CHRISTIANITY IS COMPELLED BY THE LOVE OF GOD…


2 Corinthians 5:14-21 – “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.

16 Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” NKJV

The KJV says,“The love of Christ constrains us….” It does, and equally appropriate is the rendering “compels us.”  The Love of God is the overriding factor in all our interpersonal relationships with other human beings and with God Himself.  It is the basis by which we render righteous judgments and the motivation (or should be) for all our actions in life.  When we consider the price paid by that Love how we can have any other mindset than one of forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration?

Understanding the Love of Christ, we realize that we are not living on an island of our own solitude, but each life touches other lives, and we are all cells within the Body of Christ and important to each other.  So, our regarding others should not be based on the natural but on the work of Christ. 

If we are in Christ, we are a “new creation.”  We are not the same old person that we once were.  We are no longer under the dominion of darkness and have been translated into the Kingdom of Light.  God views us as His Righteousness and so should we, not that we can be puffed up or become Pharisees but so that we might more fully receive and release the Love of God in our lives and to the world.

Love will cause us to seek the root of an issue, not just surface irritation.  Love will cause us to seek the best good of the other person not just setting them straight.  Love will compel us to reach out when we might have otherwise said, “You made your bed now lie in it.”  Love is one of if not the most powerful forces on Earth especially the Agape Love of God.

Therefore, as you consider the impact of God’s Love in your life and to your life then allow that Love to flow through you to others around you and I believe that you will be pleasantly surprised at the long-term response.  It may not happen immediately, but the consistent demonstration of God’s Love will eventually wear down even the hardest hearts and break down the most granite-like walls.

May God be with you as you go through your day.  Blessings!

SHALL WE CONSIDER SORROW AND REPENTANCE…


2 Corinthians 7:10 – “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.” NKJV

Over the years, I have heard less and less preaching on the Cross, sin, conviction, and even guilt than in my previous years of Christian service.  I have heard a lot about self-awareness and been entertained in the services with the same flare that I would expect from a Hollywood or Broadway production and while there can be a place and benefit for that many times, I went away wondering how many lives were brought to an encounter with God that addressed the root problem in their life – SIN!

Some years ago, I had a man come forward during the service sobbing uncontrollably.  He expressed his guilt and wanted me to make him feel better.  Those were his words, not mine.  Sadly, he had been caught or exposed in an illicit affair, and some bad business practices and was now publicly exposed. 

He was embarrassed.  He did not like the feeling of embarrassment and the public humiliation that he was experiencing and anticipated it to continue for some time and wanted it to go away.  His concept of my duty was to make him feel better and give him a justification for his actions.  He had sorrow but it was sorrow that he had been caught.  He had no heart change as was later demonstrated.  Once the issue died down, he reconciled with his wife through counseling sessions and convinced everyone that he was truly repentant he went back to the same old practices. 

This is clearly identified by the Holy Spirit through Peter in 2 Peter 2:22 – “But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”  NKJV If there is not a genuine change of heart all the counseling, crying, praying, confessing, etc. will avail nothing.  There must be a change of attitude toward the sin and a 180-degree turn taken.  Please do not say it like I heard a preacher once tell his congregation – “You need to do a 360-degree turn.”  HEAVEN FORBID that would bring you right back to where you were….

Godly Sorrow is sorrow that is produced by the conviction of the Holy Spirit not because you have been exposed but because you see with the heart of the Spirit of God how that sin hurts God.  You see how detrimental it is to your relationship with the Lord.  You see how it prevents you from being able to have a compelling testimony before the world.  You see how it prevents you from entering into the presence of the Lord and drinking in of His beauty, wisdom, knowledge, power, and presence.  The sorrow of the world leads to death but the sorrow from the conviction of the Holy Spirit leads to life spiritually.

If the Spirit of God is pointing to something in your life and you feel the twinges of conviction as Saul of Tarsus and find it difficult to “kick against the pricks” of that conviction.  Then know that God is more willing to forgive than you are to repent.  He longs for you to accept His pardon and enter into His presence and develop that intimate relationship with Him.  So, as you go through this day and every day make it a determination of your heart that you will quickly run to the Cross when God opens your eyes and heart to any sin in your life.  Anywhere you miss the mark you take it to the Lord and lay it on the altar before Him.

May God bless you as you go through this day!

IT IS IN YOU LORD – – IN YOU!


Psalm 119:15-16 – “I will meditate on Your precepts, And contemplate Your ways. 16 I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word.” NKJV

Most of us spend far more time contemplating and meditating upon things that are of no redeeming value and only cause an erosion of faith, confidence, and boldness.  Jesus spoke to that in Matthew 6 when He addressed God’s provision and the fallacy of our worrying about things. 

In verse 27 we read – “Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?” NKJV You cannot get taller or gain more influence through worry.  Your bank account will not grow through worry.  Your health will not improve through worry.  The mountain or giant you are facing will not diminish or grow lesser in strength through worry, so Why Do We Worry?

I am convinced we worry because of several things:

  1. We are not truly trusting God.  We believe that He is, and we have trusted Him for our salvation, but we do not really trust Him to handle the affairs of life.  Before you argue if you do then why do we Worry?
  2. We do not know God or His Covenant.  We know about God and have entered into the family of God through the New Birth, but we only know the Acts of God not the Ways or Heart of God, so we Worry!
  3. We have assumed a responsibility, not ours.  Let me ask, “Is God the Sovereign God of the Universe?”  Then when did it fall our lot to worry?  Has He not promised to be with us in all things and provide for our every need?  Then why do we Worry?

I believe that the reason David was called a “man after God’s own heart” was in part because of his understanding in this area.  I believe that is why God used David to establish the Tabernacle of David and the Davidic Worship that the Church is just beginning to get a glimpse of today and the power that is in it.

Listen to what David has to say as He declares to God and whoever will hear or read:

  • I WILL (not intermittently) but I WILL meditate on Your Precepts.
  • I WILL (not casually when I have nothing else to do) I WILL CONTEMPLATE your Ways.
  • I WILL (not when things are good but at all times) I WILL DELIGHT myself in your Statues.
  • I WILL NOT (this is a constant in his life)I WILL NOT FORGET Your Word.

If we incorporated those four things into our daily lives, we would shake off the shackles of WORRY, FEAR, FRETTING, and yes FAILURE in our Spiritual lives and walk in the Abundant Life that Jesus promised us.  We would come to know not only What God does but Who God is. 

We would learn His heart and instead of questioning His motives, the seeming delays, or His allowing storms to come into our lives, we would Rejoice.  We would because we would Know that these are only opportunities for God to demonstrate His Love, Power, Keeping, Care, and Covenant as a testimony to the World and a reminder to the devil.  We could and would walk in a continual attitude of gratitude and praise and that kind of disposition draws like a magnet in a bin of metal shavings.

May God help and way with you as you go through this day in Him.  Blessings!

THIS PRAYER OF DAVID IS MY DAILY PRAYER…


Psalm 51:10-11“Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.”  NKJV

For some time now I have awakened early and one of the first thoughts on my mind is this passage from the Psalms.  It has long been the cry of my heart and lately has become even more intense.  I have discovered that when that happens it is an indication of something about to transpire in which I need an abundant flow of His Grace to empower me personally or help others in something they are facing.  God does not always let me know what is coming but He lets me know that I need to seek Him more diligently and earnestly.  I have learned some things about how He operates in my life and when this happens, I listen.

Look at the cry or prayer of David here and when you do it is little wonder that God would call him a man after God’s own heart.  Listen to the earnest craving for God:

  1. Create in me a CLEAN HEART.

Oh, how we sometimes neglect our hearts and allow little bits of debris to come in and taint our attitudes.  David is asking for a “renewed washing” of his inner man.  He knows that a “clean heart” before God is the only possible condition in which he can be what God wants him to be, his nation needs him to be, and his family is so desperate for him to be.

  • Renew in me a STEADFAST SPIRIT.

Wow!  Not only is he asking for a “total cleansing” of his heart, but he wants God to strengthen his resolve and commitment.  I believe that comes from Knowing GOD in a deeply personal manner and from understanding God’s Covenant in its practical function, not just the theological implications.

  • Do not CAST ME AWAY from Your Presence

David, as did Paul and many in Scripture, had a compelling desire to always live in a relationship with the Lord that would preclude them from being castaways.  They guarded, with the help of the Holy Spirit, against allowing any condition of heart, mind, or attitude to place them outside the favor of God.  They understood that it is ONLY in God’s Presence that there was their hope of sustaining life and liberty.

  • And DO NOT TAKE Your Holy Spirit from me.

Again, David as did the great men of Scripture and history the importance, which Jesus identified in the New Testament, of the Helper (the Holy Spirit) in our daily work, work, and warfare.  Sadly, many in Scripture were completely unaware that the Spirit of God had left them, and the results were disastrous.  I am conscious of His presence, nudging, and ministry in my life.  I am aware of His influence on what I think, say, and do.  I am completely cognizant of those times when He clearly has taken the lead and is performing the function of MY HELPER, MY TEACHER, and MY GUIDE!

So, if you are like me, and this is something that is burning in your heart it might be well to take a day or two and just find a place of solitude where you can “fast and pray” without making a public display or announcement.  Your purpose is not recognition of your effort by man but a relationship with God.

May the rich blessings of the Lord be upon you as you go through your day and week!

THE BIBLE’S WARNING ABOUT WHEN THE WICKED RULE…


Proverbs 29:2 – “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; But when a wicked man rules, the people groan.” NKJV

The more I read of the principles upon which this nation was established and see the hearts of the Founding Fathers in their writings beyond the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights I cannot miss the presence of God in it all. 

They sought freedom from tyranny and desired that everyone have the opportunity and liberty to worship according to the dictate of each individual heart.  When the war was finally over, and freedom had been won there was great rejoicing as is described in this verse.  They shifted from groaning to rejoicing. It was akin to what the nation of Israel did so long as God was afforded His sovereign place in the affairs of this nation there was His blessing and cause for rejoicing among the people, believers, and unbelievers alike.  America became a magnet drawing hungry hearts like metal shavings to a powerful magnet.

Over time, wickedness in the hearts of men has eroded that foundation. Little by little America has moved from being “One nation under God,” to a nation that attempts to relegate God to the confines of the walls of the local church and even then, within the edicts of government.  In a profound sense, we have lost our Freedom of Religion.  The Founders did not want a nation “free from religion” but one that had “freedom of religion.”  There is a dynamic difference between the two. 

In each of our hearts, there is a tugging of the Spirit of God that clearly reveals the extent to which we have strayed.  I believe that there is a coming revival, renewal, and restoration and it will begin with judgment at the House of God and move throughout the entirety of our society.  Will all accept it?  NO!  But there will be a harvest that will cause great unrest in the kingdom of darkness and hell will belch forth some of the vilest persecution that this world has ever seen.  It is time that we all make certain that we have our houses in order for we know not what a day may bring forth. 

I believe that God is calling for righteous men and women to join in the battle in the political arena.  I am not focusing on political parties but righteous hearts!  This is not to be considered lightly or in haste because many of those will pay an incredibly high price to see the first part of this passage become reality.  Some will lead armies in the natural and some in the spiritual.  We will fight a battle on two fronts the natural and the spiritual.  Both will be equally important for the achievement of the Purposes of God in this Generation!

We have had times when righteous people served in positions of high authority in this land. During those times we saw incredible accomplishments.  We have also seen times when those in authority were wicked, and the nation suffered as a result.  The only question for each of us is “Will we seek first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness?” 

If we humble ourselves, pray, seek the face of the Lord, and walk in obedience to His commandments we will see something that many have only fantasized about becoming reality before our eyes.  I write this fully believing in my heart that it is coming from the Throne Room of Heaven and is consistent with the Written Word of God.

So, I urge each of you to bow the knee to Jesus and cry out in repentance for God’s deliverance personally, congregationally, and nationally.  There is something more than just a nation at stake.  

May the Lord bless you and keep you, make His face shine upon you, be gracious unto you, and give you peace!

HIDDEN TILL THE STORM PASSES BY…


Psalm 57:1 – “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; And in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, Until these calamities have passed by.” NKJV

There is an old song written by Mosie Lister in the 50s entitled “Till the Storm Passes By” that fits this Psalm and times in our lives when we need to be comforted in the shelter of God’s protective arms.  Mark 4:39 –“And He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace be still.  And the wind ceased, and there was great calm.”  The one thing certain is that when Jesus speaks to the storms of life and says, “Enough” whatever we are facing ceases.

The first verse of the song says:

In the dark of the midnight have I oft hid my face, while the storm howls above me, and there’s no hiding place. ‘Mid the crash of the thunder, Precious Lord, hear my cry keep me safe till the storm passes by.

How often have we felt exactly that way?  How many times in life have we faced seemingly insurmountable odds and obstacles?  How many times have we cried out for God’s divine protection and grace?  The chorus says it so eloquently:

Till the storm passes over, till the thunder sounds no more, till the clouds roll forever from the sky; Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand, Keep me safe till the storm passes by.

The second verse identifies the diabolicalness of the devil when we encounter those storms and sadly too often people succumb to his deception.

Many times, Satan whispered, “There is no need to try, for there’s no end of sorrow, there’s no hope by and by” but I know Thou art with me, and tomorrow I’ll rise where the storms never darken the skies.

The devil likes nothing better than to get us to give up but if we reach out to the Lord, we find Him reaching out to us.  In the midst of the storms of life, we find a peace that the world is unable to comprehend.  I have told people for years, “The devil cannot win unless we quit.” 

The third verse identifies that beautiful place of rest in the Lord as we come through the storms and walk out the other side in victory:

When the long night has ended and the storms come no more, let me stand in Thy presence on the bright peaceful shore; In that land where the tempest, never comes, Lord, may I Dwell with Thee when the storm passes by.

Therefore, no matter what you might be facing now or might face in the future keep in mind the loving, caring, and keeping power of God!  We have His promise to NEVER leave us nor forsake us.  We have the assurance that He is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.  We know whom we have believed and are persuaded that He is able to keep that which we have committed to Him against that day or any day!  In Christ we have hope!

So, as you go through this day go in the deep settled assurance that God is ALWAYS there!  

May you enjoy the rich and real blessings of the LORD today and every day!

FOUR FACTORS FOR SUCCESS – – Conclusion.


Acts 10:30-33 – “Then Cornelius said to him, Four days I have been fasting; and at three o’clock in the afternoon while I was praying in my house, a man dressed in white garments stood before me.31 And said to me, Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms are a memorial before God.32 But send to the city of Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; behold he is staying in the house of Simon Bur-sa’ya, the tanner, by the seaside: and he will come and talk with you.33 At that very time I sent for you, and you have done well to come. Behold we are all here present before you, and we wish to hear everything commanded thee from God.”

We have covered the first two factors of success in this gathering presented in Acts 10, the Audience, and the Preacher.  Today, we will consider more, and hopefully what I present will be beneficial and encouraging.

THE THIRD FACTOR WAS THE MESSAGE…

Not all sermons have the same effect or are of the same importance.  Some are breathed from the Throne of Heaven and others are concocted from the mind of man.  Both can have benefits, but one far outshines the other.  I want to hear a Word from Heaven, not the opinion of another when I am searching for Light.  I enjoy hearing the opinions of others but when I am hungry for a Word from God, I want a God-breathed Word, not another’s opinion.

I love praise and worship!  I love special music sung for the joy of the Lord and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  However, I am convinced that those were not the factors that produced the results they received.  Those things are wonderful and needful, but there is also a time when what is needed is that direct word from God through preaching or teaching. 

Believing the Gospel is a major key to victory in a service.  Jesus preached the Good News and lives were changed.  The apostles preached the Good News and entire cities were turned upside down.  The message is important, and it must be the Gospel of Christ and a word specifically for that group, at the moment, for God’s purposed result.  It is not to apply Sunday balm to our lives and wait until next week to come again.  It is hearing God!  Peter’s message was simple, but it was God-inspired.  It transformed their lives.

THE FOURTH FACTOR WAS THE RESULTS…

We need to develop expectation.  We are not gathering to hear another song or another sermon, we are gathering to hear God and come into His presence.  The purpose of the service was deliverance from bondage, recovering of sight for blind eyes (naturally and spiritually).  It was for setting at liberty those who were bound and entering the presence of the Lord in worship.  Jesus’ ministry was reconciliation. The disciples carried for that ministry.  It is vital that we carry forth the objective and ministry of reconciliation. 

What was the outcome of the service?  Let me give you a scenario that would be relevant to much of today’s church services.  The next morning Cornelius was asked, “Hey you had a preacher come by yesterday, didn’t you?”  His response would have been, “Yes.”  Then the person asked, “How was the service?”  Cornelius would say, “Oh so, so.”  Mrs. Cornelius would chime in and say, “Fairly good, I guess.  But to tell you the truth I never quite got the drift of what he was preaching.  When I saw, he was going to preach to the man on the moon, I tuned out and took a nap.”  That is not what happened but happens in far too many services today.

They understood the preacher.  So, Cornelius how was the service?  Then with a radiant face and his feet about a foot off the ground still floating in the euphoria of the service would say, “WONDERFUL!  He told us about salvation and that it could be received by simple faith.  Everyone repented and the Power of the Holy Spirit fell and saturated the house.  We were all transformed by the Power of God and are Born Again Believers!  It was phenomenal.”

They heard the preacher.  So, if we want to come together and meet God in His power, and love, and have a life-changing experience we need to be Present, Reverent, and Expectant.  We (preachers) need to place a premium on our preaching and know that we have a Word from God.  We (the congregation) must hear the message and then God will do what God does and Give us Results.  Lives will be transformed.

I have no desire to go to a Church Service for the sake of soothing my conscience and claim to have done my religious duty.  I want it to be a powerful time in the presence of God.  There does not have to be any outward manifestation, but the presence of God should be there powerfully.  I want my heart stirred and challenged.  God wants us to receive and then what we have received is freely given to those in the highways, byways, and hedges.  He wants us to become laborers in His harvest.

How we come together will be a critical factor in how we will leave.  God comes to meet us, do we come expecting to meet Him?

God bless you as you enter His presence and receive that which He desires to bestow!

FOUR FACTORS FOR SUCCESS – – Part Two…


Acts 10:30-33 – “Then Cornelius said to him, Four days I have been fasting; and at three o’clock in the afternoon while I was praying in my house, a man dressed in white garments stood before me.31 And said to me, Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms are a memorial before God.32 But send to the city of Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; behold he is staying in the house of Simon Bur-sa”ya, the tanner, by the seaside: and he will come and talk with you.33 At that very time I sent for you, and you have done well to come. Behold we are all here present before you, and we wish to hear everything commanded thee from God.”

We looked at the first factor for success in this service of our text as being the Audience.  Today, I want us to dig a little deeper and hopefully present something that will be both enlightening and inspirational. 

THE SECOND FACTOR WAS THE PREACHER…

Of course, I am going to bring the preacher into the mix, after all, I am a preacher.  Seriously, the one delivering the message is important for many of the same reasons as the audience.  I read an article some years ago that drew a comparison between preachers and farmers.  The article said that the farmer contributed more to human well-being in one year than any preacher.  I hope that is not true!  God has used the foolishness of preaching to save souls and that is a great contribution to human well-being it is eternal well-being.

When God purposed to lead Cornelius and his house into the Light of the Gospel, He used a preacher to deliver the message.  He could have sent an angel, just as He did to tell Cornelius to send for Peter.  Preaching should have the purpose of transforming lives not impressing with originality and oratorical ability.  It is not about the preacher; he is just the vehicle through which the Holy Spirit brings the message.

In fact, when I study the Gospels, I realize that Jesus gave preaching a very high priority.  When He began His earthly ministry, He read from Isaiah in Luke 4:18, “…because He has anointed me to preach…”  This is God’s method to advance the Kingdom.  One key element is Preaching!  If you read Mark 16 you realize that Preaching was part of the Great Commission.  The apostle Paul referred to the importance of preaching in Romans 10:13-15.

Preaching is part of the service because God commissions it.  Logistics and mathematics would reveal that we can reach far more people by having a gathering and preaching than by speaking one on one to the entire world.  Preaching is effective when done under the compulsion of the Spirit with the anointing of God.  Anointed preaching is powerful, and every preacher should preach with the awareness that they are speaking for God and will be held accountable for what they say.

Cornelius was convinced that Peter was a man under divine orders and was eager to hear what he had to say.  Remember in the Old Testament when Miriam and Aaron challenged Moses?  What did God do?  How about Korah, Dathan, and the others?  God took swift, drastic, and immediate action.  The call of God carries a heavy weight of responsibility and therefore preaching is only to be done under the inspiration of the Spirit and with deep reverence for God.

I want to deal with this more but will pause here and take this up again in the next devotional. 

May the LORD bless you, keep you, and make His face shine upon you giving you peace.  God bless and have a wonderful day!

FOUR FACTORS FOR SUCCESS…


Acts 10:30-33 – “Then Cornelius said to him, Four days I have been fasting; and at three o’clock in the afternoon while I was praying in my house, a man dressed in white garments stood before me.31 And said to me, Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms are a memorial before God.32 But send to the city of Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; behold he is staying in the house of Simon Bur-sa’ya, the tanner, by the seaside: and he will come and talk with you.33 At that very time I sent for you, and you have done well to come. Behold we are all here present before you, and we wish to hear everything commanded thee from God.”

Immediate disclaimer – I am not talking about success as in gaining riches or things of that nature!

I believe that one of the primary purposes for going to the House of God is to worship!  We should come to the gathering with expectant hearts open to a touch of the Holy God of heaven upon our lives.  When I go to the House of God, I go with the expectation of receiving a touch and being ministered to by the Holy Spirit, and extending my praise unto God in adoration and worship.

In this particular service or gathering, we find an incredibly successful service.  I can honestly say that I have conducted and been in church services that left me feeling a bit empty.  I would never presume to know the depth of what might have transpired in people’s lives but from where I stood, they looked like there were anything but successful. 

In those services when the benediction was offered, the body language, facial expressions, and conversation of the congregation did not give the impression God had positively impacted them.  They did not appear to have been in green pastures and drinking at the still waters of the Spirit of God.  Rather, many looked like they had been stranded in a barren desert or just came from an hour in a dentist’s chair.  Some had sour expressions on their face.  There did not appear to be any victory. 

The service we are looking at was other than that.  This was a dynamic gathering that resulted in the lives of the attendees being transformed radically by the Holy Spirit.  It was a success by any definition.  The residue of this service was felt and demonstrated for years if not decades to follow.  This is not the type of service that belongs in some far-off yesterday, but it is available for today.

I believe that God would have this the norm rather than the unusual.  As I contemplated this gathering, I saw that there were at least four factors that contributed to the success of the service.  Out of a desire for us to have that type of service when we gather to worship, I share my thoughts.  If you believe this is for yesterday, you will not appreciate my observations, but if you are hungry for more of God, it might prove beneficial.

THE FIRST FACTOR THAT CONTRIBUTED TO THE SUCCESS OF THE SERVICE WAS THE AUDIENCE.

I realize that in some circles many believe that the success or failure of the service is dependent upon the worship and praise, or the message delivered by the minister.  That would be a tragic misunderstanding of our reason for gathering.  The audience plays a vital role in the outcome.  I have found in my years of preaching that some audiences could almost breathe life into the dead, they are so engaged, open, and expectant.  Some audiences can put out any fire that is burning and render the service mundane and lacking.  Some audiences turn their backs (figuratively) on the service and others are so receptive they are like sponges. 

The audience in this story was a Present Audience.  Before you say, “Of course they were, they were sitting before Peter.”  Let me challenge you to consider what it means to be actively present.  I have preachers tell me, “I can preach as well to a handful as to a houseful.”  I will not question that, but I have never been inspired preaching to a crowd that more reflected the life of a lumberyard than a gathering of hungry hearts.  Jesus is present when two or three gather in His name, but when that is extrapolated to many it can be infectious.

Cornelius said to Peter, “We are all here PRESENT.”  Wow!  That is an audience that inspires.  It is the kind of audience that the preacher preaches to be hopeful.  I have had people tell me, “I could not be with you, but I was with you in the spirit.”  Someone said, “Spirits are like dogs.  If you cannot come and tend to them, they might be better off kept at home.”  I appreciate the thought, but you and your spirit there will lend to the victory of the meeting.

The audience was a Reverent Audience.  Reverence is not one of the common characteristics of our day.  Irvin Cobb (not regarded as a great theologian) said, “If you were to examine the bump of reverence on the head of modern man you would find it to be a dent.”  Reverence is incredibly important because it is an expression of value and worth.  It has been said that it is a gateway to knowledge.  We will never find our way into the Secret Place of the Most High being flippant or irreverent.

This was an Expectant Audience.  As a preacher, I can tell you it is easy to discern if the audience is expectant or not.  Two types of audiences inspire me.  The audience that is enthusiastically with me and the one that is enthusiastically against me or what I am presenting. 

A bullet can penetrate a piece of thin plate metal fairly easily, but a bullet will not penetrate a ten-foot snowbank.  The snow greets it with an icy kiss and lulls it to sleep before it travels to its destination.  The expectancy of the audience was not placed on Peter’s reputation as an orator or scholar. They had been praying for light and understanding.  They were hungry for the revelation of God and God sent them a preacher.  Therefore, they were right in having expectations of the highest order.  Peter had been selected by God and therefore, they expected something to happen when he spoke.  They were present to hear and open to the truth.

I do not want to go too long so I will pause here and pick up next time with more thoughts about the four factors for success

God bless you richly is my prayer and desire.  Have a wonderful day in Jesus!

HERESY IS HERESY NO MATTER HOW IT IS PACKAGED…


Matthew 7:15 – “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”  ESV

2 John 1:9 –Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.”

Some wonder why I would spend any time on the heresy that I will address in this post.  Let me answer that in a brief declaration. It is because of the destructiveness of this demon-inspired doctrine that negates the value of the Cross, accountability, repentance, and the Great Commission.  It places people in jeopardy of spending eternity separated from God, therefore, as a believer, I feel I must address it even briefly.

What is the heresy that I am referring to?  It is Universalism or as it is called Christian Universalism.  This is a doctrine that has surfaced from time to time over the past 1800 years or so and has been resoundingly rejected every time.  However, in today’s WOKE and Entitlement World it has gained some traction.  That is disturbing.

The doctrine of universalism has some varied definitions but, it is the doctrine that ALL Human beings and perhaps all intelligent and volitional beings will come to final salvation and spend eternity in heaven with God.  The universalists do not all agree on how that works out, but they all agree that end the end EVERYONE Gets In.

One group of universalists believes that everyone goes immediately to heaven upon death (ultra-universalism).  Others believe that many or most people first undergo postmortem suffering (purgationism).  This was fiercely debated among universalists in the 19th century, and they have never been able to resolve the differences. 

The overriding argument of the universalists is that God’s purpose for creating the world would be a total failure if even one intelligent creature should finally be separated from God.  This line of reasoning implies if not outright declares that not only humans but also fallen angels will finally be saved.  That is heretical and is a slap in God’s face.

Rob Bell published his book in 2011 entitled Love Wins as his proof of the universalist doctrine.  The book is incredibly sad, but the fact that it was responded to with mostly yawns by the Christian community is troubling. 

It began with Origen and has been rejected by Orthodox Christianity throughout the ages.  Western esotericists, outside the traditional church and hovered around the fringes embraced this doctrine from around 1700 to the mid-1900s.  No, it was not the accepted view of the apostles or the church fathers in the beginning.  It came into being through Origen.

This doctrine is not just a theological mistake it is heretical.  It speaks of a much deeper problem including moralistic therapeutic deism.  It is the way the mind of man who is insecure in his relationship with God and seeking to avoid accountability and responsibility to live in obedience to God’s commands and be holy as He is holy created a god to their liking rather than being transformed by Him.  It is one thing to wish something was reality and another to expect or receive it.  Just because I would like for everyone to go to heaven does not mean that everyone does.  The Bible makes that clear in so many places, that it would take a book to list all the references.  I am not avoiding them and will gladly cite them.

Dr. Michael McClymond authored the book “The Devil’s Redemption” in which he traces the entire history of Universalism.  He took it from its first appearance in Gnostic heresies within one hundred years of the birth of the Christian Church up to the modern heretical offerings.  He contends that universalism is the world the way man would want it to be, not reality but man-made.

Jesus was the epitome of Love exemplified and demonstrated that in His death on the Cross.  His death for sin was the offering of Love from the Father for mankind to open the door to salvation for WHOSOEVER will come.  It is whosoever will not everyone will.  The argument is that God is less than the Almighty God if He created man knowing man would fall away and some would ultimately spend eternity in an everlasting hell.  If that logic is pursued to its conclusion, then why did God create the devil and the third of the angels that fell? 

If everyone is going to be saved regardless, then why did Jesus issue the Great Commission?  Why is there a call for repentance in the Bible?  Why did Jesus say, “You must be born again?”  If everyone gets in regardless of their condition, then heaven would be no different from our present earth with all the vile things existing.  There will be no rape in heaven.  There will be no theft, murder, lies, abuse, pedophilia, etc.  There will be no enemies to evict. 

The theory of the universalists takes only the attribute of Love in the Father and makes it the whole of who He is missing the totality of God.  He is also Holy and Just.  Even Origen, because of the Bible’s call to self-denial and godly living could not thrive in a Universalist environment suggested that universalism should be kept secret from the masses and disseminated among only a select few.

If I truly believed that everyone gets in regardless, I would no longer feel the urgency to preach the gospel, tell others about Jesus, and warn of the wrath to come.  When I read Psalm 1, I immediately reject Universalism.  When I read passages such as Matthew 10:28, I immediately reject Universalism. When I read the parable of the wheat and the tares in which the tares are bound and burned in the fire, I reject Universalism.  When I read the parable of the catch of fish with the good kept and the bad thrown away, I reject Universalism.  When I read John 3:16, I see the call to God and the promise of salvation for coming to Him, but being lost if I refuse, I reject Universalism.

I have, in an extremely limited measure, addressed the heresy and danger of Universalism.  In order to embrace Universalism, one must ignore the myriad of scripture, seek to accuse the translators of error, twist or cherry-pick passages, and slant their meaning.  Every verse in the Bible must be interpreted in light of every other verse in the Bible.  To argue that the Greek says this or that is to forget that Aramaic was the language spoken in the days of Jesus.  The Dead Sea Scrolls have brought the revelation that there were Hebrews before the birth of Jesus who believed in what became the gospel message.  None of them embraced the idea of Universalism.

I have said to some Universalists, “If you are right and I am wrong, then I have lost nothing in believing the Bible and seeking to walk in purity with accountability, spreading the message to evangelize the lost.  When I die, I get in.  However, if you are wrong and I am right, then you could lose everything.”  I know that is not enough to sway anyone, but it is a thought.  I stand with what Jesus and the apostles taught as well as the plethora of Old Testaments references to eternity, the Love, Holiness, and Justice of the Father.

Not to continue longer, let me insert a simple observation.  It would be wonderful to believe that no one is ever separated from God eternally.  We know from Scripture that God does not desire that anyone perish, but the apostolic teaching clearly reveals that all are not automatically justified in Christ.  The Scripture does not teach that those who do not accept Jesus in this life will suffer for a time and then be saved.  That would require importing all manner of categories foreign to scripture to make that even a remote possibility.

God desires obedience but if everyone gets in, even the most diabolical including the devil, why be concerned with obedience?  If it feels good, do it and do it and do it until you tire of doing it.  We live and we die and after we die then comes the judgment.  I do not want to try to explain to God why I did not repent.

God bless you and I hope this long devotional provides some benefit.  The Christian life is not designed to be hard.  It is hard when we try to do it ourselves rather than allowing Jesus to live His life through us.  His yoke is easy and His burden light.

Have a Great Day!