveness for confessed sin, aka penance. Forgiveness of sin confessed to God is given on the basis of personal faith in the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross, and nothing else (1John 1: 9).
Many who engage in meaningless repetition aren't even aware for what it is they are actually praying.
For example, one of the most frequently recited prayers is what is commonly referred to as the Lord's Prayer. There is certainly a time and a place for including all the subject matter, and for following the f-o-r-m-a-t of prayer given to us in what is commonly referred to as the Lord’s Prayer. Yet, praying for such things as for God's kingdom to come seems to be an extreme solution for one's immediate needs. Edified believers know that before the earthly Kingdom to come is manifested (Rev. 20: 6), the world must first go through the most horrific period of history to ever be experienced by those who are on the planet at the time (Matt.4: 22/Mark 13: 20). As bad as things are in the world in which we are presently living, it is relatively mild in comparison to what is going to take place before the Second Advent and establishing of the kingdom to come, here on Earth.
Meaningless repetition of ANY prayer is not what God had in mind when He taught us to express our prayer requests in Phil. 4: 6.
Equally important is to whom we direct our prayer requests. If our prayer/prayer request in not made to God, more specifically to God the Father, This is where the issue of idolatry enters into the scenario.
Addressing our prayers to ANYONE other than to God is idolatry, having placed the recipient of such a prayer in the place of God. The placement of graven images in the form of statues in the tangible houses of worship and shrines encourages such activity.
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The edified believer knows that there are some answers to specific prayers that have already been made known to us. Forgiveness of sin and the restoration of fellowship with God, for example, are the result of a 1John1: 9 prayer of confession. Just because we know what the answer is going to be doesn't mean (in this case) that we should not be making such prayers.
On the other hand, there is need to pray to receive something (e.g eternal life) that he/she or others have a-l-r-e-a-d-y received. Making the things that we (or others) have already received the subject matter of prayer is appropriate when we are doing so to thank God for what we have already received.
I would never dispute the power of prayer. I have personally benefited by intercessory prayer that others have made to God in my behalf. There are some things, however, that can NOT be changed by prayer, and will not be changed by through religious activity or ritual. Such activity and rituals are the products and the false hope of Man-made religion, and are usually offered at the expense of a financial fee (Acts 8: 18).
Among the things that can not be changed by prayer or religious activity is the location and/or the experience of a departed soul. The location and the environments to be experienced were (past tense) already self-determined by the choices the departed soul made during his/her time here on Earth (John 3: 18).
The same Gospel Message that assures the born again believer of residency in Heaven (John 3: 16), assures the unbeliever of residency in what the Bible calls the lake of fire (Rev. 2-: 15.)
The soul departs at the moment of physical death of the body, not after his/her funeral or any other post death event.
After departure, prayer and/or religious rituals can NOT get a soul of an unbeliever into Heaven or out of anywhere else.
The sin of disbelief is the ONE and ONLY sin that (by divine design) was not atoned for by the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ while on the cross. Divine justice calls for the accounting of all (James 2: 10) sin. This is what makes the lake of fire spoken of in Rev. 20: 15 a place of an ongoing and never-ending existence. If the lake of fire were a place of extermination, then the extermination of the unbelieving soul would have satisfied the justice of God fpr having committed the sin of disbelief. It does not. There is NO means to atone (pay for) the sin of disbelief. It is an eternal sin that can NEVER be paid for, even by the extermination of the unbelieving soul. Every soul was created by God and in God's never-dying likeness. Life after death is not a matter of IF, but of where and how each and every soul will eventually spend all of eternity future!
It is the soul that was created in the likeness of God. This likeness is what gives every soul everlasting, never-ending, life. It is the soul that receives eternal life that will spend of its everlasting, never ending, life in fellowship and in the presence of God. As John 3: 5, 7,16 clearly stated, eternal life is given to the soul that is born again as a result of choosing to believe (place his full trust and confidence) in the Person and the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is what the Gospel Message is all about.
There is NO forgiveness for the sin of disbelief. Not now, not ever.
In past dispensations, God judged the soul on the basis of each individual soul's chosen response to whatever information that was made available to them as of that point in human history (Gen. 15: 6). For each one of us, this information begins with the concept of eternity that God places in every soul that He creates (Eccl. 3: 7). As of the Church Age, God has given all the information (concerning salvation) that one needs to receive in order to be saved in the Gospel Message.
Preserving and making the Gospel Message known to the world at large was (and remains to be) the external (outside) mission (Math. 28: 19, 20) that God gave to Church that He established. Making disciples (students and appliers) of the Word of God was (and remains to be) the internal (inside) mission (Matt, 28: 19, 20) that God gave tot he Church that He established. It is the alternate churches that are the creation Man-made religion who have presumed to take upon themselves the production and the dispensing of what they claim to be necessary to obtain or to retain salvation. Salvation is the gift and the work of God, and not Man. The "keys to the kingdom" (means of gaining entry) that was given to Peter and to the Church that God designed is the Gospel Message. It is though a confession of faith (as was made by Peter) that intangible Church (1Cor. 3: 16) would be established. One becomes a part of that Church IF and WHEN he/she is born again (John3: 5, 7) as a result of believing in a presentation of the Gospel Message. Salvation is NOT obtained or retained by going through or being put through ANY of the religious activities offered by the alternative churches that have come along in the name of Man made religion. If salvation could be secured by any of acts of Man, there would have been NO need for the incarnation and suffering of the Lord Jesus Christ.
When one truly believes (places his/her trust and confidence) in the Gospel Message, he/she will have the spiritual discernment to perceive the evil nature involving Man-made religious activity that has been elevated to and/or has been added to the Work of Christ that was accomplished and finished (John 19: 30) on the cross.
Those who choose to disbelieve in the Gospel Message commit the unpardonable sin of disbelief. . All departed unbelievers enter eternity future spiritually dead, forever separated from God. All departed unbelievers are presently suffering in the Torments of Hades, and will remain there until Judgment Day for the unbelievers take place (Rev. 20: 13). As of the Judgment Day for the unbelievers, they will spend ALL of eternity in what the Bible calls the lake of fire (Rev. 20: 15).
At the same time, there is NO condemnation for those who are “in” Christ Jesus (Romans 8: 1 NASB), not almost as such concepts as the false doctrine of Purgatory would suggest.
"There is therefore (as a result of belief in the atoning Work of the Lord Jesus Christ) no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8: 1 NASB italics mine)."
To believe (in this sense) means to place one's full trust and confidence in what the Lord Jesus Christ did on the cross in order to receive salvation. When one understands the Gospel Message, he will then see the futility and the blasphemous nature of engaging in any practice that would suggest the need to add to His work, in order to either obtain or to retain the salvation that one has already received. It is then that the individual will see clearly the difference between Christian Religion and Christianity.
There are those who claim to be Christians, but whose true trust and confidence is based on all that they did or had done for them in the realm of religious activity, good deeds, and relative good behavior to secure the eternal blessings of God. This is what Christian religion is all about. To the extent that this is true, is the same extent that one is not placing his/her trust and confidence in all that God has done, God is doing, and God will do to, through, and those place their trust and confidence in the Person and the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is what Christianity is all about.
Some areas of Christian religion have a "recruitment" plan that begins in infancy and continues on with steps and requirements to take them through all stages of life and finally a few more after death with the idea of obtaining, retaining, and experiencing eternal life in Heaven. On the other hand, Christianity teach that one is spiritually dead until he/she is born again. Once born again, the saved soul has secured eternal life, and then has the opportunity to identify and to execute the post salvation spiritual life outlined in Scripture. While both spiritually dead and born again souls can both overtly participate in religious activity, nothing of spiritual value can be accomplished "apart" from God. (John 15: 5) Until one is born again, he/she IS apart from God, no matter how religious he/she may be.
The more spiritually mature an advancing disciple becomes, the less and less of an interest he/she will have in what Christian religion promotes, and more and more of an interest in the post salvation spiritual life that is promoted by Christianity.
For God to require a born again believer to spend time in Purgatory or ANYWHERE else to pay/atone for ANY amount or type of sin, would mean that the atoning Work of the Lord Jesus Christ failed to accomplish all that God said it would and did.
If there were any other way, other than believing in the Gospel Message, for a soul to "get right" with God and/or to eventually be allowed into Heaven, there would have been no need for the incarnation (taking on human bodily form) or the and atoning Work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross.
Every soul would serve time or endure various degrees of punishment outside of Heaven in proportion to the quantity and the nature of the sins he/she committed while here on Earth. In doing so, the sinner would eventually earn or buy his/her salvation. Such is the folly of many who believe that sooner or later, everyone will be saved and be allowed to enter into Heaven.
Scripture makes it clear, that although it is the desire of God that all men be saved (1Tim. 2: 4), there will be many (some teach the majority-Matt. 7: 13) souls who will spend all of never-ending eternity in what the Bible calls the lake of fire (Rev. 20: 15). It will not be because many of them weren't relatively good, or that they did not try to make the (devil's Luke 4:6) world a better place to be. It won't be because they were religious. It will be because they were never born again, having placed their trust and confidence in the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus taught that even within a group as relatively small as a family unit, some will believe and go to Heaven, and some will not (Luke 12: 52). This should be an eye-opening principle since virtually every member of a given family customarily goes through (or are put through) the same religious rituals and engage in the same religious activity during at least some part of their lifetime here on Earth. Even though they all participated in the same religious activity, some are born again and some are not.
Q. If not on religion, good behavior, and good deeds, then on what basis will souls be admitted into Heaven or cast into Hell?
A. Born again believers are heaven bound. Unbelievers are headed for the lake of fire, no matter how otherwise religious, productive, or well-behaved they may be (John 3: 18).
All born again believers will have a home in Heaven, but not all will receive the same reward or be allowed to exercise the same privileges.
Some born again believers will receive no (1Cor. 3: 15) reward. Others will receive "a" reward (1Cor. 3: 14), but only a partial (2John 1: 8) reward. in Heaven. Some will receive a great reward (Matt. 5: 12). Some will receive and exercise the privileges spoken of in Rev. Chapters 2 and 3.
Once born again, the issue of entry into Heaven has been forever settled (Romans 8: 1), but what remains to be determined is how (with or without rewards and privileges) that any given soul is going to experience Heaven. We do not glorify God in order to be rewarded or to receive privileges, but never the less, God has made it clear that He intends to give rewards and privileges in Heaven who glorify God here on Earth.
Many born again believers will pursue and engage in the post salvation spiritual life of discipleship, whereas others will not. The ones that do not have chosen to accept one of the many alternative plans that are engineered and promoted by Man made religion. Many of these believers have been deceived and distracted by one form of idolatry or another.
Until the Rapture (1Thess. 4: 16, 17) takes place, all d-e-p-a-r-t-e-d souls of born again believers are absent from their natural body. The bodies are buried or otherwise disposed of, but their souls are presently in interim bodies (2Cor. 5: 1), present with the Lord in Heaven (2Cor. 5: 8).
The departed souls are not in any casket, tomb, grave, urn, or “resting” place, here on Earth. The unavailability of human remains does not prevent the departed soul of a believer from resting in peace in an interim body (2Cor. 5: 1) in Heaven. Nothing can or will prevent the omniscient (all knowing) and omnipotent (all powerful) God from raising up the body or bodily remains, wherever they are, of a departed believer when the Rapture takes place.
Departed souls of born again believers are consciously resting in Heaven. Resting is not sleeping. Resting is the ceasing of labor that was associated with the post salvation production of divine good while here on Earth. I believe that just as in the physical world, the greater the labor, the greater the rest that will be experienced.
The bodily remains (or dust- Gen. 3: 19) of the bodies that the born again believers leave behind at physical death will be raised up in resurrection form when the Rapture takes place. These resurrected bodies will replace the interim bodies that temporarily housed the souls of the departed believers while in Heaven while they, among other things, awaited the Rapture. The soul (the majority) that experiences the full cycle, will have a physical body (a tent) while here on Earth; an interim body (a building) in Heaven while awaiting the Rapture; and a resurrected body (a mansion) as of the Rapture that will last for all of eternity.
Note the Scripture uses terminology that teaches the progressive quality and durability of each body that one receives as he/she advances along in the plan of God. One goes from a tent (2Cor. 5: 1 NASB), to a building (2Cor. 5: 1 NASB) , to a mansion (John 14: 2 KJV)."
I say the majority, because there will be one generation of born again believers that will be instantaneously transformed from their "tents" into their "mansions."
When the Rapture takes place, the natural bodies of the born again believers that are alive and here on Earth will be instantaneously transformed into resurrection form (1Cor. 15: 51,52), and along with the believers presently in Heaven, will be united into one group and from that point on will be forever with the Lord.
“Behold I tell you a mystery; we (Church Age believers) will not all sleep (experience physical death), but we (those who are in their tents when the Rapture takes place) shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead (bodies of departed believers) will be raised imperishable, and we (believers who are on the Earth at the time) shall be changed (1Cor. 15: 51, 52 NASB italics mine).”
This “Rapture Generation” will never experience physical death (1Cor. 15: 52), nor will they be in need of or receive an interim body. They will instantaneously find themselves in resurrection form and find themselves in the presence of the Lord in the air along with ALL the departed believers, that likewise have now received their resurrected bodies. To be a one of the Rapture Generation has been the hope of every generation of the Church Age.
When the Rapture takes place, the departed born again believers in Heaven, and the souls of believers who are on the Earth at that time, will find themselves in resurrected bodies and with the Lord in the air. They will eventually dwell in the New havens and the new earth to be created (Rev. 21)
Until Judgment Day (Rev. 20: 13) for the unbelievers take place, all the departed souls of unbelievers are suffering (Luke 16: 24) in the Torments of Hades. At the Judgment of the Unbelievers, they will be brought out of Hades, judged, and sent into the lake of fire where they will spend ALL of eternity (Rev. 20: 15).
God will not, and no idol or after death religious act of Man can change the eternal destiny that each soul makes for him/herself by the choices he/she makes while here on Earth.
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In any intimate relationship, there has to be meaningful communication. When there is a breakdown in the fellowship of any relationship, there is usually no productive communication taking place, just a lot of finger-pointing and blame. In the political realm, the calling or sending home of an ambassador is seen as a a last step before a declaration of war.
When out of fellowship with God, its similar to the type of environment that married people go through during a "spat." They remain married, but there is little or no meaningful communication between parties until whatever cause the conflict is resolved. It can be likened to two strangers on a bus. Both passengers are headed for the same destination, but there is no or little interaction between them.
Communication is a two-way street. Human beings are not wired to listen and to speak at the same time. If you want to hear the voice of God (or any one else) you have to shut your mouth and give God (or anyone else) the chance to express themselves. Do not assume that you know what it is they the other party wants to say. When we ass-u-me something, we often set the stage to make an "a--" out of "u" and "me!" In meaningful communication, one must be just as good at listening as he/she is at speaking.
Attempting to communicate with departed souls was prohibited during the Old Testament dispensation and punishable by death (1Sam.28: 9). Trying to contact the departed soul of the prophet Samuel for guidance was one of the last things that King Saul did before his death.
Biblical scholars are divided over the issue if it was actually the departed spirit/soul of Samuel or a false sign/wonder in the form of an apparition that appeared and spoke to Saul (1Sam 28). On the basis of the verbiage of 1Sam. 14 and 15, I favor the opinion that it was in fact Samuel. It should be noted, however, that just because something can be done, it does not mean that it should be done.
Saul was out of fellowship and communication with God. It was when he could receive no word from the Lord (1Sam. 28: 6) that, in a act of desperation, he chose to go to a medium. His desperation does not condone his actions, but explains why one might be tempted to go to an extreme to receive an answer. Such desires have led many a souls into activities that a Church Age believer should not tread.
There is no need, for a Church Age believer to be out of fellowship with God. All a born again, Church Age member, has to do is to be willing to confess the sin(s) that caused him/her to be out of fellowship, and the fellowship with God will be restored (1John 1: 9).
For the Church Age believer, rather or not personalities or powers outside of the Trinity can or can not intercede in their behalf is NOT the issue.
The issue is rather one not the Church Age believer has full (100 %) faith (trust and confidence) in the willingness and the ability of God to provide for them, all that they need and when they need it (Phil. 4: 19). Those with 100% trust and confidence in the Lord will not go third parties, let alone engaging in what could amount to idolatry.
The silence of God can be one of the greatest tests of one's faith. The silence of God is in view when there does not seem to a clear answer or solution to one's immediate need or circumstances. There ARE details and certain things that God chooses NOT to disclose to us (Deut. 29: 29). The primary divine purpose for this is to require that we take Him at His word, thereby building our faith (trust and confidence) in Him, regardless of the circumstances or outcome.
There ARE times that the silence of God is in operation, but For the most part, it is not that God is not (of has not been) speaking, but we have not been listening.
For a Church Age believer to find him/herself in a situation that he/she does can not discern the will or purpose that God has in mind, it is because one or two possibilities are in view. The first possibility is that the Church Age believer failed to build (2Pet. 3: 1 8) an edified soul structure (Matt. ) BEFORE the adversity presented itself. The second possibility is that God is testing one's willingness to apply the doctrine(s) that he/she should have already made a part of his/her soul structure.
Regardless of how wonderful (Matt. 24: 24) anything might overtly be, the advancing disciple will never overlook at least the potential of there being satanic deception in operation.
"For false Christs and false prophets will arrive and will show great signs and wonders. so as to mislead, if possible the elect (Matt. 24: 24 NASB)."
Denying God the glory due Him has always been a part of the devil's plan. Something that can deny God His glory AND lead his children into the sin of idolatry by putting some one or some thing in His place, or by engaging in spiritual adultery (Rev. 2: 4) is a win-win situation. Such opportunities in the realm of spiritual combat will not be overlooked by the devil (1Pet. 5: 8) and/or his forces of evil (Eph. 6: 12). The devil knows just when to offer his alternatives.
There will be times when it is humanly impossible to identify the true (divine vs .evil) source behind overt supernatural activity (Exodus 7: 10, 11/Matt. 24: 24).
"So Moses and Aaron cam to Pharaoh, and thus they did just as the Lord commanded; and Aaron through his staff down and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh called for the wise men and the sorcerers, and they also, the magicians of Egypt, did the same with their secret arts (Exodus 7: 10, 11 NASB),"
The passage does on to say that Aaron's staff ate up the Egyptians staff, symbolically demonstrating the superiority of the the power of God, but Pharaoh's heart was hardened and did not listen.
Rather or not the elect (God's people) are deceived or not is a matter of who or what they choose to believe when the signs and wonders of Matt. 24: 24 take place.
The dilemma here is that we certainly do not to attribute what is actually the work of God to demonic or satanic activity (Matt. 12: 24), but neither would we want to be deceived by what is actually the deceptive work of devil (Matt. 24: 24). My response to claims of miraculous activity to which God is not the one being glorified is to say that the "jury is still out" on that one. In doing so, one is not denying God the glory when it is He who is involved, and is not promoting evil if He was not.
Keep in mind that Jesus taught that it is an evil and (spiritually) adulterous generation that craves for a sign (Matt. 12: 39). In context He was speaking to and about the scribes and Pharisees of His day, but the principle can apply to Church Age persons, as well. Scripture (Luke 4: 6) is clear that the devil, to the extent that God allows, can prosper anyone he wants to in order to achieve his objectives in the real of spiritual combat. In fact, many of us sell out tot he devil for a lot less than what he would be willing to offer.
A strong indicator of the source behind any given supernatural activity is to whom is given the praise and credit. .
When God performed supernatural activity through His Old Testament prophets (Dan. 2: 27, 28) and New Testament apostles (Acts 3: 12, 13/Acts 14: 15), they made it clear that it was God who the source of the activity. When third parties take (or are given) the praise and glory, God is denied the praise and glory. Scripture (Isaiah 42: 8) says that God will NOT share the glory due to Him alone, and neither should any of His spokespersons today.
"I am the Lord, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, No My praise to graven images. When shrines are built to commemorate supernatural activity, it is by no coincidence that graven images (statues) of the one being praised and glorified are placed there and often become the object of prayer.
Why does the devil and religion promote the sin of idolatry?
Like any (James 2: 10) other sin, it takes those involved out of fellowship with God. When it is the sin of idolatry that is in view, it not only drives a wedge between the sinner and his/her fellowship with God, it redirects the sinner to an alternative target of worship and praise.
Idolatry denies God the glory and credit that is due Him.
As a result of being out of fellowship with God, idolatry diminishes the intimacy of the fellowship that God desires to share with His children.
There is nothing that any source (including ourselves) that can provide us with anything more than what God desires us to have. With other sources (including ourselves) we may get what we want, but we may not end up wanting what we get.
They fact someone is "blessed" with tangible prosperity may not be in dispute. The question is not IF someone has been blessed, but whom and for what ultimate reason that needs to be determined.
Luke 4: 6 teach that (to the extent that God allows) the devil is willing and able to "bless" anyone whose prosperity can be used for the devil's agenda. The prosperity of many (not all) of the "rich and famous" celebrities is paraded every day in front of a gullible audience whose unspoken message to the world is, "You can live an ungodly lifestyle and still get (or be given) all that the world has to offer. The truth is that in many cases you can, but at a price that no one will ever want to pay (Mark 8: 36/Heb. 12: 6).
One of the results of going to or through a "third party" to receive a miracle is that the recipient can never be sure from what source (good or evil) the miracle came. Man, under the influence of the fallen nature (Romans 7), doesn't really care (yet), as long as he get what he wants and when he wants it.
Copying and/or putting a "Christian" spin on many of the customs and rituals that originated in the pagan world has taken place throughout the course of the Church Age. This opened the flood gates to much of the idolatry that would take root WITHIN the Christian Community at large.
There is a universe of a difference between the Church that God ordained, and the many alternative churches that make up what it generally accepted as being a part of the Christian Community at large. The Christian Community consists of individuals and groups who consider themselves to be followers of Christ under the flag of one denomination (or non-denomination) or another.
The Church that God designed consists of born again believers wherever the are. Some born again believers go to Church by attending the traditional local assemblies within the various Man made denominations of the Christian Community. Some gather together and worship through remote means of communication such as television, radio, and the Internet. Some are back-sliding believers who do not attend at all. Some have personal or political obstacles that impede impede their means to gather together and worship. The bottom line is not where one worships or how one gathers together, but rather on not the type of worship taking place is the type of worship that God desires.
The Lord Jesus Christ taught that false teachers are to be identified by the fruit that they produce (Matt. 7: 16, 17). The same standard should be used to evaluate the fruit that any given Church, denomination, local assembly, ministry, traditional or remote. Are souls being saved, and are the saved souls becoming disciples? Such things are the fruit that God desires to come from the Church that He ordained.
Among the fruit of idolatry that have taken root WITHIN the Christian Community are graven images, shrines, medals, jewelry, tangible altars, candle stations, etc., whenever of or wherever such things become facilitate and/or promote the sin of idolatry by placing any one or anything is the place or function of God.
The Biblical definition of an idol or graven image and the Biblical prohibition of involvement with an idol or a graven image is found in Exodus 20: 4, 5.
"You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or in the earth beneath or in the water under the earth (Exodus 20: 4 NABS)."
"You shall not worship them or serve them... (Exodus 20: 5 NASB)."
Kneeling and bowing are overt examples of worship, and constructing, promoting, or engaging interaction with them are forms of service.
“For false Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect (Matt. 24: 24 NASB).”
The elect here, is the Church Age believer.
To the extent that God allows, Satanic forces (Eph. 6: 12) have (Exodus 7: 11) and will (Matt. 24: 24) use these great signs and wonders to deny God the glory due to Him, and/or to deceive those who witness them.
Scripture teach that the ascended (Acts 1: 9) Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 8: 34/Heb. 7: 25) and God the Holy Spirit (Romans 8: 26) make intercessory prayers (in our behalf).
Directing one's prayer requests to a-n-y other source other than than God is going beyond what the Bible teaches concerning prayer in general (Matt. 6: 9), and to Whom prayer requests are to be made (Phil. 4: 6).
One of the unsettling consequences of praying to other or to multiple sources is that one can never be sure where the answer came from, and or what purpose it was given. One may get what he wants, but may not want what he gets if what he gets did not come from God.
On the other hand, when the request is made to God alone, then one can be confident that the answer he/she gets did in fact come from God. In an act of faith, we are called to accept His answer and His timing, which at times can be just the opposite of what we desire or anticipate.
The devil will give us all that we think we want and more, IF in doing so, he can accomplish what he has in mind (1Pet. 5: 8).
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Intercessory prayer (in our behalf) by fellow believers that are here on Earth is documented in Scripture (e.g. Acts 12: 5).
I would never dispute the power of intercessory prayer made by fellow believers who are here on Earth. I attribute such prayers, in part for the healing I received for what could have been a fatal health issue.
At the same time, I have experienced a NO answer to intercessory prayer, as well. Most believers can say the same.
Accordingly, intercessory prayer should not be seen as the means to get the results that we want in any given situation. Only God knows ALL the facts, and only God knows what He wants to accomplish by having sent or allows the situation in the first place. Prayer is the means through which we make our reqwuets known. The outcome is the means through which God makes HIs answers known.
Sometimes God’s response to intercessory prayer is just the opposite to what we expect, sending or allowing even greater adversity to come into the lives of the people for whom intercessory prayer has been made. Suc is the case when this is what it takes to achieve the divine goal in view.
I do not believe in making intercessory prayer for issues that God has already made clear.
I do not believe, for example, in making intercessory prayer for the “well-being” of departed souls, as their present location and environment, good or bad, are the results of choices they made while alive and here on Earth.
If a soul could be prayed out of Hell or into Heaven, there would have been no need for the incarnation and suffering of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross.
If there is ANYTHING more to do or to have done (in order to be saved) in addition to placing one’s faith (trust and confidence) in the Person and the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ, then He failed to accomplish all (1John 2: 2) that He claimed to do and to have “finished-John 19: 30) on the cross.
I can assure you that He did not fail, and that on the basis of His success, born again believers can rest assured of the integrity of their salvation.
Many evangelists error by blending what it takes to be saved and the choice to commit to the post (after) salvation spirituaol life of discipleship. They ARE related, in that one can not engage in discipleship until he/she has a-l-r-e-a-d-y settled the issue of his/her salvation. Salvation is obtained and retained as a result of making a one time decision to believe (place our full confidence and trust) in the Person and the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ, as explained in a presentation of th Gospel Message.
This strategic error is often made in fear of promoting the idea that eternal security means that the grace of God is a license to sin. It is not ()!
However, until a person understands that the issue of his/her salvation has been resolved, he/she is inclined to spend much of his/her post salvation spiritual life focused on preserving what can not be lost instead of moving forward in the post salvation spiritual life of discipleship. Followers of Christian religion hope that they are Heaven-bound, whereas followers of Christianity know they are!
If he/she doesn't already, the born again believer will learn soon enough that there is no room for any sin (James 2: 10) in his/her walk with the Lord. The last thing that an advancing disciple will want is to be out of fellowship with God.
Even though the loss of salvation is not on the table, it does not mean that there aren't other consequences (Hebrews 12: 6/1Cor. 3: 14, 15) for sin.
Making and keeping the Lord Jesus Christ "Lord"over every aspect of your personal life is an on-gong task. Following the Lord Jesus Christ is a daily choice that we are challenged to make. Being a disciple (student and applier of the Word of God) is a daily choice. Being His ambassador, wherever we are, and whatever else we are dong, are daily choices we make. Such choices determine the quality of our post salvation spiritual life, but have got NOTHING to do with retaining the salvation that we have already received.
For success in the post salvation spiritual life, much more that just being born again will be required.
The outcome of one’s post salvation spiritual life neither increases nor does it decrease the integrity of the salvation that a born again believer has a-l-r-e-a-d-y received.
A successful post salvation spiritual life is how a born again believer glorifies God, AFTER he/she has been saved.
Success or failure in the post salvation spiritual life impacts what rewards (1Cor. 3: 14) and privileges (Rev. Chapters 2 and 3) he/she will either receive or forfeit in Heaven, but the salvation that a born again believer has already received is NEVER in jeopardy (1Cor. 3: 15).
"If any man's work is burned up, he shall suffer loss (of reward and privileges); but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire (1Cor. 3: 15 NASB italics mine.)"
Much of what many believe is going to be the basis of their reward in Heaven is going to go up in smoke (1Cor. 3: 15). It is only the deeds of divine good (silver, gold, and precious stones) that are going to be rewarded, and NONE of the deeds of human good (wood, hay, straw). The rule of thumb is that If an atheist can do the same deed, it is NOT divine good that is in view (John 15: 5). Human good has great value here on Earth, but has got nothing to do with the rewards that will be received or forfeited at the Evaluation of Deeds event in Heaven.
The privileges outlined in Chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation will be given to those who "overcome" the hurdles and advance in the post salvation spiritual life of discipleship. All born again believers have "overcome" the forces of evil by choosing to believe in the Gospel Message, but this is not the "overcoming" that is being referenced in Chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation. All disciples are born again believers, but not all born again believers become or remain in discipleship.
A good indicator of the type and amount of reward/privileges that an advancing disciple can expect (Heb. 6: 10) to receive is the level of spiritual maturity that he/she has reached, and the number of souls that God (John 15: 5) saved or edified through your individual participation in the Great Commission given to the Church.
"For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered (served the spiritual interests) and in still ministering to the saints (Church Age believers) Heb. 6: 10 NASB italics mine."
One's level of spiritual maturity is measured by the amount of Bible Doctrine that any given believer has learned (2Pet. 3: 18) and applies (James 1: 22) to all that he thinks, says, and does on a daily basis.
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Promoting idolatry is one the means through which the devil and the forces of evil will distract an unbeliever from listening to a presentation of the Gospel Message. Promoting idolatry is one of the means through which the devil and the forces of evil can distract the believer from focusing on and/or prioritizing God and the things of God.
There is never a place for a false god or a idol in the life of a born again believer. There is a place for such things as spouses, family, friends, careers, job, earthly prosperity, secular goals, and recreation in the life of born again believers.
In fact, it is within the midst of these very environments and activities that God desires the advancing disciple to serve as His ambassador (2Cor. 5: 20)
It is if and when such things, or the pursuit of such things, involve sin that they become a spiritual issue. One cannot engage in ANY (James 2: 10) activity that the Bible labels as sin and be in fellowship with God at the same time. When one is not in fellowship (walking) with God, he/she is not going to be in the frame of mind to prioritize God and/or the things of God.
If one’s prosperity, relationships, and activities do not involve sin (in of themselves), but take the place of God or the things of God, it is then that such otherwise things become an idol.
“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate (love less) his own father and mother and wife (husband) or children and brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be My disciple (Luke 14: 26 NASB italics mine).”
When the devil promotes an alternative to what God has ordained, he usually creates a system to facilitate such alternatives. This is where and when Man made religion is used by the devil. While giving the appearance of godly activity, it is the devil's alternatives that are in view.
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When asked (Luke 11: 1), the Lord taught the disciples His disciples to pray, using a f-o-r-m-a-t that began by addressing prayer to God the Father (Luke 11: 2/Matt. 6: 9)). Nowhere in Scripture, in either the Old Testament or the New Testament, are God’s people taught to address their prayers to anyone other than God the Father. To do so would clearly put the recipient of that prayer in the place of God.
Praying to departed human beings (saints) amount to the sin of idolatry, as it places that person in the place or function of God. In this case, the place and function of God that is in view is being the recipient of all prayer. Third parties do not have the omniscience of God and therefore do not have all the facts that would otherwise qualify them to know the divine answer of most prayer requests, even if such communication were allowed.
Q.: Exactly what is it that God the Father would not give to any soul if what the soul has asked for is in line with His will?
In His omniscience, God the Father does NOT need to be reminded of our needs or of His promise to supply them. There is time and a place to make repeated prayer requests when the need is ongoing. At the same time, I believe that the divine response to many repeated prayer requests is, "I heard you the first time!" It's like the kids in the back seat repeatedly asking the parent driving the car. "Are we there yet? Are we there yet?"" when it should be obvious that they are not there yet since they have not arrived.
His sovereignty (the right to govern and the function of governing) is in place in all of creation, be it in the heavens or on the Earth.
It is He who created and has control of nature (Genesis 7/Exodus 7-11/Matthew 8: 27).
It is He who determines the rise and the fall of the nations (Acts 17: 26) determining what part each one is and is not gong to have in the unfolding of human history. It is He who determines the timing of the birth and the earthly departure (Psalms 31: 5) of every soul that He creates. It is He that determines what part each soul is going or is not going to have in the unfolding of the plan that God has in mind for the human race. Departed souls of believers are in the presence of God, but that does not mean that they now have the omniscience of God to know what's best, anymore than they had when they were here on Earth. Being in the presence of God does not mean that they have now assumed the function of the place of God in the lives of those here on Earth.
Going to Ma when Dad has said "No" is a common tactic used by children to get from one parent what the other parents has said no. This is one of the results of a family structure that does place ONE person in ultimate charge, as does the type of family structure that God designed. The proper response from Ma should be to ask the child is, "what did your father have to say?"
Earthly fathers do not always make the right choices, but it is a powerful learning experience to recognize who is (or should be) in charge any given situation of life. When God sees fit, He can over-rule the choices and the course of actions that those in positions of earthly authority (marital/familial/administration of justice) make.
Unlike our earthly fathers, our Father who art in Heaven, ALWAYS makes the right choices, and needs no input from ANY third party to deliver on time and in accordance with His will.
The power and influence that the devil and his forces of evil (Eph. 6: 12) have over his domain (Luke 4: 6) is subject to the limitations that God imposes (Job 1: 12/Job 2: 6).
God permits limited diabolical activity in order to create an environment in which human souls are free to make choices between good and evil, reaping the earthly and eternal consequences.
Everything that happens (or fails to happen) has a divine purpose.
Nothing happens anywhere at any time without first having passed through the hands of God’s direct, permissive, and/or over-ruling will.
Maintaining trust in God in the midst of some of the evil that He allows to take place is one of the most difficult hurdles that a born again believer has to overcome along the road to spiritual maturity.
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“For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens (Psalms 96: 5 NABS).”
Assigning the domain and functions of God to the idols of religion (and those who serve them) is a critical part of the devil’s strategy. In this regard, Man made religion that takes upon itself the place and/or function of God plays right into the devil's hand. In virtually all dispensations (periods of time), Man turns to the various religions that Man has made in order to secure the approval and blessings of God, instead of what God has established for that very purpose.
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Such verses as Gen. 1: 1, Psalms 96:5 and John 1: 3 identify the Godhead of the Bible as the Creator of all things, and that all things were created for His purposes and glory (Col. 1: 16).
It matters not (to the devil) if it is atheism or one of the many (false) religions one chooses to embrace, as they all produce the same negative result, leaving the individuals that follow such teachings and activity as spiritually dead as they day they came into this world.
It is when one embraces the Gospel Message that one draws the attention of the devil and/or the Eph. 6: 12 forces of evil. As (if) the born again believer moves forward in the post salvation spiritual life, he/she becomes a greater and greater target of interest (Eph. 6: 16). If anyone considers him/herself to be a "Christian." but does not find him/herself to be the target of satanic attack (Eph. 6: 16), it is a clear indication that he/she is in need of a 2Cor. 13:5 examination to find out why! It's not good when the devil does not consider you worth the cost of one of his "flaming missiles (Eph. 6: 16 NASB)." The advancing disciple will want to ask why the devil would want him/her to stay right where he/she is undisturbed, when the true post salvation spiritual life is portrayed in Scripture as one of ongoing conflict (Matt. 10: 34)).
God places the concept of eternity in every soul that He creates (Eccl. 3: 11), but believing in the existence of "a" god (Psalms 96: 5), or even believing in the existence of the God of the Bible, does not mean that you have secured a home in Heaven (James 2: 19). According to what the Lord Jesus Christ taught us through His conversation with the very religious Nicodemus (John 3), the ONLY souls that are assured of a home in heaven are those that have been born again (John 3: 5, 7/Romans 8: 1).
Those who reject the concept of eternity that God placed in their souls (Eccl. 3: 11) become atheists. In response to the majority who believe in "a" god, they construct alternate explanations for the origin, purpose, future, and end time scenarios of the physical universe. Such explanations usually line up with the ever-changing realm of natural science of the time period.
Most souls reject the concept of atheism, and do believe in the God-given (Eccl. 7: 11 NASB) concept of eternity, but differ as to identity of God and how humans are to secure a relationship with the god of their own choosing.
Here in the Church Age, the belief that there is “a” god (Heb. 11: 6) is the first step towards identifying “the” one true God of the Bible and His one and only means of salvation (John 14: 6).
“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; NO ONE comes to the Father, but through Me (John14: 6) NASB).”
“You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart (Jer. 29: 13 NASB).” Going through the motions of religion is not God had in mind when He spoke of searching for Him with all your heart.
“And without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him (Heb. 11: 6).”
Note that prior to the Church Age, the souls of past generations that reached the age or stage of moral accountability, were saved (Gen. 15: 6) by choosing to believe in the God of the Bible and in the plan of God to the extent that it had been revealed to them.
As of the Church Age, Scripture (John 3: 18) make it clear that after reaching the age and stage of moral accountability, one is eternally saved as a result of choosing to believe in a presentation of the Gospel Message, and one is eternally condemned if one chooses to disbelieve it.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life (John 3: 16 NASB).”
“He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God (John 3: 18).”
Believing in the existence of God (James 2: 19), is not the same thing as believing (placing one’s full trust and confidence) in God’s plan of salvation involving the Person and the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Person of the Lord Jesus Christ involves both His deity (divine nature) and His sinless humanity in one Being. Virtually everyone will agree with the humanity part, in that there was a "man" who lived in what historians refer to as the First Century AD, but not everyone will agree that this "man" was God in the flesh. The Work of the Lord Jesus Christ refers to the atoning labor that the Lord Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross. Scripture teach that one is born again by believing in a presentation of the Gospel Message that explains these concepts of the Person and the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I believe that in the case of those who never reach the age (2Sam 2: 23) or stage of moral accountability, or are never presented with the opportunity to hear and to respond to the Gospel Message, are judged by God on the basis of what information they did receive or what was made available to them, beginning with their chosen response to the Eccl. 3: 11 concept of eternity that God places in EVERY soul that He creates.
The concept that there was/is only one God/god was foreign to thinking of most peoples in the ancient world. As noted earlier, in the minds of the people in the ancient world, there were many gods, in many locations, with accompanying powers within their own domain. Idols were constructed and worshiped throughout the pagan world.
Both Old Testament (e.g. Gen. 1: 26) and New Testament Scripture (e.g. John 1:1/Matt. 28: 19) reveals the plurality (Trinity) of the Godhead, consisting of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The first Biblical indication of their being multiple personalities in the Godhead is found in the use of the pronouns 'US' and 'OUR' in such Old Testament passages as Gen. 26, and later reiterated in such New Testament passages as Matt. 28: 19.
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God is eternal, in that there never was a time and never will be a time when the members of the Godhead (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit) did not exist in their divine nature (deity).
The eternal God the Son did not take on human form until the First Advent in order to provide the means of salvation. When God the Son was incarnated at the First Advent, He did not make use of His divine attributes UNLESS called for in the plan of God.
In His humanity, the Lord Jesus Christ was subordinate to God the Father, but in His deity, the Lord Jesus Christ always had all the divine attributes as do God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.
This is a important principle to understand if one is not going to be deceived by false doctrines that deny the full deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. One must learn to distinguish to understanding when our Lord voluntarily functioned within the self-imposed limitations of His humanity (Psalms 22/ Isaiah 53/Luke 4/Heb. 4: 15) in order to fulfill the plan of God, from when He functioned with the power of His deity performing miracles. Not only will one avoid the deception of the many false doctrines that dispute His deity, but one can develop a better appreciation for all that He endured in the capacity of His humanity in order to save us. In His deity He could not sin or fail, but in His humanity, He could have, but did not sin or fail (Hebrews 4: 15). If failure were not a possibility, then all the temptations imposed on Him in the Matthew 4, and Luke 4 and others (Heb. 4: 15) throughout His lifetime would have been a farce. There is no temptation when one is challenged to do something that one could not do in the first place. Scripture (Heb. 4: 15) is clear that He was tempted in every way that we are, but without sin (Heb. 4: 15).
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When God issued the command (Exodus 20: 3, 4, 5) forbidding the making and/or the worship of false gods, graven images, and idols, it set the stage that would place the Old Testament believers in contrast and opposition to the religious beliefs and customs of the pagan world. Church Age believers who do not acknowledge the idols and graven images that have evolved WITHIN the Christian Community will find themselves in conflict with the "religious"practices of those who do.
Keeping the "religious" idols and practices out of the Christian Community has been a long battle, especially since the 3rd or 4th century when many pagans within the Roman Empire pagans were brought into the Christian Community at large. Many of the religious customs and practices of these pagans were introduced into the Christian Community after religious authority put a "Christian spin" on them in order to create a sense of religious unity within the Roman Empire.
It is not uncommon for the devil to make use of a perverted version of what God established for His people during the various dispensations (periods of time) through human history.
It is interesting to note that during the time that Moses was up on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments that the “people of God” were engaging in idolatry involving the Golden Calf (Exodus 32), and that it was Aaron that was leading the way! Just because something comes from a pulpit or from a recognized religious personality, does NOT mean that it has come from God.
Once introduced and practiced long enough, traditions of Man can easily become accepted as doctrine from God (Matt.15: 9), and nearly impossible to totally eradicate.
In the absence of clear and sound instructions coming from the pulpit, the people of God then and NOW have a strong tendency to adopt (or put their own spin on) the religious and social practices and customs of those with whom they interact. When this took place in the early churches in Galatia, Paul referred to such believers as having been "bewitched - Gal. 3: 1)."
In some cases, one’s greatest idol is the one seen in the mirror, or one or more of one’s tangible possessions or daily activities.
If we are the one on the throne of our lives, then God is not. If we have the final word as to what we will or will not do, then God does not.
If any p-e-r-s-o-n (including ourselves) or any t-h-i-n-g is given the place of God and or the things of God, it is an idol.
In closing, consider the concluding words of John’s first epistle, “Little children, guard yourselves from idols (1John 5: 21 NASB).”
The personal and corporate battle with idolatry will always be a part of the spiritual combat of the Church Age