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Unless it Dies

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“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:24).

 

“Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:11).

 

Modern Christianity does not like the message that is declared in these verses of scripture. Many Christians today want smooth words, they want the easy path and they want the assurance of things above, while they yet have their affections set on the things here below. They don’t want to hear about dying. After all, isn’t salvation about life? Yes indeed it is, but it is life in the Spirit that salvation refers to. If there is going to be spiritual life, there has to be death to the carnal life.

That is what Jesus was talking about when He said, the “corn of wheat” must die if it is going to bring forth fruit. You see, a seed when it is planted in the ground, if the conditions are suitable, will bust open and the plant will begin to take root. It was the brokenness of the shell of the seed that resulted in the plant to start growing. If the seed were to stay intact and just lay there on hard ground, or be buried in dry ground, then there would be no growth.

Jesus is applying this principle of the seed to our lives. He is teaching us that if we want to produce life and we want there to be fruit, then we too must be like a seed that must die and break open. Again, I will say that there are not to many believers who want to hear this kind of talk. The ones who do are those who desire to bring forth the life of God and the fruit of the Spirit in their lives.

Jesus came to seek and save those who are lost. The order for that deliverance of mankind is first the crucifixion of Jesus, His death on the cross, His burial in a tomb and then His resurrection from the dead. There has to be a death for there to be a resurrection. First, there has to be a surrender, then the victory. First must come humility, then an exalting. We humans are used to it being the other way around. We see first the life of a baby at birth, and then later a death of that person. Just as each of us was born, then later we will face death. Some baby’s die just moments after they are born, some go on to live to a hundred years old and even longer. The principle of spiritual life is the opposite. First is the death, then comes the life. First, we humble ourselves and die to self, which is what it means to being crucified with Christ, then flows the life.

Some may ask, “If what you are saying is true, then how could we ever get born again? How could I possibly know as a heathen, that I have to die to self if I want to receive a brand new spiritual life?” Those questions are not that hard to answer. When a man does get born again, it was because he did humble himself and recognize he was a sinner and that he had a need for a Savior. He humbled himself to such a point that he surrendered his life to the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Though he did not die a physical death, he died to the life he was living. When this is genuinely done, it is then a person is born again. I know modern Christianity teaches that if a person repeats a sinner’s prayer and understands with their intellect the message of salvation, that they then become a Christian. That may be true if they are joining a social club or a religion that just calls themselves Christians. Christianity is not a religion to belong too. You can religiously follow Christ. You can enjoy the social benefits of belonging to the true body of Christ, but a person only becomes a true Christian when they are BORN FROM ABOVE.

Another may ask, “If my previous life of a sinner has died, how come I still have some impulse and desire to sin? Doesn’t Galatians 5:24 say, “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts?” Yes, our affections and lusts have been crucified with the flesh, however Paul goes on to say, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:25-26). If Paul says, “Let us not be desirous of vain glory…,” then evidently that old flesh is still hanging around that presses on us to be desirous of vain glory. The crucified life is a life we have to choose to live every day. You know why? Because your flesh and my flesh are still alive. We will not lose all desire to sin until this body is forsaken and we are given a new glorious body. In the meantime, you must reckon your flesh dead. That means to consider that your flesh is dead, even if it is demanding your attention. When your flesh rises up in all its ungodly attitudes and immoral thoughts, you must ignore it. You must resist those desires that are contrary to the life of purity and holiness. The Bible tells us to take all thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ. Therefore we can. Therefore through the power of the Spirit, we can reckon that old flesh crucified.

 

“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it” (Mark 8:35).

 

“He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal” (John 12:25).

 

Do not give your ear to religion that tells you that there is no sacrifice involved in being a Christian. Refuse to hear those who tell you that there is no cost on our end. Without question, Jesus paid the debt for our sin, He finished it on the cross. He forgave us of our sins so we could enter into a relationship with Him. Now that we are in that relationship, we are called to willingly hate and lay down our carnal life. It is then that “we shall keep it unto life eternal.” If you want to gain life, you must be willing to lose it.

The reason that life is so boring and even difficult for some Christians is because they have refused to surrender their old life. They are trying to hang onto it, thinking that they can yet find some value and satisfaction in it. They refuse to lay down the very life that Jesus died and rose from the dead to rescue them from.

 

“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24).

 

The choice is yours. What life will you choose? Do you want the carnal life or do you want spiritual life. Do you want to experience spiritual life right now, not just when you get to heaven? Then let the seed of your life die.

Christ Must Have The Preeminence

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One of the most glorious portions of scripture, when it comes to the Lord Jesus Christ, is found in Paul’s letter to the Colossians.

 

“Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:  For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:13-18).

 

The last word we see in this portion of scripture is the word, “preeminence.” It is translated from the Greek word proteuo which simply means to be first (in rank and influence). So to state it very simply, for Jesus Christ to have preeminence, He must be first in our life in every way. He must be first, before our family members, even our spouses. He must be first before our careers. He must be first over every interest in this life we might have.

We read in the book of Revelation that the church in Ephesus was commended by the Lord Jesus Christ for their good works and other things that they did. Yet, the Lord warned them that He would remove their candlestick if they did not come back to their first love. Sometimes Christians miss quote Revelation 2:4 by saying the Ephesians have “lost” their first love. What it really says is they have “LEFT” their first love. It is something the believers in Ephesus did on their own, whether they were conscious of it or not. What really happened to these believers is that the preeminence of Christ was fading, even though the work they were doing seemed to be for God.

When you look at the state of the church today, I think it is pretty easy to say that Christ does not have the preeminence within the church as he should. There are so many other things that attract the attention of the saints. One of the biggest reasons I am personally against all the gimmickry, attractions and entertainment that the church offers today, to lure people into their buildings, is because it is promoting and establishing an interest in something other than Christ in the hearts of the unsuspecting lost souls. They are introduced to things that are appealing to the flesh and thus it conditions people to think that the church is there to cater to all their emotional needs. They are conditioned to expect the church to be like a community center, where all social programs are offered. Many years ago one pastor told me that the Lord called him, not to have a church, but to have a life center. I was respectful of the pastor so I did not say anything to him at that time, but I knew that he did not hear from the Lord on that. God has called none other than His church to represent His kingdom. Jesus said that he will build His church, not His life center. You can mark this down, if Christ will again be preeminent in the church, the church will flow with life. Not because it is made into a life center, but because life flows from wherever Christ is the center. Saints, there is not a greater testimony that can be said about any fellowship then when those who enter that fellowship say, “There is life in this place.”

There is one thing I tell couples during marriage counseling. It is the same thing I tell every married couple who will listen to me. I say to them all, “If Christ is the center of your marriage it will be impossible for your marriage to fail.” For it to fail, one or both have to backslide, and if they backslid then, of course, Christ is no longer the center of their marriage. He is no longer the center of their life as well. In all things Christ must have the preeminence.

For the most part, when Christ ceases to have the preeminence in a church, it usually happens in a very subtle way. When ministers and elders, who oversee the church, start putting their focus on other things, then the church will be led away from Christ. Again, this happens in a most unsuspecting way. Most often the intentions are right for the many things that are done in the name of the Lord. However, nothing is really accepted in heaven if it isn’t the will of the Lord. “…Thy will be done on earth as it is IN HEAVEN.” The thing that happens when a work isn’t the will of the Lord, is that the work starts to take precedence in the church and Christ loses His preeminence. On the other hand, if there is a refusal to do the will and work of the Lord, then He has already been denied His preeminence. Whenever the church loses sight of building the kingdom of God, she starts to build her own kingdom. Pastors who lose sight of Christ start building their own little empire, all along thinking they are smack dab in the will of God. They do not realize that they have robbed Christ of His preeminence. Acts chapter six is a good reminder for ministers of what their chief focus should be. “But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). If pastors would commit themselves to this simple life of seeking God through prayer and the word, there would be a lot of ministry things that would drop off. There would be a lot less effort by man and much more dependence on the Holy Spirit. There would be a lot more, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” This is when Christ is getting the preeminence.

Saints of God, just because you may not be called to the ministry, does not excuse you from being in prayer and in the word of God. Though you may not be afforded the time to often be shut in with God, it is of the utmost importance that you have a daily time of prayer and Bible reading. If not, you will find Christ to not have the preeminence in your life. You will also make yourself more subject to being led away from Christ into and after other things. A life of prayer and a steady diet of the word of God goes a long way in helping every believer to let Christ have the preeminence in all things.

As The Days Of Noah

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But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 38For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, 39And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matthew 24:37-39).

 

Jesus gave us a huge glimpse of what the last of the last days would be like, by telling us they will be like the days of Noah. All we need to do is go back to the book of Genesis and read about it for ourselves. I want to share eight points with you of some of the similarities that can be found between Noah’s generation and ours.

 

  1. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD (Genesis 6:8). Do we not live in the age of grace? We are a people that found grace in the eyes of the Lord. We are the body of Christ. Jesus, our Lord, is full of grace and truth. Acts chapter four says that great grace was upon all the believers. This is what we preach, “The gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).
  2. Life will go on as usual. Jesus said there will be eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage up to the coming of the Lord. I know our world seems to be falling apart. America seems to be heading for disaster. I can sometimes picture the whole world living in terror and poverty, yet to paraphrase what Jesus said, things are going to be like they have been all along. I suppose there will be regions in this world that will suffer worse than others, but for the most part there will be the ongoing of life as usual for many.
  3. Noah knew the flood was coming but the wicked did not. “But ye brethren are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you as a thief” (I Thessalonians 5:5). We are children of light, and if we walk in that light, we will have a strong sense in our spirit as the day of the Lord approaches. I think it is the consensus of many Christians today that we are in the last of the last days. Noah was building a ship and every timber he put in place spoke to his generation that judgment was coming, but no one but his family heeded the warning. Saints, do not be surprised if this world will not see the signs of Christ’s return.
  4. Noah had a call. In the midst of such great wickedness, there came a call from God to Noah to prepare for the coming calamity. There came a call to warn his generation to flee from the coming wrath. Church, I believe the call is intensifying every day that we need to put away all that distracts us and preach to our society the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the midst of all the chaos, if you listen, you will hear His voice speaking to you. It’s a voice that does not fit in with this world.
  5. Noah was part of a great minority. There was Noah and his family and then there was the rest of the world. Today, it is the church of Jesus Christ and then the rest of the world. Noah was an outcast in his generation. You could say that he was kind of a strange man, consumed with preaching righteousness and building a huge ship which had absolutely no value to anyone’s eyes except Noah and his family. The church today must be a peculiar people consumed with our Lord Jesus. This minority, you and I belong to, is hated by this world and no government will be passing any laws that demand we be respected and given special rights.
  6. Building the ark was an act of faith. Saints, let this sink in. Noah was building the very thing that would save him. You could say he was working on his salvation with fear and trembling. I am not denying that we are saved by grace and not of works. Salvation is a free gift but Ephesians 2:8 also says we are saved “through faith.” Through means in one side and out the other. For Noah that meant putting the first timber in place and working on that ark until the last bit of pitch was pressed into the joints. For you and me, it means being determined to make it all the way to the end of this path we are walking.
  7. Noah built the ark in the presence of a sin gripped world. One of the signs of the last days is that iniquity shall abound. Babies today are murdered before they ever get out of the womb, not just here in America but all over this world. Sexual sin of every kind is being encouraged and promoted in our generation. Noah built the ark in a time when “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). Yet he built the ark to completion. He built something the world never understood. They couldn’t shut him down. Jesus said that the gates of hell will not prevail against His church. Saints, we may be amidst a wicked people but we cannot be shut down. Christ’s church will prevail. She must be a testimony in this generation.
  8. Noah was a preacher of righteousness. According to Peter’s second epistle, Noah was a preacher of righteousness. The word righteousness means equity. Equity means impartiality and fairness. By this definition, Noah didn’t necessarily go around telling everyone how sinful they were. Although I do believe man needs to know he is a lost sinner before he can get saved. What Noah was preaching is the same thing we preach today. He was preaching grace. He was telling his generation that judgment was coming, but they could escape. Come and help build the ark. Whosoever will, come on the ark and be saved from the coming judgment. This must be our cry. We are in the age of grace. God is not impartial. Let us call to all around us and say flee from the wrath to come.

 

One final thought about Noah and the ark. When Jesus walked this earth, there was one concern He had “…Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). Jesus didn’t ask if there would be holiness or righteousness or love; He asked if there would be faith. Of course, all these things are wrapped up in faith. When God looked down on men in Noah’s generation to see if He could find faith, He saw a huge ship with no large body of water around. Every time God saw that ark, it was a testimony of Noah’s faith. That ark shouted up to heaven, I BELIEVE IN YOU GOD, I OBEY YOU OH GOD, I LOVE YOU LORD. When Jesus comes will your life be a testimony and a monument of faith that declares I BELIEVE IN YOU GOD?

The Precious Blood of Christ

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Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” ( I Peter 1:18-19).

 

I once heard it said that you never hear preaching on the blood and the cross anymore. I don’t know if that is true or not, for I know I preach both of them. I know that the Jimmy Swaggert Ministries has had a resurgence and he has put quite an emphasis on the “Message of the Cross.” One of my mentors taught me that the cross deals with the flesh and the blood deals with sin. I would have to say that I agree with that. However, they both work together, for it was on the cross that Jesus shed His blood.

I am sure most of us have heard it quoted many times, “For by grace are ye saved…” This verse which is Ephesians 2:8 is often not taken in context with the rest of the Word of God. Technically we are not saved by grace. Hang on now, let me finish. Grace does not save, the blood of Christ saves. Grace is the attitude of God; God’s love toward men that wants to redeem them to Himself, though they are not worthy of that redemption. Grace is what put the plan of God into action that brought forth the death, burial and resurrection of His Son. For the scriptures say:

 

And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22).

 

The blood of Christ is a very powerful force. It can forgive the vilest of sins, the vilest sinner and millions upon millions of the vilest sinners. If confessed, there are no number of sins that can ever overpower the blood of Jesus. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. A million times a million sins can never neutralize even one drop of Jesus’ blood.

You can be sure that you and every born-again Christian has been reconciled to God through the blood of His Son.

 

And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven” (Colossians 1:20).

 

The blood of Christ doesn’t just save us, but it also cleanses us. The blood doesn’t just cleanse us, but it keeps us clean. As long as you are abiding in the vine, you will have the protection of the blood.

 

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (I John 1:7).

 

Consider the story of the first Passover. Israel was told that on the fourteenth day of the first month each household had to kill a one year old male lamb that had no blemishes. This, of course, is a type of Christ for He was a male and He indeed had no blemishes. He was the perfect Lamb of God. John the Baptist later said, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). Then Israel was to take the blood from those lambs and strike it onto the door posts and the mantle of the door. Then they were to stay in their houses until morning and eat the lamb. The Lord said, “And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:13). So that night the death angel came through the camp and every house that had the blood around the door, the death angel passed by. That angel did not go walking into the houses to make sure all the children were behaving. He didn’t walk in and make sure mom and dad weren’t arguing, He didn’t check to make sure everyone was living righteous. He just passed over those houses. That is why it is called the Passover.

In the same way, the blood is your protection and security. If you want to talk about eternal security, this is it, being under the blood. If it wasn’t for the blood, every time you sin you would come out of your salvation. You would then have to renew it. You would live a life of going in and out of salvation. That would be insanity. Instead, we have the blood that keeps us in right standing with God.

Now, if any of the Israelite first born, would have decided to leave their house and go outside to observe what was going on, they would have been struck dead by the death angel. The angel’s only order was to kill the firstborn of every house in the land of Egypt unless there was blood around the door. So if the first born were to leave that place of safety, it was on them. They would have left that safe haven by their own doing. In the same way the blood works for us. If we abide in Christ, we willingly put ourselves under the protection of His blood. Even if we were to sin, His blood would keep us from being condemned. However, when the Spirit convicts us of our sin, we must repent. If we would harden ourselves against God and the conviction of the Spirit, we would eventually get to the place where we have quit abiding in Christ. Once we have done that we no longer get the protection of the blood and then there is no more redemption.

 

For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins” (Hebrews 10:26).

 

When we stay in Christ, His blood works in us as a sanctifying agent. This means that it continues to work on us throughout our whole Christian life. The blood is what makes us positionally holy, while the Holy Spirit works in us to make us progressively holy.

 

Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate” (Hebrews 13:12).

 

Let me say one more thing about the blood of Christ. It is a powerful spiritual weapon against Satan. The blood gives us the ability to not just resist the devil, but to overcome him and all his evil temptations.

 

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death” (Revelation 12:11).

 

So saint of God, thank the Lord for the blood. Abide in Christ and enjoy the peace and safety the blood supplies. Sing with me: “There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Immanuel’s veins. And sinners plunged beneath that flood, lose all their guilty stains.”

 

The Heart of a Remnant Believer

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And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire” (Nehemiah 1:3).

 

When Nehemiah heard what condition the remnant of Israel was in, who were living in Judah, he wept and fasted. He was deeply grieved over the condition his brethren was living under. The wall of Jerusalem was broken down and the gates were burned with fire. The physical affliction the Jews in Judah were living in is a type of spiritual affliction many sincere believers live in today. I need to tell you that the burden Nehemiah had for his brethren is similar to the burden I have for the church of Jesus Christ, who are my brethren. As Nehemiah was distraught over the remnant in Judah, I too am distraught with the condition that many Christians have to live under. I am not talking about the disintegration of our society here in America, I am talking about the famine of the word of God, and the lack of the Holy Spirit that is in so many churches today.

There are many people in the church today who probably don’t care much if the church is shallow and lacking the presence of God. Some prefer it that way because the presence of God and a strong word brings conviction. However, in many of these churches there is a people, a set apart people, a remnant, who desire a deeper relationship with the Lord. I believe with all sincerity that these remnant believers are some, if not the most neglected people in the church. As we hear so many lectures on how we must accept people and come down to their level, and how we appoint people to greet new faces, the remnant are quietly being ignored. As the emphasis is to preach simple salvation messages over and over again in some churches, the remnant believers are starving for some meat. As you continue to read this article, you may start to see that you may be one of the remnant, if you don’t already realize that.

Remnant believers want more, but so often they don’t quite understand what that more is. People in church around them might seem to be rolling with the flow, but in their own heart there is a dissatisfaction. This lack of contentment in remnant believers can actually make them feel bad for feeling so dissatisfied. They know that they should be more appreciative of what God has done for them. They know they have been saved and washed by the blood of the Lamb. They know they have been given a brand new life and even life more abundant. They know that they ultimately deserve hell, yet they are given eternity in heaven. So they feel bad when they find themselves looking for something more. They sense something is not quite right. Actually, what is really going on in them is that Holy Spirit is being quenched by carnal halfhearted Christians and churches, and the seed of Christ in them wants to bust out and grow. It is hard for any Christian to grow if they are in an environment that discourages growth.

The discontentment that remnant believers have is right and good because it is just a symptom of a longing for a deeper relationship with God. They are appalled with the low life living that is so often being offered. Miller Brewing Company is located in Milwaukee. They make a beer called Miller High Life. Let me tell you friends, drinking beer and alcoholic beverages is not the high life. It is the opposite, it is the low life. It has destroyed millions upon millions of lives. Walk around Milwaukee and see all the drunks wandering around and know that there is nothing high about that life. Knowing the Lord and pursuing a deeper relationship with Him is the high life. Christians live the high life, or at least have the potential to do so.

 

He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet, and setteth me upon my high places” (Psalm 18:33).

 

Again I want to say, remnant believers desire something more, but many don’t quite know what it is.  If they are gathered in the midst of the merely religious, the discontentment they may feel is because they desire a closer relationship with God. If they are in a dead church, they desire abundant life. If they are in the midst of doubters, they want to be where there are those of strong faith. If they are amongst those who water down and short change the word of God, they want to be where the truth of the word is elevated and proclaimed.

Today it seems if you desire to live a holy righteous life, there are many so-called Christians who will accuse you of legalism or trying to earn your salvation. If you try to believe the Bible for the simple truth it is and live it out, you have those who say that you don’t understand the Bible correctly because you don’t know the Hebrew or Greek of a word or sentence. I am not against that kind of study, but isn’t our Bible already translated from the Hebrew and Greek for us? I have no problem with looking up these words for a little deeper understanding, but I have never found any word that was translated incorrectly.

Through my experience, I have seen one thing that really stirs the heart of remnant believers. It is coming to the realization of just how true the word of God is. They come to realize the unifier that truth is. They come to realize just how much the truth sets free. Remnant believers are the one group of believers who are truly like-minded. It is because they love truth so much, the Spirit of truth constantly reveals the truth to them; therefore they don’t come up with their own interpretations of the word. They believe the word as the Spirit of truth teaches it. If they believe something in the Bible incorrectly, they have a humble teachable spirit to be corrected. They don’t spit and sputter, trying to hang onto their own interpretation of the word of God. I love when remnant believers get in a discussion on spiritual things and one of them, from a sincere heart, says something that isn’t accurate. Then another remnant believer gently corrects them with a simple application of clear scripture and the attitude of all is, “WELL, THAT SETTLES THAT!” It takes a genuine humble heart to love the truth enough to allow yourself to be openly corrected. That is what is lodged in the heart of remnant believers.

Remnant believers do not need, nor do they want all the fancies and frills, gadgets and gizmos that the church offers today. They may feel a little disconnected with their church when they depend on these things. The remnant can’t seem to quite get on board with these things and they feel they are being a little contentious. What it really is however, is they just want more of the Christ they are being deprived of. They are offered all kinds of carnal techniques to accomplish spiritual things, but all they want is the presence and the power of the Spirit. It is right for remnant believers to want to come out from amongst her. Sometimes they just don’t know how.

This is what is in the heart of remnant believers. ARE YOU OF THE REMNANT SORT?

 

 

Prayer, The Greatest of Disciplines (Continued)

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In my last article I talked about the need for every believer to develop a disciplined prayer life, and that if you persist in that discipline, it will turn into delight. I also emphasized that prayer is an opportunity to really get to know our God. We need to come into His presence with honor and respect before we start to bombard Him with all our requests. I want to continue with some more important aspects of prayer with hope that every reader will be encouraged and even excited to develop a true prayer life with almighty God.

I told a story in the last article about how I made a New Year’s resolution that I was going to start off every morning with at least five minutes of prayer. I shared how that five minutes of prayer grew to fifteen and even twenty minutes. That was the beginning of my prayer life with my Father. There was another time in my life, back in the mid-nineties when I was sensing the call of God on my life and I was feeling a conviction about my prayer life. I owned a construction business and it was quite consuming. If I wanted any type of extended prayer time in the morning hours it meant I had to rise earlier than normal so I would not be interrupted by phone calls and employees coming over to the house. I worked hard so my sleep was very important. One morning I was down in my basement pacing while I was praying. I was feeling the conviction of God to give Him more of my time in the morning to pray. In my mind I thought an hour of prayer seemed reasonable since Jesus said to Peter, “…couldest not thou watch one hour” (Mark 14:37)? As I was praying that morning I started to reason with God that I would soon be going into the ministry. So I told God that when He puts me in that place of ministry then I will be able to set that time aside to pray. He immediately responded to my comment by saying, “No, you learn to pray first and then you will be ready for the ministry.” Though it was not in audible words that I heard Him, it was loud and clear to my heart. From that day on I understood that I can never serve God and His sheep unless I really know Him and I can’t really know Him unless I talk with Him. From that day I also started an extended prayer life that continues to this day. I am so grateful to God that He helped me with my prayer life because it was only a few years after that in which I became a minister while continuing to run my business all the way to 2011. Through all those years, my mornings were devoted to seek my God and still are to this day. I have told you these testimonies not to boast on my prayer life, but to encourage you. If you are determined to have an exciting, yes exciting prayer life, it is within your grasp.

We have a shortage of praying saints today, yet prayer is one of the most important things we must do. We need saints who will be like the persistent widow.

 

And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth” (Luke 18:1-8)?

 

Jesus told this parable to let us believers know that He desires to answer our prayers, and that we must not give up praying. In real life, if a widow would determine that the judge was never going to avenger her, she would quit pestering him. She would be a fool to get up in the morning and plan a visit to the judge, if she knew that he would reject her plea. To get up and go see that judge everyday would take confidence on her part that the judge would avenge her. Though we can never wear God out, he invites us to go to Him in prayer, like we would to a human being who would eventually give in because of our persistence. Let me interject right here that it isn’t self- centered prayers that God answers, but prayers that are according to His will. If you do pray according to God’s will then He is giving you assurance that He will answer.

There are a many reasons Christians struggle with prayer. Let me give you two reasons.

The first reason is that some Christians haven’t fully committed themselves to the Lord. They are living a carnal life by practicing sin and loving things of this world. It is only reasonable to understand that if a Christian is not in a right relationship with God he is not going to be too anxious to spend time with God. Just as a child who is disobeying mom and she says to him, “Wait until your father gets home,” that child is not excited about Dad coming home. If you are not living a life that pleases God you will tend to hide out from Him instead of longing for His presence. Adam and Eve use to meet with God in the cool of the day until they disobeyed Him, then they began hiding from Him.

The second reason saints don’t pray as they should is because they lack faith to petition God. When I was a kid, almost every time I asked my Dad for a dollar or two, he would give it to me. Since I knew he was willing to give me the money I had no problem approaching him to ask him. I never asked my Dad to give me a hundred dollars because I didn’t believe he would give it to me. The same thing holds true when we pray to God. When we pray to God, according to His will and believing He will hear our prayer, He is more than delighted to answer that prayer. After all, doesn’t He want the will of the Father done? Jesus said, “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive” (Matthew 21:12). I need to clarify again that we must pray according to His will. Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Thy will be done.”

My prayer and hope is that every Christian understands the need to pray, especially in this dark hour we live, and make a determination to have a thriving prayer life with almighty God. “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6).

The Sin Americans Are Unaware Of

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When it comes to America having to answer to God for the sins she commits, abortion and acceptance of homosexuality have to be what we would consider some very grievous sins in the sight of God. Yet it only takes one little sin, one that we call a white lie, to damn a man for eternity. So sin is sin. God is a gracious God and He will, if asked with a repentive heart, forgive the vilest of sinners. There is a hymn which says, “Come ye sinners, lost and hopeless. Jesus’ blood can make you free. For he saved the worst among you, when He saved a wretch like me. And I know, yes I know, Jesus blood can make the vilest sinner clean.” Just as no sin is too little to separate us from God, no sin is too grievous that God will not forgive those who come to Him in repentance. As long as a man still has breath, he can call on God to save him from his sins and be made a brand new creature. Let me take a moment to shout, HALLELUJAH!

Let me get back to America, she is turning to sin and adding “sin to sin.” There is another sin which America is openly promoting that is very grievous before God and that seemingly goes unnoticed by most Americans. The reason for that is because many Americans are made to feel guilty if they would argue against it. This sin is so grievous to God that He even put it in a different category than other sins. Again I want to remind you that all sin offends God, but some sins result in harsher judgment and severe consequences. Consider Sodom and Gomorrah, God rained fire and brimstone on them for their obsession with homosexual sin. Remember what happened to Egypt when Pharaoh refused to humble himself before Almighty God. So this sin which America is committing will bring severe judgment and consequences upon our nation.

Before I expose this sin, I want to say one more thing about it. This sin is encouraged under the banner of good will toward man. It has become a lecture to all Americans by the politicians of our day. So what am I referring to? Let the scriptures reveal it.

 

But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” ( I Timothy 5:8).

 

The word “infidel” means unbeliever. So what the scripture is saying is that the person who has responsibility for their household and does not provide for them, he is worse than an unbeliever. That poses a question. If an unbeliever is already going to hell, what can be worse than that? That is a good question. I will let you ponder on that. Certainly though, you can see that this sin of not taking personal responsibility to provide for your own is a grievous sin in the eyes of God.

So how is this sin committed in America? For several decades our politicians have been making it more and more convenient for Americans to depend upon their government. For example, during the Obama administration we have seen an increase, by over 50%, of those receiving food stamps. To some this is considered a good and compassionate thing to do. I agree that it is the duty of every American, especially Christians, to have compassion on their neighbor. It is the right thing to help those who are going through a time of need. But the underlying problem is that there is an encouragement coming from the top down to let the government and others take responsibility for your well-being. There is an effort to get all Americans to depend on the government. Those who want to go ahead and let the government take care of their lives don’t understand that they are also surrendering their freedom and giving control of their lives to some other people who really do not care about them. The talk of compassion by most of the politicians is all just a façade.

There is an attack on those who work hard and succeed in life. Much of the media makes it sound like every rich person is evil and every CEO of every company is out to put the common man under his thumb. There is this attitude being preached to our nation that if you are a business owner you are greedy and evil. I ran a small home remodeling business for 28 years before I retired to focus more on the church that I shepherd. I met all kinds of owners of construction businesses through the years. These men, for the most part, were decent, honest and hard working men. Of course, there are crooks in the remodeling business who give a bad name to the industry.

It is the entrepreneur spirit, the willingness to work hard to provide a good life for our families and the good will of many Americans that has made America a place of great prosperity and comfort. Of course, the number one reason America is blessed is because she has honored God and allowed the Bible to be the law we live by. America is also blessed because she has been a support and blessing to God’s chosen people, Israel. Today there has been a major shift. America is turning from God. America is breeding a new generation of Americans who are growing up being told that they are owed something. They are being told it is unfair that others have more than they do. They are being told that they are entitled to have things that they have not worked for. This is conditioning a generation of young people to be sluggards by excusing them of any responsibility for their own lives. Today we have quite a few babies being born with their mother and/or father expecting the state to provide for their child.

It is becoming more common for couples to live together instead of getting married. This again is another way people avoid personal responsibility. For some couples, if they would marry, it would mean an end to government handouts, so they just live together wanting the perks of marriage, but without the commitment. By the way, living in fornication is another grievous sin that is committed in our nation. You may be surprised how many people call themselves Christians and yet they live in fornication. I trust you are not one of them.

In conclusion, it is your duty before God, “…that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing” (I Thessalonians 4:11-12). When God created man, He created him right from the beginning to be workers with responsibility.

 

And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it” (Genesis 2:15).

 

Prayer, The Greatest of Disciplines

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Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice” (Psalm 55:17)

 

In my estimation, there is not a greater discipline in all of Christianity than to live a life of prayer. Prayer is not one of the favorite subjects of the church. Prayer is one of the most neglected practices amongst believers. On top of that, there are many Christians who do pray, but they don’t pray effectively.

After I was born, again I read my Bible with enthusiasm. Even though I didn’t care too much for reading, I loved my Bible. However, there was something I knew was lacking in my young spiritual life. It was that I didn’t have much of a prayer life. I tried making a commitment to pray one hour like the disciples were asked to do, but that lasted about a day or two. Well, it happened after I was saved a couple of years that I determined to get serious about a prayer life. I am not big on New Year resolutions, but the New Year was upon me so I decided to do a New Year resolution. The resolution was to start off every work day with at least five minutes of prayer. You are probably thinking wow, what an incredible goal. Now I know five minutes is not much time, but it was certainly more than I was doing. Besides that, the commitment was for at least five minutes; I could always go longer. Five minutes seemed very practical because I could miss my alarm, get up late, and still squeeze in my prayer time before heading off to work. I can tell you that I kept that commitment and only failed to miss my prayer time a few times that year. Most of the mornings when I would pray I would go down in my basement rec room. As I kept at it, my prayer time was starting to increase. I was starting to go fifteen and twenty minutes, even longer. I was learning fellowship with God. I was finding a delight in getting to know my God.

My prayer life has grown a great deal since those early days. If there is any great lesson I can tell you about having a disciplined prayer life it is this, discipline will turn into delight. Yes, your prayer life can get to, if it hasn’t already, the place where you look forward to getting into your prayer closet and seek the Lord. It may not always be like that, but the more you know the Lord, the more you will take delight in spending time with Him.

If there is anything I would say prayer is, it is getting to know your God. So many believers think prayer is a list of requests that you bring to the Lord. I would never say that you shouldn’t do that, but quite often people bombard God with all their troubles, needs and desires and they don’t realize they have not taken time out to have intimate communion with the Lord. I have told my church that if they start off their prayer with praising God and seeking His face, then when they lift up their needs, the Lord is more pleased to answer them. It is like a child who wants to hit his dad up for five bucks, and he approaches his dad with a loving attitude before he asks for the money. I fell for that one quite few times. Jesus even gave us a pattern for that in what we call the Lord’s Prayer. It starts with, “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name” (Matthew 6:9). Jesus’ first two words teaches us that we are going before our Father. Praise God, He is not some distant crabby God who is always perturbed with everyone, but instead He desires to be a Father to us. Then Jesus’ next several words exalt the Father to the place that He deserves, He is to be hallowed. One of the meanings of hallowed is to venerate. Venerate means to regard with reverential respect and to honor. Basically you should start off your prayer time giving glory to God. We have prayer on Tuesday nights at our church and once in a while I say out loud to those who are there, “Let’s lift our hands and our voices unto God in praise and worship. Let’s not go barging into His presence, but let’s go before him with respect.” It is after we have done that, that we can ask for His will to be done and for our daily needs to be met.

It is such a shame that the Lord’s Prayer is not understood. So many have made it a prayer that people chant as a part of their church meeting. So many just mouth it without even giving any thought to what they are saying. Have you ever realized the damning effect the Lord’s Prayer can have on people? The prayer goes on to say, “and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). Do you realize what is being prayed here? People are actually asking God to forgive them the same way they forgive. Anyone who prays that prayer with un-forgiveness in their heart is asking God to not forgive them. For in the same way they forgive, they are asking God to forgive. If they won’t forgive then they are asking God not to forgive. If they don’t. He won’t. Doesn’t that make you shudder? It does me.

Prayer is serious business. Prayer is one of the most important things a believer can do. Probably most Christians view prayer as something they must do instead of seeing prayer as a privilege. Through prayer, you have the privilege of a one on one relationship with the One who created the heavens and the earth. And even more than that, if your relationship is right with Him, He will hear your prayers and answer them. Of course, they have to be according to God’s will, and if they are, God will.

Jesus was the greatest example when it came to prayer. His ministry to the lost sheep of Israel and His prayer time with the Father were in perfect balance. Sometimes He would rise a great while before sun up. Another time he spent a whole night in prayer. Other times He would sneak off into the mountains to get away from the people so He could be alone with His Father. He knew He could not be effective around the people unless He got away from people to get into the presence of His Father. I think it is very important for believers to have a set time to pray, but Jesus had more than that, He lived a life of prayer. This is a practice I am learning more and more. This is a practice the church needs to learn.

Most of all, the church must understand that she must pray. She needs to pray and believe in the power of prayer. The “house of prayer” has a thousand things going on inside her walls, but very little of what is the most needed, PRAYER!

But In Demonstration

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And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (I Corinthians 2:1-5).

 

Many Christians want to hear practical messages from scripture that teaches how to have health and prosperity and how to live successfully in our society. The preachers who master how to preach and teach these things as if that is what the word of God is all about, are the most popular preachers. The better they can do that, the bigger their churches are and greater is the number are those who follow them. Look at Joel Osteen, the pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, the largest Protestant church in America. The sanctuary seats 16,800 people. They estimate that over 45,000 people attend Lakewood Church every week. Joel is a master at making people feel real good. He is a bestselling author and has written many books. Here are the names of some of them. “You Can, You Will, The Power of I AM, Your Best Life Now, and Become a Better You” (emphasis added). Is there anything that stands out to you in these titles? I helped you see it by emboldening some of the words so they would catch your eye. Do you understand that these titles are all about YOU? All four of these books seem to focus on man and what is best for him. How is it that Christians who read the Bible, which is all about Christ, then go and write books that are all about man? I do have to confess that I have not read any of these books, and have no interest in doing so. The titles alone tell me what is in the pages of these books. When I first heard the title, “The Power of I AM,” it made me shudder. When I saw “Become a Better You” at the book store my immediate response was, “I don’t want to be a better me, I want the ME to die.” All the problems God ever had with me is the ME. I need to get ME out of the way.

I suppose if we could ask Christians, who regularly attend church, what they expect their pastors to preach and teach, some would say they would like more expository teaching. Some would say they want messages that apply to everyday practical living. Others may say they want the pastor to search out all the Hebrew and Greek words so they can get a better understanding of the scriptures. Others may want a fiery message with the preacher raising his voice. Some like a well-outlined teaching with worksheets to fill out. None of these things are necessarily wrong, but none of these are the answer to what is missing from today’s preachers. There is an incredible high regard for the teachers who are intellectuals. Our society is enamored with smart men with degrees. I think many Christians think that of all the men who have searched out all the Bible doctrines, that if anyone knows what they are talking about it has to be our intelligent Bible teachers. I have nothing against intelligence, even though I am not intelligent. You might not want to read anymore articles after I tell you this, but I only graduated from high school. I am just a dumb construction worker turned preacher.  However, I see far too many preachers and teachers trusting in their intellect and ability to articulate than in the power of God. The greatest thing we need from our preachers today is for them to preach with a demonstration of Spirit and power.

People get tired of talkers after a while. They especially get tired of preachers who talk, but never say anything with substance. They are tired of preachers who talk and lack authority in their words. Worse than that, people get offended when preachers talk and then live a life contrary to what they preach. Our society does not need talkers, our churches don’t need a speech; they need a demonstration of Spirit and power. Did you notice in our scripture text the word “Spirit” is capitalized? This indicates to us that the demonstration is from God (and not from our own human spirit) which results in man being a spirited preacher. We need preachers who demonstrate through the power of the Holy Spirit. Our generation needs a demonstration not a hollow message. They need powerful messages, not just good ones. They need a message that is authenticated by the Spirit of God.

Those who listened to the Pharisees week after week and year after year, were greatly moved when Jesus spoke. “And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matthew 7:28-29). There was another time when the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to arrest Jesus. When the officers came to Him and heard Him speaking, they returned back to them without arresting Jesus. When asked why, “The officers answered, Never man spake like this man” (John 7:46).

The devil has mastered clever speech. The devil even used scripture when he was trying to tempt Jesus. Satan has a counterfeit for a lot of things. The devil can do a lot of things, but there is one thing he cannot do and that is speak with the power and anointing of God. It is only we believers who have such a privilege. Motivational speakers can speak to and move the emotions of men, but the Holy Spirit deals directly with the spirit of man. Feelings and emotions can, and often do follow, but feelings alone do not prove a message has authority.

The Apostle Paul was a highly trained and educated man, so again you don’t have to be stupid to be used of God. God uses the “whosoever.” However, God doesn’t call, “…many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble… (I Corinthians 1:26), but that doesn’t mean He doesn’t call any. So if you are highly intelligent, give God the glory for it and use it for His glory, just like Paul did. When it came down to it, Paul said his effectiveness wasn’t in being a Hebrew of Hebrews or in his great learning at the feet of the Pharisee Gamaliel. Paul said, “In mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ” (Romans 15:19). I remember coming upon this verse back in 1999 as I was preparing for a message. I read it and said, “Where has this verse been all my saved life?” Well you know it has always been in the Bible. Maybe it never stood out because few seem to believe it anymore and few dare preach it.

Saint of God, there is nothing more our preachers need then to once again preach with a demonstration of Spirit and power. There is nothing more this world needs from you as well than to preach with a demonstration of Spirit and power.

You Must Be Born Again

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The most deceived people on the face of the earth

are those who think they are saved, but are not.

 

There is a huge difference between people who believe they are born

again because someone told them they were and those who know

they are born again because they experienced the new birth.

 

A person who is lost in their sin and knows it, has a much higher percentage of getting saved than the person who thinks they are saved, but has never been born again. A person who gets comfortable in their religion or their status in the church would have no reason to call on the Lord to save them. They think that everything is just fine. It is the person who is drowning who calls for the lifeguard. Even more difficult is for a minister who is not born again to get saved. The ministers that have committed their life to serve the Lord in the ministry would be the least likely to ever ask themselves if they have ever really been born again. Besides that, who would ever confront a minister about his need for salvation? Do not be mistaken there are many unsaved ministers. I trust that yours is born again.

It seems to me that so many in the church, especially when it comes to soul winning, have forgotten what Jesus said.

 

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again” (John 3:3-7).

 

Nothing has changed since the days Jesus spoke these words to Nicodemus. Though man has tried to ignore, rephrase or redefine the whole concept (more than a concept) of being born again, it still stands true today; you must be born again to enter the kingdom of God. By the way, it is not a future kingdom, it is a kingdom you enter the instant you are born again. Jesus said, “..the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21).

I have encountered many people who claim to be a Christian. Some of them are and some aren’t. Mind you, I am not the final judge of that as you know, neither are you. Some believers fear the thought of even trying to discern if someone is truly saved. Let me put you at ease, God will not be checking with me or you about another person’s salvation. However, the Bible teaches us that we can know a tree by its fruit. So when I encounter a person who claims to be a Christian, but there is much in their life that would testify contrary to that, (if I get a chance to,) I will ask them when they were born again. Some of their answers are, “I was a Christian my whole life,” or, “I became a Christian when I was baptized.” Millions of people have been told they are a Christian because they repeated the sinner’s prayer. Some churches teach that you are born again when you get confirmed. I was raised in the Roman Catholic church and I never even heard about being born again until I was in my twenties and it wasn’t the Catholic church that told me about it either. Nonetheless, at twenty seven years of age, married with three children, I was born again. I was made a brand new creature in an instant. It was something that happened on the inside of me. I can’t explain it, in fact no one can explain it, for it is something you just know when it happens to you. Jesus described it this way:

 

The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).

 

What Jesus is teaching is that you can’t see the wind, but you can hear and feel the effects of it. When someone is born again, the Holy Wind who you cannot see, enters that person and causes them to be born of the Spirit.

Think how radical it is for a baby when it is born. It leaves the warm sheltered confines of a mother’s womb and is brought out into a whole different environment than what it was used to for the last nine months. The baby does not have the capacity to understand what happened to it, but it does know that something happened. So too, with a person who is born again, they know something has happened to them even though they do not have the words or understanding to explain it. It doesn’t take long for the real believer to realize what happened to them, they became a born again believer.

I fear for many that their salvation rests in having correct theological understanding of salvation. They believe all the doctrines that they are supposed to believe such as, the word of God is infallible, all men have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and Jesus is the only way to the Father. In fact, they can have those famous salvation scriptures memorized such as:

 

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10).

 

and still not be born again. I fear many find the confidence of their salvation in their church. They believe they are saved because they attend church regularly, listen to the sermon, pay their tithes and try to live a moral life. Hell is filled with Bible reading church attenders. Going to church makes you no more a Christian than walking into the courthouse makes you a judge.

Then there are those who believe they are saved because mom and dad are, or grandma and grandpa are. Some children grow up convinced they are saved because their dad is the pastor. But no one, I repeat, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they personally are born again.

Salvation is a miracle. Every real Christian starts out as a miracle. Salvation is radical, it offends every part of your carnal nature, but is sweet to your soul. Salvation isn’t just a changing of your mind, it is powerful transformation. It takes those who have used their body to fulfill all kinds of sinful lusts and turns them into a temple for God to live in. Hallelujah!

Are you a living miracle? Are you truly born again? If not, humble yourself before Almighty God, repent of your sins, surrender your life to the Lord Jesus Christ and trust Him with your life.