What Does It Mean to Fear God?

If I said the phrase “fear God” to you, what would be the first thing to come to your mind? – A Bible passage? The famous “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” sermon? …Or maybe it would be an image of the words tattooed on some person’s skin? Whether you claim to be a Christian or not, you’re probably familiar with the concept that God is to be feared. But is this topic really so familiar after all? Can most people – Christians even – say they really understand what it means to fear The Lord? According to God’s Word, fear of The Lord is Spiritually beneficial AND crucial. Yet, how is it that so many people who profess a relationship with Christ say otherwise? Many of them even go as far as to say that fearing God is unbiblical. If people who claim to be Christian don’t understand fear of God, how can we expect the rest of the world to understand? Non-Christians are receiving mixed messages about The Lord and His ways, while others who would have otherwise been sincere followers of Christ are getting dragged down by the “church’s” false teachings. In this post, I hope to help clear up some common misconceptions about fear of God, while showing readers that fearing The Lord actually brings us closer to Him. I want to make it clear that I’m not claiming to have “superior knowledge” in any way. I’m simply sharing what The Lord has already made known in Scripture and what He has put on my heart.

In my last post, I explained why we can’t go through life relying on the “Once Saved, Always Saved” teaching. That right there is a huge part of why we should be afraid of God – if we’re capable of falling away, this should scare us. In the next several paragraphs, I’ve addressed some arguments people generally seem to give for why they don’t see fear of The Lord as a Biblical concept:

  • The word “fear” simply means to respect.
    • There are many words used for “fear” throughout Scripture – yirah, pachad, phobeo, phobos, etc. – and, yes, many of them have secondary definitions of reverence, awe, and respect. But let’s do a search on Blue Letter Bible. This site gives the original translation of each word in Scripture. The word “pachad” is used numerous times in the Bible to describe terror or dread and it’s defined on Blue Letter Bible solely as “terror, dread” – no other definition is given. “Pachad” is used for “fear” in Psalm 36:1 when David says about the ungodly, “there is no fear of God before their eyes.” He’s not saying they don’t respect God enough to stop their wickedness…no, he’s saying they don’t dread The Lord and His wrath with terror. If they did, then they wouldn’t be full of wickedness. Fear is a good thing.
    • Next, I did a search for verses that contain both the words “fear” and “respect.” Leviticus 19:32 is one example: Stand up in the presence of the elderly, and show respect for the aged. Fear your God. I am the LORD. In this passage, the Hebrew word for “respect” is “hadar”, which means “to honor, adorn, glorify, be high.” On the other hand, “fear” translates to “yare”, which means “to fear, revere, be afraid.” These two Hebrew words clearly have very different meanings.
    • In my last post, I gave my opinion regarding why there has been so much disagreement about whether a person can lose their salvation or if they remain eternally secure. I stated that one of the biggest problems when it comes to this debate is that people forget The Lord is sovereign over EVERYTHING. The case is the same with many when they’re considering the fear of The Lord. They say, “God doesn’t send people to Hell. People send themselves to Hell.” This is WRONG. Jesus says in Matthew 10:28, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of The One Who can destroy both soul and body in Hell.” The word “afraid” translates to “phobeo”, which means “to put to flight by terrifying”, and it’s secondary meanings include “to be struck with fear”, as well as “to reverence, venerate, to treat with deference or reverential obedience.” What do you think Jesus was meaning to tell us? That we’d better respect God because He has the power to destroy us in Hell? No, Hell is terrifying; He is telling us to be afraid.
    • Now, of course we need to respect The Lord as well as fear Him, so the definitions are correct. Anyone who really ponders God’s work of Creation – just the ocean alone, even – is going to be amazed and in awe. Whether they pay this respect to The Creator, or simply “mother nature” is a different story. However, the point is that respect is not enough and we need fear in the mix. For the average person of this world, “respect” is such an “on the surface” term. Many people say they revere God because His Ways are so amazing, but is this “reverence” enough to make them want to walk with God, having pure hearts toward Him? No, Satan’s influence in this world is too overwhelming for us if we’re merely going to “respect God.” But when we have a healthy fear, it’s easier to stand for The Lord in defense of Satan’s attacks. And this is why we cannot ignore the fact that “be afraid” is listed in these definitions, too…especially in the case of “pachad.”

 

  • You could make yourself crazy by being so afraid of God.
    • With Satan’s influence, anything has the potential of making a person go nuts. This is why we need to balance fear with love. Remember what Paul says in Romans 8:15: The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” Those who have received Jesus are loved so much by God that He calls them His own children.
    • This parent-child relationship is a great illustration for understanding the fear and love of The Lord. Think of how parents discipline their kids. They spank their children in order to prevent bad behavior from becoming a habit. I don’t know about you, but I was very cautious of misbehaving at school in fear that my dad would find out and spank me at home. So if, as children, we feared our earthly fathers, shouldn’t we be afraid of The Lord God, Who is able not only to punish us when we sin, but also has the power to throw us into Hell? At the same time, a loving parent will also hug their child after spanking them so as not to spark resentment in them. The Lord does the same with His children: if we were not reminded of God’s love, we would be in continuous discouragement, and probably even fall away from Him.
    • A child who is not disciplined, on the other hand, has no fear of consequences because there are no consequences. They know they can get away with misbehavior, so they take advantage of that. In the same way, people who don’t fear The Lord will continuously THINK they are taking advantage of His grace. But God is not a pushover Father. Will He give grace to those who show no concern for obeying Him? Of course not – He didn’t for the Israelites, His people. In fact, here’s an example of how angry He was with Israel when they were repeatedly serving other gods: “For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, like a great lion to Judah. I will tear them to pieces and go away; I will carry them off, with no one to rescue them. Then I will return to my lair until they have borne their guilt and seek my face – in their misery they will earnestly seek me.” – Hosea 5:14-15
    • The problem is that His discipline is being sugar-coated by many “Christian” teachers. It’s as if the countless instances of God’s judgment have been completely forgotten. Some may say, “That was the Old Testament; Jesus died for our sins and changed all of that.” They seem to overlook the fact that when Peter confronted Ananias and Sapphira when they lied to God, they were killed by God, and this event took place AFTER the resurrection of Christ (Acts 5:1-11). Verse 11 says, “Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.” The Greek word used for “fear” in this verse is “phobos”, which is defined as “fear, dread, terror.”

 

  • 1 John 4:18 – “…perfect love casts out all fear.”
    • John wasn’t saying we no longer have to be afraid of God once we’re covered by the blood. In the verse prior to this – v. 17 – John says that through God’s love we may have confidence on Judgment Day and not be afraid because, when we love God and God loves us, we are living like Him in this world (in other words, not part of this world). But in order to live like Jesus and to be made complete in God’s love, we must obey Him, as John emphasizes in 2:3-6. And how do we maintain obedience? Through fearing God. Solomon says in Proverbs 16:6, “Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of The Lord evil is avoided.”
    • Scripture also tells us not to be afraid of what man can do to us. Hebrews 13:5-6 – Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” When we stop thinking in worldly terms and focus on the Spiritual reality of each situation, we remember that God’s love and care are more than enough to get us through and, therefore, we have nothing to fear in this life. God means it when He says quite often throughout Scripture, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you.”
    • Let’s also consider the scenario in Exodus 20:1-20 in which God is giving His Ten Commandments to the Israelites.Verses 18-19: When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”Then, in verse 20, Moses says something seemingly contradictory to the people, but really it’s not contradicting at all: Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.So basically he’s saying, “Don’t be afraid, but you’re actually supposed to be afraid.” How does that work? Well, The Lord wanted obedience and complete allegiance from the Israelites. Just as the Proverbs counsel us, God wants us to be afraid of Him so that we will obey Him and shun evil – if we’re doing those things, we’ll be alright.

This is it in a nutshell, really: as long as we remain afraid of The Lord, we don’t have to be afraid of anything else. In other words, when we fear God, we obey Him and turn from evil; and when we obey and turn from evil, His love and mercy are poured out on us, and we can rejoice in His love, comfort, and blessings. However, since we’re all human with a sinful nature, living in an evil world where Satan is always looking for ways to attack, this is not just a one-time deal. Fear is something that must be maintained because we’re going to keep being tempted. In fact, the only way that this “to fear or not to fear” misunderstanding can even be possible is through the deception of Satan. The Devil WANTS us to think, “Psh. Fear God? No way.” The thing is, even the most upright, God-fearing person on earth is going to sin and we ALL have the potential of being led into deeper and deeper sin, and falling away altogether.

Jeremiah 32:40 sums this all up really well, “I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me.” There it is: if you fear Him, you’ll remain in Him. NOTHING is better than that.

Once Saved, Always Saved?…

…or can one’s salvation be lost?  While this is often a heavily debated topic among the “Christian scene”, it seems there are also many people in today’s church who DON’T consider it to be an important issue. After all, if a person’s view on this matter of salvation has no effect on their relationship with God, then they can simply accept either side…right?  Well, I want to make it a crucial issue because, when discussion about salvation involves differences of opinion on how God operates and the eternal destiny of human beings, it IS a big deal. I prefer not to keep readers in suspense – I strongly disagree with the “Once Saved, Always Saved” stance, so the purpose of this post is to show readers why we cannot always rely on eternal security teachings, even if the pastor or leader is seemingly getting their ideas from Scripture. If I had the time, I could write a whole book on this topic, but I realize many people would still stand firm on the side of eternal security. In order for someone to oppose Once Saved, Always Saved, they must first have an understanding of what it means to truly fear God.  That’s what my next post is going to cover, so if you don’t even read this post it is much better if you read the next one.  Until then, I want to take a semi-thorough look at both sides of this eternal security vs. apostasy “debate.” First, let’s give a basic definition of each stance (I took each of these from the Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry website):

Once Saved, Always Saved a.k.a. Eternal Security: “…what Christ has accomplished on the cross and in us cannot be undone.  Though we may sin, even as Christians, Jesus will never leave us.  We are always his.”

Loss of Salvation a.k.a. Apostasy: “the falling away from the Christian faith.  It is a revolt against the truth of God’s word by a believer.  It can also describe a group or church organization that has “fallen away” from the truths of Christianity as revealed in the Bible.”

Before I go any further, I must say this: in my opinion, one of the biggest problems with the debate between eternal security and apostasy is that there’s all this talk about what WE as individuals are doing, while The Lord’s absolute sovereignty gets forgotten. In fact, some even go as far to say that the ultimate decision to follow Christ is up to us as individuals and “not determined by God.”  THAT right there is deception from Satan, and a result of a lack of fear of God. Ultimately, each person’s eternal destiny – either Heaven or Hell – is controlled by God. Therefore, when debating between eternal security vs. apostasy, we need to remember that HE is the One Who either keeps us or cuts us off. All of that to say, I also want to make it clear that I’m NOT forgetting we have a responsibility, as well. If we didn’t have to make any kind of effort at all, then the Bible would probably be a quarter of the size it is!  Philippians 2:12-13 perfectly sums up what I’m trying to convey: “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose.”

Now we can go on to look at several Scripture passages which are often given as support for each stance. We’ll start with Once Saved, Always Saved:

  • Ephesians 1:13-14 – “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession–to the praise of His glory.”
  • 1 Peter 1:3-5 – “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”

The two passages above seem to be claiming that this inheritance in Heaven is being kept right at this very moment for all believers. Many will reason and say that, since this inheritance cannot fade away, then neither should our salvation. But they would be forgetting that God is able to see the future. He knows exactly who’s going to press on until the very end and He is the One Who rewards those who persevered (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). This perseverance in the faith is mandatory, which can be seen in the parable of the sower. Just like the seed on the rocky soil, people may receive the Truth joyfully and believe right away, but if their faith isn’t deeply rooted, they will fall away when trouble arises, or when worldly temptations appear (Matthew 13:1-23). Also, consider the letters to the churches in Revelation (Rev. 2 & 3). God warns the church in Laodicea that He is about to spit them out of His mouth because they are lukewarm (3:15-16). This warning makes it clear that He does have limits and will depart from those who don’t fully follow Him. At the end of each letter, He reminds the churches of the reward for those who overcome. It’s easy to be overcome by the world, but it’s difficult to overcome the world. Jesus says, “take up your cross and follow Me.” So yes, eternal security applies to those who believe, BUT they must maintain their faith and overcome the world in order not to be “spit out.”

The next three verses were obtained from the “What we believe” section of a Baptist church website, where they were classified as evidence of eternal security:

  • Hebrews 7:25 – “Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them.”
  • Hebrews 10:10, 14 – “And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all“… “because by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”
  • 2 Timothy 1:12 – “…Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day.”

These verses are simply stating the powerful attributes of Christ. Saving completely means exactly what it says – Jesus saves us completely when we come to Him. Jesus is perfect so He does not save “partially” or “incompletely.”  When someone falls away, that doesn’t mean the blood of Jesus wasn’t powerful enough to save them. Referring to the second verse, Jesus died on the cross as the final sacrifice for sin, yes, once for all. His sacrifice doesn’t have an expiration date. So the phrase “made perfect forever” is a result of what happens to believers who remain in Jesus – they inherit the Kingdom of God where they will be perfect. Finally, God is certainly able to guard our salvation. If He were unable then we would have an imperfect God. Like the inheritance in the previous verses, our salvation can be kept and guarded, but The Lord knows whether or not we will press on and remain in His security.

Lastly, here are three more “common Once Saved, Always Saved passages”:

  • John 6:39 – “And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those He has given me, but raise them up at the last day.”
  • John 10:26-29 – “…My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow Me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”
  • Romans 8:38-39 – “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

When read in context, we see that the purpose of these Bible passages is to emphasize how much The Lord loves and cares for those who follow Him. Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:12 that all who want to follow Christ will be persecuted. So, passages like these serve as uplifting Truth to believers who are being persecuted, reminding them that The Lord’s love and power are more than enough to help them conquer any hardship and that they should press on towards reaching the Kingdom of God (Philippians 3:14). At the same time, the first two passages serve as warnings to remain in Christ. When Jesus spoke the words of John 6:39, He was stating that it is His Father’s desire for all to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4). The Lord’s love is great and He does not take pleasure in sending people to Hell (Ezekiel 18:32 & 33:11, 2 Peter 3:9.) But we know He will do it. As for whether or not He will do it to those who were once His – well, John 10:29 does make it clear that no one can take us out of The Father’s hand, but that doesn’t mean we can’t jump out of His hand.

Some may say I’m paranoid or that I’m twisting these verses to make them say what I think they should say. It’s true that the Devil uses Scripture to deceive us, as I stated in my last post. But why would Satan use Scripture to make us more careful about our salvation when he could use it to trick us into thinking we’re eternally secure no matter what?  I prefer to be safe rather than sorry, and I know The Lord wants us to have this mindset. Finally, let’s look at what the Bible says about apostasy:

According to Revelation 20:15, people whose names are not written in the Book of Life will be thrown into the Lake of Fire. Referring to those who are victorious, Revelation 3:5 says, “I will never blot out the name of that person from the Book of Life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and His angels.”  The very fact that names can be removed from the Book shows that salvation is not necessarily set in stone and we can fall from righteousness.

  • 2 Timothy 2:12 says, “…If we endure, we will also reign with Him.  If we disown Him, He will also disown us.”

The word “disown” implies that a relationship with The Lord was once acknowledged, but no longer is.

  • Colossians 1:22-23 – “But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation–if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.”

Paul says IF they continue in their faith, which means they have the ability to leave it.

  • Ezekiel 18:24 – “But if a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked man does, will he live? None of the righteous things he has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness he is guilty of and because of the sins he has committed, he will die.
  • Hebrews 3:12 – “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.”
  • Hebrews 6:4-6 – “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the Word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting Him to public disgrace.”

These passages clearly state that one can fall away from God. A person can’t “turn from” or “fall away” from something they never had. Therefore, the “they never knew The Lord to begin with” argument is invalid.

  • Philippians 1:6 – In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Some may say this passage backs up eternal security because this good work, or life in The Spirit, continues until Christ returns.  But when we look closer we see that this is what Paul prays will happen to his fellow Christians. Paul wasn’t ignorant to the Spiritual warfare going on in the lives of all true Christians. He was aware of that possibility they could fall away. This is why he sounds so urgent in many of his letters to the Christians.

Now let’s look at an individual case of apostasy. 1 Samuel 16:14 says the Spirit of The Lord departed from King Saul. Again, if Saul “never knew The Lord to begin with”, then the Spirit wouldn’t have been living in him in the first place. Clearly, salvation can be lost when someone no longer makes it a priority to consult or obey God (we gather from Scripture that this was the issue with Saul). Finally, fast forward to King Solomon and what The Lord says about him in 2 Samuel 7:15. The Lord is talking to Solomon’s father, King David, in this passage: “But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you.” Many people say that God’s love is unconditional, but this clearly wasn’t the case for Saul. …But it was for Solomon? …It appears that way from the passage. But how is that fair? As far as we know, Saul disobeyed God on a few separate occasions, and God left him. Yet, Solomon later turned to serve other gods and The Lord’s love remained with him, for his father’s sake? To us, this doesn’t seem right. Obviously, though, The Lord is never wrong; He knows the heart of each person and judges as He pleases. His thoughts and ways are above our understanding.

All of this is pretty scary to consider because who’s to say how The Lord will decide to deal with us? Many would think, “Why am I going to serve an unfair God?” They can say that if they don’t care about their eternal destiny, but the better thing to do would be to humble themselves and to listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 10:28: “…be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in Hell.” Here’s the bottom line: Jesus has the ability to save us completely from Hell. However, God expects us to remain in Him. If The Lord remains with us even if we no longer concern ourselves with Him and continuously ignore Him when He tugs at our heart, that would make Him a pushover. The Lord is not a pushover. If we stay afraid of Him, this will prevent us from becoming careless and, therefore, we will not fall away. God cares and wants us in Heaven with Him. Therefore, if we sincerely ask Him to keep in us this attitude of fear, He WILL do it.  This is a simple concept to those who learn to fear The Lord, but while it is also an easy thing to stay afraid of The Lord, the challenge to flee from sin continues to be a daily struggle. I can definitely relate to Paul when he says he is the worst of sinners. For this reason, I almost feel guilty instructing others – I’m constantly messing up, so who am I to teach you? Yet, at the same time, I know how crucial it is to get all of this out there because many people view the fear of The Lord as optional, or even unbiblical. This dangerous, ungodly attitude about fear is permeating throughout the “church”, so it’s time to learn what the Bible REALLY has to say about fearing God. Please know that this is a continuous learning process for me, as well, and that I will likely be coming to new realizations as I write to you, too.

Love – God’s Patience vs. Satan’s Deception

The Devil loves to prevent people from growing close to God. From the beginning, he has attempted to twist God’s Word and commands. He deceived Eve with a promise that sounded good – eat the fruit, and become like God. But by doing so she disobeyed God, and both her and Adam became sinners. To this day, Satan deceives in the same way – masks evil with good. That being said, wouldn’t he just love to distort Scripture (the ultimate good) in attempts to drive us far away from God? After all, He tried this with Jesus (Matt. 4 & Luke 4) – to no avail, of course, because Jesus is God. Surely, then, he tries it on us. In this entry I want to focus on a specific Christian characteristic Satan uses to deceive many people. This character trait is love.

We know that love is extremely important to God, as He IS love. And Jesus plainly said that the first and greatest commandment is to “love The Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” and that the second greatest is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:36-40). But, as often as Christians talk about and spread the love of God, the fact is that many of them do not even know the full meaning of God’s love. As I stated in my last post, many people claim to be Christians and say they believe in Jesus as their Savior, but their lives just don’t reflect this because they are worldly.

Who am I to make these bold statements? No one, really. Compared to The Lord we’re all just dust (Ps. 103:14). So then who am I to judge? Jesus Himself says, “Do not judge.” Well, what many people forget is that He also says in the same paragraph, “FIRST take the plank out of your own eye, THEN you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matt. 7:5, Luke 6:42). So, first make sure you’re not being a hypocrite. Then, because you really care about the person, you’ll correct them when they need correcting. Paul also said in 1 Cor. 5:12 that it IS our business to judge those within the church. Therefore, love is giving someone Spiritual guidance; and sometimes guidance involves judgment and rebuke.

Now that I’ve made some disclaimers, let’s get to the heart of this post….The Devil has been twisting the meaning of God’s love and he’s been permitted to infiltrate the church with this deception. Sadly, I’m not just talking about those “churches” (more like businesses of Satan) where homosexuality is accepted and all religions are promoted – all in the name of “love.”  No, the evil in those places is obvious, so I’m not even going to waste time discussing them. I’m talking about the traditional Christian churches, where the evil may not be so obvious. In these congregations, worldliness is accepted in the name of “the love of Jesus” and it’s not a problem because, hey, they may be worldly, but as long as they believe in Jesus, they’re saved. Well I’m here to tell you that it IS a problem. People thinking that they’re saved, when in reality they are not, is a HUGE problem because Hell is on the line for these people and Hell is literally the absolute worst thing that could happen to anyone.

I think the best way to explain what I’m trying to convey is to go through the book of 1 John. There are pastors who will take a section about love from 1 John and preach solely on that section. What I’ve noticed about 1 John is that it’s like a connect the dots map. John will make a statement about love in chapter 4, but in order to get the full meaning of it, you have to go back to chapter 2, and then over to chapter 5. So, really, it’s like any book of the Bible – you have to read ALL of it to truly understand what The Lord wants us to know.  Satan has certainly deceived people into making a habit of isolating one Scripture passage and gleaning from it, without looking at what else the Bible says on the topic. Take 1 John 4:7-21, for instance. This passage is overflowing with talk about love. If you read this passage alone, you gather these points:

  • God loves us.
  • If we love God, we will love others.
  • Those who acknowledge that Jesus is God’s Son have God living in them.

Of course, all of these points are 100% true. HOWEVER, by taking JUST this passage by itself, Satan is capable of tricking us into twisting these points and coming away with some conclusions that are NOT true:

  • God loves us, no matter what we do.
  • We are commanded to love others, so we must accept them as they are.
  • As long as you believe in Jesus, you’re saved.

Let’s look at some other passages of 1 John that prove these conclusions to be false:

3:9-10 – “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.”

Plain and simple – If we obey God and shun evil, we belong to Him. If we continue to sin, we belong to the Devil. No, we’re not perfect, and yes, we sin (which is why we need Christ’s sacrifice – 2:1-2).  But no one who lives in Him keeps on sinning (3:6).  So can The Lord’s love really be with those He considers children of the Devil? Some may refer to 4:10 and say, “God still loves them because He loved us first.”  Yes, God so loved the world that He made a way for us to be redeemed from our sins through Jesus. BUT, according to Psalm 11:5, He hates the wicked…not just wickedness, but the wicked. Now, at the same time, He doesn’t take pleasure in the death of the wicked and wants them all to repent (Ezekiel 18:32 & 33:11, 1 Tim. 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9). All throughout Scripture, He is very patient with us and shows the ultimate act of love and patience by sending Jesus. But when someone takes advantage of His grace by continuing to sin, they are not truly receiving Him as their Savior (Romans 6). Therefore, unless they change their ways, they are children of the Devil and cannot be covered by the blood. And, as I said earlier, it is the job of the children of God to show them the urgency of turning from their evil ways and to help them, if they will receive the help.

So, then, if someone who claims to be saved is continuing in sin, can we really just “accept them as they are”? Many will say, “Well, you can’t change them. It’s ultimately up to God because He is the judge.”  No, we cannot force anyone to change and, yes, everything is in God’s control always. Paul wrote about this, though – He said to “expel the wicked man from among you” (1 Cor. 5:13). A person may be unwilling to change and live as The Lord requires, but if they are unwilling to change, they will only influence the rest of the church to follow in their evil ways. Paul knew that when evil began to be accepted, it would spread all throughout the church, like it has in the congregations today. Also, if we’re supposed to be so “accepting” then why would John say this?:

4:1 – “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

The Scriptures warn us numerous times to be on our guard. Here is one instance from Peter: “Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position.” (2 Peter 3:17) What’s the point of being on our guard against the spirit of evil if we’re to just accept everyone as they are? And if we don’t need to be on defense against evil, then why is one of the Spiritual gifts the ability to distinguish between spirits? (That is, if your pastor teaches that these gifts can still be manifested today – as if this should even be in question…but we’ll save that for another entry.) On top of that, why does Paul use the illustration of putting on the armor of God (Eph. 6:10-18)? There would be no Spiritual warfare if we weren’t supposed to confront evil and defend The Lord’s ways.

I hope no one is taking any of this to mean that we shouldn’t be patient with people who are struggling with sin. We should definitely be patient! We need to help one another in our weaknesses and instruct each other (2 Cor. 2:5-8, 1 Thess. 5:14). We aren’t perfect and we’re going to sin, over and over again. God understands that, and He made us this way so we would be dependent on Jesus. But to be patient with someone who’s caught up in a lifestyle of sin where The Lord takes a backseat to pleasures as a result of a lack of fear of Him… THAT is dangerous for everyone involved. It’s up to the church to teach and encourage people to behave as if they were in Heaven before God Himself (after all, that is the eternal home of God’s children). But instead of training people for the Kingdom, the “church” of today is actually reinforcing evil by being overly patient and accepting. Satan has tricked many into letting their guard down out of “love”, thus creating a false sense of security. This leads to my next post, which presents the next false idea taught in many congregations today – once saved, always saved. We’ll be looking closely at what the Bible says about this. We won’t be able to completely wrap our minds around The Lord’s ways as He is beyond understanding. But we CAN get much closer to knowing Him if we open our hearts to the FULL truth – not just what today’s “church” teaches.

Believe, and You’re Set?

Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:19 to “go and make disciples of all nations” and, ever since He commanded this, the church has carried out His instruction. But, as I stated in my last post, the church has “evolved” since it’s establishment after Jesus’ resurrection. What started as a body of like-minded believers has turned into an organization whose members are divided on major aspects of being a Christian. And what was once a large group of believers dedicated to The Lord has, over time, become a multitude of millions who believe in Jesus but, for the most part, are more focused on their earthly lives than on seeking first the Kingdom of God.  Many of you already know that “believing” in Jesus does not indicate that someone is truly saved.  So why do many congregations and evangelists today still focus so much on believing?  I must point out that I’m in no way trying to undermine the fact that it IS crucial for someone to believe that Jesus is God in order to be saved. I know that in my heart and mind 100% because Scripture says He is God.  But I do want to talk about how much the meaning of believing in Jesus has become watered down over the years.

During the time after Jesus’ death and resurrection, most Jews were still waiting for a Savior. Upon learning that Jesus was/IS the Savior, many people (non-Jews, included) put their hearts and souls into following Him. They are what is known as “the early church” – the body of believers. Everything that may have mattered to them before was no longer important because Jesus promised everlasting life – a life lived separate from the evils of the world. And the government and leaders of that time were just that – evil (and they still are). Therefore, the Jew and Gentile believers alike had nothing to lose by putting full faith into The Lord and His promise of eternal life with Him. They did not love the world so much that they were unwilling to follow Christ (1 John 2:15, Ecclesiastes 1:2…actually, the whole book of Ecclesiastes). No, they were proud to call themselves Christians and rejoiced when they were persecuted for proclaiming the faith.

Now, I’ve been noticing something more and more nowadays among Christians: they, too, are proclaiming Jesus everywhere.  But isn’t that what Christians are supposed to do? Well, Jesus did command that, but I’m thinking more along the lines of HOW they are proclaiming Him. If I approached a random group of people at a shopping mall and said, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9), they would probably tell me that they’ve heard this once, or probably several times before at some point in their lives (and they may even be able to tell me that they themselves are saved). But the apostles used those phrases, so that MUST be the correct way of sharing the Gospel, right?  Well, obviously there’s nothing wrong with these phrases, considering the apostles were completely Sprit-led. However, when today’s pastors and evangelists use Biblical phrases like this to bring others to Christ, they forget that salvation through Jesus is already a known fact among like everyone in this country. This was not the case during the early church age when Jesus’ divinity was still a heavily debated topic. The Pharisees were failing to understand the heart of salvation because they hardened their hearts to Jesus being the Messiah. This made it crucial for the early Christians to set the record straight and proclaim Jesus everywhere. But sadly, Biblical quotes about believing have been overused today to the point that countless people “believe” in Jesus as God, but have little idea Who God really is.

The thing is, people know deep down that “believing” is not enough. After all, I’m sure many have heard the phrase, “Even the Devil believes in God” (based in part on James 2:19). But Satan’s heart is obviously full of evil. Therefore, believing is a matter of the heart. Let’s take another look at Romans 10:9.

If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

Reading the context, Paul explains immediately afterwards in verse 10 that it is with our hearts that we believe and are justified and with our mouths that we profess our faith and are saved.  Therefore, God requires from us both sincere hearts AND a readiness to profess the faith. Tell me, though, can you REALLY know if someone is sincere if they simply profess the name of Jesus? Well, it seems that way according to John when he says, “Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God” (1 John 4:2).  HOWEVER, we must remember that when Paul and John wrote these words, they were living during a time when miraculous signs were happening and persecution of Christians was rampant.  It took great faith on the part of Christians to proclaim the faith when they were surrounded by people who not only hated them, but scorned the idea of Jesus being the Savior.  But Paul and John both knew that a sincere believer would not be afraid to declare Jesus, despite the ridicule and persecution. In 2 Timothy 3:12, Paul says that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”  I’m pretty sure Paul wasn’t talking about little disputes with Atheists or Agnostics about doctrine, after which the “agree to disagree” conclusion is reached.  No, he meant being hated for belonging to The Lord (Mark 13:13, John 15:19).

Why are Christians in the U.S. not being persecuted in this way? (Talking about being hated – not incarceration or physical torture, as the early Christians underwent). One reason is that SO MANY people in this country claim to be Christians – there’s no need to ridicule one another for believing, because they all believe! In fact, if I were to walk into a local prison and take a survey, asking each prisoner if they believe in Jesus as their Savior, I guarantee a large percentage of them would say, “Yes.”  But this just can’t be true. God The Father is perfect and requires us to repent and be changed in order to be covered by the precious, powerful blood of Jesus. But this sign of true repentance and changed lives is simply not present in many “believers” today. And that’s another reason for the lack of persecution in the U.S. – if Christians don’t look like Christians, then why would non-Christians persecute them?

When Jesus was healing people, He would tell them to “go and sin no more.”  And when the Apostles and early Christians were spreading the Gospel, they taught people to repent because God is light and He can have no part in darkness.  But the problem today is the message being spread by the “church”, which can be summarized like this: Jesus loves you, died on the cross for you, and the way to Heaven is to believe in Him and accept His gift of salvation, which can be solidified by praying the Sinner’s Prayer. So if people can obtain salvation by simply believing, praying a simple prayer of acceptance, and, on top of that, remain saved no matter what (depending on if that’s what their pastor teaches, as if the “church” should even be divided on an issue as important as this – we’ll save that for another post), then WHY should they change?  Yes, I know most Pastors preach about not just proclaiming to be saved, but living in a Christ-like manner and desiring to know God.  But does this really sink in and drive people to change?  No, it doesn’t, because today’s “church” doesn’t avoid evil, as Christians are commanded to do (Romans 12:9, 1 Thess. 5:22), and it accepts worldliness.

Many people may acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God, BUT the meaning of believing and proclaiming has lost it’s value over time because the church has become so corrupt. The desire to know God has been replaced by a desire to be like the world. The desire to leave this evil world and be in the Kingdom of God has been replaced by a desire to be successful in the world. And the power and wrath of God has been replaced by a distorted view of God’s love. This serious problem of misunderstanding God’s love will be discussed in the next entry.  As a disclaimer, I want to point out that I’m in no way ignoring the fact that God IS loving, merciful, and compassionate. After all, love comes from God. BUT, today’s “church” has become all too accepting of sin for the sake of “love”, without realizing that this tolerance, in fact, is not love at all.

Rethinking Reality

According to Atheists, Christians have a very distorted sense of reality.  Atheists say that Christians are foolish for dedicating their entire lives to an unseen God.  But the focus of this entry is not on Atheists.  Look below the surface at those who DO believe in God – those within the church – and you’ll find that many believers view this Biblical concept of absolute dedication to God to be just as ridiculous and inconvenient to their own lives.  Why is this the case among so many believers today?  Well, I’m here to share with you just how much today’s Christian church, like the world, has “evolved” since it first began.  Each of the next several entries will deal with different false teachings or ideas often accepted as truth in many of today’s congregations. But first, I want to share with you throughout the rest of this entry the thoughts that led me to write about this problem. I’m writing to you with urgency as it seems the time for The Lord’s return is approaching soon and I hope you will stick around to read what He has laid on my heart.

Some who are reading this may already be thinking, “Oh boy, another one of those crazy Christians who’s all about the end times.”  I know – people have been saying for years that Jesus is coming soon, right?  Well, many believe that it could be September of this year – 2015.  I won’t even begin to get into the blood moons, Shemitah years, Pope Francis, the “sevens” in Daniel, and the 7,000 years. But I will say it looks VERY possible that something will happen soon.  Either way, to The Lord Jesus, “soon” is all the time, as He says at the very end of Revelation, “Yes, I am coming soon” (vs. 20).  Therefore, we must ALWAYS be ready, as He counsels us numerous times in Scripture.  I believe that many people who claim to be Christians will be completely caught off guard when He does return – even if they have extensively researched the end time events.  And this is my main reason for writing.  We must believe Jesus when He says, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Many people look for an “escape from reality” in the form of books, movies, and TV shows.  Movies like The Matrix and Equilibrium portray an alternate or “higher” reality.  Similarly, the theme of most fairy tales illustrates an alternate reality through a curse cast by an evil power that needs to be defeated.  In the popular TV series Once Upon A Time, an evil queen casts a spell that can only be broken by the main character, Emma Swan, who is called the “savior.”  Anyways, you get the point – authors and producers have continued to use this theme throughout the years because people like to imagine that there’s more to what we see.  But here’s what’s crazy and what many of us forget…we’re LIVING the theme right now!  In fact, we’ve been living it for thousands of years.  Ever since Adam and Eve ate the fruit and sin came into the picture, this world has been cursed. Here we are thinking that these fairytales and fantasies are so entertaining, yet we don’t stop to think about how mind-blowing it is that JESUS is Savior of the World – the One Who breaks the curse.

Now, here’s why we don’t stop to think about all of this… we’ve become so wrapped up in building lives for ourselves that we FORGET we’re living in a cursed world – a world that we were originally condemned to as a punishment by God Himself.  We are so focused on living the American Dream, that many of us don’t feel the need to depend on God.  But Adam and Eve were lost without Him. Genesis tells us that they were ashamed after they were kicked out of the Garden, but the First Book of Adam and Eve describes the deep remorse and agony they actually experienced, even seven months after their removal from the Garden.  They were in such distress that they literally committed suicide several times, only to be revived back to life by God each time.  For the sake of not turning this entry into a novel, I won’t go into detail about the book, but if you’d like to check it out, here is a link: http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/fbe/index.htm#section_000

Side Note: Okay, so you might be thinking, “You don’t even know if this book is true, or inspired by God.”  You’re right – I don’t know for certain, considering the book and it’s sequel, the Second Book of Adam and Eve are apocryphal books.  In fact, when I was introduced to these books about two years ago, I clearly remember one instance from the first book in which God is addressing Adam, saying “you and Me.”  In Genesis, when God is talking to humankind, He always puts Himself first, saying “Me and you”, because no one comes before Him. That, along with a few other contradictions with Genesis led me to question the validity of these books. However, it’s possible that there are explanations for these inconsistencies. More importantly, I haven’t found the books to disrespect The Lord and, if anything, they magnify Him. Either way, whether the books are accurate or not, we must remember that Adam and Eve were REAL people who were actually kicked out of the presence of God – the trauma they undoubtedly experienced from that moment onward cannot be denied.

Some may be thinking, “Adam and Eve were lost without God because they weren’t used to the world like we are.” Yes, it’s true that we have “evolved” to handle the world in which we now live.  And yes, God did give Adam the ability to work the ground in order to survive and “make the best of everything.”  We, too, make a living by working.  BUT, over time, making a living has turned into living the American Dream – nice house, nice car, happy family, vacations every year, etc.  I’m definitely not saying that we shouldn’t enjoy life.  I’m saying that The Lord has taken the backburner in the lives of many, and I’m mainly focusing on Christians here – people who claim to know Him. In fact, I’d venture to say that many people within the church think that living out this American Dream is more important than living for The Lord.

Before you say, “Not me”, consider that you probably can’t deny that you have the desire to live comfortably – who doesn’t, right?  Okay, now let’s take it a step further – does The Lord sustain us, or do our comforts sustain us?  When you think about it deeply we really do tend to lean on our comforts as the things that get us by, rather than on The Lord. And what’s even worse is that our comforts and possessions become objects of pride in that we like to compare them to what others have. But hold on a minute – as far as Adam and Eve were concerned, was anything in this world even remotely important compared to God?  They were looking forward to the curse being lifted – they just wanted to be back with God in the Garden.

Do we look forward to Jesus’ return – to the curse being lifted, and Him rescuing us from this evil world?  Or are we too gung-ho about living out our American Dream here?  I would like for this entry to not be something that’s thought about just for a day, or maybe a few hours. My hope is that it would convince many people of the urgency to seek The Lord first in everything so that they will be prepared when He does return. BUT, as someone who’s sat through many sermons about making God number one in your life, I know that probably won’t be the case.  And that is why I believe we need to get to the root of the problem – today’s “church” and it’s flawed teachings – because I’m convinced that this cannot truly sink in until these misconceptions are exposed.  And that’s what we’ll be doing in the next several entries – revealing the correct teachings as laid out in Scripture.  It’s my prayer that The Lord provides me with the time, words, and both humility and fire to convey this information which I KNOW to be true.  I also pray that, while these concepts may be difficult to accept, readers will be reassured that I am writing out of love and that The Lord’s care extends far beyond what mine can.