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Are You Smarter Than… A Babe?  Our Elementary Conceptions About God

Copyright © 2015 by Joseph Diop
There’s a hit show on Fox Network television, called “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” The show, hosted by Jeff Foxworthy, actually pits elementary-school kids against adults in a showdown of knowledge for a grand prize of a million dollars. Concerning the adults who excel on the show, Foxworthy says, “Even if you get it right, you’re answering questions eight-year-olds answer, so you can’t get too puffed up about that.”

Now, the success of this show speaks to a very real and vital truth in the Christian faith:

Our successful negotiation of the advanced levels of Christian growth and development depend heavily upon the retention of correct concepts (called ‘precepts’ or “first principles”) which we should have learned in our spiritual childhood.

As adult Christians, the way that we talk about God and the things of God, betray the way we actually serve God and think about Him. The words and phrases that we use in our spiritual vocabulary are indeed expressive of the manner of service that we give. It is a sad fact, our doctrine is unsound, and so is our speech. Paul said,

For the time will come when they will not endure SOUND doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 2 Timothy 4:3-4

In the passage above, the word ‘SOUND’ means, arising out of and unto the truth. Some unsound doctrine arises from the word of false teachers, from a deliberate attempt to mislead and deceive us. Some unsound doctrine, however, is simply carried over from our days as spiritual babes, when our understanding was still tender and immature. It is the latter that I will focus on here. We had many oversimplified concepts then, and should have grown to be able to handle the intricacies and complexities of the faith. As Paul also said,

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. Hebrews 5:12-13

You see, getting saved is very simple. All you have to do is repent and believe. On the other hand, understanding the Christian faith is a very complex affair. Or, as one Christian poet once wrote,

The only thing you’ll ever need is the first thing you received.But, the last thing you will understand is the first thing you believed.

One apostle, Peter, once spoke about the writings of another apostle, Paul, in this way,

…our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him has written unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable [TWIST], as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.   2 Peter 3:15-16

So, when one full-fledged apostle refers to the writings of another apostle as “hard to be understood,” then what can we say in truth but, “We have a very complex religion on our hands.” Any other conclusion is unlearned, naive, misleading, and downright dishonest. And, not coming to a right understanding can do great damage to our souls. Even as Peter just said, it can even eventually lead us to ‘destruction’ (vs 16). So, by all means like they say, “DON’T GET IT TWISTED!!”

Please allow me then, to address some very common expressions that are a carryover from our spiritual infancy that are very problematic and need to be corrected. There are four spiritual concepts, which if not correctly understood, lend to errors in understanding and behavior. These concepts are nothing more than ways of representing the person, the power, the presence, the operation and the manifestation of Jehovah God.

“Jehovah” is the more widely used Latinized version of Yahweh. And, the name “Yahweh” is the personal, formal, specific, and proper Hebrew name of God. The name Yahweh does not appear in the Bible. Jehovah appears in the King James Version (KJV) about a half-dozen times. The concepts and terms at issue are:

  1. The Holy Ghost/Spirit is… Jehovah God wholly localized in the world.
  1. The Anointing is… Jehovah God present with power with a servant.

     3.  The Gifts of the Spirit are…           Jehovah God operating in a servant in characteristic and            supernatural ways.

  1. The Fruit of the Spirit are… Jehovah God manifest in a servant, by His attributes (identifying traits) evident in the human character.

We must cease talking about the Spirit/ Anointing/ Gifts/ Fruit as if they were tools or some kind of merit badges — things belonging to our flesh. They are not sacred objects or relics lent to us, nor are they prizes hung upon our person. These terms are simply ways in which we, using words from scripture, designate that the Father, Jehovah God, is present and operating within us.

Even though we say that God has taught us better, the Holy Spirit is still spoken of by us as if He were an ‘it’ — like an impersonal force that undergirds our work for the Lord. This is what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe. It is sad and unfortunate that our doctrine is no more sound than that of a cult. The anointing is definitely spoken of as an ‘it’ that we can count on to “get the job done.”  Pitiful! The gifts of the Spirit are ‘they’ in our language — these ‘endowments’ that give us supernatural abilities. Wrong! And, the fruit of the Spirit are also ‘they’ in our daily usage — these earmarks that show that we are “making progress” in “our” spiritual growth and development. That is an erroneous and unfortunate understanding also. Ultimately, we disassemble and compartmentalize God, until He appears to be nothing more than objects we can manipulate to suit our own will and pleasure. Thereby, we also intercept the glory belonging to him.

If this is at all the way that you think of and speak about these, then my friend, you’ve been spiritually stunted, dwarfed, hoodwinked, and bamboozled. And, until you realize and profess the truth, you will be stalled in your spiritual growth and development.

We ought to understand once and for all that the term ‘Holy’ in “Holy Spirit” simply identifies the spirit in question as our Father, Jehovah God. And, that holiness denoted in the word ‘Holy’ differentiates, distinguishes, and separates God from every other spirit in the world. Holiness is God’s unique signature. It is the sum effect of all his other attributes combined. It entails and encompasses His love, mercy, grace, longsuffering, goodness, truth, faithfulness, readiness to forgive, and His righteous judgment.

God alone is holy. In the book of Revelation, when they worship God they cry, “Holy, holy, holy.” They never cry out any other single attribute. For example, they never cry, “Love, love, love.” Nor do they ever say, “Mercy, mercy, mercy.” So, when you say ‘Holy,’ you’ve just identified Jehovah God, and you’ve said it all.  So, the holy in “Holy Spirit” is that special, great distinctive that sets Him apart from every creature in the world. And so, when that ‘Holy’ spirit shows up, Jehovah God has shown up. Calling Him the Holy Spirit is just another way of saying, “This spirit is none other than Jehovah God the Father himself.”

Likewise, with “the anointing” we should be clear what we are referring to, or rather it would be more proper to say, “WHOM we are referring to.” “The anointing” designates that God has wholly “come upon a servant,” and thus He himself guarantees that His purpose at work in that servant will succeed. God cannot possibly fail, nor can He fall short of fulfilling His own will. Thus, to say that someone is anointed, means that Jehovah God himself is using them and is fully active in them to accomplish His purpose and to do His work.

In the Old Testament, it was the custom of God to anoint his chosen leaders. For example, the judge Gideon and the prophet Zechariah were both anointed. Of Gideon the scripture says, “And the Spirit of the LORD clothed himself in Gideon…” Likewise, the scripture also says, “And the Spirit of the LORD clothed himself in Zechariah… (Judges 6:34; 2Chron 24:20, Jubilee Bible 2000). This is a faithful rendering. In other words, God assumed their identity. Or, it would be equally correct to say, God subsumed their personality, or God consumed their persona with His own. And thus, it is in all cases of anointing. Literally, God “clothes Himself” with us, and so uses us for His own indomitable will and purpose. In this way, we truly become living ‘images’ and ‘likenesses’ of God (Gen 1:26-27), and His work in us is guaranteed.

So too, it’s also true with the gifts and fruit of the Spirit. It is God making Himself known in the ways He characteristically and supernaturally operates in us through “spiritual gifts.”  And, it is God who manifests Himself by His own divine character traits in the “fruit of the Spirit” He produces in us. Christ is the Vine. We are but branches, Jesus said (John 15:1-5). But the heavenly Father, Jehovah God, is the One who is evidenced by the fruit that is produced. We can no more gloat, glory, nor take credit for what is being produced in us, any more than a branch can take credit for the fruit produced on it.

We must come to know that WE are the tools, being servants of God. We are the ones being used, not God. God is running the show — not us. He is the One showing up, producing the results, operating the servants, performing supernatural deeds, and manifesting divine character, unto His own glory. It’s all about Him. In fact, IT IS all Him. As the word declares,

For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:36

Now we must come to terms with the idea of being God’s tools, and being used by Him. If God is the one handling and using us, then there is no shame in that, but only honor, and glory, and life. After all, do we not customarily say, “I want to be used by God”?

We must come to understand and speak of these designations for what they are — manifestations of God our Heavenly Father — not as things at our disposal that we use to “glorify God.” We got this whole thing inverted — backwards, upside down, and inside out.  No!  The cart is not pulling the horse!  And, God is not subject to our use of Him. We are the ones who are subject to His use of us.

He is the Lord. We are the servants. He is our Commander. We take orders from Him. He is the Head, the Worker, the Life, and the Power. We are only the subjects, the tools, the mediums, and the instruments. Don’t “GET IT TWISTED.”

He is the Godhead. We are the Godhood. The Lord explains Godhead-Godhood as being ‘One.’

“That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one…”   John 17:21-23

We, who are in Christ, should no longer speak about anything having anything to do with our service to God as though it were a self-willed private enterprise. Because God is living in us — dwelling in our very bodies — in everything we do and experience, God is cohabitating. Because God is our wisdom, in every decision we make, God is deliberating. Because God is our head in all respects, in everything that concerns us, God is cooperating with us and we with Him. Cohabitating, deliberating, cooperating — with God as both our head and our very life, it is not only true that God is WITH us, but we are IN God. It is supremely true with us, that it is God proceeding and succeeding in us in all that we do. Glory to His name. Amen.

So, in terms of our language and understanding, this is the truth and should be the sum:

Christ is all, and in all.   (Col 3:11)

Our present understandings are very primitive and unworthy of God. They depersonalize God and diminish His glory. They lead to the perpetuation of much pride and prejudice, not to speak of the persistence of errors in doctrine.  In 1Cor 14:20 the word says,

Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.  Selah.

Now, do these things make sense to you? Are they even remotely relevant to your life and experience, or are you on the outside looking in? If these things sound foreign to you, and you can’t relate, then the bad news is, “My friend, you are not yet even born-again. You are yet outside the life, covenant, and promises of God.”  Now, the good news is, you can remedy this predicament by inviting Christ into your life right here and right now. And, if you are ready and willing to do that, then please pray the following suggested prayer.

Lord Jesus, I need you. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open my heart and life now and receive you as Savior and Lord. Come in and take control of my life. Give me your Holy Spirit. Come and make me the kind of person you want me to be. Amen.

Did you pray that prayer? Then, on the solid-rock foundation of simple child-like faith, I now pronounce you a born-again believer in Jesus Christ. Mark this date on your calendar. It’s the first day of your eternal life. Congratulations! And welcome to the family.

For 24-hour prayer and for help finding a church, call 1-888-731-1000

If you are already a Christian, but are in need of repentance and rededication, then pray this prayer,

Lord Jesus, please forgive me for not serving you the way that I should. I open up my heart now, and give you full access and control. Have your way, Lord. Cleanse me from all my sin and idolatry. Fill me with your Holy Spirit again. Renew me, Lord. Make me the kind of person and servant I ought to be. Amen.

For 24-hour prayer and for help finding a church, call 1-888-731-1000

9.16.2015

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The Good News for Dummies, Like Me

Copyright © 2015 by Joe Diop

I’m just your average Joe, a man of no remarkable intelligence. For the past 39 years, I have been a “Good News” professional, ordained and trained to represent God. But, only after what He taught me in the last two years, did I really fully start to “get it.” And, that revolutionized my whole understanding. Today, I want to share that with you.

Because it took me so long to begin to fully understand what I had so zealously tried to make others see, I think of myself as a big dummy. After all, I did get my college degree in my field, go on to pursue my readiness at the graduate level, and served in various pastoral capacities and ministry positions over the course of my career, thus far. Still at times, I felt like “the blind leading the blind.” There was always something about the very faith that I preached and expounded on all my adult life that eluded me. Now, I would call a person with a track record like mine a “dummy.” Wouldn’t you?

Once. Twice. Three times a Fool.

The word “dummy” does not appear in the Bible. But, its companion term, “fool,” certainly does. The word ‘fool’ appears 66 times in the King James Version of the Bible. I was born in Foolsville, USA. I am the crowned Prince of Fools — a Knucklehead of knuckleheads. My wife likes to say, “There is not a nut too hard for God to crack.” You can either be cracked into submission, or you’ll be crushed to smithereens (Matt 31:44; Luke 21:18). Listen. This is important. I am letting you ride along with me for a little ways on my “epic journey of enlightenment.” So, buckle in and take notes.

The Bible outlines three classes or degrees of fools. A fool is anyone who is slow to grasp truth. There’s the “simple fool.” He is a sincere, down-to-earth, and uncomplicated person. But, he is not very aware or observant, and doesn’t learn very quickly. He stumbles every day over information and revelation in his environment, without ever taking notice. He’s got the mentality of the average child. Broadly, that’s the way God sees the average adult human being. So, every last one of us — the whole lot of humanity — would immediately fall into this category. I often ask myself the fateful question, “What kind of fool am I?” And, I like to think of myself as this kind of fool.

This is the first order, but the third class of fool. One of my mother’s favorite verses is the one that says, in paraphrase, “The way is so plain that even a fool shall not err therein” (Isaiah 35:8). Isn’t it good to know that God is so merciful and kind as to graciously craft His “Good News” so that even us fools could have hope?

The next class of fool is the “silly fool.” He may happen to get ahold of some truth every now and then, but his tendency is to not appreciate the value of it. He makes light of it. To him, the sinful, the secular, and the sacred alike are all material for a stand-up comic routine. So, real enlightening, substantive, life-changing truth does him little good. He lumps it all right there together with the old mass of background chatter, glib expressions, and useless clichés that he’s used to. He’s like a bucket that can’t hold water for very long, because it’s got a hole in the bottom of it. This category would cover most lukewarm, double-minded, or lackadaisical Christians — the ones Jesus described as “sown among thorns” (Mark 4:18,19). This is the second order and second class of fools.

Now, the last kind of fool is the most dreaded. That’s the stubborn, the scornful, the stupid, self-destructive, set-in-his-ways, sho’-nuff sho’-nuff fool. He’s highly reactionary against all truth, and wants no part of it. All he wants to do is have his own way, and get all the credit for every single thought, word, or deed that proceeds from his life. To him, God is nothing but a spoiler. He and he alone must chart his own course, regardless of any disastrous consequences. His motto is: “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!!”

Jesus was describing this class when he talked about those “sown on stony ground” and those “by the wayside” (Mark 4:4,5). The character Nabal in the book of 1Samuel, who angered King David, is a perfect example of this kind of fool (1 Samuel 25:2-38). His is the third order of fools. But anyone in this order is rightfully called a “First Class Fool.” All fools beware of him. For him, there is little hope.

Now, in relating my revelation, to soften the blow, I have herein substituted the term “dummy” for “fool.” You would be surprised just how often the New Testament describes the whole lot of us as fools. Jesus even addressed his own dear disciples as fools. For example, in Luke 24:25 it says, “Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.” Later, to all those having difficulty grasping the concept and reality of the resurrection of the body, Paul the apostle said, “Thou fool, that which you sow is not quickened (i.e., brought to life), except it die” (1 Corinthians 15:36). So now, join the club — the fool’s club; or rather, let’s call it the “Big Dummy Club.”

Enlighten Me, Please

When you’re dealing with dummies, you have to break everything down to their most simple components. Otherwise, we dummies easily get lost along the way. That’s why God introduced the “Precept Method” of learning and teaching. “Precepts” are rudimentary elements of information. They are atoms in the universe of knowledge. They constitute the building blocks of truth. Precepts are to truth what phonics is to reading. If you don’t know phonics, then you can’t sound out words. And, if you can’t sound out words, you have absolutely no chance of reading any line of sentence. That’s why God said to take the phonics approach to studying His word. He declares,

For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little.   Isaiah 28:10

This is “back to basics,” where God’s word is concerned. You have to take the time to make sure that you clearly understand the individual meanings of the terms used (precepts), and you can begin with the most fundamental concepts first, in order to build your understanding. You have to take first things first. The precept method goes: first, term definitions (precepts), then expanded concepts (lines), then whole divisions of doctrine. This way, eventually, sheds light upon “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27 ASV). What you end up with then is the “rightly divided word of truth” (2Timothy 2:15). You even have to clearly define the most elementary terms involved, if you want to understand “first principles.” And for a dummy, like me, this is no easy task. It is a slow, plodding, grinding, exacting, meticulous process. You can’t rush it. Don’t be impatient if it takes a while for you to “get” the word of truth. Be encouraged. After all, it took decades for the Lord to get it through my thick skull. If you do try to hurry and gloss over some things, then you face big penalties later on. For, the word also says,

And as the HASTY fruit… the crown of pride, the drunkards… shall be trodden under feet… But the word of the Lord was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and FALL BACKWARD, and be BROKEN, and SNARED, and TAKEN [that is, caught up in judgment].  (Isaiah 28:4,3,13; brackets mine)

So, an individual who does not patiently study the word according to God’s precept method, is apt to meet with personal spiritual disaster on down the road. Where the word is concerned, slow and easy is the way. I think the words of a Christian poet captured it best, in a poem based on Proverbs 25:2, called Enlightenment.

It is the glory of our Maker

To conceal many things,

But the honor of the sainthood

Is to search them out as kings.

Precept upon precept

Line upon line

Precept upon precept

Gives light to the mind.

The only thing you’ll ever need

Is the first thing you received.

And the last thing you will understand

Is the first thing you believed.

So, precept upon precept

Line upon line

Precept upon precept

Brings sight to the blind.

As the author of this poem points out, in the Christian faith it really is true: It’s not what you know, but WHO you know. “The only thing you’ll ever need is the first thing you received,” he says. And, Jesus IS the first thing you receive in this faith. All else you really need to know is self-evident to everyone who is a warm-blooded individual with a fleshly head on their shoulders. And, that is: “I am a sinner, and therefore I need a savior.”

Car and Driver

Fortunately, for all of us dummies, you don’t need to understand the more complex matters of the Christian faith. You don’t need a seminary degree. You don’t need to know how to read the Bible in its original languages. You don’t need years of training in hermeneutics or homiletics. In fact, you don’t even need to know how to read at all; because, faith comes by hearing, NOT by reading (Romans 10:17).

In this way, the Christian faith is like driving an expensive foreign car; say, a Maserati, a Ferrari, or a Lamborghini. These cars require specially trained mechanics to maintain them and work on them. But, if you own one, you don’t need to know the first thing about auto mechanics before you can drive it. You don’t need to know anything about a carburetor, or a drive train, or a gas combustion engine, or a differential, or even simply where the oil goes in under the hood. All you need is to get a driver’s license, turn the car on, and then it will take you wherever you want to go. So is the Christian faith. God himself makes it work. All you have to do is invite Christ into your life, and you’re on your way. It’s as simple and easy as that.

Turn on the Light

Now, out of my 39 years of service to God (and 59 being in the world), I did not learn what I needed to know in order to make it all come together, until just the last two years. What I learned these last two years was all about human nature and human nothingness. These two concepts (which I expound on in my previous blogs, “The Man in the Mirror: Spiritual Anthropology for Dummies,” and “Best and Worst: The Whole World in His Hands)” formed the linchpin that brought everything else together. When I understood these two concepts, then all the other doctrine started cascading into place. Bible mysteries started unfolding before me, dovetailing one another and dropping into place like falling dominoes. You see, mankind’s biggest, most persistent, and truly insurmountable problem is really our very human nature. Human nature accounts for all our sin and depravity, across the board. I hadn’t realized that when the New Testament talked about ambiguous and mystical concepts like “the flesh” and “the old man,” all it was referring to was “human nature,” fallen human nature to be exact. But, is there any other kind? And in my 59 years, I have had a chance to become most thoroughly familiar with human nature — yours, mine, and everybody’s.

So, my “Eureka!” moment came when I realized that Christ dealt with our human nature through the agency of the cross. The cross ‘excised’ (a medical term, meaning “to cut out”) our human nature when Jesus died on the cross. The Bible, using that old familiar term, “circumcised,” says Christ “circumcised us from the sinful flesh” (that is, from our human nature; Col 2:11). The translation that comes closest to this understanding is the New International Version, when it says, “Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ.”

You see, there is a spiritual reality and a dimension of truth out there, far beyond what the natural senses can discern. This is the spiritual reality of what God has done unto us in Christ. And, whether we can comprehend it or not, this is still the reigning order of things with God. This is the real real. And, I began to see how these two things (our old, fallen human nature and our new, divine nature) could co-exist in the temporal realm, yet be totally separate and distinct in the spiritual and eternal realm before God. Jesus explained to Nicodemus that there are some things that you cannot possibly understand, until you are “born again” (John 3:1-12).

That’s why the word says, “If any man be in Christ he is a new creature. Old things are passed away, behold all things are become new” (2Cor 5:17). That doesn’t mean that it is impossible for us to commit a sin, but it does mean that for as long as God deems our faith true and genuine, and keeps our soul embedded in Christ Jesus, then the misdeeds of our human nature do not factor into the equation of our relationship with Him. All the rest — the hypocrisy of so-called Christians, the apparent inconsistencies of their lifestyles, the seeming contradictions of the Bible and its many versions — is just fat, and fluff, shadows and phantasms, and smoke-and-mirrors. Forever after that, no matter how the world sees us, God sees us as “holy, blameless, and above reproach in His sight” (Col 1.22 NKJV).

All the other drama from the sins, wrongdoing, and missteps that occur in our lives are just a part of the mysterious storyline that God has written for us. It’s just a chapter in the narrative and script prepared by “The Author and Finisher of our faith (Heb 12:2).” You see, the souls of God’s “elect” (those He has chosen “before the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:4); the predestined souls) are eternally secure. But, don’t get smug and cocky about that. For, the million dollar question is, “Are you indeed ‘elect’ or not?” Was your name “written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Rev 21:27) before the world began? Were you included in that fortunate number before Genesis 1:1, when God first spoke the world into existence? This is something that I go into more detail about in my previous blog, “Best and Worst: The Whole World in His Hands.” So when you sin capriciously, you are only playing Russian roulette with your soul!! That’s why Jesus said “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter there and WILL NOT BE ABLE” (Luke 13:24 ). Or, do you want to get all the way to the gate of judgment, and unexpectedly hear those shocking and tragic words from Jesus’ mouth, “Depart from me, I never knew you, you evildoer?” (Matt 7:23). So, this is something that no man or woman cannot afford to take for granted.

Nevertheless, all of the sin in an elect, born-again Christian’s life is completely trivial, moot, irrelevant, and inconsequential, where his soul’s destiny is concerned. It’s all like “water under the bridge.” He is bound for heaven, though his disobedience may land him there ahead of schedule. The scripture does say, “For all our days are passed away in thy wrath; we spend our years as a tale that is told” (Psalm 90:9). So, when we foolishly sin (as dummies often do; you see, knuckleheads will be knuckleheads) and still make it into heaven, that indeed is a tale that glorifies the mercy, goodness, and sovereign grace of God. But, if you think you can use this information in advance in order to run a game on the Most High God, you are badly mistaken. Think again. We will address this scenario further before we conclude.

We don’t have to die before we can know God someday. We can and do enjoy the presence of our Heavenly Father right here and right now. The cross nails our human nature and all its evil by-products squarely to the crossbeams of time, so that Christ’s resurrection can establish us in a vital, ongoing, intimate, and personal relationship with the Father of eternity, even now in the present. The scripture says, Christ was “delivered [to the cross] for our offenses, and raised again for our justification” (Rom 4:25, brackets mine). “Justification,” rightly understood, is precisely “the fact of having a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ,” right now.

So you see, the cross and the resurrection together are the two sides of the same coin of salvation. Through the cross, God rids us of our biggest problem — sinful human nature. And through the resurrection, He avails and imparts to us the Spirit of the living God and Christ, right now. That’s God’s mighty and miraculous fix for what ails us. That’s God’s mercy. That’s God’s grace. That’s God’s forgiveness. That’s God’s life. That’s God’s righteousness. That’s something that no other religion can provide for you.  And, that is God’s TRUTH.

Now there, you have in a nutshell and a quick moment, that which constitutes, for the most part, the most complex and hard to understand aspects of the Christian faith. That’s what took me 59 years of living and study of God’s word to be able to articulate with understanding. That’s what I’m handing over to you now, in only the time that it takes to read this article.

Get Out the Switch

But wait. The plot thickens. Comprehending that is not really your biggest obstacle to enjoying a relationship with God. No!! Your greatest disconnect comes from the fact that the vast majority of you don’t really want to know Him, in the first place. That’s the real problem. And, all your efforts spiritually are just part of a slick game you are playing with God. This reminds me of a game I tried to run on my mom, when I was about 6 or 7 years old.

I’d be sitting in front of the TV, watching whatever. And, at times my mother would call me, presumably to do something or other. She’d call and call, but I wouldn’t flinch. I kept right on watching whatever I was watching. I didn’t want to be disturbed, you see. One day, my mother had had enough. Not knowing whether or not I really had problems with my hearing, she marched me right down to the audiologist (that is, the “ear doctor”) for an examination. When the ear doctor took me back to the test booth to conduct the hearing test, he said, “If you hear the beep of a tone, raise your hand. Even if you THINK you hear a tone, but are not sure, raise your hand anyway. Well, that exam was a piece of cake. It was like a game to me. So, being but a youth, and being truly clueless to the ramifications, at the sound of every beep, I raised my hand. I raised my hand, and raised my hand, and raised my hand like a fool, until the test was over. Then came the verdict.  And the condemnation was pronounced. The ear doctor came out and said, “Mom, get out the switch! That boy can hear a pin drop in the middle of the ocean!!”  Well then, the jig was up. My cover was blown to smithereens. From then on, I either had to acknowledge my mother’s voice, or suffer the consequences.

All Pooped Out

Let me give you another example of game playing from the chronicles of my personal experience. Our family has an aged female cat, named Shaar (pronounced ‘Share’). We’ve had her since she was a scruffy ball of fur and gristle, straight from her mother’s womb. Somewhere along the way, she got the idea that it was alright to use the litter box and leave her poop uncovered. We have had other cats. So, we realize that God gave domestic cats a marvelous instinct for decorum and house protocol. They know instinctively the purpose of a litter box, and know to cover up their poop when they’re done. But, Shaar has always left hers right there on the surface of the litter, stinking to high heaven, as if to say, “Now see.  I left it in plain view, so you can remove it right away. And, be quick about it!!”

If she had covered it up, according to the common cat practice, then we might have taken our sweet time scooping it out. Miss Shaar is too prissy to allow her delicate and immaculate paws to trample a second time over areas already soiled. Needless to say, that is a despised habit of hers. And, as if that were not transgression enough, she went even further.

Later on in life, she developed a much worse and more harmful habit — urinating on the rugs, carpets, and even the hardwood floors. I personally cleaned up behind that cat so much, that I literally developed arthritis in my elbows. The constant smell of cat urine can actually make a person very sick. And, at times it did, as I had to take my wife to the emergency room a number of times for having a reaction to that odor of ammonia that the build-up of cat pee was producing. That did it for me. If not for my wife interceding for a little more patience and understanding on my part, Shaar would have been a goner.

Then, late one night came the “tell.” I happened to be standing right in the hallway in plain view of the litter boxes, when Shaar went in to take a poop. I watched carefully as she did her business and came back out, as usual leaving her poop right on the surface. Then, something remarkable happened. When Shaar came out, she looked right up at me staring at her. Then, she turn around, went halfway back inside the litter box, and with her front paws, shoveled dirt (cat litter) backwards on top of her poop, covering it completely up. Then she backed out and looked right up into my eyes, as if to say, “There now; satisfied?” Then, she turned and pranced on down the stairs. It was then, I knew. “Shaar’s got all the sense in the world. She knows it’s wrong to leave her poop uncovered. She’s been playing a game with us, playing us for a fool this whole time!!” And, she felt she was getting away with it. But, where ultimately does that kind of troublesome, filthy behavior get her. Where would it get her with you? — but a one-way trip to animal control.

Too Cool to Fool

So does the average man play games with God. But, you cannot fool Him. He sees all your heart. He knows where you live. And, before you know it, you’ll be flat “busted out.”  The scripture says, “Do not be deceived. God will not be made a fool. For, a person will reap what he sows.”  Galatians 6:7, New English Translation.   And,

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.  Hebrews 4:12-13

Folks, for all our dummyhood, we all know what is right. God shows and repeatedly tells us what we ought to do. But, like I did as a child, and like Shaar also did, we play dumb. But, know assuredly, there will come a day of reckoning. Even before that, our games will have disastrous consequences to our state of being. The scripture tells us,

“…because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.” Romans 1:21-23

The Beast Within

So, as a consequence of these things, modern man has steadily devolved into a beastly species of being. The modern brand of idolatry was described ever so perfectly by the antagonist and villain Han (pronounced Hahn) in the 1973 action movie by the great martial artist Bruce Lee, called, “Enter the Dragon.” Han said, “Gentlemen… we are unique in that we create ourselves. We forge our[selves] in the crucible of our [own] will.”

Paul, the apostle and prophet of the New Testament, described the progression and appearance of idolatry in these final, apocalyptic times in his own inimitable way, with these words.

“Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.”   2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 NKJV

That is the status of modern idolatry. It has progressed, or rather devolved, to the state where we actually act and think of ourselves as being our own supreme being. We see ourselves as the wholly self-made, self-determining, self-affirming, self-sufficient, self-congratulatory, and finally the self-rewarding creators of ourselves. Thereby, we develop beastly character. As the scripture says, “A man who is in honor, yet does not understand, is like the beasts that perish” (Psalm 49:20).

In passing, let me make one point of Biblical interpretation very clear. The term “man of sin” does not refer to a single individual, as is so often erroneous portrayed in popular prophecy teaching. The term actually refers to man generically, and describes the status of typical human nature in the time of the end. We have grown and outgrown the old images, and statues, and animals, and totem poles. Now, we only think of our own selves as worthy of worship and adoration. Witness, the great proliferation of the phenomenon called “selfies” in the social media of our day. And, as a friend of mine likes to say, “Nuff said.”

Hands Down

I like to think of trying to fool God, as sitting down with Him to a game of high-stakes poker. It’s a fool’s game, my friend. Any and everyone who attempts this, is truly a dummy of the highest order. It’s a dangerous game. It’s a losing proposition. Think about it. The deck is stacked against you. God is really holding all the cards. He sees every card in your hand, even before they are dealt. You cannot bluff Him. He has, so to speak, peeped your “hole card,” and all your other cards, for that matter.

It’s time to put all your cards on the table and “play it straight.” Playing it straight really means that you fold, repent, and beg for forgiveness. Admit to God that you are “flat busted.” You don’t have what it takes. You’ve got a lot more to lose here than your shirt. You stand to lose your very soul forever. This scenario is particularly catastrophic to those who appear to be presently living a lovely, Christian life, but you are not elect. Your wonderful salvation will prove to be nothing more than “fool’s gold” in the end. You especially should be careful to obey this word, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). And, like the apostle Peter exhorted, you should certainly “Give diligence to make your calling and election sure” (2Pet 1:10).

Furthermore, you could never raise the stakes to match God’s resources. He owns the world and everything in it. And, He owns you, to boot. In the end, all your lies and excuses will come tumbling down like a proverbial “house of cards.” And, when God calls your bluff (and eventually He will), He will call your soul out of this world. And, if you’re betting that won’t happen, then I ask you. How many players ever made it out of this world alive? At that time, the entire world all together will find out that you “ain’t holdin’ nothin.’” God will then look you straight in the eyes and ask you, “Why then, did you not obey the gospel?” And then, in the immortal words of my wife’s sainted grandmother, Ethel, “It will be hell to tell the captain!!!”

That’s a fool’s game, my friend. Here’s hoping you don’t even have the guts to try it. “Knock on wood.” (Get it?? A dummy’s head is wood. Ahhh!! Anyway…)  So, let’s hope and pray that you are only a dummy of the first order, like me.

Now, think about that.

Aren’t you tired of playing games with God? You do hear His voice, you know. When God speaks, nothing in this world can drown Him out. He speaks straight to the heart, and He speaks clearly. The scripture says, “Today, if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts” (Heb 4:7).  And it says, ”He that comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb 11:6).  I urge you now to acknowledge God’s voice, focusing on the “reward” of eternal life that He promises.  And, if you are ready and willing to respond, please pray the following suggested prayer.

Lord Jesus, I need you. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open my heart and life now and receive you as Savior and Lord. Come in and take control of my life. Give me your Holy Spirit. Come and make me the kind of person you want me to be. Amen.

Did you pray that prayer? Then, on the solid-rock foundation of simple child-like faith, I now pronounce you a born-again believer in Jesus Christ. Mark this date on your calendar. It’s the first day of your eternal life. Congratulations! And welcome to the family.

For 24-hour prayer and for help finding a church, call 1-888-731-1000

If you are already a Christian, but are in need of repentance and rededication, then pray this prayer,

Lord Jesus, please forgive me for not serving you the way that I should. I open up my heart now, and give you full access and control. Have your way, Lord. Cleanse me from all my sin and idolatry. Fill me with your Holy Spirit again. Renew me, Lord. Make me the kind of person and servant I ought to be. Amen.

For 24-hour prayer and for help finding a church, call 1-888-731-1000

7.10.24.15  1850hrs CT

Best and Worst: The Whole World in His Hands

 

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By Joseph Diop

Copyright © 2015 by Joseph Diop

Who’s running the show, really — the show we call life? Is the sovereign God like a benevolent dictator? Does He move men around the board of life like pawns? Or, does man’s free will determine his destiny? Who would win in an arm wrestling contest? Silly question, huh. But, the answers to these questions occupy two whole formal schools of thought in the religious world. I am going to try to make it simple.

This is a commentary on the second of man’s two biggest problems, the first being human nature. I deal with that in my previous blog, “The Man in the Mirror: Spiritual Anthropology for Dummies.” Actually, this may not be a problem at all, depending on how you look at it. If you don’t mind being used by God, then this is just an overview of the human condition. This article postulates that we are not anything, until God makes something of us, for better or worse. And oddly enough, this awareness brings us to the doorstep of a perfect faith.

The Bible tells us that man is nothing more than a lump of clay in God’s almighty hands. At best, human nature is nothing in and of itself. It is weak, vain, helpless, blind, and completely powerless. Jesus said,

The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38).   And,

“I can of mine own self do nothing” (John 5:30).

Those are not the words of a mighty Messiah displaying false modesty. Contrary to all our assumptions, Jesus is not just humbly underplaying his abilities. Jesus never said one untrue word in His whole life. For, he is the truth personified (Jn 14:6). No! Jesus is simply accurately reflecting the limitations of the human condition. And, Jesus was a full-fledged human being. The apostle Paul used slightly different words, adding up to the same thing. He said, “If a man thinks himself to be something, when HE IS NOTHING, he deceives himself” (Galatians 6:3).  Whether it’s Paul saying it, or the Lord Jesus Christ himself, man is in fact an impotent ‘nothing,’ at best.

At worst, human nature is utterly evil, completely lawless, chronically rebellious, and absolutely delusional.

When Jesus walked the earth, the Bible says that He knew man’s evil, fickle, unstable, and unreliable nature. He knew not to trust in man, nor partner with him. The scripture says,

Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.  John 2:23-25

Paul takes the time to actually outline and itemize just how totally depraved human nature actually is. Listen carefully.

What then? Are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved… that they are all under sin; As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that does good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulcher; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes. Now we know that… every mouth [will] be stopped, and all the world [will] become guilty before God. Romans 3:9-19 (brackets mine)

If we believed and accepted what these verses say, then we would know that human nature is utterly hopeless, and we would completely give up on it. That includes every program of self-improvement. We would end all personal resolutions for betterment. That’s exactly what we should do. That’s precisely what the doctrine of the cross demands. Then, we would cast ourselves completely on the grace of God that is in Christ Jesus, and entrust ourselves entirely to the operation of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, we would give much slack to others and their faults.

Ultimately and truly, a man can make nothing more and nothing other of himself than what God Himself chooses to make of him. That’s precisely what the scripture declares when it says,

Romans 9:10-23

And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls, it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory.

That should settle it. Esau had no choice but to be Esau, the profane (Heb 12:16). Jacob had no choice but to be Jacob, God’s elect. Moses had no choice but to be Moses — the blessed and revered prophet of God.  And, Pharaoh had no choice but to be Pharaoh — an example of God’s indignation and judgment. But human nature just can’t stand to hear those words. That’s because, man in his pride, stubbornness, and delusion simply refuses to believe that his fate is not in his own hands. Against all truth, man insists on believing that he is in complete control of his own life. “I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul,” declares the famous poem, Invictus.

Years ago, there was a famous song sung by the renowned Frank Sinatra, called “My Way.” That song expressed the typical thoughts of fallen man. Since then, there have been 10,000 others echoing the exact same sentiments. Sinatra used these words,

I planned each charted course

Each careful step along the way

And more, much more than this

I did it my way

For what is a man, what has he got

If not himself, then he has naught

To say the things he truly feels

And not the words of one who kneels

The record shows I took the blows

And did it my way

Let the record show that man does have free will. However, man is answerable to God for every choice that he makes and every deed that he does. But, man himself does not and cannot decide what he becomes. Ultimately, man’s freedom of choice only extends to whether he decides to say ‘Yes’ to God, or whether to say ‘No’ to God. Repentance means that man retracts his default choice of answering God with ‘No,’ and surrenders to flip the switch of his heart to the ‘Yes’ position. Those are the only two things man can really choose — the only choice substantially and eternally that matters.

Man chooses his master. He selects God, if he answers ‘Yes.’ But, he’s stuck with Satan for a master, if he tells God “No.”  So, man can pick his master, but God alone determines his destiny. It’s the heart and hands of the great Potter that decide what manner of vessel a man turns out to be — one of the best, or one of the worst. In and out of himself, man is a big nothing. The word says,

And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and [God] doeth according to His will… among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou? Dan 4:35.

And, in Isaiah 40:22-23 NIV, it says:

He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers… He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.

Yet, man has the potential — yes rather, the very design specification — to become a living, custom-fit garment for God Almighty (Gen 1:26-27). For example, the word says, simultaneously:

Know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself… Psalm 4:3

“And the Spirit of the LORD clothed himself in Gideon…” Likewise, the scripture also says, “And the Spirit of the LORD clothed himself in Zechariah… (Judges 6:34; 2Chron 24:20, Jubilee Bible 2000).

At the same time, the word equally declares:

The Lord hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil. Proverbs 16:4

Man always objects to the idea that God is in complete control of his life. “That’s so unfair,” man always retorts. “We don’t have any real choice as to what we become, yet we get judged for what we do.” Well, let me be the one to break it to you, Grasshopper. That’s just how God’s world works. Man universally and naturally starts out being evil; therefore, judgment is an absolutely essential element of life. Otherwise, the most evil people would prey upon other people until they were all consumed. And, a man’s works (and that includes the exercise of his free will) are the basis of his judgment. As the word says,

But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? I speak as a man. God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world? Romans 3:5-6

God is God — sovereign, eternal, and almighty. Man is man — weak, frail, and finite. And, the final disposition of a man’s life is God’s private province and sole discretion. Protest though he may, man DOES NOT get a vote on how the system works. It is what it is. What else can I tell you? We have no choice in the matter, but to take it and work it as is. All man can do is be advised, fear God, deal with it, and govern himself accordingly. As a friend of mine used to say, “It’s hard, but it’s fair.”

You may be objecting at this point, “Hey, we’re not automatons. And, God does not deal with us as robots, but as his children.”

Let me be even clearer. In John 15:16 Jesus said,

Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit…

Do you believe the Lord when he said “Ye have NOT CHOSEN ME”? He never lies. He can only tell the truth, because He is the truth (Jn 14:6). He could never have looked ahead in history and seen anyone choose Him, for again the word says:

There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God… There is none that does good, no not one… There is no fear of God before their eyes.  Romans 3:10-12,18

That’s human nature. And, you and I, and all others are human beings. So, even what APPEARS to be a wise choice on our part is actually not our own decision. God is the one who made the choice that we would be his. So, He put into our hearts by his Spirit the deciding influence to make the right decision. That’s called G-R-A-C-E (the grace of God).

Does this make us robots? No, because robots are not human beings; they are not sentient, self-aware, essentially-intelligent beings. They can’t manage the simplest task, unless you pre-program them first. But nevertheless, we are subject to the programming of the Most High. In lieu of the digital programming of robots, God feeds us His will by his Spirit, directly into our spirits. And so, we feel a liberty in our decision making, as was noted: “not as robots, but AS HIS CHILDREN.” As the word also says,

“And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty”  (2 Corinthians 3:17).  In other words, where the Spirit of God is, there is a wonderful sense of freedom.

And, different from robots, we can be eternally thankful to be programmed the way we are. And unlike robots, we can respond to our Programmer with true love, honor, thanks, praise, and worship. And, those are the joys of the heavenly Father and his children.

Or, as the word describes this living and advance programming it in another place,

Ephesians 1:4-6

According as he hath chosen us in him BEFORE the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having PREDESTINATED us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of HIS WILL, To the praise of the glory of his GRACE, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.

You see, God leaves absolutely nothing to chance. God simply has to intervene on our behalf ahead of our human nature and divinely incline us to respond positively to Himself. Left to our own devices, we would ALL be on our merry way to hell. But instead, our names were written in the Lamb’s book of life BEFORE the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8; 17:8), and our works were also predetermined by Him (Eph 2:10).

So then, Mr. Bigshot, what does this now tell you? It tells you that although you have thought that you were a “self-made man,” in reality, there is no such thing. Whatever you think that you have made of yourself, God owns the patent and the process. He supplies the material, He sets the mold, He gives the design specifications, and He presses out the final product.  It is He alone who makes men into whatever it pleases him in His divine purpose to make them. And, whatever the product quality, ultimately He gets the praise, or else He boldly declares, as President Harry Truman did, “The buck stops here.”

The Sum

The Spirit of Grace is God’s pre-programming that causes us to make right, godly choices and do godly things. At the root of the matter, grace is really a spirit from God. It is the spirit of infused desire and power to do God’s will.

“For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13

Theologians call that, “Prevenient Grace.”

And so, where does that leave us?  It leaves us with an overwhelming impulse to offer a thousand thousand thanks to God for our personal salvation. It leaves us with the incredible sense that we are co-winners of the great, cosmic lottery. The grand prize is eternal life for our sin-sick souls. And, it impels us to lift up unceasing Hallelujahs in acknowledgement of God’s amazing grace.

Now then, this brings us to the very threshold of a mighty and vibrant faith. Understanding that man is nothing, we now can see more clearly than ever that God is indeed everything. God is really God — the supreme being, the Almighty, the omnipotent, the omnipresent, and the omniscient One running the show. The old theologians used to call Him “the Unmoved Mover.” Unlike Dorothy and company discovered when they got to the emerald city of Oz, God is really the One behind all the scenes and curtains of life — commanding, controlling, orchestrating, resolving, and directing all things for His glory and for our good (Romans 8:28). God is pulling all the strings, throwing all the levers, and pushing all the buttons, in accordance with His own good will and purpose. And this is the key, the code-breaker, the cipher, and the “Rosetta Stone” to all prophetic mystery. Understanding this solves all the enigmas, conundrums, paradoxes, and riddles of the prophetic scriptures, including the book of Revelation. But, that’s another subject for another time.

So, what I am saying to you is simply this, “Your God reigns!” (Isa 52:7).  ‘Reign’ is defined as: “to exercise royal authority, dominion, or sway over.” In other words, to reign is to have CONTROL. To say then “Your God reigns” is to say, “God is in control.” Yes, we now know that He controls everything, even the fate of all men and all the events of history too.  As He boldly proclaims in Isaiah 45:7,

“I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil; I, the Lord, do all these things.”

And, in Deuteronomy 32:39 He boasts,

“See now that I, even I, am He, and there is no god besides Me. I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal; neither is there any that can deliver out of My hand.”

God is sovereign over the universe. He rules supreme and absolute over the world and over everyone and everything in it, with no apologies. He is indeed the One and only One on the throne. In the original Greek language of the New Testament, the simple English meaning of the word for throne is “seat.” This provides us with the perfect acronym for thinking about the sovereign reign of our God. God sits on the highest seat;  SEAT. God is in “Supreme, Everlasting, Absolute, and Total” control.

With a much more complete view of God’s immediate and complete control over everything and everyone, it is much easier to believe that, “With God all things are possible” (Matt 19:26). Now, I myself do not claim to have absolutely perfect faith, but I do at least know that I am on the right track. With my trusty GPS, the spirit of understanding, I do know that this persuasion is the site from which all perfect faith must be launched. Having said this, let me give the final words to a man with much clearer vision and much more perfect faith than myself, Apostle Paul.

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on… toward the goal for the prize… Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this [in] mind. Philippians 3:12-15 NKJV

Now, think about that.

Contemplating a God who has your whole life and destiny in His hands can be a scary thought. Well, it’s meant to be. Allow me to let the wisest man who ever lived, King Solomon, paint the picture for you.

13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.  Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

So, the fear of God is a good thing. It can and will save your soul for eternity, if you let it. God commands our fear, and promises life to those who obey Him. Jesus therefore said, “Repent… and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). The prophet Isaiah said, “If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it” (Isaiah 1:19-20). So, what more can we say? Your decision here is of eternal consequence. So, if you are willing to comply, and are ready to invite the Lord Jesus Christ to be your personal Lord and Savior, then please pray the following prayer.

Lord Jesus, I need you. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open my heart and life now and receive you as Savior and Lord. Come in and take control of my life. Give me your Holy Spirit. Come and make me the kind of person you want me to be. Amen.

Did you pray that prayer? Then, on the solid-rock foundation of simple child-like faith, I now pronounce you a born-again believer in Jesus Christ. Mark this date on your calendar. It’s the first day of your eternal life. Congratulations! And welcome to the family.

For 24-hour prayer and for help finding a church, call 1-888-731-1000

If you are already a Christian, but are in need of repentance and rededication, then pray this prayer,

Lord Jesus, please forgive me not serving you the way that I should. I open up my heart now, and give you full access and control. Have your way, Lord. Cleanse me from all my sin and idolatry. Fill me with your Holy Spirit again. Renew me, Lord. Make me the kind of person and servant I ought to be. Amen.

For 24-hour prayer and for help finding a church, call 1-888-731-1000

(2.10.19.15)

The Man in the Mirror; or, Spiritual Anthropology for Dummies

By Joseph Diop

Copyright © 2015 by Joseph Diop

Sometimes, the Bible can seem a very challenging and complex book. And, it is a ready admission of that fact, when one apostle, Peter, describes the works of another apostle, Paul, by saying, “…in [his writings] are some things hard to be understood” (2Pet 3:16). But, one concept is so fundamentally important, that I am going to attempt to break it down to such simple and familiar terms, that even a child can understand it. That concept is something that each and every one of us deals with on a daily basis. And that is, our own human nature.

For if any one is a hearer of the word… he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a mirror.   James 1:23 ASV

The word of God is like a looking glass. It will allow us to see two things very clearly. It will give us a view of the glory of God, and it will also show us ourselves. In this way, it is like a crystal clear lens for seeing straight through to the Lord. And, it is also like a mirror which shows us exactly what we are like. In other words, it allows us to discover our own human nature.

The God we find in the word is ever increasing in glory. The discoveries we make about ourselves are also ever increasing in clarity. The God that we see through the word can only be described as ‘Awesome’ — glorious in holiness. But, what we are focusing on here today is the reflection of mankind that shows us ourselves.

What we uncover there about ourselves will not be flattering. As we see God’s unspeakable and wondrous perfections, we also see our human wretchedness. We begin to see ourselves in all of the faults, failures, foibles, foolishness, and faithlessness of the disciples of Jesus. We find ourselves being reproved with them at Capernaum for our petty ambitions (Mark 9:33-37; Luke 22:24-27).  We get checked in the Garden of Gethsemene with Peter for our presumptuousness (Matt 26:51-54). We get rebuked with them in Galilee for our unbelief (Matt 17:14-20). And again, we get blasted with them on the sea at the calming of the storm, for our fearfulness and faithlessness (Mark 4:40).

In fact, if we have an honest and good heart, we will discover that we are just like them in every way. We are all human beings, and we all share the common denominator of human nature. And, it is only human nature to be weak and to trend towards sin. We spiral downward, until we get caught in and sucked under by a whirlpool of iniquity (i.e., corrupt motives). But, thank God, “where sin abounds, grace does much more abound”  (Rom 5:20).

But, it is needful and good to be informed by this truth about ourselves.  This makes so much more of the gospel to make sense and become clear; such as, why our “old man” (our human nature) cannot be reformed or simply enrolled in a self-improvement program. It makes us understand why no mere, earthly “religion” alone can resolve our ills. No !!  Human nature itself must be totally annihilated, eradicated, and utterly destroyed. It is totally depraved — completely unsalvageable in and of itself. If we read God’s word with due meekness and honesty, then we must acknowledge that mankind is characterized only by vanity, lies, contrariness, nothingness, futility, weakness, foolishness, misery, delusion, and self destructiveness.

That is why, in the protocol of the gospel, God wisely and mercifully had our human nature crucified in the first place. And, we must learn to let that old man rest in peace (RIP) in the grave of our salvation, so that the new man (divine nature) can live in peace. We are often tempted to try to raise him again, and try to rehabilitate our self-image, but it is absolutely spiritually counterproductive to do so. Trying to resurrect that old man and dress him up is a quicksand proposition. That’s proverbially, like trying to make “a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” It’s just is not possible.  Instead, through the cross, God promises to expunge our old human nature, and make us “partakers of the divine nature” (2Pet 1.4). Although, in the beginning, our new “divine nature” may seem as small and tender as “newborn babes” (1Pet 2.2).

Paul said, “For I know that in me that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing” (Romans 7:18). What Paul calls “the flesh,” and “our old man,” we simply call today our “human nature.” “The flesh” equals our “old man” equals “human nature” equals, in effect, “self-image.”

Here are a few common names — Biblical and otherwise — by which we refer to our fallen humanity:

our “SELVES” (2Cor 1:9);

our “old man” (Rom 6:6);

the  “body of sin” (Rom 6:6);

our “flesh” (Rom 7:18);

our “carnal mind” (Rom 8:5-7);

the “bondage of corruption” (Rom 8:21);

the “fleshly mind,” or, “mind of the flesh”  (Col 2:18);

our “SELF conscience”;

our “id/ ego/ superego”;

our  “SELF  IMAGE”;

and my favorite, our “human nature” (Rom 7:25 AMP, GNT, ISV);

That fallen human nature was born at the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. As a matter of fact, it was conceived just before, when Eve decided to use her “free will” to try life on her own terms. The flesh — our very human nature — then, was conceived in rebellion, and is by nature strictly and essentially a creature of rebellion. As such, it is  constitutionally incapable of acting in a manner other than that which is diametrically opposed to the express will of God (Romans 7: 14-20). Scripture says,

“For the mind-set of the flesh [i.e., human nature] is hostile to God, because it does not submit itself to God’s law, for it is unable to do so” (Rom 8:7 HCSB, brackets mine).

Like the anecdotal story about grade school kids and the teacher who draws a line on the ground and tells them, “Now class, don’t come across this line.” They just can’t help themselves. They’ll inch up to that line, and put their toes right on it. And then, they’ll scoot forward till their feet triumphantly breaks the plane of that forbidden zone. They just can’t be happy until they’ve defied her commandment. This is human nature at its finest.

At the fall, Eve had wrongly imagined that she had some wisdom and goodness within herself, and needed not to submit to nor rely on God. This is what was intimated by her choice to opt for the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Whether she realized it then or not, that was a choice to try to live without God.

When the serpent had promised “your eyes shall be opened” (Gen 3:5), those were the eyes of our “SELF-consciousness” (that’s why they immediately discovered their own nakedness). Self-consciousness is NOT a good thing. That self-consciousness, or “the flesh” is that person in the mirror staring back at you, when you get dressed every day. That is the perfect external manifestation of the internal problem — our mind’s eyes are fixed on our selves.  And that self-image, which we cherish and obsess over so intently, is the very crux of all that is wrong with us.

We are like people trying to drive a car in reverse, steering by looking in the rear-view mirror. You would not expect to make it very far that way. We don’t look too good to ourselves. That’s why Adam and Eve clothed themselves with fig leaves.  So, we try to compensate by telling ourselves how great we are. We put on a delusional attitude – a very egotistical, conceited, and narcissistic state of mind. We imagine that all our success should be credited to us. We call ourselves, “a self-made man.” I heard a great man of God say one day, “Whenever you hear that, you can say to yourself, ‘Ahh! So, that explains the poor workmanship!’ ” Or, we become downright discouraged with ourselves and think less of ourselves than everybody else. This is a clinically depressed, self-denigrating, and low-self-esteem frame of mind. So, we look out among others to try to pattern ourselves after them. And, that’s also futile.  As the Word says, “But they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (2Cor 10:12).

You see, before Eve ate that fruit, we had perfect God consciousness. Now we are blind to God, and instead are left to make our way through life with only our self conciousness. Our minds are now literally screwed on backwards. And, man’s first awareness in that regard is that we are completely naked, which is another way of saying that we are in big trouble, because we don’t have any natural glory, virtue, power, or wisdom of our own.

That “naked” man that they discovered is the self-centered, self-serving, self-absorbed, self-conscious, and occasionally self-righteousness person we normally refer to as ‘I.’  I like the way the character, Morpheus, explained it to the central character, Neo, in the movie, “The Matrix.” He called it “residual self-image.” I like that. That’s how we see ourselves in this matrix of a world. But, it’s not real. The world is indeed a matrix. It is a web, a network, a stage, a set-up, and an illusory environment that molds and shapes our perceptions with its falsehoods. Morpheus also described the matrix as, “…a prison for your mind.” These lines were not just entertainment. I believe they were divinely inspired, bespeaking truth about the human condition and this fallen world we live in. This world is indeed that matrix that holds us captive to the sinful fleshly nature, binds our way to wrongdoing, funnels our lifestyle towards ever-increasing corruption, and blinds our minds to real truth. And, it paints a false picture of self — a bloated, air-brushed, pride-worthy, and praiseworthy person — leaving us with an imaginary self that is grandiose and far from reality. It is that residual self-image, forged in sin, that we describe as ‘me,’ ‘I’, or ‘self.’

That self is an incurable sinner. It is he who haunts us and complicates our lives, even after we’ve repented and been born again. It literally causes a world of trouble, and must be washed away by the “washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5) — that is, by the processes of spiritual growth and development.

We must make distinction between the simple “human condition” (the state of Adam & Eve at creation) and the fallen human nature (their messed-up state after the fall).  And, there is an eternal difference between the imperfect, immature, and innocent members of “the new man” of the divine nature, and between the corruption-filled, dead-in-trespasses-and-sin individual of “the old man” of the common, rotten human nature. The former (new man), God through the cross was made “holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight…” (Col 1:22 NKJV).  Even after being born again, the latter (old man) still lives in and permeates the members of our inner being (soul) like black smoke from a raging forest fire. And oftentimes, the latter short-circuits and hamstrings the performance of the former, to our utter frustration. That’s why Paul said, “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish” (Galatians 5:17 NKJV). “O wretched man that I am,” he laments. “Who shall deliver me?” he asks. Thank God he immediately comes back with the one and only answer, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” But concerning our old pesky human nature, he is immediately reminded once again, “So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh [i.e., my human nature], the law of sin” (Rom 7:24,25; brackets mine).

Our self-image is the carry-over from the first transgression (“original sin”). It is the product and the very essence of sin. God gave us self-awareness. Simple self-awareness is pure and innocent. However, original sin gave us self-image, self-centeredness, and self-consciousness. At the new birth, the Holy Spirit gives us the mind of Christ, and begins restoring our Christ-image, our God-consciousness, and our God-centeredness. Faithful, diligent, and constant adherence to the processes of spiritual growth and development is what brings the restored mind to maturity and completeness.

After the universal fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden, the self is still futilely and hopelessly seeking its own glory and goodness. You see, Eve was convinced that she could cheat death by finding within herself some measure of goodness equal to that described by the ‘law’ (that code of goodness availed by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil).

For the first time, Eve was looking to her SELF and depending upon her SELF for that life-sustaining goodness. What she did not know was that the life she had experienced was never based on any customizable code of goodness, but simply on her connectedness to God. For God’s proper name, I AM (Exod 3:13,14), literally means (among other things) “VERY LIFE ITSELF.”  So, the very moment Eve opted to use her free will to make herself separate, independent, and apart from God, she disconnected herself from LIFE ITSELF.  God cannot lie. He had already told them, “…in the day you eat thereof, you shall surely die” (Gen 2:17).

And, quite literally, the rest is history. Since then, the story of man has been one abysmal tragedy of sin and divine judgment after another, with the one great light being the gospel story of Jesus Christ. In fact, the story of man became so completely bleak at one point, that the Bible says,

When the Lord saw that man’s wickedness was widespread on the earth and that every scheme his mind thought of was nothing but evil all the time, the Lord regretted that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. Then the Lord said, “I will wipe off from the face of the earth mankind, whom I created, together with the animals, creatures that crawl, and birds of the sky—for I REGRET that I made them.”   Gen 6:5-7

Is it just me, or have we not ALL universally proved that we just don’t get it?   The truth about mankind is indeed unsavory and nauseating — without question. But, we must embrace this as truth preferred.

The scriptures tell us repeatedly that we (that is, our human nature), were crucified to death, and buried with Christ when we became born-again. Thus, God declared our human nature garbage. Having been trashed,  we are not to look to it nor lean to it any more.

“Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.”  Romans 6:6

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me…” Galatians 2:20

Take the time to read the entire passages of Romans 6:1-7, Gal 2:20, Col 3:3, and Romans 3:10-19. There, you will see that God has judged human nature, declared it a lost cause, and has instead supplanted it, completely subsuming it with his son, Jesus Christ, the new man.

But the modern media worships the old man. It continually boosts the old man and promotes it. It will never let you forget about you — no, not for one second. Everything in the media glorifies and glamorizes the self-image. It will never let you forget that you should be working on YOU — serving you, securing you, blessing you, beautifying you, enriching you, promoting you, and enhancing you in every conceivable way. Thereby, they keep your mind enmeshed in sin.

Now then, our hearts and minds need to be renewed, because they often leave us thinking wrongful and delusional thoughts. We are, so to speak, stuck on stupid concerning this. We are always looking for some positive, redeeming qualities within OURSELVES; that is, within our individual human nature. We look for things to commend, to honor, and to prop up the flesh. We seek out reasons to keep the old man around. We stare, so to speak, in the mirror.

And, we are insulted to the hilt when others don’t commend us for what we see as our good and positive qualities, not realizing that God has judged and sentenced to death the whole package of rotten humanity. Here, we show that we yet fail to comprehend and appreciate the doctrine of the gospel — the crucifixion, death, and burial of the old man. If we did understand it, we would shout a thousand Hallelujahs.  If we only understood, then we would realize that we don’t need to find any good within ourselves. We only need to find God, and stay humbly connected to Him. As the scripture says,

“And this IS life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”  John 17:3

The scripture tells us that our whole capacity to rightly assess our ‘selves’ is ruined. You see, that person in the mirror, with the eyes that are looking back at self, seeking for some glory, goodness, or strength within self, has spiritually blind eyes. Self seeking eyes, by nature, are always blind to spiritual reality. That’s because they are looking in the wrong direction — away from the light. They are looking back at self, when they should only be looking up and away to God and Christ, “The Light of the World” (John 8:12).

We need only get our eyes fixed on Jesus. We need to seek after the only good person in the universe, our Heavenly Father God. But failing to comprehend this, our hearts become subject to a myriad of delusions about ourselves. The word says,

“The heart [of man] is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”   Jeremiah 17:9

And, our unregenerate hearts always misinterpret the grace of God within us for the goodness and greatness of self. When commenting on some compliment of character offered to us by others, we say things like, “That’s just me,” or, “I’m just like that.” Thereby, we lie, and usurp the credit for God’s gracious moves within us. But, when confronted with flattery (praise to our flesh), we ought to respond like Jesus.

“And Jesus said unto him, Why  callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God.”   (Mark 10:18, Matt 19:17, Luke 18:19)

But the flesh masquerades for that which is actually only attributable to Christ Jesus himself in us. The scripture tells us, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13

Not realizing this, unwittingly our fogged-up hearts become puffed up with spiritual pride and lead us to intercept and arrogate to ourselves praises which belong to God alone.

If you can’t say ‘Amen,’ then say ‘Ouch !!’ But, if you are saying, “What in the world are you talking about?” Then, you’re amongst those of us who still just don’t get it; because, we are talking about me here and about you — Y-O-U. Make no mistake, we are talking about EVERYONE in flesh and blood, without exception. It’s just the predicament of mankind. It’s just human nature. The whole kit and kabootle of the human race is messed up like this — male and female, rich and poor, black and white, educated and illiterate, and infidel as well as Christian. As Paul declared at least two times, “…for there is no difference.” (Rom 3:22; 10:17)

Coming to acknowledge, accept, and admit this truth is very liberating and healing. This is chicken soup that the soul can really feast on, benefit from, and grow by. Thus, Paul said, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Romans 12:2).  We Christians too suffer with human nature, but at least we do have an out — an alternative and divine nature that we can and must learn to live by.

Realizing the truth about human nature is very enlightening. This makes all of Biblical history totally understandable. The story of Israel in the Old Testament is really just a chronicle of God’s dealings with human nature universal. Israel simply represents and stands proxy for the whole, messed-up human race. Their regular and cyclical forays into sin and idolatry just shows the natural course and inevitable end of all humanity. The history of the Jews is really nothing other than a reflection of the history of the entire human race attempting to have a relationship with holy Jehovah God.

And, we all just trend toward sin. Left to ourselves, we head straight for the bottomless pit of sin and depravity every time. We must thoroughly become familiar with our nature and our evil ways, and subscribe to our sore dependence upon God’s mercy and grace every second of every day.

When we look into the lens and mirror of the Word of God, ultimately we will all say as Isaiah said, “Woe is me. For I am undone… for I am… unclean” (Isaiah 6:5).    Or, we will react just like Daniel, fall to our knees, and report, “So I …saw this great vision, and there remained no strength in me; for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength” (Daniel 10:8).    Or, perhaps like John, our experience will be:  “His countenance was as the sun shining in his strength. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead”   (Revelation 1:16-17).     Or perhaps, we will cry out like Job, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes”  (Job 42:5-6).

These are the experiences of men beholding the glory of God. And, this is the experience of all human nature discovering itself in the presence of the glory of the Lord. This is what happens when the sinfulness and wretchedness of man meets the glory and unspeakable holiness of Jehovah God. This is the estate of all mankind — me, and you, and everybody else you know. This is the neediness of every human soul. And, herein lies the truth, the blessing, the provision, and the universal appeal of the gospel.

So, I urge you in the name of Jesus, and for the truth of the gospel’s sake, stop looking for and expecting to find some goodness in that “man in the mirror” — in that self-image. You’ll never find in him any righteousness, strength, faith, wisdom, or any virtue at all. If you think you’ve found some, it’s truly only a mirage, a delusion, and a lie.  As the word says,

“For if a man thinks himself to be something, when he is NOTHING, he deceives himself.” Galatians 6:3

And,

“Surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a LIE: to be laid in the balance, they are altogether lighter than vanity.”  Psalm 62:9

Instead, be instructed by the doctrine of the gospel, and let the old man rest in peace, so that the new man can live in peace.  As Paul cried out,

“O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Romans 7:24-25

So, stop gazing at that self-image in the mirror. Stop looking for answers from your SELF in the looking glass in your mind. Leave the old man alone. Forget the “rep” (reputation) you’ve been trying to build all these years. Learn once and for all that when you gaze at that reflection, all you will find is an habitual sinner — one who is already crucified, dead, and buried. So, give up on him.  Or, as the Lord told me in a vision many years ago, “I WANT YOU TO SMASH EVERY MIRROR IN THE HOUSE.”

I know that we live in an image obsessed generation. And, that is precisely the problem. The image that we love is spiritually beastly, as in, “the image of the beast” (Rev 13:14-15; 14:11). As the scripture says, “A man who is in honor, yet does not understand, is like the beasts that perish” (Psalm 49:20). Gazing at that image brings doom. Hoping to find some good in one’s own self is a futile endeavor that renders an individual as ludicrous as the proverbial dog chasing it’s own tail. What’s he going to do with it once he catches it? What will that have solved?? And, like the old saying goes, “Repeating the same action over and over again, yet expecting a different result, is the express definition of ‘insanity.'” You need to break out with a breakthrough with the truth of the gospel.

Do however, keep looking through the lens of God’s word unto the glory of the Lord. There, you will behold God in all HIS glory and HIS goodness, and you will be transformed into HIS image by the power and operation of the Holy Spirit. As the word says,

“But we all, with uncovered face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”   2 Corinthians 3:18,  KJ21

And,

“Beloved… it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for WE SHALL SEE HIM as he is.”  1 John 3:2

So then, don’t look back at your own image any more. Instead, keep looking up and away to the Lord through the lens of God’s Word and of His Spirit. Seek the face of God, and not your own face.   As it says, “When You said, ‘Seek My face,’ my heart said to You, ‘Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.'” (Psalm 27:8 NASB).  Through Christ Jesus, “the new man” (Eph 4:24; Col 3:10), we may now know God, live with Him, and walk with Him in love, in peace, in joy, and in all the glory of eternal life. Hallelujah. Amen.

Have you been looking to that man in the mirror for help that you need — for strength, or wisdom, or goodness, or righteousness, or answers? Have you been admiring him, knowing way down deep inside that he and you both are in big trouble? Well, look to him no more. But instead, do like Pilate commanded, “Behold, the man [Jesus Christ]!” (John 19:5). If you are ready to put your trust in Him now, instead of in yourself, then please pray the following prayer.

Lord Jesus, I need you. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open my heart and life now to receive you as Savior and Lord. Come in and take control of my life. Give me your Holy Spirit. Come and make me the kind of person you meant for me to be. Amen. 


Did you pray that prayer? Then, on the solid-rock foundation of simple child-like faith, I now pronounce you a born-again believer in Jesus Christ. Mark this date on your calendar. It’s the first day of your eternal life. Congratulation! And welcome to the family. 


For 24-hour prayer and for help finding a church, call 1-888-731-1000 


If you are already a Christian, but are in need of repentance and rededication, then pray this prayer,

Lord Jesus, please forgive me for not serving you the way that I should. I open up my heart now, and give you full access and control. Have your way, Lord. Cleanse me from all my sin and idolatry. Fill me with your Holy Spirit again. Renew me, Lord. Make me the kind of person and servant I ought to be. Amen.

For 24-hour prayer and for help finding a church, call 1-888-731-1000

3.10.13.15. 0941hrs  CT

Behold, his mighty hand !

nustar-hand-of-god

Copyright © 2014 by Joseph Diop

The credit for this image, called the “Hand of God,” goes to NASA/JPL-Caltech/McGill. However, the creation of this phenomenon itself, and the sign that it portends, belongs to God Almighty alone. It is the sign given to the prophet Elijah. Let me explain.

Nasa’s NuStar Telescope took this dazzling image, seen for the first time by the public, in January 2014. However, 2,000 years ago, Jesus announced,

“There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and IN THE STARS.” Luke 21:25

This will be our first installment on promised blockbuster prophetic insights. This message is a public service announcement of the kind we are accustomed to hear on TV: “We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming to bring you this…” This is an authentic sign from God. It forebodes both good news and bad news. How so? Some will be singing “O Happy Day,” while others will tune up with “Highway to Hell.” This sign marks the beginning of exactly polar opposites in experiences for the people of earth. It all depends on whatsoever your works deserve. You are going to get your “just desserts.” Jesus declared, “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.”  Revelation 22:12

Celebration or lamentation, which shall it be for you? That hand in the celestial clouds is saying, “Behold, it’s either pay day! Hallelujah! Or, “It’s payback time ! Woe is me !!!” Your own karma has now come to catch up with you. I would quote from that old song by the Temptations,

So, fee-fi-fo-fum. Look out baby, ’cause here I come…(Get ready ’cause here I come) I’m on my way. (Get ready ’cause here I come).. So, Fiddle-de-dee, Fiddle-de-dum. Look out baby, ’cause here I come.

But, I won’t quote from that song, because then, I’d have to change the words a bit, to, “Get ready, cause here I AM.”  But, let’s rewind a bit. I’m getting ahead of myself here. I was going to share with you how this is the sign of the prophet Elijah. So, let’s slow our roll and get back to that.

The prophet Elijah was a bit of a Lone Ranger; a kind of “Last Man Standing” among the prophets of his day. Singlehandedly, he had stopped the rain in Israel for 3-1/2 years, and harnessed the attention of a hen-pecked king, named Ahab. He had defied the evil queen, Jezebel, brought down fire from heaven, and faced down four hundred-fifty (450) prophets of Baal. Then, he  executed them. Now, after turning the hearts and minds of the Israelites back to their God, he was in the process of initiating Israel’s rains again. Elijah did the praying, while he had a servant dispatched to check for signs from heaven of the returning rain. That’s when the heavenly omen appeared.

And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, “Behold, there ariseth a… cloud out of the sea, like a man’s hand.” And [Elijah] said, “Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down that the rain stop thee not.”  1 Kings 18:44

There you have it. A cloud “like a man’s hand.” Anthropomorphically speaking (speaking of God in human terms), this hand IS God’s hand. And Elijah’s faith said, in so many words, “Here it comes! Tell the king he’d better hurry, or he’ll surely get caught in the rainstorm that’s coming !”

Or, as they used to say on the TV show, “Laugh in,” ”Here come de judge !” This visitation is going to prove to be a perfect dichotomy of fortunes for the people of earth. By this sign, Elijah knew that good news had come for those who had prepared themselves.   As it is written,

“Says the Lord of hosts,… I will… open for you the windows of heaven, and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it’”  ( Malachi 3:10).  Is that not good news? Does it get any better than that? But then, there’s the reverse.  Indeed, this sign is a coin with two distinct sides.  As the prophet Isaiah said,

10 Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. 11 Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him.    Isaiah 3:9-11

 

And again, in Isaiah 65:12-14, the prophet said,

 

12 Therefore will I number you to the sword, and ye shall all bow down to the slaughter: because when I called, ye did not answer; when I spake, ye did not hear; but did evil before mine eyes, and did choose that wherein I delighted not. 13 Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, my servants shall eat, but ye shall be hungry: behold, my servants shall drink, but ye shall be thirsty: behold, my servants shall rejoice, but ye shall be ashamed: 14 Behold, my servants shall sing for joy of heart, but ye shall cry for sorrow of heart, and shall howl for vexation of spirit.

 

And, in the Apocalypse itself, the book of Revelation, it says:

The people of the world were angry, but now is the time for your anger. Now is the time for the dead to be judged. It is time to reward your servants, the prophets, and to reward your holy people, the people, great and small, who respect you. It is time to destroy those people who destroy the earth!”  Revelation 11:18 (Easy-to-Read Version)

 

So now, this sign says that this is a time for rain. That is a time for rewards, that is for “blessings from heaven” for the children of God who have been faithfully and patiently serving him. But, it is also a time for revenge upon those who have totally been a part of the world’s great problems — for those who through their unrepentant and unrighteous behavior, have helped spread trouble and misery on earth.

 

I have saved the most dramatic declarations until now, the statements clearly outlining what this sign means in the end time. The prophet Isaiah has a saying, which he periodically repeats like a mantra. “His hand is stretched out.” To be more exact, foretelling of calamities, disasters, and tragedies that God is going to inflict on the earth, with retribution for their impenitent and multitudinous sins, the prophet says,

 

For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.

 

Read it with your own eyes. He says this in Isaiah 5:25; 9:12; 9:17; 9:21; 10:4; and the grand finale in 14:27. But, the prophet Isaiah is not alone in employing this device. The prophet Amos has a similar such mantra of his own. No less than eight (8) times, spread throughout the book of Amos, he uses this idiom;

“For three transgressions… [of various named peoples] and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof.”  Amos 1:3; 1:6; 1:9; 1:11; 1:13; 2:1; 2:4; 2:6.

“Doom and gloom! Doom and gloom!” you say. But I say, ‘Nay!’ Have you forgotten so quickly that God said he was going to simultaneously bless the righteous overwhelmingly? But, at the same time He affirms that He will punish the wicked. God is going to make it rain abundantly. Upon the righteous, blessings. But, “Upon the wicked He shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup.”   Psalms 11:6

It is going to be a “gay ol’ time” for those whose works merit the positive promises of God. For them, it’s going to be an early, real-life Christmas. Or rather, more accurately I should say, for them it’s nothing less than the celebration of “the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev 19:9; Matt 22:1-2).  It’s the time when God is going to make the first to become last, and the last first (Matt 19:30; 20:16; Mark 10:31; Luke 13:30). For them, He is going to reverse every curse. For them, He is going to (to use a hip-hop expression), “Flip the script.” So, will you be shouting and rejoicing, or weeping and wailing?  It all depends on the works that you’ve been doing when God suddenly shows up in your life.

I can’t help but close with this little insight from the Psalms. There, in Psalm 77:14. it says,

Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known.

In a manner of speaking, that is announcing that God travels incognito. You’ll never see Him coming. You’ll never know which way He is coming, or how He’s traveling. For that matter, you’ll never be able to predict in whom He’ll show up. Do you recall this story? He said that He may show up as those who are “down and out” — as those who are down on their luck. He may appear as the poor and needy, the naked, the outcast, the one who is sick, or the one whose face is splattered all over the evening news — in legal trouble? (Matthew 25:31-46).  And, by the time you recognize him, He’ll suddenly be right in your face. Jesus described the unexpected coming of that suddenly undone effect, “as a snare” (Luke 21:35). Then, it will be too late to change your behavior. It will be too late to ask for forgiveness or pray the Sinner’s Prayer.

That’s why Jesus had his own mantra along these lines, which He repeated frequently. He said over and over in various ways, “Be ye ready also” (Matt 24:44).  And He said, “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour [or in what form, for that manner] your Lord doth come” (Matt 24:42; Rev 3:3, brackets mine).

For all this, his hand is stretched out still.

_______________________________________________

 The scripture says quite solemnly, “Prepare to meet thy God” (Amos 4:12).  Are YOU prepared? If you were to die today, do you know for sure that you would go to heaven? Or, for sure, to hell? Either way, this may be your very last chance to accept Christ’s great offer of amnesty to those who will repent and accept him as their personal Lord and Savior. Perhaps, you are one of those who has been in the Church and actively serving for many years. But, you know, being in the Church no more makes you a Christian than being in the garage makes you a Rolls Royce. Being in Christ, not being in the Church, is what makes all the difference in this world, and in the world to come. Like Jesus said to Nicodemus, “You must be born again” (John 3:1-21). So, if you’ve been serving in the choir, on the usher board, or on the deacon or deaconess board for many years, there’s no time like the present to pray this prayer consciously, and for the first time, “make your calling and election sure” (2Peter 1:10). Either way, for heaven’s sake, I now invite you to pray this prayer with me:

Lord Jesus, I need you. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open my heart and life now to receive you as Savior and Lord. Come in and take control of my life. Give me your Holy Spirit. Come and make me the kind of person you meant for me to be. Amen.

 

Did you pray that prayer? Then, on the solid-rock foundation of simple child-like faith, I now pronounce you a born-again believer in Jesus Christ. Mark this date on your calendar. It’s the first day of your eternal life. Congratulations! And welcome to the family.

 

For 24-hour prayer and for help finding a church, call 1-888-731-1000

 

If you are already a Christian, but are in need of repentance and rededication, then pray this prayer,

Lord Jesus, please forgive me for not serving you the way that I should. I open up my heart now, and give you full access and control. Have your way, Lord. Cleanse me from my all sin and idolatry. Fill me with your Holy Spirit again. Renew me, Lord. Make me the kind of person and servant I ought to be. Amen.

For 24-hour prayer and for help finding a church, call 1-888-731-1000

Do You Hear What I Hear? Part III

Copyright © 2013 by Joseph Diop

We’re closing in now on the primary secret in hearing from God. In today’s lesson, you’ll see just why there’s so much fear and consternation about the subject. On yesterday’s post, we left off with this verse:

So then, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.  Romans 10:7

In this verse, the word for ‘word’ in the text of the original Greek, which is the language of the New Testament, is ‘rhema.’ A rhema word is a heart-heard word. It is a word from God, so it is just as true as the words of the Bible. Elsewhere in the Bible, the word used for ‘word’ is logos. ‘Logos’ is the universal, eternal, and always true word. It is the objective and perennial truth. But, God has to communicate with me and you in individualized situations in order to give us personal and immediate light, guidance, revelation, and counsel. So, God speaks rhema words to us individually, so as to give us fresh, relevant, and timely direction.

He tells us individually where he wants us to go — when and why. He communicates who he wants us to see — when and why. And he tells us what he wants us to say — to whom, when, and why. He leaves nothing to chance that he does not speak to us about. He doesn’t always give us much notice, but you can be sure that he will direct your life down to the most minute detail.

God’s will is not always the same for everybody at any given place and time. That’s what makes our lives unique and special. That’s why rhema words often seem so arbitrary. There’s often much confusion and distrust over rhema words. That’s where your personal faith comes in. You simply have to know that you know that you know what God has spoken to you.. These heart-heard words can be easily disputed and outright contradicted by others. If someone doesn’t like your words or your course of action, they can even call you a heretic and persecute you for believing in the rhema words. We can often find it next to impossible to prove rhema words to others. But, we must continnue to believe in them nonetheless. That is the essence of faith. Our very eternal life could depend on this. Sometimes, we can only point to Biblical precedents. At any rate, we want to perfect our ability to hear these rhema words accurately.  And as we do, the light of God’s glory will shine ever brighter in our lives.

Here are a few lines from a poem I wrote years ago about God’s rhema word.

Now, let’s explore the word of faith, the gift of Abraham; Who heard the oath and promise and inherited the land.   

An oath is a word that God says he’s going to do. And the oath becomes a promise when the word is heard by you.

If you believe, you will receive. If you doubt, you’l lose out.   

Everthing that God has promised, he’ll be faithful to perform. Just hold fast through your trials. Don’t faint out in the storms.

In the fullness of God’s time every word will come to pass.  Just let your heart be never troubled, and your hope will surely last.

Are you still with me? Still interested in learning how to hear from God yourself? We’ll, now that we spelled out the requirements, and explained explicitly the commitment level  involved; stick around.  In TRUGHT & DARE, we’re going to tell you lots more about what this journey is all about. So, become a regular follower. Faithfully apply these principles in your life, and we’ll get you there. But, if you haave not yet signed up for this faith enterprise, then first get connected with the Lord. Here’s a suggested prayer.

Lord Jesus, I need you. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my heart and life, and receive you as my personal Lord and Savior. Come in and take full control of my life. Give me your Holy Spirit. Come and make me the kind of person you want me to be.  Amen.

Did you pray that prayer? Then, on the solid-rock foundation of simple child-like faith, I now pronounce you a born-again believer in Jesus Christ. Mark this date on your calendar. This is the first day of your eternal life. Congratulations! And, welcome to the family.

For 24-hour prayer and for help finding a good church, call 1-888-731-1000.

If you are already a Christian, but have not been living up to par, and you want to get back on track, then here’s a suggested prayer for you.

Lord Jesus, please forgive me for not serving you as I ought to. I confess that I have sinned and fallen short by… [name that sin or fault specificly].  I open my heart now and give you full access and control. Lord, have your way in my life. Fill me with your Holy Spirit again. Renew me, Lord. Make me the kind of person and servant you want me to be.

Now, you’re back on track!  Praise the Lord!

For 24-hour prayer, call 1-888-731-1000.

Truth & Dare: What’s that ‘About?’

Today, I started to do a follow-up on my appraisal of the condition of church today, from my blog,  “A Fulcrum for Refreshing;” hereafter, called “The Assessment” (published on January 14th).  And I will do that, I promise, just not today. Today, I felt led to lay out before you my blog’s guidelines for commenting on any subject. These are my rules of engagement in the blogosphere; a kind of setting forth of my faith and practice of viewing things. It explains how I come by my points of view, a “What We Believe” statement, of sorts. Hereafter you won’t have to ever ask, “Where’s this guy coming from?” After reading this, you should never have to ask, “Where did THAT idea come from?” I want to be fair and honest here, and lay ALL my cards on the table. These are my rules of blogging, and my expectations for my readers and followers — believers and non-believers alike.

First, I assert that this blog has been commissioned by the Lord Jesus Christ. In plain language, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit TOLD me to start this blog. As far as humanly possible then, I will strive to represent God’s point of view faithfully. Secondly, I believe in the Holy Bible, as the only objective source of truth; the only OBJECTIVE source, I say. That’s different from saying, “It is the only source of truth period.” And where necessary and appropriate, I will reference the scriptures (that is, cite chapter and verse)  for my reading public, so that you may objectively evaluate the truth and validity of my points of view.

We are, however, not quite as rigid as some of our conservative Christian brothers. The Bible is not our only source of truth, because we believe in the living, eternal God, who speaks to the hearts of individual people, and who reveals his glory progressively. It’s not that the Bible is not the sole and sufficient guide for human living. It certainly is. But man’s understanding and man’s faculties could never stand the whole load and weight of God’s glory being revealed all at once. (See the Apostle John’s experience, and the prophet Daniel’s, for examples. Revelation 1:12-17; Daniel 10:7-15). So, man’s capacity for accepting the fullness of the knowledge of God, is therefore growing. And it is growing to the point that one day, the Bible says, “the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). Does not the scripture exhort us to “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?” (2 Peter 3:18)  And, does it not tell us that we have been given the 5-fold band of teachers, 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ” (Eph 4:13-15).

Some of my conservative brothers would say, “Revelation ended with the apostles. The Bible has a front and back cover now.”  But I say, “That’s absurd.” If by revelation (what was eventually set in writing as the holy scriptures) you mean, the God-breathed, Spirit uttered, and sovereign words of God, then consider.  Does not the Bible say this? “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen” (John 21:25). So we have a God who likes to act on behalf of man so very mutitudinously, John the Apostle said that the whole world could not contain all the books to give an account. And, if his historical acts were so many, then his eternal words are even more so. Does it not say, How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them!  If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand.” (Psalms 139:17-18)  So, God not only likes to work on our behalf, but according to Psalms 139:17-18, he likes talking to the heart of man even more, comparing his words thereto to be “more in number than the sand.” And of the sand, the Bible says, it is literally “innumerable” (Heb 11:12). Innumerable means absolutely more than can be counted. It means too many to affix a numerical value to.

Now take that figure, innumerable, (we’ll call that “R,” for innumerable) and multiply it by, what? Multiply it by about 7+ billion souls alive today. That’s quite an astronomical figure. And even if we take into account that previous generations were less populous than ours, you still get the picture that this is astronomical. You may say,” But most of those were unbelievers. God doesn’t speak to unbelievers.”  But I say, God indeed speaks even to unbelievers. Even If his only words to them are,” I am God. Jesus is my son. I love you. Jesus died for you.  Therefore, repent. Believe. And be saved.” Now, I can hardly imagine that any Evangelical Christians would doubt that God from time to time does speak those words directly to the heart of the unbeliever. And hey, God’s words ARE God’s word.

Now again, take that astronomical figure we got from above (R7,000,000,000), and multiply that by the number of generations of mankind that have lived these past 2,000 since Christ. Let’s see. Counting a generation, as the Bible does, as forty years, then we come up with about 50 generations. Right? So, now we multiply 50 times (x) the innumerable words of God. That’s R7,000,000,000 x 50. That’s innumerable times 7,000,000,000 times 50. Wow! That number somewhere along the way approaches infinity. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that the product of that multiplication is a few more words than the Bible contains between Genesis and Revelation. As a matter of fact, one online resource puts the number of words in the King James Authorized version as 783,137. §   That’s not even close!!!

My contention then is simply this: without putting artificial limits on God’s word, let’s test and prove all things by the words of scripture. If a view point lines up with scripture, then we know it’s sound. If it doesn’t, then we have solid grounds to reject it. But by all means, don’t dispute it if you’ve not thoroughly checked it out. Like the scripture says, He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him.” (Prov 18:13)

So, what am I saying? My viewpoints are genuinely from a Christian worldview, but not all of them are the norm. Not all of them are the traditional byline.  God does often talk to me in my heart. The Bible call this RHEMA (Rom 10:7), and imparts thoughts to my mind that He Himself has inspired. And to the best of my ability, being human, I plan to represent those ideas to the world in this forum. And, my invitation to all people is that you simply listen with and open heart and mind. If you be a noble-minded believer, do like the citizens of Berea did, after they heard the apostle Paul. They “received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). And if you are presently not a believer, but are on a genuine and zealous search for truth, then simply ply my words to everything else you know to be true and honest. I promise always to strive to true and honest. Truth has a way of proving and confirming itself; that is, to all who really love the truth.

Do my viewpoints come from God? Do they really represent TRUTH? Here’s my DARE.  I don’t care.   Search the scriptures.  Search your heart.    Then, YOU  be the judge.

 § To see this number and other interesting facts of the Bible, go to: http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20110605132525AAEi5wS

(Hereafter, the bulk of this post will appear in the ‘About’ section of this blog site.)

Preview: Upcoming attractions !! 

My next blog will be entitled,Do you hear what I hear?”  It will be a discussion about Rhema, God’s Word to the individual human heart; absolute truth invested directly in living vessels — into common, flesh and blood carriers like you and me. Don’t miss it!