This week we have been talking about how important it is to return to God word and place His word above all else. The church has elevated man’s reasoning, experiences and traditions equal to and even above scripture, and often completely setting God’s word aside. When the church once again places God’s word above everything else, God will then turn His face back to shine upon us. When we put our hope in the word of God, that means we trust and obey no matter what, even if it means standing along. We then can say we have faith, but we must make sure that our faith is in God’s word and not in our reasoning, experiences and traditions. Many in the church cannot tell the difference. Paul said, 1 Corinthians 15:1 “I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.” Paul said to the Thessalonians, 1 Thessalonians 1:6 “You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Thessalonians 2:13 “And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe. 14 For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews 15 who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out.” They took their stand on God’s word but most in the church have not. They think they are standing firm but it is their reasoning and experiences and traditions that they have taken their stand on. They are not standing on the rock but upon the sand because they did not hold firmly to the word of God. There are many very committed Baptists, Catholics, Reformed, Brethren, Methodists and Pentecostals and the list goes on and on, who have taken their stand on man’s ways and not God’s ways. They have committed their lives to any one of those manmade ways yet they will say they are standing firm of God’s word. We are told 1 Corinthians 16:13 “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” If you are standing firm on other gospels like those listed above, you are standing firm in vain. It is important to understand that there are many who think they are standing firm, even if it costs them their lives, their friends and family but they do not know that their indoctrination has deceived and deluded them. It is similar to a cult as many are totally sold out to the cause but the cause is wrong and even deadly. Following the wrong gospel is even deadlier, as it means missing out on eternal life.

        Again, this is why it is so important to test the spirits (1 John 4:1) and make sure of your salvation. We have certainty based on scripture. Hebrews 12:1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”  As Paul said, 1 Corinthians 10:6 “Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.” He also said, Corinthians 11:1 “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” By keeping our eyes on scripture, we are told, Isaiah 26:3 “You (God) will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. 4 Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.” We only know the right path to be on by trusting God’s word. Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. 7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.” If we seek God, we will find Him and He will dwell among us and empower us just as He promised to do. Psalm 27:8 “My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek.” Matthew 6:33 “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Psalm 63:1 “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.” Psalm 119:2 “Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart.” Proverbs 8:17 “I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.”

        If we do not keep our eyes on Jesus and do not focus on His word, we will not know if out paths are straight. Yes, someone will tell you that you are going in the right direction but you will find out eventually that it is not. Proverbs 2:12 “Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse, 13 who have left the straight paths to walk in dark ways, 14 who delight in doing wrong and rejoice in the perverseness of evil, 15 whose paths are crooked and who are devious in their ways. 16 Wisdom will save you also from the adulterous woman, from the wayward woman with her seductive words, 17 who has left the partner of her youth and ignored the covenant she made before God. 18 Surely her house leads down to death and her paths to the spirits of the dead. 19 None who go to her return or attain the paths of life.” Keeping our eyes on Jesus is more than just a mystical relationship with God. Many in the church say God told them this or that like a parrot on the shoulder, but what does scripture say. Many who have been deceived by the charismatic movement should have seen that much of what was being said or what was happening was not in scripture. For example, falling on your back is not a manifestation of God’s presence. Scripture says facedown. Ezekiel 44:4 “I looked and saw the glory of the Lord filling the temple of the Lord, and I fell facedown.” Also many think that they hear from God in the woods or through new age meditation yet the word of God is not part of their life. They do not have a relationship with Jesus and are easily deceived. Meditation in the mystical sense is an emptying of the mind. If you are involved in ways of doing this like mindfulness, turn away and return to God’s word as it should be called mindlessness. That makes you a prime target for satan. To meditate as a Christian, you focus on God’s word. Joshua 1:7 “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” If you read Psalm 119 the other day, you would have noticed many verses talking about meditating. Psalm 119:97 “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.” Also verses like this one. Psalm 143:5 “I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done.”

        The church loves to sing on a Sunday morning or in your house or the car and it is really easy to belt out the words. Theologically there are good songs and bad and it is important to check, as for many that is where they get their knowledge of God as they don’t really read their bibles. For today’s blog, a couple of songs that I was thinking of was I have decided to follow Jesus and Stand. A few verses of the first song said, “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back. Though none go with me, I still will follow; no turning back.” The second song Stand by Kutless, says “I'm gonna stand, I'm gonna stand even if I have to stand alone, I'm gonna carry the torch in this dark world, even if I have to stand alone” The church is filled with people who have said I have decided to follow Jesus and will stand no matter what on a Sunday morning. They sing though none go with me I still will follow, but is that really the case? God knows the truth but those standing beside you when your arms are raised do not. Yes, it is easy to sing praise to God when the congregation is on their feet, or everything is going well but what happens when it is not going well? When your workplace or school introduces Buddhism, yoga, mindfulness, or other new age disciplines, will you participate? Are you going to participate or explain why you cannot? When King Nebuchadnezzar said Daniel 3:5 “you must fall down and worship the image of gold,” Some did not. 12 “But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—who pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.” Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego said 17 “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

        Another example is Paul and Silas. They had just cast out a demon from a female slave much to the disappointment of her owner and Paul and Silas ended up in jail. Acts 16:23 “After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.” Now we know from scripture that Paul was totally committed to Jesus no matter what. So here they are flogged and in prison, but they are praying and singing. 25 “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.” What phrase I really do not like to hear in the church is “God showed up.” In most cases in the church, He doesn’t. They just think so because worship felt good or in charismatic circles, they had some carpet time or in bizarre cases, some fairy dust (Bethel Redding California). Remember Acts 19:11 “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.” As they were singing, an earthquake struck and “the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.” Yes, people like to spiritualize that and sing my chains fell off, but faith tells us they really can, just like we read. Ask yourself if you would be singing? 

        Still another example is Job. He had just lost everything, and his response was to worship God. Job 1:20 “Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said: Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised. 22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” Then all his children died. His wife said Job 2:9 “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” 10 He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble? In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.” How would you respond? Would you still be singing though none go with me and continue to stand alone?
        When Jesus called His disciples, they came and followed Him, and they stuck by Jesus side until he was arrested. While they were eating Jesus said Mark 14:18 “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me. 19 They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely you don’t mean me?” Jesus then said 27 “You will all fall away,” “for it is written: “‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” 29 Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.” 30 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “today— yes, tonight—before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.” 31 But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the others said the same.” Then Jesus was betrayed 43 “Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders.” 48 “Am I leading a rebellion,” said Jesus, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” 50 Then everyone deserted him and fled.” Then Peter denied Jesus three times.
        Will you really continue, though none go with you? Will you really follow Jesus if it costs you everything? Remember God does test you. Deuteronomy 8:2 “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.” Do you know God’s commands enough to keep them. Hosea 4:6 “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.” God expects total commitment from His disciples. Luke 4:25 “Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” This is total commitment no matter what. Paul was told, Acts 21:10 “After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’” 12 When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” 14 When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.” Standing for Jesus on Sunday morning is different than standing for Him Monday through Saturday, yet it should be the same.
        If you are going to carry your cross and give your life to Jesus, make sure it is Jesus you are actually giving your life to. Luke 13:23 “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!’” You will not want to find out when it is too late.
        Paul was totally committed to Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit was with Him. When Jesus told the disciples to stay in the city; they would be empowered if they did obey. Luke 24:45 “Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 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.” To able to stand alone with no one going with you, you must stand firm on God’s word, otherwise you will not make it.