CTT | This Must Take Place…

CTTOver the weekend, there was another horrendous Islamic Terrorist Attack… this time in Paris. The world is reeling from the calculated, callous, and unexpected attack on soft targets. The world seems surprised by this attack, though they really shouldn’t be. On the one hand, the world refuses to identify the root of the terrorism problem these past several decades… Islam. On the other hand, the world’s humanism doesn’t have an answer for dealing with evil, for it is unwilling to censure itself. As Christians, we know better. We have God’s Written Word, the Faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. The world is destined for destruction by God… and in the meantime, the world (under its prince, the devil) will seek to destroy Christians, hating us, and even blaming us for the evil in this world.

Mark 13:3-13 (ESV) | Signs of the Close of the Age

And as [Jesus] sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. 7 And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.

“But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. 10 And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11 And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12 And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. 13 And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

Islam is a false religion worshiping a false god who hates the Name of Jesus, God the Son. It is a religion whose premier prophet was an evil and wicked man. Islam is not the only false religion, there are many, but in this day and time it is the primary driving force behind global terrorism and heinous acts of wickedness among men. It isn’t new. While its operatives hide, it’s philosophy is announced globally and no one can rightly claim to be caught unaware of its evil.

There are those who would urge Christians to link arms with “moderate Muslims” to stand against Islamic extremists. Such a foolish notion. Christians don’t stand according to men, or create allegiances with false gods to establish a peace with wicked men. Christians stand firmly on the Word of God (which does not include the Qu’ran or LDS “scriptures”) and the Promise of Salvation by Grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the Glory of God alone. So-called moderate Muslims don’t follow Islam. Moderate Islam is no more Islamic than progressive Christianity (ala Rob Bell) is Christian.

There might be another world war. Nation rising up against nation, kingdom against kingdom. The world is in tumult, and has been, and will be until the end. The world is under a curse. The curse of sin. It has been subjected to futility and death. Mankind has not evolved since the fall. Mankind has only devolved into depravity. Mankind is the same it was in the days of Noah.

Genesis 6:5-8 (ESV)

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And theLord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

Every intention of the thoughts of the heart of man is only evil continually. We’ve not changed. God has not changed, either. He kept His promise from the Garden, and spared Noah and his family in an Ark through the waters of destruction. In similar fashion, God is sparing those who are of faith and have themselves come through the waters of baptism and joined with Christ in His death and have been sealed by God the Holy Spirit for His resurrection.

1 Peter 3:18-22 (ESV)

18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, 20 because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

Noah’s salvation didn’t spare the earth from destruction. The Church’s salvation will not spare Creation for the judgement that is coming. The world is destined for destruction, just as our flesh is destined for death, but by the Grace of God through Faith in His Son, we will be resurrected in Christ Jesus into the Kingdom of Heaven… the world will taste the second death.  Let’s get back to our text in Mark.

Mark 13:14-23 (ESV) | The Abomination of Desolation

14 “But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 15 Let the one who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything out, 16 and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 17 And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 18 Pray that it may not happen in winter.19 For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. 20 And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But forthe sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days. 21 And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. 22 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.23 But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.

No politician, or pope, or imam, or statist will bring peace, though each will claim to be an anointed one, a messenger from God… false christs and false prophets. Some will come from within our churches, literally claiming to be prophets, predicting the return of Christ. Do Not Believe It. Dear Christian, please be in the Written Word of God. The language cannot be any more plainly written here. Jesus told us NOT to believe these rumors. Notice that they will indeed perform signs and wonders… and they will be false.

Mark 13:24-27 (ESV) | The Coming of the Son of Man

24 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

There won’t be anything secret about the return of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He hasn’t left us secrets or codes to figure out in His Word… and when He returns, all will see Him, all will know, for the Just Judge Will Have Come.

Conclusion

Pray for the saints in Paris. Pray for opportunities to love your French neighbors in any way that you can. Be vigilant. Be sober. Do not be afraid. Know that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, He who endured unto the end and resurrected as the first fruits of the Creation that is to come in the Resurrection, will carry you through. Trust in the Lord.

Ephesians 3:20-21 (ESV)

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

CTT | Pleading the Blood of Jesus?

Have you ever heard someone giving a testimony and in their details of what they did in response to the situation or spiritual warfare they were engaging in was to Plead the Blood of Jesus over the situation, their surroundings, or themselves? Once again, we will be addressing a popular Charismatic / Pentecostal practice of “pleading the blood”. If you’ve never heard of this practice, this charismamag article will explain their teaching on this practice.

Where are we taught to include this in our prayer?

The CharismaMag article doesn’t say. That’s because it cannot be found in Scripture. Nowhere do we find any reference to pleading the blood of Jesus Christ over a situation, person, or place. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, there was no mention of declaring, decreeing, or pleading anything.

Matthew 6:5-15 (ESV) | The Lord’s Prayer

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them,for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Notice Jesus’ teaching here about the purpose of prayer. He warns not to pray like the hypocrites that they may be seen by others (decree / declare / plead?). We don’t pray to demons, or principalities or powers, or schemes of the devil… we pray to Our Father in Heaven. In fact, the closest example of invoking a plea / command in an attempt to exorcise a demon went horribly, horribly wrong for those doing the invoking.

Acts 19:11-20 (ESV) | The Sons of Sceva

11 And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” 14 Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. 15 But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” 16 And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. 17 And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled.18 Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. 19 And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.

They confessed and repented of their mysticism (don’t think it was only pagan mysticism, Jewish mysticism is included here), and burned their costly implements. The Word of the Lord, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is what increased and prevailed, not invoking the name of the Jesus Paul preached… if the Name of Jesus didn’t work for these mystics, neither will invoking His blood in this way.

But how can this be wrong for Christians?

First, I go back to the critical point that we are never instructed in Scriptures to pray that way. Second, there is a lot of convoluted philosophical rationale based on proof texting that starts with idea that Jesus has been given all authority… which is true… but ends with an odd notion that we are deputized to decree the blood of Jesus over ourselves (as believers), others, situations, and places to expand Christ’s Kingdom here on earth. For starters, let’s go to the Great Commission (a passage not quoted in the article):

Matthew 28:16-20 (ESV) | The Great Commission

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Indeed, all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus. Jesus gives us our charge here… to make disciples, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them all that Jesus has commanded us. Were we given all authority? No. We were given a charge by the One to whom all authority in Heaven and on Earth resides.

Here is where the philosophical rationale comes in… by first limiting the understanding of the authority of Jesus Christ coming only from His shed blood. The blood He shed on the cross He gave as payment for our sins and unrighteousness. He laid down His life for the sheep, His body was broken for us, and His blood is the new covenant. If my wording seems familiar, you’ve probably guessed by now where we are going to look next.

1 Corinthians 11:23-34 (ESV)

23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when 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 also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another— 34 if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come.

This is for believers, those who are by faith adopted into the Kingdom of Heaven. This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the New Covenant, that He laid down His life on the cross for our sake, so that in Him we might be justified by faith. This is a serious matter, one not to be taken lightly by any means. I really wish the phrase “pleading the Blood” was connected to the communion cup… but it isn’t.

The next step in the logic train, is to confuse our charge of preaching Law and Gospel pointing the lost to Christ with some self-aggrandizing theology of expanding the Kingdom of God by exploring new lands and claiming them in the Name of Jesus. I don’t know if this comes from dispensationalism or post-millenialism, but it’s self-focused and works-based. God saved you when you were dead in your sins and trespasses… He doesn’t need you to expand His Kingdom. By Grace you get the opportunity to preach the Gospel. This is an important distinction to grasp. For the purpose-driven folks reading this… I’m sure there is a lot of resistance to this idea. We’ll continue working through that barrier as the weeks progress.

Finally, the end of the logic train is the notion that (despite it NOT being taught in Scripture to do so) the “pleading the Blood” thing is taught as spiritual warfare. As deputies of Jesus Christ, the logic goes that it’s somehow your job to pray against demonic forces a certain way to secure peace, reprieve, health, and even salvation for another who is imprisoned in darkness. What we should be doing is preaching the Word of God to those who are in bondage while praying to God the Father for their salvation.

 

Conclusion

There is no Scriptural basis for praying this way. This is at-best, a bad mysticism-driven alternative to preaching Law and Gospel, Sin and Grace, Repentance and the Forgiveness of sins. We pray to God, not to the enemy. We Preach the Word of God, not our desires mixed with an invocation of the Blood of Jesus Christ to give our desires validity. It is natural for the flesh to want some measure of control over any given situation… even if it has to invent those measures and proof-text the philosophy behind it. This natural, fleshly desire is to be submitted to the Scriptures along with every other temptation. Pray to God, not things, situations, nor spirits. For additional thoughts on this matter, the folks at GotQuestions? covered this. Their focus is primarily on the Word of Faith (WoF) movement.

Instead of attaching some form of pleading the blood to your attempts at commanding authority over spirits, Preach the Word to the lost and hurting. Also remember that Christians still need to hear both Law and Gospel. We need to hear that our sins have been forgiven by the finished work of Christ on the cross. How wonderful it would be to redefine “plea the blood of Jesus” as a reminder of the communion cup, the sign of the New Covenant of Jesus Christ!

Jude 24-25 (ESV) | Doxology

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

CTT | What I decree and declare…

418px-Ary_Scheffer_-_The_Temptation_of_Christ_(1854)There is a lot of bad teaching out there regarding prayer and spiritual warfare. Today, I want to address the blasphemous “I decree and declare” type prayers. We aren’t called to pray that way. If you are reading this blog and are unfamiliar with Pentecostal or Charismatic teaching on spiritual warfare, I don’t want to create a strawman in your mind, take a moment to see the sort of teaching we are addressing.

Source: Charisma Mag (read with caution)

Decreeing and declaring are becoming more popular in Christian circles.

Often people begin their prayers by saying, “I decree and declare. …” The two words have distinctly different meaning though, and by understanding what they mean, we can more powerfully harness the power of what each does.

The word declare comes from the Hebrew achvah, meaning “to make known” or “to set forth an accounting.” It is commonly used by customs agents who ask international travelers, “Do you have anything to declare?” The agents are asking for specifics of what you have, what you are carrying.

As it pertains to us spiritually, declarations are what we speak into the atmosphere, making known what we already have possession of. We can declare our righteousness, our salvation, our eternal victory and our friendship with God.

Into the atmosphere? No. We don’t pray to the atmosphere, to nature, to men, to angels, or to demons. We pray to God. So, unless we are offering up prayers to false gods, this should severely limit what we should be decreeing and declaring to God in our prayers to Him.

What we already have possession of? Repentance. For it is by God’s Grace that we have been saved, through Faith, and that faith isn’t of ourselves, it is the Gift of God… that no one should boast (paraphrasing Eph 2:8-9).

We can declare our righteousness? Sure, if by doing so you are confessing you have none of your own. Your greatest good work is stained by sin. Declare your unrighteousness… by confessing and repenting to God.

We can declare our salvation, our eternal victory? Yes. If we are talking prayer, it still falls under confession and repentance because we are talking to God. I would rather this declaration be set in the context of Preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to both the believing and the lost.

Source: Charisma Mag (cont…)

By contrast, decrees are a tool by which we cause the truths of the heavenly realm to be manifest into the natural realm so they become our daily reality. We decree healing when we are sick. We decree provision and abundance when we are lacking. We decree peace when there is turmoil. Decrees are a tool to fulfill Matthew 6:10: “Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” (KJV). Decrees manifest heaven on earth.

The English definition of decree is “a statement of truth that carries the authority of a court order.” For example, when a defendant is convicted of a crime and sentenced to prison, he cannot ignore that sentence because the authority of the court order is such that upon conviction, he has no further say in the matter.

The same is true with decrees in the spiritual realm. When we decree God’s provision and blessings over our lives, then anything purposed against our provision and blessing can have no further say in the matter. When we decree God’s peace and unity in our family, then anything purposed against peace and unity has no valid objection or standing to come against us.

We cause the truths of the heavenly realm to be manifest into the natural realm? No, no, no…. no… no. Just…. no. God does the work as He sees fit. He is sovereign over all of creation. Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords, and we do not cause anything to be manifest in the natural. I mean, this is supposed to be prayer, right? We are praying to God and telling Him what we truths we will cause to be manifest? Seriously? No. To presume to do the work of telling God what to manifest is to commit the sin of blasphemy. He alone is God.

When we decree God’s provision and blessings over our lives, then anything purposed against our provision and blessing can have no further say in the matter. What a lie. God made no such promises in Scripture. This false teaching is what shipwrecks faith… by leading sheep to place their faith in empty promises. This isn’t prayer… this is sorcery. This turns the notion of prayer into a “spell of protection”. This is dangerous theology… blasphemous within the context of prayer. This isn’t prayer. And when these false promises turn up empty, you’ve left the sheep completely exposed to the wolves to be devoured… and their blood is on your hands.

It is Written

Let’s get a little perspective now.

John 1:1-16 (ESV) | The Word Became Flesh

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life,and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.

Jesus is God in the flesh, the God-Man. It is as inexplicable as it is inescapable. Jesus Is. Through Him all things were created and with Him not anything made was made. This is important to note going into the next couple of passages.

Matthew 4:1-11 (ESV) | The Temptation of Jesus

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
    but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’

and

“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
    lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
    and him only shall you serve.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

A couple of notes here. Firstly, Satan came to Jesus to tempt and distract Jesus. Jesus responds “it is Written”. Such a powerful response coming from the One who Is the Word Made Flesh. If anyone could have decreed and declared of His own, it would be Jesus… yet He deferred to what He has already said and caused to be Written. Even when He told Satan “Be gone” Jesus qualified it “for it is written”. Secondly… Jesus isn’t praying to Satan. He isn’t praying to the atmosphere. He was fasting (an act of humble Worship to God the Father), became hungry, and Satan came to tempt. Notice how Satan first tempted Jesus… to have Him command (decree) the stones be made into bread.

On the issue of prayer, we’ve addressed how Jesus answered the request of His disciples to teach them how to pray. Teach Us to Pray.

What I decree and declare

That I am a sinner in need of a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who was in the Beginning, who came to fulfill the Promise, pay the price of sin I couldn’t pay by His death on the cross, who rose victorious over sin and death, and ascended into Heaven until the Day of His Return to judge the living and the dead. Let’s look at what Paul declared in his letter to the Philippians.

Philippians 3 (ESV)| Righteousness Through Faith in Christ

Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.

Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Straining Toward the Goal

12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

Please stop reading books and magazine articles by self-proclaimed “spiritual warfare” gurus that teach you to treat the Bible as a spell book, and encourage you to blaspheme what you do not understand (Jude 8-10; 2 Peter 2).

James 1:2-5 (ESV) Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

Many misuse this verse as a springboard to promoting direct-revelation from God. God has already given us all that we need in the Scriptures. Learn to read the Bible as a revelation of Christ (how the Bible describes itself) rather than some guidebook about you.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV) All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Learn to pray the Lord’s Prayer as He taught His disciples to pray. Learn to pray the Psalms, in many of them the first-person pronouns are Jesus, not David or you. Prayer is a gift from God for those who have been adopted through His Son, Jesus. And when it comes time to pray ex corde (from the heart), let the Lord’s Prayer and the 10 commandments guide your prayers. Remember to whom you’re praying (1-2 Commandment), honor Him in your prayer, do not make petitions based on anger (murder), covetousness, jealousy, etc. Finally, I do not recommend reading Charisma Mag for any spiritual guidance whatsoever. It is one of many “christian” tabloids spreading false-doctrines and promoting false teachers.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 6:1-24

bibleLast week we looked at Jesus’ teaching of the Law as it pertains to how we deal with one another in Matthew 5:31-42, further demonstrating the depth of our depravity and transgression. While many might find this section somewhat less punishing than the first portion, this section was not easy. In Verses 43 through 48, we Jesus transitioning out of the clarification of the Law regarding sins and into more of how we are to serve the Lord (Worship) lawfully. What does it mean to serve God according to the Law. While the Law does reveal sin, it also points us to how we are to serve God. The first point of this transition is in dispelling the notion that we are allowed to hate our enemy or vindicate ourselves for mistreatment. We are to love our neighbors & our enemies. This is still Law, as He made clear in the last verse, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matt 5:48)“. I am not, therefore I am sinful and desperately in need of Salvation. This is the work of the Law, to bring us to repentance. In this life, we will not graduate from this lesson… we must always bear fruit of repentance, until the Day of Christ’s Return. He is Faithful.

Worship in Spirit and in Truth

Matthew 6:1-24 (ESV)

Giving to the Needy

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Practicing your righteousness is an act of worship to God. God works are done in worship to God, for they are only possible by His Grace through Faith (which He gave you by His Word). God decides how you are to receive your reward. If you’ve determined in your heart that you use the occasion of your worship to draw attention to yourself, then Jesus says quite plainly that you will have no reward from your Father in Heaven. Your reward will be limited to the recognition of men that you sought, and you may not even get that (because man is sinful). In verse 2, Jesus presents giving to the needy as an example, but His first statement covers all practices of righteousness, of good works.

In our day here in the US, those who give to 501(c)(3) Non Profit organizations (among whom Churches are included… for now) get a tax credit for their donation. Are you giving to these organizations as a form of worship to God (for doing good works)? or are you giving so that your donations might be recognized and rewarded by the Government, other organizations, or so that people might regard you (or your organization) with esteem? Is the organization the needy, or do they serve the needy, and if so to what degree is your donation to them serving the needy? I leave these questions between you and God the Holy Spirit to discern for yourselves. We aren’t talking about whether or not you are sinning, that has already been covered, we are talking about the quality of your Worship and Service to God the Father in Heaven. If you’ve done it to be recognized by men, you’ve received your reward. If your worship is for God’s glory, He will reward you as He sees fit… and His rewards are always better. Soli Deo Gloria is an excellent guideline here, too.

But this isn’t just about giving money, or food, or clothing, or shelter, etc… How about extending grace or mercy or forgiveness to your brother or sister in Christ? Neighbor? Enemy? All good works, all practices of righteousness… being ever mindful of our own sin, even in our attempt to practice righteousness. The praise and worship band on Sunday morning… if they are performing so that they might be honored by the congregation, has received the reward for their service. The individual in the Congregation who belts out their best singing hoping to be noticed by those around him/her, has received his/her reward. I’ve been guilty of both errors of worship, so I’m not wildly inventing these examples, nor am I “calling YOU out, specifically”. That was pure confession on my part… though I am confident that we all are tempted in similar ways.

One final example before we move on… if you’ve “taken the high road” in a situation, do so in secret so that your Father in Heaven might reward you. Don’t throw that away by announcing how you decided to “take the high road” in the matter.

Matthew 6 | The Lord’s Prayer

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Prayer is an act of Worship. Prayer is a gift from God, one of the means of Grace as recognized in traditional confessions (both Reformed and Wesleyan). Jesus, our Lord and Savior, is teaching us how to pray here. An active Prayer life is essential to Faithful Stewardship of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and it comes up often. I do not pray as often as I should, and repent for my lack of prayer often. If you’d like to read more on this topic, we discussed this lesson in Matthew on Prayer here and here. For our purposes here today, I want to highlight its position within the greater context of prayer as a form of worship, and the humility, repentance, and God honoring focus we are to maintain. Do you have a speech impediment? An odd/weak/distracting voice? Limited Scriptural knowledge? None of these disqualifies you for prayer. You pray, to God the Father, and rest assured by faith that He hears you. Don’t dress up your prayer to impress those who might hear. Don’t use prayer as an occasion to lecture the congregation. When it’s time to pray, pray to God. Teach your little ones to pray. I try to teach my children prayer before and after our family prayer time. I try to avoid interrupting any prayer with teaching… though sometimes a quick rebuke for foolishness in prayer is necessary (they are ages 3 and 5 after all).

Fasting

16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Fasting is first and foremost an act of worship. It is a humbling of ourselves before God. It is a proper response to a rebuke and judgement (2 Samuel 12; Jonah 3) as well as a means of supplication for the Lord to intervene (Esther 4:12-17) in a situation. However, fasting is one of those areas where seeking attention for your piety is a major temptation. Our flesh is sinful, and it throws tantrums (you may not remember your behavior as a toddler… ask your parents) when it doesn’t get its way. Breaking your fast, or cheating on your fast aren’t the only pitfalls. Moaning and groaning about your fast is a pitfall, one that Jesus addresses here. Note: fasting isn’t a means of gaining leverage over God, either. God’s sovereignty is immutable. Fasting is a form of worship, not a magic trick to getting your way with God.

Lay Up Treasures in Heaven

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

Jesus returns to the concept of reward. Yes, we are promised a great reward in Christ Jesus… but you don’t want to trade heavenly reward for temporal ones (I’m looking at you, prosperity preachers). Nowhere are we promised riches and happiness here on earth. Our Promise is kept in Heaven.

1 Peter 1:3-9 (ESV) | Born Again to a Living Hope
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Peter’s introduction in his letter echos Jesus’s statement, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also“. Now, while Jesus was giving this sermon, they probably didn’t fully get it… but by the time Peter is writing this letter, the Apostles understood and taught it.

Until next week…

We will pick up in Chapter 6 beginning in verse 25 and work through more of Jesus’ teaching of good works. We’ll see more elements of the Gospel being opened up in His sermon here, so I look forward to that. Jesus will continue preaching the Law, but we’ll see Him also offering comfort, the kind that can only be received by faith. Let us close in a word of prayer from the Apostle Paul:

Ephesians 3:14-21 (ESV) | Prayer for Spiritual Strength
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

We Remember 9/11

twin-towersI was in Advanced Individual Training the morning of 9/11/2001. We saw it all happen on the news. It was a morning we didn’t do PT (physical training) because we were getting ready for a Post Change of Command Ceremony. It was a dark day. A day many cried out to God in despair. America learned that she was vulnerable to attack, and hated at a much deeper level than what makes for comedy about culture clashes. America also learned that many who live here under her protection hate her. America is not a Christian nation, but many of us who call upon the Name of the Lord call sojourn through this life calling America home for now. May we continually pray for America, her leaders, and for the Church. May we not forget that this world is evil, sinful, and destined for destruction. But we do not grieve as the world grieves, for our Hope rests in the Return of our Lord Jesus Christ. Heaven and Earth will pass away, and by His Blood we are assured new bodies, free from sin and death, and He has promised a New Heaven and a New Earth and a New Kingdom with God as our King. Amen.

Psalm 38  (ESV) | Do Not Forsake Me, O Lord

A Psalm of David, for the memorial offering.
1 O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger,
nor discipline me in your wrath!
2 For your arrows have sunk into me,
and your hand has come down on me.
There is no soundness in my flesh
    because of your indignation;
there is no health in my bones
    because of my sin.
4 For my iniquities have gone over my head;
like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.
5 My wounds stink and fester
because of my foolishness,
6 I am utterly bowed down and prostrate;
all the day I go about mourning.
7 For my sides are filled with burning,
and there is no soundness in my flesh.
8 I am feeble and crushed;
I groan because of the tumult of my heart.
9 O Lord, all my longing is before you;
my sighing is not hidden from you.
10 My heart throbs; my strength fails me,
and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.
11 My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague,
and my nearest kin stand far off.
12 Those who seek my life lay their snares;
those who seek my hurt speak of ruin
and meditate treachery all day long.
13 But I am like a deaf man; I do not hear,
like a mute man who does not open his mouth.
14 I have become like a man who does not hear,
and in whose mouth are no rebukes.
15 But for you, O Lord, do I wait;
it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.
16 For I said, “Only let them not rejoice over me,
who boast against me when my foot slips!”
17 For I am ready to fall,
and my pain is ever before me.
18 I confess my iniquity;
    I am sorry for my sin.
19 But my foes are vigorous, they are mighty,
and many are those who hate me wrongfully.
20 Those who render me evil for good
accuse me because I follow after good.
21 Do not forsake me, O Lord!
O my God, be not far from me!
22 Make haste to help me,
 O Lord, my salvation!

Psalm 27 (ESV) | The Lord Is My Light and My Salvation

Of David.
27 The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
2 When evildoers assail me
to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.
3 Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident.
4 One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple.
5 For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will lift me high upon a rock.
6 And now my head shall be lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.
7 Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud;
be gracious to me and answer me!
8 You have said, “Seek my face.”
My heart says to you,
“Your face, Lord, do I seek.”
9     Hide not your face from me.
Turn not your servant away in anger,
O you who have been my help.
Cast me not off; forsake me not,
O God of my salvation!
10 For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
but the Lord will take me in.
11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.
12 Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they breathe out violence.
13 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!