Saturday, March 9, 2019

Guest Post: Heard From God Lately?

Let’s say I were to voice the question, “Heard from God lately?” to a very large crowd that had a mix of Christians and non-Christians. Among the crowd would be professing Christians, biblical Christians, cessationist Christians, charismatic Christians, pentecostal Christians, contemplative Christians, progressive Christians, conservative Christians, as well as a few agnostics, skeptics, and atheists. 
Their first thoughts related to a response to my question, no doubt, would be as diverse as their religious perspectives. For example, atheists and skeptics would think I was delusionary. Agnostics wouldn’t think much about it nor probably even care. Contemplative Christians would react to my question as supportive of their intuitive feelings-oriented approach to hearing from God. Some of the charismatic and pentecostal Christians might respond in the same way. Conservative Christians and those with a cessationist bent might worry that I had bailed on the written Word of God in favor of personal subjective communication with Jesus. All biblical Christians, I would hope, would restrain themselves from thinking ill of me doctrinally for at least a few minutes. They would give me the opportunity to explain what I meant by my question and then would search the Scriptures to see whether or not it was true.
Let me make a seemingly controversial statement before I start explaining myself. If someone who calls himself a Christian is not hearing from God, he’s in trouble—not potential trouble, but serious trouble—guaranteed. His situation is like that of a man in the middle of a minefield without a map or any device to guide him and keep him out of harm’s way. That said, what do I mean by “hearing from God?”
I need to begin with what I believe is the Lord’s responsibility: God has to communicate with those whom He created. Why? Because there are only a limited number of things we can know about Him without His communicating to us directly. Everyone who recognizes that the universe and everything in it must have had a Creator/Designer would also understand that the Creator must be infinitely intelligent and powerful. That awareness, however, doesn’t supply necessary details about the Creator that only He can provide. Furthermore, He is infinite, and we are finite; our own efforts to figure out an infinite God cannot go beyond mere guesswork. That same ignorance applies to knowledge about ourselves.
Let us reason for a moment. What are some of the things that only God can supply? Well, for one thing, knowledge of who He is! Then there are His characteristics and attributes, as well as His reasons for creating us. What about humanity’s condition right after its creation and its later rebellion and separation from Him? Then we learn of His plan for reconciliation between Himself and those very creatures!
Without God communicating such information to us, we’re left in a quagmire of speculations, conjectures, theories, and unsubstantiated opinions. Therefore, not only must God communicate with us, but He must do it in a way that we finite and fallen beings can understand. This He has already done through His direct communication to us, which is—His Word. His Scriptures. His Bible!
What then of the question: “Heard from God lately?” If what we’ve heard isn’t grounded in the written Word of God, we’re more than likely in that minefield mentioned earlier. Each step is precarious, even though the first one may not blow our feet off. But as National Park rangers instruct and warn hikers, it’s the first step off the marked trail that leads to their becoming lost. 
The Bible is filled with instructions, exhortations, and warnings regarding the necessity of carefully adhering to what it says. Hebrews chapter 2 begins, “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.” Is “slippage” something to be concerned about? Second Timothy 4:3-4 declares, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.” Jesus, in Matthew:24:4, warns, “Take heed that no man deceive you.” Not earnestly heeding the instructions of God’s written Word is the basis for one’s drifting away, or, as noted, stepping off the “marked trail” that God, in His mercy, has laid out before us.
What the Bible supplies is “sound doctrine,” meaning those teachings that were given to and faithfully recorded by God’s prophets through the Holy Spirit. They are objective teachings from God, bereft of the subjective input of men. They are God’s words, not man’s (Galatians:1:11-12). Yet we are told prophetically that a time will come among professing and true Christians that they will not endure (continue steadfastly) in God’s instructions. False teachers will seduce them through their doctrines. That fact is confirmed in the warning given by Jesus in answer to His disciples concerning the last days prior to His return, which He characterized as being a time of great deception (Matthew:24:4,24). Although that time is certainly upon us, the antidote for individual believers is found in the Apostle Paul’s exhortation to Timothy that he “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy:4:2). “Enduring” sound doctrine means reading it, believing it, and living it out.
Going back to the question, “Heard from God lately?”—how lately is “lately”? I’m hoping the response is overwhelmingly “daily!” There is no better habit for the believer in Jesus Christ than to read the Bible daily—at least none of which I am aware. Here are just some of the reasons. Those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ, believing that He paid the full penalty for their sins, have been born again. They have received the free gift of eternal life and have begun a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus their Savior. Of course, that includes loving Him. 
For any relationship to develop, an increase in the knowledge that individuals have of one another is key. Everyone knows that’s the way it is when it comes to people with whom they physically interact, whether they be newlyweds, or in a relationship with new friends or new co-workers, etc. What about someone we want to personally befriend but whom we can’t physically be with? We might consider becoming pen pals or “email pals,” which may satisfy the desire to get to know them better. 
Well, then what about developing a relationship with Jesus? That takes place through the reading of His Word. It’s through the Scriptures that we learn who He is, what He has done for us, what He wants for our lives, and how much He loves us. We’re told, “We love Him, because He first loved us” (1 John:4:19). The more we learn of all He has done for us, the more our relationship with Him grows. That’s at the heart of my question, “Heard from God lately?” If we’re not hearing from Jesus daily through the reading of His Word (He is the Word! [Revelation:19:13]), our relationship with Him will suffer—at best. The circumstances that occurred with those in the Ephesian church, who, we are told, had “left their first love,” Jesus Himself (Revelation:2:4), happened because of their allowance for things—some of them even good—to hinder their love relationship with Him. So, too, will our love for Him be strangled by our own negligence to connect with Him through the Scriptures. 
Why does this happen to many believers who are, or should be, aware of the horrendous price He paid in order to save them from their sins? The reasons, among many, include worldly distractions, backsliding, laziness, loving self more than Him, and, for increasing numbers of folks, being deceived regarding how we are to communicate with Him.
The first means of growing in our relationship with Jesus must be through the written words of Scripture, which is God’s objective communication to humanity. This is critical, because our interpretation of the Word can be tested on an objective basis, according to principles of hermeneutics. The major deception of our day, which began in the Garden of Eden with Satan’s ploy of subtly undermining God’s command to Adam and Eve, is to replace what God has indeed said with man’s false interpretations. Such interpretations are too often formulated through emotions, impressions, personal sensitivities, intuitions, and so forth. Those who take such an approach rely on their feelings for their understanding. This may also lead to the error of eisegesis, i.e., introducing one’s own presuppositions, agendas, or biases into and onto a biblical text. When the experiential dominates a person’s life, God’s truth is lost.
Next we are going to look at some of the meanings regarding the question “Heard from God lately?” that are understood in ways that are seriously at odds with what’s been presented above in this article. Of late, there has been a rush away from the objective interpretation of Scripture. Now, many insist that they are hearing from God personally with little or no regard to His Word at all! This is not new in church history. In the third century ad, the Catholic Desert Fathers were all about hearing from God mystically. That precedent continued into the Catholic monastic and cloistered period and through mystical nuns such as Teresa of Avila and Anne Catherine Emmerich, then into the 20th century via priests and monks such as Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen. The latter deceased priest has become a particular favorite of many influential evangelicals, including Rick and Kay Warren. Quaker Richard Foster and his Renovar√© organization have been instrumental in influencing the Contemplative Movement, with its mystical methods (meditation techniques and spiritual rituals drawn from Eastern mysticism), to spread throughout evangelicalism today. 
What has taken place in a greater way among Pentecostals and Charismatics is the very same spiritual subjectivism, albeit cloaked in biblical terminology. Some of their leaders give the impression (intentionally) that they are in a continual conversation with God. One of the false doctrines they conjure up to support their heresies is the teaching that God has two basic but different modes of communication: logos and rhema. Their belief is that logos is God’s communication through the written word, and rhema is His spoken word. No. In fact, the terms are used interchangeably throughout the New Testament. Moreover, according to this doctrine, God’s oral transmission has authority (they call it “new revelation”) over His logos, which means that the hearers are beyond being corrected by Scripture! Like Satan (Genesis:3:1-4), the leaders in this movement continually add to, undermine, and contradict God’s Word, while their followers willingly conform to whatever those over them may claim. All of those connected with the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) and ministries such as the International House of Prayer (IHOP), Bethel Church Redding, and the Elijah List are among those who promote this error.
Hearing from God experientially seems to be an accepted practice among some of the most influential women in ministry today. Even a cursory review of the teachings of Beth Moore, Joyce Meyer, Priscilla Shirer, Sarah Young, and Jennie Allen of the IF:Gathering (and her conference speakers) reveals a preponderance of “conversations with God” and little to no exegesis of the Scriptures. It can’t be overstated how dangerous this subjective teaching and pursuit is to millions of Christian women spiritually. Worse than just taking a step off the path of God’s Word, it’s a step off a cliff with nothing objective (e.g., sound doctrine) in sight to grab onto. Once a believer buys into the “God told me” stories of others, biblical doctrine quickly mixes with and is lost in a jumble of personal experiences. More often than not, the subjective experiences and teachings replace sound doctrine and are accepted as being true to and even supplanting the Scriptures. It then becomes a clear case of adding to God’s Word, a practice that the Bible condemns (Proverbs:30:5-6Revelation:22:18-19).
Are all subjective personal experiences with Jesus likewise condemned? No. Everyone who has believed the gospel began a personal intimate relationship with Him. That can’t take place without the involvement, to some degree, of one’s emotions. It may also include some form of personal communication with Jesus—if He chooses, how He chooses, and when He chooses. The principle of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit personally interacting with believers is found throughout Scripture. Paul’s life in Christ reveals his often-subjective guidance and communication with the Holy Spirit. Subjective? Yes. For example, Paul is forbidden by the Spirit to preach in Bithynia and is redirected to Macedonia (Acts:16:7-10). That communication was subjective, meant only for Paul at that time. Was this an objective command of God, indicating that believers are never to go to Bithynia to preach? No! Peter writes to believers in Bithynia, so obviously the gospel was preached and believed there (1 Peter:1:1-2). Three things are demonstrated in those verses and many others: 1) The principle that God communicates to believers is established; 2) He communicates objectively through instructions and commands for all who read His Word, and 3) He communicates personally and subjectively with individual believers. 
Should the Lord choose to communicate with a believer on a personal basis, that must neither be received as though it were equal to the Scriptures nor put forth in any way that supplements or supplants God’s Word. Furthermore, as with every spiritual experience, it must be tested: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God…” (1 John:4:1). The critical test is whether or not the content of the communication or the experience is a) true to the teachings of Scripture and b) true to the revealed character of the persons of the Godhead.
 Books promoting conversations with God such as God Calling, A Course in Miracles, Conversations with God, and Jesus Calling, to name but a few, have become best sellers within Christendom, mostly because few Christians seem interested in applying biblical discernment, which is in direct disobedience to Paul’s exhortation to Timothy: “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy:2:15). The two women who channeled “Jesus” in God Calling said they felt highly privileged for being “selected” to be personally taught by him, and indicated that they were more comfortable not having to rely on written words. Who wouldn’t want to be personally spoon fed by Jesus and be convinced that His teaching content was at a higher level than what has been written down in the Bible? That’s an incredibly powerful seduction and one that is deceiving millions in Christendom today.
Pray for those who have been drawn in by those who “speak not according to [God’s] word” (Isaiah:8:20); and pray for the shepherds who are not shielding their sheep by warning them in solemn words that “Every word of God is pure: He is a shield unto them that put their trust in Him. Add thou not unto His words, lest He reprove thee, and thou be found a liar” (Proverbs:30:5-6).
By T. A. McMahon

Friday, February 1, 2019

Guest Post: Do You Have a Religious Preference?

Tom: If you’ve just joined us, I’m in the studio with Dave Hunt, and we’re discussing his book An Urgent Call to a Serious Faith. And that’s a good title, because this book indeed has some terrific questions that everyone should take seriously. First and foremost is, “Where do you plan on spending eternity?” The common response is, “Well, I haven’t given it much thought.” And for those who have thought about it, it’s rare for them to go beyond wishful thinking. Certainly very few have strong reasons for their belief about this subject.
Dave, although we know that’s the way it is in the world today, most people do a lot of serious planning for their . . . let’s say 75-85 years on this earth, yet they seem oblivious to how they will spend their lives beyond what amounts to an incredibly short period of time – that is, when we compare it to eternity.
Dave: Mm-hmm. Unfortunately, that’s the case. We’re caught up in this world, and the plans for this world, and . . . I mean, just the commercials on television get you hooked, chasing materialism and the good life. Maybe we don’t have time for it, but one of my favorite authors, William Law, many years ago (I don’t agree with everything William Law had to say, but he had some insightful concepts and amazing ways of saying things), and I don’t think we’ve ever mentioned it on this program . . . William Law would say, well, a person that spends [as you just said] his life planning the home he’s going to retire to, you know, this . . . maybe the swimming pool, the tennis court, the sauna, and so forth, the beautiful home he’s going to build, and where he’s going to retire—and he manages to retire with quite a lot of money and lives comfortably. You would say, “He’s been a very wise man. He’s done well for himself.” William Law says, “What about the man who spends all of his life planning the home on Mars that he’s going to retire to—with the tennis court, and swimming pool, and sauna, and so forth.” You’d think the guy is crazy! William Law says they’re both crazy! The difference between their insanity is just this: one man is planning for a place where he can never be—on Mars; the other man is planning for a place where he cannot stay.
Tom: That’s an amazing statement, especially since William Law lived in the early 1700s, and it’s easy to forget people then were caught up in materialism just as they are today.
Dave: Well, of course, I’ve modernized it a bit, with the swimming pool and so forth.
Tom: (Laughing) Right! As you know, we have five children, one of whom is considering college. We have one in college, and the oldest in grad school, and we’re constantly encouraging them to plan for their future with regard to what they’ll do after graduation. So I can empathize with those who spend most of their time thinking about temporal things. It’s hard to consistently set one’s mind on eternity.
Dave: Well, Tom, it’s a problem that we all have. Of course, when you’re young, you can’t believe that life would ever end. It’s unpleasant to think about death, so people tend to push that out of their minds. Solomon said, “It’s better to go to a funeral than to a feast, because a funeral is the end of all living. And maybe the living will lay it to heart.”
Moses said, “Lord, teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”
So, a wise person realizes how short this life will be. But the scriptures say, you know, they named their houses, their fields, their businesses, after themselves, as though they will continue on forever. But we won’t. You don’t like to think about it, and so you go to a funeral—what do they do? They cover the casket with flowers. If it’s not a Christian funeral, they make such silly speeches: “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.”  And, “They live on in our memory,” and so forth. What we . . . we’re in a conspiracy of trying to cover up death, the reality of death. But we’d better face it, because it is inevitable – except for a Christian, if the Rapture occurs. We don’t look forward to death; we look forward to being taken to heaven. But if the Rapture does not occur, we all pass through death’s door. I mean, it’s a fact! Then we’d better prepare for it. We’d better be, in fact, absolutely certain.
A lot of people have the weakest ideas for their religious beliefs: “Oh, I like the pastor,” you know. “The choir is so wonderful. The people are so friendly.” Ideas, reasons, for their so-called religious faith that wouldn’t be sufficient. You wouldn’t rely on them for buying a refrigerator or a used car! You want to have something more solid than that. And I guess they just kind of slough it off, or they say, “Well, I haven’t lived too bad a life,” you know. “I guess it’s going to all be okay.”
Tom: Dave, in your book, you use three terms as you discuss where one considers he’ll spend eternity, and the three terms are tolerancepreference, and conviction. And then you quote, I think, a very insightful Time magazine article, which stated in part – I’ll give you part of it: “When it is believed that religion is a breezy consumer preference, religious tolerance flourishes. After all, we don’t persecute people for their taste in cars. Why for their taste in gods? Oddly, though, there is one form of religious intolerance that does survive—the disdain bordering on contempt for those for whom religion is not a preference but a conviction.”
Now, I bring that up because there are certain things that mitigate against people considering these things as though, yes, there is a truth out there; there is a reality, and it’s not something I can make up.
Dave: Well, you make a good point, Tom, because this is another one of the ways that mankind blinds themselves to this reality—the idea that, “Well, it would be narrow-minded and dogmatic to be definite about this. I shouldn’t really say that other people might be wrong and that what I believe is right,” or even the thought that there is only one way, which Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, the life; no man comes to the Father but by me.” Peter boldly said to the rabbis, “Neither is there salvation in any other. There is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must [not “might” or “may”]—must be saved.”
Now, if that’s true, we ought to at least check it out. We ought to check out what Jesus said. Jesus claimed to be God. He came from the Father. And He said to the Jews, “You are from beneath; I am from above. Where I’m going, you cannot come if you do not believe in me. In fact, if you do not believe that I am God. . . . ” Now, that’s a pretty heavy thing for Him to say! He’s either an egomaniac, or He’s a liar, or He’s telling the truth, and this – what Jesus said – is too powerful, it is too definite, I mean, it is too important for anyone just to slough off and pass by, shrug your shoulders about it.
So, as we’ve probably said it before, but I often tell people, “You can’t live long enough to study all the religions. Now go to the Bible first, because it claims all the others are wrong.” And I can prove the Bible is God’s Word, that it’s true, and we’d better face up to what it says because when you die, it’s too late!
I think we quote, in this chapter, I believe, Omar Khayyam. He’s walking through the—you know, as he dies—it’s a door into darkness. And then, is it Thomas Hobbes, who spent his life trying to improve this world? But when he came to die, he said, “I’m about to take a leap into the dark.” You wouldn’t take a leap into the dark on this earth. To take a leap into the dark into eternity doesn’t make sense!
Tom: But, Dave, that’s the mentality of the day, and it’s not just with this aspect of tolerance and intolerance, but Allan Bloom, as you know, the author of The Closing of the American Mind, he makes the point that we’ve become so open-minded that our minds have been closed to the idea that something may be true and something else may be false.
Dave: Mm-hmm. That’s in his book, The Closing of the American Mind. How about that? The “closing of the American mind through openness”! He says the one virtue in America is openness. Openness to everything. You wouldn’t dare to say somebody was wrong. This is what we call being “politically correct.” You wouldn’t want to offend anyone. That very term, “politically correct” says some devastating things about politics, and unfortunately, that has come into the area of religion.
Now, if you come to me as a medical doctor, and I . . . you know, you’ve got a pain in your stomach, or somewhere down there, and I examine you, and I know that you have a ruptured appendix, and if you’re not on the operating table within a few minutes, you’re dead! But I wouldn’t want to offend you; I wouldn’t want to upset you by telling you the truth, so I say, “Tom, it’s okay. You’re going to be all right. If you feel some pain, take some aspirin.” That’s not love! I’m destroying you in the name of tolerance because I wouldn’t want to be so intolerant . . .
You say, “Well, Doc, what’s the diagnosis, the prognosis?” And I say, “Well, I wouldn’t be narrow-minded and dogmatic as to presume to come up with a definite diagnosis. What would you like, you know? Everybody’s entitled to the operation of their choice!” You hear people say, “Well, everybody’s entitled to the religion of their choice.” Of course, they are! But we would like to give them some facts and some evidence so they can make an intelligent choice, because the choice has to do with eternity! The issue is the eternal destiny of souls.
Tom: Dave, again, like this idea of intolerance, which is really—it’s false! It’s just absolutely false! The phrase that you hear is, “All roads lead to the same place.” Whatever religious path that you’re going to take, it all ends up in the same place.
Well, that’s blatantly false!
Dave: Well, it’s being dogmatic, because it’s denying that there is more than one destination.
Tom: So it’s intolerant, really.
Dave: It really is intolerant. These people who are so tolerant that they believe in everything, they are very intolerant toward evangelical Christians, who dare to say that Jesus is right. And they will not embrace that at all! So I t’s like in the public schools, it’s so broadminded anything can come in. You could bring in witchcraft, you could bring in a North American Indian witchdoctor, and homosexuality, and evolution—anything! But dare to bring in Christianity? Dare to say, “We’d better check the Bible out, because evolution, maybe, isn’t true. We’re not forcing that on you, but it just could be that God created this universe, and nothing else makes sense, and we’d better find out what God has to say about us.”
I know I‘m repeating myself, but the program I was on some months ago, Spiritual Seeker, in Southern California, and the talk show host says, “Here we are. We have two hours every Sunday night to talk about God, religion, and spirituality.”
Well, my question was, “We’re going to talk about God? Maybe we ought to find out what He has had to say about us.” That’s what we’d better face.
Now if God didn’t say anything, if the Bible is not God’s Word, if all religious scriptures or writings are on an equal par of “maybe there’s a little bit of truth, maybe not,” then forget it! And let’s stop talking about it! And let’s stop studying them, because we’re wasting our time. But if God really did speak to us, and the Bible is His Word (and, again, we can prove that!) we’d better face up to this and find out what He has to say, because one day, we face Him.
Tom: Dave, in this chapter, you make a very strong point that all religions are in opposition to biblical Christianity.
Dave: That’s true.
Tom: Why would you say that?
Dave: Well, all religions are basically the same, in one way. In other ways, they’re very different. They have different concepts of God. For example, Buddhism is basically atheism. Hinduism, you’ve got 330 million gods, it has been estimated.
Tom: So there is diversity among them.
Dave: There is a diversity, but when it comes right down to it, they’re all trying to work their way to heaven—whatever their concept of heaven is, whether it’s the Happy Hunting Ground for the Indian, or Paradise for the Muslim or . . .
Tom: Samadhi, or Moksha . . .
Dave:  . . . Moksha . . . but whatever it is . . .
Tom:  . . . for the Hindu.
Dave: . . . they’re going to do it through some ritual; they’re going to do it through some sacraments, or through good works . . .
Tom: Some sacrifices—animal sacrifices, human sacrifices, in some cases.
Dave: Right. They all think, and they all have the idea, of appeasing God. It’s as though God could be appeased! I mean, no! It’s a matter of justice. The penalty has to be paid, and we can’t pay it. We would be separated from God forever. But anyway, all religions are in opposition to Christianity on that point.
Tom: Here’s one verse: Romans:4:5, and, as you know, there’re dozens of other verses, but it says, “But to him who worketh not but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Now what other religion in the world makes that statement?
Dave: None! They can’t possibly make that statement.
Tom:  And they’re – they do work. That’s the point you’re making. They are in opposition, they are contrary to biblical Christianity.
Dave: By “they do work,” you mean they work. They’re working at getting to heaven.
Tom: Right.
Dave: It’s like the Tower of Babel. They . . . “We’re going to build a tower, and it will be high enough that climbing up its steps, we can reach heaven.” This is the religions of the world: man’s efforts to come to God. God came down to this earth to meet man and to take his place in judgment, to pay the penalty that His own judgment required! There is not a religion in the world that offers that. There is no one who claimed to do that. Buddha didn’t claim it. Confucius didn’t claim it. Muhammad. You know, you name them! Krishna – anybody. None of them! They all offered a philosophy of life by which you could improve yourself and lift yourself by your bootstraps up into heaven, and somehow, reform yourself and please God enough. Or make some sacrifices of animals, or whatever.
Now, the Bible does have animal sacrifices in the Old Testament. These were prescribed by God very carefully, and as you study the Old Testament, the way in which they were to be offered, by whom they were to be offered, the purpose for which they were to be offered . . .
Tom:  What was the purpose then?
Dave: It was all laid out very carefully – all of these sacrifices looked forward to the Lamb of God, who would be God himself, who would come as a Man – He wouldn’t cease to be God, and He never will cease to be Man – He’s the one and only God/Man, and He would be the One who would take upon Himself the sins of the world. As John the Baptist declared when he saw Him: “Behold the Lamb of God, who bears away the sin of the world.”
But the sacrificial systems, or the works religions, or the rituals or sacraments of these religions of the world, they do not look forward to God coming as a Man.
Tom: They’re supposed to be efficacious in themselves. They’re for us to do to manipulate the god out there, or to appease the gods, so the god – whoever we’re sacrificing to – will do our bidding, in effect.
Dave: Mm-hmm. We’d better find out what God has said.
Tom: Dave, some people may say, “Oh, okay, that’s what you guys believe, and this is what the other religions believe.” Our point here is we want to make that distinction. People do not have to just take what we say as a belief that they have to adhere to. The point is . . .
Dave: We’re not asking that, Tom.
Tom: No, but we’re making a distinction, and there are distinctions, and the current mentality, religious or otherwise, political or otherwise, is that it’s all the same, and it’s not the case. That’s the point we’re trying to underscore.
Dave: God says in Isaiah:1:18: “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord.” Faith must be reasonable. It’s not a leap in the dark. We’ve said that many times, but it’s very hard to get the point across. People think, “Well, faith is just something you believe, and so long as you have a faith . . .” –people of faith, you know . . . . Even Pat Robertson refers to the members of the Christian Coalition as People of Faith, whether they’re Buddhists or Hindus, Muslims, whether they’re Mormons, or Roman Catholics, whatever. So long as they are people of faith, then we’ll all work together.
Well, maybe you can work together against abortion, or whatever it is. Don’t leave these people with the idea that so long as they just have some “faith” that’s okay. We’d better have the faith. And, in fact, the Bible tells us that “we must earnestly contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” And the reason is the eternal—as I say it again and again – the reason is the eternal destiny of souls hangs upon what each person believes. Listen, the Bible says you must believe God. You must believe what He says. You must come to Him His way. We don’t negotiate. We don’t discuss it—dialogue about it with God. We don’t say, “God, I think this is okay. Why can’t this go?”
Why would we even want to do that? We take God’s way—and why not take God’s way? Look, you don’t think this is God’s way; you think some other way is God’s way. Give me the evidence! You know, I sat with a couple of Mormons—maybe I mentioned it earlier—about three weeks ago on a train, an all-day train going from. . .
Tom: Yeah, you mentioned it last week.
Dave: Yeah, going from Czech Republic to Slovakia. And one of the questions I asked them, I said, “I can prove the Bible is God’s Word. Give me one proof that the Book of Mormon is God’s Word. I can prove that Jesus Christ is who He claimed to be: God, come as a Man to die for our sins. Give me one proof that Joseph Smith is who he claimed to be: ‘the prophet of God.’ In fact, Mormonism contradicts the Bible. Give me one proof.”
Well, they said, “We prayed about it, and we got a feeling inside.”
I said, “Buddhists have that feeling. Hindus and Muslims have that feeling. Give me something better than a feeling.” Now we have objective, factual, historical, prophetic evidence that the Bible is God’s Word. And that’s why we say to people, “Search the Scriptures daily.” If you have a quarrel with what we’re saying, your quarrel is not with us – it’s with God’s Word. We believe the Bible is God’s Word, and we can prove it, okay? And it has the proof. Please! Don’t be so proud that you say, “Well, this is going against what I’ve been taught, or my religion, or my church.” Please! We beg of you, consider very carefully what God has said. Search the Scriptures daily. That’s all we’re asking.
Tom: And, Dave, to bring this around to where we started, the question here is, “Where will I spend eternity?” God’s Word has the answers. And it doesn’t take a Council, or a Magisterium, or any organization to lay it out for you. It’s right there, very simply, in God’s Word.
Dave: Tom, when it comes to answering that question—when it comes to that decision—I’m not going to trust anybody, no matter what fancy robes they wear, no matter how long they’ve been around, their church may be the largest or oldest, no matter how convincing they are, I want to know what God has to say. That’s the only thing that’s going to matter one day.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Guest Post: Peace on Earth

At the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, the angels announced good tidings of great all people...on earth peace, good will toward men" (Lk 2:10-14). Yet God's gracious and merciful offer of peace was refused! God's Son was crucified, rose from the dead and went back to heaven, having been rejected by His own people and most of mankind. He will return to earth soon to execute judgment upon a world of increasing evil and continuous wars that grow ever more numerous and destructive. In the meanwhile, God's offer of pardon and peace goes largely unheeded, while global leaders seek to establish peace through their own devices.
Mankind continues to this day to spurn Jesus and the peace He came to bring. Jews have a special rationale for rejecting Christ: "He didn't bring the peace which the prophets said the Messiah would establish, and he was crucified. A dead man can't be the Messiah!" This reaction rejects the historical fact of Christ's resurrection. It also reveals a basic misunderstanding of the peace God offers. The same ignorance afflicts the world at large.
Most people think of peace as the cessation of wars between nations. The peace that God offers, however, though essential for peace among nations, is far more basic and awesome. Romans:5:1declares, "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." The implication is both instructive and frightening: that man is God's adversary and in a state of war against his Creator.
Many other scriptures confirm the ominous fact that man has made himself God's enemy and desperately needs the specific peace which would end that conflict: "the carnal mind is enmity against God" (Rom:8:7); "enemies in your mind by wicked works" (Col:1:21); "A friend of the world is the enemy of God" (Jas 4:4), etc. Who would dare to rebel against God? Yet this is the condition of mankind, which must repent of its insurrection and accept peace on God's terms or suffer the awful consequences.
Only when earth is no longer at war with heaven can there be peace among the inhabitants of this planet. And to attempt to establish peace among nations without first of all accepting the peace with God that He offers is to remain in a state of war against God himself. Such is the terrible warning of Scripture!
Encouraged by the end of the Cold War, world leaders are attempting to establish a new world order of lasting peace. All recognize that the key to global tranquility is a peaceful partnership in the Middle East between Israel and her Arab neighbors. Unprecedented efforts are being expended to bring this about. God, however, is left out of the process.
One would expect secular leaders to ignore God. Yet President Bush, Vice-President Quayle and Secretary of State Baker, all of whom profess to be born-again Christians, also ignore God in their attempts to establish peace.
But wait! Haven't we heard these men invoke God's blessing? Yes, but they ask God to bless humanistic efforts to bring about a "peace" that He cannot bless, for it contradicts His Word. The very peace they seek is a form of rebellion against God! Nor can such an accusation be dismissed as the wild ravings of a fanatical fundamentalist. Let us look dispassionately at the facts.
There are many irrefutable evidences that the Bible is true, but none more convincing than prophecy fulfilled. In this the Bible is unique. Neither the Koran, the Hindu Vedas, the Book of Mormon, nor the scriptures of Buddhism, Shintoism or any of the world's other religions contain prophecies that have been fulfilled down through the centuries and are still being fulfilled in today's modern world. Yet such prophecies constitute about 25 percent of the Bible, with the major subject of biblical prophecy being Israel.
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were promised by God that their descendants would possess forever a land bordered on the south by "the river of Egypt" in the Sinai, by the Euphrates on the north, the Mediterranean on the west and reaching into Jordan on the east (Gn 12:1-7; 13:15; 15:7; 18-21; 17:7-8; 26:3-5; 28:13-14; 35:9-12; 50:24; Ex 6:2-8; 33:1-3,16; Lv 20:22-26; Dt 32:49; 34:4; Neh:9:8Ps:89:28-36Jer:30:3,10,11; 31:7-12,35-36; 33:20-21; Ez 37:21-28; Am 9:13-15, etc.). That area has thus been known as "the promised land." We dare not forget that it belongs to Israel by God's decree. Yet this is exactly what is denied by the Arabs and ignored by Bush, Gorbachev, the Pope and other leaders in the present Middle East peace negotiations.
God warned His chosen people, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel), that for disobeying Him they would be scattered throughout the world, where they would be hated and killed. History attests to the accuracy of that ancient prophecy. God also said He would bring His banished and persecuted people back to their own land in the "last days," just before the return of their Messiah. That incredible promise was fulfilled in 1948!
That the Jews could have been dispersed throughout the entire world for 2,500 years since the Babylonian captivity, 1,900 years since the Diaspora at a.d.70, yet remain an identifiable ethnic people, is undeniably miraculous. And that after all of these centuries they would return to their own land is even more astounding. No one living today can doubt the existence of God or that the Israelis are His chosen people. The evidence provided by Israel's presence in her own land after 2,500 years is irrefutable!
Yet God foretold something even more astonishing: "Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling...[and] a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it" (Zec:12:2-3).
At the time of that prophecy 2,500 years ago, Jerusalem was in ruins and the land of Israel was abandoned swamp and desert. So it remained until recently. Yet God's seemingly preposterous promise was fulfilled. Today the attention of the entire world is focused upon that tiny piece of once forsaken and worthless real estate, in fear of what may happen there—exactly as Zechariah prophesied!
Surrounded by enemies who have sworn its extermination and greatly outnumber it in men and equipment, Israel has survived war after war and has grown in size and strength. How has that been possible? And what makes this minuscule nation so important? The answer is found in Bible prophecy. These are God's special people; He has given them that land. And to them Christ will soon return to rule the world from the throne of His father David. So said the angel Gabriel when he told Mary that she would have a child (Lk 1:31-33). Here is the forgotten promise of "Christmas."
Satan desperately wants to destroy Israel. All who have attempted to do so, from Hitler to the Arabs, have been his pawns. If he could remove the Jews from the promised land, then God would be proven a liar. Bible prophecies concerning Israel back in her land and the Messiah reigning over her on David's throne in Jerusalem could not be fulfilled. Satan would have achieved a stalemate in his battle against God and would have escaped the final judgment pronounced upon him and those who have joined in his rebellion.
Current attempts by world leaders to establish peace in the Middle East are yet another fulfillment of Bible prophecy. Just as Zechariah foretold, Jerusalem has indeed become "a burdensome stone for all people." And the solemn warning remains that "all that burden themselves with [Jerusalem] will be cut in pieces"! President Bush, and all who burden themselves with Jerusalem, beware!
God has given to Israel the land she now possesses, and much more surrounding it. Woe to anyone who seeks to take land from Israel or who promises Israel "peace" in exchange for any part of the "promised land"! Yes, Israel will make that exchange, "peace" will seem to be established, but it will be a major step on the road to Antichrist's rule and the ultimate holocaust. So says the Bible.
What should Christians such as Bush and Baker do? In light of the proven accuracy of Bible prophecy, they need to heed God's promises to Israel and make certain that they don't oppose them. They must cease from pressuring Israel not to occupy parts of the promised land which it has taken in self-defense to preserve its very existence. Instead, they ought to seek to persuade the Arabs to allow Israel to possess the entire land God promised to her (Gn 15:18-21) and to live there in peace under Israeli rule.
Such a suggestion would inflame the Arabs and be rejected as madness by world leaders. Yet the Bible leaves no alternative. Were President Bush simply to follow what the Bible so clearly says, it would be the end of his popularity here and abroad. But it would gain for him God's approval for eternity, which is far more important than transitory political polls!
If George Bush is truly a Christian, then he surely knows that there can be no genuine peace among nations until mankind has ended its state of rebellion and accepted peace with God on His terms. If he believes this, then he must declare it to the world. Who knows what the result might be, for nothing like it has ever been attempted by a world leader. Has God called him for this purpose?
Here is the neglected message of the world's "Christmas." Here is the cause we must all espouse. Instead of joining with the ungodly in unbiblical efforts to save the world ecologically or politically, we must declare the good news: Christ has "made peace [with God] through the blood of his cross" (Col:1:20). His enemies can now be "reconciled to God by the death of his Son" (Rom:5:10). And we must warn of the awful consequences for all who reject this gracious offer of peace with God.
Muslims deny that Christ died for our sins, was raised and is coming again. So do most Israelis. The same is true of Hindus, Buddhists—and even many who call themselves Christians. We have pointed out that 950 million Roman Catholics embrace a false gospel which denies that Christ paid the full debt for sin and claims that He must be offered again and again in the Mass, that we must suffer for our own sins in purgatory and that salvation is in the Church through the seven sacraments administered by its priesthood, etc. It is a solemn fact that today's world is filled with "enemies of the cross of Christ" (Phil:3:18), many of whom claim to be Christians! Let us be certain that we believe and obey God's Word!
There is a further personal application of the gospel. Many Christians are beset by fears, anxieties, and inner turmoil. They have accepted peace with God for eternity, but do not rest in the enjoyment of that peace here and now. They have selfish desires that rob them of God's peace. Unwilling, as a practical experience of daily life, to be "crucified with Christ" (Gal:2:20), they are ruled by the tyrant Self instead of by the Holy Spirit.
What joy when it is no more self but Christ who rules our lives! Only then can we know the happy fulfillment of the promise: "The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Phil:4:7). Such is the eternal peace Christ came to bring—and it is meant to begin here and now.  TBC