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Third Sunday of Advent: Quiet Introspection:December 12, 2021
On this third Sunday of Advent, we continue to expect and to prepare for the coming of Jesus. 1 Peter 1:13 “Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” Peter also tells us 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. 11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. 14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.”
Last week we saw that to do as Peter directed us, we need to reflect on our reflection but when looking in the mirror, the reflection must be Jesus, not ourselves. The bible gives us our true reflection as it describes both those who obey and those who disobey. If we only see ourselves or some guru that you follow, then you are missing the way as described in scripture. Many people call themselves Christians but really have no idea what Jesus is saying to them nor are they listening as they do not know His voice. If we truly are following Jesus, we will know His voice. John 10:14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” Acts 20:21 “I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.” Galatians 3:26 “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” John 5:24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. 25 Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.” It is crucial that you seek God and live.
You have looked in the mirror, so now what? This calls for humility and honesty before God, as God is the only one you need to please. We live a day where truth has been thrown down and nowhere to be found. Daniel 8:12 “Because of rebellion, the Lord’s people and the daily sacrifice were given over to it. It prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground.” Isaiah 59:14 “So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. 15 Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.” John 4:23 “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” John 8:31 “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Now that we have looked in the mirror this calls for quiet introspection, but this introspection is not the introspection of the world where you go through “the process of examining your own thoughts or feelings.” For many this soul searching is done with guidance from the experts in self-help and as of late mindfulness (should be called mindlessness). Many, even Christians look to themselves or some guru to take themselves on this journey but never turn to God. One person wrote “Generally, introspection involves looking inward to try to understand ourselves. It does not involve looking outward. An introspective person is someone who regularly looks inward to try to understand their mind, thoughts, feelings, and inner workings. They might engage in meditation or other contemplative practices. Or, they might just pause to self-reflect when something is bothering them, when they handled a situation poorly, or when they are just curious to learn more about themselves. "What was really going on?" they might ask themselves.” Another wrote, “When faced with a challenge, where do you find the insight to move your life forward? Last year, over fifteen million books were sold in the self-help genre. That doesn’t account for the videos, courses, and workshops that fuel this multibillion-dollar industry. Include business and diet books, and that number balloons to over $1.7 billion spent on advice-seeking books. But there’s a secret the gurus don’t want you to know—many of the answers to life’s most important questions can be found inside of you, for free. It’s called introspection.” That’s the world view.
So, while many turn to these gurus, many have looked to themselves for the answers which is kind of odd since you are the one in the mess. What could you possibly offer yourself by turning inward? Definitely not eternal life! Our only hope is to turn to God, meaning we evaluate ourselves through the eyes of God. Today I am using the word introspection as an inspection of our lives done by God. We are not asking what I can do to change my own life but how can I submit my life to God, following and living wholeheartedly for Him. Matthew 10:37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” The good news is that by doing so, God will bless us. Mark 10:28 “Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!” 29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” Are you willing to lose your life to follow Jesus? The problem is that many are losing their lives for someone other than Jesus. Luke 21:8 “He replied: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them.” Today’s journey is about making sure you are actually following Jesus in this deceived and desolate church.
Many will look in the mirror and ask themselves, how can I make my life better. They will also make room in the mirror for the best-selling guru or self-help technique. Some will even admit to themselves that life is not going how they thought it should and some will not even want to face another day. Others will look in the mirror, see themselves and walk away thinking all is well and I like what I see. Christians also do this. They have learned that everything depends on them to make it happen. They do it themselves and then give glory to God. They also depend on some guru to guide them in the process of making it happen on their own which is a contradictory. The world and the church want to do things on their own but still go to self-help materials and gurus to guide them yet refuse to turn to God, so they are not really doing it on their own, just without God. Deuteronomy 29:19 “When such a person hears the words of this oath and they invoke a blessing on themselves, thinking, “I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way,” they will bring disaster on the watered land as well as the dry.” I am sure you have heard of this statement that says, “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” “The concept is simple: To pull yourself up by your bootstraps means to succeed or elevate yourself without any outside help.” Many people in the church live by this motto. They pretend they believe that God is in charge but act as if they are. They make room in the mirror for themselves and one or two gurus; more if necessary, but not God. Most Christians today will look in the mirror and be satisfied with how they look, even though they do not see Jesus. They go to church and meet the expected requirements of that church. They may even help out and give money. Then they will turn away from the mirror and just keep going in the wrong direction without ever giving it a second thought until it is too late. Jeremiah 8:6 “I have listened attentively, but they do not say what is right. None of them repent of their wickedness, saying, “What have I done?” Each pursues their own course like a horse charging into battle.” Jeremiah 5:3 “Lord, do not your eyes look for truth? You struck them, but they felt no pain; you crushed them, but they refused correction. They made their faces harder than stone and refused to repent. 4 I thought, “These are only the poor; they are foolish, for they do not know the way of the Lord, the requirements of their God. 5 So I will go to the leaders and speak to them; surely they know the way of the Lord, the requirements of their God.” But with one accord they too had broken off the yoke and torn off the bonds.” This ignorance could continue till they die and then they will hear depart from me I don’t know you.
There are many who have been deceived by the appearance they see in the mirror as today’s church is filled with deception and delusion. 2 Thessalonians 2:9 “The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, 10 and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie 12 and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.” Even when they are told what they see in the mirror is not real, they will not listen. The distressing part about this is there will be people who seek but fail to test the spirits. They may find a church, talk to a friend, a pastor or find information on-line, but in the end are led down the wrong path. The person they talked to may seem to have knowledge, but they end up just telling you what they have been taught, that is, their own theological distinctives that have been passed down from generation to generation. As Paul said Galatians 1:6 “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!” If these people accept these other gospels, they will be worse off than they were before.
Today I want to talk to those who are willing to take a good look in the mirror and accept what they see, and then do whatever is necessary to humble themselves and follow God wholeheartedly. They will not turn away when this journey gets hard. Even though I am using the same word introspection, this introspection is based not on ourselves but on God’s word. This is not self-awareness but awareness of one’s self through the eyes of God. You can ask why, but if you refuse to listen to God’s answers, you will fail. It is crucial that you make sure the words you are hearing are God’s. If you turn away from God’s word, you will not find eternal life. Ezekiel 33:11 “Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?” This is not about finding the right church that will make you feel better but this is about finding out what God is really saying. This will involve testing the spirits and then answering the hard questions like; why did you desert the gospel? As Paul said Galatians 5:7 “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? 8 That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you.” Did you know that you were cut off when you joined your church? Right away you might respond by saying I did not desert the gospel and then stop this journey. Every church has in one way or another been cut off because God has turned His face. Some have completely abandoned God’s word, while others have been off course for some time. While basing everything on scripture, you must be willing to take a hard look into, what you have been taught to believe. Due to the desolation of the church, we should all be introspecting.
Paul says to the Philippians to Philippians 2:12 “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” The problem we face today is that most do not fear God, nor do they tremble at God’s word, therefore there is no knowledge. Hosea 4:6 “my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. “Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children.” Proverbs 1:7 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Isaiah 33:6 “He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.” Yet many will not listen or even attempt to work out their salvation because someone told them they were secure because they attended their church and believed what they had been taught. Proverbs 1:24 “But since you refuse to listen when I call and no one pays attention when I stretch out my hand, 25 since you disregard all my advice and do not accept my rebuke, 26 I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you; I will mock when calamity overtakes you— 27 when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you. 28 “Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me, 29 since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord. 30 Since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke, 31 they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes. 32 For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; 33 but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.” Many will not look to God but will follow the stubbornness of their own hearts. Jeremiah 7:23 “But I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you. 24 But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward and not forward. 25 From the time your ancestors left Egypt until now, day after day, again and again I sent you my servants the prophets. 26 But they did not listen to me or pay attention. They were stiff-necked and did more evil than their ancestors.” Jeremiah 16:12 “But you have behaved more wickedly than your ancestors. See how all of you are following the stubbornness of your evil hearts instead of obeying me.” Romans 2:5 “But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.”
If most who call themselves Christians were honest with themselves, they would have to admit church should be much more than what it is. No, I am not talking about how well a church puts on a service but the Spirit of God actually moving in power. Many have been deceived by those who appear powerful; but they are those who scratch itching ears. 2 Timothy 4:3 “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” The power of the gospels is not a powerful organization. You cannot read the Gospels and Acts without asking where is that power? The answer most give to explain this lack of power, comes from a guru, a powerless human not from the word of God. Most people in the church today have accepted knowingly and unknowingly the teaching that what we see in the gospels is not available for today. Most in the church actually do not know Ephesians 1:18 “the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” Most are content that the power of the gospel is not happening and most will not ponder why there is no power in the church today. The problem is that if most were to question this lack of power, the answer would show that what they knew to be Christianity, was not. They would then have to admit they have been deceived by the very thing they thought had saved them. This is where humility comes in. Most people do not want to go there. No, Jesus is not the deception, but the false teachers and other gospels are. This leads to another question. What baptism did you receive? Before I get this question it is important to ask what have you been saved into? When you go to a particular church, you are saved into the beliefs of that church. Did you check and test the spirits? Did you compare them to scripture or just accept what you were told? Do you even know what another gospel is and what it entails? Did you know that there is no such things as a Baptist or Catholic Christian just to name a few? You may have been told that you prayed to Jesus but which Jesus did you pray to? Let me explain. There is only one way, truth and life and these are found in the bible. If the words are different and there is no power, then this is another Jesus you have been taught to follow which is another gospel. If you are following words other than Jesus, you have been deceived.
Most will say they prayed a prayer and received the Holy Spirit or they were baptized and they received the Holy Spirit. If you did receive the Holy Spirit, then you would have the presence of God in your life as He would be dwelling in you and you then would have the power / gifts as described in scripture. Luke 24:48 “You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” So, do you have the power? Do you have the gifts and remember they all apply not just a few? 1 Corinthians 12:7 “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.” Jesus said John 14:12 “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” Do you actually believe these verses? Most don’t! This is what Jesus did. Matthew 4:23 “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. 24 News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them.” Matthew 8:16 “When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.” So how did you respond. Did you walk away from this question? Did you listen to the voice that said that was Jesus not you? You can’t expect that power today. Or the voice that said God doesn’t do that anymore? Did you really receive the Holy Spirit? Don’t be afraid to dig deep! Remember this journey is totally based on God’s word.
Scripture shows us that you probably did not receive the Holy Spirit. Acts 19:1 “While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2 and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied. 4 Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. 7 There were about twelve men in all.” We also saw this with Philip and those he preached to. Acts 8:5 “Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. 6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city.” Remember Philip is a disciple of the disciples. This power was supposed to continue in the church. Acts 21:8 “Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. 9 He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.” The apostles had come down to the people Philip had preached to. Acts 8:14 “When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.”
Today the church is filled with people who think they have been filled with the Holy Spirit but have not. There are even those who have been deceived by the very tongue they speak. Charismatics say speaking in tongues is proof of the anointing, but did you test the spirits. Those are not the tongues of Pentecost but gibberish. Acts 2:4 “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. 5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?” Don’t walk away from the mirror at this point because someone said God doesn’t do that anymore or told you the nonsense coming out of your mouth is truth but work out your salvation. Another example is Acts 18:24 “Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.” The power of the Holy Spirit is missing in the church today. The more you return to the word of God, your eyes will be opened to the lack of power in the church. You will begin to see clearly how many doctrines of demons there actually are with cessationism being one of them.
Another question to ponder is concerning the desolation of the church. The church has fallen to our enemies just like Israel and Judah fell. When you read the Old Testament, you see the church. We were even warned in Daniel what we see in the church today would happen. Daniel 10:10 “A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. 11 He said, “Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you.” And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling. 12 Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. 13 But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. 14 Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come.” Jesus warned us about what would happen in the end. How do we know the desolation Daniel talked about is here? Jesus said Matthew 24:1 “Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. 2 “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” 3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” They said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” 4 Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many.” Millions of churchgoers have been deceived already. Are you one of them?
We were warned that satan would be powerful in the church if we disobeyed. Daniel 9:27 “He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.” Many have been deceived by the numbers and missed the desolation that is upon us. Daniel 7:21 “As I watched, this horn was waging war against the holy people and defeating them, 22 until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the holy people of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom.” Daniel 12:1 “At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered. 2 Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.” 11 “From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. 12 Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days.” Don’t be afraid to wait! Jesus warned us Matthew 24:15 “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house. 18 Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. 19 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 20 Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again. 22 “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. 23 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you ahead of time.” Paul even warned us. 2 Thessalonians 2:3 “Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 4 He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God. 5 Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? 6 And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. 7 For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, 10 and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie 12 and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.”
Most in the church assume that church is church, Jesus is Jesus and the Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit but that is not the case. 1 John 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.” Don’t assume that because someone is reading / teaching from the bible that they are God’s messenger. 2 Corinthians 11:13 “For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15 It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.” Your eternal life depends on whether you get this right or not. Jesus said many people thought they were doing it right. Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” 13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Luke 13:22 “Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” He said to them, 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ 26 “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’ 28 “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.”
Daniel set his mind on God’s word. Daniel 9:1 “In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom— 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. 3 So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.” Daniel 10:12 “Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.” When you look to yourself or to others you will fail. Romans 8:5 “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” Paul said Philippians 3:17 “Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.” When you look in the mirror and see Jesus, there will be many who have followed the right example. 1 John 3:16 “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” You will end up with a church who looks like Jesus. Paul was not putting himself above Jesus, he was saying if you follow God’s word you will then see the reflection of Jesus. Colossians 3:1 “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
The end is coming. Deuteronomy 32:35 “It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them.” 36 The Lord will vindicate his people and relent concerning his servants when he sees their strength is gone and no one is left, slave or free. 37 He will say: “Now where are their gods, the rock they took refuge in, 38 the gods who ate the fat of their sacrifices and drank the wine of their drink offerings? Let them rise up to help you! Let them give you shelter! 39 “See now that I myself am he! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand.” Ezekiel 7:7 “Doom has come upon you, upon you who dwell in the land. The time has come! The day is near! There is panic, not joy, on the mountains.” Ezekiel 30:3 ‘For the day is near, the day of the Lord is near— a day of clouds, a time of doom for the nations.” This should strike fear in you. There is a day coming when this world as we know it will be over. Matthew 25:46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” At this point you say you are safe and secure and not alarmed but you should be, or you can work out your salvation. Peter tells us to make sure. 2 Peter 1:2 “Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. 10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Zephaniah 2:1 “Gather together, gather yourselves together, you shameful nation, 2 before the decree takes effect and that day passes like windblown chaff, before the Lord’s fierce anger comes upon you, before the day of the Lord’s wrath comes upon you. 3 Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger.”
While many teach that you have no choice in this matter, you do decide whether to believe or not. You can continue to be part of this group who chose not to believe. Matthew 15:7 “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: 8 “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 9 They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.” Acts 19:8 “Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. 9 But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them.” So when you look in the mirror and do not see Jesus, will you seek Him or will you turn away. Jeremiah 29:13 “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Or have you completely given up. Hebrews 5:11 “We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”
Do you truly desire to believe or are you stubborn and obstinate? Romans 10:16 “But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” 17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. 18 But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they did: “Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” 19 Again I ask: Did Israel not understand? First, Moses says, “I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding.” 20 And Isaiah boldly says, “I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.” 21 But concerning Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.” Or will you diligently study the scripture and believe? Acts 17:11 “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 12 As a result, many of them believed.” Jesus describes how many will respond. Mark 4:13 “Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? 14 The farmer sows the word. 15 Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16 Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”
There is a cost to this journey, but you will be richly rewarded. Luke 9:57 “As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” 59 He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” 62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Jesus said to the wealthy man Mark 10:9 “You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’” 20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” 21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.” Today there are many who have great wealth, most of North America for sure.
During this time of introspection, we have a choice. Malachi 3:7 “Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty.” Moses said Deuteronomy 30:19 “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” Joshua said Joshua 24:15 “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” What will your choice be? Will you continue in empty ways that lead to death or will you choose life? Proverbs 14:12 “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” Will you choose to believe, or will you turn away? There is no middle ground. Jesus said Revelation 3:15 “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. 19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Hebrews 3:12 “See to it that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. 15 As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.” Joel 2:12 “Even now,” declares the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” 13 Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. 14 Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave behind a blessing—grain offerings and drink offerings for the Lord your God. 15 Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. 16 Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber. 17 Let the priests, who minister before the Lord, weep between the portico and the altar. Let them say, “Spare your people, Lord. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’”