Sacred suffering (1 Peter 4:3-5)

The things we used to do we don’t do anymore. Jesus changes the quality of our lives. Outward conformity will not change your heart. It requires inward transformation. When we were lost, we walked in the ways of the lost. There are things as saved people we are not to do.

1. What God delivered us from in the past should not find its way into our present. We are not to bring the things of our past into our present relationship with God. When He saves us from it, we are not to go back there.

The Bible is supposed to make us a little bit uncomfortable. Married people are not to commit adultery. Single people are not to fornicate. Pornography is the hub of lust in the church and is to be avoided. To be born again means we are different. We are to avoid riotous behavior. We are not to worship something/someone other than God. In other words, we are not to seek power from an alternate source apart from God. Whatever it is you won’t give to God is your God.

2. If people never ask you why you’re different, you’re probably not. We are not to run with our “old crowd” with the intent of engaging in the same sin as before. The fact that we seem different to others is what matters to God.

3. Every one of us is going to stand before God in judgment. There are no exceptions, no exclusions, and no excuses. There is a resurrection and judgment of the just and a resurrection and judgment of the damned. Either way, there will be judgment. We will all meet God one day. If you are saved by the grace of God, you will not give an account for your sinfulness, but for the motivation (or lack thereof) for your service.

Notes on Revelation 20

The 7-year tribulation is divided into 42 months of false peace, 42 months of tribulation. There are 21 judgments altogether.

We are now at the 1,000-year reign of Christ.

The devil has many disguises throughout the Bible. Here, he is known as the dragon (that old serpent). In the Old Testament, we are told that Eve was deceived but Adam willfully sinned. Since that time, Satan has sought to distort the word of God.

James refers to Scripture as a mirror. We can either change the person looking into the mirror, or change the mirror. Modern Christianity has sought to change the mirror, which is what Satan wants us to do.

We are told in 20:2 that the dragon is bound for 1,000 years, which means there will be no devilish influence for 1,000 years. He will not be able to deceived the nations during this time. This will be a time of great peace and harmony, much like the time of the Garden of Eden.

We will come back to rule and to reign with Christ. Our service now will determine our service during the 1,000-year reign. This occurs before eternity.

The rest of the dead will be resurrected physically after the 1,000 years. At this time, Satan shall be turned loose. He will go out to deceive the nations. Many who are alive during the 1,000 years will be born during this time. Some of them will be deceived, in spite of having lived under Christ’s reign. Such is the depravity of man’s heart.

Many will turn against Christ even after 1,000 years of perfection. They will be devoured by fire from heaven. In other words, the battle will be short-lived. The devil will be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone.

The devil knows he is going to hell, which is why he’s so angry. He has but a little while to roam the earth. Hell and the lake of fire are two different places. The lake of fire is for eternity. Hell will be cast into the lake of fire. That the devil will be tormented forever is God’s vindication.

Those who do not believe in Christ will have no place  at the great white throne. When the unsaved face the great white throne judgment, books will be opened, along with the book of life, and they will be judged according to their works.

Death and hell will be cast into the lake of fire. This is also called the second death. The second death has no power over the saved. If you are not saved, you are condemned right now, and not just after 1,000 years. Only Christ can save you from your condemnation.

Whoever is not found in the book of life will be cast into the lake of fire.

Sacred suffering (1 Peter 4:1-2)

The Lord has allowed us to foster an atmosphere for people who are hungering for the gospel.

In the first 3 chapters of 1 Peter, people have been going through tremendous spiritual persecution. Yet Jesus Christ is very much in control of the affairs of humanity. We’ve talked about the marriage relationship. We’ve talked about harmony and unity among God’s people.

Do we really believe God is in control of both the good and the bad? Is He really in charge of the affairs of man? God will use trouble and hardship and suffering to deepen our walk with Christ.

Near the end of chapter 3, Peter begins to exalt the gospel. We do not serve a dead Jew in a Palestinian tomb, but a risen Savior. Those of us who believe will suffer spiritual persecution. Suffering is sacred and it draws us closer to the holy God.

Jesus suffered in the flesh for the sins of man.

Make sure that your mind is made up. Make sure that you are going to follow Jesus and no one else. Be sure you arm yourself with the knowledge that hardship is going to enter your life.

Unfortunately, the church in America has become a commercialized institution that church members expect to serve them. (There’s too much America and not enough church.)

1. The gospel calls us to suffering. The disciples died broke and hungry and in terrible ways. We too often have the mindset that once we declare ourselves Christ-followers, life will be easy and affluent. The foxes have holes and the birds have nests, but the Son of Man didn’t even have a place to lay his head.

The gospel does not call us to riches and lavishness. It calls us to lives of simplicity. In order to be entrusted with much, we first have to demonstrate that we can manage a little.

No man has a monopoly on God. If God wants to use me to heal someone, then He’ll get the glory

7 problems with the prosperity gospel (which is really not the gospel at all):

  1. It perverts the purpose of the true gospel — the “health & wealth” gospel. (If you have Jesus, then you are already rich.)
  2. It teaches self-indulgence when the Bible clearly teaches abandonment. (Let a man take up his cross daily. Let him deny himself and follow Christ.)
  3. It puts shame and guilt on those who are poor and sick. (We’re free in Christ. There is no shame in sickness or poverty.)
  4. It doesn’t work in every context around the world. (But the gospel does work in every context all over the world.)
  5. It makes Jesus less of a Savior, and more of a genie in a bottle.
  6. It contradicts the teaching of Scripture on contentment and not seeking riches. (With contentment there is great gain. Regardless of our earthly circumstances, Jesus will always be enough.)
  7. It provides lost people with exactly what they want with no call to repentance. (Jesus did not die so we could become rich. When you give lost people what they want, it is not the true gospel. The gospel unnerves people and calls them to repentance.)

We don’t serve God so He can give us more. We serve Jesus because he died for our sins. The gospel doesn’t make us sinless, but it does cause us to sin less.

2. Suffering produces holiness. The early church was married to prison, poverty and persecution. Today’s church is married to prosperity, personality and popularity. The early believers were losing their families and their livelihood. They were being persecuted by a Roman emporer who hated God.

Our greatest depth often comes out of our greatest darkness. God cannot use a person greatly until that person has been hurt deeply.

Disconnected (1 Peter 3:19-22)

Peter uses some very interesting analogies in these passages. He brings us right up to the climax of the book. Know that suffering is on the way. Either you are going through a trial, have just come out of one, or are about to head into one.

1. The bold preaching of God’s word still works in the natural and in the supernatural. Jesus used His craft wisely and preached to the spirits in prison. It took Jesus’ sacrifice for us to be able to be in the presence of God.

Of all the things Jesus could have done during the time between the Cross and the Resurrection, He chose to preach. When He confronted them on the road to Emmaus, He concealed his identify from them so He could preach.

All Scripture is given by inspiration from God. When we follow the commandment to preach the word, it enables the word to do the saving and the rebuking. That way, the focus is not on the preacher but the preaching.

The word is not to be sugar-coated or watered down or altered in any way. In the realm of supernatural, it was Jesus’ preaching that worked.

Remember, Jesus didn’t get killed for who He was but for what He said. Likewise, John the Baptist was martyred not for who he was but for what he said. Genuine preachers aren’t interested in what people think.

Today, everyone knows who John the Baptist is but really don’t care anything about Herod, who had him beheaded for what he said.

Every time evil rose in the nation of Israel, God balanced it out with preaching. When King David went astray, it was Nathan who confronted him with his sin.

Then, once Israel got past Malachi, the prophet, there were 400 years of silence from God until Christ was born. The message is always the same: repent and get right with God. We have a church now because of that one message.

God has always emboldened those whom He has called, both Old Testament and New Testament, to preach the word even when they were threatened.

Even in Revelation, during the time of the Great Tribulation, God will bring forth two witnesses to preach the same message to unbelievers.

If there’s one thing we will build the church upon, it is the preaching of the word of God. It’s the Bible that changes lives, not the preacher’s personality, and it works in both the supernatural and natural realms.

What we find is that people are starved for truth.

Verse 3:20 refers back to the time of Noah, when a grand total of eight souls were “saved by water.” It was the word that saved them.

The power in the preaching is the gospel, not the stories or the three sermon points.

You can make the Bible say whatever you want. Examples and endorsements are not the same thing. David was an example of adultery, but his is not the example we are to follow.

The filth of our flesh is our sin.

We get baptized not to get saved, because our salvation does not come from baptism, but to show that we have been saved.

2. Baptism is an outward sign of our inward transformation. Baptism does not save us from the filth that sin crates in us. We are not saved by works of righteousness, but by mercy.

He has gone into heaven and sits at the right hand of God. This is an illustration of Jesus’ influence.

3. All authority, power and glory belong to Jesus Christ. Man does not deserve any glory. We have to be careful that when we see God’s power and evident work, we do not take credit for it nor attempt to take control over it.

Jesus will draw people unto Himself. He is in total control of our lives. When we finally believe this, then we can talk about suffering. May we never think that God is good for what He does for us, but He is good simply for who He is.

Notes on Revelation 17:12-18:24

The destruction of Babylon occurs both in the physical realm and spiritual. John uses different terminology to refer to Babylon: a city and the mother of harlots. It isn’t just a city, but represents the entire world system controlled by antichrist.

At the end of the 7-year tribulation we have the destruction of this world system.

In 17:12, there are ten horns which represent ten kings who govern the world under antichrist. The various plagues that occur throughout Revelation become progressively worse, and also progressively faster.

The 10 kings make war with the Lamb. It goes without saying that the Lamb wins. Those who accompany the King of kings and Lord of lords are called chosen and faithful.

The saints of God will return with Him. We are coming back for a mighty day of battle and reckoning.

The world system under antichrist literally dominates every tribe and nation on earth at that time. When they give their power to the antichrist, the world system grows exponentially. The very thing they help create will turn on them and there will be massive confusion and war. This anti-God system that they thought would solve their problems becomes, in fact, the problem.

These things are allowed to take place in order to fulfill God’s will. God is a sovereign God. The kings are in His hand — the good ones and the bad ones. God uses the wickedness of man against man for His glory.

He is on His holy, golden throne telling them what to do. In the end, when the world is literally on fire, God’s word will be fulfilled, for God cannot lie. All of His words and His will shall be fulfilled.

The worldly kings will have abundant riches, and God shall destroy their wealth.

Babylon will fall. The world both now and the world to come is full of demons and devils. Demons are territorial. There are places on the earth over which they have dominion.

What God does then as well as now is to call people out of the world’s darkness into His holiness. When you taste righteousness, the world’s iniquity will always taste bitter.

When God dispersed the people from the Tower of Babel, it began Babylon. Babylon has always stood for idolatry and paganism.

Whenever the Bible talks about wrath, it talks about a cup. The idea is that God’s wrath is getting stored up generationally until it fills. Judgment may be delayed, but judgment will come.

The system is very arrogant. The world is arrogant. The church, unfortunately, can also be arrogant.

We were created to bring glory to God.  We do not exist to glorify ourselves.

We are told that the kings of the earth who enjoyed her and fornicated with her will bewail and lament her when she is aflame.

There will also be a financial crisis and famine when this one-world economic system crashes. Literally everything will be for sale, even men as slaves and the souls of men. Slavery in all forms is wicked, and the Lord will put an end to it.

If you love people, you will use money to reach more people. If you love money, you will use people to get more money.

The people of the world are going to be utterly shocked at the destruction of Babylon.

While the world is in remorse, heaven is rejoicing because Jesus is doing what He said He was going to do.

In 18:21, a millstone is used as a symbol of God’s judgment. It is used in other Bible passages, too, as a symbol of His judgment.

There will be so much judgment that no one will be able to enjoy any part of living anymore.

The powers that be aren’t the ones we can see, but are the ones who are guiding the ones we see.

The position of your power will determine what kind of character you are.

Indeed, there are many antichrists already in the world who are setting the stage for the one great antichrist who comes later.

God will judge Babylon for killing His prophets.

The people who stand for God and don’t bend in the face of the culture are, unfortunately, few in number even in the church. Yet we have nothing to fear because we know how it all ends.

Disconnected (1 Peter 3:18)

The church in the U.S. has too often become a consumeristic event. This means our churches are filled with religiously unregenerate people who are not saved. Examine yourself to make sure you are in the faith.

Broad is the way that leads to destruction and many will take it. Narrow is the way to righteousness, and few find it. When we do things God’s way, we get Biblical result.

Suffering is sacred to God. There must be pain before there is progress. We are all going to suffer one way or another. We can suffer as saved people or as lost people. Since we are going to suffer regardless, let us suffer for Christ, who suffered for us.

The gospel is the power of God unto salvation. We are in no way to be ashamed of the gospel.

1. We do not have to continue to pay for sins that Jesus already paid for. If this is you, then please put yourself out of your misery and stop piunishing yourself.

Jesus was tormented not only in the flesh, but also in His spirit. He didn’t come to die in an accident. He came to seek and to save. And he took a beating for us. If we could “work off” our sin, there would have been no need for Jesus to suffer. But He did something for us that we could never do for ourselves.

We cannot view God through the lens of others who will not forgive us. Jesus took the pain and the separation from God for us. If you are genuinely redeemed today, then you are as redeemed as you ever will be or ever will need to be. Jesus did a better job than we did.

There is no pathway to God apart from the gospel of Jesus Christ. Those who follow other religions have the same chance at repentance as Christians do. As soon as someone responds to the light, then God gives them more light, and so on. Light obeyed gives more light. Light disobeyed brings darkness.

2. The gospel provides substitution and reconciliation. We will make it to heaven because we stand on the shoulders of someone who died in our place. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The paycheck of our sins is death.

We deserve death. Jesus was sent to take our place. Those whose place He took were the very ones who killed Him. And then He takes us to God on top of that. That’s the love of Jesus.

3. The brutality of the Cross is overshadowed by the glory of the resurrection. There is nothing attractive about the Cross or the blood of Christ. It is offensive. Yet we are saved because of the brutality of the Cross.

The chances that Jesus would fulfill so many Old Testament prophecies in a single day are humanly impossible.

In the tomb, an angel asked them, “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?”

Our church is growing because of a resurrected Savior. If He had stayed dead, we would not have redemption.

Justification in terms of the gospel means “just as if I’d never been a sinner.” Even those of us who are saved are still often driven by our fleshly desires. Yet we will still one day stand in the presence of God.

We must receive His atonement. Because Jesus defeated death and the Cross, He has made the Cross glorious. Jesus paved the way, but He still gave us a choice.

Notes on Revelation 16:17-17:10

We’ve been talking about the finality of the tribulation period. We believers will not be around for any of these things, but it is necessary to be prepared for Jesus’ return.

The final vial is being poured out. And a voice calls from heaven, “It is done.” Even though there have been other earthquakes within the tribulation period, there is one more cataclysmic earthquake.

The wrath of God does not makes sense without the holiness of God.

After the final battle, Christ sets up his thousand-year reign from heaven and earth will be restored to its original state as it was during the Garden of Eden.

Jesus is not one of many ways to get to heaven. He is the only way. (There is a difference between multi-denomination and multi-faith.) Multi-denomination is under the gospel. Multi-faith is an abomination.

This earthquake is such that the islands and mountains disappear. Enormous hailstones will fall upon men. Still, man will blaspheme God because of the hail. (How can someone know he is under the judgment of God and still shake his fist at God? There are no depths of the depravity of the heart of man apart from the gospel.)

In chapters 17 & 18 we get a picture of what the judgment looks like on Babylon specifically. In 17:1, Scripture mentions “the great whore.” This refers to the system of the world, which is guilty of spiritual fornication. The kingdoms of the world will be intoxicated by the power of this system.

Sometimes you get too close to a situation and God removes you from it so you can see it better.

Babylon comes from the original Babel. Both were filled with abomination.

The world will be filled with the wealth of the antichrist. That’s why there will be a one-world currency. He who controls the currency controls everything.

Prostitutes during this time in the Bible wore headbands. This explains the headband in 17:5 which identifies the harlot as the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth.

In 17:6, the reference to the woman drunken with the blood of the saints refers to the Old Testament saints. The blood of the martyrs of Jesus, obviously, refers to New Testament saints.

The antichrist will receive a supposedly-mortal wound to the head and will undergo a false resurrection in which he comes back. He has only a short time, so he desires to convolute everonye’s mind and take as many souls to Hell with him as possible.

The only ones who are deceived by antichrist are those who are not saved. The Holy Spirit gives us the ability to recognize false prophets.

The 7 figurative heads in 17:9 are 7 mountains on which the authority sits. There is only one city in the world which sits on 7 mountains, and it is Rome. The antichrist will reign from the empire of Rome. There are likely two religions that will come together to form the one-world religion. There is one religion that has the wealth to fund a one-world religion, and one religion that possesses the brutality to carry it out: Catholicism and Islam.

There are 7 major nationalities that come together in 17:10. Five are former superpowers that have previously fallen. One of them is current (Rome). There is  one that is to come (antichrist).

God says to the world to build a kingdom as big as we want and as wicked as we want, because He still wins in the end and  Tears it all down.

God says that if what we have is manmade, then man can tear it all down. If what we have is God-made, then man cannot destroy it.

Disconnected (1 Peter 3:16-17)

We are living in a day of technological advancement when we can contact literally anyone with the click of a button, but we are too often disconnected from each other in our own homes.

We are not believers in word only, but with our lives. There is only room for one master and Lord in our lives. When people see how we live our lives (in righteousness), they will be naturally drawn to us and we must be ready to give testament to our Savior.

Historically, these early Christians to whom Peter was writing were living in a time of tyranny and persecution. The world does not love us because we are part of another kingdom. We must have a good conscience toward those who speak evil of us, that they may be ashamed for falsely accusing those of us who live in Christ.

It is much better to suffer for righteousness sake than for doing evil.

1. The secret to a powerful and spiritually successful life is a clear conscience. You can be successful in the eyes of the world but be a failure in God’s eyes. We want Christ to someday tell us, “We’ll done, good and faithful servant.”

“A clear conscience is a daily Christmas.” — Benjamin Franklin

The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord. In other words, our clear conscience lights our way.

We have a Biblically justifiable right to ignore stupid people at church. We know this, because Jesus did it when the Pharisees brought an adulterer before Him in order to trap Him.

There are three different types of conscience that you can have:

  • Smeared — There is something wrong in your conscience that you haven’t confronted yet. It hasn’t gone too far yet, because it can still be realty with.
  • Seared — If you refuse to deal with your smeared conscience in the form of repentance, you will have a seared conscience. Something that bothered you in the past no longer bothers you.
  • Clear — In order to clear your conscience, you know where you have been wrong and you make it right with God and with anyone you have wronged. We tend to avoid things we don’t want to deal with, but we have to make restitution and be accountable in order to truly clear our conscience.

When God confronts you with your sin, you can ignore it to the point that it no longer bothers you or you can deal with it God’s way. Whichever you choose determines how far you will go with your walk with Christ.

People will eventually find out all about your life.

Another reason to have a clear conscience is so that when others accuse you, it is false.

2. Our testimonies must be so protected that others wouldn’t believe the evil said against us. Color-changing is great if you’re a chameleon, but not so good if you’re a Christian.

Your testimony is the most valuable thing that belongs to you. It is more valuable than your money or possessions. It take a long time to build a good testimony, but only a moment to destroy it.

It is better if God wills that you suffer falsely for doing well than for justifiably suffering for evil you have done.

3. The will of God is always better. The result may be hardship, but let hardship come for doing the will of God and not for doing evil. We make the will of God so confusing sometimes. The will of God is not hard to find. All you have to do is find a need and fill it. The will of God isn’t spooky. It should be part of our everyday lives.

You can fix what you hate. Your spiritual gift is typically the opposite of what you hate. For example, if you hate disorganization, your spiritual gift may be administration.

Let the Holy Spirit teach us to do God’s will.

Disconnected (1 Peter 3:12-15)

The disconnect in our marriages is a plague during the age in which we live. It’s also important for the members of the local church to get along with one another. We must learn to avoid being disconnected in the context of the local church.

We are to turn away from who we used to be. When you get saved you won’t be perfect, but you will be different. There will be a transformation in your heart that will result in a transformation in your lifestyle.

We have a Father in heaven who not only wants to hear our prayers, but who also wants to answer our prayers. He wants to fellowship with us. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, meaning God’s people who do evil even though they know better. God stands against us when we live unrighteously.

God is always looking after us, protecting us and blessing us. And he is not pleased when we live unrighteously.

1. Righteous living secures 5 major blessings in the life of a believer.

  • Presence of God. God is everywhere. His presence is with us. If you suffer, don’t let it be the result of foolish living, but do so for righteousness sake. We don’t want just the universal presence but His actual manifestation.
  • Power of God. You don’t get God’s power from coffee mug sayings. Why have we lost a generation of people from church? The church has largely lost its power. People are attracted to truth and authenticity.
  • Protection of God. It is given to those under the umbrella of God’s authority. When we get out from under God’s protective influence of authority, He is no longer under any obligation to protect us.
  • Provision of God. Seek God first. He is to be first. When He is first, all these things — the necessities of life — shall be added unto you. Instead of seeking stuff, we are to seek God. We love monthly provisions, but the Scripture says give us this day our daily bread. Everything we have is a gift from God. His provision is abundant.
  • Peace of God. If you don’t have peace with God, then repent and get right with God. There is also the peace of God that passes all understanding. There are some things in the Bible that are beyond explanation. The peace of God gives us hope and balance and stability and the tenacity to get up every day. We can have these things if we will only live righteously. God loves righteousness and hates evil.

The throne of your heart is not a two-seater. Someone is calling the shots in your life and it ought to be Jesus.

2. As we exalt Christ in our lives, people will be drawn to know what gives us such hope and confidence. At midnight, Paul and Silas sang songs of praise to God while in prison. And the guards heard them. God shook the entire place so that every door was opened. Despite this, none of the prisoners escaped. The Philippean jailer was amazed and asked what he must do to be saved.

What people need to hear from us is what God has done in our lives individually. We don’t have to be theologians. We just have to be able to explain how God has transformed us. Skeptics can argue with us theologically, but no one can deny what God has done for us. When we live righteously, others will take notice and hunger for what we have. Our hope and our confidence has to be solely fixed on Jesus Christ.

Seven things the Lord finds detestable

A fellow believer who lives in Memphis sent a snapshot of a passage from Proverbs last night in response to something I put on Twitter. It comes from the sixth chapter of Proverbs. It immediately made me think of (mainly liberal) politicians, or what Rush (the band) said in its 1977 song A Farewell to Kings: “scheming demons dressed in kingly guise.” But none of us are immune from sin, and so I give you the seven things the Lord finds detestable. (Thank you for the photo, Greg.)