Surely I was sinful at birth ... Psalm 51:5 

"Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." - Psalm 51:5

http://www.westerfunk.net/archives/chri ... 20pretend/

Interesting ... science backing up the Scriptural, spiritual reality of our hearts. We are sinful from birth, even from the time our mothers conceived us, just as David says in this Psalm. Well, we at least begin lying at six months old, as this article states. Before this study, it was thought babies did not lie prior to 4 years old. Now the bar has been lowered to six months. This study simply confirms that which is stated in the Scriptures: we are sinners from the womb. Our disposition, from the very beginning, is bent on evil, namely a suppression of the glory and righteousness of God. We must be delivered from this very nature by the work of Christ alone in order to even see Christ at all as worthy of our praise. The only difference between a grown up and a baby is that the adult has the means to carry out the wickedness that lies within the heart. Babies can't talk in tangible language, they have very little strength to exert, but they can throw tempter tantrums, scream until they get their way, and as shown in this article, they have scientific proof babies begin conceiving deception in their hearts as early as six months. As cute as babies are, this is the reality of all of us and it starts at conception (just as the Psalm said). "It is hard to exaggerate the importance of admitting our condition to be this bad." (Piper) We must be saved utterly by the work of God in Christ to deliver us from the deadness and nature of our hearts that are turned away from the glory of God. It is by grace alone (God granting regeneration, repentance, and faith) through God-wrought faith alone, in Christ alone that we are saved. Praise God for His mercy and may He move on my daughter Adelaide to turn her heart from the natural deadness that lies within, turned away from God, and draw her to Himself. May He raise her up, by His pure mercy, even now, and grant her regeneration unto salvation. We are prone to wander unless God holds us back by His mercy. This verse and this science both show this to be the case.

NOTE: I am NOT in any way saying I believe that babies who die either in the womb or at a very young age go to hell, as someone may think I lean based on my above statements. But unfortunately, there is not a lot of Scriptural evidence pertaining to this subject, except for one place that alludes to it in 2 Samuel 12:22-23. David has committed adultery with Bathsheba, she conceived, and now as a result of God's punishment on David for committing the sin he did, the baby died. It states, "[David] said, 'While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, "Who knows whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?" But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.'" In other words, as it seems the Scripture says here, I shall go to the child in heaven upon dying, but he will not come back to me in this life. Other than this, there are really no other places that speak of what happens to them upon death. And really this statement begs a lot of questions pertaining to the subject in my mind. Having affirmed the "sinful from conception" verse above that David himself wrote in the inspiration of the Spirit, whatever level of sinning a baby can do must be covered by the blood of Christ. So it is likely God, in His mercy, delivers children at this age from wrath through the work of Christ. But you must believe in order to be saved, someone may say. Right. So, how does that work? I have no clue, nor does Scripture say. We have this one ambiguous verse pointing that direction. And that's about it. All in all, it is speculation to delve too deep into the subject, but rather we should simply trust the Lord that He knows what He is doing and know His actions are wise, just and righteous. This is an area where I believe we are forced to trust the Lord and know that He is good and find comfort in Him, not in answers to things that are not revealed. So really all I can do is leave it there.
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Here They Come ... 

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The Result of Faith in the Life of the Believer 

"The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." - 1 Timothy 1:5

In this verse, Paul iterates to Timothy the aim of what authentic faith in Christ is to produce: authentic love and obedience. And this love manifests itself in strong affections for and desires to be with and obey Christ in the whole of life. In addition, this love manifests itself in strong affections for other brothers and sisters in Christ, encouraging them in their faith to pursue Christ with their all. And finally, it manifests itself in relation to the rest of the world and loving people in such a way that we testify to the Gospel, the good news of redemption in the work of Jesus Christ, that many may be saved. 1 John 2:4-6 says,
"Whoever says 'I know him' but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked."

Now is John saying that we know we're in Christ if we walk perfectly? No, he's not, because in the previous chapter, in verse eight, he said, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." But rather, have you seen change in your life, change that you cannot explain, that has not resulted from your own fleshly work, but as a result of God-wrought faith working in your heart so that you pursue God's righteousness and turn from sin and self-righteousness? Paul says the aim of our charge is love that issues or comes from a pure heart, changed by the grace of God, where God has granted true, authentic belief and true repentance. There are many in the world, and specifically within American evangelicalism who find it very easy to say, "I know Him," yet could give a rip about following Him, loving Him, or doing anything to His glory and honor. Why? Because they have not been born of the Spirit of God. It is clear there is no love for Christ, but rather for themselves and the world with its desires and passions. They view salvation as being all about them, being able to play golf in heaven as long as they feel like. They view their salvation as being rescued from trials so they can enjoy themselves while here: good marriage, good family, good job, good kids, good schools, nice retirement, die easy, and go to heaven and play. And they could care less about Christ Himself, loving Him, following Him. It is all about their desires, wants and needs, not the glory of God. Heaven is all about the glory of the grace of God in Jesus Christ. The Book of Revelation makes this abundantly clear.

Paul's goal here in this one particular statement is to say that we do not aim for a love that we produce of our own sinful flesh, but a divine love that only God can produce in us as a result of God-produced, authentic faith in the work of Christ in His life, death and resurrection. What is inauthentic faith? A faith that we attempt to muster up by our own will and strength, that will indeed fail when the storms of life come. And they will. This faith is null and void of any authenticity. As John Piper says, you cannot look at the Son of God nailed to the cross and think that you will be spared suffering. We need a God-wrought faith in Christ to sustain us. Martin Luther said, "I believe that by my own reason and strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in true faith." Of the inauthentic, Jesus says in Matthew 7:21-23,
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'

This verse is scary mainly because it shows there are many who indeed profess Christ with their lips, and in their hearts they disbelieve all of it. The Last Day will reveal this to be the case. Jesus casts these people aside who say, "Lord, Lord!" and yet in their hearts, they altogether disregard Him. Their "good deeds" will actually condemn them because it is clear on the Last Day they have trusted in them alone to save them, not in Christ alone. Little do they know, as it states in Isaiah 64:6, "All our righteous deeds are like filthy rags," that is righteous deeds done apart from faith alone in Christ (Hebrews 11). Paul said in Romans 14:23, "For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin." May we all pursue Christ to change our hearts so that we love Christ by His strength power and leave ourselves and our self-wrought works behind. May we pursue the holiness without which no one will see the Lord, but do it by the work of Christ on the cross, not ourselves. We are utterly dependant upon Him, and hopeless apart from Him. Jesus said in John 15:5, "I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." May we pursue the "love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith," produced by the work of God alone in the cross of Christ.
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The New Age Trend Within Organizations 

Updated on 4/24/2008
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"Our logo symbolizes the journey to Higher Ground. The purple inverted "V" is The Higher Ground, the place towards which we are all traveling. As we ascend in our journey to Higher Ground, we invite others to accompany us along the way. The Higher Ground is colored purple, the color associated with "spirit", the sixth chakra and the Soul. The red line is the Red Road of life that is an important part of Native American tradition and symbolism. It is depicted as a free-form "S" - for Spirit. The Red Road is the path we are taking on this Earthly journey. (In Native American tradition the blue road, for example, is the road of the next domain, the afterlife). The Red Road of life is the way to Higher Ground and when we reach Higher Ground we are warmed, comforted, healed and sustained by the sun, the symbol of hope, brightness and life. The sun inspires and nourishes us. The sun affirms life and reminds us of our commitment to only engage in business and social activities that are life-affirming." - Secretan Center website

With all the talk of tolerance and acceptance within our culture, it would seem the workplace would be the last front where inner-spiritual transformation and renewal would be pushed by corporate leaders upon employees coming from various religious backgrounds, some of which are dogmatic on their doctrine and will not accept compromise. But that is exactly what is happening on many corporate fronts, just under the guise of making you joyful and satisfied in the workplace, ultimately for the bottom-line of the company, not any other ultimate eternal good. Just profit and possible temporal happiness. Spiritual renewal for the sake of a dollar.

Dr. Lance Secretan of The Secretan Center is a very charismatic individual. His ability to rally people together to accomplish organizational transformation for the benefit of an organization is remarkable. He is also very entertaining and I do not negate that his methodologies work to bring transformation from within an organization. I have no evidence, but it appears it is working for many companies. Here is a list on their site of the companies and organizations utilizing his services. And there are many others out there following in the same pattern. Despite the effectiveness of bringing in profits (the ultimate goal, not so much true spiritual renewal), something much greater concerns me even than this. One of the goals of the Secretan Center from their website is, "Developing professionalism in conjunction with spiritual and values-centered renewal in internal functions."

Now, I inherently agree with the C.A.S.T.L.E. principles on their face (not so much the explanation of them on the site) and the end goals Secretan puts forward as necessary within a company. Those points are courageousness, loving others as you would have them love you, authenticity, serving others, honesty, etc. Those are things Jesus Himself spoke about that I affirm and believe in. But spiritual renewal in the workplace? Values-centered renewal? This is what I have a problem with. Christianity, the Gospel, states that we can only be spiritually transformed/renewed by grace alone through faith alone in the work of Christ alone on the cross on our behalf. And the only true value we have (from which all the other values flow that Jesus speaks of in the Scriptures), the only thing we are to ultimately boast in, is the cross of Christ (Galatians 6:14) and thus enjoying Him forever for His sacrificial, effective work on our behalf. This is what I believe. Now of course, the Gospel does have necessary ramifications and implications, some of those being the aforementioned principles such as service, honesty, and loving others. I agree with and support those principles within an organization.

But the ultimate end of spiritual transformation and renewal in our hearts is not so we can just be happy and joyful in the here and now (though that inevitably results). But it is about being restored to and participating in God's glory and honor, not celebrating man's inherent supposed moral goodness (which is an oxymoron based upon Romans 3:10-18, Isaiah 64:6, Psalm 14:2-3). The end for which God created the world is being caught up in, consumed by, and enthralled by the infinitely burning, all-consuming glory of God for all eternity, bringing glory to Himself through all of it. God's glory is the only thing that will satisfy the hearts of all people, if they will turn away from their selves as their own gods, and turn humbly rather in submission to the presence and power of the true God revealed in Christ alone. However, we are so desperately soul-dead that we cannot even transform ourselves to desire or see our need for this change, because we are dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1-3) which has rendered even our desires and wills totally incapable of loving Christ or seeing Him as more valuable than anything in the world. So this message bounces off of the hearers, unless the Spirit acts to make us alive in Christ. We cannot change our hearts. To teach otherwise in any form, is to deny the power, sufficiency, and efficiency of the blood of Christ on the cross to bring about the inner spiritual renewal necessary for believing in Christ unto eternal salvation and life.

Lance Secretan is a New Age humanist, at least that is what has been presented in his seminars and whatnot. He promotes the strength of man to work up the moral ability to be courageous, loving, accepting, truthful, and so on. I have no idea what he actually believes privately. He presents so many mixed messages from different faiths and traditions that it has to be New Age mysticism of some type; that is at least according to the books he recommends on his site. But what he promotes in his seminars and conferences is a New Age-based, man-centered approach to spiritual renewal and transformation for the benefit of a company's bottom-line. He constantly talks about the financial results of other companies who have adopted his methods. I mean let's be honest, that's what it's all about: the green, which he is gaining a substantial amount of from his, "teachings."

Regardless, this is New Age religion without using any of the religious words that would constitute it as such. Secretan is not the only one bringing this into organizations. It is being pushed down on employees all over the country in different organizations. Secretan is putting forward a grand, overarching meta-narrative in his presentations for 1) why we exist that is supposed to 2) bring final satisfaction to our souls, that will in turn 3) bring about positive results for our lives and the company they are apart of. However, the Scriptures, Christ Himself, says that only He can do that, you know, bring final, ultimate satisfaction to our souls that will in turn bring about positive results for our lives, eternally. "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). That is quite a bold a statement that is either true or false. He was either a liar/lunatic or He was the Christ, God come in the flesh. There is no wiggle room. People must deal with that. Though Lance Secretan uses Jesus' words from Scripture (the results of the Gospel mainly) to back up his points, he denies Jesus is the only way, truth and life. This is clear because he equates Jesus with many of the other great religious teachers who have lived in times past, by using His words in conjunction with those teachers. This is opposed to everything I believe in. As St. Augustine once said, "Christ is not valued at all unless He is valued above all." Right on. It is highly offensive to believers in Christ to equate our Savior with Ghandi or Buddha or even Mother Teresa, who herself was a self-admitted sinner in submission to Jesus (though maybe not in the historical Protestant sense). Jesus was God come in the flesh from heaven. He was the prophesied Messiah spoken of in the Old Testament (Isaiah 53).

New Age religion, being mostly Eastern in nature, teaches that you must tap the presupposed spiritual power within in order to change and become a better person, to reach a higher, amorphous, spiritual plain, "on this journey we call life." To me, it is like trying to nail jello to a wall in figuring out what this exactly means. But so goes New Age philosophy. That is its very core is being amorphous and adaptable.

Christianity denies that we have any power at all to change or reform ourselves morally. Secretan says that we can morally reform ourselves and then reach what ultimately? The unknown, mystical, divine Nirvana of Hinduism, Buddhism? Which is it? The problem is that he doesn't even know. By bringing the teachings of differing religions onto the same, equal plain, he is making a proclamation that they are all equally valid. Yet Christianity in particular claims that it is the one true religion. He is blatantly promoting religious relativism and therefore as believers in Christ alone, we reject this. The essential message of Christianity, the Gospel, comes down to the fact that we must be supernaturally changed by the work of the Holy Spirit, from the inside of our souls outward, so that we can be restored to God. This is true inner spiritual renewal that results in a life of selflessness in the service of others. Those who have deviated from this core message in the name of Christ have done a great dishonor to His name. But Secretan's version of truth (that all truths are equally valid) rejects the Gospel message. That much is clear. What is not clear is the message of what exactly the grand final end for which we were made actually is.

In John 3:1-15, Jesus Himself said unless a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. What is this new birth? It is the supernatural, spiritual heart-change by God Himself needed to be able to turn to Christ alone in faith for salvation. Salvation from what? The wrath of God, so that we can be reconciled to God for all eternity. We must be born of the Spirit, and in being born again (spiritually), we can then see the eternal sufficiency of Christ and trust Him with our all. This transformation comes from God alone, not man. Jesus makes this clear in this passage. We cannot change the disposition of our hearts because they are like wells poisoned with cyanide. We need our stony, contaminated hearts removed and given hearts that have life in them. We are utterly helpless to perform this change ourselves. It is even less as likely to obtain this on your own (without God's power) as it would be to give yourself a heart transplant. It is that serious of a condition.

Our sin has rendered us useless in the service of God, turned away from Him, the only One who can satisfy us in the deepest place of our being. If we are miserable in the workplace, this ultimately points to the fact that we are miserable period, in all facets of life. This misery results from being turned away from the glory of God and consumed by our sin, which is a trampling on the honor, name, and glory of God by exalting yourself or other things above Him. It ruins us. We are depraved, not merely in relation to other people in the world, but primarily and foremost in relation to God. Comparing ourselves to others in this regard will not give us the perspective necessary to see our true condition as this bad. We must be compared to the holiness, justice and perfections of God. Our wickedness toward Him is what must be removed in us so that we can delight in Him, who brings us the final satisfaction and joy we are all ultimately longing for.

For organizations to be pushing this man-centered approach to spiritual renewal upon those of conviction in their faith (even atheists too who deny the divine exists at all), is to legally violate religious freedom, a law within the constitution of this country. Those who believe what I do are being forced or strongly encouraged (in the form of pointing out those who refuse) to participate in programs and group meetings that are fundamentally, at their root level, contrary to what we believe. Ironically, it denies the very tolerance that is pushed by these same organizations, because they, claiming to be inclusive of all, are excluding those who say they have the one truth above all other truths. These organizations taking in the methods and teachings of those in the likeness of Lance Secretan are walking a fine line, that according to this document, signed by Clarence Thomas, taken from the website of the U.S. Office of Personnel, that someone sent me a while back, these actions could be interpreted as violating the articles of religious freedom within this country. Of particular interest are these statements in the document:
The Commission defines religious practices to include moral or ethical beliefs as to what is right or wrong which are sincerely held with the strength of traditional religious views ...

2. Even those religious beliefs that others may find "incomprehensible or incorrect" are protected under Title VII.

3. Therefore, an employer may not judge the veracity or reasonableness of the religious beliefs of an employee.

9. That the employer or the sponsor of a "new age" program believes there is no religious basis for, or content to, the training or techniques used is irrelevant to determining the need for accommodation. If an employee believes that some aspect of the training program conflicts with his/her own beliefs, an employer may only inquire as to what the employee's beliefs are and consider the sincerity with which the employee holds those beliefs. The employer may not base its decision to accommodate the employee's religious beliefs on its (the employer's) own evaluation of whether the training or the techniques used actually conflict with the employee's religious beliefs. An employer may not reject an employee's request for accommodation on the basis that the employee's beliefs about the "new age" training seem unreasonable.

If amendments are made to the constitution as well as other laws under which we find religious protection at the present time, it could be disastrous in the end. It seems walls are beginning to come down now that were built into the constitution by the founding fathers of this nation though. People are redefining the very nature of what tolerance is. It is my belief that in the future, laws will continue to be redefined, reinterpreted, until those who hold to absolute truth of any kind, particularly Christians, are forced out of the conversation altogether. This is not merely a problem within companies, but it is a fundamental problem within the public square. And it is my belief it will only get worse. As believers, we must be prepared to sacrifice for the cause of Christ, the Gospel.

Here is some more information on the New Age Movement:

What is the New Age Movement? - CARM.org
A Biblical Response to the New Age Movement - CARM.org
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First John Piper Sermon I Ever Heard 

http://www.westerfunk.net/publicsermons ... 0Cross.mp3
This sermon, this cry to our generation, as a father pleading with his son to radically pursue Christ, was my first encounter with John Piper. It was so shockingly deep and awesome that I had to have more of his teaching. And coincidentally, Jon Dansby and I arrived at the end of this very Passion conference in 2000 at Shelby Farms in Tennessee where he spoke, on our way to a Young Life camp to do Work Week. We caught the tail end of his sermon, and didn't get to hear it all, so I listened to it later. This is an incredible message. If you have not ever heard John Piper, this sums up his preaching to me. Check it out. Brought me to tears when I first heard it, and still does. What mercy we have from God in the cross of Christ, where He took the wrath of a wretched sinner like me and gave me every good thing and every bad thing turned for good!
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Wonderful Gospel Verse 

"For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls."

- 1 Peter 2:21-25 (ESV)

Through the reality of the work of Christ on behalf of us who believe, we have been called out of darkness into His marvelous light, in order that we may increasingly die to sin and live to righteousness, to the glory of the grace of God.
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World oil supplies are set to run out faster than expected 

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Not Sure Why, But This Cracks Me Up 


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Response to an Email I Received 

Hey!

Thanks for emailing. I appreciate you letting me know what's going on. Well I'm glad you're being honest with me, because I know what to pray for. Know that I do not look down on you in any manner, knowing full well that I am wretchedly sinful as well, prone to turn away from Christ, but I look at you just as I look at myself, a sinner, saved by God's grace, in need of God's grace in the cross to change. You absolutely must have God-sustaining faith that only comes from Him, not self-sustaining faith to overcome sin that rules in your heart. Self-sustaining faith is no faith at all really. God-wrought (or God-created) faith is faith that perseveres despite whatever temptations and trials are thrown at you. Satan desires to carry you as far away from Christ and His Gospel as possible by tempting you exactly where you are weak and then making you feel condemned when you do succumb to that sin. And the only solution to it all is falling every day at the feet of Jesus and asking for His power and strength to carry you in your weakness, giving up on your own will and power to fight it, and allowing the work of the cross to transform you from the inside out. So much of defeating sin is applying Gospel healing instead of trying to defeat sin on your own power. The American way is to roll up your sleeves, and get it done. But the Gospel says the opposite: give up trying to fix your broken heart by yourself and trust in the work of Christ alone to do that.

Just by way of example, prayers of mine kind of look like this (not in any way boasting or trying to show what a pious person I'm actually not, just giving you something that you might consider): "Father, I am spent and worthless before You. I am famished and parched and dehydrated in my soul because of my sin. I am weak and shakey. I have no nourishment in my being, as if I have not eaten in days. I am prideful, arrogant, boastful, murderous, wicked in my heart. I am bitter and angry. I have disregarded your Scriptures. I have forsaken fellowship with you. I have trampled on your glory, spit on your grace, taken advantage of your mercy, trying to make a name for myself, instead of making your name great in the world. I am a grave Sinner without hope, apart from Christ and His work on the cross. I have nothing to offer you, no works, no strength or might. I give up! All I have to offer you is a black, hardened, broken heart that spurns your grace. What a sinner I am! Soften my heart by your grace Lord Jesus. Have mercy on me and cleanse me Lord with your infinitely precious blood shed on the cross! It's all I can do. I have a sinful, broken heart that is in total need of your healing by the work of the cross, applied to me by your Holy Spirit. All my righteous deeds are like filthy rags before you, and all my deeds are deserving of eternal wrath forever! I ask in the name of Christ and His work, Father, for the power of the Holy Spirit to enter in and rule in my heart, cleanse me from sin, and forgive me for how I've angered, wronged and offended you. I have nothing good apart from You. I praise you for the cross Lord Jesus, for your willingness to take up my infinite, bitter load on the cross. May you change my heart progressively and permanently with this reality that I would follow you with my all!"

Another thing I have to say to my sinful heart everyday is this: "Christ alone, not my works, makes me acceptable before God." (Dansby) I recommend memorizing this, and drill it in your head until it hurts everyday. With this reality at the forefront of our minds, it keeps us from thinking we maintain our justification before God by what we do or don't do, but it also frees us so that can obey Christ and His commands.

As long as you attempt to defeat sin without the power of the Holy Spirit through prayer and His Word, you will never do it, and in fact the sin at your core will become more deceitful. John Owen talks a lot about this, that if you in your own strength and power attempt to mortify or suppress sin in your heart, it will re-emerge in a different form, though you make think you have truly mortified it. And so the solution to sin that reigns in you is to totally give up on your power, will, and strength to fight, and instead trust in the work of someone else that has the power, will, and strength to defeat it, namely Christ, and His work. And on the cross He defeated sin, our sin has in fact been nailed to the cross. And the image Paul paints for us with this is that when something is nailed to the cross, it is slowly dying. In the same way, sin is slowly dying, but it occasionally will come up to breathe, and to mortify it we must return to the cross (the Gospel) everyday, and beat it down with this truth, where we see its ultimate defeat. And in this, we obtain the power and strength to carry on in obedience. Otherwise, sin will reign in our lives and kill us off. John Owen has an amazing quote in The Mortification of Sin in Believers, "Be killing sin, or it will be killing you." And we kill it by the reality of the cross. The Holy Spirit alone can mortify your willful sinning that is indeed offensive to God. You cannot do anything about it with your strength or will power. In speaking to the disciples about who can be saved, he said in Mark 10:27, "With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God." The same is true of changing into His likeness and forsaking sin. Jesus said in John 15:5, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." Apart from a total reliance upon the mercy of Christ and fellowship with Him, you will not change your ways. Try as hard as you may, you will fail. But in Christ alone we have the final victory over these things.

Here are some practical things (more just reminders than anything, because I know it is easy to forget) that are necessary to walking with Christ in obedience:

1) You must be in His Word every day (as it sounds you're doing more). This is how God primarily speaks to us, though we experience Him in prayer as well. Apart from this ultimate authority, everything is speculation and vain thought. The knowledge of God is in the Scriptures. (This is the food and daily nourishment of our souls)

2) You must be in prayer with Him. In prayer, the object is to be conformed to His will, submitting to Him in everything, being cleansed of sin, and walking in fellowship with Christ. Just as we need fellowship with each other, we need daily fellowship more importantly with Christ, the life-blood of our lives, the very One who created us, sustains us, and gives us existence. (This is the water we need continually to wash us from sin, that we need to pursue righteousness and obedience to Christ.)

3) You must be in fellowship with other believers, wherever they are, encouraging one another to pursue Christ and forsake the pagan culture around you (the culture opposed to Christ and His gospel) that is sucking you in and forcing you away from obedience to Christ, the ultimate call for the Christian. In addition, you must cut off close ties with those pulling you into sin.

4) The life of a Christian is one of obedience to Christ. If you love Christ, you will do what He says. And it is a difficult, narrow path, and many fall away from it and are snuffed out from it by sin, by the deceits of the world, because they try to sustain themselves by their own power (which really just amounts to religious working and toiling and not trusting Christ for anything). Jesus says to His followers in one of the Gospels, "Why do you call me Lord, but do not do what I say?" Paul says at the end of Romans 3, "Do we then nullify the Law by this grace [given in the Gospel]? No rather we uphold the Law." So we are saved from the wrath of God not by works but by His call to salvation, but are also saved unto obedience to God and His commands, restored to follow Him in obedience. We obey because we love Him. If we do not obey Him, it exposes the lack of true love we have for Him, which amounts to unbelief in Christ in some form. May we all repent of our sin and unbelief, and turn to Him for mercy! However we still cannot of ourselves accomplish this transformation in our hearts to obey Him rightly apart from His sustaining work and power by the Holy Spirit. All of salvation, from beginning to end, is dependent upon the work of Christ in our hearts. We are in utter, total reliance upon Him to not only save us, but to progressively change us into His likeness. And so this is why we must return absolutely everyday to the cross and receive the divine grace, power, strength and might to do what He asks of us, to follow Him when it is most difficult, when it may cost us everything, including popularity and friends, when it may leave us with no one. But in this we find the greatest delight of all, that in this obedience, we have the fellowship of Christ Himself multiplying, greater than anything the world can throw at you, including loneliness or abandonment. Our hope in every respect is in Christ alone, from beginning to end.

5) So when you pray, pray for God to change you by His Holy Spirit in your heart so that you obey His commands. Acknowledge your inability to change or reform yourself to follow Him. Apart from Him working mightily within you, and constantly returning to Him at every moment of every day in prayer, you will remain unchanged and ineffective in ministering the Gospel to a dying world who needs salvation and witnesses to stand up for Him and His cause, even if it causes us harm.

I hope these things encourage you. I love you and really desire to see you give up on your strength and trust rather in Christ's strength exhibited in the cross, confirmed in the resurrection, so that you follow Him with your life and actions. This is the power we need to live lives pleasing to Him. That is our ultimate desire and hope, to be pleasing to Christ with our lives, actions, and our words, to be conformed to His likeness, not the worlds'. The world is running headlong straight into hell, but we who believe have been called out of this and called into a life of obedience and the glory of Christ, where we can be filled with joy inexpressible at the sight of Him. But we obtain this power to obey Him by emptying ourselves of ourselves and refilling ourselves with Christ alone, in Scripture, prayer, and fellowship. I will continue to pray for you that God may grant this divine strength by the Spirit and the repentance necessary to turn from your disobedience in sin.

In Christ Alone, Our Hope is Found, He is Our Light, Our Strength, Our Song,

David
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What Would Happen If ... 

... Massive persecution came to the evangelical church in America?

I just wonder. And I think Matthew Henry nails it right on the head how it would go in his commentary on Matthew 24.
"They were with us, but went out from us, because never truly of us, 1 John ii. 19. We are told of it before. Suffering times are shaking times; and those fall in the storm, that stood in fair weather, like the stony ground hearers; Many will follow Christ in the sunshine, who will shift for themselves, and leave him to do so to, in the cloudy dark day. They like their religion while they can have it cheap, and sleep with it in a whole skin; but, if their profession cost them any thing, they quit it presently."

"When persecution is in fashion, envy, enmity, and malice, are strangely diffused into the minds of men by contagion: and charity, tenderness, and moderation, are looked upon as singularities, which make a man like a speckled bird. Then they shall betray one another, that is, "Those that have treacherously deserted their religion [namely faith in Christ, that was really no faith at all], shall hate and betray those who adhere to it, for whom they have pretended friendship." Apostates have commonly been the most bitter and violent persecutors. Note, Persecuting times are discovering times. Wolves in sheep's clothing will then throw off their disguise, and appear wolves: they shall betray one another, and hate one another."

Many walk with Christ as long as He grants them the fleshly desires of their hearts, and when trial comes, they scatter to the four winds and even begin to persecute those they were once apart of. Church history is packed with examples. I hope that people would not quit their profession of faith, obviously, if persecution arose. But I must, I have to ask myself in this Christian culture we live in, how many would still confess Jesus, or forsake Him for good, in the face of massive persecution of the church, should it ever come to America? Think of the total context of the world, outside of America, where Christians are currently being persecuted. America is in the minority of total Christians. Christians are being tortured RIGHT NOW in the Middle East, in Asia, in Africa. Increasingly, true believers are getting snuffed out in Europe in the form of progressive legislation and prevalent relativism. Christianity is now, what, 2% in England? And what trends are started in Europe are sure to follow here.

We have it great here, every Sunday is "fun church" and we are not in need or want of anything really, physically speaking. Preaching is cheap, watered-down, and one inch deep in most churches. Enough to get you a little self-affirmation, and warm-fuzzy that you're on the right path, even if you may not be. But would you hear the same sermons preached in the midst of awful persecuting warfare in America? Or in fear of authorities coming in and arresting you for gathering to worship? Sunday is not just "moral day," and then you go and live your life without any regard to the glory and praise of Christ! We put on a happy face at church, but as a people, inside we are rotting from sin that reigns and goes totally unchecked. We are a culture of white-washed tombs in my estimation. I witness students who have everything, and it is a curse. Many who have everything, that once professed Christ, have now gone out in the world, succumbed to the pleasures of sin, and abandoned Christ. May He be merciful to bring them back to Him, for they are unsaved! Their rejection has exposed the content of their trust in Christ. It is null.

Unbelievers I speak with in our culture think Christians are some of the most arrogant, prideful, unloving, inhospitable people in the country. This characterization is wrong for many, obviously, but the stereo-type, unfortunately is true for many others. Some atheists are more loving than professed Christians! What is wrong with that? If you see the love of Christ in the cross, how can you act the way you do to unbelievers? What does this say to the world? We are clean on the outside, using botox to make ourselves look younger, driving our fancy cars, in our extravagant houses, taking our lavish vacations to wherever. What would Paul say to us as a church, "the Church at America," where we are a witness and representatives of Christ to an increasingly paganizing culture, if he saw the extravagant life-styles of professed believers here? I think he would chastise and rebuke us just as he did the Corinthians for succumbing to the pleasures of their culture. It seems that we have made so many worldly idols Christian virtues.

Even in times of financial struggle, or trials of various types (what we consider trials of "monumental" proportion), we are setup really, really well here. Pure, almost perfect water. An absolute abundance of food. Luxury transportation, public transportation. AC, heat, beds, showers, a just and equitable government, the best health care in the world. Quick responding police, fire, and medical services. Gated communities. Low unemployment rates. Good paying jobs. And granted, all of these things are inherently good in themselves and blessings, sure.

But even blessings themselves can be curses in the eternal sense; when the sinful human soul has too much available to setup as an idol, it becomes the very wool that is pulled over our eyes to blind us from the gospel truth, the shockingly sovereign glory of God in the cross, the very truth needed to sustain the soul when blood-thirsty mad-men drive through neighborhoods with machine guns, killing children in front of parents, chopping off arms, orphaning children, creating famine, torturing to death, destabilizing entire regions, etc. We are the most pain-sensitive culture in all of history (I'm absolutely not discounting myself, one of the biggest weenies concerning pain, I preach to myself just as much as anyone on this).

And I wonder ... in cultures past, those who professed faith in Christ even in difficult countries where it became increasingly volatile, forsook Christ when the pressure rose: how many more now would forsake Him in the most pain-sensitive culture in history, way better than the best of those other cultures that were fairly difficult? How many professing Christians would be willing in the church to part with their luxury homes? Their Lexus'? Their excellent private education for their children? Their gated communities? Their country clubs? I'm just not so sure. I mean again, I obviously desire that all who profess faith in Christ would indeed continue and not apostatize, but realistically, I'm not sure that most would continue and not reject Christ for good. I fear for many in the American Christian culture for their eternal state, though obviously I cannot know. And even putting such a thought out there as this exposes me to getting chastised by those in the church, hitting nerves with people who fit this very profile. This is how pain-sensitive we are.

What is the solution to such a light, watered-down version of Christianity we are saturated with that could not possibly sustain such a blow of persecution I'm describing? A solid, fundamental, Biblical return to the whole realm of Gospel change in the life of believers, from beginning to end. But this must start with leaders of the church, not the lay people merely. If you preach and teach things that are light and fluffy, stroking egos and making your congregation feel good all the time, without pounding away at difficult realities as well, what do you expect to reap? A Christianity about as thick as a sheet of paper, that will get blown away when trials of monumental proportion come. And it will come. No one thought Rome would fall, and it did.

The Gospel affects every facet, every corner of life. Could it be possible the church could not live so extravagantly for the sake of witnessing to the world with our actions as well as our words and love, that we do not stake our ultimate hope in material goods and services, but in the future glory of Christ to be revealed on the Last Day? In America, it seems we have an assumption, that this is "God's country," that He owes us the right to all the extravagance we have. And if anything gets in our way, we curse Him. Pure arrogance. This is of the world, and not of Christ. May we return to the God of grace and may He prepare us for such persecutions should they come, that we may ultimately love Christ more, even now. And even if we are not persecuted on the scale I speak of, may He prepare us for the seasons of personal suffering we are sure to undergo, as Christ has promised, that we may even rejoice in those sufferings to the glory of Christ, because they are producing in us a glory that far outweighs anything the world can offer! Eternal life and joy in our Beloved Savior!
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