By Jake–May 6, 2013
My Bible reading the last couple nights before going to sleep I was directed to Hebrews 11. Most of us know this passage as the Bible’s “hall of fame”. This chapter has a long list of people who accomplished many great things by faith in honor of the LORD, but there were also a great many listed who endured unspeakable atrocities due to their faith in their Messiah Jesus, who they would not deny, no matter the cost.
I don’t even know how many times I have read this chapter but I was sent there once again. I determined this time to read it really slow so that I would not miss the depth of what was being said. It is amazing the difference it makes. One thing that I hoped to possibly see more than ever before is what it was that set these people aside from most who claim to be followers of Jesus. I was amazed at the things I found, in spite of the fact that I had read this chapter so many times before.
I will not be able to get into everything God laid on me for this article because it would get too long—and likely too heavy for this time around. What I would like to mention may seem pretty simple; maybe even elementary to some, but hopefully you can give these thoughts a chance to sink in anyway and see what God does with them. Nothing in God’s Word is all that “simple” anyway, and should not be ignored. Our world is becoming more turbulent every day; in fact more and more chaotic. People around us need to see something different than what is now accepted as the “norm”—unfortunately even in the Church.
We are not only seeing the decay in society, but also in our homes. This is a result of the hedonistic lifestyle glorified by Hollywood, and even the Church doesn’t see how much it has been sucked in by what we are fed as “acceptable” entertainment. We have become overcome with materialism; nice houses, nice cars, technology like nowhere else in the world. The abundance of entertainment has managed not only to steal most of our time, but also change what we see as accepted standards and morals for this new generation. We are addicted to sports, God’s great outdoors, soap operas, and anything that entertains; for many it is incessant work-out regiments—so that we can live long, successful lives, for others it is any of a non-ending list of things to keep us from what life is really all about. We have made a god out of living “the good life”– so much so that we have forgotten Jesus’ warning against falling in love with the world and all of its trappings. What has happened to the people of God who had at one time lived to please the Master? Have we forgotten that this life is only temporary and a test of our commitment to the One that died for us? We have forgotten—or are conveniently ignoring the warning against what the fallen one puts before us—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life! All three are evident—even in the Church, but the one that strikes me as especially deceptive, is the “pride of life”. This aptly describes most churches in America today.
One of our problems is, we have a definition of “success” that does not match the one that Jesus Himself lived. Our “preacher factories” or, in being a bit more civilized in my commentary, teach us how to build a great ministry machine; one that meets all needs, and doesn’t take a chance on losing people of influence, or maybe even more important—people that provide substantial finance! People might think I’m just taking pot-shots at churches and the leadership needed to run them, but that’s in error. I’ve BEEN THERE!
Look at the ministry of Jesus after 3 ½ years. When He was going through the process of being convicted for His “crimes”, almost everyone left Him! What is noteworthy is the fact that there were more women there to stand by Him than men! Where were the men? Yes, John the future Apostle was there, but the rest of them??? Of course they were disillusioned! Of course they couldn’t figure out what happened! Of course they were afraid for their own lives! But, did the women not have even more reason to fear—especially with the reputation the Roman Empire had? They apparently had at least some remembrance of what Jesus had promised. He said that He would be killed—but He would rise from the dead!!! Had He not told them this ahead of time—numerous times? Yet, as we see in John 21, Jesus was more than willing to forgive them, ALL of them, especially Peter who had beaten himself up a lot in the three days and nights after the crucifixion. Jesus would have forgiven Judas as well! Judas and Peter committed sins that were nearly identical. Peter however humbled himself before His LORD—and was not only forgiven, but commissioned to complete a task God had laid out for Him from before the foundations of the earth had been laid. We serve such an amazing GOD, folks!! HE REALLY LOVES US!
I read the book “Iscariot” written by Tosca Lee. I found it to bring out many things that don’t cross many minds. I recommend the book, not only as a good read, but because it is quite moving and really grabs you. I don’t recommend it because everyone will agree with all her thoughts presented in the novel, but because I know she really did her homework, covering all of the historical and cultural issues of the time, as well as giving a good grasp—not only of what thought patterns ruled the Roman Empire two millennia ago, but the Jewish religious system at the time as well. I found her to have the power structure of the Sanhedrin well pegged in how they ruled the Jewish people of the time, and how they protected their enviable positions as well. I find it not a whole lot different than much in evidence today.
“Iscariot” also showed the intensity of the attack on this unusual and popular Prophet from Nazareth. The novel did a good job showing how Jesus had no fear of alienating—not only the Jewish religious leaders of the day, but also His own followers—which were at least in the tens of thousands, at the height of His following, if not hundreds of thousands, scattered all over the land. Not only did Jesus set off His following by His seeming bizarre statements, but also His own future apostles. In John 6, Jesus was left with a handful of followers, and they were disillusioned and confused at best! This historical novel showed it for what it was, with the added information of the culture of the day that most of us don’t understand unless we are students of history.
Here we are today! We are afraid to offend anyone. We cringe when anyone crosses us! What has happened to the true Church? We have been given specific instructions on how a New Testament Church operates and yet so few follow the instructions laid out by the very God who had the New Testament written! Do we think He made mistakes when He had His inspired writers pen the words? We are either so fearful for our own careers, status amongst our peers, or we are just not sure that our faith in God will really carry us through the minefield we have to traverse. I guess Hebrews 11:6 is in question when it says,
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He is and that He rewards those that seek Him.”
How can anyone understand this scripture any other way than what it so clearly says? Not many of us argue against His existence, but I’m not sure we really believe that He will answer our faith when we put our trust in Him! How can that be? Reading the rest of this chapter in Hebrews is pretty straight forward. From that point on in the chapter, it continues to preface the comments about each hero of the faith in saying: By faith… they did this and that—whatever it was that God had put in their path to accomplish in His Name. How about you? I have to ask myself the same every day, “How about me??” We are at the last of the last days and if we are going to do anything of consequence in honor of the KING of Kings, and His Kingdom, which we claim that we want to have part in, WE HAD BETTER GET WITH THE PROGRAM! This means to quit listening to people and listen to the Spirit of God. NO ONE ELSE!! God’s Word leaves no question about us being judged by this very thing!
There are many who claim that God has called them to one ministry or another. Where is the proof of what God has called us to? I know that it takes time for ministry to build; so does our ability to hear God, but have we made a vow to God and not fulfilled it? Isn’t this what Ananias and Sapphira did and then were judged for? They made a fine sounding proclamation to the Body of Christ, yet did not fulfill what they claimed before God and man that they were going to do. In the days we now live in, the judgments of people like Ananias and Sapphira will happen once again. The reason for this is SOULS! Are we afraid to do what we know we should because we are more afraid of what people will do and say than how God is going to judge our actions? BIG MISTAKE!
We are living in a time of great harvest and we are either going to participate in it, ignore it, or damage what God intends to do through the sin of “omission”. Most people know what sins of commission are because they are pretty obvious. Sins of “omission” however are those we can easily be guilty of because they are often done in self-preservation. What is even more deceptive is when we don’t follow God’s lead because we think we are protecting God’s reputation—or maybe even the reputation of His Church. REALLY!? Where are the heroes of the faith today?? The REAL heroes are too often hidden from the eyes of the modern day church by leaders so that people are not upset over things that are happening in another part of the world which we have little or no connection to. We live in a violent world, and beyond this, we live in a world that hates true believers in Jesus Christ! We will be held accountable for not lifting up those that live or minister in violent areas, if our reason is so as to protect the tender ears of our listeners or to protect our own status. God COMMANDS us to pray for those “in chains”! If it were us in those same “chains”, we would want the prayers of people all over the world, would we not? We especially owe them our prayers if they are only wanting to get back out onto the harvest field again—even if it brings about their death!
Time has run out and those who are not reached in time will face the horrors of the “Day of the Lord” (the Great Tribulation)! How many of us will face Jesus at the Judgment Seat of Christ and have to answer for our fear of man instead of our fear of GOD, because we were too concerned about our own “success”, or status with our peers?? God help us if we are guilty of this! Our fear of man costs SOULS! Our fear of God brings souls into the Kingdom of our God!
Let me briefly go back to earlier comments in this article to make this clear: Most of the things we enjoy are not wrong in themselves. The warning however, given in God’s Word for moderation in all things, has lost its potency with most of us. It has become one of the passages in Scripture we easily breeze by when we are reading God’s Word. We have become so in love with the world that we have lost sight of what we are really here for. Our priorities are way out of whack. We are now so entertained by dance shows, reality shows, comedy, even comedy which insults the holiness of Almighty God; many of them urging us to a place of accepting homosexuality, the murder of babies in the womb, and immorality beyond what we would never have accepted not all that long ago. Our world has changed, but so have we, and not in an honorable way.
When I point these things out, I naturally have to point an index finger at myself because I have found myself guilty of things that I need to correct in my own life as well. If we ever get to the place where we have lost the progression guided by the Holy Spirit of God which continually draws us closer to God and His ways, we are in trouble. This is the time to do so. Tomorrow may be too late. God said: “Be Holy, because I am holy!” He has also most emphatically said, “Walk worthy of the life you’ve been called to live!” This means we need to represent our Master well!
Today too many of us go to church to be entertained. We don’t want to be upset, nor do we want to be made uncomfortable. There are an abundance of sermons provided on line, and it’s become way too easy to pick a sermon that takes little study—if any. How do I know? I’ve been there and done that– when I was too lazy or not motivated enough to dig into God’s Word for myself. I’m ashamed that I ever did this, and I’ve determined never to do it again. It is time for the true Church to stand up for who it is meant to be. That can only come through an intimate walk with God.
Religious organizations are careful to make sure “church” is not going to scare people away, and please understand that I am speaking in generalities with this blog. I am describing a trend that is leading people down the wide road to destruction. Records of attendance are way too important. Church income often rules how a church operates. Sermons are too often prepared ahead of time with three nifty points that all start with the same letters, and are crafted so that they are not too long. Homiletics is more important than what the Spirit of God has to say!
What has happened to us? Are we still true representatives of the God that gave His all to provide us freedom? The majority of those who call themselves “Christ-followers” have forgotten what it means. It was not always that way. Today’s message would be offensive to people like William Booth, the Wesley Brothers, A. A. Allen, D. L. Moody, Billy Sunday, Charles H. Spurgeon, Charles Kingsley, Jonathan Edwards, and so many more. These men cared little if they angered people or if they preached too long. When it comes to the souls of men, the opinions of those who didn’t want their comfortable lifestyle disturbed was of little concern. Eternity is a very long time.
What I found in Hebrews 11 really lays the wood to our backsides! Chapter 11 speaks of “holy fear”! How many of us even know what “holy fear” is? What does it mean to have a “fear of God?” Does it really mean that we should be afraid of Him? That is not what it means at all. It does mean that we need to have a holy fear of Him that goes way beyond respect. We need to realize WHO He is, and who we are—or are not, in relation to Him! How does one have an acceptable “fear” of God and still have an intimate, loving relationship with Him? We need to figure that out according to God’s Word! We really have a problem if we don’t.
In conclusion, I hope to challenge you all to dig in deeper with God than you ever had. I realize that many are walking with God and you are doing it with intimacy. This really is the time for us—not only to make a noble promise to the God we take too lightly, but to actually do so, so that we can finish well as He is giving us the opportunity to do so. We are at the time when man’s definition of success means very little; we need to be seen as successful in the eyes of God. Nothing more really matters.
I want to thank you all for reading. These thoughts come from a deep place within my heart and are driven by a passion given by the God that strategically put us in this generation. There will be a tendency to say that it is a harsh message in some paragraphs, but none of it is intended so. I happen to believe we live at the most crucial time in history and if that is so, and if it truly is the case that God put us into this generation, then He had a purpose that is beyond our wildest imagination. We either will finish well, or we won’t. It’s entirely up to whatever decision we make. Let’s make the best one!
God Bless You All and KEEP LOOKING UP!